Working With The Tech Challenged Client

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Inman Connect New York | January 29 - February 1, 2019

I use the term client in a broad sense.  In my view, anyone I touch with communication falls into a relationship with me.  Whether it’s a buyer, a seller, a consumer or even another real estate agent, I have to work with each of these people via communications in some manner.

Old phoneIf you can’t communicate with me in the technology realm, honestly, my productivity goes way down; so, how do I still work with tech challenged clients and keep my productivity high?

You have two choices when looking at this question.  You can either (1) not work with the consumer simply because they only want to meet face-to-face or (2) facilitate them along a new path of communications.

I have always been one to push the second option.  Here are a few tips and case scenarios where pushing the tech communications button has either helped me nail the meeting or create a client for life.

Conduct Listing Webinars:  In 2008, I received a call from a son who was the “chair” of his family’s search committee.  The six brothers and sisters ranging from age 55 to 72 were preparing to sell mother Grace’s lake home at an assumed price of $2 million since Grace had reached her mid 90s.

The chair was the baby boy and felt a great load on his shoulders to make such a huge decision.  I asked him why we just didn’t meet with the entire family.  He informed me that mom was in Louisiana, a brother was in California, a sister was in Arkansas and so on.  I challenged him with, “Why should that hold you up?  I can bring you all together at one time.”

He was intrigued and agreed.  Before you knew it, I had a webinar together of every person, including 94 year-old Grace!  The joy of the moment wasn’t the magic of technology, but the fact that this family had their first family reunion as one unit in over 10 years.

Old Woman

I sat on the webinar for at least 30 minutes listening to stories of grandkids, new boats, surgeries and victories.  I no longer was the real estate agent.  I became a trusted part of this family.  Finally, after easily a half hour, one of the sons finally said, “Oh Brian.  We can’t be wasting your time like this!  Please start.”

I conducted my listing presentation.  They all asked questions and even Grace chatted questions into the chat room, being careful not to verbally interrupt me.  It was a defining part of my career.  While the other four agents were interviewed by one son only and promised a list price of $2 million, I had the entire family and could break the honest news to them that their list price had to be $975,000.  It was a tough pill to swallow, but they did.

Without being willing to introduce technology to the perceived technology challenged, I would’ve not had my marketing and pricing edge.  With the new Google+ hangout function, this is definitely going to revolutionize how we conduct online meetings like this, adding the face-to-face aspect.  I can’t wait!

Lesson one: Do not stereotype a person based on age or limits in technology.  Perhaps they’re a bit more adventuresome and willing than you give them credit for.

Give Your Client Communication Options.  Every buyer and seller I work with goes through quite a lengthy pre-counseling and questionnaire process.  One of the most important questions centers around communication.

How would you like to be communicated with?  Email, Twitter, Facebook, Text, Phone Call, U. S. Mail, Other (please specify).

Very few of my diverse clientele choose “Phone Call.”  In fact, one empty nest couple specifically said, “Do not call us.”  Some of the tech challenges are perceived in our own minds.  We see a couple in their sixties and think they automatically want a phone call.

When you are deliberate about asking for communication modes, it puts everyone on the same page.  This brings a downside, however, to your own communications.  I am forced now to check Facebook, Twitter, texts and emails constantly throughout the day.  I had once liked my Facebook and Twitter to only be for personal fun.  That has indeed changed.

One buyer, Ally, saw me on a TV show and found me via Twitter.  She conducted her homebuyer survey via a link I tweeted her.  We set up the appointment via direct messages to each other.  We met face-to-face for five showings, one inspection and the walk through.  Everything else was done via Twitter.  She closed her home late last year all via Twitter.

Lesson two: If your client doesn’t want to use your preferred or more efficient mode, you have to make a decision if they time you take in person or on the phone with them in long conversations will be profitable or not.  If not, find the referral form!

Offer Your Tech Challenged Client Support.  A simple, one-hour session on how to use a technology can be a huge service to a consumer.  Many crave the information but are just afraid to reach out for help.  The joy is, you have a vested interest in making this process flow smoothly.  If your consumer is having technology issues, ask questions about where they feel a dissonance and would like to learn.

Set up some time to help them out.  You’re accomplishing two things here.  First, you’re making your future with this person a lot more simple, but mainly you’re sharing a new knowledge with them that goes well beyond your value proposition.

I include other agents in this point as a client because raising the bar across the industry takes us all.

Tech Support

I saw a huge gap in tech learning in my Nashville market about three years ago.  We had no real estate technology focused anything!  I jumped on the REBarcamp bandwagon and organized Nashville’s first.  Before I knew it, over 500 local real estate agents were registered for our first and over 800 for our second.

Just last week, I was showing a home to a buyer from South Carolina.  We were touring a home with the listing agent.  When we finished and were ready to leave, the agent said (in front of my client, mind you), “I just have to tell you, you are my hero.  I go to Barcamp every year.  It’s changed the way I do my business.  Thanks.”

My bald face turned red, of course.  When we got in the car, my buyer had a ton of questions about what that meant.  It gave me a chance to discuss agent social economics and how that factored into her negotiations.  It also gave me the chance to assure her even more that she had the right agent on her side.

Lesson three: Hoarding your knowledge out of fear that someone might grab an edge over you is unhealthy.  Remember, the more you give, the more you get back!

Homogeny Attracts The Right Client.  Being in the tech space may likely niche your business away from the tech challenged.  Every day, I cross paths with someone who has either found me via my website or knows me through social media.

With that consumer already being in the tech space, your curve is lessened.  I often feel guilty and spoiled that time has shaped my client base to a group of people who keep me very efficient.  Sometimes the process of working with tech challenged folks can help you migrate more to a new ocean to swim in for clients.

Don’t resist that change.  I had to steer clear of two sellers, in particular, in 2011 simply because I knew with all the training, love and nurturing I could offer, they weren’t going to bend.  One specifically was going to add an additional two to four hours a week to my communications docket.  I made the decision to let him explore other options.  Creating a niche has helped me efficiency soar in hindsight.  Remember, I still want to bring people along, but some times it’s just not going to work out.

Lesson four: If you build it, they will come.

Offer Them The Tools.  I encourage you to check out my InmanNext blog on my buyer system in my car.  This has been a wonderful way to test people’s tech skills and help them along the path.  You can read that article about my wifi enabled car here.

Lesson five: You never know what other information here on InmanNext will help you after the article you just read.  Dig a bit deeper!