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When You Have To Choose Just One

Not long ago I faced a quandary that I am absolutely certain many of you out there have either faced in the past or will face in the future. It has to do with selling real estate.

After 23 years in our current home, we’d decided that it was time to downsize and move into a condo where someone else deals with much of the home maintenance and all of the yard work. With that end in mind, we sold our house.

Herein you will find our angst. We have many friends and associates that are realtors and any of them would have been suitable agents for selling our house but obviously, only one can be the listing agent. Which means that potentially, all but one of these fine people could be upset, angry, insulted, or just hurt. So how do I choose the “winner?” I came up with many different ideas such as throwing their names in a hat and drawing, some formula to rate them, and even to look in the real estate section and finding a realtor whose name I recognized but didn’t know personally. The idea being that I just tell everyone that I didn’t want to do business with a personal friend.

I finally decided to just select the person that I felt was the best for the job. He also happened to be a very old friend from college; but that’s not why I chose him. I chose him due to his success, knowledge, and familiarity with the area in which we live. Overall, I just felt that he was the right “fit.”

The house was on multiple listing, so anybody could get in on the commission. I just hoped that my other realtor friends would understand that I simply had to make the best business decision.

My point to this is two-fold.   The first is to say, that you must look out for your best business interests when making such decisions. The second is that if you are a realtor or any other type of businessperson and a friend decides not to use your services and selects someone else, realize that it is not personal. You must understand that the decision was probably even more difficult for the person because of the personal association. Don’t make it harder by derision, being angry with the person, or punitive behavior. Be a professional.

Acting professionally and wishing the person well will show true maturity.

Be Confident About Your Prices

A thought occurred to me while speaking with a client the other day.   Many clients we work with seem to have a certain angst in regard to their pricing and it manifests itself in an apologetic tone when giving price information or asking for payment.

If you are priced competitively, which means that your prices compete favorably against your competition with all things considered (quality levels, service, warranty, uniqueness, etc.); and you are providing good value for the price, then you should discuss your prices with confidence.

Don’t hem and haw trying to explain why your prices are what they are—it will sound like you are trying to justify a bloated price schedule.   Now this is not to say if they ask why your prices are so high, you shouldn’t explain the value you provide and the benefits they’ll receive, especially if your prices are higher than the discount providers or even mid-range competition. It is imperative that you tell why you charge what you do; this gives you an excellent opportunity to sell your prospect and demonstrate why you are so proud of what you offer.

Another related issue I mentioned is asking to be paid for your service. I remember once when a contractor that was doing some work at my house completed a milestone, which meant another progress payment was due. His wife handled the business end and she came by, along with her husband, one afternoon upon his return from lunch.

“By the way,” she said while sort of hesitating and shifting her eyes back and forth from my face to the ground, “we’re done with post-setting and we’re getting ready to start the frame construction, and well, I was sort of wondering if, umm, if it would be possible, you know, maybe we could get a check?”

Why on Earth was she so afraid to ask for what was she was contractually entitled to? They had done a good job, were on schedule, and held up their end of the bargain. Now it was time for me to hold up my end. She should have simply said “I came by to pick up our next check since we’ve completed post-setting.”

Be proud and matter of fact when discussing the financial aspects of your business with your customers. If they sense that you are not confident in your pricing, they will naturally begin to wonder if your product or service is worth the price. If you’re hesitant about asking for payment, they will wonder if they’re going to get what they are paying for.

Unless you are truly uncomfortable with the work you are doing or value you are providing, your prices should be a source of pride as a payment for a job well done.

Fact vs. Fantasy

Playwright and journalist (amongst other things) Clare Luce Booth is so accurately quoted as saying, “No good deed goes unpunished.”

We can all give examples demonstrating this statement’s truth. All of us that call ourselves consultants, as well as those that are consultants by other names such as attorney, accountant, doctor, and many others; know the truth regarding Ms. Booth’s brilliant observation.

I recently received some third-hand feedback on some advice I gave. The feedback came from a friend of a friend. This friend of a friend is the mother of a person I spoke to regarding a business idea. So, the person I advised told his mother, who told her friend who told me. I should add that this was free advice, the person never became a paying client nor was one at the time, but that is irrelevant, my advice is the same whether free or paid.  Note: I need to get paid for my advice–bills to pay!

In reality, the feedback wasn’t really feedback but was more simple criticism, not even constructive criticism. The criticism was one that we consultants (see my definition above) hear all the time: “Ahhhh, he doesn’t know what he’s talking about!” Remember, this is coming from an inexperienced person about a seasoned professional.

As you can see, that’s not feedback which would give me some insight on how I can be better at what I do. In fact, when I hear simply, without substantiation or specifics that “I don’t know what I’m talking about” I actually believe that I did my job and did it well. That’s because when I hear that comment, it usually means that my advice was correct, but just not what the person wanted to hear; blaming the messenger, if you will.

A consultant’s job is to be honest, accurate, and straightforward. The person in question had a business idea and quite frankly, it wasn’t at all a bad idea. But as it is with so many things in life, the devil is in the details and his generally good idea had a number of potential potholes that could trip him up. While I encouraged him to attack the idea’s shortcomings and develop a proper business plan, he was discouraged by my warnings and suggestions and his enthusiasm waned. He felt like I was spraying water on his charcoal, even though I did acknowledge that his idea had legs and was worth pursuing as long as he addressed the challenges as well.

What he wanted me to say was, “That’s a great idea! Go for it full steam ahead!” He did not want me to throw even one drop of water on his white-hot coals. But that’s my job. I know he wanted simple validation, but my job is to help achieve success and that means pointing out and helping to mitigate the risks. Unfortunately, when we have a great idea, we think only of the great prosperity and joy it will bring us and not of the possibility that it may not have that blissful outcome.

If we are to overcome those pitfalls, we must face them, address them, and mitigate them or our plan is doomed. As consultants, we must face the risk of being defamed and called many names that label us as incompetent in order to be competent. We do our clients no service by only telling them what they want to hear. It’s a crying shame that more times than not, our clients choose to ignore our admonitions and go forth. When they do so, they do not go forth and prosper, but instead go forth and falter. And of course, when they falter, it’s our (the consultant’s) fault.

So listen to those who are experts, whether they are business consultants, accountants, lawyers, doctors, realtors, or any other professional. Just because you don’t like the news, it doesn’t mean it’s wrong.