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Before you fire that real estate client...

Posted by Jessica Schweppe

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Aug 26, 2014 5:23:00 PM

Welcome back to Agent Insights - our guest blogger series where real agents share real advice and tricks of the trade. Today, we're featuring Patricia Kennedy (more commonly known as Pat) - an agent in Washington DC who just celebrated her 30 year real estate-iversary. Pat has some real estate tips for any agent who is dealing with or has ever dealt with a problem client. 

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Here's Patricia:

real estate tips


Before you fire that real estate client... 
stop and ask yourself a few questions.



patricia-kOver a 30+ year career, I have fired a few buyers and sellers.
It's rare - but I have done it. 

Today, before I declare a client relationship hopeless, I ask myself a very important question:

"What am I doing to make the relationship with this client not work?"

That very question is an important takeaway from a lesson I learned years ago. Today, I'm going to tell you how I learned my invaluable lesson.

I once had a wise manager helping me through a client crisis. I really, really wanted to pull the plug but he advised me to slow down and think it through. Was it really all the other person?...

So I thought about that for a moment and concluded, yes - in this case it was!

The client in question was (to be blunt) obnoxious and demanding. Her favorite thing to do was micromanage me and keep a watchful eye on everything... from my fact sheet to to my Washington Post ads. She also wanted to be present for all showings and to top it all off - she was calling me at least six times a day, at all hours, each time with an "emergency" of some sort.... and that's what I told my manager.

My Wise Manager replied by asking me some probing questions:

  • Are any of the challenging client's suggestions worth considering? 
    Gee, I don't know.  I didn't really listen to her when she was making them. Besides, I'm the professional, right? 

  • Did you explain the psychology of showing a house and how important it is to give prospective buyers their space? 
    Well... no.  I just told her she couldn't be there.

  • Did you give your client any time guidelines during your listing presentation - explaining how you work and when you are available to speak with her? 
    I guess not. I didn't really think it was necessary.

On the surface, it seemed like my client was creating the problem - but after some reflection, I realized she might actually be reacting to something I'm doing... or not doing. 

Per Wise Manager's suggestion, I called my client for a face-to-face meeting.  When we sat down at her home, I explained that I felt I had gotten off to a terrible start with her. I told her it wasn't working for me, and that I suspected it might not be great for her either. I apologized for any mis-steps and I created a space for her to share thoughts and feelings.

We went over her concerns: 

  • She had a background in marketing.
    She previously held professional marketing roles and actually knew a lot about it. I really listened to her ideas, and some of them were great. In fact, some were so great, I decided to incorporate them into my overall marketing plan.

  • She was concerned about the security of valuables in her home.
    Her desire to be around during the open house didn't have anything to do with being a nosy nancy, she was concerned about her property. Within a day, her priceless items were in a safe deposit box and a lock box was on the front door. When an agent was showing the house - she was out of there.

  • She was receptive to schedule guidelines.
    We talked about my work hours and I made a simple request that, unless there was a heavy duty emergency (like her house was burning down), she contact me during normal business hours. Ultimately, we agreed that fewer calls from her gave me more time to focus on getting her house sold. 

My Wise Manager helped me save this real estate client relationship - and his advice helped me save many more over the years. All that said, there are some awful clients out there. They are rare, but they do exist. If you encounter one, don't hesitate to say buh-bye - just make sure you are absolutely certain it's truly an awful client first. 

The moral of the story is, when you're having issues with a client, pause before you jump straight to ending the relationship. It's easy to place blame on the client and call them any number of unflattering adjectives. It takes a true professional to stop and think about what they may be doing that's inflating unspoken concerns the client has. Before you take it to that level, try using open communication to get your client's perspective and see if you can come to a good compromise and unified strategy. Ultimately, a positive relationship (and the positive reviews the come along with it), is well worth the some extra effort in the long run.

Learn more about Pat on her website or on her Active Rain blog.

Have you ever dealt with a problem client? Share your stories in the comments!

On the flip side -
make sure you get great testimonials from all your happy clients!

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