I spent over a decade in the service industry. My very first job was at an Applebee’s being a hostess. This went on to me switching to other restaurants, dabbling in retail, and finding my way back to waiting tables. After Hurricane Katrina, the restaurant I worked at was in no shape to reopen for business any time soon. That’s when I appeared behind the bar at Halfmoon, in the Lower Garden District of New Orleans.
I spent 11 years behind that bar. I saw people get married, I was the first to know when someone was pregnant, and I met, married, and divorced one of my patrons. (I am now re-married to someone else I met while serving drinks!)
The service industry provided me with a ton of knowledge, patience, and intuition when it came to working in the real estate industry.
I “retired” from bartending on December 6, 2015, to focus solely on helping people buy and sell real estate in New Orleans and the metro area. However, my sister Catherine is still waiting tables and running a counter at a local pizza joint. Every time I visit with my sister at Mid-City pizza, I am reminded how much the real estate and service industry are the same. This is what watching my sister taught me about real estate.
#1. First Impressions are Everything
When you walk into a restaurant – how are you greeted? Whether it be with a delicious aroma wafting through the air or a friendly smile from the hostess, we all want to feel welcomed. Even if it’s a flustered waitress saying “Hi there! Welcome to Chicken Nuggets R Us! I will be with you in a minute”, it’s better than standing there and being ignored.
Take a moment and think about how you greet people coming into a meeting with you for the first time or even an open house. Was someone (meaning you!) waiting to say hello or offer them a beverage? People want to be acknowledged and seen. Make sure you are providing at least that when you meet a new client for the first time.
#2. Everyone wants to feel heard
I can picture my sister standing there – smile on her face and pen in hand taking someone’s order. (We could have been twins…) As they begin their order, she asks follow up questions. Catherine always makes sure that she is getting their order down exactly as they would like it. She also repeats it back to ensure the order is always right.
When you have those client meetings to talk about their wants and needs in a new home – listen. Like do me a favor and shut your phone off and really listen. Ask for more details, ask follow up questions. And, for god’s sake, write it down. Whether it be on a tablet or a sheet of paper – WRITE IT DOWN. Send a follow-up email afterward to reiterate what you’ve spoken about. This is the same as repeating the order back!
#3. Don’t leave people waiting
Sometimes your bar or restaurant gets overwhelmingly busy. Catherine never seems to get flustered. What she does is let people know their approximate wait times and offers beverages. She can keep people cool even when they are getting hangry.
How does this tie into real estate? When it comes to scheduling appointments, make sure you’re on time. Get to the first house before your client and turn on the lights. Read the disclosures and be prepared for questions. Know the comps and what things are selling for in the neighborhood. I know this is Real Estate 101, but far too often it is forgotten. When you aren’t prepared, you’re essentially leaving people waiting for the pizza they so desperately want.
#4. Know your people
Many times while sitting at the restaurant my sister works at, people will be greeted by their first name as soon as they open the door. (I was particularly good at this back in my bartending days…) Customers love feeling special! One of the best ways of doing that is knowing what they like and showing that.
You know your client is looking for a mid-century modern but thinks they only want to be in one neighborhood. What if one pops up elsewhere? Would they be totally against going to see it and exploring a new area? The only way to find that out is to be on the pulse of the market. Look at new listings and know what is happening beyond your comfort zone. You just may find that dream home for them!
#5. Being “On” all the time
Most restaurants are not open 24 hours a day. And even those that are – they won’t be the right one for everyone.
I strongly disagree with the idea that we must be “ON” all the time. Real estate agents already have high percentages of being alcoholics, abusing prescription drugs, and suicide. We don’t need to add to our daily stresses by thinking we must always be ready for action. You can go to the store, in your sweatpants, and pick up ice cream. You can do all of that without handing out a business card or referencing anything real estate related. Crazy, right?!
While I understand that at your friend’s bridal shower, you may start chatting with the person next to you about work. If it happens naturally that you are talking about real estate, and they ask for your info, then give them a card. Otherwise, you need to watch the gift opening and cheers the bride. Not everything revolves around us or real estate.
#6. You can’t please them all
I’ve seen my sister have to explain to people that they can’t always have special orders and you can’t always get what you want. Like, a particular pizza size that they don’t offer or a beer they don’t carry.
Sometimes in the real estate world, we also won’t have that size house or that particular thing they are looking for. Usually, this is when people are moving from another city and they aren’t accustomed to their new way of life. What you can do is help people know what the norm is in your city. With a little guidance, noobs to your city can begin to understand what to expect from houses or apartments.
There will be moments where you are just the bearer of bad news. Do you know what happens when you’re the bad guy? That client may move on to someone else. And, guess what? IT’S TOTALLY OK. You can’t please everyone and you won’t win them all. I promise you, it will be ok!
Next time you’re at a restaurant, take a look around at how things are being run. Is it frantic and chaotic? If so, then it’s unlikely you want to operate your business like that either.
But what happens when you walk into a place that is operating like a well-oiled machine? It’s heaven. Impeccable service and feeling great when it’s over is how we should want all of our clients to feel.
Every agent says they want to help you have a “stress-free” transaction. What are you doing to actually accomplish that? Every agent says they know the area. But have you shown that?
Each day Catherine treats her guests like are buying diamonds when they are only ordering a slice of pizza. It’s something to take into consideration when dealing with buyers and sellers. If a pizza order can be so important to people, think about what it means when dealing with hundreds of thousands of dollars.
In the day and age, we are in, I like to guide my business by my favorite quote: “Seek to be worth knowing rather than to be well known.”
Ready to buy or sell a home in New Orleans or the metro area? Text me.