When do you take your business game face off?
If you had any answer to this question other than “never,” we might have a problem. During my 14 years in the marketing industry as a business-to-business supplier, I have worked with the best in the game, but I sometimes come across agents and brokers who leave me wondering how they ever got into the real estate industry. They seem to lack the critical understanding of how their impulsive, reactive behavior with other companies can have repercussions that ultimately affect their core real estate business.
In real estate, nothing is more important than a reliable referral. Yet time and time again, I have seen agents and brokers put their entire reputations on the line when working outside of their comfort zone. I have been on the other end of insult-laden, misguided tirades via phone and email, usually because of a simple misunderstanding. It always leaves me wondering how this person has any clients if this is how they conduct business with a supplier. And I know that if I make it through the project, I will never refer any business to this person. Ever.
And it all boils down to a few things that agents and brokers need to address before they take on a branding and marketing project. Three of these things we can usually work out with education and patience. One just gets you straight fired and will eventually see you alienated from every peer group you ever hoped of having in the business community.
Acting while stressed out and overwhelmed
Agents and brokers have stressful jobs. For the majority, it’s a hand-to-mouth industry at best, and when we talk about marketing spends, you’re usually faking it till you make it — and that can add up. The financial deficits and the time deficits that you experience while your marketing firm nails down your identity can add stress to your life that can spiral out of control.
The worst thing you can do if you find yourself stressed out about a project is to act when you’re feeling overwhelmed. People say and do things they can’t take back when they’re overwhelmed. If you find yourself wanting to act — to send an email or make a phone call in response to something a contractor just told you — then my advice is to take a deep breath and forget about it. Sounds easy on paper, but how do you do that in that real world?
Find the delete button. Deleting an email or voice mail can do wonders for your psyche. It allows you time to forget the issue and think about things rationally before you respond — if you decide to respond. Consider that sometimes the best response is none.
In a world that prides itself on instant gratification, it is far too easy just to fire off a response before you think clearly about what to say. This can lead to embarrassing, permanent digital records of you not behaving your best.
After you’ve given it some time, you’ll read into things differently, hear a different tone of voice or have more clarity to craft a better, more civilized response.
When in doubt, get a second opinion from someone not directly involved with the situation. If you can’t delete, then at least give yourself a self-imposed cooling-off period of 24 hours or more until you hit reply or pick up the phone to put someone on blast. You’ll thank your calmer self in the morning.
Can’t wait? If you must respond, then try this approach. Type out how you really feel at that point in time. Send it to yourself. And then read it again in the morning. If you still feel good about it the next day, then hit send. Make sure you think about whether you would still feel good about it if your response were distributed on social media or elsewhere on the Internet for all potential future clients to see. Be honest with yourself because, in some cases, your response could live online forever in reviews or searches for all others to discover if the recipient wants it to be found. Don’t throw away your reputation over something that’s not “life or death.”
Lack of knowledge
Do you ever get a client who takes up all your time asking you questions about pricing tactics, showings, do’s and don’ts of staging, or market statistics that seem not only silly but also redundant? You still oblige, however, reassuring them that you’re the expert.
This is one of the biggest gripes I hear from agents and brokers. So why do I see so many agents who can’t entrust other professionals to do their jobs without meddling, interfering and generally being disruptive to the process they’re paying someone else to manage?
If you’re a professional and you willingly hired another professional, then you need to extend the same common courtesy and respect you expect to the people you employ, whether that’s your Web design team, your lawyer or your photographer.
Don’t derail the project and put these professionals under a microscope. You will impede their process, and in the end, you and your micromanaging will ultimately cause their efforts to suffer. You hired them for a reason. Hang your hat on that. Trust them. See where it takes you. You might be pleasantly surprised.
Once bitten, twice shy
It happens: You paid for something that was either overpromised and underdelivered, or you subscribed to a product you didn’t fully understand. Either way, you’re not happy with the results.
I wish it didn’t always come down to price, but far too often I find myself listening to stories of agents and brokers who were promised Jaguars for the price of a Kia.
There’s nothing wrong with a Kia, but we all know that if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Take some more responsibility. Have you asked enough questions or requested reliable references? Have you compared apples to apples with the companies you’re considering to hire? That means comparing the exact same thing between products, not a similar feature.
If you get caught in this scenario, whatever you do, don’t assume that every company afterward operates in the same shady manner. Painting everyone with the same brush is just going to earn you a reputation you don’t want to have. Just like the real estate industry, other industry professionals talk about problematic clients. It’s a small world! If one or two companies have found you difficult to work with, your reputation has probably preceded you.
You might lose a potential relationship with a vendor who could have represented you well — but you’re also losing clients connected to your professional network. Remember that. Not everyone will hire a marketing company in their life, but chances are remarkably high that the staff members of said marketing firm, and their friends and family members, will need to buy or sell a house at some point.
How do you want to be remembered?
This has become a nonnegotiable flaw for me. I don’t care if you’ve been in the game 20 years or two minutes. If you act like an entitled know-it-all with no mortal flaws, then there’s no hope.
Don’t march into a situation and act like you like you own the joint. I have no patience for clients who belittle my team members because they believe themselves to be higher up on the totem pole than one of my employees.
I love my team. My team is what makes things run, and my team gets things done when I can’t be in three places at once. I expect my clients to treat the so-called entry-level staff as respectfully as they treat me, the person they assume is calling the shots. It’s called being nice.
And yes, you hired us and we work for you, but we are still humans dealing with technology, which is never perfect, but it is malleable. There’s a workaround for almost any issue.
When someone leverages entitlement against someone on my team, we have an instant conversation that either results in an apology or a pink slip. I have let clients go midway through a project based on snarky emails, irate phone calls and threatening behavior.
At the end of the day, I have no tolerance for ignorance or uppity behavior. If you think that your unpleasant rant to the billing department about why our billing process doesn’t fit with your travel schedule isn’t going to get back to the owner of the business, you’re delusional. And you might be left without a deposit and half of what you signed up for, looking for another company to fill the gap.
In short, I expect nothing more from my clients than respect. The benefit of the doubt goes a really long way. Treat us how you want to be treated by your own clients. That doesn’t mean you can’t push for better results or more creative solutions. Innovation makes us all thrive. But you can give constructive feedback without micromanaging a project and without belittling the staff members who worked hard on it.
Go figure: Being nice to everyone you encounter in your business may just cause more referrals to come your way.
Jennifer Fuller is the co-founder of Syncro.