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10 Strategies To Avoid Your Worst Possible Real Estate Clients

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Since the 1990s, I have written numerous columns about using the Law of Attraction to create more business. Today, let’s flip the attraction model upside down and focus on how to avoid attracting clients who will become your worst nightmare. 

The Law of Attraction says you attract who you are. If you want to attract dependable, truthful and fun clients, you must be dependable, truthful and fun.

If you’re facing a divorce or serious illness, chances are you’ll attract clients who are experiencing life events like you are facing. By the same token, if you are negative, dishonest or difficult to deal with, that’s who you will attract as clients. 

Sometimes, however, you are stuck with a nightmare client because you ignored the warning signs that this person isn’t a fit for you. The bottom line is to pay attention to your gut — it’s usually right. Refer the person to another agent and collect a referral fee. 

What do your worst clients have in common? 

The next step to avoid working with clients who are big trouble is to identify what types of clients are a poor fit for your business. Use the following 10 steps to decide. 

Create your personal top 10 worst client list

Begin by going through your CRM and identifying your worst clients ever. Unless you’re relatively new, you probably have at least 10. List each of their names on a spreadsheet or on a piece of paper. 

Ask yourself: What made these clients your worst clients? 

Once you have your list, write down as many details as possible about what made them “worst clients.” Were they difficult to work with? Were they always late to appointments? Did they miss transaction deadlines? Did they fail to make accurate disclosures? Were they just impossible jerks? 

Figure out what type of prospecting activities generated your worst-client leads

Did you meet them cold calling, door-knocking, at an open house or through a paid leads program? If you consistently find that you are attracting difficult clients from a specific type of lead generation, stop putting your time, money and energy into that lead source.

Instead, spend more time on the lead sources that generate clients who are easy to work with and who will ultimately close transactions. 

Think location and price range details

Is there a specific area or price range where your worst clients seem to live? Note the location and price range details, including the types of homes your worst clients sold or purchased. 

For example, the company I worked for in Los Angeles determined our lawsuits arose primarily from three different situations: new construction, hillside properties, and whether the buyer or seller was an attorney.

They also identified that the probability of being sued depended on how far the property was from Century City; the closer it was, the higher the probability was that we would be sued. 

Look at the demographic factors

Now go through your spreadsheet and note each of the following: 

  • Age of clients or generational cohort (Boomer, Gen X, millennial, Gen Z)
  • Career 
  • Gender
  • Marital status
  • Kids/no kids
  • Pets (number and type)
  • Top recreational activities and/or hobbies

Ask yourself: Is there a specific type of client that always seems to cause trouble? 

As compared to working with sellers, do you consistently find buyers are a waste of time? Do CPAs and engineers drive you nuts with all the details they want? Does something always seem to go wrong when you work with builders? Note any client types that are clearly not a good fit for you. 

Find out if the client ultimately listed or sold and how much effort it took

For each seller on your worst client list, note how long it took their property to sell and whether it closed. If it didn’t close, how much time and money did you waste on that listing? 

For buyers, note how many properties you showed them, whether they ever wrote an offer, and if so, how long it took the property to close. If one of your “worst clients” never purchased from you, how much time and money did you waste showing them properties? 

Evaluate your findings

Look through what you have written for each client. Distinct patterns generally emerge. Sometimes the patterns are tied to a specific neighborhood, school or lifestyle. Other times they will be with certain types of clients. Almost always, however, there is a clear pattern in terms of age, marital status and careers.

Create your worst-client profile 

In the corporate world, it’s common for companies to create personae that represent the target buyers for their products. Many companies often give these personae names, such as “Jane” or “Mike.”

You can use the same process to identify your two “worst-client” profiles. Two names for your worst clients that come to mind are “Misery” and “Trouble.”

Once you know the profile of your “Miseries” and “Troubles,” when you meet a client who matches these profiles, immediately refer them to a different agent or simply pass on doing business with them. 

‘Be definite with the infinite’

Another way to reduce the number of Miseries and Troubles in your business is to “have clarity about who you want to attract.” A simple way to do this is to go back through your “Misery” and “Trouble” profiles and write a sentence for each characteristic that positively states who you do want to attract instead.

For example, if you have worked with a client who was an alcoholic, avoid saying, “I don’t want to work with an alcoholic client.” Instead, reframe that statement to avoid using the word “don’t.” Instead say, “My ideal client lives a healthy lifestyle and is addiction-free.”

Always avoid using the words, “no,” “not,” and “don’t” when you describe who you want to attract. 

What to do when you’re stuck working with ‘Misery’ or ‘Trouble’ 

Never risk your license or livelihood

If a client lies to you about anything, terminate the relationship. It’s not worth risking your license and your livelihood for any client, no matter what price range they are in. 

Say ‘no’ to those who ask you to cover up issues, discriminate or omit information 

If a client tries to cover up issues with the property, makes a request that requires you to violate fair housing laws or asks you to hide relevant information from the other parties to the transaction, tell them that you will terminate your relationship unless they follow the law exactly. Make sure you keep detailed, dated notes about what was requested, and share those notes with your manager and/or attorney. 

The bottom line is that your clients reflect both the best and the worst in you. If you are attracting dishonest clients, are you being dishonest somewhere else in your life? On the other hand, if “Misery” or “Trouble” is showing up in your business, did you fail to heed that gut feeling that warned you? 

To avoid “Misery” and “Trouble” in your future business, raise your standards and be willing to say “no” to clients who are not a good fit. That’s the best way to avoid attracting your worst possible client. 

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