Welcome to KellerINK’s latest column – these monthly articles are aimed at helping you achieve greater success by highlighting the groundbreaking research that informs our award-winning books and drives Keller Williams’ industry-leading coaching and training.
At the core of every agent’s value proposition is the ability to satisfy a consumer’s desire and need for expertise. As a real estate agent, you guide people through the largest financial transaction they’ll ever make. Being both infrequent and high stakes, consumers face an abnormal amount of risk if they enter the market on their own. Naturally, this forces them to seek help.
In most relationship-based service industries, when consumers face a higher level of risk, its purveyors will respond by providing the consumer with a greater amount of leverage. Instead of working with one expert, they’ll work with several. And, as a result, their clients receive a higher level of service than they would otherwise receive if they were working with just one person. But in luxury real estate sales, it’s a common belief that the opposite is true.
As you climb into higher price points, you hear more and more agents contend, “My clients expect to work with me and only me.” And, while that might actually be true, it shouldn’t be.
When done right, greater leverage equates to a greater level of service. It’s certainly right that clients with more money on the table expect a greater attention to detail and care, and it’s baffling to think that offering fewer points of leverage translates to meeting those needs – or that it, in some way, translates to providing a higher level of service.
If I get a flat tire, I might call my brother-in-law to help me change a spare. If a commercial airliner is experiencing engine failure, I’m going to expect for a team of mechanics to fix it before sticking it back on the runway.
So why is the assumption in luxury real estate that consumers only want to work with one agent?
Breaking the Echo Chamber: Setting the Right Expectations
Stepping outside of the real estate bubble and seeking inspiration within other service industries will only help you as a business owner. And, bringing those new ideas and innovation to your service plan will only provide your clients with more value.
Unfortunately, when you find a good idea that doesn’t currently match the standard of the way business is conducted, you run into the trouble of having to reshape expectations. In the case of luxury listings, the expectations of what will be done stays the same. The expectations of how it will be done, however, will be different.
Setting the right expectations begins with your brand. Not your personal brand – the brand of your business.
When many agents first start out, they build their business around themselves. It’s their face on their fliers, on the website, and on their park benches and billboards. And, while it’s absolutely worthwhile to attach a face to a business, they make the mistake of letting that concept extend to all aspects of their service offerings.
At some point, nearly every business that comes attached with a name undergoes a transition from being about “me” to being about the “team.” When you go and buy an outfit at Neiman Marcus, do you expect for Mrs. Neiman or Mr. Marcus to personally tailor it for you? Do you know who Charles Schwab is or what he looks like?
No matter how we slice it, for these businesses, it doesn’t – and at some point, it shouldn’t for you either. In order to make that transition, you have to set the right expectations for the consumer: You and only you isn’t something they should expect.
Consumer expectations aren’t wholly derived from the consumer themselves. They’re a promise on how we’ll deliver the service and value that they need. This requires direct communication to the consumer about what you’ll do, why you’ll do it that way, and how it benefits them. During your listing presentations, you aren’t necessarily looking to hear more than “yes,” you’re looking for that homeowner’s buy-in to the organization, system, and process you’ve built.
Clear communication sometimes even means bringing in some of those they’ll be working with to your initial consultations. Show them who they’ll be working with, and extend the confidence you have in your team’s ability to the client. Ask questions and address concerns. And, in the end, seek agreement.
As a business, meeting the expectations of your consumer doesn’t mean doing everything personally, it’s meeting an agreed-upon standard. When a consumer and an agent agree to leverage the transaction as much as possible, everyone included in the transaction is better for it.
Meeting Your Standards
Luxury agents feel the magnitude of the listings they serve. They understand that their clients have incredibly high expectations and that, in order to succeed, they can’t afford to have any “happy accidents” if they want to see a paycheck at the end of the day.
In order to leap over your internal hurdles, look to do four things:
- Start with a Model
- Hire Talent
- Create Systems and Hold Standards
- Set Expectations
While seemingly simplistic, ensuring that you have all four of these bases covered will give you the confidence you need to start making the transition from a “me” business to a “team” business.
Step 1. Start with a Model
When it comes to leverage, some agents refuse to believe that it can work because they had tried it and did not experience success. But, more often than not, when you get to the root of their trial and failure, the result was jumping in without a model to help guide them.
Models exist as examples of what works. If you jump into any kind of business decision blind, you’re running the risk of getting burned. Models, on the other hand, give us a framework of how to achieve the results we want, so we don’t have to pay the expense of unnecessary failure.
Before leveraging anything out, get a grasp of what you’re leveraging, who you’re leveraging it to, why you’re leveraging it, and how it will be done. By covering those four basic questions, you’ll be left with a rudimentary model to begin working from. You’ll also be given a measuring stick for identifying mistakes before they become insurmountable.
Step 2. Hire Talent
Another common complaint we hear is that there simply “isn’t anyone out there who can do what I do.” Well, the truth is that there are people who can do what you do. And there may even be people out there who can do a better job than you do. Unless you control 100% of your market, then there’s always someone out there doing something you aren’t or doing something you aren’t capable of doing.
Whenever someone is able to fulfill a job description we create with the kind of personality and behavior that helps them excel at that job, they’re what we call “talent.”
Many failed forays into leverage end abruptly when the person doing the hiring and managing realizes they’ve hired someone who falls short of what the job requires them to do. In order to overcome this hiccup, set high standards. The higher up you raise the bar for candidates to meet, the less likely you will be to make a mistake during the hiring and recruitment process.
Related reading: 5 Choices of Operational Leverage
Step 3. Create Systems and Hold Standards
Like we wrote in the first edition of The Millionaire Real Estate Agent, “Whatever services you provide, as specialized as they may be, can be duplicated through the right people implementing systems to achieve standards you approve.”
As much as the industry has changed over the years, this is still the case. However, it requires you to actually have systems and standards in place. Having a system without a standard leaves its execution open to interpretation. Having a standard with no system means that something will get done, but creates inconsistent results and methods.
Document your systems. Document your standards. And, once you’ve done both, hold those you’ve hired accountable to the results those processes and benchmarks should produce.
Step 4. Set Expectations
Here, we’ll end where we started. Setting the right expectations is crucial to succeeding with your clients through a team or business concept. Think back to any high-stakes services, whether it be financial, legal, or otherwise – there’s usually a team of professionals available to serve the customer.
During a Mega Camp panel on the topic, luxury agent Barbara Van Poole said that whenever she passes a client to a co-worker, she likes to “sell up” the next person they’ll be working with. Even if you’ve walked your client through your service plan and introduced them to the team members they’ll be working with, it’s important to remind them along the way.
Remind them of who they’ll be working with and why. Keep them plugged in to the system you’ve created and share with them the results it produces. Get your clients excited to have personal and specialized assistance! Building an organization around your business to provide a higher level of service is something to be celebrated!
Remember, there’s no job too small or too big that can’t be leveraged out to someone else. If you adopt the right model, and approach it with the right mindset and standards, even those in the highest price points can build an organization of support for their businesses.
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