Ideally, your clients should think of you in the same way they think of their regular service providers like their hair stylists, accountants and dentists. Everyone needs a great agent. Here’s what you need to do to shift that mindset in your clients.

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This article is an excerpt from Joe Rand’s newest book, How to be a Great Real Estate Agent.

Let’s start with some simple questions.

Who’s your accountant?

If I met you at a cocktail party and told you I needed an accountant to help me pay my taxes, do you have a name that you’d give me? OK, great! Because the government appreciates your financial support.

Who’s your dentist?

You do have a dentist, right? I mean, I hope you do. If you don’t, you should probably just stop right now and go find yourself a dentist because that’s just not healthy. Seriously. Go right now. We’ll wait. Your health comes first.

Who’s your hair stylist?

I’ve asked that question to a lot of audiences, and I generally find that most men can’t give me a name because many of them are bald, and most of the rest are filthy animals that don’t care how they look. But women – they almost always have a hair stylist, usually someone they’ve gone to for a long time. So they have a name.

OK, so here’s where we stand: you’ve told me that you have an accountant, and a dentist and maybe a hair stylist.

Now, just one more question:

How many people would say that you’re their real estate agent?

Think about it. If I came to your town and started haranguing people on the street with these questions, how many of those people would have a name for their accountant, dentist and hair stylist? Probably most of them, right?

And many of them could probably also name their doctor, plumber, electrician, architect and all sorts of other service professionals.

But how many of them would also name you as their real estate agent?

Honestly, how many of them would name anyone as their real estate agent?

I’ll tell you what would happen because I’ve actually done this.

Most people have an accountant.

Almost all of them have a dentist.

All the women have a hair stylist.

And almost nobody has a real estate agent.

Even if they do have a real estate agent, it’s because they’re actually in the process of selling or buying a home right at that moment: They’re listed or looking.

But if they bought a few years ago? Then they don’t think of themselves as “having” a real estate agent. They “had” a real estate agent, but not anymore. Their transaction is over, and the relationship has ended.

Why is that? Why do people think of themselves as “having” an accountant, dentist, a hair stylist or other service professional, but don’t think they “have” a real estate agent?

In real estate, the relationship usually ends when the transaction closes. Part of it is that most agents don’t work very hard to keep that relationship going. They generally focus their energies and attention on “leads,” endlessly prospecting for people who might be buying or selling within the next six months.

It’s understandable, of course: We focus on transactions because that’s when we get paid. I get it.

But that relentless drive to generate leads sometimes makes us obsess too much about the short-term. A neighbor stops by our open house because she is curious about the layout, and we dismiss her as a “looky-loo.”

We don’t follow up with that call on our listing once we realize they’re not looking to move anytime soon. And even though we love those wonderful clients who just bought a house from us, well, they’re not going to be moving again anytime soon, are they? So why spend a lot of time on them?

Even worse, because we think transactionally, consumers think transactionally. If we don’t pay attention to them, they’re not going to pay attention to us.

And by extension, both agents and consumers share a narrow conception of what clients need from agents: assistance in transacting real estate.

Essentially, people don’t “have” a real estate agent because they think that they only need an agent if they’re actively in the market. If they’re not buying or selling real estate right now, they don’t need an agent.

Here’s the problem with that way of thinking: It’s just not true. People have real estate needs that go well beyond just a real estate transaction. They’re not necessarily needs that will generate a sales commission, but they’re still real estate needs.

Here, I can prove it to you.

Let’s say that you’re at a cocktail party, a kid’s soccer game, at a networking event, hanging out after church or temple, mosque, Satanic Temple or whatever. The important thing is that you’re in a social situation where you meet someone you don’t already know.

If you can think back to the last time you had a conversation like that, here’s what probably happened:

Because you’re a sociable person, you probably asked them about themselves and their work. So you asked:

“So, what do you do?”

And they said something like:

“I’m a florist.”

Or an accountant, or a bartender, or whatever. The point is that they’re going to tell you what they do. So, now you ask them a few more questions about their work, where they live, things like that. Then, at some point in the conversation, that florist turned the question back on you. He asked:

“And what do you do?”

And you said:

“I’m in real estate.”

OK, stop!

Seriously, I want you to think about the last time you had a conversation like that, where you told someone you didn’t know that you were in real estate. What’s the next question out of their mouths?

Do you remember it?

It was almost certainly this one:

“How’s the market?”

You get asked that all the time, don’t you? If you introduce yourself to someone, and tell them you’re in real estate, they ask you how the market is. Not once in a while. Not sometimes. Not most times. Almost all the time.

That’s a really important question because it tells us a few things about consumers. For one thing, they’re curious about what’s going on in the real estate market. They want to know if it’s up or down, hot or cold, busy or slow.

And that makes sense because everyone is in the real estate market. They all live somewhere. If they live with their parents, they want to know what’s happening with rentals.

If they rent, they probably have hopes of someday buying. If they own, they want to know how their investment is doing — and maybe, just maybe, they’re thinking of upsizing or downsizing.

The real estate market is unique in that way: Not everyone owns stocks, not everyone owns bonds, but everyone has to live somewhere. That’s why they’re always asking real estate agents: “How’s the market?”

That’s what we call the “cocktail party conversation” question — you meet someone new, tell someone what you do, and they ask, “How’s the market?” It’s a really important conversation because it tells us that people have at least one specific need that goes well beyond the real estate transaction — the need to know how the market is doing.

But the “cocktail party conversation” tells us something even more important: This need isn’t being met. These people want to know what’s going on in the market, and no one is telling them.

Why? Because they don’t “have” an agent. They don’t have someone they can turn to when they have real estate questions, someone they can rely on, someone they can trust.

And they need one! They need an agent. If they had an agent, they wouldn’t be asking random agents like you how the market is doing, would they? They’d already know.

The cocktail party conversation shows you that everyone needs a real estate agent. A great real estate agent. All the time. Even when they’re not buying or selling.

And that great real estate agent should be you.

Joe Rand is the author of How to be a Great Real Estate Agent and  Disruptors, Discounters, and Doubters. He is the chief creative officer of Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate | Rand Realty in New York and New Jersey, a contributor to Inman News, and a regular blogger at joerand.com.

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