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Mr. Internet!Ask Mr. Internet!
Dear Mr. Internet:
I am a high producer in traditional real estate but I am a little frustrated in working with clients online.  I don't seem to have as much control with them and it reflects in the amount of business I'm doing online.  Any suggestions?
IGGY Dybal
RE/MAX Best Associates
Overland Park, KS
Dear IGGY:

Welcome to the whole new world of the Internet Empowered Consumer (IEC)!  They represent a fundamental change in the way we, as real estate professionals, deal with potential customers.  In fact, for the first time in the history of the real estate profession, the consumer (i.e. the IEC) is in control.

The IEC has control (of their own situation) because the Internet provides them with:

  1. A shield of anonymity --which protects them from unwanted, intrusive, or "pushy" behavior
  2. A buffer from the 80% or more non-verbal communication that occurs face-to-face and 40% or more non-idiomatic communication that occurs on the phone --which protects them from feeling dominated by powerful sales personalities 
  3. Nearly unlimited amounts of information concerning properties, financing, and the overall transaction process --which gives them the confidence to feel they are not entirely helpless

The advent of the IEC brings out an interesting irony in our business.  Many of us have been taught to "take control" of situations with prospects when meeting them for the first time, either face-to-face or on the phone.  We probe, ask qualifying questions, mirror, request their name and contact information, and try to get them to work with us exclusively.  While this process can work well with the traditional real estate consumer, it can be counterproductive with the IEC.

In fact, the very things we've been taught to succeed in sales with the traditional real estate consumer, will actually work against us with the IEC!

It's About Relationship, Not Control

Once you give up the notion of "control", the only thing left is relationship, which ultimately is a much more powerful way of working with clients and prospects.

There are four principles of creating relationship online, and each one implies a certain behavior or attitude shift in order to be successful when working with the IEC:

PRINCIPLE #1: The IEC is in control, and they like it that way! - don't "push" the IEC to move faster or reveal themselves sooner than they are ready, otherwise you are likely never to hear from them again 

PRINCIPLE #2: The IEC expects their online privacy to be sacred - you build trust by explicitly reassuring the IEC that you will respect their privacy via a privacy statement link on all your Web site forms

PRINCIPLE #3: The IEC values: a) their time; b) saving money; c) having choices - be flexible and ready to tailor your services and fees to meet the needs of the IEC rather (e.g. Fee for services) than force them into a "one model fits all" situation

PRINCIPLE #4: The IEC will not do business with you until: a) they trust you; b) feel you have their best interests at heart; c) know you have the expertise to help them - you build relationship by giving the IEC what they want (i.e. information, advice, etc.), without requiring them to reveal themselves and in a way that let's them know you are the expert

I refer to the process of creating relationship online as the Art Of The Thread Of Relationship�.  It is interesting that Internet-savvy professionals who have mastered this process often report that their online client relationships are far stronger than if they had met them face-to-face or on the phone first.  I prove this non-intuitive result at every full-day seminar I conduct around North America.

Old Habits Die Hard

What all this means is that real estate professionals who are used to doing tons of business in the traditional way, via taking "control" of the agent / client interaction, may find it difficult to successfully transition to doing business with the IEC.  The desire to take control can be a hard habit to break.

However, those professionals who already work from the position of "relationship" in traditional real estate, will find the transition to working with the IEC quite natural and satisfying.  Typically, these folks are already enjoying top success because the business comes to them seemingly effortlessly.

Doing business on the Internet is less forgiving than the offline world, because the IEC (and not you) is in control.  Learning how to work with the IEC effectively through the process of relationship is undoubtedly one of the most important skills you can acquire as we enter the new millennium.  One that will result in more business as you work with clients who will, more often than not, also become your friends --what a concept!




Mr. Internet is the alter-ego of Michael J. Russer, an internationally recognized Internet speaker, trainer, author, and strategic consultant to the real estate industry. He's dedicated to helping real estate professionals leverage their people skills into profit on the Internet. You'll see his column on REALTOR� Magazine Online every month and in the magazine quarterly. Send your Internet questions to [email protected] or you can visit his Web site at https://www.russer.com  Mr. Internet!
Reprinted from  REALTOR� Magazine Online by permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS�.  Copyright 2000.  All rights reserved.  Mr. Internet� and Ask Mr. Internet!� are trademarks of RUSSER Communications.

Last modified: December 15, 2005 12:13:14 PM

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