Can We Talk?

I have long said “Real estate is a people business”. Yes, I know it sounds cliché, and I guess it is, but don’t let that deter you from the truth, and simplicity of the statement. I personally have nothing to sell you other than myself and the services I provide. When it comes to selling, a “widget” is something much easier to retail than is the concept of home. The buyer wants to have the pride and security of owning a three-, or four-bedroom house. Convincing them that we have the knowledge, and years (or months) of experience to make their dreams come true, is a much more delicate sales pitch.

So with that in mind, why would we not grasp the importance of good communication with our clients throughout the entire process? Whether they are buyers or sellers, they need the reassurances we give them. Reassurances that technology in and of itself simply does not provide. As an instructor, I teach a two-hour continuing education class entitled Professional Courtesy; Etiquette and Consideration in the Real Estate Industry. In it, one of the concepts I briefly convey the importance of remaining “high touch” in a high-tech world. Today, we have so many modes of communication at our disposal, but is it one size fits all?  Be it good news, or bad, from time to time (and many times), we simply have to look our clients in the eye and give a status report. But how is it best done to convey a message or update in a way that is still personable?

My personal preference is; in person. Though the restrictions of time and distance dictate many of these occasions are over the phone. As of yet, I have never taken on a client without first meeting them, or having an in-depth dialogue, so I just assume they expect a certain amount of face, or talk time throughout the entire experience. For the first home buyer or seller, real estate can be pretty intimidating. Yes, even in the 21st century, a certain amount of “hand-holding” still has to take place. As Realtors, perhaps that’s our most important skill; assuring people we didn’t forget about them, and that everything is going to be O.K.

Much communication in the past few years, whether business or personal, has taken place through short message service (SMS) or “text messages”.  These are short, one-way electronic notes. We have seen instances where teens, college students, and many of us may send texts back and forth a dozen times or more. So, the question begs to be asked; why not just make a phone call?

Texting has two distinct advantages by its very nature. A text is fast and convenient. But does every communiqué have to be fast and convenient? Should it be? Some of its downfalls are that it does not provide the details of an email, nor is it a true conversation. Perhaps the biggest disadvantage to SMS is you cannot see the face of the person reading your words.

I have often been overheard stating that “texts are of the devil”, but I’m not going to say that here. You can’t see it right now, but I promise you I’m giving the “winky face”.  So, when to text, and when not to text? Consider your expected outcome of the communication. Is it to update a minor point, or to impart important details for your customer or client which with to make a decision?

There is a place, time and subject matter for everything and that includes texting. Some acceptable texts, provided you are not driving, mountain climbing or delivering a baby, could include…

“I’m running a few minutes behind”

“I had your flyers made, and will place them in the box this afternoon.”

“I updated your online photos” 

These messages are routine, almost mundane in nature. At no point does it require the client to make a decision or otherwise stop what they are doing. However, on the other hand…

“Your loan was denied”

 “The house has termites”

“The contract fell through,… I’ll call you Monday afternoon”

…should probably never be texted. And no, a smiley face does NOT make your clients feel better after any of these quips.

After all how would you feel to realize your dreams were potentially shattered in a note that was limited to fewer than 150 characters? We’ve all heard of the boy who breaks up with his girlfriend through a text message. It’s just considered… well, inconsiderate. So many times, we truly don’t know what our clients think or feel. Though we can get a sense if we see how they react or at least hear the inflections in their voice.

So, before you fire off that short electronic note or private message someone through a social media site, consider the receiving side might not read it exactly as you thought you wrote it.  At least with an email, you have the length to better clarify your message.

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