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.

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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?


  1. There is nothing more difficult to deal with than that living, breathing entity known as a “true believer”. True believers are products of indoctrination. Indoctrination is required to convince someone of the truth of something that cannot be proven. Belief in God, or not, is a prime example. Neither belief can be proven. Thus, indoctrination underpins the belief, or not, of the existence of God, or not. What is worse is the belief that one’s God is the only God amongst many Gods; this belief is held high by most all victims of Godly indoctrination. But what is even worse than this is the belief by Godly folks that atheists are somehow held out as being unenlightened, thus ignorant, or evil, by many (most?) who truly believe in their personal Gods. Thus, true believers (other than those who believe that which can unquestionably be proven to be true—for example: 2 plus 2 equals four, every time, all of the time—for ever and ever) actually are the bane of actual, provable knowledge.

    Now that we know what we are dealing with regarding close-mindedness (the God thing was used simply as an example that everyone can relate to. I remain open-minded either way; maybe our Gods were space travelers from long ago) I would suggest that anyone who comes across a true believer of any description ought to let that product of deeply imbedded indoctrination go his/her own way and not waste one’s time on them.

    True believerism is deeply rooted and cannot easily be uprooted by good old common sense or facts that fly in the face of the true believer. To challenge the belief of a true believer is to challenge his/her place in the world, and if (God forbid, or not) a true believer ultimately decides to be temporarily swayed by an apparent non-true-believer’s arguments (a ‘knowledgeable’ commissioned sales person seeking business for instance), then get ready for all Hell (believe it or not) to break loose if things do not go as planned by the belief-challenger (aka the Realtor) who managed to get the true believer to question his/her belief(s) long enough to get that signature. True believers never ever totally allow themselves to be swayed from their beliefs for long, unless smacked in the head by an epiphany. Realtors: Figure out if you are dealing with a true believer, and if so, do yourself (and the product of indoctrination) a favour and move on to a more reasonable personality (a believer who has doubts about his/her belief(s). Just remember the word “NEXT”.). A true believer will bring the Wrath of Khan upon you if you eff up and do not make said targeted true believer a believer in you…because you are not God.

    I believe that I have made myself clear…but I could be wrong.

  2. Ross writes:

    “their own fear-based decision.” That’s the magic, but key, descriptor.

    It could be that their fear-based decision-making apparatus is in fact based on incorrect information. Once we get that out of the way, presuming they will listen long enough to engage and digest whatever stumbling block it is that you are needing to overcome between you, agreed that you must have easily understood supporting material.

    As I’ve said, not exactly tongue-in-cheek, before: often men find it easier to be succinct, and converse in point form (some women, too); but it has been substantiated that many women in particular find success in people-engagement by using story-form, eg: examples, pictures, charts and graphs.

    But either way, a dialogue has to be initiated somehow. This is where understanding scripting comes in handy; not that you should be a parrot, but that you rework learned related tested behaviour to call upon it when needed in such a situation. Call it, perhaps, a form of brain washing.

    As always, Ross, you hit the nail on the head: you have to allow the public to believe what they believe and acknowledge them. Give them arms length respect. But you also, simultaneously, have to find a way to show them the truth of the matter by gently but firmly supplying them with absolute undeniable facts. What they are absolutely certain they know about the house around the corner could easily be proven incorrect. Shocking! Watch their faces. There’s not much conversation needed.

    I just loved to use bright yellow highlighter pens for this very purpose, backed up by charts and graphs that show patterns, especially undeniable bell curves created using a tight location margin not generalized, that cannot be denied.

    I knew local agents who used the generalities posted on the board stats or in national news; the market is down x-percent year over year/month year to date, or up, likewise. I believe you cannot use such generalities but must narrow down statistics within a very tight radius; sometimes even within the parameters of subdivision borders; for example in one subdivision of 800 properties, I had helped people buy and sell more than 100 of those addresses.

    My charts showed my coloured pins, other broker coloured pins, double-end coloured pins, other broker listings I sold pins, and sales of other brokers of my listings pins. It painted a great picture and I had charts and bell curves that showed history year over year. And again tight up within 90 days. Of course there was a legend to explain pin colours. It’s a big job but once you get the history captured into business, the updating is time-consuming but easily done.

    Such presentations mostly speak without words, opening an opportunity for dialogue; spread out your materials in front of the person and gently (sotto voce and watch your own body language) arrange the material put out in front of them, that might serve to help them understand and trust whatever topic issue you are endeavouring to overcome; not so as to make clients feel intimidated or overwhelmed but rather see the lengths to which you go to help them truly to understand, not to prove to them that you are smarter or more educated than are they. You are simply reproducing facts as visuals.

    Carolyne L ?


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