One of my favorite things to do in my college days was to meet friends for a study session at the local coffee shop, Upstart and Crow. We’d spend hours studying together, drinking coffee and hot chocolate, listening to folks play guitar, and making new friends. Today, coffee shops have become a virtual business office where people spend hours with their heads buried in their laptops, listening to tunes on their phones, and introducing themselves to no one.
Don’t get me wrong. I think tech is great, and I love all the conveniences. I no longer must make phone calls from a stinky old phone booth in the middle of nowhere. I don’t have to crawl around the office floor gathering up documents spat out by a fax machine. And I can conveniently research nearly any topic online. I look forward to the smart advancement of automation, blockchain and AI. At the same time, I’m worried about how we maintain the robust development of relationships with people in the face of rapidly evolving technology.
Our society began using technology as a convenience, and now some of these tools have created the unintended consequence of a communication barrier. Every time we choose to reply to an email, text or a phone call in the middle of a meeting, we are creating an invisible barrier by disrespecting the person we supposed to be meeting with. When we decide to deliver important news (good or bad) or attempt to negotiate an agreement by email or text, we are losing an opportunity to exchange nuances of conversation that come from the tone of voice or body language.
Technology should leverage your time, so you can build relationships, be a trusted advisor, and adapt to the needs of the customer. If you’ve been in real estate sales for any length of time, you know to adjust your style to different personality types. It’s not possible to deliver an electronic message geared toward personality. A phone call or a face-to-face meeting is far more impactful, and yet we lean toward expediency. Being an advisor means digging deep to get to know your client, conveying the best advice for them given the market, and delivering it in a way they are most likely to understand the message.
Each of us has our preferred way of communicating with others. By limiting your communication to the style you most prefer, you are hindering your ability to be understood by another person who may not resonate with that method. Being people-centered and client-focused means adapting to the other person, not asking them to adapt to you. Not every person you do business with has the same aptitude or attitude toward technology that you do. I recently replied to a Facebook post in which another real estate agent wanted to know if there was software available that would allow her client, who didn’t have an email address, to use her spouses’ email address for online signatures. There were dozens of answers all relating to what software she could use. I suggested that perhaps her client was resisting email because she might prefer another method, like a personal visit. I couldn’t believe the reply – “I’m too busy to personally visit every client.” Wow!
What I’m suggesting is customized communication for each client and being purposeful about how you use text, email, phone, and in-person visits. Don’t default to a method of communication because it works for you. Instead, look for software that brings communication services together under one roof to make communicating easier for both you and your clients. I’m confident that you will build better relationships with a broader range of people.
Remember, don’t just talk…make sure they can hear you.
– Debra Schwartz, CEO