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The Green Sheet Online Edition

March 11, 2013 • Issue 13:03:01

Book Review
Are you ready to put your clients first?

Clients First: The Two Word Miracle is a book born of the real estate realm, not payment processing, but the authors, Joseph and JoAnn Callaway, share principles they discovered in their real estate business that can be applied to anyone who has made a career in sales.

The Callaways, a husband and wife team, entered the real estate profession in mid-life at a time when they were so down on their luck they each had only one pair of jeans that they washed and ironed before each day's stint of meeting clients and showing homes.

Specializing in residential sales, they went on to attain $1 billion in real estate sales in their first 10 years, a feat they claim was never before achieved.

It's obvious from the title that putting clients first has been central to their success. However, many people believe they are putting their clients first in their businesses, but their sales are not spectacular. So, what are the Callaways doing that others are not?

For one, the Callaways put clients first all the time. They forget about what's in the deal for them and put all of their attention on caring about what's in it for their clients.

All clients all the time

The idea came to them when they were representing both a buyer and a seller in a home sale they could have closed, but they realized the sellers needed more money for the home than the buyers could really pay.

So rather than let the buyers assume a debt that would be a burden to them or talk the sellers into accepting less money than the home was worth, they told each party the truth, realizing they could lose both of them as clients. Instead, both parties remained their clients, and the Callaways shortly found a new buyer for the home in question and another, more affordable home for the initial buyers.

"This simple idea of keeping the client, no matter what-taking care of the client, putting the client first, and thinking only of what was best for this person or that couple-was just an acorn from which a mighty Clients First oak would grow," they wrote.

"Our business was transformed, and we were transformed. We didn't yet know this would happen. We only made this small change, a commitment that would grow larger in our lives than anything before or since."

They then gradually learned how to apply this guiding principle to all aspects of their business. One key insight was that everyone on their team, from the person who first speaks with clients on the phone to the one who arranges financing, needs to also adhere to the clients first philosophy.

Another was that the clients first principle had to apply to all clients, not just a select few.

"In fact, many trainers, coaches, and teachers ... suggest that the road to success and life balance lies in firing bad clients," the authors wrote. "How did we get to this? A client is not ours to fire.

"A client is ours to serve; if we cannot or will not do so, it is for the client to fire us. ... Do we call it 80 percent of clients first? How about if we say, 'Just the profitable clients first'? ... Clients first means clients first, and if we are asked to serve, we serve."

Three all-in commitments

The Callaways also came up with three keys that unlock the power of the clients first principle: honesty, competence and caring, or rather, complete honesty, total competence and unwavering care.

"Many agents come close to clients first, but it is a rare thing indeed to find a person who holds all three keys, whole and complete," they wrote. "The difference between an agent who holds almost all three keys and the agent who has taken ownership of all three keys, whole and complete, is the difference between a lifetime of struggle and a future of ease."

If you sense that this approach to sales requires a total commitment, you're right. But according to the Callaways, when they combined honesty and competence with caring, they "unleashed a powerful synergy that changed our lives and suddenly made everything easy."

This also appears to have worked for them whether the economy is booming or on the skids, and they claim they never ask for referrals; the recommendations just keep rolling in from satisfied clients.

The book contains perhaps a little too much of the authors' reflections on how they discovered the clients first principle, making the book long on inspiration and short on substance. However, the book is a quick read and likely to spur thinking on how to apply the concepts it contains. It would be fascinating to see a payment professional apply ideas along these lines to merchant services and write a book about the results. Anyone up for the task? end of article

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