Whether you are an estate agent, a CEO or a business owner, you will deal with members of the public on an almost daily basis.
First Impressions Last
What you may not know is that it takes on average under a minute for someone to create an impression of who you are, and if it’s a negative impression, then you have an uphill battle before you have even uttered a word of business to them. People skills are absolutely vital in today’s fast paced business environment, and armed with the right people skills your business will improve.
Get Feedback From Friends
So what is the first step when you are looking at improving your people skills? What I find most useful is identifying areas where I can improve, whether it be my attire or posture or even how I address people. Speak to people who know you, but are not in your family or friend group, ask them what they thought of you the first time they met you. If you ask them for an honest evaluation, you may be surprised by their answers. If you want to know how you come across to people when you talk to them, record yourself in a presentation and then sit back and listen. The very first time I did this I was astounded by how many times I said “umm”, or “you know what I mean”. These are subconscious verbal cues; you do them without even realising it. Contrary to popular belief, you can change this.
Your Means of Communication Matter
Bill Rawson, chairman of Rawson Properties, says, “Understanding people is very important and will certainly up your sales, especially if you recognise that not everyone uses email and responds to text messages. Many people like to sit and discuss things face to face and judge character – they want to see if you are compatible to do business with. Estate agents not only have to sell properties to potential buyers, but they also need to sell themselves to sellers in order to secure a chance at selling their property, and this requires them to gain the seller’s trust. People read each other and form an opinion of one another in such a brief amount of time, and it is for this reason that agents need to have a very open and welcoming demeanour. You may be a very trustworthy person but if you don’t project this, then people may have difficulty in forming an accurate opinion of you. Personal skills in culture are also extremely important. In some cultures, for example, to disagree with someone is rude, so people will tend to just agree with you – agents need to realise this.”
Steps you can take to improve your people skills:
Communication – speak clearly, this first step is the most vital one. Aside from speaking directly to the person and not mumbling or speaking too softly, you can be clear and concise when you talk. The verbal cues I spoke about can be removed; once you are aware of them, you need to think about what you are going to say before you say it. By consciously planning what to say, you will find the subconscious verbal cues will fade away.
Keep your tone moderate and your voice steady when you are talking. While it’s fine to show emotion and excitement, if you show too much, you could come across as loud and over dramatic. In the property industry, people buy houses, but they buy them from people they trust and connect with. Be sincere when you are talking to someone; there is nothing worse than fake sincerity, people can spot it a mile away and it will put off even the most willing buyer.
Be complimentary, but not overtly so; you can often gauge how a person would like to interact with you just by looking at their body language. Take your mode of conversation from them, are they jokers, serious, witty or friendly? Introduce yourself and see how they introduce themselves, how much talking do they want to do? And never ever talk about the weather unless they bring it up; talking about the weather signals the death of a conversation not the beginning of an open dialogue.
Read Your Audience
Having worked for years in the service industry I have learnt how to read people a mile away. I can tell if they want me to ask them questions or just get on with what needs to be done. This is one of the most important social skills you can garner. If you are talking and they cut you off or answer your questions in single words, yes or no, then they don’t want to chit-chat. If they answer your questions and ask you some of their own, then they want to engage with you. Gerhard van der Linde, MD of Seeff, Pretoria East, says, “People won’t do business with you if they don’t trust you and like you. The only way that you will get them to trust and like you is to prove that you care about their needs and their wants. The above quote is often used in our office when agents are trained. In essence it boils down to the fact that unless you have the personal skills of how to deal with your clients, you will be highly unlikely to succeed. A successful property consultant will firstly possess the ability to ask the right questions, and patiently listen to the responses until he or she is sure that the needs of a client are fully understood.”
Dressing to impress
How you dress can say a lot about you. Essentially, the clothes you wear make a statement to the world. They tell people how you see yourself. Do you pitch up to a client in a slightly wrinkled shirt, with scuffed shoes? Or do you dress in a more casual but smart manner, making sure that whatever you are wearing is clean, wrinkle free and without any rips or holes? It may seem small, but a person who has rips in their clothes comes across as slapdash and lazy. The popular saying is ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’, but everyone does. When you see a smart, well-dressed person, you look at them, you take a second look, while someone who is unkempt and dressed in tatty clothing you may glance at, but they don’t really register as important enough to warrant a second look. In a business where you deal with the public, you should always dress to impress; you want to exude confidence and show that you are in charge, and the way you do that is with your wardrobe.
I come from a very touchy-feely family, but some of my closest friends are simply not what I like to call ‘touchers’. They do not like their personal space invaded and I respect that. When you deal with members of the public, they will normally set the boundaries; when you walk to them, they will either put out their arm for you to shake or open their arms for an embrace. I like to hang back and see how the person I am meeting would like to greet. When we are sitting down or in the meeting, if they lean away at any stage, then I know I am in their personal space and make a mental note to be wary of how close I get to them. If you make someone uncomfortable with your proximity, the last thing on their mind is going to be business.
The finer details
The finer details of people skills are how you deal with people. When other people are talking, be attentive, listen, don’t fidget and never interrupt someone. Wait until they have finished before talking. If too many of your stories start with the word ‘I’, be careful of looking like a ‘me, me me’ person. A big part of people skills is listening and giving others the chance to talk, asking questions and showing you care about what they have to say. Also keep things professional, don’t divulge personal stories or slip into slang. How you interact with them in your first meeting will set the tone for the rest of your interactions and how they view you. The same goes for both telephonic and electronic communication, be polite and professional. Punctuality is also a must; if you say you will meet someone at 10am, be there at 9.45; by showing up when you say you will, you build trust that your word can be counted on.
There is no one size fits all when dealing with people, everyone has a different way they like to be treated, spoken to and dealt with. By putting your best foot forward and observing the little clues they are giving, you will learn how to deal with anyone. And once you have mastered that skill, there is no one you can’t deal with professionally, and your sales will soar!
By Angelique Redmond