This is a few days later than usual – sorry – but the first part of the week had me doing some other things that, quite frankly, were more important. I attended the funeral for the teenage son of some very dear friends of ours.
The last gentleman to address all who were gathered at the funeral made a comment that reminded me of a very important lesson for those of us who work in the real estate and mortgage world. He made it clear that he was not decrying technology and what it affords all of us, but he said we should make a concerted effort to talk more to one another – actually TALK, not communicate through email or text messages. If one were to start a list of people guilty of using email and texts more than making phone calls and speaking face to face with other human beings, I’d very well be near the top.
Talking affords everyone the chance to get immediate feedback and see if their message was received as intended. Talking allows us to show emotion (excitement, concern, worry, etc.) and spur others to give it right back to us. Don’t fool yourself into believing that was the reason emojis were invented.
We argue that email and texts are a much more efficient way to communicate. No, they ARE more efficient means to DELIVER a message, but that’s not communication. Long ago, before email and text messages existed, I learned that in order for actual communication to take place, the message has to be delivered and FEEDBACK has to be given. All too often, we forget about that second part because we feel our message is more important than anything else and don’t care how it’s received.
While I’ll certainly admit to being guilty of using technology more than I should, I always try to meet with people whenever possible. I want to see the expressions on their faces when I say something; I want to be able to read their body language to make sure we’re COMMUNICATING. Meeting someone in person is worth 100 times more than the time I’d save by talking to them on the phone instead of driving across town or to another metropolitan area to make that meeting.
If you think about it, this article is the perfect example of NOT communicating – I’m basically talking AT you rather than WITH you. In that vein, give me a call and let me know what you think about this and what you do to communicate better with your clients. I’m all ears!
Let me set the scene for you: a young man is getting ready to leave home for his first year in college, and his grandparents have sent him a check for $500 to help him purchase things to get started in this new phase of his life.
FATHER: “Take the check to the bank today and cash it so we have the cash to purchase your stuff. Cool?”
SON: “Sure thing, pops.”
Thirty minutes later, the father is beavering away at work when his phone rings: it’s his son.
FATHER: “What’s up?”
SON: “I went to the bank to deposit the check like you told me to do, but the ATM will only give me $300.”
FATHER: (Half laughing, half perturbed) “That’s why I told you to CASH the check at the bank.”
SON: “But that’s exactly what I did, dad.”
FATHER: “No, you didn’t. When you CASH a check, you go INSIDE the bank and interact with a live person called a teller. There, they’ll give you the FULL amount of the check. An ATM will limit you to $300 regardless of the amount you deposit.”
Both were speaking English, but they certainly didn’t understand one another. This calls to mind a quote that has been attributed to both Oscar Wilde and George Bernard Shaw: “England and America are two countries separated by the same language.” Or, for those of us who prefer to be less literary and more pop culture, there’s the line from the Pink Floyd song that goes, “Your lips move, but I can’t hear what you’re saying.”
For those of us who use social media as a means to generate business, this simple example could well be a cautionary tale. In other words, are we REALLY communicating with those people we hope to attract and encourage to do business with us? Remember, for communication to take place, it has to allow people to respond.
Whether you’re a real estate agent or a mortgage lender, more than your handle (@gr8realest8 or @urfavlender) has to let people know what you do –and people need to know how they can reach you. Day after day, I come across Instagram accounts that have one of those nifty handles and a short headline that reads “I’ll help you buy a house” (or something equally trite), but there’s no substance. These feeds only contain photos of all the gluten-free food they eat, videos of them doing 739 pushups, and images of the puppy they just adopted/rescued. They feature nothing that would/should compel someone to entrust themselves to the account owner for purchasing a home. I see just as many feeds where the account owner posts a bajillionphotos of houses for sale, houses they just sold, and them with their clients at the title company –all good –but nowhere in their collection of photos or anyplace else in their feed is a phone number that someone could use to CALL THEM. News flash: there are a lot of people who like to talk to another human being.
In order to have an effective social media presence, you don’t need cutting-edge technology or professional-grade photography. You simply need to let people know what you do, why they should call you, and how they can reach you. You just need to encourage human interaction – that’s why it’s called SOCIAL media. Because he chose not to communicate with a human being, the young man who deposited his check at the ATM robbed himself of 40% of his good fortune. How much are you robbing yourself with ineffective social media?
Let me tell you a little story. The subject of this story was a college athlete. Specifically, he was a swimmer, and a darn good one at that. He and his relay team had won a lot of competitions and accolades, and they made it all the way to the Olympic trials . . . only to miss making the summer games by .07 seconds. A sneeze lasts longer than that.
Because of his unique set of skills, he has been hired by the United States government to train Navy SEALs in endurance swimming. Most of his training takes place in San Diego where the Pacific waters are rather chilly.
Unlike some of the PE coaches I had back in high school who “trained” me in physical fitness but hadn’t run or done anything physical since the Nixon administration, this SEAL trainer does everything he requires of his students. When they swim five miles in the open ocean, he swims five miles with them. When they swim at night, he swims with them. And each time he does this, he beats them. (I mean he reaches the end of the swim before they do; he doesn’t take a large stick and start whacking them with it.)
The average age of someone going through the SEAL training is early/mid 20s. Our intrepid instructor is 51 years old. (You didn’t see that one coming, did you?) Recently, someone asked him how he’ll know when it’s time to throw in the towel (or wrap up in a towel and stay on the beach), and his answer was simple and succinct: “when one of them beats me.” He went on to explain that there’s one major factor he has playing in his favor that gives him an edge over these “boys” who weren’t even born when he was vying for a spot in the Olympics: the unknown.
When they start their five-, seven-, or ten-mile swim, he knows all the checkpoints and markers that tell him how far he’s gone and how far he has to go; the students have no idea. Further, the unknown plays into the students’ heads. Are there sharks out there? When do they get to eat next? When will they be able to take a rest? Our instructor doesn’t have any of these questions bouncing around in his head; he can focus solely on the task at hand.
We, as real estate and mortgage professionals, are very similar to this instructor (or we should be): we know the checkpoints and the markers. The difference, of course, is that we’re not training Navy SEALs; we’re helping people realize their dreams, build their portfolios, and giving them peace of mind. This means we should let absolutely nothing unknown linger in our clients’ heads. If it means taking an extra five minutes to ask and answer a few more questions to assure our clients are fully apprised of what’s next and what’s coming up, they won’t lose their energy or resolve before we get them to the finish line.