The “Over/Under” Principle | The Zebra Blog

The “Over/Under” Principle

As a small business owner, you are the boss. You run the show. You’re in charge of marketing, promotion, operations, and service.  Perhaps you’re a master of all of these.

Yet, one of the biggest mistakes I see in small business owners – and, yes, that includes you as a real estate agent – is something very basic, and deadly to your business.

Not doing what you say you’ll do.

You’ve all no doubt heard this piece of great advice:  If you really want to impress someone, “under” promise and “over” deliver.

Simply put, under-promising and over-delivering places in you a position of having exceeded your clients’ expectation.  It’s a great model for running your business!

But not only do few agents adhere to this principle, they don’t even deliver on the most basic of things they tell their clients they will do for them.

Think this is no big deal?  Wrong!  This may, in fact, be the one thing that makes or breaks you.   If people don’t see you as someone who lives up to their word, you’re sunk.

How about you?  Do you do what you say you’ll do 100% of the time?  I mean, really 100% of the time?  You may think you’re doing well if you do what you say you’ll do 90% of the time—or even 80%.

Well, being on the receiving end of 80% – or even 90% – isn’t a great feeling.  You need to keep your word a full 100% of the time. If you don’t, you’re losing out on potential business that could make the difference between you being marginally profitable and extremely profitable.

Want an example?  You take a listing.  You tell the sellers you’re going to sell it.  Six months later, it’s not sold.  In this case, did you do what you said you were going to do?  I’m pretty sure you didn’t.

You may argue that the seller didn’t do what they were supposed to do – reduce the price. But did you ask them to?  I can’t tell you how many overpriced sellers I’ve talked to whose homes have expired and said, “My agent never asked for a price reduction.” That tells me that the agent didn’t do the job as promised.  Asking for a price reduction is a necessary task in order to get this home sold – a task that was not accomplished.

If you promise someone a sale and you don’t deliver, you damage your reputation. To make sure this doesn’t happen, you may sometimes need to have a difficult conversation with your client.  Like most of us, you probably hate conflict and avoid confrontation. However, if a home is overpriced, you are doing your clients a disservice by not being firm with them about reducing it.  Getting that price reduction will allow you to be more successful in keeping your word to your client when you say “I will sell this home!”.

The smarter tactic to take when talking with a seller isn’t to simply say “I’m going to sell your home”.  It would instead be:  “Let me show you my marketing plan and all of the tools I’m going to use to help you get your home sold.”   Then show them high-quality materials, coupled with a marketing plan that you actually execute as promised.

Let’s talk now about buyers. You sit down at an appointment with a couple who want to buy. You promise them that you will help them find their dream home.

Three months go by.  No home found.

The buyers call you one Monday morning to say, “We bought over the weekend.  We stopped in an open house and fell in love with the home.”   You can hardly believe it!  Of course, you get upset with your (now former) buyers.

But you should really be upset with yourself.

Why wasn’t that open house on your list of homes for them to see?  Why weren’t they prepared to have the other agent call you immediately if they did visit an open house that they liked?

Part of helping somebody find their dream home is being realistic about the fact that they will be out driving around seeing homes and may just fall in love with one of them. You need to prepare them to involve you in the transaction should this occur.  This is part of helping someone find their dream home!

Another example of not doing what you say you’ll do:  At a listing presentation, the agent promised to have high-quality photographs taken by a professional photographer. But when the homeowners saw the photos online, they were horrified.  The pictures were obviously taken with a digital camera by the agent herself.

Once you have proven that you don’t do what you say you will, your clients will begin to doubt everything you tell them…and their trust in you will erode.

So, are you doing everything that you say you’ll do?

When you take a listing and tell your clients that you’ll get their home sold fast, do you then take all the steps to ensure that the maximum number of potential buyers are exposed to the property?

When you hold an open house and promise someone that you’ll find similar properties for them in the area, do you actually follow up?  Even if you’re incredibly busy that week and can’t seem to find the time for lunch?

When you negotiate, do you tell your client you’re going to stand firm on an issue and then back down?

When you finish working with somebody on a sale or a listing transaction, do you stay in touch for years afterward as promised?

In a business such as real estate, you aren’t selling a product.  That means, more than in many businesses, what you have to offer is your experience and integrity.  Simply put:  You are your word. Without following through on commitments, you won’t have the trust of clients.  Without clients, you will not remain in business.

The words that come out of your mouth are the little jewels that make or break a profitable real estate business. Watch very carefully what you say because people remember.  They listen and expect you to deliver on what you promise.

Starting today, be true to your word.  Don’t make promises that you can’t – or won’t – keep.  Work hard for your clients, and try practicing the concept of under-promising and over-delivering. When the world sees that you are that rare breed of agent who actually does what you say you will do, trust (and success!) will follow.

By Denise Lones CSP, M.I.R.M., CDEI

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