July, 2018

Inspection News and Views from the American Society of Home Inspectors


Relationship Building: The Real Estate Agent Lunch

ALAN CARSON

The importance of building and maintaining high-quality relationships cannot be overstated. Buying lunch for a real estate agent is a great way to interact because it’s an even trade. You ask a real estate agent to give you some of their time in return for you buying them lunch.

We’ve found that asking a real estate agent to lunch works better if you set the stage first. First, the real estate agent has to know you. Giving an office talk is a great way to become known. It positions you as the local expert. At the very least, the agents who attend your talk will know who you are. Very few people will want to have lunch with someone they’ve never met. 

A note of caution: Top-producing agents do not always attend office meetings, so you may not become known to them by speaking at office meetings. You may need to approach them individually. The broker or office manager can tell you which agents do not attend the meetings.

The People You Know
Start with real estate agents you already know. You might think this is a waste of time and money, but consider the following reasons for having lunch with an agent:

The People You Don’t Know 
If you call a real estate agent you know well, it’s easy to say, “Let’s do lunch, I have something I want to run by you.” But if you are calling an agent who has only met you at an office talk and has never referred business to you, you should take more care.

When you offer to take someone out for lunch, they usually respond with the fear that we all have—that “there is no such thing as a free lunch.” To get beyond this perception, you have to try to remove any skepticism from the start. We’ve found that giving something concrete up front is better than having the agent wonder what they will have to give in exchange later. For example, you can do the following:

Don’t expect that every real estate agent will agree to a lunch meeting. The best you can hope for is that some agents will agree to meet. In our experience, those who don’t want to have lunch with you don’t turn you down completely. The more likely scenario is that they say they are too busy to have lunch with you, but that you could drop off information at their office. You should use this response to your advantage. If the agent seems to be looking for an out, ask the agent if he or she would be willing to give you five minutes of their time when you stop in at their office instead.

An invitation to send material may not be what you had in mind, but it can be a good opportunity. Material that combines a compelling message with a call to action can be powerful, and it is likely to be well received if it is accompanied with a handwritten note and a useful token of appreciation. Follow-up is a key to success. People may appreciate the material and the gesture, but few will change their behavior based on this alone.

In our experience, agents are hard to nail down for a particular date. They are not like office workers who go to the same place every day and eat lunch at noon. Their schedules are always changing. If you call an agent and book lunch for next Wednesday at 12:15 pm, there’s a fair chance they may cancel. By Wednesday, they may have booked a meeting with a client. 

The key is to respect the way agents work and work with it. Here are some approaches you can take:

Another option is to offer to drop in at an open house they are hosting and make the presentation when there is no one else in the home. This requires flexibility and patience on your part, but it is often a rewarding approach.

Do not be timid when it comes to sales. If you have lunch with an agent to explain how your service will help them, you can’t drop the ball there. You have to then “ask for the order.” If you have addressed all of their questions and concerns, try the following tactics:

You’ll have to decide how aggressive you are willing to be, but in general, remember that most of us have a tendency to be too timid when it comes to asking for business. Try extending yourself a bit, and don’t be afraid to hear “no.” You don’t have anything to lose.