Healthy competition should be the foundation upon which we strive to provide our clients with the highest level of customer service and care. Team leader Carl Medford outlines the difference between healthy and toxic ways of engaging.

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One of the benchmarks of a market-driven economy is the idea of competition. In a White House paper entitled “The Importance of Competition for the American Economy,” authors Heather Boushey and Helen Knudsen state,

“Healthy market competition is fundamental to a well-functioning U.S. economy. Basic economic theory demonstrates that when firms have to compete for customers, it leads to lower prices, higher quality goods and services, greater variety, and more innovation.”

The key is the word “healthy.” The article goes on to explain a growing trend in the United States towards unhealthy monopolization which, while decreasing the overall fairness in the market, also leads to higher consumer prices, lower wages and a decline in innovation.

Competition is a given in business here in the U.S. It is not always healthy, however.

It is safe to say that I am a highly competitive person. Given the opportunity, I would love to rule the landscape and be the dominant force in all things real estate. Over the years, however, I have discovered that while this reality might be good for me personally, it would have devastating consequences for my clients. While the idea of rulership by a benevolent dictator has some appeal, at the end of the day, it is fundamentally good for only one person.

What’s your competitive style?

As a newer agent, I spent a significant amount of time designing systems and tools that I imagined would provide me with significant advantages when competing for clients against other agents. I held these tools tight to my chest, afraid of giving away any secrets to my competition.

In truth, the systems were effective and my business rapidly expanded. I soon came to a point where I had outgrown the support capabilities of my current office and relocated to a company that could handle a larger volume of business. Shortly after relocating, I was confronted by a fellow agent who, in one statement, radically changed my world.

“You need to share your systems with others,” she said.

As I looked at her in shock, she explained. “You are a storehouse of information that other agents need to hear. You will build tremendous camaraderie and credibility as an agent if you share. Agents will seek to work with you and you will enjoy tremendous goodwill in the market as a whole.”

Then, she clinched her argument by adding, “And, as you know, most agents will attend your training, take your materials, put them on a shelf when they get back to their office and never do a thing about it.”

To that point I had viewed my content and systems as mine and, in the same way the Coca-Cola formula is locked away in a vault, I had operated in secrecy. That encounter, however, launched a fundamental shift in my thinking and eventually led to me teaching my systems at Realtor associations around the state and in other venues across the country.

Sharing generates credibility

And it turned out she was correct: The more I shared, the more authenticity and credibility I built in the marketplace and the more other agents wanted to collaborate with me and my team.

Years later, moving from that brokerage, I joined forces with Keller Williams, where I began to hear the phrase, “Always come from a place of contribution.” In other words, be willing to share all you have with others with the ultimate goal of bringing the highest level of service to your clients. Always give freely before expecting to receive anything in return.

In their book Remarkable!: Maximizing Results through Value Creation, Dr. Randy Ross and David Salyers explain the difference between a scarcity mentality and an abundance mentality. Scarcity says, “I must win at all costs.” In other words, you “win” at the cost of others. You are looking to compete in every situation to extract as much value as possible in order to survive.

In contrast, an abundance mindset seeks to bring value to a relationship instead of trying to take from it. Instead of competing to win based on a need to get as much as possible from the situation, a person operating from an abundance mindset seeks to bring as much value as possible to a situation and then let the client decide whom they will be choosing to work with based on their perception of the value being provided.

Those who offer the greatest level of service and value end up, in most cases, being the ones chosen and, instead of surviving, thriving.

Ross and Salyers explain it this way:

“We would never view ourselves as competing against other companies in an attempt to put them out of business. Instead, our focus was on competing for the customer. Our objective was to create as much value for the customer as we possibly could in both product offerings and service. By doing so, we were competing with others to bring as much value to the market as possible, and we would let the customer decide who had the most to offer.”

An obvious example of this would be an agent who will do anything to get a listing regardless of the cost to the client or other agents. In this scenario, the goal is to simply get a check or increase their unit count. In contrast are those agents who seek to provide as much value as possible so that the client ends up with an exemplary experience.

In a scarcity environment, the agent comes first. In an abundance environment, the client and their needs are in first place. Even though agents are competing for the listing, they are doing so from a perspective of contribution and value provided so that the client wins.

This approach to competition is not only in the client’s best interest, it also drives innovation as Realtors actively seek ways to increase the level of services they can provide to their clients.

Here are 4 rules for healthy competition:

1. Do not attack or undermine other agents

A few years ago, I dropped into an open house hosted by an agent from a different brokerage. I knew him fairly well and was aware he had just gone through treatment for cancer. My goal was to check in and see how he was doing.

As we chatted, he gave me an update on his health and then made an interesting statement. “The problem with my cancer,” he stated, “has not been the cancer itself but the response of other agents in the community.”

He further explained, “Many are saying that I am either out of business or no longer fit to be an agent because of my illness.” Much like Mark Twain, rumors of his demise had been greatly exaggerated.

Spend any time in this business and you will soon hear agents deriding others. It is a sad commentary that the only way some agents feel they can win is at the expense of their compatriots.

I have personally encountered this during appointments with prospective clients who have clued me in to negative comments made about me by agents preceding me, hoping to get the upper hand. Our response, when told who else is being interviewed, is to always accentuate the positive, knowing that the services we provide speak for themselves.

2. Understand the needs of the clients

Agents who want to effectively compete in the marketplace need to first understand exactly what their potential clients are looking for. The criteria changes from market to market and within economic strata.

While as a team we endeavor to bring the highest level of client care and service to all our clients, the type of service given to an entry-level condo is different than that provided for a luxury estate. In all cases, however, we strive to provide the best possible customer experience in any given strata.

3. Provide the best level of service possible

While some people are shopping for the lowest price only, there are many who are willing to pay the going rate for exemplary service.

As an example, as I write this, my car is at the dealership being serviced. I know I could get the work done for less elsewhere, but the knowledge the dealer has about my specific vehicle and the fact that they provide me with a free loaner far outweigh any cost differential. In addition, they are willing to come and pick up my vehicle from my home and leave the loaner in its place.

This principle is also behind the success of Chick-fil-A. While they may not have the best product in the world according to some taste tests, no one even comes close to matching their level of customer service. People show up for the experience even though on the way to Chick-fil-A they often drive by many other fast-food restaurants that also sell chicken sandwiches.

With the goal of providing state-of-the-art customer service, as we see other companies add additional services, we ask ourselves if we want to compete at that new level. If the answer is yes, then we seek ways to not only match the service others are providing but to exceed it. This then raises the bar for others who must ask the same questions.

Rather than belittle or deride our competition, we up the ante so that the client is the winner. Once the transaction closes, we continue the outstanding level of service knowing that future referrals are contingent upon an ongoing client relationship.

4. Be willing to share

Recently, driving to our office, I noticed an agent from a different company pulling into their parking lot adjacent to ours. I stopped behind her vehicle and waited for her to get out. Although we both serve the same neighborhoods and enjoy healthy competition, we benefit from the opportunities we have to chat and share.

We’ve also been on agent panels together and openly shared what is working for our particular teams. She does things differently than we do and there is no fear she is going to badmouth us when talking to prospective clients.

When we operate from an abundance mindset, our competition only increases the level of service received by our respective clients. When I have taught my systems in our local Realtor associations, I have found that it builds goodwill and raises the bar for agents across the board.

Instead of competing, I have discovered that agents in the room look for opportunities to work with our team. This means that in some situations, our offers are given preferential treatment. In other cases, we have encountered agents who want to join our team because they love the environment created by coming from abundance.

I have also found that as I teach my systems across the country, although I will never go toe-to-toe with any of the agents in the training, I become the go-to agent for referrals coming into our region.

In my opinion, healthy competition needs to be the foundation upon which we strive to provide our clients with the highest level of customer service and care. Not only do our clients win, but the referrals they provide down the road are solid gold.

A recent email from a past client who referred their friends to us illustrates this point. She explained,

“I owe you and your team a big thank you because I know my friend inside and out and I wouldn’t have referred just any Realtor to him and his wife; it had to be someone who went over and beyond the expectations of their job. 

I have worked closely together with my friend for almost a decade and I knew he would trust whoever I referred so I was so happy that he and his wife were extremely pleased with all that you did for them in the selling of their home; I didn’t doubt for a minute that you were a good match for them.”

Carl Medford is the CEO of The Medford Team.

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