Big Sky agent Charlotte Durham discusses three helpful strategies that guide her approach and gives insight into why each is important in building your client relationships — and by extension, your business.
It’s a golden rule of luxury real estate: big success is built on small, personalized touches. High-end clients already expect top-notch service—but we can still surprise them by going above and beyond in thoughtful, genuine ways. Little gifts and gestures take minimal time and effort, but they make a truly meaningful impact for buyers and sellers and show that we’re authentically invested in them.
This has been critical to my real estate practice here in Montana. Not only is it essential for ensuring long-term relationships with clients, but it helps establish rapport from day one. People don’t care about what you know until they know you care.
So what kinds of small investments make the biggest difference? I’ll discuss three helpful strategies that guide my approach, and give insight into why each is important in building your client relationships—and by extension, your business.
1. In luxury, bespoke is always better
Luxury buyers and sellers respond best to tokens that are tailored to their lifestyle, family, passions, and preferences. But how can you gather this information?
Every time I speak with a client—starting from our earliest touchpoints—I try to ask conversational, strategic questions, and listen actively to understand their unique wants and needs. What do they like about this location? What are their favorite restaurants, shops, and excursions? Do they have a favorite hobby—or even a favorite candy? Nothing should escape your notice, because when you surprise clients with something they mentioned in passing, it can be even more meaningful.
Gestures don’t have to be monetary, or even material. If my clients talk about an area they’d like to explore, an event they’d like to attend, or a recreational activity they’d like to try, I take note. I’ve gone fly-fishing with buyers before—because sometimes the best gift you can give someone is an experience.
I also take stock of how I can cater to my clients’ personal preferences while working as their agent. Do they want to be updated regularly, or would they rather not hear from me until there’s a major development? What’s their favorite mode of communication? These are things I try to ascertain as soon as possible.
2. Honor those moments that matter
I check in with my active clients once a week at bare minimum, but I’m usually in contact more than that, depending on the communication preferred. After that, my team and I have a structured system around notes, gifts, and check-ins, where we concentrate on milestones such as birthdays and house anniversaries.
We track these dates in our CRM and calendar tools, and hold monthly meetings to plan for them. This gives us plenty of time to think of bespoke ways to celebrate and commemorate. We also send highly personalized gifts to clients when they send us a referral.
The benefits of these touchpoints can’t be overstated. On a personal level, it’s rewarding to be able to foster deeper friendships with the people I help. On a professional level, my goal is to create a relationship-based business and not be constantly chasing new leads. Investing in my existing clients is less time-consuming in the long run, and I love creating these relationships—it gives so much meaning to what I do.
3. Be there when the client needs you
Nurturing long-term relationships and showing appreciation is important, but it’s during the actual buying and selling process that our clients count on us the most. The stakes are high, and so is the pressure. On top of that, this is a time of major transition, and clients may be selling their homes because a difficult circumstance has befallen them or their loved ones.
I’m mindful of the challenges my clients are facing, and I find ways to help beyond being a good advisor and advocate. One of my favorite approaches is to assist with moving and staging costs. These services aren’t cheap, yet in the grand scheme of things, covering a bill is a small gesture—and for the client, it feels monumental. They’ll never forget the generosity you showed when they were going through a stressful time.
It doesn’t matter how many clients you have, or how big your team is. Small investments will build your business, because when people have a truly great experience, their natural response is to tell others about it. Take really good care of the clients you have now, because the domino effect is truly amazing.
With just over a decade’s worth of luxury deals in the real estate industry, Charlotte Durham has taken the Montana real estate market by storm. Charlotte is a 5th-generation Montanan who started her real estate career in 2011 and joined the ownership team at Big Sky Sotheby’s International Realty in 2020. Her listings have been featured in The Wall Street Journal, LA Times, Mansion Global and many more. Charlotte is very active in her community and believes that by giving back to her home she’s investing in its future. Charlotte and her husband Casey, along with their daughter, Camilla, live in Bozeman, Montana.