Posts Tagged ‘Professionalism’

posted by on Random (Un)Common Sense

I believe this is segment 5 in my little series about the realities of Real Estate in the Olden Days – before the advent of all the technological gizmo/gadgets we enjoy today. Back when we had toget OUT there in our market to learn about it… and to stay on top of the MLS for our clients… and to actually know our way around town without the nice voice speaking to us from our dashboards!

Today I’m going to share with you how we did contracts, disclosures and other important paperwork back in the day…

…brace yourself…

We actually met with our clients. In person. Face2face, voice2voice. In a serious pinch, we MIGHT fax, but it was frowned upon and all faxed signatures MUST be followed up upon immediately with real live inked signatures.

Yes, you read that right. We had to DRIVE to our clients’ homes or workplaces (or have them drive to us), sit down in the same room and TALK… voice2voice… about these somewhat significant pieces of paper we were asking them to sign. In ink, preferably blue.

No emailed contracts, disclosures or amendments. No Docusign or her cousins. Real paper, real ink, real people.

In the spirit of this series, I believe the forced face2face interaction served us old fogies very well. Don’t get me wrong, I’m as big a fan as anyone of NOT getting in my car and driving anywhere I don’t have to, especially if the drive involves rain, snow or traffic. Or, as was often the case in Denver, blinding sunglare.

But since we didn’t have a choice, we did it. Why do I feel this was a good thing? Ah, let me count the reasons…

1. Meeting face2face with your clients more often than less often is better for the relationship. And since discussing contractual issues is an important part of a real estate transaction, it seems to me to make sense to have these conversations in the most conducive environment most to facilitate full discussion and understanding.

2. Perhaps I’m overthinking this, but it seems to me that having a face2face conversation about contractual matters (as opposed to shooting off an emailed file with instructions to sign here, here and here) would give the client the distinct impression that you know your stuff. That you ARE an expert in contractual matters, which you will demonstrate as you review the document they are about to sign provision by provision.

3. Related to this, it seems beneficial to be face2face with the client while going over the documents so you can more clearly tell if they are confused or concerned about a particular provision. And, of course, they will be more likely to ask you questions if they feel they have your undivided attention in a face2face setting.

4. And finally, since the main objective of putting a contract together (whether that’s a listing agreement, a purchase offer or a counterproposal) is to come to agreement on the best strategy to move forward with, it seems that being face2face to do said strategizing might result in a BETTER strategy than one discussed over the phone or email. Or, egads, text!

So, that’s my opinion and I’m sticking to it. Thoughts?

posted by on Prospecting & SOI

To conclude (?) this week’s series on Drip Mail Campaigns (to drip or not to drip?) here are somethoughts on communicating with people who find you online – affectionately known as “web leads.”

***

I had a nice conversation the other day with a newer agent who called me looking for help managing his web leads, specifically asking if I knew of any drip-mail campaigns that had the SWS Seal of Approval. In other words, could I recommend a “canned” approach to communicating with online leads that didn’t sound canned?

Well, sez me, not really, for obvious reasons. Drip-mails are, by definition, impersonal and yes, canned, although I’m sure it’s possible to come up with verbiage that is warmer, more interesting and more sincere than your average drip.

I encouraged my new friend to consider responding to each potential client (I hate the word “lead”) individually, with a personal reference to what the potential client seems to be interested in. For example, “I see you’re looking at homes in the Washington Park area – I used to live there and loved it.” or “I noticed you tagged that awesome mid-century modern home on Belmont – I was just in it the other day and it’s fabulous.”

“But,” my friend protested, “I don’t have time to respond personally to everyone. Wouldn’t it be better to make sure every single lead gets something from me, even if it’s a little impersonal, instead of just responding to a few?”

Eh… couple of thoughts here.

First, no, I think you’ll have a far better success ratio if you respond personally to a relative few than impersonally to a whole bunch. Considering that the other agents these potential clients are writing to either are 1) not responding at all, or 2) sending out canned crap (sorry), your personal response will really stand out in the crowd.

But second, how much time are we really talking about here? Half an hour? An hour? It’s not as if you have to write a book to each person, just a warm note acknowledging their inquiry (which, frankly, you could probably copy and paste from one to the other), along with SOMETHING personal in each that shows it’s a real human being responding.

If you’re currently using an auto-responder or other canned approach to Internet leads and aren’t thrilled with your results, give the personal touch a try! If you already use this approach and would like to share an example how you respond personally to inquiries, I’d sure love to see it :-)

posted by on Prospecting & SOI

Earlier this week I posted a blog asking the question “if YOU were a potential seller, would you beimpressed that an agent took the … ahem… ‘time’ to put you on an automated email campaign?” with the promise to return and elaborate on my statement that “Professionals Don’t Need Drips.”

Let me share a personal story with you.

Earlier this year I approached a real estate agent about listing a property of mine. The property was tenant-occupied and would be for another month or so, so it was not readily accessible for viewing and obviously not ready to be marketed.

But this agent and I (I will call her Mary Beth Bonacci* since that’s her name) chatted a bit about the property and she promised to drive by it soon, do a little research and get back to me with her preliminary thoughts.

Later that week I heard from her with some comments on the location (“wow, very close to the highway but how awesome that it’s within walking distance to the pedestrian bridge,”); her thoughts on who the ideal buyer might be and an assurance that she’d preview the competition over the weekend.

“Cool,” sez  I. “Looking forward to your feedback.”

As promised, Mary Beth emailed me on Monday with the details of her previewing expedition and gave me a ball park range of where my property might fall.

The following week, she contacted me to ask if I knew when the tenant would be moving out.

A few days later she told me about a new listing that had come on the market in the same complex as my unit and promised to preview it right away.

The next day she emailed me to let me know she had previewed the property and that it showed very well. And that there were already multiple offers on it.

Fast forward a month or so. After my renter moved out, Mary Beth took a look at my property, and afterwards emailed me with her suggestions on what needed to be done to it before marketing, and offered up a few service providers.

A week later she contacted me to…

Get the picture?

At no time did she send me an email espousing the importance of hiring the “right Realtor,” warning me about the Dangers of Overpricing or even gently reminding me how much she LUVS referrals. No, she communicated with me as the real estate professional she is… and as a real live human being who actually cared about my upcoming home sale.

“But Jennifer, all that personal communication takes time! Imagine if I took that much interest in all my clients?! I’d never have time to prospect!”

Well, um…

Thoughts?

ore thoughts here: http://swsconnect.com/searchable/soul/professionals-dont-need-drips-but-what-about-web-leads/

posted by on Prospecting & SOI

A few years ago I wrote a blog called “Professionals Don’t Need Scripts” where I pontificated on my strongly held opinion that someone who is an expert in their field (or even reasonably competent) should not have to (or want to) rely on scripts when interacting with clients or potential clients.

So today, a mere 2.25 years later, I’d like to expand upon that notion with a discussion of the emailed script, aka “drip emails.” Let’s start with a definition of “drip emails.” A Drip Email Campaign (for the purposes of this blog anyway) is a pre-written series of emails that you send to someone you have met or had a conversation with about real estate. In all likelihood, you can “personalize” the emails with the person’s name (“Dear Matilda,”), but otherwise, the emails go out automatically with the exact same message to each recipient.

So, let’s say, you visit with a homeowner about selling their home. The conversation goes well, but the homeowner isn’t quite ready to make a decision. You head back to the office, knowing you will need to stay in touch with the homeowner so they don’t forget you when they are ready to sell. You add them to your “Seller Nurture Campaign” drip mail which will send them two emails per week until they list with you, list with someone else or die. And you promptly forget about them and move onto other prospects.

But your emails go out so that the potential seller doesn’t forget about you! Twice a week, they hear from “you” with reminders about how important it is to hire a Realtor (the RIGHT one of course!), helpful tips about preparing their home for market and the like.

“So what’s wrong with that, Jennifer? Aren’t we s’posed to follow-up?” Absolutely! At least, if you want a chance at inspiring that seller to want to be YOUR seller once they’re ready.

BUT… Remember the definition of “drip” – a pre-written message or series of messages (crafted by you or purchased from a marketing company) that go out automatically without any personalization other than the salutation.

Seriously?

Let’s say I’m considering selling my home sometime in the next six months, and therefore in the market to find a real estate agent to represent me. I meet with an agent and we have a productive meeting. I like her, but I haven’t committed to her yet. It’s still early in the process, but I’m looking forward to hearing from her with her thoughts on our home and updates on the State of the Market.

Do I hear from her? You bet! Every three days I get a “Dear Jennifer and Bruce” email with a fancy banner and signature block… and a canned message that has nothing at all to do with our home or situation.

Let me pause for a moment (as I see I’m coming up on 500 words already), and ask YOU… if YOU were the potential seller, would you be impressed that this agent took the … ahem… “time” to put you on an automated email campaign?

Click here to read some further thoughts on the matter…

posted by on Prospecting & SOI

Okay, so if you’ve been around SWS any time at all, you know how we feel about Referral-Begging. Don’t do it. Ever. Just don’t. Ever.

But, but, but…

Yeah, I’ve heard all the but but buts. No need to reiterate them here. (But feel free to search the Referral-Begging tag cloud over there on the right.)

Here’s the thing. If you aren’t enjoying a referral-based business, I promise you, I swear to you, I give you my solemn oath on a stack of Sell with Souls that it is NOT because you aren’t asking for them.

So, um, Ms. Smarty Pantz JAH, why is it so, then? WHY am I not getting the referrals I so fervently desire?

I dunno.

(Real helpful, right?)

No seriously, I don’t know why YOU aren’t getting the referrals you want, but here are some far more likely reasons a real estate agent might not get a steady stream of referrals than a lack of asking for them:

1. He doesn’t know enough people to generate enough referrals to live on (shoot for at least 200);

2. She doesn’t stay in touch with the people she does know on a reasonably regular basis (and rest assured that doesn’t mean every 35 seconds);

3. His stay-in-touch materials are cheesy, predictable, unmemorable and/or boring (aka Dorky)

4. She doesn’t provide refer-worthy service, but rather focuses on prospecting for new clients;

5. His friends know him primarily as a party animal, career-switcher or just a generally likeable but flaky guy;

6.She pesters her friends constantly with reminders to send her referrals which a) annoys them thus inspiring them to avoid her and b) makes them wonder why she’s so desperate.

Of course there are those who protest, saying “But I’ve always asked for referrals and I’ve always gotten them!” And if that’s the case, keep it up if you choose.

But I will challenge you to consider this: How many MORE referrals might you get if you do NOT ask for them? Because I’ll bet you that the referrals you’ve gotten you’d have gotten anyway, without asking for them… but maybe, just maybe your Referral-Begging strategy has pushed people away who otherwise would have been happy to refer…?

 

 

posted by on Prospecting & SOI

Seen recently on a Facebook post of a SWS-minded real estate agent (an agent who follows Sell with Soul philosophies):

WHY THE SCRIPTS!? Are we not past this yet as business owners and marketing professionals? As humans? Really!?”

Hold that thought.

I went to the chiropractor yesterday – my hands have been aching lately and I was hoping to find some relief. When I checked in, the receptionist asked me a series of questions related to the Reason for my Visit – “What would you rate the pain on a scale of 1-10?” “Is the pain constant or intermittent?” “How long ago did this begin?” etc. etc. etc. She recorded my responses in my file and then asked me to take-my-seat, the-doctor-would-be-with-me-soon.

Fine. I’m sure she asks these questions a dozen or two times a day.

So, the doctor-met-with-me-soon and asked me a similar set of questions as she was poking, prodding and twisting me around. “Does this hurt?” “Do you feel any tingling or numbness when I do this?” “Would you describe the pain as shooting or stiffness?”

Fine. I’m sure she asks these questions a dozen or two times a day.

In the hands of the receptionist, the questions are a script since she (probably) doesn’t know much about what my responses to her questions actually mean. Not a problem; it’s not the receptionist’s job to cure what ails me; simply to gather information for the file.

But when the chiropractor asks these questions, she’s not doing it as part of a memorized spiel she learned in her chiropractor training – her questions are intentional and my responses are meaningful. Because… she’s a professional. She understands the Big Picture. She knows what she NEEDS to know and how my responses fit into that Big Picture.

With me?

Okay, so back to the Facebook comment referenced above.

The comment was inspired by a training program the SWS-minded agent was participating in (“was” being the operative word here; she demanded her money back) that pushes memorized scripts for every conceivable prospect-or-client encounter. Her reaction was exactly the same as mine when I hear of this nonsense – “Seriously?? We need a SCRIPT to guide us through a CONVERSATION with someone we’re hoping to inspire to trust us with a significant financial transaction? WHY? Do we not know what we need to know… and what we need to share…? Are we, as licensed real estate agents incapable of having an intelligent, meaningful conversation with a potential client? Are we, as adult human beings incapable of having an intelligent, meaningful conversation with another adult human being?”

If you know what you’re doing, you don’t need a script to do it. Period.

posted by on Random (Un)Common Sense

Until about six months ago, I wasn’t much of a fan of Facebook. Oh, I wanted to be since it seemed like the Place to Be, but I just couldn’t get interested in what really did appear to be simply a collection of those cliche’d “what I had for breakfast” posts. In my quiet moments (i.e. when I was bored) I’d log on and desperately try to find entertainment there, but almost always failed in that endeavor.

So, what happened six months ago? Well, I got involved in animal rescue and now Facebook is my new best friend. I’ve found a community of similarly-obsessed people, both locally and across the country, and together we make miracles happen every day for abandoned dogs in kill shelters. It’s honestly the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done and Facebook is a HUGE part of enabling us to do what we do.

Now, I’m sure that I’ve “lost” a lot of Facebook friends since my personal page was taken over by doggie chatter and I’m fine with that, truly. I’d much rather someone block my posts than be annoyed with me on a daily basis! By the way, if you want to see the rescue FB page I run, you can visit us here:www.SavingWaltonCountyDogs.com. We truly are making miracles happen every single day.

But enough about me.

I’ve noticed a trend on Facebook of posting “cute” little postcard-like graphics with provocative, sometimes even offensive quotes. Hey, I’m no prude and sometimes they make me LOL, but some of them, well, don’t. And given the nature of what I do, I see a disturbing number of these posts on real estate agents’ pages.

Here are a few examples I’ve seen in the last week:

Drunk 1

drunk

gps

Funny? Yeah, I guess. But are these REALLY the messages these real estate agents want to be putting out there for all their friends to see? That they spend their days anxiously awaiting happy hour and calling people names?

I know a lot of people say that they keep their FB “friends” list intimate so that they can let their hair down and truly be themselves without worrying about offending potential clients, but guess what?! Our friends CAN be a tremendous source of business for us and in my humble opinion, implying that we live for happy hour  and can’t control our mouths might give even our friends the wrong impression of our professionalism. Like it or not, when you’re self-employed, you’re always on display. And while someone may think you’re a hoot to hang out with (and drink and curse with), the fact is, we choose our friends using a different set of expectations than we choose the people we hire and refer to.

Just something to think about!

posted by on An Exceptional Agent

I’m going to pose a situation to you and ask for your honest feedback as to how you would respond if this situation were presented to you. 

Sometime in the next year, my husband and I will be selling our home and buying a new one. Since I’m not licensed in the state of Florida (and have no desire to be), we will be seeking the services of a local real estate agent.

Honestly, this scares me to death. I have rather high expectations for an agent who represents me – well, actually I don’t feel my expectations are unreasonable, but my past experience with hiring listing agents has been discouraging – my ‘I-consider-to-be-reasonable’ expectations weren’t even close to met and I spent a lot of my time frustrated.

So, how do I ward this off? I don’t WANT to be frustrated! But I want my agent to have a clear understanding of what I expect… and to be willing to live up to my I-consider-to-be-reasonable expectations.

Here’s my idea… to make a proposal to the agents we interview, outlining what we expect from them in terms of pre-market pricing research, photography, communication, marketing, ongoing market research, etc. And see who, if any, are interested in our business… 

How would you respond if someone took this approach with you? (Caveat – this “someone” has real estate experience and has maybe even written a book or two on the subject.)

Would you be offended and irritated? Or conversely, challenged and inspired?

Your thoughts?

Here’s a little survey on the matter – would love your input! http://survey.constantcontact.com/survey/a07e68ydadch5pidebu/start

posted by on An Exceptional Agent

On Thursday, we held a show in the SWS Virtual Studio entitled “Mastering Your Market for Fun & Profit” where my guest Chiara Petro and I discussed WHY being a Market Master is something you might want to be and HOW to go about becoming one!

My definition of being a Market Master is that if someone tells me where they live, I get a mental image of their neighborhood, subdivision or condo building. I don’t necessarily know what year their house was built or how big it is, although I might be able to guess pretty accurately, but I have a general sense of the overall ambience, what amenities are nearby and I probably have a real estate-related anecdote or two about the area I can toss out. I call it being “conversationally familiar” with the Market when I can easily and confidently chat about the real estate in an area without resorting to the tired old “Well, I don’t really know, but I’d be happy to find out for you!

At the end of the show, I asked the audience to send in their favorite tip-of-the-day, and here are the results:

Favorit-est Tip #1: Leave the GPS at Home!
As you’re working toward becoming a Master of Your Market, leave the GPS at home to force yourself to learn how to find your way around without relying on that voice coming from the little box on your dash. Not only does this give you far more credibility when buyers are sitting in your car, but you’ll also have a much better mental picture of your market area and how the various neighborhoods, highways and commercial districts relate to each other geographically.

Favorit-est Tip #2: Preview, preview, preview!
If “previewing” is allowed in your market, take advantage of it… as often as you can! There’s no way you can become a Master of Your Market by memorizing MLS statistics or even looking at pictures – you need to be out IN it. And your previewing tours will be far more effective if you practice “opinionated previewing” which means you look at similar homes (i.e. similar price range, vintage, architecture, etc.) and compare the homes to each other as opposed to just heading out and looking at a bunch of unrelated properties.

Favorit-est Tip #3: “Averages” are meaningless; instead, research the “ranges
The “average” price, square footage, days on market or list-to-sold ratio statistic in a market area is likely a meaningless indicator of what’s really going on there. When researching a Market to become a Master of it, focus on identifying the “ranges” – highest and lowest price, largest and smallest square footage, highest and lowest days on market, etc.

Favorit-est Tip #4: Identify alternatives to the Market You’re Mastering
As you’re Mastering one Market area, try to identify alternatives to that area that a buyer might also consider. For example, perhaps a buyer loves a certain style of home that can be found in the neighborhood you’re mastering, but needs a larger lot than is typically available there. Or perhaps they can’t quite afford that neighborhood, and would appreciate knowing what other parts of town offer similar homes and amenities for less money. Being conversationally familiar with the alternatives will give you tremendous credibility when talking with buyers.

Favorit-est Tip #5: Patronize businesses in the Market You’re Mastering
Hey, you gotta shop somewhere… you gotta eat sometime… you gotta get your hair cut, your dog groomed and your dry-cleaning done, so why not do it in the Market You’re Mastering? Not only will you be likely to meet people who have real estate needs in the area, but you’ll also be able to speak intelligently to clients about the local businesses and amenities.

Favorit-est Tip #6: Identify all landmark buildings in the Market You’re Mastering
Drive around the Market You’re Mastering and make notes of the buildings you see that aren’t readily identifiable. Schools, churches, rest homes, etc. Find out what they are so when you’re working with a buyer and the buyers asks “What’s that?” you’ll know the answer!

Other favorit-est tips from the show included:

  • Blog and create market reports about what you learn while previewing
  • Read other agents’ blogs & newsletters
  • Know school district boundaries & statistics
  • Choose one geographic area at a time to master
  • Know your office inventory

posted by on Prospecting & SOI

voicemail“You have reached <insert pause> 850-xxx-xxxx. Please leave a message at the sound of the tone.”

That’s the greeting I received yesterday when I dialed the phone number on the rider perched atop a For Sale sign. I wasn’t calling to buy the house, but rather to let the listing agent know that her vacant listing appears to be squatted in – that someone might be living there without the blessing of the owner.

As I dialed the number on a Sunday morning, I assumed I’d get voice mail since this is the south and a lot of people tend to hang out at church on this day and time of the week. But I laughed out loud when I got the “standard greeting with your telephone number telling callers you are not available” on a real estate agent’s direct line! Seriously?! Someone goes to the trouble of printing up custom sign riders with their name and number and then can’t even bother to record their NAME on their voicemail greeting, never mind a warm, friendly, inviting personal greeting?

I must confess the snarky side of me was tempted to play dumb and say something like “Oh, um, I thought I was calling a real estate agent, maybe I dialed the number wrong. Well, I’m looking for Judy Smith – it’s about the house on Luna Way – if this is the right number, please call me back…” But I managed to restrain my snarky side and left a detailed message with my concern about her listing, included my name and phone number (what a concept!) and invited her to call me back if she’d like.

I’ll give ya three guesses as to whether or not she did. Not that she needed to, but it would have been a nice gesture. Hey, you never know where you’ll meet your next biggest client and if someone takes the time to call YOU with information you might appreciate, it’s probably a good idea to call them back. What the heck.

But that’s not my point; I’m sure anyone reading this blog would have already made that Thank You call. My point is that maybe, just maybe this agent doesn’t realize her voicemail is the “standard greeting telling callers you are unavailable” – after all, how many times do we call our own number? Maybe she USED to have a warm, friendly, inviting personal greeting on there and somehow it was erased? And she’d be stunned to find out some snarky real estate writer was criticizing her on a public blog? It’s possible!

So, don’t let this happen to you! Take a moment right now and dial your own direct line; lines if you have more than one. Make sure the outgoing greeting you hear IS a greeting and one that would inspire YOU to leave a message if you were in need of real estate assistance! Might be the best investment of 60 seconds of your day today!

posted by on Consulting & Compensation

Last week we did a little teleseminar show in the SWS Virtual Studio called “Using a Consultative Approach with Expired Listings,” where we discussed a better way (IMHO!) to work with frustrated homeseller wannabe’s than the traditional pushy, salesy nonsense that’s preached as gospel in our industry.

By “consultative” I mean that you go in with an attitude of “What Went Wrong and how can we fix it?” as opposed to an attitude of “please sign this here listing agreement so I can put MY sign in your yard for another six months and oh, yeah, you were overpriced, that’s why you didn’t sell, see ya in six weeks when I show up with a price reduction amendment for you to sign.”

During the show I described an approach that helps both the agent and frustrated homeseller wannabe figure out exactly What Went Wrong and if it CAN be fixed to maximize the likelihood of a better outcome this go-around. I asked the audience to take notes and at the end of the show, tell me which tip or strategy was their favorite of the day…

And here are the results!

Favorit-est Tip #1
Approach the homeseller wannabe with a list of questions about their prior (unsuccessful) listing experience (including asking them why they think the home didn’t sell) instead of coming in with a fancy-schmantzy presentation and sales pitch.

Favorit-est Tip #2
Go in with the heart of a detective (i.e. a consultant) with the goal of discovering What Went Wrong instead of a goal of Getting a Signature.

Favorit-est Tip #3
Related to #1 and #2, have a CONVERSATION with the homeseller wannabe instead of making a presentation; listen more and talk less.

Favorit-est Tip #4
Use a multi-step process – your first visit is solely to gather information, and on the second visit you present your analysis of What Went Wrong.

Favorit-est Tip #5
Take a close look at the prior agent’s MLS listing looking for red flags that might have impeded the sale of the home. Examples of red flags include: important fields not completed properly, the listing describes showing restrictions, the buyer agent co-op isn’t competitive, the home is priced just above a natural threshold, or the listing description overpromises.

Favorit-est Tip #6
You can actually CHARGE to perform this “What Went Wrong” analysis as a separate service and offer to rebate the fee at closing if hired to list the property.

Favorit-est Tip #7
You might discover when doing your analysis that the property simply isn’t sellable right now.

posted by on Prospecting & SOI

I was listening to some ho-hum non-real estate-specific sales training seminar a few weeks ago – don’t know why I was listening to it, considering it was as ho-hum as they come; maybe I was subconsciously looking for material to blog about!

And voila! I found something!

During the seminar, the speaker was spouting traditional numbers game fluff. Basically, the same old “The more people you touch with your sales pitch, the more you’ll sell of whatever it is you’re pitching.”

One of the examples he used was actually from the world of real estate. He was talking about real estate agents procuring listings and made the statement that: “If you could go on 10 listing appointments this month, that would be good, wouldn’t it? But what if you could go on 100 listing appointments, wouldn’t that be even better?”

Hmmmmmmmm.

Really? 100 listing appointments this month?

Oh, I get his point and since he’s not a real estate agent, perhaps he doesn’t realize that going on 100 listing appointments in one month would be nearly impossible for a normal human being. But he seemed to know enough about the real estate industry to understand what a listing appointment entails and the reason for doing them, so I’m going to assume that, practical considerations aside, he believes that MORE is always BETTER when it comes to prospecting for business.

I disagree.

Here’s the thing. Regardless of the number of appointments you shoot for, if your primary goal is one of QUANTITY over QUALITY, I personally think you’re wasting an awful lot of time and energy. I mean, think about it. Let’s say that it’s possible to do 50 listing appointments a month – that’s about 2.5 appointments every week day. Now, I’m assuming that if you’re going on 2.5 appointments a day, you’re doing very little preparation for each appointment and basically going in with your well-rehearsed presentation followed by an expedient pitch for signature.

Hold that thought.

The speaker who was espousing the quantity over quality approach proclaimed that one of the great things about his approach was that when (not if) you get turned down, you won’t really care that much because you have plenty more fish in the kettle – that is – another listing appointment or two later that day, and 2.5 more tomorrow.

Hmmmmmmmm.

That sounds exhausting.

But how about the other approach – the one the speaker implied was “just okay?” Where you “only” have ten listing appointments a month; therefore every one of those appointments is going to be far more important to you and much more disappointing to you if you don’t get the listing?

BINGO!!!

D’ya see where I’m going with this?

posted by on Prospecting & SOI

Yesterday I read yet another (ho hum) article about how important it is for real estate agents to remember that their primary obligation (to whom?) is to prospect for new business. Every day. Before they do anything else.

Blech. Frustrated

This attitude literally nauseates me. The article went on to say that (I’m paraphrasing) since the non-income producing activities (specifically client service) we “have” to do are typically the activities that give us the most grief (um… really?) and create the most frustration in our lives, we should spend as little time as possible on them and relegate them to the hours of the day when our energy level is the lowest so as not to “waste” our high-energy hours taking care of those pesky clients who have the nerve to want our attention after they’ve hired us.

Wow.

Now, if the author of the article was saying that a natural rainmaker should go out and make rain all day long and bring the results home to a more client-oriented PARTNER (not assistant) to actually care for, I might be less critical. But nope, that wasn’t the gist of the article – it was simply to say that because client service activities are not directly income-producing (although I’ll argue that one all day long!), they should be the lowest priority on your daily to-do list.

I’ve ranted about this before and if you’d like to read more, check out the links below. But for now, I’ll just ask this…

If you were to sit down right now and write up a business plan for the next twelve months where you outlined your business development (i.e. prospecting) and client service goals and commitments, and then created a mission statement based specifically on that business plan… would you be willing to share it with your clients and potential clients? 

If the mission statement you create from your business plan reads anything like: “Taking care of my current clients will NOT be done until I’ve run out of energy to search for new ones” – would you be proud to post it on your website, your blog and in your listing presentation?

RELATED RANTS

How do you think your clients feel about your 80/20 plan?
80/20? Let’s turn that around!
If Real Estate is so easy, how do you justify your fee?

posted by on An Exceptional Agent

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Last month, I stopped by my bank to make a minor change to my business account. The gal who helped me was Really Nice. Friendly, chatty, made good eye contact and seemed truly interested in making sure I had a great experience in her bank that day. I left thinking lots of warm thoughts about her and my bank. She was Really Nice.

I emailed her the next day with a question about the change we’d made to my account. No response. I called and left a voice mail. No call-back. Called again. No call-back again.

A few days later I tried to use the account we’d made the change to and something was wrong. It wasn’t “working” right. I stopped by the bank for help. She identified the error she’d made and corrected it. Or so I thought. Actually, she corrected one mistake but created another.

I’ve now been in the bank four times and spent at least three hours with three different bankers trying to get my bank account to “work.” All of them were Really Nice and I left the bank thinking all was going to be well.

Not sure if it is, indeed, “all well” yet, but I’m hopeful.

Anyway, here’s my point. Last month there were some fun discussions here in the Rain about whether it’s more important to be knowledgeable or to be likeable as a real estate agent. And when we say “important,” we’re referring to an agent’s likelihood of success in this extraordinarily difficult industry we call home.

I proclaimed that knowledge and competence trumps likeability, assuming one has to choose between the two, which of course, is not always or even usually the case. But if I had to choose a real estate agent to represent me, I’d want one who will Get the Job Done as opposed to one who will be my New Best Friend but doesn’t have a clue how to manage my real estate transaction. Besides, being likeable just gets you in the door; it doesn’t sell houses and doesn’t lead you to a payday if you aren’t competent to manage the business your likeability earns you.

I believe that if you are confident in your competence, even if you are NOT the friendliest person in the world, that confidence will be more compelling to potential clients than just being a likeable guy or gal. So you win both ways – you GET business because your demeanor inspires trust, and you GET PAID because your competence gives you a good shot at getting your transactions all the way to the closing table.

So, yes, being Really Nice gets you in the door and may win you lots of friends. And if a real estate transaction starts to sour maybe being Really Nice can even charm the client into not being too upset. But wouldn’t being Really Good be a better approach? Something to shoot for?

posted by on An Exceptional Agent

A few weeks ago, I posted a blog called “Nine Attributes of an Exceptional Real Estate Agent” in which I listed nine competence-related skills and services I’d want my real estate agent to bring to the table if I were in need of real estate assistance.

None of the nine attributes had anything to do with being nice, friendly, likeable or compassionate; they were all related to taking exceptionally good care of me and my real estate transaction.

Several of the 120+ commenters called me out on that – they felt strongly that I should have included what they called “people skills” and what I call “compassion factors” (e.g. being a good listener) in my list of attributes.

I disagreed. NOT because I think real estate agents should strive to be a$$holes with atrocious bedside manners, but rather because what we do, if we do it right and especially in today’s excruciatingly difficult market, requires a fairly high level of competence, expertise and good old fashioned hard WORK to properly serve the clients who have honored us with their business.

Being nice, likeable, friendly and empathetic isn’t enough. It’s just not. Yes, maybe having great people skills gets you in the door, but if you don’t have the knowledge and expertise to get the job done that you were hired to do, all the people skills in the world aren’t going to change the fact that 1) your client is going to be disappointed and may very well share that disappointment with anyone who will listen; and 2) if you’re paid on a contingent commission basis and can’t get the job done, no payday cometh for you.

No one wins… not your client, not you, not your struggling real estate market that could really use some exceptionally competent real estate agents out there getting the job DONE!

What dismays me the most about this discussion is the heavy emphasis in our industry on personality being the key factor in success. Who cares about market knowledge, contract mastery or negotiating skills? As long as you’re likeable, you’ll be just fine! And we wonder why the failure rate in our industry is so freakin’ high?

It takes more than a mega-watt smile, a firm handshake and a sympathetic ear to properly serve your clients. If you don’t believe that, then I’ll go out on a limb and say that your clients aren’t being properly served, and I promise you, they notice. Oh, they may still like you personally, but inside, they’re wishing they’d hired that other guy or gal who (as my biggest client ever used to say about me) “…isn’t the friendliest person in the world, but she gets the job done.

So, my friends, let’s go forth… and be Exceptional … and Get the Job DONE!

(If you’d like to read more of my thoughts on the matter, read my comment #39 on the blog referenced above).

posted by on An Exceptional Agent

Before Christmas I posted a blog about a show we did in the SWS Virtual Studio called “Are You the Best Real Estate Agent You Know?” In that blog, I described three reasons you might WANT to BE the best agent you know, and promised to continue the conversation with some concrete attributes or characteristics that someone who IS the best agent they know might possess.

So, ’cause I usually keep my promises, below are nine attributes (skills, services and masteries) of what an agent I’d be excited to hire to represent me should bring to the table:

1. Market Mastery – the agent understands the nuances of the local real estate market – at least the segmentNeighborhood of it that affects ME!


2. MLS Mastery
– the agent is intimately familiar with the MLS and therefore makes pricing recommendations based on data that is complete, relevant and accurate.


contract3. Contract (and Disclosure) Mastery
– the agent understands and can explain each and every provision in the contracts and disclosures I’ll be asked to sign, and ensures that I understand how each provision affects me.


4. Pricing Expertise
– related to #1, the agent understands the nuances of the specific market area(s) that I’m buying or selling in, and how various features and amenities (or lack thereof) affect the market value of the properties there.


5. Photography Skills
(or willingness to hire a photographer) – the agent understands the importance of having great photos online and is willing to invest the time and money to either take great photos him or herself, or hire someone to do it.

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6. Basic Understanding of Home Construction, Repair and Local Architecture
– while I don’t expect my agent to be a licensed contractor, I do expect them to understand basic issues of home construction and repair so they can speak intelligently to me about issues that may arise during our transaction. This knowledge will enhance their credibility with me tremendously.


7. Good Problem-Solving and Negotiating Skills
– the agent doesn’t fall apart and go all drama-queen (or king) on me when the going gets a little rocky. They stay calm and focused, and tackle the problem head-on. They are skilled, confident negotiators.


8. A Great Team –
the agent has a great team. If I need a referral to the best lender, inspector, handyman, house-cleaner, structural contractor, roofer or painter in town, my agent knows who that is and will set me up.


9. Great Systems in Place to Track Transactions 
– the agent has detailed checklists and follow-ups in place so that things don’t slip through the cracks or get forgotten when they get busy or distracted.

So, whatcha’ think? Do these sound like the characteristics of an agent you’d hire to take care of your real estate transaction? Any others you’d like to add… or any of these you don’t think belong on the list?

posted by on An Exceptional Agent

On Thursday, December 15th, we convened in the SWS Virtual Studio for the last time of the 2011 season for our final show entitled “Are You the Best Real Estate Agent You Know?”

Fun was had by all (well, I had fun anyway), as we discussed the reasons one might WANT to be the best agent they know and HOW to tell if you are, indeed, an exceptional real Bestestate agent.

By exceptional, I should probably explain that I don’t necessarily mean “top-producing,” although you certainly may be. I don’t mean that you have a gazillion For Sale signs around town (unless the majority of them have SALE PENDING riders on top of them). I don’t mean that you have a well-oiled machine in place to efficiently “care for” your current clients so you can devote 80% of your time to prospecting for new ones.

No, by “exceptional real estate agent” I’m refering to someone who is competent at managing a complicated process (i.e. a real estate transaction) with its many moving pieces and parts and personalities and emotions, and who consistently EARNS rave reviews from his (or her) clients for his (or her) exceptional client service and satisfactory results.

(Whew, that was a mouthful).

So, to put it more succinctly: Competence + Compassion = Exceptional.

Anyway, during the show I described three reasons one might strive to be an Exceptional Real Estate Agent, aka, the Best Agent They Know.

Reason #1
Confidence. When you’re great at what you do and you know you’re great at what you do, that confidence will be apparent to others. You won’t have to come up with a compelling elevator speech, create clever business cards or use magic trigger words or gestures to inspire people to trust you; the people you meet will be able to tell that you are capable of handling their (or their friends’) real estate needs. No sales pitch required.

Reason #2
When you’re a great real estate agent, your current clients will notice – and they won’t be able to help themselves from singing your praises to everyone they know. Unfortunately, the bar in our industry is set rather low in the customer satisfaction department, so if YOUR clients are satisfied and they talk nicely about you behind your back, referrals will come. I promise.

Reason #3
The third reason you might want to strive to be an exceptional agent is a very practical one. More paydays. Exceptional real estate agents enjoy more visits to the closing table because they know how to get the job done. They know how to put and hold real estate transactions together! Their contracts don’t fall apart when things get sticky because 1) they’re keeping a close eye on things as opposed to chasing after new business and 2) they know what to do to solve those potentially deal-killing challenges that inevitably arise during the contract-to-closing period.

So… how does one become an Exceptional Real Estate Agent? Well, it’s not a class or a certification or an event; it’s a process. It’s making the commitment to BE great at what you do and then DOING what you need to do to be great.

posted by on Prospecting & SOI

THANK YOU THANK YOU AR Gods for featuring my little rant last week about whether or not an 80/20% business model (where 80% of one’s time is devoted to prospecting and 20% devoted to client care) is a wise course to take in a real estate career. I can’t say enough how encouraging it was to hear so many commenters jump on the “clients-first” bandwagon, proclaiming that while they acknowledge prospecting for new clients must be done, it should NOT be done at the expense of one’s current clients!

Yay!

In the original blog, I promised to return with some more thoughts of my own on the matter, but most of those thoughts were already spoken within the nearly 100 comments. But I’ll make good on my promise and share mine anyway, even though they’ll likely just echo the brilliance provided by those who participated in the discussion.

Thought #1
If you are a new or struggling real estate agent and don’t have any (or many) clients to care for, then I suppose you should be spending some signficant time looking for some – in other words, you probably can’t fill up all or most of your working hours serving the clients you don’t yet have. HOWEVER… hold true to the philosophy of putting clients first – when you get up in the morning, make darn sure that your current clients and prospects are fully taken care of before you even think about prospecting. GET INTO THIS HABIT EARLY and it will pay off for you big time in the future. I promise.

Thought #2
As many pointed out, taking great care of the clients you have is a FANTASTIC prospecting strategy. Those who neglect their current clients so they can pursue their future ones darn well better enjoy that pursuit because they’ll be doing it their entire careers. In other words, very few referrals cometh to agents who don’t take good care of their clients when they have them.  

But maybe that’s okay for the 80/20 crowd. Maybe they’re so awesome at prospecting, they don’t need the trust, affection and referrals of their current and past clients, so it doesn’t matter if their clients don’t think much of them during and after their time together. The 80/20’s just spend the rest of their career devoting 80% of your time prospecting! Hey, it’s one business model that many subscribe to and they make it work, so if that sounds like fun to you, knock yourself out!

Thought #3
As many mentioned in the original blog, a 20/80 model (20% prospecting, 80% client care) IS a viable strategy once you have enough clients to care for. Spend your days taking great care of your clients and then stay in touch with them on a reasonably regular basis afterwards (which probably won’t take even 20% of your time) and I promise you – you’ll be golden. 

Thanks for such a great discussion, my friends!

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 Reflections From a Difficult Market

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I could hardly stop myself from jumping up and clapping when I read the post I re-blogged below. Here are some similarly-topic’ed posts I’ve written myself on the subject:

Real Estate Agents – Salespeople or Consultants? Depends on the Agent! 
“Lead Generation is what Real Estate is All About” 
Doctors and Lawyers and Real Estate Agents?

And here’s my comment on the post itself…

AMEN Carol Ann – I don’t even know where to start in expressing my agreement with you. Last year I wrote a Manifesto (that remains mostly unshared) about what it will take to change the somewhat negative image among the general public of our industry and one of my suggestions was to prohibit the use of the word “salesperson” (or any variation) in our official titles or personal branding. WE DO NOT SELL REAL ESTATE! Homeowners sell real estate; we facilitate the transaction in a professional service capacity.

Do we have to sell ourselves? Of course we do – so does every other self-employed person on the planet. Do we call a self-employed dentist a Dental Salesperson? Do we say that they “sell” dental services? Do we call a self-employed massage therapist a Massage Sales Associate and refer to her business as one of selling massages?

Of course not and it’s the same with real estate agents. However, the notion that we ARE salespeople is so pervasive in our industry that we’re attracting the WRONG practitioners TO our industry – people who ARE natural salespeople and aren’t particularly interested in the pieces and parts of what can be a very complicated transaction. I crack up when people argue with me over this and say that the “details” of a real estate transaction are best left to a $12/hour assistant so that the “salesperson’s” precious time and sales skills can be best used drumming up new business. HA! When someone says that, I KNOW they have no idea of what a competent, client-centered real estate professional does all day – and it ain’t SALES.

I could go on and on, but I’ll stop here. Thanks for the opportunity to passionately agree with you! Fantastic blog!

Via Al and Cal Realty Group Al Mussi Carol Ann Palmieri (RE/MAX Executive Realty):

Why do They Call It Selling Real Estate Anyway?  It’s not like Selling Pencils

I have never considered myself a “sales” person.   I read a gal’s post today. She was questioning whether or not to stay in the field feeling that she wasn’t comfortable with her sales abilities. The first thought that came to mind was,

Why do they call it Selling Real Estate anyway?    Do any of us think that it’s like selling pencils or something?    No buyer is going to let themselves be “sold” into making such a large purchase.   Especially one that you can’t return!    You can push a pencil on someone and that might be selling, but telling a person why they need this $500,000 dollar house instead of another just doesn’t work.  On the flip side, does anyone think we can talk a person into selling a home when they don’t want to?    Can you imagine someone going through the home sale process because their agent was a quick and convincing talker?   I don’t think so.   sales pitch

So instead of calling it Selling if we called it consulting or something else wouldn’t it take a lot of pressure off all the parties involved?    It would be more accurate, wouldn’t it?     What do Realtors really do any way?    We Research, Investigate, Evaluate, Negotiate, Facilitate, Market, Promote, Educate, Coordinate, and Communicate just to mention a few things.       If we stopped calling it selling, there might be a higher degree of trust  on the part of Buyers and Sellers.  They might not not worry that we are trying to get them to do something that we couldn’t possibly do anyway.    

I will admit.  There are times we need to recognize that someone wants to make a purchase and needs a gentle nudge, but that comes with experience and getting to know your buyer or seller.  That nudge comes in the form of opinion.   We are not “selling” them. 

The only thing we might actually “sell” is ourselves or our services.   What sets us apart in the crowd.   One doesn’t need to be a hard sell or an in your face kind of person to do that.    Confidence and ability to complete what you say will can win over even the toughest skeptic.   

Would  the real estate field  attract more folks to it if the word “sales” wasn’t used in front of agent?   We do have to have to be great communicators with exceptional organizational skills as well as an intense degree of dedication, but sales skills, I wonder.

If you don’t want to be sold, but want an agent that will guide you through the real estate process from locating to evaluating and negotiating the home of your dreams… I’m your gal.