My How Things Have Changed!
Gone are the days where an agent could be all things to all people and still make a living at selling homes. Of course there are still those rare few who are happy with a sale or two each month and can handle their business without a support network, but what happens when you have complicated transactions or clients with special needs?
Can you juggle it all yourself?
When I look back at my early days in real estate (before Chris came along) when I was the solo agent in charge of marketing, advertising, lead generating, listing appointments, buyer showings, open houses, tech support, scheduling, networking meetings, negotiating contracts, going to inspections, project management, and going to closings (and I’m sure I missing a few things)... it was exhausting. I suppose this is why my income was not only erratic, but why I always felt as though I wasn’t giving my clients my best. I was spread too thin.
Once Chris and I joined forces, it was amazing how much more I enjoyed my job. He liked the things I didn’t like and I liked the things he didn’t prefer. A match made in heaven. Well...almost. There were a few things (mostly detail stuff) that neither of us were good at nor did we enjoy. But we managed until the time came where we hired an executive assistant to handle those day to day tasks that were energy and time sucks for us.
We literally went from 40 to 80 sales a year after just that one hire. When you break it down, it was the difference of being able to manage 3 sales a month to 6 or 7. For us, even after paying our assistant, that was a significant increase in income. Not to mention we could actually take a day off here and there without any guilt or worry.
Serving senior clients takes more time.
There is no doubt that it takes more time to serve the senior client. In most cases, the sales cycle is longer, there are more people involved, and there are far more details to be handled (especially when downsizing). Most agents that are like me appreciate the slower pace that older clients need and take the time necessary to insure they feel comfortable with each step in the process.
As our seniors division grew and we were handling as many as 5 or 6 sales consistently each month for downsizing seniors, I knew something had to give. I found myself spending my evenings and weekends helping clients organize, pack, set up cable TV, furniture shop, and more. More and more of my “free” time was donated to my clients to insure they had a hassle-free move.
Customer service was important to me! I was not going to just list their home and say, “OK...now you’re on your own.” But I couldn’t “take the to raise” either (my husbands words).
So this begs the question I am frequently asked, “How can I take on more sales without sacrificing customer service?”
Here are two suggestions:
- Surround yourself with a skilled and like minded network of professionals. This is a key element in insuring that your clients are receiving assistance from trusted service providers and that you are not the only person capable of helping with the transition. Take the time to interview and assess the qualifications of each person you align with before referring them and then oversee their work until they have proven themselves.
- Hire an administrative assistant or executive assistant. A key hire can make all the difference in the world when it comes to client communications, organizing, and helping with the non-sales related tasks in every transaction. Consider hiring a gerontology graduate or someone who has experience in customer service or the aging services fields.
Can’t afford a full time staff member?
There are a variety of university programs that require students to complete a practicum or internship. I had to do several hundred hours as a part of my gerontology degree and so I worked as a volunteer to fulfill my requirements. Think about how much you could teach a student about working with seniors in real estate and senior housing.
Another consideration is to tap into your network of past senior clients. Many seniors are looking for ways to give back and add value to others. For some it is not necessarily about the money, but more about a place to belong and continuing to be of service.
Begin putting money aside for adding team members. A good rule of thumb is to have 3 months of their salary in reserve when you hire. This cushion will keep you from feeling stressed if you have a sale fall through or a slow month.
What is you longterm career vision?
In this year's first senior housing professionals mastermind session this week I asked the group to spend time on envisioning their businesses going forward. What are they creating? Will they work solo or have a team? Do they prefer to sell or lead a team of sales people? Does it excite them to expand regionally or nationally with their brand?
If you are in the group of agents who choose to maintain 1 to 3 sales a month on average or are comfortable with a fluctuating income, you may be able to deliver a high level of customer service as a solo-agent. For those who envision a larger organization like we did or who want to be able to serve at a high level and still take vacations and have a life, you will probably need to increase your support network.
What it all boils down to is you and your vision. Know your customer service standards and know your limits. Listen to your inner business advisor and your inner wisdom. You know the right answers.
I will leave you with this - a quote from one of my wise coaches
“You take care of others best when you take care of yourself first.”
|Nikki Buckelew is the Founder and CEO of the Seniors Real Estate Institute and administrator for the Certified Senior Housing Professional® (CSHP) designation. A veteran REALTOR® of over two decades, she holds a bachelor’s degree in gerontology and a master’s degree in counseling psychology. As a professional speaker, coach, and trainer, Nikki is committed to empowering, equipping, and educating real estate sales and senior housing professionals seeking to better serve the mature market segment.