Crackerjack Professionalism Breeds Business

September 1, 1999

The three most important selling words are trust, integrity, and value. Burn them into your brain. Build these image-making concepts into everything you do.

But how do you build on something you can't see, feel, or touch? Building trust with clients and customers is pretty simple, really. It's about little things that make a big difference. All you need to do is make good on what you say you'll do:

  • Call clients and customers back on time.
  • Deliver on time.
  • Give them the facts.
  • Tell it like it is.

In the '80s the selling attitude was "Tell 'em anything---just sell 'em." Today sales professionals with that attitude won't last long. There are too many other people who genuinely care about the consumer.

These days you must make sure that your product and service are competitive and that you give added value to the person who does business with you. Airlines do that with frequent-flyer programs. They don't do it for the fun of it---it's an administrative nightmare. But they want to buy your loyalty by giving you added value so that you'll spend your travel dollar with them.

You might be thinking that this all sounds too simple to be worth bothering about. But people tend to forget the little things mentioned above. If you do, you'll soon start losing business and wonder, What did I do wrong?

Start by admitting that building trust, establishing integrity, and adding value take time and energy. Not necessarily a great deal of time and energy, but because they're little things, you tend to put them off. Tomorrow comes, and something more urgent takes your attention, which starts a downward spiral.

Things aren't always going to turn out as you'd like them to when you're dealing with consumers. Sometimes you'll let them down through no fault of your own. But you have to take responsibility and do what you can to fix problems. Failing to deliver can turn a client or customer against you. How you deliver the news and what you do to make things OK again are what strengthen business relationships.

I recently contacted a newspaper to ad-vertise. The rep made a good impression. He was well-spoken and gave concise explanations of what I'd be buying and the benefits. He sold me over the phone---not an easy thing to do.

I struck a deal based on getting my ad on a right-hand page. (Having had "Right-hand pages are best" drilled into me, I was insistent.)

Not long after, the rep called me. "Sorry," he said. "I thought the right-hand page was available, but I was mistaken. I can offer you a special deal: a larger ad on a left-hand page for the same money. How does that sound?"

It sounded good enough to me. I was happy about the way he got back to me as soon as possible with an apology and a counteroffer. What if I hadn't received that phone call, then spotted the ad on a left-hand page? I would have felt cheated. Annoyed. Inclined never to believe that person again---and possibly not inclined to believe his company, either. After all, to the average consumer, the frontline staff is the company.

Even if a problem wasn't your fault, it doesn't matter. All the excuses under the sun won't make the person believe you again, unless you do something to put it right. If you've made a mistake, ask yourself

  • Do I strive to justify the consumer's trust in me on every occasion?
  • If something goes wrong, do I admit the mistake, take immediate steps to rectify it, and offer something extra; or do I bury my head in the sand and hope the customer will go away?
  • Do I give good value to consumers for their investment of time, energy, and money?

If you can answer yes to the first and third questions and to the first part of the second question, you're ready to be a service provider fortified by the trust that consumers have for you.

Doug Malouf is a real estate speaker and trainer. You can reach him at Dougmal Training Systems International, 6 Flinders St., North Wollongong, New South Wales 2500, Australia. Telephone: 042/26 2111; Fax: 042/27 2545.

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