I recently received a question from an inspector that got me thinking about the different ways that we can handle an uncomfortable situation. The inspector was marketing in a real estate office, and one of the agents cornered him with a question about another inspector’s report. The question was whether he would have noted a problem with an attic conversion into a bedroom that had a door that led into the attic, where combustion appliances were installed. While the question should certainly be addressed, the most important take away from this situation is how do we, as professional business owners, deal with being put on the spot and how can we use it to further our brand.
Unfortunately, most inspectors would take this as an opportunity to denigrate their competition (the other home inspector) in an attempt to make themselves look better. While this is the most often used tactic, and may seem to produce a short-term benefit in the eyes of anyone listening in to their conversation, it is not the best way to leave a lasting impression. Whenever I am questioned about another inspector, I try to always provide the same, pre-planned answer. This is something that I attempt to do with everything that I do in my business, as you should always be prepared with the answer to common questions or information regarding common occurrences in your business. My standard reply is that I try never to talk bad about another home inspector, and that it is difficult for me to comment on another report because I was not there during the inspection, and cannot know what the circumstances were during that inspection.
Now, if I do know the answer to the question, I will tactfully offer my opinion of a theoretical situation that I describe to them, attempting to answer the question without implicating any other person with my response. In this situation, I would say that if there is a bedroom in a home with a doorway that opens to a space where combustion appliances are operating, then the door should be fire-rated and the combustion air for the appliance(s) must be provided from the exterior of the building. These recommendations are intended to protect a person sleeping in that bedroom from death by fire or carbon monoxide poisoning.
While these types of interactions may cause us to be uncomfortable, they provide a unique opportunity to build brand awareness. If you think about it, that real estate agent has questions about the abilities and competence of their current home inspector, which means that this is a prime opportunity to gain a new real estate agent for your business. The agent may not be entirely looking for concrete information, as their current inspector may have made the correct call; they may be testing you to see how you respond under pressure or how you would have handled the situation in front of their client. The possibility exists that while their inspector made the right call, he may have presented the information in a way that caused the client undue stress, which resulted in stress for the real estate agent. The way that you handle the question, and the way you explain it to the agent, will quickly imprint you and your style in that agent’s memory. They may not recall your answer to their question, but they will remember your manner and style, as well as the fact that you said you do not talk bad about other inspectors.
Remember the quote by American poet, author and civil rights activist Maya Angelou: “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
Make them feel like you are the consummate professional, and that’s what you will be.
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