Agents could be forgiven for forgetting that buying property is an emotional business for most. While it may well be all in a day’s work for a seasoned estate agent, the average buyer or seller will be going through a whole range of emotions once the deal has been signed and sealed.

 

One size doesn’t fit all – the psychology behind the buying and selling of a home

For many years agencies tended to adopt a one size fits all approach when it came to training agents on how to deal with clients. Things were done in a certain way and if the client didn’t like it… well he could simply move on to greener pastures. The adage ‘the customer is always right’ didn’t really feature in real estate circles and you can bet your bottom dollar that there were an awful lot of unhappy clients around.
Fortunately times have changed and while some old school agents may not appreciate the art of using psychology to better read clients, a growing number of trainers now understand the importance of educating agents in this very important field.

 

Simply put, different people with different personalities have different needs

Learning to not only recognise the various personality types but how to treat clients accordingly can significantly boost an estate agent’s career.

“Sellers will only employ an agent they know, like and trust,” says Gerhard van Rensburg from Bowtie Solutions. Selling property involves a lot more than meets the eye and those who have gone on to carve successful careers understand that they need far more than real estate knowledge to stay ahead of the game. Estate agents need to have a sound knowledge of what makes people tick – in other words, agents can ace every real estate course on the planet, but if they don’t take the time to learn about people, they will not perform nearly as well as those who have made the effort to understand the ins and outs of their clients’ personalities.

“Agents should seriously consider dropping the ‘do to others as you would have them do to you’ thought patterns completely. In today’s world, they should be thinking more along the lines of ‘do to another as the other wants you to do to him’,” says van Rensburg.

Trevor Gaw fromTrevor Gaw Training agrees, saying that psychology plays a critical role in the life of a successful agent. “Agents need to truly understand the principles of psychology, understanding and appreciating the way individuals think, reason, behave, process information, make decisions, engage others and build relationships; manage diversity, etc. There is definitely a key differentiation between the masses (an ordinary agent) and the few successful real estate consultants.”

 

Different personality types
Meryl Muller, a seasoned trainer with the Estate Agent Training Academy in the Western Cape, has been punting the use of psychology in the real estate arena for many years. Muller says that there are basically four personality types and she believes that knowing how to approach and deal with each type is essential for those looking to gain the edge.
Although many trainers use animals as a guideline, it is worth noting that while the animals of choice may differ, the personality traits remain the same, for example:

 

The Bull:
• Likes the bottom line

• Quick to decide

• Fast paced and is neat in a messy way

• Result orientated

• Needs to control the situation

• Prestige and status are more important than security

• Likes challenges

• Likes freedom from control

• Business before social

This personality type often has abrasive characteristics; however, agents need to give them a reason to buy now as they like to make decisions fast. They love to negotiate. Generally speaking, agents should not be offended when this type of personality doesn’t want to become a friend. Simply put, they aren’t looking for a social call – they want to do business.

 

The Owl:

• Likes details and will want a full presentation from A to Z

• Takes time to decide and is generally slow paced

• Very time conscious and tends to arrive early for appointments

• Does not tolerate mistakes (yours or theirs)

• Does not like over excitement and emotion

• Security is more important than prestige and status

• Likes order and is neat

• Likes being alone

• Business before social

This personality type is extremely analytical and detail orientated and will correct everything the agent does. Agents should stick to business and ensure that every aspect of the property has been covered. Keep emotion out of the equation completely and rather focus on explaining the practical reasons for buying the property.

 

The Tiger:

• Not into detail – prefers others to take care of details

• Quick to decide

• Fast paced and is often late for appointments

• Loves recognition, is emotional and likes excitement

• Prestige and status are more important than security

• Likes a challenge

• Social relationships are important

• Social before business

Tigers  are the talkers of the personality types and agents are going to have trouble getting a word in edgeways. It is however important to follow up with these types of clients as they are fast decision makers. They do tend to have a short attention span, but they generally buy when they are excited about the product, so agents should ‘hype up’ their game and close the sale.

 

The Lamb:

• Be their friend, lead them and show support

• Slow to decide and often change their minds.

• Understands the agent’s mistakes and feels badly about their mistakes

• Very emotional

• Security is more important than prestige and status

• Avoids conflict

• Wants protection and peace

• Social before business

While difficult, it is not impossible to close the sale on the first visit to the property. Agents however are going to have to take the lamb type personality through the whole process step by step. Unfortunately for agents, these people want to please everyone and can seemingly take an age to make up their minds. Take the time to befriend this type of client. When discussing the property, be sure to highlight how much friends and family will enjoy the new home. Try to avoid pressurising lambs into a sale and rather lead them towards a buying decision.

 

There’s nothing new about psychology

Before you all start thinking that this is some new-fangled ‘voodoo’ idea, Kevin Mullins, who holds an honours degree in psychology and  who is the CEO of the South African Real Estate Academy, notes that the importance of recognising the different personality types and the usefulness of using psychology as a tool to help salespeople sell more was first mooted as far back as 1982.

Unfortunately, he also notes that in his opinion, there is very little training available to real estate companies on how to fully assess (or qualify) either the buyer or the seller. “Obviously there are exceptions, but in the main I find that this skill, if present, is normally a residual skill picked up in some former career,” he says.
When asked if he believed that agents who had taken the time to understand their clients at this level were more successful that those who handled them all in exactly the same manner, he said that understanding client needs (on both a practical and psychological level) is probably the single most obvious differentiating factor between highly successful and average agents.

 

It’s time to sharpen those skills

Why then, if it is so important, is so little being done to bring this into the main real estate training arena? Mullins believes that the problem is twofold: Training costs money and principals who regard this as soft skills training do not believe it is important for the long- term sustainability of their agents or their businesses as a whole. The other problem is the fact that the average South African estate agent is older than 50. The adage ‘you can’t teach an old dog new tricks’ comes to mind and according to Mullins, the issue of willingness to learn by agents in this age group definitely comes into play.

He backs the last point up by noting that, generally speaking, agents who are fairly new to the industry are far more interested in accessing the different personality types. He does point out, however, that older agents, particularly those who have made late career changes, respond very positively to training in general and this type of training in particular. Regardless, Mullins believes there are still too many agents who still work on a one size fits all premise. He estimates that only about 20 percent of all agents have an adequate grasp of how to evaluate a client’s needs in order to best serve those needs.

 

Agents need to change their mind-set about the psychology behind their work

One would think that anyone working in a commission based field would be more than willing to research any and every avenue in a bid to be more successful. It’s all well and good learning how to listen to a client’s wants and needs and how to close a deal, but what if we are missing the magical ingredient that will make the art of selling so much easier?
Gaw agrees and believes that most agents in this country generally regard training of this nature to be a waste of time. He says that they might not be on a level to fully appreciate the concept of using psychology in real estate and as such continue to waste a lot of time by using their current working methodology and processes.

“Agents need a blended training approach relying heavily on face- to-face facilitation and mentoring. Some agents have an ‘I know it all’ attitude. Others are just plain ignorant towards the real value of continuous training. I always say the seven most disastrous words in the business world are, ‘We have always done it this way’. However, those agents that are investing the time into this type of training on a one-on- one basis are reaping the rewards – big time,” Gaw says.
Gaw states that the process involves more than just understanding people, and agents also need to have an understanding of the environment, the economy, politics, community and economics. “Agents must be able to talk the buyer’s or seller’s language; understand him, his work, his challenges. Practise a KAM (Key Account Management) or CRM (Customer Relationship Management) approach to all potential buyers and sellers. Agents do a sale – they do not manage the client’s property portfolio or his investment portfolio.”

 

Interpersonal skills go a long way

Perhaps the time has come for agents to realise that it isn’t necessarily a case of the client being difficult, but rather a case of the agent refusing to believe that people are different and it is they who need to work on their interpersonal skills. While we may not like all of our clients, taking the time to understand exactly where they are coming from is going to go a long way towards securing a sale. And after all, estate agents are not in the business to make friends, they are there to sell property – full stop.