So many agents I talk to find themselves stuck in this communication rut. Part of the challenge is they don’t have a system for effective problem-solving with their clients.
- Do you ever find yourself talking with a client to whom you just can’t seem to say no?
- Do you ever find yourself in a conversation with a client who won’t stop talking?
- Do you ever find yourself talking in circles with your clients without ever coming to a resolution?
I like to use a system for solving problems with clients that reminds me of a triangle. For this purpose, imagine this is a tennis court with three points instead of just the usual back-and-forth over a net.
You start off at the top of the triangle and the goal is to serve it over the next to position #2. The client volleys it back to position #1, but you need to get it to position #3. Positions #1 and #2 represent the Information Court and position #3 is the Solution Court. Take a look at the illustration below.
Here’s how it works: Imagine your problem is that you have a listing that is priced too high. Your discussion with the seller should begin with you explaining your concerns and providing concrete data to back up those concerns. That is your first serve in the Information Court from position #1 to position #2. Your seller may then disagree, get upset, or even shut down. That’s their serve back to you and you are both still in the Information Court. In fact, there may be a bit of back and forth in the Information Court. That is okay. But what happens for agents who can’t resolve problems effectively with their clients is that they literally go back and forth with their clients between positions #1 and #2 until someone is exhausted.
But at some point, when you are still operating from a point of strength, rather than continuing to volley banter and information, it is imperative to get them out of the Information Court and get your clients to move to the Solution Court. Only when you are there can you work on a next step that is an actual solution. You might say to the seller: “Here are some possible options” or “Here are some ideas” or “Here is what I recommend.” Often the seller will want to run back into the other court where again they want to get defensive or give you attitude. And if they do, your job is not to defend that – your job is to get right back into the Solution Court.
If all you do is go back and forth with the problem, and all the client does is provide banter and puts work back on your plate rather than actually take the action they need to take, you won’t get to a solution. For example, using the price reduction example above, if the client starts talking about the market, needing to reach out to more buyers, and putting the work back on you to do more marketing rather than taking the action of a price reduction, you haven’t gotten to the Solution Court – the client has actually won this match by giving you work to do that is not an effective solution. Chances are strong that in a few weeks, you are going to have to don your tennis gear again and head out onto the court for another match.
By serving ideas and solutions – not just banter – it forces the client to move into solutions mode. When I talk to clients about current challenges they are having that can’t be resolved, a common theme I hear is that my clients spent way too much time explaining the problem, discussing the problem, apologizing for the problem and defending the problem. This keeps the client serving back defensiveness, feedback, and even attitude.
In talking to my clients, I have found that it is very common for sellers or buyers to want to hang around the Information Court way too long. Your job is to play more tennis in the Solution Court rather than spending too much time in the Information Court.