The Secret Ingredient is Empathy - Lessons from the Grocery Store
We decided to get out of the house last night for awhile. Unfortunately, we waited until it was a bit late to do much that would be fun for the kids, so we ended up doing a lot of much-needed grocery shopping instead. We tried to make it a little bit fun by allowing the kids to pick a book or toy, and they actually really liked that. My wife and I also rented a funny movie ("Blades of Glory") in an effort to lift our spirits a bit, since we have been faced with lots of decisions with regard to my mother-in-law's health care lately. This is one of the downfalls to being an only child (as my wife and I both are). You are faced with handling a larger share of responsiblity when your parent(s) get sick.
However, this post is supposed to be INSPIRING, so let's get back on track.
While we were at the grocery store, we managed to almost completely fill two carts. As we wheeled to the cashier, I was pleasantly surprised that a young man who was sacking groceries (he was probably about 19 or 20) came running to help us unload the carts onto the little conveyor belt. This has never happened to me, but I sensed that it wasn't part of the usual training. He simply wanted to help.
I was unloading one of the carts, and he was handling the other one. We did this in silence for a few seconds, then he said, "How are you guys doing tonight?" and there was actual concern in his voice. Did we look that downtrodden? I don't think so. I think he was just genuinely interested in us as people. I told the truth with a VERY abbreviated version of recent events. He said, "Man, that sounds really hard. I see people come in here all the time, and they look tired or sad. It seems to me that they just need someone to care a little about them." How intriguing is that? I was prepared to basically ignore him until he opened his mouth.
So, I asked him about his day, and he said that he was pretty tired as well, with work, college, and money concerns. I asked him where he was going to school, and what he was studying. He told me that he was studying psychology. "That's why I ask questions.", he said. We talked for another minute or so, then I told my wife that I would be right back.
I went looking for the manager, whom I quickly located. I told her that I wanted to take a minute to tell her about one of her employees, whom I then pointed out to her. I told her that he was very friendly and engaging, and that he made me feel welcome, and I thought he was a great kid. She was a little taken aback (I guess people don't take time to say nice things about employees very often). She got a big grin, then she thanked me. I went back to pay, and as we were leaving, I told him that I put in a good word for him with the manager. His face lit up and he extended his hand. "Thank you so much!"
This was a brief encounter, but it left a lasting impression on me. My wife actually suggested that I write a blog with the following lesson from that experience, and I hope you find it helpful.
When your clients come to you, they are sometimes run ragged by the events of the day or by various events in their lives. Do you make time to connect with them? Do you show empathy for their concerns? If so, they will likely be impressed with you and with your care for them. If they sense that you really care about them, this will pay immediate AND long-term dividends. I know some agents who are "all business", meaning that they want to spend their client time discussing properties and financing options so that they keep things moving toward the end goal, which is the sale.
While there is nothing inherently wrong with this mentality, I have always found that it is easier to get things done and to clear any hurdles if you have made a personal connection with your buyers or sellers throughout the process.
This young man at the grocery store exemplified the right kind of attitude for real estate. In fact, I may even go back and give him my business card just in case. I have yet to meet a single client who doesn't appreciate the fact that I care about them. Do I want to make money on their sale? Absolutely. I have five mouths to feed. Would I sacrifice my integrity or my sensitivity to get this money? Well, I haven't yet. If you want to develop the kind of business that will cause people to beat a path to your doorstep, develop EMPATHY. Merriam-Webster defines "empathy" as follows:
The action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another of either the past or present without having the feelings, thoughts, and experience fully communicated in an objectively explicit manner; also : the capacity for this
We are not called to be mind-readers, but having empathy is close. Can this be taught? That is an excellent question, and I think the answer is yes. My son has already shown excellent empathic abilities, and he is only eight years old.
Empathy is the hallmark of a successful professional agent, and it will do wonders for your business if you can effectively empathize with your clients. Just remember the impact of my brief encounter, and strive to have your emotional radar working properly. I promise that it works!