Getting to know your clients and their needs is essential to achieving the best results for them
By Amy Reinink
Each generation of buyers and sellers tends to have distinctive needs, priorities and communication styles. By tailoring your approach to consider these generational distinctions – along with each individual’s expressed desires – you’ll reinforce that you’re the right agent to best meet any clients’ needs. The four top performers featured on the following pages have all found success, in large part, by following this strategy. They offer tips on how you can do the same.
KNOW WHEN IT’S TIME TO TEXT AND WHEN IT’S BETTER TO GO BELLY-TO-BELLY.
Brent Brnada says a successful communications strategy needs to go far beyond knowing that younger clients favor text messages while older clients appreciate in-person meetings. Brnada, who’s been with RE/MAX since 2007, says an agent should consider a client’s generation, personal preferences, transaction timeline and goals in order to choose the right platform for every interaction.
BRNADA’S ADVICE FOR TAILORING COMMUNICATION TO EVERY GENERATION:
I try to create a sense of mutual understanding during my first meeting with a client, which is always a sit-down in my office or at a coffee shop. At that point, I simply ask: How do you like to communicate?
Call them, maybe.
Gen Y and Gen X do appreciate text messages. But that doesn’t mean calls go out the window. I still like to pick up the phone and have a discussion at various points throughout a transaction. It’s difficult to respond appropriately to a complicated question via text message.
Adjust your pace.
When I first started, I was surprised to find how many seniors and older adults prefer communication via email. They’re happy to get an email from you. But understand that they may not have the smartphones that your younger clients do, and may not see or respond to your email until they sit down at their desktop computer. On the flip side, understand that younger clients expect a much faster pace of communication.
Don’t assume high-tech is better.
Social media is great, and I’m happy to say that Gen Y and Gen X friends refer me on a regular basis because of our digital connections. But I do find direct-mail marketing to be very effective across all generations.
CREATE A POSITIVE TRANSACTION IN THE PRESENT BY ALWAYS CONSIDERING THE CLIENT’S NEXT STEP.
Lisa Roberts has gleaned plenty of wisdom from working with buyers of all ages, even though she’s a relative newcomer to the business. Already a 100 Percent Club member, Roberts credits her success in part to looking ahead on her clients’ behalf, no matter their generation.
See renters as future homeowners.
I handled more than 80 rentals in my first year in business. I found that Millennial renters were excited to start the home-buying process after they engaged with an agent they trusted. As soon as I’d get someone into a rental, I’d start preparing them to buy by connecting them with a couple of different lenders I work with, and by educating them about the process. Not only have a lot of those rental clients become homebuyers – they’ve recommended me to their friends, family and co-workers.
Consider lifestyle and goals.
For Gen X and Gen Y buyers, I keep one crucial concern in mind: a property’s investment potential. For example, I recently viewed a property with a young client who found that the property fulfilled all of his present needs but wasn’t a good investment because of a flaw in the patio roof. I knew that for my client, because investment potential was important, this wasn’t the right property for him and his goals.
Put newbies at ease.
I try to quell younger clients’ fears by thinking one step ahead. I explain anxiety-inducing steps in the process before they even think to get anxious.
Deliver on expectations.
When working with older seniors, it’s vital to keep in mind that this may be the last home they’ll purchase. That makes it especially important to find out exactly what they want in a property, and to make sure you show these clients only properties that fit the bill – or they might move on to another Realtor.
FINE-TUNE YOUR APPROACH
QUICKLY ZERO IN ON THE RIGHT PROPERTY.
Jeffrey Craig has worked with Millennials and Gen Xers emerging on the home-buying scene, as well as Baby Boomers following the downsizing trend. The Chairman’s Club member and RE/MAX Hall of Famer offers the following tips for successful transactions with all groups.
Q: WHAT ARE THE BIGGEST DIFFERENCES YOU SEE AMONG THE GENERATIONS?
A: Older clients want to be face-to-face. It’s important that you go to their house and review everything in front of them. Young consumers don’t want that. They’re not interested in seeing you; they want to take care of everything electronically.
Q: HOW ARE MILLENNIALS DIFFERENT FROM OTHER GENERATIONS OF FIRST-TIME BUYERS YOU’VE WORKED WITH?
A: The speed with which Gen Y interacts is kind of fantastic. You send them an email with a question, and they’ll answer within minutes. Of course, that also means that when they send you an email, they want a response back minutes later.
Q: WHAT KINDS OF PROPERTIES ARE ATTRACTIVE TO GEN Y AND GEN X BUYERS?
A: When I first got into real estate, it seemed like more people were willing to take a house that needed some work. Now, everyone wants a house that’s ready to go. Recently, I showed a house that met all of my client’s needs, but he said, “No, I can’t do it – I hate the carpet and paint.”
Q: WHAT KINDS OF PROPERTIES ARE ATTRACTIVE TO BOOMERS AND THE SILENT GENERATION RIGHT NOW?
A: Downsizers want what they want. They’re more concerned with accommodations than with price. For obvious reasons, they’re going for that first-floor master bedroom, ranch house or townhouse. They don’t want stairs or yard maintenance.
BE A TRUSTED GUIDE
PUT SENSITIVITY AND ATTENTIVENESS AHEAD OF YOUR EXPERTISE.
Susan Madison has spent nearly three decades in real estate, and her Lifetime Achievement Award is a key indicator of her knowledge and skills. Madison, who’s earned the Seniors Real Estate Specialist (SRES) designation, says Associates can win the hearts of Baby Boomers and the Silent Generation by realizing these clients sometimes need just as much guidance as younger buyers. The Platinum Club member offers tips for being attentive and sensitive to their situations, as well as the situations of all buyers.
Help cut through information overload.
Younger people come armed with all sorts of information that wasn’t available in the past. But no matter how much information is available, consumers still need a good Realtor to interpret what they’ve read. To keep the details from overwhelming your clients, start by verifying or clarifying the information they’ve gathered on their own and provide pertinent and streamlined details from there.
Stage homes for Millennial preferences.
Young people want homes that are move-in ready. I encourage Baby Boomers who are looking to sell their homes to get new appliances, paint their walls a neutral color and expose hardwood floors that may have been hidden under carpet for 30-plus years. Those appliances don’t have to be top-of-the-line, but they do need to be stainless steel. People say, “But I have white cabinets – doesn’t that look better with white appliances?” I say, “Trust me, they want stainless.”
Assist in building an active future.
Previous generations stayed in their homes until they were forced, for one reason or another, to leave. Boomers are more active and proactive, and they’re freeing up time and money by downsizing to places with less maintenance. This enables them to better enjoy their retirement, whether they stay close to home or make more time for traveling.
Don’t assume they don’t need help.
A transaction you’re handling for a Baby Boomer probably isn’t the client’s first, and your older clients likely know they’re going to have to get rid of some things if they’re downsizing. But if Baby Boomers are moving from the home they’ve lived in for 40 years and raised their children in, they still need help with some big decisions during an emotional time. Sometimes, that’s as simple as connecting them with a relocation specialist at the active-retirement community they’re moving to or finding a trash-hauling service to help them avoid trips to the dump. Other times, it’s being a sounding board to their decision-making process.
Do what they want, not what you want.
It’s important to really listen to what people are saying and to hear the undercurrents running beneath their words. We’re conditioned to assume that sellers want to get their house sold for as much money as possible. But if we assume that, we may miss where someone says: “I just want the home to go away. I don’t want to fight for every last $1,000 in a negotiation.” If clients say they want the transaction to be as easy as possible, then listen.