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Be Prepared – Don’t Miss the Call – Consumers Are Jerks?

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Several posts have gone up in recent days discussing things like theft of information, hostile consumers and the like.  Many see this as something new, but it’s been happening since the dawn of time.  Perspective is needed when dealing with the public and the big picture issues of the day.

The Confessional

I remember shopping for my first home– we would call signs all day from sun up Saturday to sun down on Sunday.  We would tour open houses, visit builder models, all the while looking like realbuyers.  The truth was we were renters doomed to be renters because my wife and I at the time were just like the know-it-alls of today.  We didn’t have internet, but we had a newspaper and a car- we would “surf” the back roads for homes just like many surf the net today.  We would gather information from each of the agents we spoke to, taking each bit as some sort of knowledge nugget that would help us to feel more informed.  I remember how belligerent I would get with sales people in builder models to leave us alone, feeling that our private inspection of the home would lead us to some inkling of a clue that we might know something about something- the truth is, we knew nothing (and we knew it).

Looking back, I remember the search intensified over time, and our intent to try to buy became more sincere.  What began to happen with each of our stolen nuggets was that we were beginning to put them together as sentences, and later whole paragraphs in a book on home buying we were formulating in our heads– much like a good blog can do for a buyer today.  Over about a 3 month period what began to come about was the revelation that we as renters could actually buy. 

Our under-the-radar strategy of pushing away sales agents was really the overwhelming fear of being rejected.  Buying a home to a first time buyer without guidance is a mortifying proposition- and that realistic fear of being laughed at by the big time Realtor was more than personalities like ours could handle- talk about manic!  We hung up on more than 100 agents back in those days right about the time they asked if we were working with an agent.  My verbal reason was one thing, but my true reason was, again, that fear of rejection.  Credit, income, time on job, age (closed first home at 18), were all factors in our fear- I am sure if those agents had internet back then, many articles would have been written about their experience with this new modern age of home buyers we were– laughing out loud.  Trust me, we were no different than that older modern age those agents talked about over coffee at the donut shop before there was even an MLS. 

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The most relatable experience I have to modern times is that it wasn’t an agent who actually pushed us into buying a house, it was my manager.  I told him I was thinking about buying, and he said he was selling- there ensued a conversation about calling his agents- wow.  We did.  Unfortunately, we didn’t qualify, but as we put on our “I KNEW IT” hats, the agent asked us if we might be willing to try on another house that was more fitting our price range.  Of course we were skeptical, but the agents began having us come by and grab their lists of homes- back then you got a weekly update generally about new homes on the market. 

We continued to shop on our own for about a month when finally the agent called us to let us know a home fit our budget, but it was a HUD.  A what?  A HUD.  We began the 6 month process on what would be our first home, and I remember at the time, feeling like we were just signing whatever was in our face.  The desperation level was at its peak, but damnit, we didn’t care anymore- we were all in.  To this day, I cannot remember the agent’s name, but I remember feeling that she was amazingMy pushing away of agents and bad talk about sales people was a front– my main issue was fear.

Looking at Today & Tomorrow

Now, take a look at today’s modern issues.  The credit crunch, subprime buyers, income requirements rising all raise the anxiety level of buyers.  Further, consumers have always driven around looking at homes, consumers have always shopped for information, consumers have always toured open houses- all without representation.  There are some personalities that would call an agent immediately if they knew one, but not everyone wants their mom’s agent to tell their mom what’s going on with the “kids.”  There is no difference in then and now in the psychology of the buyer, or even the seller.  We attempted to do on our own what we eventually did with an agent, even without the internet.

This psychology crosses over to 2nd and 3rd time buyers as well, and our case is more common than most want to admit, but I’ve built my entire business around my first experience and hope that you can apply some of what I’ve confessed to you here.  We’re not dealing with rocket science, and even back then, I feared the commission.  I really believed I had to pay that out of pocket- again, shows what I didn’t know I didn’t know.  Looking back, I remember the agent telling me the percentage, but I also remember my eyes glazing over- how much do you think it really matters in the end?  It didn’t.  What I do brag about to this day is I purchased a home that appraised for over $65k for just under $24k.  Slam dunk.

Media Has Changed, but People Haven’t

Don’t let the perception perpetrated by the media, social media, and antagonistic competitors disrupt your behavior.  Dealing with consumers the way you always have is the key.  Earning their business even when they’re rude is no small task, but I challenge you to challenge the challenging client.  Ask them for the chance to prove them wrong.  Go out on a limb for the asshole- chances are, they’re not assholes, they’re people.  Don’t perpetuate a stereotype by not being prepared. 

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Knowing When to Calibrate

I remember back in March when I decided to stop giving free information by phone and instead asking for them to register with us- it actually works more times than it doesn’t, and even when it doesn’t, I still make sure I leave them with an impression of what they may be missing.  I am not afraid to take a hostile consumer under my wing as a personal mission to win them- does it work?  Yes.  People want to be challenged, but even more, they love to be mentored.  They want to know and understand the value they’re buying, they want to understand the nuances you’ve experienced, so simply raise the level of your approach- affirm their knowledge, give them credit where it is due, learn what they know, and then blow them away with what they didn’t know. 

Prepare now… Don’t miss another call.

Benn Rosales is the Founder and CEO of The American Genius (AG), national news network. Before AG, he founded one of the first digital media strategy firms in the nation has received the Statesman Texas Social Media Award and is an Inman Innovator Award winner. He has consulted for numerous startups (both early- and late-stage), and is well known for organizing the digital community through popular offline events. He does not venture into the spotlight often, rather he believes his biggest accomplishments are the talent he recruits and develops, so he gives all credit to those he's empowered.

9 Comments

9 Comments

  1. Ines

    January 8, 2008 at 1:14 pm

    I really like where this is going – I guess some do take on the challenge without it being called “a challenge” officially.

    There is nothing that feels better (well maybe there is) than a customer that had doubts and now totally trusts and values what you do.

  2. Jeff Brown

    January 8, 2008 at 4:07 pm

    As there are always different schools of thought, I humbly offer mine on this topic.

    Since I know Benn, have spent hour talking with him both via phone and in person, and think I know who he is, allow me some observations.

    This ‘taking the challenge’ is congruent with his personality.

    Benn likes to change what he sees as either incorrect, wrong thinking, or broken. His thoughts about improving NAR from the inside is a solid current example of that.

    He’s smarter than the average bear. Way smarter.

    Benn loves tilting at windmills. He doesn’t do it unknowingly. He believes in it, he does it. More power to him.

    Show me a potential client/customer who starts out as a giant pain in the ass, and I’ll answer their questions. The answers will be in depth and richly detailed.

    Still not satisfied? Hit the road big guy. Not interested in Dyson-like time suckers.

    People like Benn because after hearing him speak for long than five minutes they realize what they’ve tapped into.

    My school says to start out with the intent to convert through massive infusions of knowledge, experience, and expertise. If after a round of that combo, I’m still dealing with ‘challenges’ — it’s time to head down the road.

    Just another school.

  3. Benn Rosales

    January 8, 2008 at 5:19 pm

    Jeff, practically speaking, in your business, you’re correct. It is another school, but it does apply.

    You have 38 years of spent cheeseburger wrappers under your desk. It’s a privledge to work with you and those that do not get that either do not call, or screw themselves out of the opportunity by allowing their fear of investing talk themselves out of doing it all while you’ve sat down to take interest in the caller- it’s that fast.

    There again, the psychology does apply. Someone knows you, your reputation, your skill, but would second guess you, why? Because they’re stupid? No. It is more than likely because they really do not believe they’re worthy or even qualified to begin with. Rapport is king.

    How do you get rapport? Your approach is already sharpened, you know when to go soft, you already know the personality as I do by the end of the first sentence, you already know what the caller is thinking- you my friend are simply faster at it than the average sales person.

    By scaling and calibrating your approach, you’re already tto the conclusions most would take an hour to gain, so yes, you are a different school.

    So yes, I agree, anyone reading my challenge, if you’re not good at knowing the personality on the phone within the first 10 seconds and knowing how calibrate, and when to challenge “anxiety” you probably are a simply cherry picker and probably not ready for dry season sales. But it is a learned skill, and like I said, be prepared, practice… do what I do and simply have fun with the evil info theft artist, and the asshole- make them laugh, if you can get a chuckle, you can have a conversation about real estate.

    Thanks Jeff, I always love raising the bar a bit to fit your niche into my mad imagination of the world.

  4. Ines

    January 8, 2008 at 5:23 pm

    Do you realize that you and JB could write books with every comment?

  5. Benn Rosales

    January 8, 2008 at 5:45 pm

    Ines, just read the last sentence unless its a comment thats good on me 😉

  6. Jeff Brown

    January 8, 2008 at 9:51 pm

    I see what you mean Benn, sometimes I tend to underestimate the advantage of having been to a few rodeos. 🙂

    You may not have my experience, but you have more knowledge than most vets with 10 years under their belts. In fact, the agents who’ve made real knowledge their #1 agenda have separated themselves from the pack — regardless of experience. That may be the single factor I’ve noticed in this downturn as compared to poor markets in the past.

    If I as an ah, more relatively mature agent, (yeah! that’s the ticket) can be encouraged by the next generation it is due to how smart some of them have been. I don’t mean just IQ, but the way they’ve been so purposefully (there’s that word again) studious. They now KNOW the areas in which they work. They are embracing technology. Even though most haven’t yet morphed into bloggers, I’m sure this year they will to a great extent.

    I say all this to come full circle to my original point.

    Though as Benn points out, my experience does help. To be fair, and brutally honest, it probably took me 20 years to be able to do so quickly what Benn seems to do naturally. (incredibly irritating) 🙂 That advantage isn’t like coming to a knife fight with a gun however. It’s just not true.

    What some call ‘challenging’ clients are mostly folks who’ve adopted an M.O. that has worked for them, apparently for quite awhile. Why does being a horse’s ass work? Simple — it works cuz folks with whom they interact allow it to work.

    You’ll find, as Dad and Grandma promised me I would, that as soon as you calmly but with overpowering knowledge and expertise, demonstrate they simply don’t even know what you’ve already forgotten — game, set, match.

    An example of this is my son Josh, who just turned 27. He’s WAY smarter the I, has a cool degree in International Business, and has patiently put up with just over three years of a very old school apprenticeship.

    Experienced investors already are beginning to ask him as many if not more questions during meetings than they do me. It because every time he opens his mouth he demonstrates real knowledge and expertise. Also, and this is critical — when answering questions he gives rich detail, examples where required, backed by EMPIRICAL evidence.

    People appreciate that because unfortunately they’ve become conditioned to expect mealy mouthed answers to specific questions.

    This is also why Benn does so well with not only clients, but other brokers, agents, and developer/builders.

    People AREN’T stupid. They’ve developed a well earned mistrust of RE agents/brokers because most of them when it comes to real estate couldn’t spell ‘cat’ if you spotted them the C and the T. 🙂

    Enough said.

    Well, maybe one more thought.

    Once you’ve shown you know what you’re doing to one of these ‘difficult’ clients, and they remain either belligerent or just plain irritating, send them packing. They’ll steal time from you, which in today’s market equates more than ever to money.

  7. Jeff Brown

    January 8, 2008 at 9:52 pm

    I’ll leave the books to Benn. 🙂

  8. Ines

    January 8, 2008 at 11:54 pm

    Yeah right Jeff, I think I got my reading for the night. Thanks for enlightening me (I love your writing style)

  9. Jeff Brown

    January 8, 2008 at 11:57 pm

    Thanks so much Ines — I appreciate that.

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