“Change is inevitable. Growth is optional.” – John C. Maxwell, author, leadership coach
Nobody loves change when it’s suddenly thrust upon them by circumstances entirely out of their control.
The COVID-19 pandemic shook us agents and brokers straight out of our comfortable routines and tossed us into dreaded “discomfort zones,” where we’ve been residing awkwardly for the past eight-plus weeks.
Everything we thought we knew and all the skills we mastered as real estate professionals abruptly became either inappropriate, unavailable or misdemeanors. We’re no longer hosting open houses, holding the baby while mom tours the kitchen, or hugging clients when we hand over the keys to their new homes.
One day, hopefully soon, this crisis will be behind us, and we’ll get back to business as usual. Except our “usual” will be forever changed. And only those agents who genuinely understand and embrace the changes will stand out from their peers and competitors.
Here’s how we see real estate pros seizing this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to change, grow and thrive after COVID-19:
1. Unwavering commitment to the client
If you’re trying to help clients buy or sell during these unprecedented times, you probably feel like you’re working with one hand tied behind your back, or both hands, while blindfolded.
Yet agents who forge ahead and put their clients first, despite these trying circumstances, are earning new levels of trust and respect that will stick with them long after the crisis ends.
Of course, we’re not talking about blind commitment, like giving into your client’s every whim or sugarcoating the truth. You still need to have the tough conversations.
Consider these additional ways of demonstrating unwavering commitment:
- Hold your ethical and moral ground. (“No,” you tell a client. “I won’t break shelter-in-place orders and put us in danger so you can measure the living room for a sofa.”)
- Tell the truth, even when the truth is that you don’t have all the answers.
- Dig for the answers. Abio Properties Associate Broker Elisabeth Watson, for example, was frustrated by the lack of real-time market data in her area, so she devised a poll to gather information from local agents during the twice-weekly virtual brokers tours. Now she has pricing strategies, time on market data, offer prices and info about buyer behavior that she uses to advise clients.
2. Emphasize service over selling
One surprising outcome of the COVID-19 pandemic is it provided agents with an unprecedented opportunity to reach out to clients with deeply personal warm wishes that have nothing to do with buying or selling real estate.
It’s all about staying connected and staying positive.
We love these recent examples of service over selling:
- Jason Mitchell, a Keller Williams agent in Oakland, California, invited past, current and prospective clients to a coffee hangout on Zoom. He said nearly 20 people popped in to chat about market conditions as well as life during weird times. The event resulted in several follow-up emails and prospects.
- Todd Galde, senior mortgage advisor with Commerce Home Mortgage of Walnut Creek, California, has been inviting clients to lunch — or rather having lunch delivered to their doorstep before hopping on a Zoom call together. (He also gave a shoutout to the local restaurant on social media.)
- Old-school communication tools are making a comeback, including beautifully handwritten cards. (Have iffy penmanship? Now you can order cards “written” with a real pen by a robot that learns your handwriting.)
- Besides making deeply personal connections, community outreach is more crucial than ever. For example, we partnered with a local restaurant to raise money to #FeedTheFirst responders.
- Other agents collected and donated cell phone chargers for patients in local hospitals, started a webcast to draw attention to nonprofits in need of donations and offered to provide breakfast or lunch for children who previously relied on school meals.
3. Hone your emotional intelligence
Agents we know have been mourning the loss of those face-to-face interpersonal relationships they rely on to bring in new leads and make sales. They feel stymied.
“This has been a really frustrating and illuminating moment in everyone’s career,” David Gunderman, a Keller Williams broker in the SF Bay Area, said during a recent Zoom panel discussion about virtual real estate. “Everything we do is relational. That lack of connection is frustrating me terribly.”
Because virtual is now the new normal, an agent’s ability to connect and read people is harder and more important than ever.
Humans are hyperalert to nonverbal cues, which means we need to pay even closer attention to body language and facial expressions while video conferencing — theirs and ours.
“Your clients and your colleagues might be dealing with anxiety, fear, stress or overwhelm,” she wrote. “Whether you’re the kind of professional that tunes into emotions or not, this is a time when acting as if emotions should be ‘left at home’ probably won’t work. Your clients are depending on you.”
Hoban suggested taking these five steps:
- Manage yourself: Find your way to a calm, measured place where you can make good decisions, communicate effectively and set the right tone.
- Manage expectations: Make it clear that you recognize that this is a challenging time.
- Model resilience: Show your clients and colleagues what it means to be resilient. When difficulties arise, stay calm, and push forward.
- Think of the end of the storm: Remind clients and colleagues that these challenges will eventually end. Focus on the positive by reminding them that we’re all gaining new skills and deepening relationships as a result of the pandemic.
- Cultivate community: Typically, we live in a community with our family, colleagues, neighbors, and even baristas, co-commuters, and restaurant workers. Now, we’re cut off from much of that. So, do what you can to build an alternative community, using video-conferencing and other tools. We may be at home, but we don’t have to be alone.
4. Embrace new tech
When we asked other agents about their predictions about a post-COVID-19 landscape, most described a tech-savvy, virtual-heavy future.
“Consumers are going to expect more digital solutions from us,” predicted Eric Lowry, CEO and team leader at The Lowry Team in Cincinnati, Ohio.
So get fluent in Zoom, hosting Facebook Live open houses, shooting video tours, understanding virtual staging, leveraging 3D walk-throughs, and using DocuSign (it’s about time).
“There’s no excuse right now. We have time on our hands,” Gunderman of Keller Williams said. “Getting ahead of this tech game is the thing that’s going to make or break us going forward.”
We asked agents what tech ingredients they recently added to their secret sauce. Some popular answers were:
- Virtual staging services like BoxBrownie
- Matterport camera for 3D walk-throughs and floor plans
- Gimbal stick to steady a smartphone while shooting video
- A quality microphone for podcasting
- A handwritten card and mail service like Addressable
If we just embrace today’s challenges and changes during the pandemic, we have a chance to turn a painful situation into a new world of opportunity. We will never go back to the “good old days,” but we will greet the new reality stronger and smarter than we were.
Linnette Edwards and Cameron Platt are co-founders of Abio Properties, a boutique real estate brokerage launched in 2016 in the San Francisco Bay Area. Linnette is a top 1% producer and broker associate with nearly 20 years in the industry. Cameron is a “recovering” attorney and broker with more than 17 years of experience managing agents and running a top-producing team.
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