It has inevitably happened to us all at some point: you’re smacked with the crude awareness that the transaction, which started off warm and fuzzy, has suddenly turned very sour.
It starts like this: your new clients are impressed and excited to work with you. You talk often and come to decisions easily. Everything is on track. Your clients give you lots of praise and appreciation, and they are so happy that you are guiding them in this muddled and often confusing transaction.
Then three weeks into the deal, 32 emails, 68 text messages and 18 phone conversations later, something unexpectedly happens that turns the entire transaction upside down. And suddenly you’re not walking on water in their eyes any more.
It often starts with subtle frustrations that you are acknowledging, and you’re doing everything you can to keep the waters calm. But sometimes, no matter how hard you try, the dam breaks and you are falling oh so far off that pedestal you were perched on just a day or two ago.
You’ll no longer attend their children’s baptisms, meet their Aunty Betty or come to their anniversary party. One way or another, their latest concern is all your fault. It’s normal to feel betrayed and angry.
Don’t they know how many evenings you worked until 10 p.m. to respond to their questions, file paperwork, smooth out the demands of “the other side” and make sure you were meeting the deadlines?
What about the times you responded to their repeated text queries while taking your elderly parent to a doctor’s appointment or the dinner conversations you allowed to be disrupted because you knew just how stressed they were about their moving plans?
Of course this is all while addressing these same items for the other five transactions you were juggling at the same time.
And it’s not as if you are doing these tasks to pat yourself on the back, win awards or be looked up to by your peers. You’re doing it because you truly care about your clients and love what you do.
So how do you deal when things go south?
I choose to look at it in a fairly basic way: My clients are people. They have the same needs and stresses anyone else might have; they just each handle the stresses in a different way.
The point is, I am the transaction broker. I’m the captain who is guiding the ship, studying the map and following the coordinates, and when the crew feels like we’re off track, it’s time to get us all back into calm waters.
Here are a few ways I have found that may help realign the situation:
1. Face concerns head-on
When confronted with accusations or heated conversations, it’s easy to pull back and want to avoid the situation, hoping it’ll blow over by tomorrow. It’s better to face it head-on, preferably in person or at least over the phone, and acknowledge that your client is upset.
Ask your clients where they feel you fell short, and listen to their concerns. If you were lax in a particular area, admit it, and vow to improve.
2. Reflect and regroup
Let your clients know you will reflect on their concerns, and do everything you can to meet and exceed their expectations from this point onward. Then do it.
Communicate regularly and precisely, follow up with emails that summarize your latest conversation, and let them know that you continue to work behind the scenes toward a successful close.
3. Avoid blaming anyone
Refrain from blaming the other side or slinging mud in another direction. Simply admit that every transaction has its unique challenges and that with your knowledge and experience, you will guide them to a desirable close.
4. Don’t engage in conflict
If things are too heated, assure the clients you want to address their concerns, but exchanging angry words and name-calling are not productive. You will discuss their concerns when both of you are calmer and ready to talk and listen.
If you are hitting a road block, consider asking your qualifying broker to step in and work through your client’s concerns on your behalf. Often, an outside party can see things in a fresh way.
5. Keep your chin up
And finally, remind yourself that no matter how hard you try, how sincere your goals are or how much you believe you truly did your best — there will be times when you just cannot please everybody.
Don’t beat yourself up. Some transactions will naturally go smoothly, and others are a month of challenges. Learn what you can from each transaction, move on, and start fresh again.
As you know, the next transaction is just around the corner. And maybe, just maybe, the next one will be smooth sailing for everyone, and all parties will walk away feeling grateful and satisfied. Your clients might even sing your praises to the very end.