How to Handle Tough Conversations with Clients

How to Handle Tough Conversations with Clients

As agents, you know there are going to be tough conversations with clients. The home buying and selling processes can be emotional, and for many clients, this is the biggest and most stressful financial decision they’ve ever made.

Unexpected issues can crop up along the way: Bad news comes up during an inspection. A deal falls through. Your buyer’s offer isn’t chosen.

You don’t want a client to forego working with you again or sending a referral because of tough conversations that could have been avoided or handled more smoothly. In fact, by handling those difficult conversations well, you might earn a strong Google review for your transparent, honest approach.

Getting through the challenges can require some difficult talks with clients, but here are some ways you can help them through it:

1. Prepare them for what’s coming, and set expectations early.

While you may have seen it all as an agent, much of this experience is brand-new or not routine to your clients.

Start the buying or selling process with a clear explanation of how the process will go, and tell them about common roadblocks so they are aware early.

Are you in a hot housing market, where homes have multiple offers? Set the groundwork that it’ll be a fast-paced bidding timeline with some competition. Working with a first-time seller? Make sure they understand the process, what documents they need to have in order, and ways in which a deal can fall through.

Though there might be surprises along the way, try to give them a sense of what they might be.

And if the time comes for a tough conversation?

Don’t send text messages about deals falling through, and don’t casually enter into tough conversations in a public place. Instead, pick the right setting for a call or meeting, and give your client a moment to mentally prepare.

You might consider asking, “Are you sitting down?” or, “Are you in a good place to talk?” You’ll find the phrase and tone that feel right to you. The important thing is to honor the state your client might be in.

2. Emphasize that you’re on their team.

The whole process can already feel so vulnerable to your clients. The last thing you want is for them to feel hopeless when they get bad news.

Use the word “we” instead of “you” as you discuss next steps, and reassure them that you’ll help them overcome the obstacle. If they feel confident that you have a game plan for moving forward, they’ll feel better about the next steps, too.

3. Be honest and direct.

As much as you might want to protect their feelings, you aren’t doing your clients any favors by beating around the bush or sharing only partial information.

By telling them all that you know up front, you’ll build trust and help them feel empowered to move forward, armed with all they need to know.

If the tough conversation involves a mistake you made, think ahead about your approach to conflict resolution. Try not to get defensive, even if the client gets upset. Own and apologize for your missteps, and ask questions like, “How can I help you feel comfortable moving forward?”

If the obstacle was out of your hands, explain the situation so they feel up-to-speed. You want them to feel like you’ve given them a full picture of what’s going on and how this will move forward, so they can come out of this trusting you even more.

If tensions are running high, continue asking questions such as, “Tell me more about what you’re hoping for.” If you’re meeting in person, write down their concerns to help break up the pattern of the conversation and to show that you’re taking them seriously.

4. Listen and validate their feelings.

Once you’ve delivered the news, make sure you give your clients time to respond to what you have told them.

Allow space for them to ask questions, and offer to follow up after they’ve had time to process.

5. Put yourself in the shoes of the client.

Your relationship with your client is ultimately a human relationship. As with so many things in life, the best thing you can do is practice empathy.

Step into their shoes and ask yourself: How would you want to hear bad news? What would make you feel ready to move forward?