In the real estate world, we’d like to think that every transaction will go off without a hitch. But if you’ve been a realtor for a while – or if you’ve been a home buyer or seller – you know that it’s often not the case. While stress-free deals are what we all hope for, the proverbial monkey wrench is usually thrown into the mix and – boom – there’s trouble up ahead.
When you’re new to the real estate world, and you’re working on one of your first transactions, breaking the bad news to your clients becomes a thing of great fear. You’re not sure how they’re going to react about the news and – worst of all – you believe they’re going to think it’s your fault, even if that’s far from the truth. You worry about losing commission, losing the customer, and having your reputation smeared.
In most cases, however, the bad news isn’t your fault. It’s just the reality of the business. But how you deliver the news can make a big difference to your career and in the way that clients regard you in the future, including whether they will use your services again.
Turn it Around
So, you’ve received some less-than-happy news you need to tell your clients. The buyer defaulted. The inspection shows tens of thousands of dollars of necessary work. The appraisal came back way lower than expected. There are any number of scenarios that can send you running for the hills and wondering if there’s someone else – your broker, perhaps? – who can deliver the news.
But, if you take some time to regroup and think about how to handle this bad news delivery in a business-like yet empathetic manner, the experience can actually show you in a good light. As a matter of fact, surveys of real estate clients around the country show that it is not the buyers or sellers who had everything go smoothly that are most happy with their agent. It’s those who had problems that were well-handled by their agent that are most satisfied with their experience.
One of the most popular knee-jerk reactions to bad news is to delay delivering it to the customer. You want to “sit on it” for a few days to figure out how to handle it and how to best sugarcoat it for your client. But, in most cases, that’s the wrong way to start.
As soon as you have the news and all the facts surrounding the situation, contact your clients, and set up a face-to-face meeting. In many cases, delays – as in the case of a deal gone bad – could cause your client to miss out on other suitable opportunities. Besides, when it’s out in the open, you’ll find that it’s a load off your mind, even if the problem isn’t yet fixed.
Don’t be a Debbie (or Donny) Downer
As devastating as the bad news may be to you and your client, it’s your job to remain as upbeat as possible. Don’t go into a meeting with a long face and teary eyes. It will do no good. Remain as calm and optimistic as possible, speak slowly, and deliver the news methodically, offering all information available. Show empathy but keep the conversation as positive as possible.
Temper your Speech
No one wants to hear the words, “I’ve got some bad news”, so that’s certainly not the way to open the conversation when delivering that less-than-perfect information to your client. Instead, try phrases such as “We have some decisions to make” or “There’s a new challenge for us to think about”. It opens the door for the news you need to deliver and keeps it open rather than slamming it shut.
When you proclaim that you have “bad news”, a negative notion arises immediately and clients put up a wall quite quickly. Even though they are likely to realize that the other phrases mean something is amiss, you’ve at least made it sound like it’s something you can overcome, …and, in most cases, it is.
Be Prepared to Answer their Questions
No doubt, when something goes wrong, and the problem seems insurmountable, you’ll likely get lots of “What’ll we do now?” questions from your buyers/sellers. If you’re new to real estate and this is your first scenario of this kind, you may have to confer with your broker or mentor to get all the answers. Take some time to do that before you meet with them (though don’t make it a huge delay, as we mentioned), and if after the meeting they still have questions you can’t answer, consider bringing in someone more knowledgeable who can meet with them in person. You’ll earn more respect that way than by fudging on your answers.
Devise a Plan to Move Forward
Offer positive speech to your clients as well as phrases that present a chance to keep going. Instead of “I’m really sorry this deal fell through. It makes me sad, too”, say “This was an excellent deal, but I know there are other buyers out there who are more than qualified to buy your house.” Or don’t say, “I had no idea this house was in such poor condition”, say “I know you loved this house, but I’m confident there are other quality homes that will fit your needs.”
Keep it as positive as possible and open doors the clients can walk through when the sadness of the bad news has disseminated, and they are ready to move on.