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Say What?

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screen-shot-2016-10-13-at-4-36-28-amOkay, I was bored. I admit it. Friday when one of my twice a day emails arrived from Active Rain, a real estate blog, I actually followed one of the threads. It was entitled, “My commission rates are not negotiable.” Within minutes, I was appalled.

First, let’s get a couple of things out of the way. 1) There are no “set” or “normal” fees in the real estate business as per the Sherman Anti Trust Act, 2) I believe in a fair fee for full services 3) The key to obtaining a fair fee for your (or my) services is to show Value and 4) Sales is a relationship phenomenon.

I was taught at a very young real estate age that while fees were negotiable, that didn’t necessarily mean my fee had to be negotiable. I am free to set my fee wherever I please. If I could show enough value, the sky was/is the limit. I don’t have a problem with that and it is not the point of this rant.

The reason for my state of appalled-ness is some of the statements I read in the blog representing what an agent might actually say to a potential purchaser of their services. A potential client says, “What do you charge?” We say “X%” They ask if that fee is negotiable and we say things like: “My fee is not negotiable” or “Sure, I’ll take more.” And then, if they have the audacity to mention that another service provider would perform services for less, the reply is, “Well, some people know what they’re worth.” Yikes! Okay. Deep Breath….

These are cute (and classic) real estate quips. Many an instructor has gotten a laugh from an audience of under confident, poorly trained agents when offering these suggestions of dialogue. I also realize that I was on a Realtor blog where a considerable degree of intellectual muscle flexing occurs on a daily basis, but what I read (and by the way, there were also some excellent postings from some insightful bloggers) made me wonder if anyone who would actually say some of these things would ever get repeat or referral business (let alone get their butt kicked out the door).

Let’s look at three reasons the quip may not be any salesperson’s best option.

1) These are real live people on the other end of the conversation. In many cases, real live people that are struggling in today’s economy. If you’re a consumer, every penny counts. We’re scrimping, We’re trying to do our best to get by, We’re genuinely questioning whether the fee an agent is charging is worth what we are getting. And we get a quip? And often it’s delivered in either condescension, sarcasm or both. Empathy, your ability to understand life in my shoes, is a great sales tool.

2) Given the circumstances outlined above, the quip is disrespectful, rigid and clearly illustrates the agent is concerned only with their own world and not the world occupied by the consumer. A key step in sales is the interview: getting to know the potential client’s motivation and needs. Once known, the salesperson is better equipped to serve. Disrespect, shortness and rigidity does not lend itself to an open, honest, sharing relationship.

3) There is a better way. Sales is a relationship business and to practice the art of the quipster is to damage the relationship. Fee dialogues should be welcomed as an opportunity to validate value. The consumer’s question should be clarified and their motivation further explored. Mostly, consumers should be listened to with the utmost of care (we’re not in Congress, for cryin’ out loud). Only after careful listening, clarifying and validating should a decision be made.

In the end, we may not cut our fee (it isn’t written anywhere that we have to). In the end, we may prevail by illustrating value commensurate with what we charge. In the end, we may not make the sale (or want it for that matter). Hopefully, in the end, we avoid being the quipster and engage in serious conversation with the consumer maintaining the opportunity to develop a better relationship with them.

Sales is about relationships. Save the quips for your next classroom roleplay (guaranteed you’ll get a laugh).