Throughout the pandemic, real estate agents and brokers have been shoring up their business plans, which includes tightening budgets, doubling-down on video and virtual content, and carefully using market intelligence to draw in clients.
While all of those tactics are necessary, Atlanta-based real estate coach and trainer Dr. Lee Davenport told Inman there’s another valuable skill agents need to use at this time: emotional intelligence.
“In all that’s going on, we’re able to help our clients understand that we’re human and some of what they’re experiencing, whether it’s, unfortunately, the death of a family member or loss of income or children now being at home, we’re dealing with it too,” she said. “That human element makes a difference.”
Here’s what Dr. Davenport has to say about pivoting, emotional intelligence, and creating community during tough times:
Inman: It’s nice to chat with you again, Lee! I’m sure your training and coaching clients have been leaning on you more than ever. What are the biggest questions they’ve been asking?
Dr. Lee Davenport: The biggest thing right now that almost everybody is asking, and not just in our industry, is ‘How do we pivot? How do we keep up with this new normal? How do we prepare for what life is going to be like after this?’ So that’s the million-dollar question.
That’s a question we’ve been exploring a lot here, too. So what tips have you shared about pivoting? People have a hard time dealing with change and the unexpected.
It’s a bittersweet time because it’s been hard for so many people, but [it’s a time] that has given us a lot of opportunities. So one of the main things is seeing the opportunity even in despair and sadness.
Just this week I did a class on being a listening leader and generating leads even during this pandemic. Some of the people on the call were like, ‘How do we not seem callous?’ You don’t want to come across as business as usual, but what I mentioned is, believe it or not, we’re doing a huge disservice to people if we’re not explaining to them what this market is and how we as professionals can help them navigate it.
So what’s the best way to help buyers and sellers navigate this volatile market?
We have to become an information leader. A lot of people, unfortunately, are being laid off, they’re being furloughed or they’re down to one income or now their children are at home while they’re trying to work, and for some people that means they need to sell their home.
I’ve even had a personal childhood friend whose dad died from COVID-19. Some people might feel like, ‘You’re being opportunistic. You’re just taking advantage of a bad situation if you talk to him about selling his dad’s home.’ That’s not how we saw it at all.
We immediately jumped in and helped him, and for him, that was a weight taken off his shoulders because he’s got to deal with medical bills and he’s still got to help his mom who’s still in the hospital. Now they’re able to sell this home and know what it means for the market.
It’s all about educating people on what this market is and the pros and cons, whether you’re a buyer, seller or investor. It means a lot of different things for different people.
The last time we spoke, you spoke extensively about emotional intelligence and how we can use it to create more robust workplaces. But I’m curious about how emotional intelligence comes into play right now, especially as a lot of us are battling stress.
Oh, yes, I love talking about this! I’m a part of this business book club and one of the books we just completed is called Liminal Thinking: Create the Change You Want by Changing the Way You Think. It goes through [on how] to create a safe space for people.
To your point, it’s not just that our clients are going through things, we’re likely going through things. In all that’s going on, we’re able to help our clients understand that we’re human and some of what they’re experiencing, whether its, unfortunately, the death of a family member or loss of income or children now being at home, we’re dealing with it too.
There’s a camaraderie around it, and being able to talk about it and to know there are safe spaces even outside of a real estate agent transaction standpoint. That human element makes a difference.
I think we’re all looking for safe spaces right now. What are some of the other points the book mentioned that you feel are relevant to agents?
Beyond safe spaces, the book talks about ’emptying your cup,’ and what that means is being in a place of no judgment. This season means different things to different people and not everyone sees it as a challenge. For some people, it’s been a blessing in disguise because maybe they’ve needed time off from work and this has given it to them. Everyone has such a different situation.
Lastly, I’m a big believer in self-care. So right now, the agents I work with and even in my book club and the other groups I’m in, we’re all focused on ‘What are the things in our routine pre-pandemic that we enjoy that we can maintain now?’
Having some sense of normalcy and even if it’s still having your favorite cup of coffee every morning is still important.
So, how can agents take advantage of their social media profiles and other public platforms to create a safe space?
One of the best things about creating a safe space is transparency. I’m not saying that we have to bear our souls and [word] vomit on people and make them our crutch, but the more transparent [we can be] and the more we can share with people how things are affecting us leads to people feeling like, ‘Ok. You’re safe. You’re someone that isn’t going to emotionally beat me over my head.’
In our industry, we’ve also been pseudo-counselors and pseudo-therapists in addition to being agents. We wear so many hats for our clients.
Some people feel it’s controversial and think you shouldn’t take a stance on whether to wear a mask or not, so I’m not saying you have to get into the political piece [of what’s happening]. What I’m saying is that sharing from personal experience goes a long way in providing a community and safe space for people to talk.
Before you go, what are a few more thoughts you’d like to share about thriving at this time and being there for your clients?
One thing I’ve been talking about is the seven fundamental things about being a listening leader, which is making sure this a time where agents are maintaining the basics of our business. Consumers, just like us, are nervous.
The more we can provide stability by sticking with the foundational things our industry provides, the better off people will be. That means doing better and reevaluating our follow-up or looking at the presentations we’re doing and making sure we’re including data based on all that’s going on right now. Or, looking at objections that people have in this climate because the objections a typical seller had pre-pandemic is one thing, but there’s a whole new layer now.
We have to lead the way.