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Real Estate Brokerage

How predators trick the most intelligent agents, make them vulnerable to assault

Predators use the same sales methods as you do, both effectively luring you in through a funnel system of questions. Fascinating.

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Getting people to say “yes” is the ultimate goal for any salesperson. Many sales trainers will recommend that you ask for a little “yes,” then build on that by getting more little “yeses.”

You could begin with a simple request, perhaps completing a simple questionnaire. By getting people to make a simple decision, or perform a small action, you can fairly easily establish a new psychological “commitment.”

Implementing the “foot-in-the-door method”

Once you have that initial commitment, no matter how small, building on that foundation and making ever increasing requests get surprisingly easy. This is called the “foot-in-the-door method,” an approach based on trust and consistency, and it’s effective.

To prove the point, a group of researchers back in the 1960s, called on a group of housewives, asking if they could answer a couple of simple questions about household products. Then, a couple of days later calling again, asking if they could send five employees to survey the contents of their kitchen cupboards. The research revealed that that twice as many answered “yes” if they had answered those simple questions in the first call.

We also find it much easier to say yes to those we have good feelings about and seem similar to us. In other words, we like them! This is why refusing to buy Tupperware from a friend or relative is almost impossible!

Guess what? Predators use these same tactics

Predators and sexual offenders in particular, work very hard to be likable and use the very same “foot in the door” techniques to troll for their next victim.

Just like sales professionals, the predator seek those little yeses, but this time for testing and probing, seeking clues as to your willingness to be directed and controlled.

“The man in the underground parking lot who approaches a woman as she puts groceries in the trunk of her car and offers assistance, may be a gentleman or he may be conducting an interview,” suggests Gavin De Becker, in his book The Gift of Fear. “The woman whose shoulders tense slightly, who looks intimidated and shyly says, ‘No, thanks, I think I’ve got it’ may be his victim.”

De Becker then suggests, “Conversely, the woman who turns toward him, raises her hands to The Stop position, and says directly, ‘I don’t want your help,’ is less likely to be his victim.”

You may not be able to spot their deception

Offenders are also professional liars, truly skillful at what they do because they have had plenty of practice over the years. They’ve lied to themselves and everyone else in their lives. According to most experts who work with sexual offenders, not only is their lying hard to detect, but it is often very convincing.

“Even the guilty liar probably won’t avert his gaze much, since liars know that everyone expects to be able to detect deception in this way,” observed Paul Ekman, an American psychologist who is a pioneer in the study of emotions. “Amazingly, people continue to be misled by liars skillful enough to not avert their gaze.”

“’Declining to hear no’ is a signal that someone is either seeking control or refusing to relinquish it. With strangers, even those with the best intentions; never, ever relent on the issue of no, because it sets the stage for more efforts to control,” said De Becker “If you let someone talk you out of the word no, you might as well wear a sign that reads: You are in charge.”

Using this be aware of potential problems:

Predators meaning you harm will seek to control the narrative. They will make some positive statements and seek small yeses to gain what they eventually want – to get you to a place where they feel safe enough to assault or rob you.

Obviously not every conversation is going to occur just like this following example, but that said, let’s look at this scenario:

Potential predator calls you from a cell phone and the conversation goes something like this:

  • From the street I like the house at 123 Main Street. Are you familiar with the neighborhood?
  • Are you available to show me this home?
  • I’m preapproved with XYZ bank. Will you bring the paperwork, as I might want to make an offer.
  • Then, the final question: I’m actually here in the neighborhood. Can we meet right now?

If you got this far and found yourself answering with a string of small yeses, you’d better be ready to redirect and assume control or the outcome may not be pretty.

The agent responds in kind:

  • Sure, I’d love to show you the home, but I need to swing by my office first to grab the keys, OK?
  • Would you please bring your pre-approval letter along?
  • I’d like to meet at the office first so we can review your pre-approval, OK?
  • Then, the final question: Before we can meet, please send me a copy of your photo ID – management likes to know just who we are with and where we will be, for the safety of everyone involved, should there be a problem.

A prospect’s reaction to this request is important. If the final question is met with lots of bluster and indignation, this could be a big red flag.

Take measures to protect yourself in the field

The “foot in the door” is a well known and effective sales tool, unless it’s misdirected by someone who means you harm. Never ever allow a strange prospect to take control. Be mindful that most predators are accomplished and very convincing liars.

Always take precautions. Don’t meet strange prospects at the property. Always meet at your office or a neutral location such as Starbucks.

Always ask for and verify the photo ID of strange prospects, preferably before you meet – that way you have a chance to review pertinent information.

You should bear in mind that several of those arrested and charged this year for assaulting real estate agents were convicted sex offenders who managed to insert themselves into the lives of real estate agents.

All the measures we have discussed here are preventative, so take appropriate precautions when you actually meet with strange prospects. Here are some suggestions.

Does your Broker have a safety policy for its agents? If not, why not? Visit the NAR site for more information on safety courses and keeping safe.

Disclosure: the author is founder of Verify Photo ID, an app that verifies prospects ID’s and checks against a national sex offender database.

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Peter Toner is a third generation real estate agent who has been practicing for nearly two decades. He is the Founder of Verify Photo ID - a safety app that verifies the identity of strange prospects before you meet - in three simple steps; it includes a Safety Monitor with panic alerts.

Real Estate Brokerage

Inexpensive mental health resources for real estate pros

Mental health issues are often untreated when no insurance or few resources are apparent, but there are many resources available to keep the entire team cared for.

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There’s no shame in needing a doctor when you’re physically sick, but sometimes people think that mental illness should be hidden. No one likes to admit they’re struggling with an addiction, grief, or depression, but trust me, friends, family, and co-workers most likely know you’re struggling – they just may not know how to help.

Mental health assistance can be very expensive, especially without insurance. With the ACA, more people have access to services, but it may not be immediately evident.

Attention Brokers:
We recommend sharing this article with your team accompanied with a note explaining why. We’ve known many agents that suffer through drug addiction, unmedicated bipolar disorder, sex addiction, depression, and so forth. Open the door to a conversation. Everyone on the team deserves to be cared for, with or without insurance.

Free or inexpensive ways to get help:

If you or someone you know is in need of help or someone to listen to you, please do not be embarrassed. If you (or the person you’re concerned with) don’t have insurance or have limited resources, here are some places to get help.

  • If you are in a crisis, dial 911 or call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) for a 24-hour crisis center.
  • Check with your insurance company. You may not realize that you have mental health benefits, or understand how to find a provider that fits into your plan.
  • Talk to your primary care doctor. Your doctor may know of local resources that are available to you.
  • Most communities have local mental health centers that provide income-based services. Ask about discounts or reduced rates.
  • Dial 2-1-1 in Texas (and most states) for referrals to agencies that are in your community.
  • Go to your religious organization. Spiritual leaders are often willing to listen and help you get back on track. They may be able to direct you to resources within their community and network.
  • Search for your particular issue. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America (adaa.org) has a full list of resources and help for dealing with every day and chronic stress and worry. If you get too many hits, try using the phrase, “national foundation” then the issue, for example, “national foundation OCD.”
  • Go to the library and seek out a book. Self-help books on grief or depression can help you navigate your own feelings and find a way out.
  • Go to the App Store. Type in what you need help with. You might be surprised at what comes up. Happify is a good app that helps you work on being positive. 7 Cups of Tea offers trained listeners to get you through anxiety.
  • Talk to a friend, a trusted mentor, or family member. Reach out for help.
  • Exercise. Get out of your rut.

The bottom line is that whether you’re struggling or trying to help someone else who is, neither of you are alone. It may take more than one try, but we urge everyone to bookmark this page for reference, should it be needed now or int he future.

This story was first featured here on September 2, 2015.

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Real Estate Brokerage

The game doesn’t matter until you keep score

(BROKERAGE) How you collect feedback can determine whether your service actually improves or not. #science

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Every significant endeavor utilizes measurements and scorekeeping to record activities and progress. The most trivial of human pursuits often involves record keeping and statistical analysis.

While the sales and production side of real estate services are measured in-depth, the service side of the business enjoys less measurement, scorekeeping, and analysis than one might find associated with the performance of a neighborhood Little League team.

What does this truly say then about the importance many brokers, owners or managers place on service delivery, customer satisfaction, consistency and service performance?

It’s true that a few organizations do attempt to measure service performance by means of a customer satisfaction survey. Most of these programs are produced and administered internally. The surveys are sent under the company banner and the company tabulates the results.

First, when a customer is asked directly by the professional or the company for performance/satisfaction feedback, that feedback is always more positive than what is obtained by an independent, third-party asking the same questions.

This is known as the halo effect. Consumers are more diplomatic in their response to the person or company that provided the service.

Second, internal service/satisfaction assessment programs typically develop standards and objectives to validate the belief that good service is already being delivered. Thus this positively biased feedback data suits the objectives of the internal program just fine.

It’s just that measurement of those areas of service performance that sellers and buyers feel are important is not taking place.

For those more serious about customer service satisfaction and service performance assessment, there is recognition that the halo effect lessens the value of the data for internal use, and that keeping score of one’s own results has less credibility externally.

Instead, they seek the objectivity and credibility that third party validation of service assessment can provide.

Ironically, even without expert resources and objectivity the attention that measurement brings to the organization will effect positive results and performance improvement. This phenomenon is known as the Hawthorne effect.

The effect was first noticed in the Hawthorne plant of Western Electric. Production increased not as a consequence of actual changes in working conditions introduced by the plant’s management, but because management demonstrated interest in such improvements.

Unfortunately, this phase of initial improvement is not sustainable. Sustaining improvement requires more than measurement and leadership interest. Action steps that result in the actual improvement of the situation must follow collection of data.

Measuring service results and satisfaction in the real estate organization is an important first step. It will certainly gain the attention of the organization and send a serious signal.

Sustaining organizational interest and performance improvement requires more.

It requires systematic and timely feedback, objectivity, systems and service delivery processes, coaching and recognition/awards. But it really all does start by keeping score.

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Real Estate Brokerage

Best ways to handle stressed-to-the-max clients

(BROKERAGE NEWS) Moving can make even your calmest clients nightmare wackadoos. Here’s how to manage them.

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Three researchers have published an interesting study on how customer service can be improved by recognizing a customer’s stress level before a connection with your business is made.

For example, a customer can often be anxious over using a particular service, i.e., a funeral home or a lawyer in connection with a divorce. By learning more about how your clients feel when they call your business, you can better manage the customer experience. This offers your business a more effective customer base of referrals and repeat business.

The researchers identified the following steps to manage stressed-out customers:

1. Find out how your customers are feeling when they need your service.

One reason so many breast cancer facilities are free-standing, away from the main hospital complex, is because women voiced their ideas to the healthcare team designing the facilities. Women wanted coordinated care under one roof, but felt like the hospital was not a calming environment. Use your empathy to walk in your customer’s shoes to change the experience.

2. Hire not only for skill, but attitude and personality.

Employees who love their job can’t be trained. The passion and enthusiasm, even for a high-stress career like a cancer nurse or funeral director, cannot be taught. Look to bring on team members who have empathy for your customers and understand that business is all about customer service. It’s far easier to teach someone the skills needed for a job than it is to teach them to be motivated to work.

3. Study your approach to the customer’s journey.

How does your business interact with the client? From the first link online or phone call, to the payment options, what is the customer’s experience? Address the high-stress interactions by providing information about your services. For example, when calling to view a listing, what can your customer expect?

4. Give the customer more control over the service.

Dealing with a mechanic who tells you that your engine is shot is highly stressful. Instead, learn to be more specific and talk to the customer in a language that can be understood by someone without technical knowledge. Make sure your customer has one point-of-contact throughout their experience. Have a plan B in place for when that individual is sick or goes on vacation. Empower your customers through today’s technology, maybe an app that tracks the sale. There’s no excuse today for poor customer service and information.

I would highly recommend that every real estate professional read the research from Harvard Business Review. Leonard L. Berry, Scott W. Davis, and Jody Wilmet packed so much information into their report that there’s no way I could cover it all here.

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