Are you in Control of your Business and Clients?
By Jennie Norris, ASPM®, IAHSP-Premier®, ASP-SRS®, ASP-REO®, IAHSP-CB, President & CEO, Stagedhomes.com, Chairwoman, IAHSP®
Someone once wisely taught me that we are in a people business and since we deal with people we cannot control what they do, think, or say. Thanks, Barb Schwarz, for that valuable life and business lesson I learned back in 2002. That principle has served me well over the years as I have grown a Home Staging business serving sellers, Realtors, builders and investors, and now am at the helm of a Staging Training company and home staging industry association. People are our business. Even though we cannot control other people we can control our process, practices, and how we educate our clients, ultimately remaining in professional control of our business.
Have you ever had a seller of a vacant house tell you they don’t like your Staging or the items you used to prepare their house for sale? I call this client “The Controller.” Have you ever had a seller of an occupied house tell you they are not going to do what you recommend? This client is “The Resistor.” Any Stager that has been in business has definitely encountered both of these types of sellers. They don’t like change. They also are not thinking about the selling process in the right framework. A house has to appeal to the BUYER – not the seller.
I met a couple selling their vacant house and as I toured the house to take photos, the wife wanted to know what type of furniture I was going to use, the colors, placement, and style (The Controller). It is one thing to be curious but another when they insist on knowing the detailed plans. When I shared that I don’t work that way, I don’t solidify the plan until I am hired and make selections based on what I know works for their house based on their budget and Staging for the target buyer, I am not sure she “got it.” A seller that fancies themselves to be a “designer or decorator” and who wants control of the “look” is going to find themselves either paying much more than necessary for “staging” or be disappointed at the “look” because the Staging is not to their decorating taste. We are not providing a custom design project that would be 10x the Staging price. I have learned to set the expectation UP FRONT and share with the seller, “You may not like some of the things I bring in and that’s OK. The items are not being put in the house for you because you are not buying your house back. The Staging is for the buyer – and I have the same goal as you do – to get your house SOLD in the quickest time and for the most money.”
I had an older couple decide they were not willing to do much of the Staging Consultation recommendations. It surprised me when I hear this because when I left their house they were on board and had already started making piles of things that were going to be packed. For them it is about change being hard and the physical aspect of having to pack and remove things. This type of seller (The Resistor) can be brought around by letting them know they have help whether you as the Stager do the hands-on or their family members and friends are engaged to help. Physical limitations are much easier to overcome than mental or emotional ones. Checking the motivation of a seller that initially seems on board and then backs off on doing anything to the house is key. When a Seller is not truly motivated to sell – and thinks, “We will sell IF we get our price, but if not, then we don’t HAVE to move.”
When we encounter these Sellers it might be hard to identify them up front and they don’t reveal themselves until after the Staging is completed. So the goal then becomes bring up the concern BEFORE they do – by educating them how you work and reminding them of the goal of the Staging. It all boils down to education. When we fail to do this, and engage with these clients, we end up frustrated and spend time fixing what is broken when all we had to do was handle concerns and educate them up front – and decide if we want to engage them as our client. We do have choices.
The fact is, for both The Controller and The Resistor, they do not have to like what is done in their house. Since they are not the buyer, the Staging is not being done for THEM – it is being done for the unknown buyer who we have not met. We do not know anything about the buyer except they have money to invest in a property and are looking in that neighborhood. We know nothing about their background, age, race, faith, family status, work status, or education. A seller has to understand that even though they might be paying for the Staging it does not mean they have input on what is done and it does mean they have to trust us as the 3rd Party expert. It’s all about trust and establishing our professional leadership at the onset of the relationship. It is about having a solid Staging Agreement that clearly communicates your professional policies and terms – up front. When all parties are in agreement up front, it makes the process much smoother as we journey down the road to a successful sale together.
Engaging with people is always a learning experience. When things don’t go as planned the key is not to beat ourselves up over what went “wrong.” Instead, praise yourself for what went well, identify what did not go so well, and then make a change in a business practice, policy or dialogue with future clients so that we get the results we want and have a smooth process.