“Givers need to set limits because takers rarely do.”
Boy, oh boy, does that resonate with me. I’m going to guess that it also resonates with a lot of you.
Boundaries are necessary in many aspects of our life, but in our real estate business they are the what sets the difference between burning out (for some agents I know, this is practically on a weekly basis) and establishing a long term successful business.
Our phones ring 7 days a week (if we are lucky, if they aren’t ringing, you have another problem entirely). Clients, prospective clients and other agents texting early in the morning and late at night. Emails flood our inboxes nonstop. It can be exhausting. It IS exhausting. So how do you cope, keep it from taking over your life?
You set boundaries, you set limits.
Now certainly not all among us are givers, and not everyone contacting us around the clock is a taker. Many times they don’t know any better. I’m quite sure that if they are texting us at 10 pm, or calling at 7 am, or sending an email at 1 am it has more to do with them than it does us. Perhaps that is the first time they have had to sit down and send us a message, and that they will anticipate us responding to the next day. Maybe calling and leaving a voicemail early while they are on the way to work is when it works for them to relay a message to us that they may not have a chance to do later on.
We, on the other hand, have been programmed to fear the loss of business, to fear providing poor customer service if we don’t take the call or respond immediately. In our competitive market that fear is often justified. When someone calls you at 10 am because they want to view a house that afternoon, if you don’t call back within a reasonable period of time, it is possible (likely even, depending on your relationship with that person) that they will contact someone else.
That call at 10 pm though? You certainly aren’t going to be scheduling a showing in a few hours. Brainstorming a listing strategy that late at night isn’t likely to be helpful to anyone as you are likely exhausted and ready for bed (and so are they … tired = emotional, not rational). The problem though is when we answer that 10 pm call, that 11 pm text, that 1 am email we are teaching others that it is an acceptable time to contact us. In fact, what do we say? Their call or text may start with … “I know it’s late”, “sorry to contact you so late”, and how do we respond? “It’s okay”, “I was up anyway”, “just sitting here at my computer cleaning out my emails”. Then we wonder why they will continue to do it. We’ve given permission. We’ve shown that we will answer that time of day/night. We are our own worst enemy.
You are a professional. It is not unreasonable to set boundaries for your business. In fact, I would argue that it is one of the most professional things you can do. “Real” businesses have office hours. Your business is a real business too, we need to treat it as such.
The key, however, is setting the expectations and doing what we say we will. If you get a call or text late at night, maybe text back letting them know that you are settling in for the evening and will give them a call first thing in the morning. Then actually do it. It’s when we don’t call back or respond the next day that they start to think we aren’t serious about providing them good service.
Do you set boundaries or limits in your business? Are there certain times of day that you don’t answer or respond and how do you handle it?