Want to know the number one complaint about Realtors? It’s real simple. They don’t answer their phone and they don’t call back. I was just listening to this week’s episode of Watercooler, which is probably the best realtor-centric podcast out there, and Scott Stratten, author of UnMarketing amongst others, was the guest. Scott is one of my favorite people on these here interwebs and he was telling a story about house hunting in Las Vegas recently. He and his partner Alison were looking for a new home. They called on four agents to schedule showings. The receptionist at the first office blew them off because they weren’t ready to buy right that minute. The other three? You guessed it. Not an answer. Not a call back. Nothing.
You will find it extremely difficult to talk to new clients if you don’t answer the phone when they call.
Now, I know you are busy and I know you have a lot going on. I also know that you are smart enough to take a couple of very simple steps to make sure that a) expectations are set about calling people back if you can’t answer your phone and b) you have time in your schedule to call people back. People will understand that you can’t always answer your phone. If you aren’t making that first experience a winner for them (and because of that, for you) you aren’t giving them the respect they deserve. And, if you are not calling them back, you are clearly disrespecting them. So, how do you make sure that you are not constantly answering your phone to the point that you aren’t productive while still giving your clients, current and prospective, a world-class experience?
Your Outgoing Message
Most people have some variance of this as the message someone hears when they call and have to leave a message:
“Hi! You’ve reached Sally Realtor with Pineapple Realty. I’m sorry I can’t take your call right now but please leave me a message and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can. Thanks and have a great day.”
It’s a nice message. It’s friendly, it’s short and by saying that you’ll get back to them as soon as you can, you imply that they are important to you. Heck, you might even tell them outright that their call is important to you in your version of the message. The problem with this version is that it doesn’t set any expectations of any sort.
I would submit to you that this variation, used by a number of By Referral Only clients of the past, is a far better option.
“Hi! You’ve reached Sammy Seller with Pineapple Realty. My hours are 8 to 6 Monday through Friday, by advanced appointment only on Saturdays and I take Sundays off to spend time with my family. If you are calling during my business hours, I will return your call the same business day. If your call is after business hours, I will return your call the next morning. Please leave me a detailed message including the property you are calling about so I can be prepared when I call you back. If you were referred, please let me know who referred you so I can be sure to thank them. Thank you for calling. Have a great day.”
See the difference? Not only does this message set the expectation of when you are working and when you will call back, it asks them to leave a detailed message so you can show them respect by being prepared when you call back. As an added bonus, it sets an expectation of referrals with every single person that calls you. This is a very professional way of getting people to respect your time, understand when and how you will call back, and give you a referral all in one twenty-second outgoing message.
Now for the fun part…
I’ve heard variations of the message stating that you will be return calls between x and y and then again from a to b each day. I’m not a fan because that requires you to record your message every day based on when you’ll return calls and you actually corner yourself into doing it. What happens when you can’t call back during those hours because something pops up? You’ve already let the prospect down and you haven’t spoken with them.
The last part is pretty simple. Block time during your stated business hours to call people back. Then do it. Make sure that you have a time right at the end of the day. You have to make this a mandatory part of the day, every day.
These are two steps that you can take right now to make your business function better, have happier clients, and probably close more deals and make more money. Don’t be that agent that doesn’t call back anymore.