The world of buying or selling a home is not always joyful. Bad things happen—contracts fall through, inspections and appraisals come back with deal-breaking news, you need to drop the asking price, a buyer withdraws an offer.
When those things happen, it will be up to you to deliver the bad news honestly and openly, without destroying your clients’ confidence in you or the whole process.
Follow these tips to break bad news to clients.
#1: Use the situation to prove your value as a broker
It’s easy to shine when everything is going well; it’s much harder when things aren’t. This can be your time to exceed clients’ expectations—and bolster your reputation as an outstanding broker. Studies have shown that the most loyal customers—the ones who will use you again or refer you to others—aren’t the ones who never experience problems. In fact, they experience problems, but because they receive top-notch customer service throughout the process, they become loyal champions of the business. You might not be able to tell them what they want to hear, but how you say it—and more importantly, what you do afterward—can turn the whole experience around for your clients.
#2: Stay calm and upbeat
Even if you are busy and stressed to the max. Even if a monster contract for you just fell through. Even if you have worked incredibly hard and this news is a blow to you, don’t let clients see your frustration or concern. You need to be the voice of reason and a source of comfort.
#3: Tell them as soon as you have the details
Waiting to deliver bad news doesn’t help anyone, and it could cause your clients to miss out on another opportunity. Contact them as soon as you have enough information to offer a clear explanation and answer their questions.
#4: Watch your pitch and speed
People who are worried or stressed tend to talk in a higher pitch and speak more quickly. That could alarm your clients and make them stressed or nervous, which starts the conversation off on the wrong track. Before you talk to clients, take a few deep breaths to calm yourself. As you speak to them, lower your voice tone and rate of speaking slightly. You will appear calm, which will help to ease their concerns.
#5: Avoid using the phrase “bad news”
You want to prepare clients for what you are about to say with a lead-in, but avoid labeling it in negative terms. Don’t say something along the lines of “I have some bad news” or “I have some news you won’t like.” Phrases like that immediately put clients’ in a defensive, negative mood. Instead say, “We have a challenge to overcome” or “We have a decision to make.” Those phrases indicate that bad news is coming, but they position it as something you can overcome together. That subtle change can move the conversation in a much more positive direction.
#6: Don’t turn into a drama king or queen
Saying things like “I am devastated” or “This hurts me as much as it hurts you” isn’t true. It’s much harder on clients who just lost a dream home or who just learned that their home will stay on the market even longer. You can be empathetic but skip the dramatics.
#7: Be direct and honest
You want to be positive but do not sugarcoat or beat around the bush. Explain what you know. Stick to the facts and avoid making assumptions or drawing conclusions. Instead, share a realistic view of the situation and answer clients’ questions as best you can. If you don’t know the answers yet, explain that and follow up as soon as you can.
#8: Refocus on moving forward
Your clients may be feeling demoralized. They may even feel like giving up on the whole thing—or you. So before you call clients, have some ideas in mind for moving forward. Present them with a plan and offer alternatives. Prove to them that you want to find a solution that works in their favor. As you talk, don’t tell them what you can’t or won’t be able to do.
#9: Focus on what is possible
Rather than saying “We can’t compete with that offer,” say “I think we have a strong chance if we make this offer.” Instead of “We won’t be able to sell it at that price,” say “I think this price gives us our best chance of selling quickly.” Those are subtle changes, but they offer the clients a sense of hope and opportunity.
#10: Don’t let negativity take over
You are breaking bad news, and your clients may feel awful. Do your best to continue to steer the conversation in a positive direction. Let them vent and become emotional but don’t wallow in it. When conversations turn negative, refocus on your next steps.
#11: Reassure them
Thank clients for putting their faith in you. Then reassure them that you are committed to them and to ensuring a positive outcome. Tell them: “I know that you’re upset, and you have a right to be. I appreciate the way you’ve handled this today. I am going to get back to work to find the perfect home/sell this home for you. Thanks so much for putting your faith in me.” Then follow through with your promise.