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2007-03-23 13:03:00

Your Gorgeous Realty Garden

When you first got into the business, you likely took on almost every client that was breathing and eventually filled up all the hours in your days, and then some! You chased after people without asking if they were qualified because you were too afraid of hearing “No.” You pursued clients who were not loyal, or honest, or respectful, or coachable, or communicative, or decisive. Some were, frankly, nuts. There were even times when you worked your tail off and didn’t see the closing. Sound familiar?

The business you’ve cultivated is a garden. You have some clients who are well-established, solid, and will thrive no matter what. They’re the evergreens -- not very demanding, well-mannered, and yours for life. You also have more delicate clients -- the roses. They’re the ones that require lots of attention and special handling, but will yield breathtaking results if you’ve nurtured them properly.

Some clients are annuals -- they bloom once and they’re done.  Others are perennials -- you can count on them to come back for another season or two. Then you have your weeds.

Weeds are tricky. Sometimes they start out looking like lovely additions to the garden. They’re small, bright, and colorful. But suddenly you realize that your pretty little weeds are crowding out your other plants. They are sucking up water and fertilizer, claiming more than their share of sunshine, sending down tangled roots, and forcing you to spend all of your attention on them.

Every REALTOR has weeds. They are the clients that give you headaches and simply cannot be pleased, no matter what you do. As the Master Gardener of your business you have two choices: you can try to train and cultivate your weeds, perhaps at the expense of your other plants; or you can pull or transplant them.

Just as a gardener may grow dandelions and nettles as herbs, some other REALTOR may be delighted to help your weedy clients grow to their full potential. Also, remember that even your roses have thorns. Even the perfect client is entitled to be human, to have flaws, to have bad days -- and to question your opinions. A certain level of resistance is normal. Selling is helping people make decisions.

It’s hard enough to choose which refrigerator to buy, let alone dealing with the finances and stress of selling or purchasing a home. Gardening expertise is being able to tell which clients are the roses and which ones are the weeds.

Being selective about your clients dramatically improves the success of your business and the quality of your life. As a Realtor, you have the power to choose your customers; you are in complete control of the number of weeds in your garden.

Weeds Cost You a Fortune

This all seemed like a great strategy in the beginning, but you ended up with a database full of “crazies,” then wondered why you hated prospecting or calling your past clients. Maybe you’re still up to your knees in these real estate weeds.

Not only do these weedy clients take up space that could be dedicated to more profitable and rewarding clients, they also add tremendous stress to your life. This stress decreases your overall production by depleting your effectiveness with your more valuable clients, with your staff and, very importantly, with your family and friends. So how do you get rid of them?

It’s up to you to decide what kind of garden you want. If you want a rose garden, you’ve got to be able to recognize the weeds -- and it’s silly to accept a friend’s offer of a palm tree. In your business, here’s how that translates:


  • You need to decide what kind of business you want. You can’t be all things to all people, but you can design, define, and control your business.
  • You need to know how to describe your business, your expectations, and your standards to your colleagues and to your clients. The better you get at describing your business, the more your business will look like what you’re describing.
  • You need to be able to describe and communicate your role and responsibilities in the agent-client relationship as well as the client’s role and responsibilities. It is up to you to tell them how they can be a better client for you. If you don’t communicate these standards, you only have yourself to blame for a garden full of weeds. If you haven’t communicated well, start now.
  • You need to know how to say, “Thanks, but no thanks.” When someone offers you a referral that’s way outside your business model -- the palm tree in the rose garden -- it’s better to say no than to serve the customer poorly.
  • You need to cultivate a community of REALTORS with whom you can exchange referrals. One REALTOR’s weed is another one’s rose.

Two Choices for the Weed

You’ve finally recognized that the client is a weed. You’ve explained your expectations and you continue to be defeated in your efforts to please them. It’s time for action. I call this the “shape up or ship out” conversation.

1. Shape Up -- Rise to meet your expectations and become a desirable “A” client.

2. Ship Out -- Not meet your expectations and accept your referral to another REALTOR.

The best part of this process is that the client makes the decision. If they don’t feel that they can or want to meet your expectations, they choose to fire themselves!

Seven Steps to Getting the Weeds Out of Your Garden

Think of the difference it would make in your business if you raised your standards, weeded your garden, and worked with only Ideal clients. Here's how: 
1.      Look at your current undesirable listings, buyers, and seller leads.

2.      Write down how they create stress for you and the expectations they are not meeting.

3.      List what they have to do to meet your expectations. If it is impossible for them to meet your expectations for legal or ethical reasons, make a note to let them go.

4.      Call them and book a meeting in person or by phone.

5.      In your meeting tell them how they are not meeting your expectations.

6.      Give them the two options to choose from: “Shape up or ship out.”

7.      Let them decide!
A little weed control goes a long way. At first it may seem overwhelming: how can you possibly get this mess under control? But once you’ve dealt with a weed or two, a few things happen: you get better at spotting the weeds, you get better at handling them before they spread, and, best of all, your other plants thrive once the weeds have been cleared out of the way.

You have a choice. Either you choose to let the weeds take over the garden or you exercise some weed control and reap the rewards of a garden well-tended.

One final note: weed control is not a one-time task. But if you deal with the weeds when they emerge, they will be easier to manage, and if you review your client list and cull the weeds at least once a year, your customer base will bloom and bear fruit for years to come!

(Patti Kouri, GRI, Accelerated Performance Coaching, is a Master Coach who works closely with executives, managers, and real estate sales professionals. She offers dynamic and innovative techniques to help people achieve their goals and specializes in breaking through limits. “I work with people with big visions for themselves who want to make a dream into reality or create more meaning in their lives.”)

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