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The past year has stretched agents and consumers to the max, with booming home price growth, bidding wars and virtual transactions ruling everyone’s day-to-day lives. Now as the market normalizes, Found Realty founder Jena Turner and The Cape House agent Katie Clancy encouraged the Connect Now crowd this week to dedicate more time optimizing their systems and figuring out how they can offer mind-blowing service that keeps buyers and sellers coming back.
Here are seven tips they have for attracting and retaining repeat clients:
Don’t be afraid to ask for referrals
Turner said real estate agents often struggle with asking for referrals, which is an excellent way to leverage an existing network to find new clients. To make the referral process less awkward, Turner said agents should ask for one when something “good happens on a transaction.”
“We know that most consumers are doing the most talking about real estate while they’re in the transaction,” she said. “That’s when they’re at the water cooler at the office discussing what happened in their inspection report, that’s when they are visiting with their friends at the park and saying, ‘Well, I’m sorry, we’re not going to be able to play with you guys at this park anymore because we’re moving across the street.’”
“Those are the opportunities,” she added. “[Ask for one] anytime [you] add value.”
If you’re a broker and your agents still aren’t asking for referral reviews, Turner said incentivizing them to at least ask for reviews can be a strong starting point.
“We incentivize them to get a review for every closed transaction,” she said. “[And] once agents got used to asking for reviews, they also got used to asking for referrals, it kind of went hand in hand.”
Focus on basics rather than gimmicks
In a world where gimmicks are a dime a dozen, Clancy encouraged agents to focus on mastering the basics of the business rather than waste time on outlandish marketing tricks.
“One of the things I want to stop doing is setting up agents with the expectation that they’re one party trick away from converting someone in 45 minutes,” she said. “There’s nothing new under the sun. The basics always work.”
For Clancy, the basics revolve around leveraging experience and systems to offer consistently stellar service. “Have the mentality that you are here to serve,” she said. “I had a mindset shift, where I was feeling so bad for myself and I was like, ‘You know what, I’m not going to be defined by what happens to me, I’m going to be defined by what I do in the world.’”
Beyond the office, Clancy said agents must use that mindset in their communities by getting involved with local charities, leadership boards and other philanthropic work.
“I go hard with my personal brand and there are systems around that. I’m deep into local leadership,” she said while noting she’s on nonprofit boards, regularly attends local meetings, and supports charities. “I always vote. I’m in there and know what’s going on and I talk about it and I livestream town meetings for people who can’t make it.”
“[People] say, ‘Well, she’s really invested in this community,’” she added. “And I’m like, ‘Well, I am.’”
Create relevant original content for your database
During the height of the pandemic, Turner said her team doubled down on creating original content for their database that helped them navigate how to take care of themselves and their families, such as which stores offered online ordering with in-store pickup.
“You’ve got to invest in email, you got to invest in these consistent things that you’re getting out to your database,” she said. “I had really fallen off all of that. We were doing quarterly really big in-person events. I was spending a lot of money on in-person events, and then [with COVID] I had to say, ‘What do we do now?’”
That “what” revolved around sending regular emails addressing common concerns, such as how to create a home office on a whim. “We came up with real original content that would serve our database, like the things that they needed to do to improve their house,” she said. “Or maybe how to capitalize on space when they needed a home office. This wasn’t a copy and paste. No one else wrote this for me.”
Although many people are returning to a semblance of pre-pandemic life, Turner said she’s still reaping the benefits of her content. “[Emails and video] were kind of things that we had fallen off when we were busy, but now we’ve seen a huge return on investment with them,” she added. “We were giving valuable information.”
Give your clients grace
Despite the market normalizing, homebuyers and homesellers are still on the edge. Clancy said agents need to remember their clients are people with an array of problems they’re trying to solve alongside buying or selling a home.
“Literally as we speak right now, I am in the throes of two of the most intense closings I’ve ever had. I am exhausted,” she said. “But and I had to eat a big poop sandwich yesterday and just listen to someone who was absolute stress level purple. She took it out on me and it’s okay.”
“I used to take these things very personally, and I was like, ‘Oh, yeah, you want some of this?’” she added. “But we’re not here for the drama. We’re here to be, ‘Gotcha. No problem.’ [Clients] always remember that and appreciate it.”
Hire support staff so you can focus on service
Just because real estate agents are used to doing it all, Turner said it doesn’t mean they should.
“I really like the things that happen when I am in front of the consumer,” she said of the tipping point that pushed her to hire support staff. “There are parts about this job that wasn’t for me anymore.”
Turner said brokers should consider investing in virtual assistants and transaction coordinators that handle the rigmarole, so agents can have more time to serve clients and redirect their time and resources to the parts of the transaction they love.
“One of the things that I really tried to encourage our agents to do is figure out their favorite part about the real estate transaction. Is it negotiating? Is it actually being out in houses?” she explained. “There’s got to be some leverage to help you do this aspect of the job better because it relays into more referrals and it relays into a better client experience. All of those things lead to more transactions.”
Leave a lasting impression with inventive closing gifts
Clancy said closing gifts are one of the last opportunities agents have to become a client’s go-to for future transactions. With that in mind, she said agents need to leverage their relationships with their community to deliver a closing gift that helps clients feel more connected with their new neighbors.
“You find out what their pain points are,” she said of her starting point for creating memorable closing gifts for her affluent clientele. “They can buy themselves anything. So what do you give them for a closing gift?”
Clancy said her favorite closing gift was a series of envelopes she gifted a couple who just purchased a $2 million second home in Cape Cod. Each envelope listed the name of the local business they were supposed to visit, and had gift cards inside to try the best sandwich in the city, get a quick hairstyle refresh at a swanky salon and take their children to a popular ice cream parlor.
“It cost me maybe $200, and they don’t always use it all at once,” she said. “And every time they [use an envelope], they’re texting me and they’re posting about it like, ‘Isn’t [Katie] the best person ever?’”
Clancy said she also has branded swag that she gives clients exclusive access to before she releases it to the public. “I give them shirts, sweatshirts and bags [that] are coming up,” she said. “People love it and I also ask them to tag when they’re wearing it, because they like it.”
Think about what you’d want as a consumer
Lastly, Turner urged agents to remember what they want as a consumer. What’s been their best car buying experience? What stylist provided the best salon experience? Whatever they did to make you feel special, she said, do it for your clients.
“When I notice great customer service, I take that and say, ‘How can I help my business?’” she said. “How can I translate [the service] that great waiter gave me at this restaurant? Then I’m going to recruit them to come work for me.”
“Every opportunity for customer service that we see in our own lives, we have to just think about ourselves as the consumer,” she added. “What would we want from the person who’s helping us with the largest transaction probably of our life?”
Email Marian McPherson