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How to deliver bad news to your clients

Now that the market has slowed and not every listing sells in 16 minutes, let’s talk about how to improve communication with your sellers.

Do you ever stop and think about one of your listings, “OMG! Nothing is happening with this thing. What am I going to do?”

Then you decide that ignoring the problem is the best option?

If so, you are perpetuating the biggest complaint there is about Realtors: “We signed the listing contract, the agent walked out the door and we never heard from them again. That is, until two weeks before the expiry date when they finally called and pressured us to lower the price and extend the listing.”

Hey, I get it. Nobody likes delivering bad news. But do you know what’s worse than delivering bad news? NOT delivering bad news. Procrastination makes bad news much, much worse.

So here’s how to fix this problem once and for all, and *bonus* reduce your stress by approximately 75 per cent.

First, do not wait until there’s bad news. If you do that, your clients will develop a negative association with you.

Surprise! This article is not actually about delivering bad news. Instead, it’s about having a reliable system to ensure you communicate with your clients regularly. Here’s my ultra-simple system that keeps me on track with every client:

1. I set up every seller on an auto-notification system, so they receive an email each time a competing property is listed, sold or price-reduced.

I do not screen these emails. They go to the client automatically, informing them precisely what is happening with their competitors in the same price range and geographical area. Setting the criteria is a combination of art and science (too much information for this space). If you’re interested, just call me at (403) 973-9730 and I’ll give you the basics. Or just wing it. Being perfect is far less important than doing it.

2. I send a Market Update every Monday morning by email, providing my take on what happened last week. What do I use for reference? The auto-notifications above. I sort them by status date and can easily see each event that occurred over the previous seven days. Then I provide my professional opinion on each one.

Here are a few comments I might make:

a) 123 Maple Street – This is a solid new listing. It’s bigger and newer than your property and seems well-priced. I’ll be watching this one as I expect it to sell quickly.

b) 123 Elm Street – Lowered their price by $10K, making it more competitive, but I still think your property is offering better value. They will probably need to lower it again.

c) 123 Oak Street – Sold for very close to the asking price. Not surprising. It’s a higher price point than your house, but this is warranted given the superior location and larger size. The buyer of this property could afford the higher price, so they would not likely have considered yours anyway. Happy to see this strong competitor eliminated!

So, how do I come up with this commentary? Easy. I simply tell them exactly what I genuinely believe. It’s not complicated. And two massive benefits come out of this exercise:

1. Your clients feel cared for, knowing that you’re carefully observing precisely what is happening in their market segment and communicating with them regularly.

And even more importantly:

2. You are forced to look at exactly what is happening with each of your listings on a regular (weekly) basis. This keeps you on top of things and makes it a lot easier when you have to report something like this: “Based on the above information, we may need to consider adjusting your price soon to be more in line with the current market conditions. I’m not suggesting reducing the price immediately, but let’s see how it goes this week and if we don’t have any action by 

Thursday, talk again then. Friday is generally the best day to make a price adjustment, right before the weekend.”

By the time they get this message, you’ve probably already been communicating with them for a while. They’re appreciative, and they now regard whatever you’re suggesting as solid professional advice from their agent that they’ve come to know and trust. Plus, it’s a soft sell. 

You’re not demanding an immediate price reduction; just getting them to think about it. You’d be surprised how a few days of percolating can help with tough decisions.

When you do this right, you will never have problems getting price adjustments. Not that this is the sole purpose; it’s really about building trust with a reliable communication system.

When you have that, delivering bad news is no big deal.