photo courtesy of eflon
You'll need to do some homework.
In order for this post to make much sense, you'll need to read up first. Please read Larry and Sheila Agranoff's post "Should We Even Respond To This One?" (a featured post from 12/21/09) - if you're not a member of ActiveRain, the post will not come up for you as it is marked "Members Only." Be sure to read through the comments as this is what my post is based on.
So what would you do?
I hope you left a comment while you over there, but let me ask you this: did any of the comments you read through rub you the wrong way? Do you think the commentors made excellent points or not? Would you respond? If so, how?
As I read the comments last night (I just re-read them this morning), I actually felt a little disheartened. A few notes... First, I'm not here to tell anyone how to run their business or act like I know it all. Second, I don't know the prospective client and any of the details of any other contact with them, I also don't know the Agranoffs, so I'm not sure what they're all about either. Third, many of you have years more experience than me and I recognize I can sometimes be a bit idealistic. Fourth, I am in no way implying that any particular comment is the problem or that Larry and Sheila shouldn't have posted this, in fact I'm thrilled that they posted it. And lastly, I know there are times when it's best to walk away (I just had to do it recently). Okay, now my disclosures are out of the way, let's get into it, shall we?
As you can see from my comment on the post, I don't think the answer is to cut off communication or end any dealings with the prospective client. I'd even add a bit to my comment in terms that, I would probably see if they'd like to sit down and discuss real estate and their experiences (perhaps over a cup of coffee in a location other than an office). I love to hear the consumers point of view and at one point in my life as I have pointed out many times on this blog, I disliked all Realtors®. It only took one bad experience. It also only took one good experience and a memory of a prior good experience to bring me back and wind up becoming one myself.
Realtors® (and non-Realtor® agents as well) and the industry have a bad rap with some segments of the population. We know this as fact. The National Association of Realtors® pours a lot of money into trying to change that perception. We fight it everyday in our business. We talk about it here and on blogs all across the internet. We'd be foolish to deny that a rift sometimes exists and sometimes that rift seems a bit more like the Grand Canyon.
So (based on the post alone and no other knowledge of what has transpired between the two parties), we have a case of a prospective client who most likely has had some bad experiences with agents in the past and thinks we're all the same. Are we all the same? Do you run your business like I do? Do you think and say the same things Larry and Sheila do? The answer is probably yes and no. We might agree on this or that, but have a complete opposite approach to something else. As long as we're within the letter of the law, we can do our business how we please (and how it pleases our clients).
What disheartened me the most I think is the willingness of many of the commentors to make a judgment to get out rather than discuss anything with the home buyer. I'm not dumb enough to think that every consumer will be won over by your explanations of why you're different from the other agents they have had experiences with, but I'm also passionate enough to give a damn about what they think. I think we could all benefit from seeing this as opportunity, and not just for our own pockets, but for the overall standing of our industry with the public. Sure, the efforts may crash and burn, but they also might just work.
The part that I disagree with most is the "answer with silence" style answers. As if the public don't already think we're impossible to get a hold of and never return our calls. This is a huge issue with consumers and I know we all miss a call here or there or perhaps even don't answer an email, but the more we do it, the more this perception will stick with us and tarnish our profession. The consumer of today wants it now and it doesn't always happen that way, so I predict this will continue to be an issue no matter what we do to adapt our habits and make ourselves available or educate the consumer about how we operate (how do you tell a consumer how the industry operates, when we are all so different?).
We preach every day about educating our clients, yet in these comments, very few spoke of educating. (By the way, we talk about educating clients so much at times, that I wonder if the consumer thinks we think they're all completely in the dark when it comes to real estate. Not true, but based on some of the things I read about client education, I might get that idea. I guess that's another post for another day.) The prospective client in question (again, based only on the knowledge I garnered from the post) seems to definitely have had some problems with agents in the past. So what's our answer to that? Don't respond? I say, speak to them, show them, help them understand the differences between the apparently incompetent agents they've dealt with in the past and you. Treat them well. Perhaps it will still not be enough and it will turn into a nightmare - if that's the case, then you may need to reconsider continuing down the client-agent relationship path, but to throw in the towel before it has even started? I just don't see it as sensible or helpful to you or the industry as a whole.
I'd love to see Larry and Sheila post this again quietly in six month or a year from now. No fanfare, no mention of it being a repost, just throw it up on their blog as if they wrote it in 2010. But I'd like to see one difference. I'd like to see them make it a public post. I'd be willing to bet that some of the comments might not be the same. Even though we all know it's not hard for a consumer to sign up as a member on ActiveRain so that they can read everything, I often wonder if some members forget that fact, as it seems "Members Only" posts tend to take on a different tone at times.