We in the real estate industry deal with a mountain of technology and an avalanche of information. We shovel through big data in the hope of wowing our potential customers, but I believe the thing that really matters is not our ability to package up this data and present it in bite-sized pieces but rather our ability to relate to people.

The customer buys you first and then buys what you’re going to do and how you’re going to do it. It has been said that “people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” One of the best ways to show them you care is to humanize your business.

Before a listing presentation, you do exhaustive research on the property. You pull information on comparable listings, research the neighborhood, tax records, etc. But what if you did your homework on the homeowners too? What if you knew that their daughter had just graduated from university or that they had suffered a loss? This information is just as useful as any you could know about the property.

Building a connection paves the way when asking for a price reduction or when you’re negotiating a contentious issue. It’s also your best opportunity for repeat and referral business. Here are seven things you should know about your customers:

1. Their finances, qualification and spending habits.
2. How they want to be communicated with. Text? Phone? How often? Detail or big picture?
3. Milestones like weddings, births, losses.
4. Their preferred lifestyle. Homebody or travel bug? Pets? Commute? Who lives with them or visits frequently?
5. Hobbies and interests. Do they need storage for canoes or a craft room?
6. Their past real estate experiences. Did something happen to make them wary of the buying or selling process?
7. Their real estate dreams.

Here’s a real-life example.

Ed wanted to buy a house, but instead of diving in, his agent took the time to learn Ed’s real estate dreams by asking questions like, What’s your long-term strategy? Do you want to fund your retirement? Do you want to fix and flip?

After working through this exercise fifteen years ago, Ed spent weekends driving through cottage country to choose the location in which he wanted to invest and eventually live. His agent found a winterized cottage for sale which he was able to comfortably afford on a fifteen-year mortgage to coincide with the target date of his retirement. Ed utilized the cottage himself for vacations but also rented it out to generate additional income. Fast forward to today and Ed owns the property mortgage-free and by renting it out over the years, he was also able to pay for maintenance and updates to the property and invest the extra money to provide cashflow in retirement.

When building a relationship with someone, remember to be both sincere and curious. These phrases can help draw them out:

  • If you could wave a magic wand, describe your perfect world.
  • Paint the picture for me.
  • Tell me more about that.
  • What would you like to see happen?

And then be quiet and listen. The more you allow them to talk, the closer your relationship will develop and the better you will be able to serve them.

Real estate agents tend to forget they’re dealing with real people with real boxes and real moving vans. People move because of their circumstances; upsizing or downsizing, getting married or divorced, having children. You, as their trusted advisor, need to know, understand and empathize with those circumstances.