I'm assuming, based on your career choice, that you are a "people person."
Because real estate isn't just about selling houses and negotiating offers—it's about helping people. If you don't care about your clients—if you don't have their back throughout the entire transaction and maintain a relationship long after closing—you're not going to last more than a few years in this industry.
Relationships are everything to your real estate business. So it never hurts to have a few strategies in your back pocket to help you be better at connecting with your clients.
In Daniel Pink's book, To Sell Is Human, he discusses the importance of "attunement," or the ability to see things from another person's perspective. This is a crucial part of making better human connections—the ability to shift from self-centered thinking to a more outward focus—What are my clients thinking and feeling?
"The ability to move people now depends on...understanding another person's perspective, getting inside his head, and seeing the world through his eyes."
- Daniel Pink, To Sell Is Human
In his book, Pink includes several strategies for getting better at what he calls "perspective-taking." In this blog post, I'll share some of these strategies that real estate agents can use to see things from the prospect's or client's perspective—to better understand their hopes and fears and motivations—so they can form deeper and more meaningful relationships.
5 "Perspective-Taking" Strategies for Deeper Client Connections
1) Start the conversation with an inviting—not intimidating—question.
If you're going to be able to see things from your clients perspective, you need to get them talking to you. Good To Great author Jim Collins's favorite conversation starter is, "Where are you from?" It's usually an easy thing for people to talk about, and it tends to lead to the sharing of personal details:
I grew up in South Carolina but I've always wanted to live in Colorado—fewer bugs and less humidity!
I've lived here my whole life and I love it. My entire family is still here, too, which makes it even better.
Growing up, I lived all over the place—military kid. Hawaii was my favorite by far. I never got tired of the beach.
On the other hand, the far-too-common question, "What do you do?" is fraught with ways to make people uncomfortable: What if they were just laid off? What if they fear they'll be judged because their job doesn't sound impressive enough?
Asking what they do for a living might make them feel inferior or anxious and cause them to clam up. Asking where they're from has a much better chance of getting them to open up and share personal details about themselves.
2) Practice subtle mimicry.
Multiple studies have shown that we unconsciously mimic the mannerisms of people around us—and that "mimicry seems to work like a social glue," helping people form bonds and have more pleasant interactions with one another. When someone matches our posture, tone of voice, or even the particular expressions we use, it makes us feel more favorable toward that person.
This is also called "chameleoning," and it can be a useful strategy for getting in synch with a client and seeing things from their perspective.
Pink offers his three-part advice for nailing it:
- Watch: Observe what the other person is doing—how they're sitting, how fast or slow they're talking, particular words or phrases they use, etc.
- Wait: Don't immediately mimic the other person's actions. If they lean back, Pink says, wait 15 seconds before you lean back. Don't make it weird.
- Wane: A few minutes into the interaction, begin to pay less attention to your mimicking efforts. Mimicry is a natural human reaction, so you'll probably continue to "chameleon" without consciously realizing it.
3) When you're working on your business, pull up an empty chair.
At Amazon's headquarters, the most important executive meetings always include one empty chair at the conference room table. This empty chair represents the customer—the most important person in the room. It's a reminder to think about everything through the eyes of the customer.
So the next time you're writing your weekly market update email or building a new workflow for your listings process, pull up an empty chair next to you and image that one of your clients is peeking over your shoulder. Will your email make sense to her? Does your workflow include plenty of steps for keeping your client informed on what's happening with her listing?
With a little imagination—and a visual prompt—you'll get into the habit of considering everything through the eyes of your client.
4) Celebrate being an ambivert.
Because most likely, you aren't an introvert or an extravert. Most people are somewhere in the middle, which is great news, because, according to Pink, ambiverts make the best sales people. They're best at (qualities that make them good at perspective-taking).
The small number of people who are extremely extraverted have a tendency to be overly-assertive and to contact customers too frequently, so customers might perceive them as being pushy. "They can talk too much and listen too little," writes Pink, "which dulls their understanding of others' perspectives."
Extreme introverts, on the other hand, "can be too shy to initiate and too timid to close."
Selling requires a healthy balance of the ability to read the room and the ability to take action and respond.
"Ambiverts can find that balance. They know when to speak up and when to shut up. Their wider repertoires allow them to achieve harmony with a broader range of people and a more varied set of circumstances."
Take the test at www.danpink.com/assessment to find out where you fall on the scale. If you lean a little toward extrovert or introvert, figure out which opportunity areas you can work on to be a little more balanced—a good, solid ambivert.
5) Explain a Big Mac to someone from the 1700s.
This one gets a little wacky, but if you're looking for a fun group exercise to help everyone on your team become better "perspective-takers," it's worth a try.
Acting coach Cathy Salit created an exercise she calls "Conversation With A Time Traveller" that is designed to hone an actor's perspective-taking skills.
Pink explains how it works: Think of some items in the present that someone from the early 1700s wouldn't recognize—a traffic light, a carry-out pizza, an airport screening machine, a Big Mac.
Next, divide into groups of two and assign each pair an item. One person plays the role of someone from the early 1700s, and the other person has to explain the item to them.
Here's why this exercise is beneficial: Someone from 300 years ago has a wildly different perspective than ours, and it's a huge challenge to explain a Big Mac to someone who has no concept of drive-through windows, mass-produced meat, or automobiles.
As Salit points out, "This exercise immediately challenges your assumptions about the understandability of your message. You are forced to care about the worldview of the other person."
It's a valuable—and fun—exercise in perspective-taking.
When you start to look at things from your prospects's and client's perspectives, you'll create more effective marketing; you'll be better at anticipating your client's needs; and you'll be able to develop deeper, more meaningful, long-lasting relationships.