Relationship Marketing Revisited
Recently, Chris Smith from Inman Next published a blog post entitled “Real Estate is no longer a Relationship Business“. While I agree with the sentiment, I completely disagree with the title and what it implies. First off understand I am not a Real Estate Agent, I am a mortgage broker and while our industries our different the customer relationship and prospecting process are very similar. I have been a student of sales and relationship building for over 20 years, 17 of which have been in the mortgage business.
To quote Inna Hardison, “What Chris was saying, in essence, was that he, as a consumer, doesn’t care to follow his real estate pro on FB or Twitter, or to be taken out to lunch or be invited to your wedding. He wants you, the professional, to handle his transaction brilliantly.” This I agree with 100%. The struggle I have with the article is the title suggests that we should not try and establish a “relationship” with our clientele. This is a concept that I think is completely misleading. While I agree that we do not want to intrude on our clients personal, social and family life I do think that you need to build a relationship. The nuance is in the definition of “relationship”. There is a vast difference between creating a strong professional relationship and being a pain in the ass. Websters defines relationship as “a state of affairs existing between those having relations or dealings”. To suggest that you do not have a ‘relationship’ with a client is wrong.
I absolutely love Inna’s charactarization of an ‘honest REALTOR‘ wherein she outlines the future “relationship’ a REALTOR may intend to have with a prospect. I also concur that if this is your idea of relationship you are doing it wrong. I don’t kid myself that I will ever be invited to my clients weddings, birthday parties, christenings or family dinners. I am however fairly confident in the relationship I have built with my clientele that will ensure that when they are ready to look at mortgage financing of any type, I or my staff will be the first ones they call.
We do employ regular ‘marketing’ touches as part of our follow up process because statistics say that most people will not remember their sales person if they are out of sight. They are also unlikely to dig up their contact info the next time they need them. In Canada statistics suggests that people will change houses every 3 to 5 years. If I were a real estate agent I would want to ensure that they remembered who I am and what I did for them. I agree there is a fine line between value added keep in touch and spam, I think as a salesperson you are remiss if you do not keep in touch with your clientele in some fashion. I may be an old dog, but I also have a loyal client base that comes back year after year after year. I always try to be open to exploring new ways, but who am I to argue with success?
This isn’t a result of me stalking them on Facebook, creeping them on Twitter or spamming them with email. It is a direct result of the ‘relationship’ I developed while assisting them with their initial transaction and the subsequent information I am able to respectfully and tactfully provide. Clients are asked at the outset, similar to Inna’s Manifesto, if they would like us to ‘manage’ their mortgage for them which consists of regular communication, including annual reviews and monitoring interest rates relative to their contract rate. If a client is not interested then we will not subscribe them to the maintenance campaign.
To say that ANY sales profession is NOT a relationship business I think is somewhat irresponsible. While I understand the intent and concede that the title itself will garner attention, I think the more apt thing to do would be to teach professionals how to develop an ‘appropriate’ relationship with their clientele.
I do not presume to know how to do the job of a Real Estate Agent so I say this with the utmost caution, but it seems to me that if you are driving around with your clients looking at properties or viewing their home in preparation for listing that you have a better opportunity than most to create and solidify a relationship with them. I would respectfully say that we should not suggest that ANY sales game is not a relationship business but spend more time educating professionals on what an appropriate relationship is.
I appreciate your passion on the topic. I purposefully went after the mantra of the industry. I stand firmly behind the fact that we need to really more clearly define our marketing efforts as be clear that they are not based in looking for buddies. The social media boom we have seen has really blurred the line in the sand. I wanted to do what I did. Start a great conversation around an important topic to our industry. The title fit the copy. The fact the word relationship can be defined as many things is exactly the point of the piece.
Thanks Chris. I think we largely agree. I just worry that your article may be misconstrued. You are correct, with SM it is easy to overstep the bounds of appropriate customer relationships.
Thanks again for starting the dialogue!
Michael – thanks for a well-written rebuttal:-) I still, stand by what I said. I’ll also add that I don’t believe Real Estate is a sales profession, so does all of the above still apply then?
Now, we have a debate. ;0) Everything is a sales profession. Again comes back to definitions. The easy counter to that is the fact that if a REALTOR didn’t ‘sell’ anything they would not last in the business long. I think a large part of the problems we see is that too many people do NOT see themselves as a ‘salesperson’. It doesn’t have to be a bad thing.
My receptionist is a ‘salesperson’. She is in fact one of the most important sales people in my office. She is the first point of contact and often what a consumer is going to frame their first impression of our organization from. Love to hear how you view Real Estate as a non sales profession. This is fun. Thanks for the ‘engagement’.
Michael – I view (or rather would like to) view real estate pros as facilitators of a transaction, i.e. negotiators, marketers, financial advisors. In much the same way I don’t view my accountant as a sales person (one who sells me tax prep? I suppose that too could apply, I guess). Nor do I view my dentist as someone who ‘sells’ me teeth cleaning or x-rays.
ah, yes… but how do you choose who to facilitate your transaction, prepare your taxes or clean your teeth? Like it or not you are ‘sold’ on the individual or company that provides the service.
Why not embrace that and be mindful of it in everything you do as a professional.