My grandfather founded the Raymond Wayman real estate company in Fallbrook in 1917. If instructions on how to use a phone that year are any indication, the telephone world was very different back then. According to Census information, there were about 103,268,000 in the US and only some 11,716,520 phones. Assuming one phone per person, (not a great estimate I’ll admit) a little over 11 percent of the population had phones.
Which means all kinds of people can reach you 24/7, from looky loos to real potential clients. At least potentially.
Of course, even before the cell and smart phones came along, people could call your landline at all hours, and sometimes did. The advent of answer machines and voicemail offered at least potential protection.
Somehow that’s changed. With computers in our pocket or purse, that allow not only calls, but access to the ‘net and to email (both standard and text messaged which sometimes semi-translated from text to audio,) it seems like people assume agents should be available at all times.
Often, sadly enough, agents feels the same way.
For the most part you can control the amount of time you spend on the phone. And you should.
Think about what you really want – good communications with existing clients and good prospects. Of course, you’ve got to add service providers like escrow agents and mortgage companies.
Which doesn’t mean your clients should expect you to be available all the time. You deserve better, and you can have it.
Don’t hesitate to train your clients about when they are likely to reach you by phone and when you simply won’t answer. It’s totally okay to say something like “I generally work Tuesdays through Saturdays, from 9 am – 4 pm. I tend to return calls in the afternoon.”
Then follow through. Return calls in the afternoon.
In fact, it can make sense to actually set a time that you return calls and announce that on your voicemail message.
Turn your phone off during family time and when you’re at the theatre or the movies. You’re not on call like a doctor or an ambulance driver, and even they aren’t on call all the time.
In fact there are few real emergencies in real estate. But there are clients who will abuse you if you let them. You don’t have to return an 8:30 pm call until the next day.
You can turn your phone off when you’re showing property or helping clients sign contracts.
You can refuse to answer a client’s call when you’re having lunch with a friend or at your children’s sports events. Again, turning your phone clear off helps.
Of course you want to be available for you clients and potential clients. But how available should you be?
This is what I call a “how long is a piece of string?” question becasue there’s no single answer that’s right for every agent, every time.
If you’re on the floor, obviously part of your duties are to answer the phone or take the calls a receptionist puts through to you. Floor time can also be a good time to return calls, unless it gets busy.
You want to return calls promptly, which doesn’t mean immediately. In most cases it probably means in an hour or two, and sometimes three. Officially choosing and announcing that you return calls at specific times can help create space for you.
Know that once in awhile you will not be available all day – if you know this in advance, put an announcement on your voicemail. Something like “I’ll be out all day, but returning calls tomorrow.” Just be sure you change the message first thing the next day.
Treat your clients as you want to be treated, including respecting their time. They probably don’t want to be interrupted at meal times either!
Being professional includes protecting your time. It’s up to you. I say go for it.
Before Anne Wayman became a writer she sold real estate in Southern California. She worked with her father who learned the business from his father. Not surprisingly she learned a few things along the way. Since then, she has been freelance writing for over 30 years – she is a grandmother, loves cats and writes about a wide variety of topics including real estate.