While the world is relying more on virtual communication than ever before, that doesn’t mean the art of personal communication is lost.
Kristin Garnett, a real estate agent from the Portland, Oregon area, strives to relate to her past, present and future clients in a way that makes them feel comfortable and trust her as a person.
While we all inherently know the basics of personal communication, practicing takes more than just knowing. We can all stand to learn a few things from Kristin’s steadfast communication with others, including how to stay in touch with people in our sphere and how to make sure everyone involved in a transaction — especially one with a great deal of tension — feels comfortable.
A desire to help people
Growing up in Portland, Kristin felt drawn to people who needed her, even other kids her age.
She would bring home other children who felt they had nowhere to go or who were uncomfortable in their own homes. Later, a naturally nurturing instinct helped Kristin care for her mother-in-law and her father during illnesses. She envisioned she would become a nurse, or any profession that mirrored her love for helping others.
As Kristin grew up, however, she became inspired watching her siblings (two sisters and a brother) work in the real estate industry. She soon found a mentor and started off at Summa Realty, processing loan checks and working steadily toward her real estate license.
“It took me a long time to figure out what I wanted to be when I grew up,” she jokes. “But I love what I do because I’ve always loved helping people, and with real estate, I get the satisfaction of making a difference.”
Developing a sphere
Kristin takes meticulous care of her sphere and ensures she has plenty of face-to-face time with her community. She’s physically active, teaching regular Zumba classes as well as water aerobics. And she never underestimates the importance of simple and entertaining outings with the kids.
“I maintain a pretty big sphere of people, between my high school reunion, group fitness stuff, my kids’ school and just staying in front of people,” she says.
The key when you’re out in front of these sphere members, according to Kristin, is not to make everything about business. Talk about the fun stuff, too!
“Don’t make everything about real estate,” she warns. “I have my mom brag moments about my kids, with my son graduating college and the other one who’ll graduate in May. I let people see there’s a human side of me. I’m not all about business, and I’m not this pushy salesperson. Anyone who knows me knows that.”
Still, though, Kristin says, don’t hesitate to seize the golden opportunity to talk business when it comes up.
“Somehow, real estate always magically seems to come up,” she points out. “Someone asks me, how is business going? Or, how’s the market? Or, how many houses did you sell last year? And it just starts off the topic of conversation.”
Using social media responsibly
Kristin does regularly check her social media accounts, uses them for research, and posts things for her sphere. Because she makes friends with an average of 85 percent of her clients, many of them end up on her social media friend lists, and she, like many of us, will add a brief update if it’s important enough to share. However, it’s most definitely not the “meat and potatoes” of her communication process.
“I don’t post a ton. I do read through a lot of stuff. Usually the first thing I do when I wake up in the morning is check in and see what’s happening, but I don’t spend a ton of time on it,” she says. “I post some real estate stuff, but I also post my mom brag moments all over the place. When my son graduated, I posted it on my personal and business page. That was a pretty big milestone for our family. And for clients to see that, it builds trust and rapport, which is important, especially for referrals.”
The truth is, you just never know what is going to pique people’s interest, on social media or otherwise. Kristin once had a client reach out after seeing her personal stats.
“I had a client who sought me out. She started looking in the local Bethany market, looking online for agents. She got ahold of the Summa Realty page, scrolled through the agents and saw that I was a mom of boys.”
Lending a hand
Mentoring is yet another way Kristin stays in touch with others and grows her sphere. In her opinion, it’s a great way to learn even more about her real estate profession and help “newbies” find their footing. Far from the competitive sort of agent, Kristin is apt to share resources with the rest of her office or anyone who might be struggling.
“They say you learn a lot by doing, but you learn even more by mentoring someone else,” she says. “I think it’s a two-way street. When you help someone else learn, you cement the things you learned. I also created a bunch of templates and different things for myself that have been successful and passed them around our office. If something is working, they don’t have to reinvent the wheel — just customize it to fit their needs because no two people are the same.”
Seeing two sides to a story
While, yes, the main advantage of having a bustling sphere of influence and good communication skills is more clients and more sales, there is another — and that’s the ability to deal with sensitive transactions. For Kristin, when her clients are having a tough time —perhaps going through a divorce — she is careful to make them both feel like she’s on their side and that she truly cares about not only the financial outcome of their sale but also the ease of process.
“You have to be the mediator at times if it is not an amicable situation,” she says. “You have to keep the communication lines open between them. And with any correspondence, you have to copy both parties. You’ve got to stay neutral at all times. You can’t favor one side or the other because it becomes evident and can create situations that will go against you.”
Though she may seem like an extrovert, Kristin Garnett still gets shy in public. She takes time to warm up to people. To overcome her hesitations, she practices making conversation.
“I definitely don’t go into a room like a social butterfly; It feels truly awkward to me,” she confesses. “I’m just quiet, and I take it all in at first, watch and observe. If somebody starts talking to me, I interact and let things happen. And I try to stay genuine to myself. I think that’s truly the key.”