I lost a new client the other day, but I didn’t know it at the time. I had gotten a voicemail from a blocked call. Generally I don’t answer blocked calls for obvious reasons of the brazen telemarketer or opinion pollster, so I let it go to voicemail.
In short order I listened to the voicemail, and it sounded something like this:
“Oh hi, I’m looking for Jean-Paul, this is [name here], uh, I’m in town from [city here] today and tomorrow, and uh I wondered if you might have a little time, at the very least you have to call me back. I’m at [phone number here]. Thanks so much, bye bye.”
So, the message was pretty non-specific. Still could be a pollster or telemarketer. I wear a couple of different hats too, so it was a real toss-up as to what this caller might need of me. What I haven’t mentioned yet is I was dadding it at the time, and sitting in a parked car of the Clearview Sears parking lot with two sleeping children under 3. It was early afternoon and naptime, and the other half my brood was in the mall doing mall things. As such, to maintain the quiet, I decided to text my response:
“Hi [name here] – This is Jean-Paul, how can I help you?”
Minutes passed. I figured it was a stray call. No big deal. What I didn’t expect was this response:
“Hmmm . . . I left you a vm and you are texting me back? I don’t think you are the agent for me. Good luck, to you.”
Wha? Huh? Had I offended this as-I-understand-it-now potential real estate client!? Indeed, I had. Unintentionally of course, but nonetheless I clearly had made a poor decision. Answer a voicemail with a text. Bad move, apparently. Sheesh. So I fire off my response:
“Yes I txted you because I have two sleeping toddlers in my care presently. Sorry if that’s offputting.”
I wanted to be clear. I wanted to explain. I didn’t expect to remedy the situation. And don’t worry, I didn’t. In fact in closing, I received this response, twice:
Okay, maybe the double down on the snarky close was a techno glitch, but it seemed more like bait. Whatever the case, I let the lead die and reflected on the sequence of events.
Contrary to popular belief, the first rule of real estate is not “Location, location, location.” Rather, it is “timing is everything.” When the ink is dry, the deal is done. If you wait too long to follow up on a lead, that lead has gone elsewhere. If you don’t serve your clients, someone else will. There are hundreds, maybe thousands, of agents in the metro area. The world remains a hungry place; if you don’t eat your lunch, your competition always and gladly will oblige.
So I responded fast enough; I just made a tactical miscalculation. If someone calls you, call them back. Likewise with texting. If someone texts you, text them. Reciprocal communication.
Did I intend to offend this party? Not at all. Based upon how they responded to me, could it be better I didn’t work with them? Likely. Especially at this time of year when everyone gets freshfaced and resolved to change and improve, this party could have been more forgiving of how I responded. ”You never know where the business is coming from” is less a rule and more an adage in the real estate world. I may never know how this lead came to me, but in the future I will make every effort to be reflexive on how a business dialogue may unfold.
Jean-Paul Villere is the owner of Villere Realty and the Du Mois gallery on Freret Street and father of four girls. In addition to his Wednesday column at UptownMessenger.com, he also writes an occasional real-estate blog at villererealty.com and shares his family’s adventures via pedicab on Facebook and Twitter.