Archive for the ‘Jennifer’s Best’ Category

posted by on Jennifer's Best, Prospecting & SOI

There was a featured blog here in the Rain a few weeks ago advising agents to devote 80% of their time prospecting for new business and 20% dealing with current business (i.e. active buyers and sellers). This isn’t the first time we’ve seen this advice and it won’t be the last; in fact, most Big Name training programs proclaim that a real estate agent’s primary job is to prospect; that agents should vigorously resist the temptation to abandon their daily prospecting when clients call with pesky, administrative, non-income-producing problems to solve. Salesperson

But I can’t help but wonder… If a real estate agent’s primary job is to prospect… and if the job our clients have hired us to perform for them can be done in a few hours a week… how on earth do we justify charging fees in the thousands and thousands of dollars?

Hold that thought while we return to the advice to devote far more time to prospecting than to serving…

Let’s say that all this focused prospecting is paying off, and an agent is gathering an impressive book of real estate business – 5, 10, 20, 40 active buyers and sellers. Bravo! 

But, hmmmmm, just because the agent now has more clients to serve doesn’t add hours to the day, so if he insists (as he’s advised to do) on sticking to his 80/20 plan (because it’s working so well!), his current clients are obviously going to be receiving smaller and smaller slices of his care and attention.

“But,” the Power Prospector protests, “if I don’t make prospecting a priority in my business and I do focus on my current clients, down the road I’ll find myself with an empty pipeline and I can’t have THAT! So, even if I’d like to do the job I promised to do I’d prefer to provide great service to my clients, I can’t because I need to ensure that I always have new business coming in.”

Well, um…

I’m guessing your current clients wouldn’t think much of this argument, especially as they’re feeling more and more neglected by the agent who promised them the world in service – and isn’t delivering. I’m guessing they aren’t singing his praises around the water cooler or at yoga class. I’m thinking that if they knew his business model was predicated on spending the vast majority of his time searching for, preparing for and pitching to his future clients instead of taking care of THEM, his current clients, they might have thought twice about hiring him in the first place.

Here’s the thing. Taking proper care of your clients takes time. Your need for a full pipeline doesn’t change the fact that you made promises and commitments to the buyers and sellers who believed you would take great care of them and their real estate needs. Believe me, they did NOT hire you because they were impressed by your prospecting prowess; they hired you because you assured them you’d take better care of them than any of the other agents they considered honoring with their business.

The bottom line is that if you can’t handle more than X number of active buyers and sellers without sacrificing your service to them, then I guess you shouldn’t be looking for more business when you already have as much as you can properly take care of.

Now let’s go back to the first concept in this blog – if you’re only devoting a few hours or even a few minutes a week to your clients, don’t you think they might start to wonder what on earth they’re paying you so much money for? And IF WHAT WE DO FOR OUR CLIENTS IS SO EASY THAT IT ONLY TAKES 20% OF OUR TIME OR WE CAN HAND IT OFF TO A $12/HOUR ASSISTANT, are our services really worth the fees we charge?

You can’t have it both ways. You can’t say, on one hand, that client care is simply a collection of administrative tasks that can be handled in your spare time or by an assistant, and THEN in the next breath declare that your client-care services are extremely valuable and should be well-compensated.

For the record, I don’t believe that what we do is easy and I do believe we deserve to be well-compensated… as long as… we’re doing the job we were HIRED to do and giving it our full attention.

I’ll continue this soon, but please share your thoughts with me!

RELATED RANT
If Real Estate is So Easy, How Do You Justify Your Fee?

posted by on Jennifer's Best, Prospecting & SOI

Whatchu talkin’ ‘bout Jennifer? You can’t be serious!

Yes, I am.

If you’re asking the question “What is the best way to ask for referrals?” that tells me that something about doing it bothers you.

And if it bothers you, don’t do it. Your discomfort will be crystal clear to the person you’re asking, which is probably worse than not asking at all.

(If you don’t mind asking for referrals, it probably comes naturally to you. Keep up the good work and ignore the rest of this blog.)

Do YOU like being asked for referrals? I don’t.

When a friend asks me to refer business to her, I feel uncomfortable. What was five minutes ago a friendship suddenly feels like an obligation. If she asks me twice, our friendship may very well be in danger. I don’t want to have to explain to her why I haven’t referred anyone to her lately (or ever). I don’t want to listen to her sales pitch… again. And, frankly, if I haven’t referred anyone her way, there may be a reason. But I’d hate to lose a friendship over it.

When a business professional asks me for referrals, it lowers my respect for them a notch. Right or wrong, I assume everyone is as successful as they wanna be. So when I receive a marketing letter from my insurance agent or my accountant asking for referrals, I suddenly question their level of success… and therefore, just a teeny bit, their competence. Where five minutes ago, I perceived them to be a prosperous, crazy-busy professional… now they’re a … salesperson. Ick.

Don’t get me wrong, I love to refer. I’m a referring madwoman when I find someone I believe in. You don’t have to ask me to refer, I’m all over it! Aren’t you the same way? If you have the world’s best hairdresser, dog trainer, chiropractor – don’t you tell everyone you know? Do these people have to constantly ask you for your referrals?

Here’s a better way.

Be a friend first. If not a friend, then a reasonably competent human being. Be happy, excited and enthusiastic. Act as if your career is everything you always dreamed of. Practice saying “I’m a real estate agent and it’s the coolest job in the world!” with a huge smile on your face. Or how about “I had no idea how much I would enjoy selling real estate, I’m having a blast!” Followed up by a sincere “How are YOU doing?”

To ensure that every potential referrer in your life knows you’re a reasonably competent human being, make sure your self-promotion materials are professional and error-free. Return phone calls promptly, even social phone calls. Show up on time for appointments and lunch dates. Do what you say you’re going to do, when you say you’re going to do it. No excuses. Dress appropriately. Watch your language.

It really is that simple.

posted by on Jennifer's Best, Prospecting & SOI

You’ve heard the cold caller’s philosophy…for every 100 phone calls you make, you’ll get five appointments; for every five appointments you go on, you’ll get one listing. Therefore, if you make 500 phone calls, you can count on five listings as a result. If your average listing commission is $5,000, then every phone call is worth $50 since it takes 100 phone calls to get a listing. Supposedly you will actually start to enjoy each rejection, because you realize that every 99 “no’s” equals a “yes” which leads to a paycheck, since every “no” means you are one step closer to a “yes.” Sound fun?

Not to me. In fact, it sounds like an awful way to make a living. Pestering people for three hours a day asking the poor sap who answers the phone if he “knows anyone who’s thinking of buying or selling real estate?” Being rejected 99 times out of a hundred, voluntarily? Ick. Phooey. Blech.

So tell us how you really feel, Jennifer!

Okay, thanks for asking, I will.

The State of Colorado’s Division of Real Estate did not grant me a real estate license so that I could be a professional prospector. I have to assume that good old DORA intended for me to spend a significant amount of my time serving the clients I am honored to have today instead of tracking down the ones I hope to have tomorrow. Taking good care of my listings and my buyers. As my first priority. Not as an afterthought when I can squeeze them in around my prospecting and networking efforts.

But, but, but….!

Yeah, I know. As self-employed types, we have to ensure ourselves a steady stream of business to keep the home fires burning in the style to which we intend to become accustomed. Hey, believe me, I never took a vow of poverty and I don’t sell real estate out of the goodness of my heart. I’ve had $50,000 months before, more than once, and I could happily get used to that!

But you know what? I have never cold called, I have never knocked on a stranger’s door… in fact, I’ve never even asked a stranger for business. Ever. No, not even FSBO’s or expireds.

For ten years I have depended on my SOI for 100% of my business. And they have generously delivered. Sure, I’ve picked up the odd client here and there from floor time or open houses; maybe two or three a year, which is nothing to sneeze at. But the vast majority of my business comes directly or indirectly from the people I know or meet.

And every client is special to me. Even precious. Okay, admittedly some are a pain in the ass, but I still appreciate their business and the juicy commission checks I get as a reward for putting up with them. But most of my clients are pleasant people with a real estate need who simply want to be treated as if their business is valuable to me. Not like a number.

When you depend on your SOI for business, you bow out of the numbers game. And it’s wonderful. No more dragging yourself to the phone for your daily cold calling session. No more searching the real estate ads for your next FSBO target. No more beating yourself up because you’d rather take a nap than finish up your 10 HouseValues CMAs that are due today.

When your pipeline is running low, you have a little Super Bowl party. Or send out some friendly personal emails. Or ratchet up your “take-a-friend-to-lunch” campaign. You don’t need 20 more clients today; just two or three good ones will restore your mood. And pad your bank account.

SOI business is good business. It’s loyal business. It’s fun business. The success ratios are more like 50%-75%, compared to 5-10% from traditional lead generation (and that’s being optimistic!). So if you get 100 leads from your SOI, that will result in 50-75 closings from you.

So how does it work exactly? Glad you asked.

SOI business comes in one lead at a time. But the leads are good leads, leads that will likely result in a closing. And, depending on your market and your broker split, each lead-that-will-probably-result-in-a-closing is worth thousands of dollars to you.

So let’s say you have 20 close friends. If you have implemented a respectful, consistent SOI campaign, you, obviously, are the agent of choice for most of them if any happen to need a real estate agent this year. Maybe that will only get you one or two sales; or maybe your friends are a restless bunch and you’ll get five or six.

You should also get the family business of your 20 nearest & dearest. Katie’s grandma moves to town to be closer to her grandchildren. Fred’s brother-in-law needs a referral to a Las Vegas agent. Maria’s sister gets engaged and needs to sell her condo. Her fiancé wants to sell his too. There’s a good chance you’ll get first dibs on this sort of business. So let’s say you pick up three family members.

Let’s not forget everyone else your 20 friends know. If just half of your friends refer you to just one person, that’s 10 more clients for you. What if all of your friends refer you to one other person? Or if three of your friends each refer you to five of their friends? What if you have 30 friends? 50?

Oh, and what about everyone else in your SOI? The other 150 people you know and stay in touch with? Your husband’s assistant? Your dog trainer? Your massage therapist? Depending on the strength of your SOI campaign, you might see 5-15 sales a year from these folks.

And we haven’t even talked about the NEW friends you’re going to make over the next 12 months! If you’re out there in the world, with your antenna up, you will run into people who happen to be in need of real estate services. If you approach them right, that business is yours. Maybe that’s another five sales for you.

So add it all up and you’re selling some real estate! All without treating anyone like a number.

Unless you’re striving to be a mega-producer with 10 buyer agents scurrying around underfoot, you really don’t need to go after every buyer and seller in town. This is what I mean when I say that Real Estate is Not a Numbers Game. The business that you can generate from your SOI and from your own social encounters really ought to be enough.

And the best part? If you spend a few years building a strong cheering section (i.e. your SOI), you can coast through the rest of your real estate career. NO prospecting, NO marketing budget, NO sleepless nights worrying about where your next closing is coming from. Now, that’s a lifestyle I could get used to (and I have).

http://www.sellwithsoul.com/ 

copyright Jennifer Allan 2007

 

posted by on Jennifer's Best, Prospecting & SOI

work outLast night, I went to 24-Hour Fitness to meet a girlfriend of mine for Power Yoga. I don’t belong to 24-Hour Fitness, but she assured me I could get a 24-day free membership. Cool.

Well, of course, in order to get my free membership card, I had to sit through a sales pitch. I HATED it and y’know what? I probably won’t join just because I don’t want to give that salesy little hardbody the satisfaction. I don’t want him to think that he successfully SOLD me!

What really bugged me was that we were having a nice little time together – he showed me around the gym, we talked about food sensitivities – y’know, we’re bonding, so I thought. Then, he whips out his buyer agency agreement flip chart of why I should hire him join the club. He made his case and I politely declined to commit TODAY. Why? Because I hadn’t even tried out the club yet, I didn’t know if it would return my calls promptly suit my needs, I didn’t yet feel comfortable signing the EBA commiting to a year membership. I explained these reasons to him, but he wouldn’t give up. He had this baffled look on his face, followed by an annoyed look – implying that I’m 1) rude for wasting his time and 2) an idiot for not signing up.  Gotta tell ya, implying that I’m a rude idiot does NOT win any brownie points with me. I was waiting for him to tell me he wouldn’t put me in his car give me my temporary membership card unless I committed to him on the spot.

Anyway, I finally convinced him that I was not going to sign up, so he walked away for a minute to pick up the temporary card he’d printed for me. When he came back, he said he’d just remembered a special the club was offering! He told me about the special and then said “Do you STILL just want a temporary membership?” Oh, yes, even more so now, thank you.

Blech. This is what sales is all about, huh?

posted by on Jennifer's Best, Prospecting & SOI

 

Let’s talk about scripts. I think they have a place in the human experience – we all use scripts every day, in both our personal and business lives. “Hi, how are you?” is a script, as is “Hi, this is Jennifer Allan with RE/MAX City Horizons; I’d like to set a showing…” I use essentially the same script every time I go through a purchase contract with a buyer or a listing agreement with a seller. When I finish up a day of showing, I always say “So, that’s our show for today – how did we do?

If we didn’t use the same words over and over again when performing essentially the same task or activity, our brains might fill up and explode from overwork!

But here’s where I don’t like scripts… during the prospecting process. Effectively prospecting to someone is a delicate balancing act between subjecting someone to an unwanted sales pitch and inspiring them to actually care about whatever it is you’re selling. And I think we can all agree that most salespeople err toward the side of the aggressive pitch (not you or me, of course, but everyone else).

There are probably a gazillion sales scripts out there for your consideration. Most are pretty awful, especially in the hands of an amateur, but occasionally I’ll run into one that almost sounds sincere.

Almost.

Lately I’ve been prospected to by some pretty slick operators. I almost missed the fact that the sales pitches were well-rehearsed scripts.

Almost.

But once I realized I’d been scripted to, I was annoyed and even a little bit hurt. I thought I was special. I thought that my appointment with this sales dude or dudette was the highlight of his or her day. I thought that this person really cared whether or not he or she earned my trust and my business. But no, I was just another prospect, just another sales call… on the road to the next prospect. I was a number.

I don’t like being a number. And that’s how being scripted to makes me feel.

Wanna sell me something? Leave the scripts and the sales pitch at home. Make me care about you because you care about me. Open up. Be YOU. Make me feel special. There might be a sale in it for ya!

posted by on Jennifer's Best, Working with Sellers

confusedYep, that means exactly what you think it means. If you are not a good real estate agent, get out of the business now before you spend one more dime or dollar on your personal marketing or MLS dues. Give your overpriced listings to someone else who will price them right and market them intelligently. (That way you might actually see a few dollars from your efforts down the line when the referral fee comes due after closing.)

Gone (for now) are the days where being a good real estate agent meant you were a Good Prospector. NO ONE IS IMPRESSED with your listing inventory or even with the number of marginally-qualified buyers you’re driving around.

All that matters are closings.

And you know what? You don’t create closings with expert real estate prospecting. You create closings with expert real estate advising.

I don’t care how good of a salesperson you are, you cannot sell a house to anyone. You cannot sell a house for anyone. Your new job description is to use the brain and creativity God gave you to best advise and serve your client.

If you don’t know how to sell a house, other than to plop it in the MLS, create a brochure and put a sign in the yard (and oh, yes, enter it on Craigslist), then you have no business tying up a seller’s valuable marketing time and energy.

Let a GOOD agent handle the listing… one who:

  • Knows how to properly price a home and absolutely refuses to overprice

 

  • Has the balls to be direct with sellers about any obstacles to sale and insist that they be corrected or priced for

 

  • Has the manpower connections to help the seller prepare his home and/or get through inspection.

 

  • Is willing to risk upsetting a seller by insisting that he allow short-notice showings and that he vacate the house during showings

 

  • Knows how to take good digital photos and post them online

 

  • Knows how to explain the marketing process to the seller so that the seller feels involved, committed and included (and therefore cooperative!)

 

  • Keeps the seller updated on local market activity and trends

 

  • Ensures that the brochure box is always full OR pulls the damn box off the sign

 

  • Ensures that the key works in the lock and doesn’t accept the excuse that “there’s a trick to it”

 

  • Is pleasant, respectful and responsive to buyer agents who express interest or have questions.

 

  • Is a respectful, creative and effective negotiator

 

  • Insists on a home staging consultation

 

  • Offers 7 day/week showing service

 

  • CARES almost as much about selling that home as the seller himself

(Feel free to add to this list…)

THE PUBLIC DESPERATELY NEEDS US RIGHT NOW. It’s not all about us and our needs. Our clients need us to do our jobs exceptionally well to give all those FOR SALE signs a chance to be SOLDs. If and when that happens, the perception could possibly turn this mess around. WE OWE IT TO OUR ADORING FANS!!

posted by on Jennifer's Best, Working with Sellers

rock

I remember interviewing for my second listing back in 1997. The seller asked me this question: “Jennifer, I assume our house will sell quickly because it’s so cute (it was), but if it doesn’t sell right away, what will you do?”

Hmmmmmmmm. Hell, I dunno. I was a green bean agent; I’d only had one other listing in my career and didn’t have a clue. I came up with something, that probably sounded like this: ” I’ll do a broker open house, I’ll do mid-week open houses, I’ll distribute color brochures throughout the neighborhood and post an ad on the nearby college’s bulletin board.”

Lucky for me, the house did sell quickly, so I didn’t have to implement my admittedly weak Plan B.

But it’s now 12 years later and I still don’t have a good answer to the question: “What will you do in 30 days if my house hasn’t sold?

However, with 12 years of experience under my belt, I KNOW that there ISN’T a great answer to the question! Especially if the seller is expecting me to reach into some magic bag of tricks and pull out a secret marketing strategy that I reserve only for my non-selling listings!

Here’s the thing. Even if I HAD a magic bag of secret marketing tricks, why would I hold out using them until after the listing is stale? Wouldn’t it make more sense to hit the market with all guns blazing?

But the truth is, I don’t have a magic bag of tricks (and neither do you). NO AMOUNT OF MARKETING CAN SELL AN UNSELLABLE HOME. You can do broker opens every day of the week, distribute enough color brochures to kill a small forest and refresh your Craigslist ad every 21 days for the next five years and your listing will not sell if it’s not properly priced, properly prepared and properly presented! NO AMOUNT OF MARKETING CAN SELL AN UNSELLABLE HOME!

Our job as professional real estate agents is to know what it’s gonna take to get a house sold. We need to know how to price the home TO SELL; how to prepare our sellers for the reality of Being on the Market and how to help them prepare the home to evoke the most positive emotional reaction from the greatest number of potential buyers (and their agents). It needs to look good, smell good and photograph well. It needs to be easy to show without the distraction of barking dogs or a work-at-home owner. If there’s an obstacle to sale, we need to recognize it and have the balls to be frank with our seller about it (and help ‘em fix it).

That’s how you sell your listing. By working with your seller to create a marketable product, not to throw time and money at advertising after the sign goes in the yard. Frankly, the MLS system is an incredibly efficient system to sell houses and there’s nothing we can do individually to out-market that MLS.

Let’s go sell our listings!

www.SellwithSoul.com

posted by on Jennifer's Best, Working with Sellers

When your listing hasn’t sold, what’s the first thing you look at? 

PRICE!

Right?

Nope. Not always. Not even most of the time.*

Many real estate agents claim that price cures all. And in a way, they’re right. If you have a listing that shows poorly or is difficult to show or smells funny, there probably IS a price that will inspire buyers to overlook the clutter, access issues or eau du Chef Boyardee.

But is price the RIGHT answer? Again, not always. Not even most of the time.*

Why on earth not?

Three reasons.

First, I hope that when we real estate agents price our listings, we’re pretty proud of that price. If I’ve put a price on a property, unless the market has declined, I’m pretty sure I’m in the ballpark. And the thing is, in today’s market, buyers are well aware that they can “make an offer,” so a minimal price reduction–say, $229,000 to $224,000 probably isn’t going to make much of an impression on the market. In order for a price reduction to be meaningful, it’s going to have to take that listing into a different pricing tier, thus introducing it to a whole new set of buyers who weren’t looking at it before. And, depending on the price range of the property, that might mean a price reduction of $20,000 or more.

Now, think about what we could do with that $20,000–seriously.

Second, automatically resorting to the solution of reducing the price is really not what my seller wants to hear, and in that mindset, he’s likely to question my professionalism and commitment. Let’s face it, a price reduction is an awfully easy solution to offer and often abused by the real estate community. We all know agents who “buy” listings at a too-high price and then, as part of their game plan, beat up the seller later for a price reduction. And this isn’t a secret to the general public–a lot of sellers are aware this happens, too. So, when your first and only solution is a price reduction, I believe it can really damage your credibility, especially if you recommended or agreed to the price in the first place.

But the main reason I’m opposed to looking first at the price as the solution is because it’s rarely the best solution for the seller.

The thing is, there are tons of solvable problems – some simple, some not-so – that can keep an otherwise marketable home from moving. Our job is to play detective with our non-selling listings to determine if there’s a problem we and/or our seller can solve, outside of a price reduction.

Stay tuned… I’ll pick this up tomorrow!

*Unless you’re overpriced to begin with, of course.

posted by on Jennifer's Best, Working with Sellers

This is yet another follow-up to the topic of “Is Price Always the Best Answer to a Non-Selling Listing?” that I started last week. You can read more HERE and HERE.

Real estate agents are quite fond of the philosophy that “Price conquers all,” meaning that if you price a listing low enough, it will sell regardless of the challenges the property presents.

Fair enough.

But I must ask. So what? Is that our job as professional real estate agents to simply recommend a price low enough that any piece of junk will sell?

Or, rather, is it to help our sellers get the highest possible price in the shortest possible time, whatever a realistic price and time may be? If our job is to simply sell it fast, at any price, well, shoot, just about any idiot can give their property away! Isn’t that why homesellers hire us in the first place, to do a better job for them than they can do for themselves?

Real estate agents are always bragging about their listing expertise and defending their commissions by claiming they MORE THAN EARN THEIR FEE. Uh, well, I have to disagree if the only solution we offer our sellers is to price aggressively. There ARE other things a seller can do to maximize his sales price, and it’s our job to 1) know what those things are, and 2) be willing to share those secrets with a seller and 3) help the seller accomplish those things. (and those were the topics of the previous blogs linked to above)

What if you went to your doctor with a pain in your leg and the only solution he offered was to cut the offending appendage off? Yes, that would cure the pain in your leg, but maybe there’s a better way that involves a little more effort on his part (and yours). Or if your plumber simply removed the toilet that wasn’t flushing instead of figuring out how to repair it?

Of course, if I request that the doctor amputate my leg, or that the plumber tear out my toilet, or that my Realtor simply give my house away, well, then, they have my blessing. But in most cases, c’mon, our clients deserve a little more effort and expertise than that, don’t they?

I’m not sayin’ that price isn’t important – of course it is. But if we keep preaching that “Price is the ANSWER!” to the exclusion of any other effort on our part, we may end up preaching ourselves out of a job…deservedly so, I might add.

refer

posted by on Jennifer's Best, Working with Sellers

Now that the listing agreement is signed and your FOR SALE sign is in the yard, you’re done, right? Onto the next victim prospect to WOW with your fancy listing presentation and 132-point marketing plan! Of course, most of those 132 points are pretty much fluff & nonsense, but by the time you’ve overwhelmed the seller with your promises of Exceptional Service and Total Commitment, he probably won’t notice.

SalesmanNo, he probably WON’T notice at the time, but he’ll certainly notice later. The good news is that by then it’s too late! He’s committed to stuck with you! And you’ll be damned if you’ll let him out of your listing agreement after you’ve spent ALL THAT MONEY and ALL THAT TIME on his listing! Besides, he probably won’t have the guts to even ask (whew!).

Want to Show Your Seller How Much You (Don’t) Care?

It’s easy! Just follow these simple steps…

1.  Don’t send your seller a copy of the MLS listing entry to get his feedback.

2.  Don’t let him know when his house officially goes “on the market.”

3.  Don’t offer to do an open house, and be sure to argue with him if he asks you to.

4.  Don’t call the seller after your open house with feedback.

5.  Don’t call the seller after you show his house with feedback.

6.  Don’t call after the first few showings just to check in.

7.  Don’t monitor showings, but the next time you talk, ask “Have you had any showings lately?”

8.  Put up a brochure box, but never fill it (or let it stay empty after the first batch is gone).

9.  Don’t send the seller copies of your advertising.

10.  Don’t contact the seller at all until it’s time to ask for price reduction or to extend the listing.

If you follow these simple instructions for each and every one of your listings, you will be assured a long, glorious career of prospecting, prospecting, prospecting to keep that pipeline filled! You’ll never have to worry about repeat or referral business distracting you from your all-important prospecting schedule…

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Sixteen Ways to Keep Your Seller Happy with You
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posted by on Jennifer's Best, Working with Buyers

respect

Last night I participated in a lively discussion about whether or not to require buyer pre-approval and/or a buyer agency agreement prior to showing a home. The author of the blog and most of the commenters agreed that it’s a waste of time to work with a buyer who does not have a pre-approval stamped to his forehead and/or hesitates to sign a buyer agency agreement upfront.

Such discussions always rile me up and I couldn’t help myself from approaching rudeness on someone else’s blog (sorry). But I have to ask myself… are real estate agents in today’s market So Darn Busy with qualified buyers and motivated sellers that they need to actively turn away those who show up at their doors looking for help? Wow! As I always say in these situations – I LOVE a full pipeline! Send ‘em my way! I’ll take great care of them and probably sell them a house eventually… as well as to all their friends through the years. And I’ll be happy to pay you a referral fee.

I have used the services of many real estate agents in my lifetime and I promise you that if any of them had shown more interest upfront in my financial qualifications than in my housing needs, I’d have found someone else … who showed me the respect I think I deserve. And I certainly would not be interested in obligating myself to anyone I barely know. Oooooh, I get bristly just thinking about it.

I submit that many agents are chasing away perfectly good buyers who are 100% sincere in their desire to purchase a house — and are likely perfectly well qualified to do so. But with these disrespectful efforts to tie them down, all they’re accomplishing is sending them elsewhere… fulfilling the prophecy that buyers are liars and confirming the belief that stronger “rules” are needed in the future.

I disagree. I believe that this approach simply irritates buyers, so they look elsewhere for more respectful assistance. I have to wonder if spending time with a buyer without a hint of obligation or pressure might be a much better use of  time than fussing so much over whether or not they’re worthy of a little time?

Relationships take time. There’s no way you can know upfront if a buyer will buy, regardless of the pieces of paper they bring with them or are willing to sign. If an agent can’t afford the $20 in gas or the two hours of time it might take to create some trust and rapport, then by all means, he’ll probably do better referring his potential clients out. And please don’t forget – we get serious paychecks when someone buys. Our paychecks more than offset the risk of a little gas money and time.

My friends, most buyers are not liars… Most buyers have better things to do than waste our precious time. Their time is precious, too. They simply want to be treated kindly, and with RESPECT.

posted by on Jennifer's Best, Working with Buyers

I’m so sick of hearing how real estate agents can’t afford to work with buyers anymore – UNLESS that buyer has signed a buyer agency agreement AND has an iron-clad loan commitment in hand – because of the high cost of gas. What a crock.car

Okay, let’s do a little analysis.

Over the last several years, gas has hovered around the $3.00/gallon mark. Sometimes higher, sometimes lower, but I think that $3/gallon is a reasonable place to start.

In some parts of the country, gas is now around $4.00/gallon. That’s $1.00 per gallon difference.

If your car gets 20 mpg, you’re spending ONE EXTRA DOLLAR for every 20 miles you drive.

If you take a buyer out and drive sixty miles with him or her, that’s three extra dollars you spent on him (over and above what you would have spent on him last year and the year before).

Are you really saying that you can’t afford to spend an additional $3.00 in exchange for a shot at a $7,500 commission ($250,000 x 3%)?

Tell ya’ what. I’ll be happy to take your Denver buyers for a ride, whether they’ve signed a Buyer Agency agreement or not. Whether they’re pre-qualified or not. Because I know that being out in my market with a warm body in my car (and that warm body probably has lots of friends he can refer to me in the future) is a MUCH better use of my time than sitting back at the office congratulating myself on saving $3.00 in gas.

I’ll even pay you a referral fee. So, on top of the THREE BUCKS you saved, you’ll also get $1,875 just for giving me a call!

posted by on Jennifer's Best, Prospecting & SOI

It occurs to me that running an SOI* business is a lot like dating. I’m thankfully no longer in the dating world, but I remember it well. Trying to figure out where Mr. Right might be hanging out that day. Pondering who among my friends would give me that magic referral to the man who was The One. Trying to find the elusive balance between approachable friendliness… and aloof-hard-to-get-ness. The roller coaster ride of euphoric highs followed by crushing lows.

When you’re dating, you’re bombarded with advice. Such as… it’s a good idea for a marriage-minded woman to ask a man on the first date if he’s similarly-inclined. If no, NEXT! If you see children in your future, you should make sure every man you have coffee with feels the same way. Before the second cup. How about announcing to all your friends that you are now Single and Available, and demand that they find you a mate?

Of course, there is the other camp which tells women to take the hard-to-get game to the extreme. Never return phone calls, never change your plans to meet a man on short notice, and never discuss the future.

When you begin your SOI business (that is, generating business and referrals from the Very Important People Who Know You), you are also given all sorts of advice, most of which makes no sense if you evaluate it from your gut. You are told to tell everyone you meet that you sell real estate and that you Love Referrals. Over and over again. That you should remind your friends constantly of that fact. That you should push your business card on anyone within shouting distance. That you should categorize your friends in order of importance – that is, how likely they are to refer to you – and socialize with them accordingly.

In short, PUSH your agenda on your SOI instead of allowing things to unfold and develop naturally.

If you interrogate a typical guy about his plans for your future together on your first (or tenth) date, he’ll likely run for the hills regardless of his feelings on the matter. The same thing will probably happen if you assault every new acquaintance with your business card and elevator speech.

If you beg your friends to play matchmaker, they may silently wonder why you’re so desperate, and be unwilling to subject their USDA Prime Choice male friends to that desperation (after all, matchmaking often backfires on the matchmaker!). Just like when you beg your friends for referrals (er, sorry, frequently remind them), they may question your professionalism and wonder why you don’t already have all the business you need. Yeah, people do think this way, don’t you?

Of course, there’s that fine line between enthusiastically letting your SOI know you’re open for business … and putting your friends on the spot, both in your professional and your personal life. Finding that balance may be an ongoing struggle, but here are some tips:

  • Don’t attend a party or function with the sole intent of handing out your business cards. Attend with the idea that you will meet lots of nice people, and may have enough rapport with a few to pursue a relationship. Leave your business cards in the car and just relax.
  • If a friend hasn’t referred you, after your repeated requests that she do so, there may be a reason. Drop it – if you want to keep the friendship alive.
  • Wait for people to ask you what you do for a living. Answer enthusiastically and see if there’s any interest. If not, talk about the weather or the yummy shrimp kabobs.
  • Don’t send a letter to your SOI simply asking for referrals. In fact, don’t ask for referrals at all. There are much better ways to get that point across than flat-out asking.
  • Your friends will be happy to refer you (or hire you) if you seem to be a Reasonably Competent Human Being who enjoys selling real estate. You can’t tell people this, you have to show them. Show up on time (with a smile on your face!), return phone calls promptly and do what you say you’re going to do.
  • Don’t ever whine about the real estate market. To anyone. Ever.

Being a positive, upbeat, confident person who believes in her heart that She’s All That will attract plenty of business from both friends and strangers.

Oh, and this strategy works well with men, too.

 *SOI = Sphere of Influence = People Who Know You

posted by on Jennifer's Best, Prospecting & SOI

I love SOI*. It’s my thing… it’s my passion. I think every self-employed salesperson oughta include a little SOI soiin their arsenal. Or a lot. During my real estate days, my business was nearly 100% SOI with a few random floor calls, walk-ins and web leads tossed in as gravy.

But if you’re gonna SOI, you better do it right! Not everyone does. In fact, most don’t. Not because they’re stupid or incompetent or insensitive, not at all! Rather, because most salespeople have never been shown the right way to do it. When done right, an SOI business model actually changes the way the salesperson views his business … and his world.

Most experienced real estate salespeople claim to embrace an SOI philosophy. They support the idea of generating business and referrals from the people they know. But the reality is that the vast majority of real estate agents fail miserably in their SOI efforts. Even worse, they manage to alienate many of their friends and family members along the way!

And then they proclaim that “SOI is a lousy way to run a business!”

Well, they’re wrong. And, they’re right. They’re wrong that an SOI strategy is a poor business model, but they’re right that it was a lousy business model for them. Because they didn’t understand how to do it right.

If you’re gonna SOI, you better do it right. If you’re gonna do it wrong, don’t do it at all. The personal relationships in your life are far too important to risk!

21 Ways to Blow it with Your SOI

  1. Ask a friend to lunch and give her your sales pitch (every time)
  2. Call your friends on the first Monday of every month and ask if they have any referrals for you.
  3. If they don’t, ask them why not.
  4. Angrily (or tearfully) confront your friends and family if they use another real estate agent
  5. Take on business you aren’t qualified to handle
  6. Send your friends weekly emailed newsletters of your listings
  7. Blow off your friend’s housewarming party, but expect her to be loyal to you
  8. Attend your friend’s housewarming party and sales-pitch everyone to death
  9. Tell everyone you know how lousy the real estate market is
  10. Tell everyone you know how overwhelmed you are
  11. Tell everyone you know how depressed you are about your real estate business
  12. Send out an announcement letter with typo’s and misspellings
  13. Send your friends frequent “forward this on for good luck or else” mass emails
  14. Pepper your language with four-letter words
  15. Borrow money or books or tools or whatever and don’t return them in a timely manner
  16. Don’t return social phone calls or RSVP’s
  17. Try to hijack referral fees from your family’s pre-existing real estate relationships
  18. Ignore your SOI in favor of mass-advertising projects (then get your feelings hurt when they use someone else)
  19. Contact your friends only when you’re looking for business
  20. Offer bribes to your friends for referrals
  21. Sell real estate “on the side”

*An “SOI” (sphere of influence) business strategy means to generate business and referrals from the people who know you.

To Read About “Doing SOI Right”, check out these blogs:
The Jake Series
Are You Tired of Pestering Strangers for Business?
What’s the Best Way to Ask for Referrals? Don’t.
SOI and the Single Gal

www.sellwithsoul.com

posted by on Jennifer's Best, Prospecting & SOI

I recently read on another forum where a new agent was heartbroken (and subsequently outraged) that his brother-in-law hired someone else to sell his home. Because he was brand new, he felt his B.I.L. owed it to him to give him the listing so that he’d get some much-needed experience. The new agent was bad-angrymouthing his B.I.L. to the rest of the family and swearing to avoid him at the next family get-together.

OUCH!

How fast can you say “Kiss Your Family’s Business GOODBYE!?”

No one on this planet is obligated to work with us, regardless of any personal relationship. Instead of whining and sulking and pouting about the situation, our new agent should have taken all that energy and asked himself WHY his brother-in-law didn’t hire him. And made an effort to do better next time.

Was it personal? Maybe, maybe not.  Although with this guy’s attitude, it probably was. The minute I get a sense that someone feels I’m obligated to hire them (or even refer them), I’m turned off. Yeah, I’m contrary that way, aren’t you?

Getting business from your SOI, particularly your family SOI is an art that once mastered, will seem oh-so-obvious and natural. But if you approach the people you know with the attitude that they owe you something because you’re related or went to college together or because you sent them a pretty calendar last year, your SOI efforts will crash and burn.

What I would have advised the new agent to do (had he asked) would be to graciously accept defeat and cheerfully offer his assistance. I’d have told him to be pleasant, supportive and complimentary of the other agent’s efforts. Sweet as sugar. Because… at some point, the B.I.L might just get frustrated with his listing agent and be open to talking again.

But instead, look what this guy did. He alienated his B.I.L. and gave the entire family a great reason to wonder about his professionalism. I’ll bet that it will be a long time before anyone in that family dares to talk to him about their own real estate needs!  

*SOI = Sphere of Influence = The People Who Know You

sws

http://www.sellwithsoul.com/

posted by on Jennifer's Best, Prospecting & SOI

Open House

A few months ago, I had a conversation with a newer agent about maximizing the effectiveness of her open houses. By “effectiveness,” of course, she meant gathering as many names, numbers and email addresses as she could during her three-hour stints on Sunday afternoons.

She was frustrated (mostly with herself) at her inability to smoothly gather those names, numbers and email addresses from her visitors. Either they seemed hesitant to provide them OR she just wasn’t comfortable asking, and usually came away from her open houses empty-handed.

“Jennifer – do you have any suggestions for me?”

Yes, as a matter of fact, I do. 

But first, let’s have a paradigm shift, shall we? Too often, we real estate agents focus on what WE need and want, and hope to persuade our audience to play along. For example, WE want that name, number and email address so WE can send a nice little thank-you-for-visiting note and add a warm body to our mailing list, right?  

So we come up with all sorts of sly strategies to get that contact information – such as – “the seller asks that guests sign in for security purposes,” or “if you register, you’ll be entered to win a lovely gift basket,” or simply “please sign my register so I can show the seller how many visitors we had.”

Nothing really wrong with these approaches except that there’s nothing in it for the visitor. At least, nothing worth relinquishing their private contact information to a hungry Realtor, suspecting they’ll be hounded after the fact whether they want to be or not.

So, what could you do instead – here’s the kicker – to INSPIRE the visitor to want you to have his or her contact information? Not what you can do to TRICK it out of him, but to actually inspire him to want to give it to you?

And no, the answer isn’t to bribe him with free reports, contests, drawings or newsletters…

Any ideas? I’ll share mine tomorrow

posted by on Jennifer's Best, Prospecting & SOI

Funny – yesterday I posted a blog about getting contact information from open house visitors that ended with a “stay tuned for the next episode” teaser… and got slammed with “I’m doing an open house this weekend, please tell me what to do” notes.

Open HouseOkay, okay, okay. I hope I didn’t overpromise in the blog – I don’t have any secret phrase or magic sign-in sheet that will ensure names, numbers and email addresses* from your visitors, but I’ll give it a shot.

The question I left you with was “How can you INSPIRE open house visitors to WANT to give you their contact information?” Not how to manipulate it out of them, but rather get them to offer it to you because they want you to have it?

The answer is awfully simple.

You DO (or should) have something a bona-fide buyer wanna-be wants. Not market reports or newsletters or lovely gift baskets, but KNOWLEDGE.

You know more about the real estate market and the houses in it than they do. You know the current inventory. You know which houses are priced right and which ones, well, aren’t. You know that homes built by THIS builder cost more than ones by THAT builder, and why (and whether they’re worth the extra). If the neighborhood of your open house is out of the buyer wanna-be’s price range, you know of alternative neighborhoods that might work for him. If your open house is On The Lake (and priced accordingly), you know how much of a break a buyer wanna-be can get to be Not On The Lake, But Close. If a buyer wanna-be really wants a big yard, you know where he can find that while staying close enough to town to suit him.

When I say that you know all these things, I don’t mean that you have a handy-dandy printout next to your personal brochure and sign-in sheet describing other houses for sale. Nor do I mean that you’ve memorized your MLS and can spout off DOM’s and PSF’s and List-to-Sold Ratios with abandon.

I mean that you have a conversational familiarity with your local real estate market. And you’re more than willing to share your knowledge and expertise with anyone who is interested.

Which leads me to the next point. Not everyone who comes to an open house is a good prospect for you. In fact, most probably aren’t, for reasons you’re already aware of. Just let ‘em go. Don’t be rude, of course, but don’t fret about getting their digits or demonstrating your expertise to them. Just let them wander thru, politely and pleasantly answer their questions, and relax. You may leave your open house with only one or two folks to follow-up with and that’s okay. It’s perfectly fine to cherry-pick your future clients, selecting only those with whom you have a natural rapport, who seem to be open to hearing from you again.

Here’s the thing. For me (and many of y’all), trying to create rapport with every warm body who walks in the door is exhausting. And discouraging. I’m just not all that charming, and frankly, not everyone wants to be chatted with even if I were. In fact, most probably don’t. By the end of the open house, if I’ve tried to build rapport with everyone who came in, I’m an emotional mess, especially since many of them have probably rejected my advances (I don’t handle rejection well). But if I save my emotional energy for those with whom I “click,” I CAN be awfully darn charming!

So, what’s the punch line?

1.       Be conversationally familiar with the neighborhood, amenities and alternatives to the neighborhood of the house you’re holding open and be willing to freely share your knowledge with visitors, and

2.       Save your emotional energy for the visitors with whom you feel a natural rapport. Be pleasant and polite to everyone else, but don’t stress yourself out trying to get contact information from them.

If you’ve done a good job preparing for your open house and you choose your targets wisely, you’ll be pleasantly surprised to find that many visitors will initiate further contact with you. Either they’ll offer up their contact information voluntarily or they’ll ask for yours.

If this isn’t happening, it’s not because you aren’t aggressive enough, clever enough or sly enough to coerce those names and numbers from your visitors. So if you want to beat yourself up over the “effectiveness” of your open houses, don’t go there. Focus instead on how you can better demonstrate to your visitors that you are the guy or gal they’re looking for.

 

*None of this should be construed to contradict my opinion that open houses are held primarily for the SELLER’s benefit, not the agent’s. The owner of the home you’re holding open expects you to be first and foremost trying to sell his home, not hungrily prospecting for leads for yourself. To read a practical implication of this philosophy, refer to Susan Haughton’s comment on the previous blog

posted by on Especially for Rookies, Jennifer's Best

Please, please, please! Can we do away, once and for all, with the dorky new agent announcement card, letter or whatever else that agents use to announce their exciting venture into real estate??!!

Here’s a typical letter:
“Dear Friend, I’m pleased to announce…blah, blah, blah…my company is great…blah, blah, blah…I promise to provide the highest level of service…blah, blah, blah…please send me referrals. Love, Me”

Nice, but so what?

First, if you are new in the business, I strongly urge you not to announce this fact to the world. Sending out an announcement that you JUST got your real estate license and are looking for business won’t give anyone much motivation to call you. Okay, well, maybe your mother and your Aunt Lou, but no one else.

I’d rather you approach your “announcement” a little more casually. Just slide into “being in real estate.”  Don’t make a big deal that you Just Got Your Real Estate License and are Looking for Business. No, simply start communicating with people you know and “reminding” them that you’re in real estate. Most of those on your SOI list haven’t been keeping track of your every movement (sorry), so if you’re suddenly in real estate, they won’t think twice about it, probably. They might even think they forgot that you were a real estate agent! And that’s fine.

So instead of sending out a formal announcement, here are some other ideas for getting the word out:

√  Send out an e-mail offering your friends some promotional item or service. Don’t mention that you just got your license; pretend that you’ve been selling real estate for a while now and “Gee, I’ve been so busy I’ve lost touch. Let’s get together soon!”

√  If it’s holiday time, send out holiday cards with your business card enclosed. Write a “personal” note in each “What a great year it’s been! Looking forward to even more prosperous 2007 for all of us” or something like that.

√ Send out a “Happy New Year” (any time of year) family newsletter with all the happenings in your life, including your venture into real estate. Don’t be specific as to when your career started–just that it did start and you love it! Be sure to include your business card.

√ Put together a mini-newsletter with a description of special services you offer, as a local real estate professional. If you have a digital camera, you could offer to take pictures of your clients’ rental properties for their online marketing. Or before-and-after shots for clients who are doing extensive remodeling. Maybe you could offer to take photos of your friends’ belongings for insurance purposes. I offer my graphic design services to friends for garage sales, rental property flyers, etc. Very few people ever take me up on these services, but it gives me something of value to offer.

√  Send thank you cards every day…to anyone who helped you out that day. Some sales trainers advise sending out five thank you cards every single day, and it’s not a bad idea. Not only does this practice put you in a grateful frame of mind, it also gets your business card out there in the hands of the public.

Open your mind…can you think of anything you could mail out to your SOI that would have value to them, yet give you the opportunity to push your business card at them? You don’t have to send the same thing out to everyone–if you belong to a special interest group, maybe you can clip a relevant magazine article and send out copies (along with your card and a short note). Brainstorm ideas, write them down.

Or, send out the dorky announcement. It’s okay if you do that, it’s just not special and it makes it kind of obvious that you’re fresh off the turnip truck, so to speak.

posted by on Especially for Rookies, Jennifer's Best

I haven’t written this blog yet, but I suspect it might be unpopular by the time I’m finished with it. Darn. Oh well.

Here goes… There’s one thing I feel pretty strongly about with regard to our beloved rookie agents. They don’t know what they’re doing. If they’re fresh out of real estate school, I guarantee that they don’t know any more about selling real estate than, well, than I did when I was fresh out of real estate school! And trust me, that’s not much.

So, what’s our solution? Tell ‘em to Fake it ‘til they make it! Get on that phone, drum up some business and fly by the seat of your pants, just like the rest of us did. Oh, and don’t worry, your broker or mentor will be right there with you every step of the way.

And, that’s what most of us did and what most of our newbies still do. Scary, isn’t it? Sure, it might be reasonable to throw a brand new bartender on the floor and let him sink or swim… but allowing a brand new real estate agent to manage a $500,000 financial transaction? Or even a $50,000 one?

But, Jennifer,” you protest… “We all did it that way and the world didn’t come to an end. Somehow, we survived.” Well, maybe. Some of us did; most didn’t. What’s the recent drop-out rate? 80%? 90%? Think that might be partly due to the harsh reality of the rookie experience (or lack thereof)?

Anyway, here’s my point. Rookies, take a few weeks or even a month to learn your stuff. I know you want to hit the phones and tell everyone on the planet that You Just Got Your License, but don’t you think you owe it to your future fan club to know what the heck you’re doing first? I’m not asking you to know it all, but at the very least…. you should:

  • Know your contracts and disclosures backwards and forwards, inside and out. Every provision, every fill-in-the-blank, every place to initial and sign … and why.
  • Know your MLS system backwards and forwards, inside and out. Know how to search for active listings, sold comparables, pending sales. How to find tax assessor information.
  • Know and understand the basics of buyer representation. Make sure you have an overall understanding of the buyer process – from pre-qualification to closing. While you can’t know everything there is until you go through it once or twice or a hundred times, you should at least be aware of how it works.
  • Have a familiarity with your local real estate market – this is so important! In a few weeks, if you bust your backside, you can learn a lot about your area and might even be able to become an expert, of sorts, in a neighborhood or two.

This list could go on and on and on, and if I had my way, all rookie agents would be required to undergo a six month internship before they could legally practice real estate. Alas, no one has asked me for my opinion yet, so I’ll just do my little part here and beg our rookies (and their managing brokers) to commit to being competent real estate advisors before becoming competent real estate prospectors…

Thanks for reading!

www.sellwithsoul.com

Copyright Jennifer Allan 2007

posted by on Especially for Rookies, Jennifer's Best

Rumor has it that real estate agents have a higher than normal divorce rate. Why?

This career can take over your life, physically, financially and emotionally. Physically, you will be Missing-in-loveAction frequently, often without notice. Financially, you may be dipping into the family nest-egg to keep your business afloat, without much to show for your efforts. Emotionally, oh my. The emotional havoc a new real estate career can wreak in your life can’t be overstated. You will be on a crazy roller-coaster ride, most of the time. There are incredible highs and devastating lows… all in the same day.

If you are married or otherwise romantically entangled, please don’t underestimate the effect your career will have on your relationship. Maybe it will be the best thing that ever happened to you. Maybe not. But your relationship WILL change. Your spouse/S.O. will need to accept that the love of his or her life is spending time alone with other people, sometimes in emotionally charged situations. That they will often appear to place these other people and their needs above the needs of the family. That they will be testy, teary and tardy. They will work late, they will work early, they will work on vacation. They may even threaten to cancel a vacation every once in a while!

If you jump into real estate full-time, your spouse or S.O. may be footing the bills for you. Don’t forget to acknowledge and be appreciative of this fact. Often. Discuss it up-front so that no one is blind-sided three months down the line. Don’t assume that your partner is happily paying the bills – resentment can build up fast, especially if your new career is straining the relationship in other ways.

Do your best to put your family at the top of your priority list, but know that they won’t always stay there. When you are building a new business, any business, you need to be fanatically obsessed with the success of that business. And, unfortunately, something will have to give. You simply can’t have it all and do any of it exceptionally well. That’s just a fact.

If your family does not fully support your venture into real estate sales, you may have a big decision to make. Only you can make the best decision for your situation, but just know that without your family’s support, you will probably be miserable most of the time. And a miserable real estate agent won’t be a real estate agent for long.

The good news is that after a few crazy years, you may very well be able to control your time, your energy, your finances and your emotions much better than you can at first. In fact, if you play it smart, you can create a life for you and your family that the rest of the world only dreams about. Work 30 hours a week (you pick which 30!), make a six-figure income and sleep well at night… how does that sound?