Marketing

How to nail your first interaction with a prospect

Tips for making sure you're putting your best foot forward from the get-go

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It’s been a while since I’ve searched for a job, but I remember it being a pretty stressful process.

Step one is usually a crucial chat with the human resources team over the phone. They can’t see you, and you can’t see them. There’s no ability to read facial expressions or body language. All you have is that one phone call to make an impression, and you hope they want to see you for an in-person interview.

Talking with a potential client for the first time is a lot like that first phone interview. You’ve got one shot to make a good and lasting impression. You also have to prove that you’ll be able to meet their needs in a situation that’s often laden with stress and uncertainty.

By any stretch of the imagination, lack of face-to-face contact proves challenging in making connections. However, tapping into your empathetic side, whether you have one or not, can impact your conversion ratio.

Right out of college I worked as a network sales consultant, and then later as a lead specialist for a real estate team for more than five years. I’m no stranger to the front lines of lead conversion.

Tapping into as much education as possible offered by other top performers, and through plenty of trial and error, here are a few tips I’ve learned along the way that have proven successful.

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Always stay one step ahead

One of the most invaluable talents successful real estate professionals have is anticipatory thinking. Being able to answer a potential client’s questions before they know to ask them goes a long way in this business — and, in particular, on initial inquiries.

Why? Because potential clients will recognize that you have a comprehensive understanding of the real estate process, and it’ll feel like you are looking out for them– and you are — which starts establishing the essential elements of trust.

The key to doing this is listening and quickly identifying the personality type of the person you’re dealing with. Keep in mind when you’re dealing with multiple personalities (husband and wife, for example) that you need to adjust to both of them accordingly.

The Seven Levels of Communication” by Michael Maher is an excellent guide to understanding personalities and preferred communication styles. He breaks down the importance of empathy and the power of reciprocity — the idea that if you genuinely want to serve and help people, that desire will be rewarded in the form of business success.

One of his “think points” outlines the DISC method of behavior styles:

D – Dominance. Individuals who are straight to the point, usually driven, fast-paced, efficient and brutally honest. They do not like long explanations — they prefer the bottom line.

I – Influence. I’s love to socialize and are usually outgoing, friendly, energetic and emotional. I’s are the life of the party.

S – Steadiness. An S is dependable; he or she loves to nurture and lives to please others. S’s prefer predictability and security over spontaneity.

C – Compliance. C’s are perfectionists who expect everyone to comply with the rules; they crave order and process.

As an agent, if you can identify primary personality traits right away, by listening to the questions being asked and the potential client’s communication style, you can determine ahead of time what they’ll likely need from you to begin building a solid connection.

D’s will want to know what’s happening, so make sure you get to the point and explain the real estate process succinctly, and don’t mince words.

I’s will want to know who they’re getting into business with, so open up personally, and help them get to know you.

S’s will want to know why you’re doing certain things, so explain your rationale or why real estate is done the way it’s done as you move through the process.

Finally, C’s will want to know how, so walk them through the transaction, step by step.

Understanding these behaviors — and adjusting your own behavioral and communication style as a result — will help you on that first remote impression. Your goal should be building the beginning of a relationship based on trust. When properly established, this should result not only in a connection and conversion today but, hopefully, client referrals down the road.

Follow-up and follow-through

Mark Twain said, “Actions speak louder than words, but not nearly as often.” If you want to be an agent who converts leads, be the agent whose actions speak louder than your words.

That might sound simple, but depending on the type of lead generated and the channel, lead conversion studies I’ve read indicate less than 4 percent of leads turn into clients. Obviously, leads through referrals tend to result in higher conversions, but they still require follow-through.

The best client follow-up after initial contact, and arguably any contact, has to do with making yourself valuable and doing what you said you were going to do — demonstrating you were listening to every word they said.

If the prospect said they’re interested in a particular neighborhood, send along the most recent sales and a few available properties that meet their needs. If they say they frequently travel overseas for their job, highlight the systems you have in place to support mobility and digital transactions.

What I find helpful in all of my follow-up is to provide a definite schedule of the typical next steps. This helps you to guide politely through the process and reiterate your value.

Also, make sure you’re providing different ways you can be reached — preferably matching and mirroring your potential client’s preferred communication channel. So, if they’re texting you for information, make texting your primary form of communication. Meet them where they’re at for the smoothest follow-up process.

Don’t drown a lead

After you’ve identified the personality of your potential client, made yourself valuable through follow-up, and offer guidance throughout the process — don’t kill the lead by drowning it. What do I mean? Too many questions and too much nagging can be overwhelming.

I’ve seen agents become aggressive in the days after that initial contact and turn off the potential client. Steer clear of insisting that you meet in person, especially when you’re dealing with millennials. If you ask once and the client isn’t interested, don’t force it.

Another mistake often made is digging too deep into the finance, family or lifestyle questions right away. The potential client might be extremely private, and asking the questions while also respecting their privacy is a delicate balance. Until you’ve developed a high level of trust with a client, they might not want to open up about their personal situation.

Finally, real estate is a relationship business, and typically the community where an agent’s thriving is relatively small. That said, the other agents and service providers in the area will all interact with each other regularly. Refrain from bad-mouthing other agents to your prospective client. They’ll likely find out about it, and it’s just bad form overall. Rather, focus on what you can uniquely do, and provide for them.

They say that searching for a job is a full-time job because of all the time and effort that it takes — and uncertainty that surrounds the process. And similarly, turning a lead into a client is a job in itself, and nailing the first interaction is an integral step in the process.

It takes time, energy, focus and ultimately a lot of empathy. Having the ability to understand and share the feelings of others is not limited to just lead conversion, but also to helping you build long-term, meaningful relationships throughout your career.

Joelle Senter is the vice president of market development at dotloop. You can follow her on Facebook , LinkedIn or Twitter.

Email Joelle Senter.