Building Better Client Relationships

Aug 17, 2019 by

American Home Shield® Paves the Way to Long-Standing Relationships

John M. Franklin has always had an interest in housing. An agent with RealtySouth Over the Mountain’s Alford Avenue office in Birmingham, Ala., Franklin worked in both the mortgage service and construction sectors before moving into residential real estate in November 2015.

“I love helping people,” says Franklin. “A house or piece of property can be the biggest investment someone ever has the privilege to own. I ensure that my clients see me as a resource, not just someone who will stick a sign in the yard or visit a house with them.”

One way Franklin sets himself up as a client resource is by offering a home warranty on the properties he lists.

“The home warranty is a tool that provides a level of protection and comfort to buyer clients, but also allows sellers to feel like they’re providing a level of care to the buyers who have chosen to purchase their home,” Franklin explains.

Franklin’s business model focuses on client care, with an emphasis on building a superior working relationship before, during and after the sale.

“Negotiating a home warranty into the purchase contracts for my buyer clients is a great benefit to them. The home warranty provides coverage on components of the major systems and appliances in the house that they’re purchasing, which can help buyers feel more at ease with the process.”

Of course, not all home warranties are built the same.

Franklin has been offering clients a home warranty with American Home Shield (AHS®) since he started in 2015. “RealtySouth offers the base home warranty plan with the Seller Coverage Option through American Home Shield, with no cost due to the seller until the home closes,” notes Franklin. The Seller Coverage Option covers the main systems in the home during the listing period.

“That extra layer of protection can really help,” says Franklin, “especially with the stress of getting a home ready to list and show.”

Why does RealtySouth choose to work with American Home Shield?

“Business relationships are key in the real estate industry, and that doesn’t just apply to agents and clients; it’s all of the affiliate partners, too,” Franklin comments.

Franklin notes that his local AHS account executive, Tobi Pryor, is a wealth of knowledge who genuinely cares about her job and the people that interact with her, and has an excellent relationship with all of the agents in the area.

“If my clients choose American Home Shield, I know they’re in great hands because of Tobi’s dedication,” says Franklin, who can easily contact Pryor by phone, email or text whenever an issue arises. “She’s also an excellent networker and is willing to go the extra mile to make sure the agents she supports—and the homes that are covered with an AHS home warranty—are well taken care of.”

And when it comes to superior service, word of mouth travels fast.

“I’ve had clients brag on the amount of money and headaches they’ve saved just because they carry an AHS home warranty year after year.”

These bragging rights are a boon to Franklin’s client relationships, track record and overall business. 

For more information, please visit  

Zoe Eisenberg is RISMedia’s senior content editor. Email her your real estate news ideas at

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7 Ways to Set the Stage for Successful Buyer-Client Relationships

Mar 24, 2019 by

How do your agents approach their first meeting with buyers? Do they primarily focus on establishing friendly rapport, or do they work from a set of ground rules that can substantially impact the client relationship beyond the initial buyer consultation?

Rapport is significant, but it’s not enough. In your next sales meeting, consider discussing these seven essentials, which lay the groundwork for successful transactions.

  1. Establish expectations. Remind your agents that client relationships are a two-way street in terms of each party having expectations and obligations. Buyer’s agents should be able to explain their services in a clear and compelling manner so that buyers understand what to expect. Similarly, agents should clarify what they expect from their buyers.
  1. Use buyer agreements. A written and signed buyer representation agreement is a powerful tool for reinforcing expectations, reducing misunderstandings, demonstrating the scope of services provided and encouraging loyalty. Each state’s real estate license laws set specific guidance. Consider using one, even if it’s not required.
  1. Insist on pre-approvals. If a buyer isn’t ready, willing and able to purchase a home, they’ll be at a significant disadvantage when negotiating with sellers. Encourage your agents to require pre-approvals before they invest substantial time in a buyer’s house-hunting efforts.
  1. Review needs and wants. Ask useful questions and listen carefully to buyer preferences. It’s the only way your agents can successfully support a buyer’s goals. Also, remind your agents that Fair Housing laws require a neutral approach. Let buyers direct all decisions concerning desirable properties.
  1. Discuss market conditions. Agents who do a good job discussing and explaining current inventory, pricing dynamics and other significant market factors accomplish multiple goals. First, it’s a great way to showcase an agent’s knowledge and build credibility with buyers. Additionally, it can empower buyers to make smarter, realistic purchasing and negotiating decisions.
  1. Review data security. Make sure your brokerage has taken adequate steps to safeguard clients’ personal information, and be ready to address any related concerns clients may raise. If a buyer goes under contract, be sure your agents are alerting them to the risk of real estate wire fraud and how to prevent it.
  1. Take precautionary measures. Safety isn’t limited to data security; it also includes protecting your agents. First and foremost, encourage them to arrange all initial meetings with buyers at your office or in a public location. Of course, there are also many other ways to promote agent safety beyond first-time meetings with buyer-clients.

Habits Worth Developing
These steps, followed consistently, can lay the groundwork for successful buyer-client relationships that drive future real estate opportunities. Likewise, when your agents adhere to these steps, you’re also reducing your brokerage’s exposure to complaints, formal grievances or more substantial problems.

These topics, and many more, are covered extensively in the Accredited Buyer’s Representative (ABR®) Designation course. Learn more at

Marc D. Gould is senior vice president of Member Development for NAR, overseeing a wide range of professional development programs for REALTORS®, including the Real Estate Buyer’s Agent Council (REBAC). REBAC is the world’s largest association of real estate professionals focusing specifically on representing the real estate buyer. With more than 30,000 active members, REBAC awards the Accredited Buyer’s Representative (ABR®) designation to REALTORS® who have completed the specialized education and documented experience in working with consumers purchasing a home. To learn more, visit

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12 Ways to Build Better Client Relationships

May 26, 2018 by

Deeply connected, trust-based and authentic client relationships are hard to come by, and clients know it. Businessman Paul G. Krasnow, author of “The Success Code: A Guide for Achieving Your Personal Best in Business and Life,” says when you know how to create these relationships with your clients, you’ll win their loyalty, earn referrals and enjoy repeat business for life.

Keep reading to learn how to foster superior client satisfaction and loyalty with these relationship-building habits that will keep them coming back again and again.

First, commit to a personal code of integrity and live it each day. Integrity should be a core value that steers all of your client interactions. This means committing to being honest and working hard with their best interests in mind.

Give them peace of mind. Develop a system that works for you to proactively give clients the highest level of service at all times. Whether it is having a perfectly tweaked project management system in place in your business or having a very clear communication system, always respond to your clients in a timely manner and provide expert answers to all of their questions.

Build trust by keeping your promises. Remember to keep your word and to deliver without fail. This approach will not only impress and delight them; it will allow them to trust you with more business in the future. Building client trust makes you a winner every time.

Be honest about what your services can deliver. Don’t oversell or overpromise the results you offer. Manage your clients’ expectations so they won’t be disappointed. Whenever possible, do put them in touch with others who can help them.

Don’t sell your customers products they don’t need. Be upfront about products that would be a waste of their hard-earned money. This tip is part of a larger philosophy of moving away from seeing a client as an immediate sale and moving toward building a long-term relationship.

Deliver consistent service. Clients come to expect what they have experienced with your services in the past. Align yourself with a clearly defined mission, set of goals and level of commitment, and ensure that clients receive the same level of care by delivering consistently high-quality service, time and time again.

Be authentic with clients. “Authenticity, by definition, can’t be faked,” says Krasnow. “Your customers will know if you are being friendly just to make a sale. Genuine interactions allow people into your life by sharing your personality and getting to know the real you. Friendliness goes a long way.”

Find thoughtful ways to show you care. “Just showing up for your clients because you genuinely care about them is a sure way to solidify your connection with them,” says Krasnow. “Send out birthday cards. Make a donation to a charity in your client’s name. Get to know each of your clients and show genuine interest in their lives.”

Check in even when you have nothing to sell them. Reach out to your clients from time to time and check in to see how they are doing. Take them to lunch, meet up for a game of golf or ask them about the outcome of an important family event. These are opportune times to find out if there is anything you could be doing even better to make them happier than they already are.

Don’t forget about your existing clients, even when your business is booming with new ones. Clients can tell when they’re on the back burner. Krasnow urges you to consciously devote time to touching base with your loyal long-term clients—especially when new customers are banging down your door.

Resist going on autopilot. Even if you have your sales technique down pat, find a way to actively engage with every client. Clients can sense if you’re phoning it in.

Apologize if you make a mistake and fix the problem immediately. In most cases, customers aren’t interested in holding grudges—they want to forgive and forget. The best way to smooth things over when you’ve messed up is to make a heartfelt apology and then make it right.

“You are far more in control of your brand’s growth than you give yourself credit for,” concludes Krasnow. “That’s why it’s so important to take true ownership of the connection you build with your clients. You’ll be amazed how much your deeper commitment to them will pay off in the long run.”

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Reputation and Relationships Win the Day

Mar 10, 2018 by

A veteran REALTOR® of more than 35 years and an active industry advocate, Charlie Oppler has a unique vantage point: he lives and breathes the business from both the grass-roots and big-picture level. As COO of Prominent Properties Sotheby’s International Realty, Oppler and his partner—CEO Randy Lyn Ketive—have taken a back-to-basics philosophy and a strong commitment to agent support to bring their firm to iconic status in Northern New Jersey’s luxury arena. Meanwhile, Oppler found time to serve on and chair dozens of committees at the local, state and national level, including his recent role as 2017 REALTOR® Party Director for the National Association of REALTORS®. Here, Oppler shares how he’s managed to grow a firm while supporting the good of the industry as a whole.

Maria Patterson: Tell us a little bit about your path in real estate, Charlie.
Charlie Oppler:
I began my professional career after graduating The College of New Jersey in 1980. I worked for the March of Dimes and recruited Joe Murphy (Murphy Realty Better Homes and Gardens) and Dick Schlott to co-chair a charity event. They both accepted, and by Nov. 1, 1981, I went to work for Joe Murphy in the Saddle River. I left Murphy in November 1984 and went to manage for Schlott, REALTORS® in December. I worked for Dick Schlott until May 1989 and then went back to Murphy as a manager of the Fort Lee office until December 1991.

In January 1992, Randy Lyn Ketive and I became partners, and we began building our company. She had one office in Fort Lee with about eight agents. We affiliated with Sotheby’s International Realty in 2009, after being an independent (Classic Realty Group) for 17 years. We just celebrated our 25th anniversary as partners.

MP: How many offices and agents does the firm have today?
We currently have 12 offices with about 630 agents and 40 employees.

MP: How has being part of the Sotheby’s brand played a role in your success and growth over the years?
The biggest reason why being part of Sotheby’s has contributed to our growth is that it creates market credibility and presence. We’re in a vibrant bedroom community of New York City, and it’s a lot easier for somebody to look to our brand than an independent. That said, while being part of Sotheby’s International Realty has played a part in our growth because of the reputation of the brand, it still comes down to the local operation, which is true for any franchisee.
Randy Lyn Ketive: The fact that we’ve been consistent—and in the market for so long—allowed us to grow our company. The international presence of Sotheby’s is also an important factor when marketing a property.

MP: How do you differentiate your firm in the market?
Our company is the premier luxury brand throughout Northern New Jersey. We have had the highest average price in New Jersey for the past seven years, and we’re consistently No. 1, 2 or 3 in most markets. We’re ranked No. 1 in many individual markets and are highly ranked in others.
RLK: We’re always focused on quality agents versus quantity. Your reputation is everything in this business and being able to manage and coach agents is extremely important.

MP: What are some of the biggest changes you’ve seen in the luxury market over the years, and how have you adapted the firm to stay successful?
One of the biggest changes I’ve seen is the growth of major cities and the luxury market within those cities. Also, on the waterfront, there’s an increase in multi-dwelling high-rise condos. The second biggest change is the increase in the number of buyers coming from international referrals and connections. That said, even with the advent of international buyers, the majority of our buyers are still local; 70-80 percent of our million-dollar-plus buyers are already in Northern New Jersey. A lot of people in the Tri-State Area have roots here.

MP: How would you describe your growth strategy in recent years?
Our growth strategy is both strategic and opportunistic. We have a marketplace that’s truly like a sixth borough to Manhattan. My experience working with two larger brokers, Schlott, REALTORS® and Murphy Realty Better Homes and Gardens in the 1980s, gave me a unique perspective on larger brokerages early on. We’re still looking at growth markets such as Jersey City, Morris and Essex Counties, especially where the downtown areas are still vital to the community.

MP: What impact do you think the recent tax legislation will have on your marketplace?
I think it’s going to have an impact on people really analyzing what they’re getting for their tax dollars. I don’t think many people itemized and capitalized on tax advantages in the past. Buyers will be more cautious and speak to their accountants and have them involved in the decision-making process. As they go forward, they will look at home-buying from a tax standpoint, which is something we haven’t experienced before. Most people have bought based on emotions. Now, more people are going to need to get a feel for what their costs are really going to be. We haven’t seen that in the past, but we’re going to see it in the future. People will take a longer time to make a decision, but the basic factors remain the same for buyers: location, schools, proximity to work and lifestyle.

MP: How are you planning to educate your agents and your consumers accordingly?
We’re educating agents by giving them some talking points, but we’re instructing them to tell consumers to consult with their accountants and financial advisors before making a decision, and not to rely on what the salesperson tells them or anything else they hear. People should get their own counsel because everyone’s situation is different.

The tax bill is so new that 2019 will be a better gauge. Everyone is going to do what they’ve always done until it affects them in their pocketbook. And it will take a year before we know that.

MP: Do you think this will be a boon to the economy as the bill purports?
If corporations spend more money and create more jobs, that could create more homebuyers. Or, will corporations make more money and not spend it? In theory, there could be growth in the economy. I’d love for there to be more buyers, but I don’t know if the tax cuts will create more buyers, and subsequently, I don’t know how that will translate to real estate transactions.

MP: What most attracts agents to your firm, and why do they stay?
We have some of the best agents in the marketplace. The Sotheby’s International Realty brand and our attention to detail are well respected by consumers and agents in our market. We’re still focused on quality agents versus quantity, and that includes giving them the most support possible. Many of our agents have been with us for 10, 15 and 20 years plus.

MP: What are you doing to recruit and retain agents—and to bring in that next generation of agents?
We’re much more about selection. We’ve told our managers that it’s not about having the most agents; we want to try and have the best agents. We’re not worrying about competing with some of the other companies in the market in terms of the number of agents. We think it’s more about selecting versus recruiting. In terms of retention, we provide the most services for our agents. We make sure we have a staff ratio that’s commensurate with providing top-notch service to our group. We have tech support, marketing support, digital media, relocation, graphic artists—we do everything for our agents so they can concentrate on representing clients to buy and sell real estate. We try and take on all the legwork in terms of personal promotion. We’re a little different in that area because we don’t think all agents are qualified to do that. If we can provide that service instead for free or at a minimal cost, they’re thrilled.

MP: What advice do you have for new agents entering today’s real estate market?
I would tell them the agents who have made the most money and been the most successful are those who have worked the hardest and worked their sphere of influence. This is still a people business—a trusted advisor business. And yes, consumers can get information from online sources, but they still want someone with them to make the decision. They still want to vet the process. It’s important for agents to know that this is still a personal communication business, and that the telephone is not the enemy—it’s a friend. Sitting and having coffee with someone is not a bad thing. It’s not a waste of time to sit with someone face-to-face and read their emotions and actions. Seventy percent of this business is done with referral and sphere of influence, so that’s my advice to new agents and agents who have struggled. Use technology as a tool, not a crutch.

MP: Please describe your firm’s culture and leadership philosophy.
Our culture is one of class and community. Our agents are true leaders in their communities and involved in so many organizations. Our leadership is one of respect and appreciation; we also ask our agents and managers to be involved in their respective REALTOR® Boards on a local level, and many are involved in state and national REALTOR® roles, as well.

MP: What is your approach to coaching and training?
We’re focused on providing as much training and support as possible. We have regularly scheduled classes and receive tremendous support from Sotheby’s International Realty corporate with field representation. The agents love the brand and culture and want to stay abreast of all the changes.

MP: What’s your strategy for effectively marketing the firm and best serving the needs of prospects and clients?
We’re creative and supportive, and we’re constantly trying to make sure our customers and clients are aware of all we’re doing to support them. Utilizing technology and photography, along with reaching the international culture of the metropolitan area, is essential to our success.

MP: How do you stay ahead of the curve on technology, online marketing and social media?
By attending as many different seminars across the country and locally as possible, in addition to watching some of the companies across the country. This allows us to be adaptive, and, many times, on the forefront of our marketplace.

RLK: In addition, our support staff is very engaged with our agents, at their offices, helping with their day-to-day business, including social media and online marketing.

MP: What’s on deck for the future of the firm?
The future is bright for our firm! There are so many strong markets where we can make a greater impact in gaining marketshare and adding more quality agents. Our proximity to New York City, as well as the corporate strength in New Jersey, especially in the technology and pharma fields, gives us a strong base to build off. In addition, we can always be better at our core business. We have an opportunity to reach $ 2 billion in sales in 2018, and there are days I feel we haven’t even scratched the surface. It’s exciting and fun to work with so many talented agents and staff in the greatest business in the world.

For more information, please visit

Patterson_Maria_60x60Maria Patterson is RISMedia’s executive editor. Email her your real estate news ideas at For the latest real estate news and trends, bookmark

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The Power to Manage Consumer Relationships and Your Business, Simultaneously

Mar 23, 2016 by

As technology continues to reinvent itself and forever change the way we do business, consumers are becoming more and more accustomed to connecting with their product and service providers in easier and more adaptable ways. From being able to automatically binge-watch TV shows, and then having your provider list viewing recommendations, to clicking on a […]

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