When you first meet a prospective buyer, there are obvious questions to ask, like “Are you already working with an agent?” or “Have you talked to a lender?” We don’t need to cover those because you already get the mechanics of how this business works.
The questions I want you to consider asking your buyer clients, and the answers derived from those questions, will help to take your business to a new level of depth and complexity and allow it to thrive long-term.
Regardless of market dynamics or economic forces like interest rates, this paradigm shift in how you approach your business with buyers (and sellers, for that matter) will change the future of your business exponentially.
Below are a few questions, not for you to ask clients necessarily, but for you to figure out by going deeper with them. I’m not going to say it will be easy because it isn’t. But I will tell you that consistent application of these questions and consistent execution on the action items associated with them will allow your business to thrive, regardless of the market you are working in.
What’s your ‘why’?
People move because life happens. Sometimes they relocate to a new city because of a job transfer or to be closer to their family. People sometimes move because their household has changed, and junior has moved out (or, more likely these days, moved back in).
Sometimes they move because they just want a better house in a better location. Suffice to say, there are a myriad of reasons that initiate the need to move. And yet, I often find that agents accept these reasons as their clients’ “why.”
The real “why” goes much deeper than that.
When a buyer client moves across the country because of a job transfer, their “why” hasn’t changed — just their location. You meet them and become their buyer’s agent to show homes in their new chosen city.
You might think that the “why” is the new job, and your task is to find them a three-bedroom, two-bath home with a two-car garage. You do the typical search, find candidates that meet their criteria and start the process of eliminating homes until they pull the trigger. Then your real job starts, right?
Not so fast. Did you ever stop to really assess the “why” of the one they chose? Maybe they chose to look at homes close to the foothills with mountain biking trails because they have a passion for mountain biking. Did you know that?
Maybe the whole reason they chose the job in this location is because of the culture of mountain biking in this city.
The point is that you need to take your exploration far deeper with your clients than just surface facts and configurations. This business is not about finding someone a three-bedroom, two-bath home. This business is about connecting your clients with their lifestyle.
You have to learn their stories and understand their motivations. You have to ask lots of questions and explore their histories and passions, and their hopes for the future. Choosing to purchase a home is 100 percent about lifestyle for your clients, and lifestyle is an all-encompassing concept about life itself.
Everything including proximity to work, recreation, entertainment, schools, culture and community.
These facets of are all too often unexplored by agents — and they need to be. Don’t regulate yourself to becoming a professional “door-unlocker.” To set yourself apart, you must be a lifestyle consultant, and that’s not as easy (or as quick) as it sounds. It takes truly getting to know your clients and spending the time to dive deeper with them.
How can I connect you?
Sometimes, this business seems to be strictly focused on quantity and efficiency. As an industry, we spend far too much time focused on getting leads and moving said leads into contracts as quickly and efficiently as possible, so that we can move to the next.
This is a very short-sighted approach, and it will affect your business negatively long-term. With this mindset, you set yourself up to be a rookie Realtor every year because you miss the opportunity to form deep, lasting relationships with your clients.
The reality of the real estate business across the United States is a story of demographics and cultural shifts that will have lasting effects on how we do business. People will move less often than we have seen in the past, and multi-generational cohabitation will exaggerate these effects.
To offset these factors, you must become a “connector.” You must learn how to connect your clients with their lifestyles, and this connection spans much further than just real estate. To stay relevant and involved with your client’s lifestyle beyond the transaction, you must be a connector in all things.
By staying relevant and involved with your client’s lifestyle, they also become an advocate for you. This is how you build a network of referrals and repeat business that can outlast market dynamics that are beyond your control.
Houses will always sell — up market, down market or shifting market. But you need to be there and be relevant to this process so that you can be involved in these transactions when life happens.
Here is an example I like to use in explaining what it means to truly be a connector:
Let’s say you have the opportunity to work an open house for an agent in your office who needs to go out of town. The listing is in a fantastic location and has a unique setup, single-level on a nice-sized property with a separate shop with a large RV bay.
Sounds pretty cool right? You know this is going to be a good opportunity to work this open house, you put your game-face on, and you’re ready to rock. All good so far.
But though you meet many people throughout the day, some won’t even talk to you. Many have agents with them or express to you they are already working with someone else.
Finally, at 3 p.m., Jim and Mary Smith walk in. They love the home. Why? Because Jim and Mary love old cars, and their collection has outgrown their current space. They travel the country and show their cars, and they have an extensive network of car-culture friends in the area.
You find out that Jim and Mary belong to the local car-enthusiast club. Fast forward a bit, you get to represent them on the purchase of this home, it works out great, everyone loves each other, and all are happy.
Oh, I forgot about one glaring fact: You know nothing about classic cars.
In this scenario, how can you be a connector even if you don’t know the difference between a Camaro and a Chevelle? (You really should anyway, but that’s another story.)
Even though Jim and Mary know far more about cars and car culture than you ever will, take the opportunity to pay attention. If you see an upcoming car show, tell Jim and Mary about it. Show that you are thinking about them beyond just a transaction. It’s not easy, and as your client list gets deeper, it takes work. But it can become a habit — and habits create consistency. Consistency creates connections, and connections bring business.
You know it is critical to stay connected to your clients, but now you need to take it to the next level and become a connector for your clients. But how do you do that?
Just by chance, you meet John and Jodi, who are thinking about moving to your area. They show up in a 1965 Mustang convertible. Now you know what to do from here, right?
You connect Jim and Mary with John and Jodi. It doesn’t matter if you do a transaction with John and Jodi (I mean, hopefully you do) — what matters is you connected John and Jodi with a social network to make their move easier.
You expanded Jim and Mary’s social network, and you connected four people with their lifestyle. You have now become a connector and are elevated to a different status with these people.
How can I stay involved in your lifestyle?
The highs and lows and inconsistencies of the real estate business are all self-induced. They can easily be avoided if we just abandon the model of quantity over quality.
Never just move on to the next transaction. Always stay relevant and connected to your client’s lifestyle. Be instrumental in that lifestyle.
Ask deeper questions continually and about your client’s motivations. Never stop exploring and learning alongside them. Be genuine, and truly learn who they are and why — and don’t stop after they buy or sell a home.
Even if they move to another city, stay in touch because they are still connected to the town you are in, and they can still connect you to others they left behind. Never stop asking questions, never stop learning more about the people you have worked with.
Learn, identify, connect and repeat. It is a never-ending, connected circle that will expand over the years and allow you to thrive regardless of market dynamics. And you will grow, learn and have fun while doing so.
If you are willing to make this change in how you approach the business, you will become more passionate about what you are doing, and this will no longer be just a career. The business of being a lifestyle-consultant connector will become your lifestyle, culture and passion — and you will have discovered your “why”.
Jeff Martel is the Chief Inspiration Officer and Broker Owner of Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate 43° North based in Boise, Idaho. firstname.lastname@example.org | www.43re.com