By Michelle Flaherty
A couple weeks ago, I received an e-mail from a person I didn’t know. The person was inquiring on a property that another broker in my office had listed, and they wanted to set up an appointment to view it.
So I did a few things I almost always do before I meet a new prospective client. First, I Googled them. If a person’s name and e-mail/phone number they contacted me from is nowhere to be found on the Internet, it’s not an automatic red flag, but it’s not helpful either. Next, I Facebook searched this person — not to learn anything personal, but just to see a photo and if we have any mutual friends. In this case, nothing turned up. Finally, because I didn’t know who I was meeting, I brought my team member along with me… who also happens to be my father.
I could tell during the showing that the customer was bothered by my father’s presence. Their comments and demeanor implied that they knew exactly why my father was there, and was offended by my lack of trust. Sensing the customer’s discomfort, my anxiety level became elevated as well. Elevated heart rate, pit in my stomach, the whole bit. As it turned out, the property wasn’t a fit for this person. Whether or not he was well-meaning , I’ll never know. This person never called me again, and I never followed up. The potential business didn’t seem worth recreating the awkwardness of that showing.
In the end, by bringing my father along with me to meet a strange man, I erred on the side of safety — but I didn’t make a sale or gain a client. In fact, in seven years of real estate, I have never initiated a successful business relationship with any client I’ve started the process with by bringing a bodyguard along. This could be for one of a few reasons: Either all of those people had bad intentions (unlikely); my palpable lack of trust totally killed the rapport (likely); or I’m totally paranoid (is that bad?).
As real estate practitioners, we market a personal, trust-based service to what is becoming an increasingly anonymous public, and I think we’re only beginning to feel the conflict between safety tactics and solid salesmanship in the new guards-down Web 2.0 marketplace. Our moms told us never to talk to strangers, but our sales coaches tell us we should. And that leaves us with the voice that resides in the pit of our stomachs. In world 2.0, that might just be the No. 1 authority for us to consult.
Michelle Flaherty is an associate broker with Prudential Northeast Properties, serving Greater Portland, Maine. Visit her Web site at www.michelleflaherty.com.