Whatever You Do – Don’t Do This

Hate your job or your client? Stuck in your career and you’re struggling to get ahead?

Whatever you do don’t do this: complain. A recent study shows that complaining does nothing to get you ahead or get you the success and outcome you crave; rather, it does the exact opposite. Read on to find out how and what you can do about it.

Your Habits Teach Your Brain

Your brain is a collection of synapses separated by empty space. The empty space is called the synaptic cleft. When you have a thought, a synapse sends a chemical through the cleft where there’s another synapse. This process creates a bridge that allows electrical charges – i.e. your thoughts – to pass through from synapses to synapses with greater ease and efficiency.

Our brains have learned that it take a lot of energy to rebuild the same bridge between two synapses. So it created a solution: to rewire its own circuitry to make the bridge shorter and stronger every time an electrical charge happens. Our brain creates these bridges because it helps us conserve energy and speed up our reaction time – a very useful tool if you can’t find your next meal or if have to figure out whether or not to run when you see a lion. This brain rewiring means our bad thoughts become easier to “access” and our default position.

Complaining Makes You Stupid and Sad

Have you ever had a bad thought trigger despite the fact that there is nothing bad to think about? Enter the snowball effect: every time those bad thoughts come to mind, the shorter and stronger the “bridges” become. The shorter and easier the bridges become, the more bad thoughts you’ll have. And the more bad thoughts you’ll have will make you more negative, depressed and less motivated.

It gets worse! Complaining damages the hippocampus, which is the critical part of your brain that helps you solve problems and develop intelligent thoughts. This means that someone who complains a lot is also more likely to negotiate worse deals, fail to find solutions to problems and be depressed.

How to Stop Complaining?

How to stop a bad habit depends on what makes you stick to promises even when not motivated? If you’re like me, I will stick to a promise if I told someone that I’ll do it or if I am allowed to give myself a big reward for completing the thing I don’t want to do.

A few methods I’ve used:

  • Make bets with friends to stop complaining. Whoever complains first has to treat the rest of the group to dinner, drinks etc.
  • Tell family, colleagues and friends that every time you complain you have to give them a dollar.  Make sure they hold you up to it. 
  • Try not complaining for 2 days. Replace the complaint with a thought of gratitude, appreciation or a solution to the complaint. After two days, evaluate how you feel and promise yourself to do it for 2 more days. If it’s working, extend the “no complaints” period to 5 days and so on.

I’m starting a no complaint week to exercise this muscle. I strongly suggest that you also give it a try – the worst that can happen is….well, I can’t think of a negative thing to say!

How Technology is Changing Real Estate & How We Can Predict Tomorrow’s Market

Ignorance is not Bliss. It’s Expensive. Especially if you’re investing or in the business of real estate. My tip: on December 1, make an effort to squeeze into the back of one of the PM Expo’s most popular talks about technology and real estate. The speakers are a rare mix of Canada’s most prominent decision makers, innovators and leaders. I guarantee that any investor, landlord, tenant or manager will walk away with surprising facts and views on the real estate market. A must attend if you want to make better decisions (click here to register).

Details About When and Where

Dec 1, 2016 10:30 AM – 12:00 PM Duration: 1.5 hour(s) Price: FREE
Code: A104
Show(s): PM Expo
Location: South Building
Credits: BOMI: 1.5 OAA: 1.5 Accreditation(s): BOMA, OAA
Stream(s): Apartment & Condominium Management

So, who’s involved?

Although I’m the moderator of the discussion and REIC is the generous sponsor, we certainly aren’t the stars of the talk. Rather, it’s the gatekeepers at TREB, Altus and Tridel who will cover a range of topics that investors, managers, tenants and landlords need to know to stay ahead of the curve, identify the best places to buy and attract and retain the best tenants and talent.

The Star Studded List of Panelists

Subhi Alsayed,  MBA, PEng, LEED AP, CEM, Innovation Manager at Tridel

Subhi is energy efficiency and green building expert, technical advisor, and driver of innovation and sustainability adoption in real-estate with over 20 years of experience in Canadian and International markets. As the Innovation Manager at Tridel, Subhi directs the strategic implementation of emerging new technologies and practices in high-rise buildings and oversees decision making process on major building systems such as Net Zero homes, and IoT Smart Connected Buildings. As the Director of Projects at towerlabs, a non-profit founded by Tridel and MaRS, Subhi develops commercialization channels for tech startups and emerging green building technology companies in real-estate markets through pilot and demonstration projects. Subhi is a MBA grad from Ivey Business School, Professional Engineer, LEED Accredited Professional, and a Certified Energy manager.

John Di Michele, CEO at Toronto Real Estate Board

John Di Michele is the CEO of TREB. He entered the Real Estate profession as a salesperson and later worked five years as a Broker/Manager before joining TREB’s staff as Chief Information Officer in 2002. John served in several capacities and on a wide range of committees and Board of Directors as a REALTOR® member of three Real Estate Boards and other organizations of varying sizes. As a TREB member, he served on the Board of Directors and as Chair of both the MLS® Committee and MLS® Selection Task Force. Over the years John has also contributed to the efforts of the Ontario Real Estate Association and served on the Canadian Real Estate Association Board of Directors while Chair of MLS® and Technology Council. As TREB’s CIO John was responsible for all technology beyond the Toronto MLS® system. He has introduced and overseen a variety of notable initiatives including implementation of strong authentication, e-Commerce, Buyer Registry, CONNECT, external data integration and the re- structuring of TREB’s districts to include communities. In 2009 John was moved into the Associate CEO role and in July 2014 John was promoted to the position of Chief Executive Officer. As CEO, one of his key priorities has been to better understand and optimize the economic competitiveness and livability of the GTA and the wider Greater Golden Horseshoe Region. In this regard, he initiated and spearheaded TREB’s inaugural Market Year in Review & Outlook Report 2015, which, in part, consults stakeholders from various sectors across the region on key areas of improvement for a better future. John brings together a wealth of professional experience, the practitioner’s perspective and an intimate understanding of the real estate landscape.

Jason Lo, LL.B, , Vice President at Go-To-Market Execution, Altus

In his current role, Jason manages all teams responsible for the execution of all aspects of Go-To-Market for Altus Data Solutions, including Sales & Marketing, Client Services and Strategic Partnerships. Jason joined RealNet Canada Inc. in December 2011 to head up its Business Development and ultimately ended up with responsibility for managing the entire RealNet business unit for Altus until assuming his current role. After getting licensed in real estate over 25 years ago, he co-founded and ran as President & CEO, a real estate software company in 1992, which was acquired by Filogix Inc. in 2000. Prior to the acquisition of his company, Jason graduated from Osgoode Hall Law School and concurrently ran a law firm that he founded with 2 other partners and also managed a real estate brokerage. At Filogix, Jason became a member of the Leadership Team and oversaw the Real Estate Technology Division and subsequently, Corporate Development for the company until it was sold to Davis & Henderson in 2006. At the time of the sale, the Real Estate Technology Division had established a network and MLS® system used by REALTORS® from over 35 real estate boards and associations across Canada. Jason also developed numerous strategic partnerships which, with Filogix’ solutions, formed the largest network in the residential real estate and mortgage market. Jason was a previous Director and Chair-Elect of the board of directors of the Ontario REALTORS® Care Foundation and continues to be a licensed member of the Real Estate Council of Ontario and Law Society of Upper Canada.

Talking about fees with your client

A deep and dark confession:  I’d prefer to talk about the birds and the bees with my parents than about fees with my clients. Why? I hate talking about money and I’m very good at making every classic mistakes when it comes to the numbers talk – I give things away before anyone asks and I cave almost immediately to requests to lower my fee. The worst part? I do this despite being a teacher of negotiation, despite being dedicated to every need of my client and despite the fact that I’m an otherwise relentless advocate for others.

Given my issue with fees, I’ve done some homework on how to feel talk about fees without feeling like a sleazy money-hungry salesperson. Here are the best tips I’ve gathered – most are from ww.spdru.com as this proved to offer the most practical advice for professionals. I’ll be applying this principles in my life and I’ll let you know how it works out!

Take the Lead

True, fees are an uncomfortable conversation. However, if you make the effort to address it first, you’ll keep control of the conversation and you’ll demonstrate leadership. Raising the fee conversation will also make you appear transparent (and, hopefully, you are!) and will help develop trust between you and the client. Transparency and trust are developed because you’re willing to talk about the tough questions. So convince yourself that you have to speak up or else risk coming off as another “shady” agent, lawyer, consultant or salesperson.

Focus on Services, Not Just Benefits

How often do you hear about the benefits of buying a service and not what the service actually offers? “Work with me and you’ll get a better deal!” “I’ll make you more money!” This claims ring hollow and always ring a warning bell of b$%&! So, why are you telling your prospects the same route claims?

Just like you, prospects want to know what you’re going to specifically do to get the intended result. Listing all of your services not only instills trust, but also increases your value in the eyes of the prospect. Why? Because you’re reminding them of all of the work you’re doing – attaining the outcome no longer looks as easy as they thought it’d be, making your services necessary, clear and actionable.

Bonus: listing your services will help if the prospect tries to negotiate down your fee. For example, let’s say you wash cars for $200. The client wants $50 off. Without understanding your services or breaking the work down into components, you” likely just say “okay” and provide the same value for less money. Alternatively, you say “no way” and the client walks. In the former scenario, you lose because you created an imbalance between the value delivered and the price. You also taught the client that the price listed doesn’t truly correspond with the value delivered. In the latter situation, you just gave up a client!

Contrast the above outcomes with the scenario in which you’ve listed the items that support the overall service. You’re now in a better position to negotiate. Why? Because you can easily use the coveted negotiation rule of never giving something up without asking for something in return. For example, you may offer a $50 discount, but only if you wash the windows and exterior, as opposed to washing the windows, tires and exterior of the car. Your offer may be exactly what the client wants, as not all clients need the same level of support. What is more, this approach works because it reinforces the value you’re offering and because it shows flexibility…a rare quality that is much appreciated by consumers.

Benchmark Your Fees with Others

I know exactly what you’re thinking: “Are you nuts? My fees are higher so they’ll go to my competitor!” Wrong. First time buyers or users of your service are likely shopping around for pricing. They want to know if you’re fair and they’re likely unable to obtain the information they need to compare apples to apples. In other words, your competitor may be cheaper, but that’s because he’s offering fewer services or because he has less experience. By being upfront and benchmarking your prices, the prospect is less likely to search others out and make a “false” comparison.  Furthermore, you’ll instil trust with your client and show that you’re willing to go above and beyond. After all, you’ve already done the work for them of finding competitors and determining the best price for value.

Word of caution: when you benchmark, make sure you’ve also listed all of your services to demonstrate the value and services they’re receiving. If you don’t, benchmarking will make it appear that your prices are arbitrary and negotiable.

Put it in Writing

Well, this is just obvious as to why. So, do it. And good luck!


Why You Didn’t Get the Deal

Building Rapport Isn’t Enough

You got the meeting, you met with the critical decision maker and you had a fabulous conversation about his kids, hobbies and his company’s needs. Yet, you still lost the deal to a competitor. The most likely reason why you lost is because you left him confused.  Confusion is highly problematic because, as every politician knows, if you leave someone confused they’ll vote for the “simpler” guy….even if that guy has no idea about what he’s doing!

To avoid confusion, you must clearly prove the following during your pitch and during every interaction with the client:

  1. They need to act now or they’ll lose something important.
  2. You’re the best option.
  3. You, your team and your company are trustworthy.

The way to ensure that you leave each prospect convinced that your service/product etc are right for them is by answering these questions (provided by Rain Group):

  1. Why is it important and urgent to act?
  2. What will they lose if they don’t act now?
  3. Why are we the best choice?
  4. How can I substantiate #3 and show that our claims are to be substantiated?

Answering these questions will not only provide clarity and help you get the deal, but also anticipate and provide the perfect retort to these common objections:

“I don’t need your services or product.”

This objection may mean that you:

  1. didn’t understand the client’s problem;
  2. you didn’t listen or bother to understand the personal challenges of your client and global challenges of the firm;
  3. you focused on selling your generic service, rather than a specific solution; and/or
  4. you failed to show the opportunity costs of not acting now.

Now that you know what you likely did wrong, here is the simple solution: ask why and clearly respond to the reasons for the prospect’s assertion that your services aren’t needed. While you respond, be sure to repeat back her concerns and roadblocks and draw her attention to what she’s going to lose if they won’t act.

 “You’ll have to come down on your fee.” or “I already know someone who’s in the industry.”

If you’re hearing this, you’ve failed to differentiate you and your company from the crowd. The solution: develop a differentiating service or process that clearly drives maximum value to the client. In other words, having a slick logo or another service that everyone else has won’t cut it. If the service isn’t 100% geared to improving the client’s interaction with your service, then cut it out. Some services may include providing services online so the client doesn’t have to move from the comfort of his home, automating requests, shortening response times and providing “free-bee” additional services that help increase the client’s bottom line.

Be sure to visually demonstrate the value of your specilized process or service by taking the client’s current situation (e.g. current sales price or revenue) and compare it to a better future that can only be granted by working with you. Graphs, charts and pictures are your best friend in avoiding confusion and clearly demonstrating your value add.

“I already know some people in the industry.” OR “It’s too much of a risk.”

If you don’t substantiate with solid evidence that you can bring the prospect excellent value and protect their interests, buyers won’t believe you’ll follow through on your claims; instead, you’ll be automatically categorized as just another salesperson and they won’t take the risk of giving you the business.

The solution: provide testimonials, referrals and case studies showing your ability to outshine and be the trustworthy resource your client needs. Trust is built over time, so don’t be discouraged if you get a “no” more than once. If you continue to put the prospect first and demonstrate clear and relevant value, you’ll eventually prove your worth.

Why you should be an expert

People will almost always defer to and draw their opinions from the expert. This is true even if the expert is completely wrong.

We like to adopt and follow the lead of “experts” because it’s easier.  Someone has done the work of thinking for us and we are freed from this tedious and heavy burden. The lure of appealing to authority in our business decisions is similar to the lure of fast-food in our diet decisions: everything’s ready for us and it goes down easy.  Even if it’s crap.

Why You Need to be an Expert

Simply having the appearance of authority increases the likelihood that prospects will trust you, believe you, comply with your requests and follow your lead. Isn’t this reason enough to become an expert?

The Shocking Experiment that Revealed the Power of Authorities

A famous experiment conducted at Yale University by psychologist Stanley Milgram asked ordinary people (we’ll refer them to the shockers) to shock ‘victims’ when the victim answered questions incorrectly. The shockers were instructed by people in white lab coats who gave the appearance of high authority. Little did they know that some of these authorities were just students.

The shockers were told that the shocks they administered increased by 15 volts in intensity every time the person answered incorrectly. Of course, as the experiment went on, the shocks did intensify. And the victims started to scream. Some victims even begged the shocker to stop. Some screamed that they couldn’t breath or that they had heart problems. But, the shockers continued on whenever the white lab coat “authorities” told them to do so. Incredibly, about two-thirds of the shockers ignored the cries of pain and inflicted the full dose of 450 volts.

The truth is the shocks were completely imaginary and the victims were acting. This did teach us a very valuable lesson:

The real culprit in the experiments was the [participants’] inability to defy the wishes of the boss, the lab-coated researcher who urged and, if necessary, directed them to perform their duties, despite the emotional and physical mayhem they were causing.

The lesson for anyone in sales or marketing: when people are unclear or uncertain, they’ll seek out “authorities” to help guide their decisions. Given the undeniable and powerful influence of authority figures, “it would be wise to incorporate testimonials from legitimate, recognized authorities to help persuade prospects to respond or make purchases”. Better yet, it’s about time that you made yourself an authority.

How to Become an Authority: You Should Already Be Doing it!

There’s too much evidence to ignore: becoming an authority is necessary to attract clients and will fill your pipeline with qualified people who want to your help. While becoming an expert is hard work, it shouldn’t be “another thing to do”. Rather, it should already be integrated into your daily work life. After all, it’s no secret that success only comes after significant effort and after gaining significant knowledge. Here are a few tips which, again, should be part of your routine and strategy to succeed:

  1. Don’t be afraid of learning. Take courses from legitimate bodies and get designations.
  2. Write for various publications relevant to your industry. The publications don’t have to pay you or be massive. They just have to be legitimate.
  3. Deliver excellent work, pay attention to the details and place knowledge and service over money.
  4. Speak at any events – small or large. And then have attendees write testimonials about your knowledge and put these testimonials on your website.
  5. Interview experts in your field and write articles about those expert’s opinions.

Taking on these tips will not only elevate your status, but it’ll also help you learn and boost your confidence. What is more, you’ll become the source of knowledge for your clients. No longer will you be sending “just following up!” emails. Your knowledge will be in demand and can be used as a legitimate reason to reach out to prospects and subtly remind them that you are the (ethical) expert.

Get a Referral Without Being Awkward

The Steps to Asking for a Referral Without Being the Obnoxious Pushy-Salesperson

Step 1: Be Excellent

Before you even think about asking for a referral you have to do be excellent at what you do. If you’re not, the cilent would is unlikely to be motivated to spread the word about what you do and how well.

Step 2: Be the Ultimate Connector

Be the ultimate connector. Think about referrals before you begin and afterward. Be the person that connects others. Doing so helps grow your reputation as a generous person and this will encourage others to reciprocate your generosity with referrals.

Step 3: Start Early

Remember the prerequisite to any referral: you have to deliver excellent service. This means that you first have to work diligently and ensure that the client is not just satisfied, but thrilled that they had you for support and not your competitor.

After you delivered a big “win”, casually raise your performance and ask for your client’s feedback. If they have issues with you, make sure to immediately rectify these issues. It’s better to solve the perceived or real problems before you move on or you risk not getting a referral and, potentially, gaining a client who spreads negative rumours about you. Follow or modify this short script to un-awkwardly raise the performance question:

You: It’s clear to me that you have a sharp eye for value. I’ve promised you that I’ll deliver excellent value – may I ask you a quick question?

Client: Sure.

You: At this point, is there anything you’d like me to do better?

Client: No – it’s going great so far 

You: Great – I want to make sure that you get the support you need so that you can hardly contain sharing it. 

If the client says that you need to improve certain areas, say this:

You: Absolutely, I’ve taken note and will deliver. After all, I want to make sure that you get the support you need so that you can hardly contain sharing it. 

Step 4: Remind Your Client of Your Value

After the service has been delivered and before the bill is sent, give your client a call to ask for a referral. Start by reminding them of the work you’ve done and how thrilled they are and were with having you on their “team”. Try the following approach which Rick Roberge, blogger and advisors to rockstars and the like, loves to use:

You: You told me you’re happy with my work thus far. Have you told anybody about what we’ve done together?

Client: No.

You: Is it because you’re not pleased with the outcomes?

Client: No, we’re pretty happy.

You: Well then, do you think what we do together would be beneficial to any of your vendors, business partners or clients? 

Client: I don’t want you working with my clients, but maybe some of my vendors.

You: Your vendors then — do you have a favorite? Do they sell to other people you know?

Client: Yeah, we have a good relationship.

You: But you haven’t mentioned that you were working with us yet.

Client: I haven’t, but maybe it’s not such a bad idea.

You: Do you remember why you hired me?

Client: To find a new place that’s affordable and makes sense.

You: And are any of your favorite vendors trying to grow their businesses?

Client: Yes, a few in particular.

You: Okay. In that case, if you called or sent an email and said ‘I’ve been working with [your name] for six months, and she’s delivered on her promises. I know you’re looking to  [XXXX] so I thought I’d put you two together,” would they like you for that or not like you?

If the client is comfortable with providing the referral, send her a template to use or a script if she prefers to make a call. Here’s an example slightly modified from HubSpot:


I may have mentioned this when we last spoke – I’ve been working with [salesperson] for a few months to [achieve X]. Since you’re looking to do the same,  I realized that I should put you two together. So…

[Referral], meet [Salesperson, with a LinkedIn profile URL].

[Salesperson], meet [Referral, with a LinkedIn profile URL].

Can I leave the rest to you guys?

Talk to you both later.

If they hum and haw, however, tread carefully as you don’t want to come across as a pushy and money hungry. Emphasize that your purpose is to help and not to be an obnoxious salesperson. Then drop it.

Step 5: Follow Up with Your Client

Follow up with your customer a week or so after you make the request. If they haven’t made the referral, don’t push anymore. If they have, but you weren’t copied to the email or you haven’t heard from the referral, ask if the referral responded with a “not interested – ever”. If they did, cross them off the list and move on to Step 8.

Step 6: Make Sure Your Client Has a Great Reputation and Relationship with the Referral

Know your client’s reputation in the industry and with whom they have a great relationship and not just who know. I’ve been a victim of this in my past younger years – I’ll never forget the time when I called a referral assuming that they’d be thrilled to know that I knew Mr. S0-and-s0 and that we should connect etc. etc.. The referral had nothing to say but a chain of expletives about Mr. S0-and-s0 and told me to do the same. It turns out that Mr. S0-and-s0 had a terrible reputation in the industry and offended many people in the past. Needless to say, the referral didn’t work out and I laid low about knowing Mr. S0-and-s0.

Step 7: Get in Contact with the Referral, Listen First and Be Casual

Referrals are not cold calls. These are not strangers and so you shouldn’t treat them a one. Talk to them as you would to an acquaintance. You’re already part of the inner circle, so act like you’ve made it and that you’re an expert in your field. Confidence – with the goods to back it up – can go a long way.

Step 8: Say Thank You – NOT in an Email

Say thank you – NOT with a lame email, but actually write out a thank you note and mail it to your client and include a small gift card. We all like to get mail that isn’t junk or a bill. Compare the feeling to getting a small gift and handwritten note to getting yet another email in your inbox.

Thank you and updates are also important because no one likes to waste time on fruitless ventures (hence the sunk cost fallacy that compels us to throw good money after bad just because we don’t want to admit we wasted time). Rather, we all like to know if our efforts were valuable or a waste of our time.

These small steps will not only improve your service delivery and rapport with your client, but will also increase your level of success and help prevent the pipeline from going dry.

For some other great tips, visit this Hubspot blog.


Networking is SO 1990s

It’s time to give up the dreaded networking events, sweaty palms and overly rehearsed (read: obviously contrived) conversation starters you learned in Forbes Magazine back in the 90s.

The new currency for building a network is genuine interest in others, compassion and providing value before asking for what you want. Use these principles and a few innovative ways to build valuable business relationships and you’ll never have to read a blog about networking, again.

Why Should I Stop “Networking” and Start Being Interesting?

Making yourself visible in the dark sea of distracting tweets, emails, campaigns, texts, Snapchat, LinkedIn message and Youtube is….nearly impossible and, frankly, a waste of time. Has your cookie-cutter email to companies and people you don’t know really having an impact? And what about those binge-drinking events you attend masquerading as “networking socials.” Doubt it. News flash: drunk people are not the best people with whom to strike a deal or to network. They won’t even remember your name in 20 minutes, let alone care about why you’re sending them your follow up email.

The solution: stop networking and start enjoying yourself and building a reputation for being interesting. Interesting people command attention, develop their own knowledge base and provide value. Here are some ways to do exactly that (Alexandra Levit‘s summary of Reid Hoffman and Ben Casnocha’s,  The Star-Up of You):

Start Your Own Association

Convene influential friends and colleagues with similar interests to share ideas and resources.  Offer thought-leadership and high-level conversation so that it’s more than just a networking group.  Meet on a regular basis, in a convenient location.  This is a great way to keep relationships strong and receive great insights in the process.

Look for Individuals, not Opportunities

Opportunities are attached to people.  Identify the people in your network who always seem to have their hands in interesting pots.  Try to understand what makes them hubs of opportunity and resolve to meet and develop bonds with more people with these characteristics.

Create an “Intriguing People” Fund

Automatically funnel a certain percentage of your paycheck into a bucket that pays for coffees, lunches, and the occasional plane ticket to meet new people and shore up existing relationships.  Pick a person who is a weaker tie but with whom you would like to have a stronger alliance, and for several months, invest time and energy into building the relationship via shared knowledge and offers to help.

Connect the Dots in Your Network

Pair individuals together who have similar interests, and make introductions via e-mail.  You may not benefit immediately, and that’s okay.  Then, think about a challenge you are dealing with and ask an existing connection for an introduction to someone who could help.  Jump-start the process by offering a small gift – such as a relevant article – to the person you want to meet.

Do the Layoff Test

If you got laid off from your job today, who are the ten people you’d e-mail for advice on what to do next?  Reach out to them now, when you don’t need anything specifically.  Have lunch, coffee, or even a phone call.  You never know what gold nuggets might come out of an informal conversation without an urgent agenda.

With these small, but significant, efforts you will build your network while also building your skills, profile and unique value proposition. No shoulder pads, feigning interest or whiskey shots required.

*Picture from Purdue CCO Career Blog

So, you screwed up and your client is a jerk

What is the main ingredient in Zappos, Barbara Corcoran and Victoria Secret’s explosive success? A focus on delivering unprecedented customer service … even when they screw up, even when the client’s a jerk and even when the client has unrealistic expectations.

Given the ability for anonymous bad reviews to spread like wildfire on social media etc., you need to know how to effectively address your client’s interests, needs and complaints. So, what to do when you have a bully client? Unlike dealing with bully negotiators and bully bosses, you have to follow a much more accommodating approach.

Step 1: Determine the Client’s Motivations

These tips will determine how to approach your client and informs how you’ll negotiate and your likely outcome. For example, if your client feels like he should get something for his dedication to you or your company, you may have to give him a concession. If the client, on the other hand, is looking for a win and has showed no loyalty you can give in on inconsequential parts of your contract to make him feel like a superstar.

The top motivators(provided by Tom Searcy on Inc.) behind your angry or difficult client is:

  • Compliance – The buyer is going through the motions, including shadow-boxing on pricing in order to make the right appearances without any real desire to change things.

  • Consideration–The buyer needs a win, but is willing to give you something for your flexibility. This is a negotiation where both sides are willing to provide concessions in the discussion.

  • Accommodation–The buyer feels the need for a discount or a win in the discussion with no willingness to provide a concession.

  • Domination–The buyer wants to penalize or injure a supplier for either the purpose of making a point, establishing a position, or “righting a wrong” based upon some sense of having been taken advantage of in the past.

  • Termination–Buyers sometimes use unreasonable demands as a way to drive a vendor out of their company.

Step 2: Calmly Confront and Manage the Client’s Complaint

Before you interact with the bully/angry client, prepare yourself emotionally. They will yell, scream and say nasty things. Get into a state of “Zen” because the LAST thing you are permitted to do is show that you’re ruffled by their rage or uncertain that you did nothing but your best to deliver. Show either of these emotions and you’re open to attack. This is the time to let them vent and for you to take notes. And vent they will.

Step 3: Focus on the Customer

Next, shift your focus on what your customer wants (provided by Evan Horowitz, Advising):

Before you get into the bad news, show your customer that you know what they want and are working to get it for them.  This powerfully frames the conversation with you on THEIR side, understanding their needs and going to bat for them.  Otherwise, it will quickly become adversarial, with you as an obstacle to what they want.  If you’ve gone above and beyond in any way, this is a good time to mention that.

For example, if you’re a realtor and the property isn’t selling, start with: “Selling your property for a price acceptable to you is my priority.”

Step 4: Take Responsibility

Take full responsibility for the issue your client believes exists. Make this part of the conversation short, avoid going on and on about the issue as this will destroy your credibility and then move on to the solution. As Evan Horowitz puts it:

It’s our natural impulse to show the customer that it’s not our fault!  Don’t do it.

Blaming suppliers/partners/employees not only shows an inability to manage your business, but an unwillingness to take responsibility for satisfying your customer. People don’t buy from companies that don’t take responsibility for satisfying them.

Also resist the temptation to get into the story of how the issue happened, and how complicated it is.  This invites your customer to second-guess you at every step along the way.

Step 5: Identify the Solution and Clarify Expectations

Let the client know exactly what you’re going to do to solve the problem and what type of outcome they can expect. Vague responses will only insight nervousness in the client and doubt about what you’ll do to solve the complaint. Provide dates and estimates that you are CERTAIN you can meet and under-promise so you can shine when giving them great news later.

It’s imperative to outline how hard you’re going to work to improve the situation. Here are a few pointers provided d by Evan Horowitz:

  • Tell them how you and your team are busting your butts to fix the problem quickly.

  • OPTIONALLY, you can offer an apology gift (such as a discount for next time, free overnight shipping on the replacement, etc.).

  • If the client is the type who needs to “win”, then give him a few small concessions that don’t affect your position, but boost his ego.

  • Explain what you’re doing to make sure it doesn’t happen again.  (But, avoid the gory details as this will damage your credibility.)

  • Offer penalties you’re willing to take if you don’t meet the solution.

Step 6: Tell them why you’re committed to your client

It may feel dramatic, but a genuine statement clearly telling them they’re important to you goes a long way.  Do not use the tired cliches like “Your business is important to us.”  Rather, “tell them WHY you value them and how you look forward to a long relationship together“.

Step 7: Going forward, over-deliver

The client may still not trust you and doubts your ability to get the job done. To avoid any future confusion and to assuage these concerns, be sure to do the following:

  • Provide weekly reports that details what you’ve completed to move the client closer to the desired outcome.

  • Immediately inform the client of any issues. You’ll save a lot of time and demonstrate transparency and honesty.

  • Carefully listen to feedback and re-state their concerns to show understanding and be willing to collaborate with the client on finding a better solution.

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

I learned – the hard way – that one should always begin the client relationship by outlining expectations and detailing what you’re going to do whenever an expectation isn’t met. For example, if your client expects his house to sell for $500,000, ask him “in the event that we don’t get offers at that price, when and what is the best way to tell you?”

If the client is stumped, tell them:

“My clients have told me not to deliver bad news on a Friday, to call them immediately, to provide market information and notes on responses from the purchaser’s agents, outline options and the implications of these solutions.”

Once the process and expectations are established, reaffirm how you’re going to handle any setback by saying:

“This is much too important for me to not get exactly right, because in the event we need to have such a conversation, I want to do it exactly as you have suggested.”

Repeat back exactly what they told you and ask them if you got it right and wait for them to respond with, “Yes, you got it.” If they alter the smallest detail in what you just said, start from the beginning and repeat those modifications back to them.

Finally, when that prickly problem rears its ugly head, remind them of this conversation and say:

“I’m not sure if you remember a conversation we had about how to best communicate with you about bumps in the road and if memory serves, you gave me these guidelines (then repeat what they told you above) and we’ve hit one of those bumps (and then follow exactly what they explained as the best way to communicate with them in such a situation).

Stuck for phrases that acknowledge their emotions? Here are a few from Customer Experience Insight:

I’m sorry for this trouble.

Please tell me more about …

I can understand why you’d be upset.

This is important — to both you and me.

Let me see if I have this right.

Let’s work together to find a solution.

Here’s what I’m going to do for you.

What can we do to resolve this now?

I want to take care of this for you immediately.

Do you think this solution would work for you?

What I’ll do right now is … Then I can …

As an immediate solution, I’d like to suggest …

You’ve come to the right place to get this resolved.

What would you consider a fair and reasonable solution?

OK, let’s get you in better shape.

I’m more than happy to help you with this.

If I can’t take care of this, I know who can.

I hear what you’re saying, and I know how to help.

You have a right to be upset.

Sometimes we fail, and this time I’m here and ready to help.

If I were in your shoes, I’d feel the same way.

You’re right, and we need to do something about this immediately.

Thank you … (for bringing this to my attention, being straight with me, for your patience with us, your loyalty to us even when things go wrong or your continued business).

It surprising how these words can sooth rage and force collaboration between you and the angry or bully client.  Use them in your next conflict and please let me know about the outcome.


You’re Sued! The Most Common Mistakes You Make

Before you hit “DELETE” because you’re not in sales or a real estate agent, think again. The mistakes made below are universal and applicable to almost every profession. I find numerous parallels between the top reasons agents get sued and the top reasons doctors, lawyers, dentists, physiotherapists, insurance agents/brokers and chiropractors get sued. Ignore this at your own peril.

The Reasons Why Agents Get Sued

Q: What’s the biggest fear most professionals have?

A: Getting sued by a client.

We all fear lawsuits because a lawsuit implies:

  • Poor customer service;
  • Lack of knowledge; and
  • Overall failure to do what’s right and ethical.

Q: What’s a growing trend?

A: Clients suing.

Agents are faced with managing numerous details, multiple parties and valuable assets. These hurdles become gruelling mountains to climb when you throw in: rushed time lines, emotions and fear of losing the deal. It’s no wonder mistakes happen and clients sue. Having said that, lawsuits are not inevitable if you know the most likely reasons you’ll get sued and how to protect yourself from making fatal mistakes.

The Top Three Reasons You’ll Get Sued

1. Failure to Disclose Property Defects

Yes, we all want to get a deal done quickly, as well as make sure our clients are happy with the price and expediency. But, a great price and a quick close won’t necessarily bar you from facing angry clients. Especially if you forget to fully disclosure all latent defects.

The numbers don’t lie: you’ll be the first to get served with legal papers after a deal closes if your client or the other party discovers defects. Defects range from improvements without permits to noises, stigmatized properties or nuisances.

“But, I didn’t know, so I’m not responsible!”, you’ll claim. Sorry, that’s not a defence. The threshold to prove that you were negligent isn’t that you did know, but that you should have known. After all, aren’t you supposed to be a real estate professional!

2. Breach of Duty and Negligence

If you’re an agent who “dabbles” in different asset classes or locations, be warned. You might be breaching your duty to your client and exposing yourself to claims of negligence.

Here’s why: your client places a high level of trust in you. They believe that you have the expertise you claim and “suggest” by taking on the deal. And if you don’t and if you make a negligent mistake – even if your intentions were good – then be prepared for a fight in the courtroom. The problem with negligence claims is that it’s difficult to determine if you’ve acted reasonably. This means that, even if you weren’t negligent, you’ll still face a lawsuit and be left with a soiled reputation.

3. Giving quasi-legal advice

Every deal requires legal advice, especially since we’re moving away from non-binding offers to binding leases masquerading as offers. Not to mention, our increasingly litigious society calling for an extra “layer” of protection by way of a legal review.

Despite the real risk facing agents – and the fact that agents are signing up their clients to binding agreements without proper advice – agents don’t want to get lawyers involved. They fear that lawyers will kill the deal and slow the process. So, the agents offer some general advice and don’t encourage their clients to get a quick legal review. After all, you’ve been doing this for years and you know more than lawyers.

Such an approach is not only problematic for the agent’s reputation, but also his commission. I’ve witnessed many deals dying because buyers, sellers, landlords and prospective tenants use the “we didn’t get legal advice” excuse to get out of deals. And some unscrupulous clients then point the finger at the agent, claiming that they never advised them to get the advice they need.

What Can You Do to Protect Yourself?

The most common cause of lawsuits is assuming you know everything and subtly putting your interests ahead of others.

There are three simple panaceas to this litigation cause:

  • You can’t learn what you already know: Remain humble. Neither you nor I know it all. The most dangerous people are those who think what they learned in the past holds true today. It simply doesn’t: laws change, clients change, communication standards change and the product changes.
  • Don’t stop learning: agents must constantly educate themselves if they want to call themselves experts. Their knowledge should not only be about local rates and sale prices, but also the potential issues that may arise, such as structural and potential legal threats. Various bodies such as your real estate board, the Real Estate Institute of Canada and Institute of Real Estate Management, Urban Land Institute (ULI) and
    Society of Industrial and Office Realtors (SIOR)
    , offer excellent programs and designations to stay on top of all of the changes in your industry.
  • Get a professional involved early: always recommend that professionals get involved early, before anything is “firm” and make this recommendation in writing. Getting the professionals involved early will ensure that you avoid wasting your time negotiating certain points that simple won’t work from a legal, financial or logistical perspective. My experience shows that advice on sticky issues early in the process always helps to close the deal faster because everyone is working in tandem and major headaches are anticipated and prevented.

These solutions are so simple, yet rarely followed. If you believe you’re too busy to take a moment and protect everyone’s interests – including yours – then believe me: you’ll likely face a disgruntled client and a damaging lawsuit. When feeling rushed, remember this: it’s always better to have no deal, then a lawsuit and no deal.

Kill the Lead to Increase Sales

Why do some people seem to get all the best deals? The conventional answers:

  • They call more people (it’s a numbers game!);
  • They’re taller (yes, we generally do like and pay taller people more than shorter people);
  • They’re charmers and really handsome (also a factor in sales success…but certainly not critical);
  • They come from money (rarely – the hungrier the better);
  • They don’t sleep and work all the time (if that’s the case then I just feel sorry for them because they’re likely wasting life doing useless things. Read this blog to reassure you that being a slave to the office doesn’t mean you’ll get ahead.); and
  • They were born into a connected family (connecting is very important, but they’re easily burned if you’re a jerk).

You all know how much I don’t care for conventional thinking, especially when there’s nothing to back it up. And the above list is just that: easy explanations based on faulty logic and predictable platitudes.

The secret sauce to creaming the competitors

Just like the bottom 20 percent of sales people, the top 20 percent understand that we don’t have more than 24 hours in a day. They also understand something that is so trite, but often overlooked: you cannot close uninterested and unqualified prospects who do not need or want your service, product etc. This is true even if you’re charming, good looking, well connected etc etc. So, what do the top 20 do differently? They spend more time dis-qualifying leads than frantically calling anyone and everyone hoping that someone says okay to a meeting (www.MrInsideSales.com).

The Misused Pipeline versus the Inverted Funnel

Top performers are protective about who goes into their pipeline. Not everyone makes the cut. This discriminating approach makes a top performer’s pipeline look more like an inverted funnel with fewer qualified and vetted leads going in one end and a higher number of those leads closing on the other. Compare this with the pipeline of the bottom 80 (i.e. the typical way we think of sales and leads): a cylinder that crams everyone and anyone in, but only leads to pipe dreams.

Warning: It’s Tough to Disqualify!

Being critical of who to work with and the willingness to nix a lead is tough because you have to ask a lot of questions. To avoid coming off as abrasive and nosey, you must have genuine interest in helping the person on the phone. And to help them, you have to understand what they need, the resources they have to solve the need, how long it’ll take to make a decision and if they’re facing any sort of time pressure.

The following six questions are helpful in starting your investigation process, but are not exhaustive. Use these questions to start the conversation, but never read this verbatim or you’ll sound like you’re part of an illicit boiler room:

  1. Who is being affected by X PROBLEM? If you don’t solve this problem, what will happen?
  2. Who’s involved in making the final decision? What’s the company’s process to making the decision?
  3. Has the lead sought out any solutions to the X PROBLEM? Have they contacted other companies as part of the solution process? What other solutions would they be considering considering?
  4. What’s the budget – both with respect to “hard dollars” and human resources?
  5. Who will benefit from solving the X PROBLEM (e.g. job promotion??)?
  6. What are some reasons they wouldn’t buy?

If you’re anxious to ask these questions, start be being honest. Tell the prospect that you’re going to ask a few questions to determine  whether or not you’re the right solution for them or if there’s someone or something that could better serve their needs. Your invasiveness is simply the best way to avoid wasting their time and determining if you can help them.

I’ve asked the questions, now what?

The way the prospect responds is critical as to whether or not they fall on your “disqualified list”. Look for these clues which signal that you’re likely wasting your and the lead’s time:

  • If they are vague, they’re not interested and the problem isn’t a priority.
  • If you can’t get hold of the decision maker or they’re taking forever to respond, disqualify them. The prospect isn’t serious and may just be shopping.
  • If the prospect subsequently follows up with several dinner, lunch and cocktail requests to “discuss” your offering, disqualify them. They’re leading you on and taking you for an expensive ride. Ladies, you’re especially vulnerable to this as some men are interested in offerings wholly unrelated to the product or service you’re selling. If you feel bad turning down the prospect, don’t. Because the prospect is not interested in “hiring” – he’s only interested what he can get for free.
  • If the prospect’s decision criteria automatically bars you, first determine if the criteria is a preference or a requirement. Then present the benefits to making an exception. Finally, if they still say “NO” get over it and move on. For example, if a company’s mandate is that all products purchased by the company must be Canadian made and all of your products are made in China, you might want to move on. Of course, give up only if you’ve first asked about the flexibility of the requirement and explained the benefits of buying from China (e.g. cheaper, faster etc).

The takeaway is simple: work to disqualify people, not qualify. If you’re not careful you’ll be too distracted by false leads to help those who actually need and want your services.

To put it another way: would you intentionally waste precious time and resources on an outcome that will make you lose more time and resources? Probably not. So learn the art of disqualification. 

And, when in doubt, your business philosophy should be similar to your (okay, my) dating philosophy: it’s better to be patient and find the appropriate partner, rather than squander your best years and dollars on loads of garbage.