This article was originally published in WA Realtor Magazine:
As REALTORS®, we spend more time in our cars than most professionals. Our vehicles are our mobile offices, our client concierges, as well as our everyday “get the kids to school” buses.
At times we get so busy that we start to neglect the details on our “real estate rides”. Anyone who has written a real estate contract or focused on branding their business knows that the details separate the average professionals from the great ones.
Your Vehicle is Your Business Suit–It’s Your Brand
Clients see us far more often in our cars than they do in our offices. Every marketplace is different, but consumers make assumptions about our style and professionalism based on how we present ourselves.
In one market, a Ford F-150 pickup might be the most comfortable vehicle for the local consumer, while in another, a luxury sedan or SUV might fit into the neighborhood better. The point is not necessarily how new or expensive the car is, but how it presents you as a professional and how your clients view it.
Show Your Clients You Value Their Time
We’re all busy. Running between appointments and throwing three car seats into the trunk isn’t easy. Sometimes we just don’t feel like we have the time to clear the dog crate out of the back of the car before picking up a client. It’s tempting to think, “They’ll understand. We’re all busy.”
A great speaker I heard recently had a very blunt rebuttal. Showing up unprepared for a client tells them that you don’t value their time. You didn’t schedule in the extra 15 minutes to be presentable when you came to meet them. This is your business meeting, and you wouldn’t show up in flip flops and a torn t-shirt. Don’t let your car make that impression for you.
Plan Ahead, Feel More Confident
I know some REALTORS who buy the newest model of vehicle every year. I envy them. For the rest of us, it’s not difficult to be a little bit more prepared and present ourselves in a confident and professional manner every time.
First, have a system. Get used to “leaving the office” 10 minutes early, and then making sure your car is prepared before driving off.
Have a case of bottled water in the trunk. Don’t leave it there. Bring a few up front for every client. They won’t ask for it, and you probably won’t remember to offer it, if it’s not within reach.
Have a long list of showings? Plug them all into your GPS before leaving if you’re not 100% comfortable with every location. You can plan the entire route and never need to touch the GPS the rest of the day.
Buy a small dust-buster type of vacuum cleaner and keep it in the car. Can’t remember to keep it charged? Buy a small power-inverter for the car as well and plug it into the cigarette lighter. You can charge it while you’re driving.
Do you sit in the same car after going to the gym? Do your pets get transported in it from time to time, or do you take your kids to the Taco Bell drive-through? Think your clients can’t smell it? You’re wrong.
Have a set of leather wipes and use them religiously. Get a can of non-offensive pet odor spray for the back of your vehicle. Make your pet stay in the back of the vehicle–seriously.
Even if your vehicle is an older model, take the time to work on the details. Saying “It’s old so it doesn’t look great anyway,” won’t change your clients’ opinions of your image. Buy a quick headlight buff-out kit, and spend 20 minutes with it. It will take 5 years off the car. Get a full detail job a couple of times per year. Buy some tire spray and shine it up. Put in some new floor mats.
Revving up your ride will not only make your client’s physical experience better, it will make you feel better as you do your job. External image may be a shallow way to judge a person’s value, but that’s the business we work in. Just ask yourself how much value we put on the curb appeal of a home. Get a system in place, plan ahead, and enjoy the extra confidence when you’re back out on the road.