I’ve coached several real estate agents, and the top ones usually apply influence in a completely different way than the “average agent”. There are some key areas where influence is necessary for a a real estate agent, and several tools that can be employed to maximize one’s influence. Let’s take a look at both.
Usual Influence Scenarios
Whether on the buyer or seller side, young or experienced, there are usual key scenarios that real estate agents have to face:
- Converting prospects into clients (for example, FSBOs into listings);
- Negotiating with clients over their commission (or other terms);
- Dealing with client crises (removing listings, “going with a friend”, others);
For these three different cases, there are several influence techniques that real estate agents can use. Let’s take a look at some of the options. Although I incorporate all of them in my Kingmaker Influence framework, you don’t have to use the whole framework – it can be useful to use even only some of its key components.
We’ll analyze the eight key components of Kingmaker Influence applied to real estate:
- Polarizing your offering;
- Having a fiduciary diagnostician frame;
- Assessing personalities;
- Connecting through empathy;
- Eroding convictions;
- Leveraging investment;
- Draining objections;
- Constricting their options;
1. Polarizing Your Offering
Many real estate agents gain immediate clarity by polarizing what they offer. Some only work on the seller side, some only work on the buyer side. Some only perform the actions you would consider “agent” actions, while others take care of other support tasks that are not part of their job description. Some only work with a constant commission percentage, regardless of the property value, while others only work with properties above a specific value.
By clearly defining what you do and what you don’t, negotiations become much easier, as you know exactly what you have to do and what you have to expect in return, versus only having a general idea. This also helps with your branding, as the people that come to you already know that you provide a specific type of service, and therefore it’s easier to align expectations with them. They already know what to expect of you.
2. The Fiduciary Diagnostician
Acting like an objective third-party truly helps with clients. This usually involves either taking on a client because they are a perfect fit, or recommending to somebody else that is a better fit (when I mention recommending them to somebody else, you will certainly think of the case of redirecting nightmare clients to somebody else who has the patience for them, but that’s not the only case).
The goal here is to never try and pressure or sell them on your service, acting as a medical doctor almost, calmly and objectively collecting information in order to make an informed, objective decision. Then, when you make the recommendation, either it’s a fit for your services, or you will be glad to refer them to somebody else who can better take care of them. For example, for sell-side agents, they will refer buyers to other agents 100% of the time because it does not fit their service, regardless of how much money they can make. When clients see you as an objective third-party with their best interests at heart, they will respect you and give you more negotiating power.
3. Assessing Personalities
The secret weapon of many client agents of mine, this involves diagnosing somebody’s personality using a framework like the Four Perceived Personalities. This allows you to diagnose whether someone is dominated by logic or emotion, achievement or stability.
This allows you to tune your communication to more easily build rapport with them and influence them later.
4. Connecting Through Empathy
Empathy is the primary method with which you will connect with the other person. Leveraging common ground, having had similar experiences or just being able to understand the person’s personality and/or motivations will allow you to establish empathy and feel connected to the person. An agent can use information like having had children, moving, having a new job or others that clients have had in common with them in order to better influence them.
By finding things in common using empathy and assessing their personality type, you can build a sense of common identity with the person with whom you’re interacting, and create a sense of a small bubble, an “us versus the world” mentality that can further reinforce rapport and connection.
For example, claiming that you and a client know this specific process, this specific fact that nobody else understands creates a sense of camaraderie and loyalty, that you’re in this together.
5. Eroding Convictions
The capacity to make someone who is certain of their point of view doubt themselves is the first step to gaining more leverage in a negotiation or persuasion process. There are multiple methods to achieve this, but a good method is to request empathy, to ask the other person to ask you to understand their point of view, and then gently undermine that point of view.
For example, if a client has unrealistic expectations, or wants to go with another agent, gently asking them what is the basis for their experience, then painting it as incomplete and gently suggesting alternatives can warm them up to alternatives and bend their reality.
6. Leveraging Investment
In order to gain bargaining power or have more leverage in a negotiation, making the other side invest is crucial. Agents that already qualify their leads already do this – the client has to opt-in a newsletter, or reach out to the agent, or do something in terms of investing. On the other hand, if the agent is reaching out to the client, they have not made an effort yet.
Consistently making the client comply to small requests will put them in a subordinate mindset that gives you authority and gives you more power.
7. Draining Objections
It’s necessary to not only anticipate objections but actively drawing them out to destroy them. Leaving nothing left unsaid. Some techniques are, for example, affective labeling – labeling the emotions the other person is feeling. This particular technique helps immediately defuse emotions or attitudes. For example, saying “You seem angry” makes the other person lose the capability to actually become angry. Telling them “You seem like you’re hesitating about this” will defuse their hesitation.
Besides labeling, techniques like drawing out negative reactions can help. “If there was anything that you didn’t like about this deal, what would it be?”. Drawing client emotions, hesitations and other roadblocks helps defuse them right away.
8. Constricting Their Options
There are two usual techniques to constrict somebody’s options, and they can be very easily used in real estate.
The first one is framed questions. These are questions that have an underlying frame of making things happen and direct the person’s thinking without them being aware. Questions like “How can we make this happen?”, “How can we move forward?”, “What can I do to make this happen?” seem objective but have a frame of making the other side contribute to closing the deal.
Another option is using prospect theory to present a list of options where yours is the easiest or most convenient. “It seems you have two alternatives: you can decide to list on your own, or you can use a professional like me which will get you a higher price most of the times, even after fees. Does this sound reasonable?“.
Real Case Scenarios
Let’s take a look at how to use some of these components in a real world setting.
Closing clients usually involves both leveraging investment and applying empathy. Empathy helps you understand the specific point in their life, from having gotten married to moving, new job, etc, while leveraging investment is usually about making them comply with small requests that dictate your standards and code of conduct as an agent – for example, that you will not perform a specific action until you receive documentation from them.
Other techniques can come in handy, for example, such as destroying certainty by undermining it and gently suggesting alternatives.
Negotiating a Commission
Negotiating a commission usually starts by polarizing your offering. You have to know better than anyone what you are willing to accept or not. For example, my agent client that had a fixed commission fee had a very simple process: he would build desire and build investment in the prospective client, and then drop the commission. Take or leave. If clients didn’t take it, he would move on. He was willing to do this.
If you are in a situation of scarcity where, to be honest, you have to take any client that is willing, that is fine. But if you have a specific code of conduct/service format/requirements, enforce these.
All of the previous come in, in one way or another, from empathy to tailoring your communication for a specific personality, but specific ones that can help in this stage are draining objections. Affective and attitudinal labeling, drawing out negative responses and starting from “no” are good techniques in this stage.
Defusing Client Issues
Empathy is the major technique that can be used for this. When clients are nervous, changing their minds, thinking of leaving, making them feel reassured is crucial.
Other techniques that might come in handy are the ones meant to drain objections. Emotional and attitudinal labelling can help draw out the negative aspects and preoccupations of the person. But for this situation, empathy is what matters most.
Empathy can be applied, for example, in a statement like: “John, I really understand your hesitation right now. I understand you must be feeling insecure, you’re doubting whether the house will actually sell. I fully understand how you must be feeling“. In many cases, just showing the other party that you understand their point of view is enough to defuse them.
Conclusion: Empathy Techniques in Real Estate
Real estate is a specific vertical where proper empathy and influence techniques can yield great results. The agent that can properly master techniques to build rapport with different personality types, build empathy, drain objections and shatter confidence, inserting authority and their unique point of view will see that investment easily returned in terms of clients won and retained.