Continuing from my last column about clients – love ’em or leave ’em – let’s go a little further on the topic of challenging clients.
If your client thinks they’re right and you think they’re wrong, then from their perspective, you’re wrong to think they’re wrong because they feel they’re right and you’re wrong even if you may be technically right. Let me restate that.
Though absolute truth is another matter (truth relativism), when it comes to belief, right and wrong are relative. Belief is a powerful force and if someone believes they’re right, then in their mind, they are indeed right, even if their belief is a clear violation of Universal Law. Their belief may be diametrically opposed to yours, but from their perspective, they’re right. It may be mission impossible, but you must convince them to open their minds. If they continue to insist their mind is open and remain certain of their position, explain that certainty exists only with a closed mind.
The best way to begin this process is with active listening (see my column on the subject of listening). Encourage them to express their thoughts and feelings – uninterrupted. Then gently remind them that you have a common goal, whether it’s to buy or sell, and ask for their acknowledgment. You’re on the same team. You win only if they win. Express yourself calmly, clearly and most importantly, sincerely. Impress them with your thoughtfulness, consideration and wisdom. Try to get the underlying reason for their choice, which may be fear-based.
Address each of their concerns in whatever form they appear and seek their acknowledgement. Respond enthusiastically, but gently, with intelligent logic – not emotion. Patiently try to help (not coerce) them to understand the reasoning behind your expert advice and the possible adverse consequences of their own fear-based decision. Lay it out for them. You need a genuine trust connection. Otherwise, your relationship will continue to be stressful – if it continues at all.
Trust is extremely valuable, but unless they were referred by someone they trust, you may have to work hard to be deemed worthy of theirs. Earning it will likely be necessary anyway, but at least with a recommendation from their friend or family member, you have a leg up. You may have to back up your opinion with facts. For example, use a properly prepared CMA with market statistics to substantiate price advice. Impress them with your knowledge and maybe toss in a few testimonials from previous satisfied clients.
The best way to gain trust is to be completely honest and make it patently obvious that you’re placing their interests ahead of your own. Explain that to help them effectively, you must tell them what they need to know and not just what they want to hear – and do that. If their home is a mess, tell them so. If your new buyer’s eyes are bigger than their belly, enlighten them. At an appropriate moment, share a little about yourself, your business and life experience. Get to know them – and allow them to know you. Gradually lower your defence shields and build a solid, honest, authentic relationship.
All of this is crucial, but trust is often earned by giving it first. Trust them and they may trust you in return. Once you have it, trust can last a lifetime. And guess who they’ll contact every time they need real estate service? The big shot agent in town or someone they know and trust?