If you bear these ideas in mind and apply them when you can, you won’t need to worry about sounding pushy or making people feel like they’re just another customer.

This year of the pandemic has left many real estate professionals increasingly anxious. They worry about sounding “salesy” or being “markety” when so many are struggling, losing their jobs, or seeing family and friends fall ill.

But our work is essential — not only for the consumers we help achieve these landmark sales and purchases, but for our families and the economy as a whole. Here is a model to help frame your messaging going forward. I recently shared it in presentations for brokerages around the country, and it’s been well received. I hope it can provide a positive approach for others in real estate, lending, escrow and title.

Understanding the power of understanding

A starting point is understanding the difference between “seeing opportunity” and “being opportunistic,” which is key to approaching business during the pandemic. Being opportunistic is taking advantage of people. Seeing opportunities that will mutually benefit you and your client is the opposite.

COVID-19 has impacted everyone, and each one of us is digesting it differently. This means that any one-size-fits-all approach is going to be problematic. Instead, organize your messaging around three key concepts in this order: empathy, education and entertainment. 

1. Empathy

This begins with meeting people where they are and keeping in mind how much has changed for them this year. By first putting yourself in their shoes, you’ll gain clarity on how to communicate and interact.

Begin with a basic awareness of what is happening to all of us, and then determine how it’s affecting this one person. Ask clients about themselves, their family, friends and business, and then listen to what they have to say.

2. Education

Education is about being willing to share your expertise as well as being ready to learn. There is so much misinformation circulating about our industry, about the market and about what may or may not come next. By gaining an informed understanding of the current landscape, you can serve as a reliable source for others. 

3. Entertainment

Entertainment is simply remembering that everyone still needs a smile and a laugh and to not take themselves too seriously. Obviously, I’m not suggesting that after someone tells you how bad things are you respond with, “Did you hear the one about the … ?”

Just remember that we all need a break from this, and if you provide a little well-timed levity, people will see you as a friend. 

Combating the ‘watercooler effect’

Of these three, education has the greatest potential to make an impact and leave a lasting impression of yourself as a dependable professional. Make sure the information you share is objective and based on research and analysis. 

We’re all familiar with the old “watercooler effect,” which goes back to when we still sat together in offices. In that environment, it was common to overhear someone claim, “It’s a horrible market,” or “The bubble is going to burst,” or “We’ll see another 15 percent home price increase next year.” Now, of course, social media has become a far more efficient super-spreader of unreliable information, and both buyers and sellers could fall victim to it. 

With your direct knowledge of markets, you can play a lead role in combatting misleading information. That’s why it’s important that, as an agent, you have a strategy for educating your sphere of influence and helping consumers avoid black-and-white “headline” thinking.

Psychologists advance “gray thinking” as a process of considering all variables and discovering something can be both good and bad. Analysis is hard and time-consuming, but as agents, we need to know that this “headline mentality” exists, leading to over-simplification and erroneous beliefs. 

Agents can do the heavy lifting for their clients. You can gain real knowledge and share it in a way they’ll understand. Beyond serving as sales representatives, you are teachers and interpreters of trends. 

Also, education doesn’t mean simply posting a link and saying, “Read this article.” It’s what you do one-on-one with your client. It might involve taking the time to create video content for your YouTube channel, write a blog post, or post something on social media that can help people navigate and make sense of this market.

These extra steps will help your sphere see you as the leading source of information among all the conflicting content that exists out there. 

If you bear these ideas in mind and apply them when you can, you won’t need to worry about sounding “salesy” or making a person feel like he or she is just another customer. You’ll be someone they see differently and connect with.

If you can put content in those three buckets, then you’re going to meet people where they live and help them make sense of the world. Not only will you achieve success in trying times, but you’ll also have an ongoing relationship with them when things turn around.

Justin Tucker is the EVP, director of strategic initiatives for Williston Financial Group in Portland, Oregon. Connect with him on Facebook or LinkedIn

IDX Real Estate