Commercial Real Estate News

On ‘dealing with’ clients

Have you every commented in passing that you must “deal with a client”?

This casual turn of phrase carries weight. It suggests whoever spoke it is only begrudgingly spending their time on the task. It implies that someone is “dealing” with a problem, instead of serving a valued client.

While just words, and usually not said in front of a client, small things like this matter. They shape our attitude and our approach to serving clients – and indeed serving is the word that should frame our work.

Great leaders cared for their followers

Many of the greatest leaders in history – Nelson Mandela, Winston Churchill, Martin Luther King Jr. – could well be referred to as “servant leaders.” They had a commitment and caring for their followers that transcended their own self-interests.

There is value in recognizing this fact, because despite a high degree of selflessness, the care and concern they had drove them to success.

The relationship that we as salespeople and brokers have with our clients should model the approach of these servant leaders – and we should seek to become servant advisors.

Are we so egotistical that the idea of serving someone is off-putting to us?

Serving is an opportunity

Serving is not something to be ashamed of, it is an opportunity to frame a relationship as one where you seek to offer value with no thought of personal gain. Rather than preventing positive returns, this approach to business produces better results in the long term as you become to your clients a valued advisor – someone who your client knows has their best interests at heart.

Of course, being an advisor who serves in the best interests of a client does not mean becoming merely a tool for them to use. It does not prevent you from saying no to a client, or stopping them from making a potential mistake.

Quite the contrary – it is your duty to tell them the hard truth. To steer them to a solution. To, when needed, tell them that they are wrong.

In the field of commercial real estate in which I practise, multi-family, our clients are often not an individual or a corporation, but in fact a family. The assets being sold are frequently the bulk of the family’s net worth, or in many cases also the legacy of the parents or grandparents who built the portfolio.

Selling a complex interplay

The decision to sell is never easy, and it is rarely a decision based purely on the numbers. It is a complex interplay between family relationships, deep emotions, fear-inducing tax bills, and the sudden conversion of illiquid family wealth to liquid cash.

Against this backdrop, it becomes clear why the careful selection of words, and the framing of a relationship with a client is so important. If you are not acting as a servant to this type of client, you are invariably going to treat them poorly.

It becomes too easy to be distracted by the numbers. To be ignorant of the complex feelings the family is dealing with.

To “deal with” issues rather than swiftly and professionally addressing them with a mind to change the issue in to an opportunity.

The choice of words matters. Advisor vs. salesperson. Problem vs. opportunity. Client vs. customer. Small changes help frame more caring, more rewarding, and more valuable relationships.

Read more from: Featured ColumnRENX ColumnistsThe Strategic Broker

Stefanie Schopen

About the Author ()

Stefanie Schopen is the Vice President of Franchising for SVN Canada Inc. In this capacity, she is responsible for the company’s growth by strategically identifying key markets, brokerages, and advisors. Working closely with SVN International to ensure the sales process, onboarding and continued support of franchisees is unencumbered. She has a background in human resources and accounting and has worked in the technology manufacturing industry and the entertainment industry as well as the residential real estate industry.

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