Effective communication may be both one of the most important and overlooked elements which has the potential to influence the outcome of your meetings, presentations, negotiations, client care and crisis management. As a real estate agent professional, people and relationships are the framework of your business. Great communication skills are the tools you need to ensure that framework is solid.
1. What do you have to say, and how are you going to say it?
“Constantly talking isn't necessarily communicating.”
― Charlie Kaufman
The first step toward being an effective communicator is to figure out your brand identity, then develop impactful ways to deliver your message. You may already know about the importance of a unique brand identity in real estate; this idea embodies your ‘why’, or your reason for doing what you do, and what sets you apart and makes your personality and service unique. Once you know this, you can build daily habits of effective communication in a way that reflects your unique self.
- Define your unique purpose and decide how this uniqueness is best portrayed, in terms of your personal style, logo, stationery, social media profile etc. It’s ok to outsource or ask for help; enlist the services of a designer, web expert or ask a few friends to brainstorm with you. Keep it simple; people switch off when messaging is too complicated. Look at all the big brand advertising around you - on billboards, buses, television and print media - the most effective campaigns get their message across in clear, direct and simple ways.
- Craft your written communication. Let’s face it, some of us are better talkers than writers, and if you’ve landed on a real estate career there’s a good chance you’re the former! But written communication is vital to the equation; it’s the mark you leave behind after a meeting (in the form of a presentation or follow-up email) and it’s the representation of you when you’re not face-to-face (in the form of marketing materials or written social media posts). You might feel that a really conversational style of writing reflects you and your message, but, honestly, it can be very jarring and hard to read. It’s not impossible to get a casual vibe into your written communication, but slapping down a few sentences the same way they fell out of your mouth probably isn’t it. Online services like grammarly.com can help improve your writing, or engage the services of a freelance copy editor to streamline your written material.
- Engage with your real estate audience. You can bleat at them all you like, but if they’re not responding, it probably means they’re not listening (or reading, or watching, or paying you any attention at all). Engagement has become a buzz word with the advent of social media, which unlike email or text has enormous scope for encouraging audience engagement through liking, sharing or commenting on posted content. In more traditional settings, a measure of response is indicative of engagement. The simplest way to entice engagement with postal, email, text, phone or advertising campaigns is with a call-to-action. This might be a competition entry, a kids’ colouring competition, a free open home guide pdf download or some sort of property publication or prize giveaway; anything that makes a potential client reach back to you. If you’re working campaigns like this in your business but people are not responding, it’s time to re-evaluate your communication strategy, because the message is clearly falling short of the intended target. Don’t despair- this is valuable knowledge to ensure you don’t repeat the same mistake. Just keep trying until you find something that works.
- Don’t forget body language and non-verbal communication
“Self-consciousness kills communication.”
― Rick Steves
There is a world of communication beyond the things we say or write to each other. Anyone who has ever successfully communicated with someone unfamiliar with their language, or with impairments of any of the senses or even with animals, knows there are plenty of ways to communicate outside the traditional limitations of language.
- Face facts. Eye contact and facial expressions are important factors in visual communication. For most of us, vision is a dominant sense, and the ability to make eye contact with someone can be crucial for building trust. An openness of facial expression and one that doesn’t communicate hostility, disinterest or other such negative thoughts is also key to helping your potential real estate contacts feel relaxed. Ask someone to take a video of you while you present or talk, and reflect honestly on what you see. Perhaps see if a colleague is willing to swap critique with you. There are also professional marketing people who can advise you. Another key point in non-verbal communication is your tone of voice. Before people get comfortable with you, their ‘Spidey senses’ are likely to activate on hearing any undertone of impatience, irritation, boredom, dissatisfaction or unfriendliness. Overcome these barriers by putting yourself in a happy space prior to meetings, and if that’s not possible, be honest and open about why. People will tolerate a note of stress if they know you had to sit in terrible traffic to reach the meeting on time. They’ll also forgive a note of sadness if your cat just died.
- Move in a mindful way. The way you hold yourself, your gestures, posture, touch and sense of space all work to give a favourable impression- or otherwise. Start by thinking about the body language other people use that makes you uncomfortable. Do you enjoy it when people stand too close or invade your space? Do very tense people who are hunched in their body or closed in their countenance put you at ease? Do you feel comfortable around someone who uses their hands to gesticulate in a forceful way, or who claps you a little too heartily on the back? There are plenty of resources available online or in the library to brush up on your non-verbal communication skills and learn how to self-analyse your gestures and body language. The idea is not to curtail your own personality, just to learn how to put people more at ease.
- Consider your own emotional landscape. If you’ve identified yourself as carrying a good deal of stress or tension which may in turn be putting off your potential real estate clients, it’s time to address the causes and look for ways to channel a more relaxed state of being. Even traditional science is beginning to agree that ‘vibes’ or the vibrational state between beings has physical validity. If you spend time in the company of a very successful real estate agent- remembering real estate success may not be just a high real estate salary or a wad of real estate commission, but should also encompass job satisfaction and degree of happiness in life - what sort of vibe do they project? How do you feel in their company? Chances are you feel relaxed, or at least not stressed or agitated. How can you project a similarly contented, peaceful vibe? Mastering your emotions at a deep level may be the key. At the very least, you could become happier in your real estate career, and possibly even with your personal relationships and your life as a whole.
3. Open your ears and get used to NOT hearing yourself talk
“The biggest communication problem is we do not listen to understand. We listen to reply.”
― Stephen R. Covey
You have plenty to inform about and your property knowledge and real estate expertise is invaluable, but communication which involves you doing the lion’s share of the talking and the other person barely saying a word is not effective communication.
- Observe your communication partner. Do you ever find yourself frustrated and unable to get a read on a potential real estate client? You might not be hearing or observing them closely enough. As our confidence and expertise grows we tend to talk more and listen less. Closer observation doesn’t need to be creepy or off-putting, but it might take some practice. Tune out whatever else is going on and really focus on the person you’re talking to. Do whatever you need to do in order to block out distractions; this might inform your choice of meeting place (does a busy thoroughfare have you distracted by people?) the setting (does a clattering eatery interfere with your senses?) or the time you choose to liaise with people (are you a night owl or a morning lark?) It’s possible that when these distracting scenarios arise, you’re unconsciously talking more than you need to as a way to cope with a challenging situation, which means you’re missing the vital chunk of information your real estate contact wants to share with you.
- Pause and allow your conversation partner as much time as they need to respond. Harness the power of the pause to be truly effective in your communication, and improve your real estate success. It’s not as easy as it sounds to pause and wait, but doing so can help you construct conversation better and take control in a negotiation. It also helps to relax you, avoids the um’s and ah’s which indicate self-consciousness or ineptitude, allows people time to process your words and helps you gauge their reaction.
- Listen attentively to their responses. Discussing a potential real estate arrangement with you is a very big deal to most people. If they’re considering becoming your vendor, they’ll have plenty of questions for you. You’ll also be a more effective real estate agent by really understanding them and their situation. The first step is building trust, and you can do this by showing them what they say is important to you. Likewise, if you’re helping a client to find a new home, the more deeply you can understand their needs and wants the more likely you are to match them with the right property, saving time and energy, keeping your client happy and solidifying the trust relationship between you.