Posts Tagged ‘The Confident Rookie’

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 Especially for Rookies

qA few weeks ago, my trainee came into my office all flustered. He’d been out with his buyers over the weekend and felt that he’d made a fool of himself by not being able to intelligently answer his buyers’ questions. It almost sounded as if he was ready to throw in the towel – at least until he knew more about what he was doing!

Calm down, I told him. First, trust that it will happen to you thru-out your career. Don’t panic. Don’t make stuff up, but don’t panic.

I asked him what the questions were that he couldn’t answer. And guess what? Most of the questions were really good ones – that is – chances are that even a more experienced agent wouldn’t have known the answers either! But the problem with being new is that you don’t know what you SHOULD know and so you figure you should know it all.

This is where not panicking comes in.

Take a deep breath and really think about the question. Is this something you should or could know?

For example, let’s say you’re showing lofts downtown and the buyer asks: “What are the pet restrictions in this building?” Well, unless you live in the building yourself or unless you make a habit of memorizing condo rules & regulations, you couldn’t possibly know the answer. Or how about if a buyer asks you where the property lines are on a rural property? If you aren’t the listing agent, this is probably not something you can accurately answer.

This doesn’t mean it’s not your job to get the answer – it is. But if you don’t know the answer off the top of your head, it’s okay!

So, how do you respond?

First, DO NOT use those tired old words “I don’t know the answer, but I can certainly find out for you!” in that prissy, almost defensive voice. You know what I’m talking about don’t you? That cheerful, oh-so-helpful voice that clearly tells your client that you don’t have a clue, but wish you did?

Instead, try this. Relax, and VERY casually say “Hmmmm, I don’t know. Lemme find out.” Write it down, and move on.

Or, how about this? “Wow – I’ve never gotten that question before. I’m looking forward to finding out the answer!” Write it down, and move on.

Or, in the above scenarios when you’re working with a buyer and he has questions about the property you’re looking at, take control and call the listing agent immediately.  That will make a great impression on the buyer.

Of course, sometimes you’ll be asked a question you should know the answer to and you don’t. This is happening to me more often lately as I venture deeper into the world of foreclosures & short sales. My stock answer has become “Y’know, I should know the answer to that, but I don’t. I’ll find out for you.” This somewhat self-deprecating approach seems to be working – at least – no one’s fired me yet for saying it!

 www.SellwithSoul.com

Hope you enjoyed the Confident Rookie Series! Now… go get ’em!

  1. Know Your Systems
  2. Practice with Your Printer (sounds silly, I know)
  3. Preview, Preview, Preview
  4. Drive Your Route Ahead of Time
  5. Cheerfully Waste Your Time
  6. Find a Handyman
  7. Let Your Seller Prospect Do Most of the Talking
  8. Get Comfy with Your Commission
  9. Admit that You’re New
  10. What to say when you don’t know the answer

posted by on Especially for Rookies

new

Here we are – the second-to-last installment of the Confident Rookie Series!

A lot of new agents worry about being taken advantage of by experienced agents, if the experienced agent were to find out that they’re new.  So the obvious solution is to pretend that they aren’t new, right?

Unfortunately, no. The thing is – if you’re new, it will almost certainly be obvious to the agent on the other side of the table, whether you own up to it or not. And the more you try to fake experience, the more obvious it will be. When I’m on the other side of a transaction from a rookie agent who is trying to pretend she knows what she’s doing, she almost always embarrasses herself. However, if the rookie agent tells me upfront that she’s in her first year and to bear with her if she goes overboard crossing her t’s and dotting i’s… I’m a lot more willing to make the experience pleasant for her.

And I think you’ll find more agents with this mindset than not. Yes, there are some amazingly jerky people in our business and if you happen to run into one of them early in your career, they may very well make that transaction miserable for you… but the good news is that – think about it – you’ll only have a handful of “first deals” so chances are good you’ll have a decent agent on the other side. Just be upfront with them about your lack of experience, confidently, and they may even go out of their way to help you. The same goes for inspectors, appraisers, attorneys, closers and lenders.

However, what if you do run into a jerk on your first or second sale? I did – my third sale actually and 12 years later I still remember him vividly. He was abusive and condescending and said some pretty nasty things to me – you can read about him in Chapter Eleven of Sell with Soul. And he did intimidate me to the point of embarrassing myself in front of my client. Turned out that he later checked into a mental facility for “anger issues.”

An abusive agent is going to abuse everyone he comes in contact with – it’s not just you and it’s not personal. He’d abuse me, he’d abuse Johnny and he probably abuses his mortgage brokers and title reps on a regular basis. Keep your cool, follow your instincts and you’ll get thru it.

But this doesn’t mean that your inexperience as a new agent won’t be used against you, even by a nice-guy opposing agent. That other agent has a duty to represent his client’s best interests, so don’t believe for a second he’s going to help you negotiate against him or his client. If you don’t know how to help your buyer determine if a listing is overpriced, if you don’t know how to get your buyer what he wants at the inspection, if you don’t know how to appeal a low appraisal, the other agent will definitely take advantage of you. It’s his job.

So if something sounds fishy to you – AT ALL – ask for help from someone in your office. Even if it doesn’t sound fishy, have someone review what you’ve done… or better yet, what you’re getting ready to do before you do it!

posted by on Especially for Rookies

How comfy are you with your systems? Specifically, your MLS and your contract software? For me, if I’m not proficient with my tools of my trade, it’s easy for me to shy away from using them. Well, in OUR trade, shying away from using the MLS or your contract software is pretty much fatal to your chances of bringing in a paycheck. KWIM?contract

Last year, after two years away from the trenches, I re-activated my real estate license. The RE/MAX office I joined had a new fancy-schmantzy contract software program I’d never used before. Well, the heavens smiled on me and I got a buyer off my blog literally the first day back. We went out looking at houses and they found one they liked and wanted to make an offer on it.

YIPES! I had no idea how to even fire up the program, much less navigate through it, so… get this… I put them off with some stupid excuse until two days later so I could get a crash course on the software. But even with the crash course, I was a bit of a basket-case writing up the offer, from a technology perspective.

For a new agent, I imagine this would be doubly or triply unnerving! At least I’d actually gone through a purchase contract with a buyer a couple hundred times, so I wasn’t nervous about that… but the actual technology of it just about shut me down.

So, the first step is admitting you have a problem. When you run an MLS search for a buyer, do you trust your results? When you’re looking for comparables to price a home for a prospective seller, are you sure you found them all? No? Then practice practice practice. And get some training, either from the local MLS provider/board or from another agent in the office. Do 5 practice CMAs* on 5 office listings. Do a CMA on your own house. Search for homes Just Like Yours and go preview them.

If you use contract software (as opposed to handwriting your contracts), GET SOME TRAINING. These systems are not intuitive and you’ll be a basket-case like I was if you’re sitting down with a buyer to write an offer and can’t figure out how to print it out. Or how to auto-populate the fields from contract to contract. These programs are typically pretty powerful and can do a lot of things for you… LEARN THEM.

Yeah, yeah, I know that Learning your Systems isn’t nearly as sexy as learning how to prospect, but unless you’re a master fake-it-til-you-make-it-er, those prospects you bring in won’t be worth much to you without a decent knowledge of your systems.

Tomorrow: Secret Two – Practice with Your Printer (more important than you might think!) 

* CMA traditionally stands for Competitive Market Analysis or Comparative Market Analysis, however, I recently a much better definition, compliments of Broker Bryant – “Compilation of Market Activity.” A CMA is a report prepared by a real estate agent to determine the market value of a home.

 

posted by on Especially for Rookies

Last August I held a 3-hour workshop in Denver called “The Confident Rookie – Ten Secrets to Looking as if You’ve Done this Before!” Fun time, good crowd.ja

For whatever reason, my inbox & forum have been flooded lately with questions from new and newer agents on many of the topics I covered in this presentation, so what the heck? I’ll do a blog series here on the Rain and score some easy points ;-]

A little disclaimer… despite the title of the series; I’m not going to tell rookies how to trick their clients or prospects into believing that they’re a competent real estate agent, capable of handling someone’s real estate needs, so that they’ll allow the rookie to practice on them and learn what he’s doing. Nope. What I am going to cover is how to BE a competent real estate agent who IS capable of handling someone’s real estate needs, so that the rookie will have the confidence to sell himself to prospects and yes, get the experience he needs.

But I will never, ever ever advise anyone to “Fake it til you Make it” as a business philosophy. Will it happen? Oh yeah, it’ll happen every day, this year, next year and for years after that. I’ve been selling real estate for 12 years now and I still have to bluff my way through situations on a regular basis. But that’s actually one of the topics covered – HOW to do that, without jeopardizing your credibility or your license.

Here are the Ten Secrets According to JA:

  1. Know Your Systems
  2. Practice with Your Printer (sounds silly, I know)
  3. Preview, Preview, Preview
  4. Drive Your Route Ahead of Time
  5. Cheerfully Waste Your Time
  6. Find Your Handyman
  7. Let Your Seller Prospect Do Most of the Talking
  8. Get Comfy with Your Commission
  9. Admit that You’re New
  10. What to say when you don’t know the answer

Stay tuned…

 

posted by on Especially for Rookies

New agents are always nervous before their first listing appointment. Probably before their second, third, tenth & twelve, too. It does get easier, I promise, but here are some tips for getting through those nerve-wracking firsts…

My absolute best advice to first-time listing appointment-ers is to LET THE SELLER DO MOST OF THE TALKING! Two reasons for this.

First, this seller has probably already endured two or three sales-pitches from other real estate agents who barely took a breath to let him talk. They very likely didn’t express much of an interest in him and his situation – they just directed his focus to their fancy-schmantzy listing presentation. Have you ever sat through one of those? BORING. I’d tune it out in about five minutes if I were a seller.

Second, you need to know as much as you can about the seller’s situation and motivation before you can properly advise him. Heck, you need to know this stuff before you can decide if you even want the listing! So, besides the fact that the seller will love you if you let him talk more than you do, it also gives you the opportunity to better understand if, and how you can best help.

So, here’s what to do when you get to the house. Have the seller show you around, ask questions, take notes, and really listen to the seller’s answers. If this is the first time you’ve seen the inside of the seller’s house, you can’t really be expected to tell him what it’s worth – you have to go home and do your homework. Nothing wrong with that. But the more you listen and show interest, the more that seller will be impressed with you – seriously! LISTEN, and the seller will trust you. Leave your sales pitch in the car.

That said, you do need to be prepared with a marketing plan in case the seller asks for one. You might be surprised how often they won’t, but if they do, it’s probably a good idea to have an answer. This is where the process of putting together a formal listing presentation is helpful. It forces you to figure out what the heck you ARE going to do to get that house sold and what services you’ll offer. There’s a sample listing presentation at my website – just go here.

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posted by on Especially for Rookies

Regular readers of my blog know how I feel about wasting time. I’m all for it! Especially for rookies. This is one of the main reasons I’m opposed to rookies jumping into the biz only half-way (that is, part time) – when you have to carefully guard your time, you can’t risk wasting any of it… and that’s a shame.

Even as an almost-thirteen year agent, I still cheerfully “waste my time” every chance I get.

What do I mean by that?time

I mean that you should take every opportunity to be out there in the world talking about or looking at or learning more about real estate. If you are doing something that accomplishes one of these items, that’s  time well-spent, even if the activity is not leading you directly to a paycheck. Not only are you learning more about being a real estate agent, you’re also putting yourself in front of people who could end up being your biggest fans.

When you’re new, take every opportunity to learn something, even if it takes time, even if it takes gas. Think about it – would you rather practice on someone who may NOT buy or sell right away, or someone who will? Sure, on the surface, you’d rather work with someone who is leading you to a paycheck, but there’s certainly a strong argument for perfecting your technique on non-clients first!

So, what might be some “time-wasters” to embrace?

  • Showing an office listing to an already-represented buyer who calls off the sign?
  • Helping a friend protest her tax assessment by providing sold data?
  • Helping a friend protest a low appraisal for a refinance?
  • Meeting with a potential seller when you know full well he isn’t going to hire you?
  • Showing homes to a buyer who can’t yet qualify to buy a home, but thinks he can in six months?
  • Helping a relocating renter identify the right neighborhood for him or her?

All of these activities teach you more about your market and give you practice communicating market data to potential clients. They also give you an opportunity to impress someone who might end up being your biggest client and/or referral source. Sounds like a good use of time to me…

Here’s a snippet on Wasting Time from a Real Estate Radio USA Interview I did last summer.

 The Confident Rookie Series: 

Stay tuned…

  1. Know Your Systems
  2. Practice with Your Printer (sounds silly, I know)
  3. Preview, Preview, Preview
  4. Drive Your Route Ahead of Time
  5. Cheerfully Waste Your Time
  6. Find Your Handyman
  7. Let Your Seller Prospect Do Most of the Talking
  8. Get Comfy with Your Commission
  9. Admit that You’re New
  10. What to say when you don’t know the answer

posted by on Especially for Rookies

money

Most new agents are terrified about the prospect of discussing their commission with a potential seller. If this is the case for you, you’re going to need to be 100% comfortable with the commission fee you’re going to propose. If you aren’t, you’re dead meat. If you have concerns that you’re overcharging for your value, it will be crystal clear to the seller prospect. In my first year, almost all of my listings were taken at a very low percentage because that’s all I thought I was worth, due to my inexperience. As my experience and expertise grew, I became more comfortable proposing (and sticking to) a higher fee.

I’m not being real helpful yet, am I? On one hand, I’m shooting down your confidence, yet on the other, I’m telling you that you must HAVE confidence to negotiate effectively! Well, that’s the cold hard truth. But I won’t leave you hanging… here’s what to do.

You need to convince yourself that you’re worth it before you can ever convince a seller.

On your first few listings, commit to yourself that you will go way above and beyond what is typically expected of a listing agent in your area. Commit to yourself that you WILL earn your fee, if not with your experience, with your enthusiasm and effort. Spend your own money marketing your listing if you have a great idea that you think might work. Spend as much time as you need to properly price the house. Do open houses all weekend long. Pay for a home-stager to consult with your seller. Include a home warranty. Be willing to bring in help if you’ll need it – even if you have to pay for it.

In short, take this opportunity not only to blow the sox off your seller, but to actually experiment with various listing techniques to see what actually works. If, at the end of the day, you spend your whole paycheck on your experiments, that’s really okay! The lessons you learned and the impression you made on that seller will serve you well in your future… and pay you back many times over.  

Another way to help make the commission discussion go smoothly is to disclose your fee upfront – on your website if you have one. This is what I’ve done for years and it works beautifully. I don’t beat around the bush about my fee – I simply direct the seller to my website where I explain how I charge and what I do for that money. You can check it out here.

posted by on Especially for Rookies

One of the very first things I advise rookie agents to do – well, at least in their first few months – is to find a handyman. A good handyman will save your backside and your commission over and over again and make you look good. I don’t know how any real estate agent functions without a handyman on call. Find him, give him work, make sure he’s paid promptly. Bob is my handyman and he’s saved more of my deals than I can count.bob

How can a handyman help you look more experienced? Well, just the knowledge that you have someone on your team who can take care of home repairs for your buyer or seller gives you a Can-Do attitude. For example, when I work with buyers who are nervous about all the little maintenance items their inspector points out, I sweetly tell them “We’ll just put that on the Bob-List” so they know they won’t have to go to the yellow pages. When your sellers get a laundry list of repairs after the inspection, I comfort them by explaining that we’ll have Bob come over and give us an estimate (today). When I’m helping a seller get ready for market, I look like the hero when I bring Bob in to get done in a day what would take the seller a month to do… and usually for under $1000 (less than a mortgage payment!)

How do you find a handyman? Put up your antenna! Ask other agents in the office. Send out an email to your Sphere of Influence. Call some property management companies. If you know anyone in construction, ask them. Ask at Home Depot. When you get a few names, give ‘em a test drive in your own home.

FIND YOUR BOB.

posted by on Especially for Rookies, Working with Buyers

Related to yesterday’s installment about previewing, today’s Confident Rookie Secret is to ALWAYS drive your route before meeting with a buyer. It’s mortifying to get lost with a buyer in the car and even worse if drivethey’re following behind you. Unless you’re showing in a neighborhood you know intimately, always always always drive the route ahead of time, even if that’s at 6 am before you meet your buyer at 9am.

Driving Your Route is not the same as Previewing. When you preview, you’re ruling out properties – you might start with a list of 12 or 15 homes and narrow it down to the best 7 or so. Therefore, your previewing route will not be the same as your showing route. KWIM?

A GPS is not the answer. You need to be able to get from house to house smoothly and effortlessly, as if you know every thoroughfare and side street in town… without that nice Garmin lady interrupting your conversation every 30 seconds. Of course, a printout of Mapquest Directions is even worse! Being able to talk with your buyers as you navigate from house to house will do wonders for your air of professionalism. And of course, becoming increasingly frazzled as you make u-turns and wrong turns will have the opposite effect!

Sometimes you don’t have much time between making the appointment and the appointment itself, so you might be tempted to rationalize that you simply don’t have the opportunity to Drive Your Route. But I promise you – you’ll wish you’d made the time. I’ve gotten up at 4am and hit the streets at 5am to ensure I didn’t make a fool of myself (and I’ve been doing this almost 13 years!). The good news is that there’s much less traffic at 5am!

Remember, the goal of these Ten Secrets is to give the rookie real estate agent the tools to look and feel confident and knowledgeable in situations he or she may not have been in before. We can’t prepare you for every single contingency, but the more you are prepared for the aspects you can control, the less stress you’ll put on your antiperspirant!

The Confident Rookie Series:

  1. Know Your Systems
  2. Practice with Your Printer (sounds silly, I know)
  3. Preview, Preview, Preview
  4. Drive Your Route Ahead of Time
  5. Cheerfully Waste Your Time
  6. Find Your Handyman
  7. Let Your Seller Prospect Do Most of the Talking
  8. Get Comfy with Your Commission
  9. Admit that You’re New
  10. What to say when you don’t know the answer

Stay tuned…

posted by on Especially for Rookies, Working with Buyers

Moving on from yesterday’s rant, here’s the third Secret to Being a Confident Rookie – Preview, Preview, Preview!! house

Before you go out with a buyer for the first time, preview every single house you’re considering showing him or her. I promise you, you’ll rule out more than half of them and will be relieved that you did. If you show a typical buyer a house that shows poorly, smells funny or has a crazy floorplan, he’ll figure you don’t know what you’re doing, because buyers think we know every house in town.

Even with interior photos and google earth and virtual tours, you cannot properly evaluate a house without going to see it. I mean, think about it – if a house has a major flaw, do you think the listing agent is going to spell it out for you in the MLS description? Or make sure that it’s highlighted in the photos? Uh, no.

As a new agent, making a habit to preview-before-showing will give you tremendous confidence as you work with your new buyers. You’ll look far more experienced and self-assured, and won’t be caught off-guard by a mis-advertised or fatally-flawed property.

Oh, and you’ll also ensure that you don’t get lost with your buyer in the car! More on that tomorrow

The Confident Rookie Series:

  1. Know Your Systems
  2. Practice with Your Printer (sounds silly, I know)
  3. Preview, Preview, Preview
  4. Drive Your Route Ahead of Time
  5. Cheerfully Waste Your Time
  6. Find Your Handyman
  7. Let Your Seller Prospect Do Most of the Talking
  8. Get Comfy with Your Commission
  9. Admit that You’re New
  10. What to say when you don’t know the answer

Stay tuned…

posted by on Especially for Rookies

Picking up from yesterday’s blog about how important it for rookies to Master Their Systems before they need them; today I’ll add just a little bit more to that project.printer

Practice with Your Printer. This may sound silly, but when you’re writing an offer for a buyer, it’s nerve-wracking if you can’t get the printer to work. Seriously.

I wrote my very first offer back in 1996 at 6:00 pm on a Friday night in my Coldwell Banker office. I called my broker away from Happy Hour to help me (yep, he was a bit looped). I’d had training on the contract software and was pretty comfy there, but had never actually printed a contract.

Using my own brand new contract software (registered under my name & all!), I created the contract with my broker’s help, and then went to print it out. Oops. Great big DRAFT watermark across every page. Hmmmmmm. Tried again. Same thing. My buyer was sitting in the conference room waiting for me, but neither I nor my broker could figure out what was wrong. And, being Friday night, there wasn’t much chance of finding any customer service at the software company.

I was a mess and felt like an idiot. I ended up re-writing the entire contract on pre-printed forms and life went on. Turns out that I needed some activation code to remove the DRAFT watermark.

But there are all sorts of things that can go wrong when printing from new software, aren’t there? Especially if you’re in a networked real estate office.

So, as you’re practicing with your contract software, be sure to also practice printing out the contracts. Please don’t hesitate to waste paper. If your software requires legal paper, be sure you know where it is and how to load it. If you have the option of either legal or letter, be sure you know how to select the one you want. Know how to “insert” or “remove” n/a’s and such.

And… always have a back-up plan. Here’s mine:

  • Plan A:  Business as usual – use the regular office printer
  • Plan B:  If that fails, try the other printer at the office (we have two)
  • Plan C: If both of those fail, email the contract to the receptionist to print out
  • Plan D: If I’m really crashing & burning, know where the pre-printed contracts are and write it up manually.

Again, I know this sounds trivial and even silly, but just wait until YOUR buyer is sitting in the conference room waiting to sign his offer and you can’t produce anything for him to sign!

The Confident Rookie Series:

  1. Know Your Systems
  2. Practice with Your Printer (sounds silly, I know)
  3. Preview, Preview, Preview
  4. Drive Your Route Ahead of Time
  5. Cheerfully Waste Your Time
  6. Find Your Handyman
  7. Let Your Seller Prospect Do Most of the Talking
  8. Get Comfy with Your Commission
  9. Admit that You’re New
  10. What to say when you don’t know the answer

Stay tuned…