The first thing is always passion. It’s a hard business and it takes a lot of attention to detail and a commitment to great customer service. In talking with agents I’ve noticed that the truly great agents also share the attributes below:
They return calls and emails at lightning speed – These are the people that get a lead and don’t let it go. They immediately make contact and they follow up. They answer any questions and are happy to stay on the phone with nervous clients. They are the warriors of email, text, and phone and they keep that rhythm right up through the whole transaction, busy Washington DC agent Jeff Vinson told me he calls it his land, sea, and air approach, reaching out to clients through as many channels as possible in the beginning even using Skype. Their clients feel like they are very important to the agent. They also switch their communication style to match the client. If the client prefers text, they text, if the client wants a phone call, they call. They mirror the client’s communication style so the client feels more comfortable.
They are up on the latest technology – They are iPad toters and smartphone addicts. They do everything from anywhere. They don’t just have a tablet and a smartphone; they make sure they have great data plans so they are never stuck without an internet connection. They try to go paperless as much as possible. They read a lot of information both about the real estate industry but also about general trends regarding technology.
They know their neighborhoods intimately – The phrase “neighborhood expert” gets bandied about quite a bit but when it comes to top agents, they are walking, talking encyclopedias of neighborhood lore. Ask a question about a street and they know what’s on the market, what sold recently, and the overall status of the neighborhood. Tell the agent what you like in a neighborhood and suggestions on places to look will come tumbling out. Looking to sell? The agent knows what is on the market, what just sold, and what you can get for your money. Top Santa Cruz agent Sally Lyng told me that she teaches map classes for her agents to help them get familiar with the area. These days anyone can look at houses online but the top agents know what lurks below the surface and they keep their value that way.
They explain everything they are doing – Like straight A students doing math homework, successful agents show their work. When they meet with the client for the first time they explain the process, the potential roadblocks, and a few scenarios that could occur. They let the client know that they are negotiating, they keep in regular communication, and they adjust their strategy as needed. When I attended the Hear It Direct conference in Orange County last fall, one of the things that sellers told the audience made them most satisfied with their agents was regular communication on what was happening with the efforts to sell the home.
They get leads any way they can – Nobody really likes to talk about leads but leads are how many agents get clients. A lead is an introduction to someone the Realtor hasn’t met yet. Smart agents are experimenters, they try out different types of lead sources, they explore different types of ad campaigns, and they take notes on what works and what doesn’t. They understand that having a social presence is important and that staying top of mind means being active with their clients through social media, through advertising, and even through more traditional methods such as postcard mailings. Postcards and bus stop bench ads are still around because they still work in some cases.
They have a great network– These agents don’t just have a network to bring them clients they have a network of top-notch partners who provide the same level of service they do. They know the best contractors, appraisers, lenders, and insurance providers in the business. They are what Malcolm Gladwell designated in the Tipping Point as a connector. The agent is the hub of a group of professionals that can advise and assist with anything real estate or home related. Top agents care for their network and are happy to refer clients that they know will get top care. They are ruthless about cutting out anyone who doesn’t provide great customer service to their clients.
Overall, great customer service is about two things, knowledge and authenticity. The agents that succeed are able to treat each client’s purchase as vitally important. They are able to steer the client through any hiccups in the process and leave the client feeling that the whole process was as easy as possible.