Posts Tagged ‘Professionalism’

posted by on Consulting & Compensation

Bed

I was watching TV the other (sleepless) night. Caught a Tempur-Pedic commercial. Seems the Tempur-Pedic is a spectacular bed for whatever reason, so spectacular that the company gives you a 90-Day trial period. Not 90-days of simply looking at your new bed, but 90-days of actually sleeping on it. If you don’t love it, you give it back. No questions asked.

Now, that’s a guarantee.

I’m not in the market for an expensive bed these days (I’m actually sleeping on a blow-up right now – don’t ask), but I tell ya – I’m impressed. I’m sure Tempur-Pedic’s 90-Day guarantee is mostly gimmick, and I have no idea if they stand behind it, but I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt. And proclaim that we could use more gimmicks like this in our world.

What if everyone guaranteed their product or service this way? Wouldn’t that be SWEEEEET? If your doctor doesn’t cure you, he returns your money. If your publicist doesn’t increase your exposure, he doesn’t see a payday. If that pay-per-click campaign you shelled out $500/month for doesn’t produce results, you get a refund.

Sure, there are innumerable flaws in this model, but isn’t the overall philosophy wonderful? Put the pressure on the provider to 1) be worth his or her fee, and 2) analyze the situation before accepting payment to determine if your money will be well-spent, and I imagine we would see an exponential improvement in the quality of products and services delivered to the marketplace. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve paid for a service and been told after a disappointing experience – “Well, we never guaranteed results!”

Why not? Why did you TAKE my money if you didn’t think it was a good investment for me? (Okay, that’s a silly question, but I still think it’s a fair one).

While I believe that the real estate industry’s compensation model is seriously flawed, I do like the message we send that if we don’t perform, we don’t get paid. Unfortunately, all too often we DON’T perform, even under this model, but that’s a topic for a dozen different blogs. Philosophically, though, I like it.

That said, and yeah, this will sound really inconsistent, but I could also get behind the model of real estate agents as salaried professionals or pay-per-project consultants. Which I’ll elaborate on next time!

posted by on Prospecting & SOI

SalesmanLead generation is what selling real estate is all about, plain and simple.” 

I have three jobs: Getting a listing appointment, preparing for a listing appointment, and going on a listing appointment,” 

My primary duty is to prospect. Everything else is secondary.”

These are direct quotes from real estate agents; some here on Active Rain, others from, well, other places.

Seriously? SERIOUSLY?

That’s why we have to go to real estate school and pass a proficiency test? That’s why we have a license and continuing education requirements? That’s why we pursue various advanced certifications and designations?

Because selling real estate is All About Lead Generation?

Okay, if you want to convince me that part of our job is procure leads FOR our buyers and sellers (that is, buyers for our listings or listings for our buyers), I’ll buy that. But it’s certainly not ALL we do; in fact, in some ways, putting buyers and sellers together is the easy part. Keeping them together is a whole ‘nother story. And certainly has nothing to do with Lead Generation.

My friends, generating leads is a necessary part of any small-business owner’s business model. Whether you’re a massage therapist, a dog-groomer, an insurance agent, a dentist, a chiropractor or a real estate agent, you need incoming customers to stay afloat. And it’s up to you to figure out how to find those customers and do what it takes to lure them in.

But that doesn’t mean it’s your job. It’s how you stay in business so you can DO YOUR JOB and make a living doing it!

Yeah, yeah, yeah, whatever, Jennifer. Who cares? What’s your point?

My point is that our clients deserve better. Sorry, but they do. How would you feel if your veterinarian appeared to place a higher priority on finding new customers than on figuring out what’s wrong with your beagle? What if your CPA seemed to care more about building his business than on doing your taxes correctly? Doesn’t it annoy you when a service provider you hire seems more interested in getting referrals from you than in providing the service you hired him to do?

Our buyers and sellers deserve our full attention. They deserve to be our top priority. And until we give them our full attention and make them our top priorities, we’ll never enjoy the professional respect we so long for. And as long our industry considers our primary duty to be lead generation, we won’t deserve it.

 

 

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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 Prospecting & SOI

I’ll be interested to see the responses to this forthcoming brain dump… some of you will totally relate, while others will think I’m just a weirdo.

I hate to prospect, in any way, shape or form. By “prospect” I’m not really referring to any particular method, strategy or activity, I just simply don’t like drumming up business. I get no joy out of self-promotion, marketing or pursuing. I very much dislike the idea of spending any time at all worrying about where my next closing might come from.

But I LOVE LOVE LOVE selling real estate. Or, perhaps I should say that I love MANAGING the process of the exchange of real estate. I love pricing homes, I love solving problems, I love creating home brochures, I love managing my Internet advertising, I love negotiating contracts and inspections, I love previewing homes for my buyers, I love preparing for a tough appraisal, I love talking my buyer off the ledge when they’re in panic mode.

The vast majority of my business through the years has, frankly, found me, as a result of my sphere of influence (SOI) and my satisfied past clients (SPCs). I’ve rarely had to formally prospect and have been able to spend most of my time doing what I love- that is – managing the business I already had.

That’s still where my business comes from – from my SOI and my SPC’s, but I’m feeling a bit grumpy that it doesn’t flow in nearly as painlessly as it did in years past. There are lots of reasons for this – some obvious, some not so, but the fact remains that I’d be happy as a clam if I could just BE a great real estate agent and let someone else worry about making rain…

But maybe this is, like, totally obvious, dude. Does everyone feel this way, or are there people out there who really enjoy the rainmaking part of our jobs?

posted by on Consulting & Compensation

Have you ever heard the commission-negotiation-avoidance strategy of creating a menu of packages for a seller to choose among? For example (all figures are illustrative only), you might offer a 4% package which includes minimal services; a 5% package which has a moderate level of service and a 6% package that includes a kitchen-sink level of service.

Sounds good, doesn’t it? After all, it demonstrates to the seller what you actually DO to sell a house and probably reduces the likelihood of his asking for a discount. If he wants to pay less, he gets less. HIS choice.

Sorry, but I think this is a lousy idea. Why?menu

Oh, let me count the ways…

You want to sell the house don’t you? Yes? Well, then why are you asking your SELLER how to market it? As the expert in selling houses, YOU know what needs to be done and you, as a professional, should do those things.

You should also know what doesn’t sell houses in your market. And you shouldn’t be offering and charging for those services if you (as a professional real estate agent) know they aren’t effective.

When I get a new listing, I really want to sell the damn thing and I spend a lot of time and energy figuring out what we need to do to make that happen. By “we,” I mean me and my seller. I don’t market every house exactly the same, nor do I advise every seller to do the same things. It’s part of my service to analyze each situation individually and proceed accordingly. Some listings will benefit from Open Houses, some won’t. Some (most) homes need staging, some don’t. Some listings will benefit from newspaper ads, most won’t. It’s my job to know these things.

Besides, you want to provide exceptional service to all your clients, don’t you? Don’t you want their future business and referrals? By purposely limiting your service (especially if it affects the marketability of the home), you may be blowing your reputation and credibility with this client and potential source of future business. And of course, you may also be blowing your chances of getting a paycheck if your seller doesn’t pick the right package and the house doesn’t sell.

I do offer two commission options, but they aren’t priced according to the service provided; they’re based on whether or not the seller pays an upfront marketing fee. You can learn more about this strategy on my website…  and yes, I tell the world what my commission is – which is a topic for a different blog, but it works amazingly well!

Be a professional real estate agent and do what it takes to sell your listings. That’s your job.

posted by on Working with Sellers

During the now-becoming-infamous Real Estate Radio USA interview earlier this week, I made the comment “I’m the Best Listing Agent I Know.” Arrogant, eh?proud

Not really. It’s not as if I said “I’m the prettiest girl I know” or “I’m the smartest girl I know.” It’s more along the lines of “I’m the hardest worker I know.” It’s a choice.

I choose to be a terrific listing agent. It’s not a God-given skill or something I was lucky enough to be born with. It’s a choice.

I choose to spend time (and gas money) properly pricing my properties. I choose to have relationships with exceptional home stagers and responsive home improvement contractors. I choose to be respectfully upfront with my sellers as to what they need to do to help me get their homes sold. I choose to own a great camera with a wide-angle lens. I choose to write killer MLS descriptions and ensure that they are accurate. I choose to work for a company who offers a 7 day/week showing service and to pursue feedback from all showing agents. I choose to frequently update my seller on the competing market activity. I choose to build and maintain rapport with my sellers so that they trust me when I offer advice and recommendations. I choose to keep my brochure boxes full. I choose to be prepared for and attend my appraisals. I CHOOSE TO CARE MORE ABOUT THE CLIENTS I HAVE TODAY THAN THE CLIENTS I HOPE TO HAVE TOMORROW.

I’m a heckova listing agent. Are you?

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 Working with Sellers

I don’t believe in price reductions. Never have. I believe that just about any home can sell in 30 days or less, in any market, if it’s priced properly on Day One. And no, by “properly” I don’t mean “under” although that may very well be the case in many markets. If a home sells in the first month of marketing, it WILL sell for market value and the seller will almost certainly obtain the highest possible price. We all know that extended marketing times do nothing positive for the eventual sales price, not only due to the perceived stigma of a high DOM statistic, but also because the seller is darn tired of cleaning the litter box every day and wiping up his toothpaste spit in the morning!

My goal was always a 30 day sale.

However, lest you think I’m Miss Perfect Smarty-Pantz who never lets her sellers take the upper hand, au contraire! I’ve been convinced more than once, more than twice, more than 100 times to “Try my price for awhile, we can always reduce it later.” But, as we all know, this clever little strategy doesn’t work. Ever. It always backfires on the seller AND his agent. The seller walks away with less money in his pocket and the agent … well, we know all the pitfalls of having an overpriced home languishing on the market. Ugh.

But we do it. We agree to “try” a price for awhile, against our better judgment. Lotsa’ reasons for this, some good, some not-so. And on paper, it makes sense, doesn’t it? Especially to sellers who don’t mess in the real estate market on a daily basis as we do. In fact, when you sell your very own home, you’ll have a tough time convincing yourself to price aggressively from Day One. The words “I don’t want to leave money on the table, let’s try this price for a while and reduce it later if necessary” will flow effortlessly from your mouth. Or better yet, the classic “Buyers can always make an offer!”

Ah well, we’re not perfect either.

A lot of agents recommend adding an automatic price reduction provision to listing contracts, stating that the price will be reduced by a nice tidy percentage at pre-determined intervals. I never used this provision; it just sounds unprofessional to me. A market can dramatically change in 30 or 60 days. In 90 days, we may have an entirely new market. It seems to me that our sellers deserve a little more personal attention than that. As real estate professionals, doesn’t it make more sense to actually review the market and provide real DATA to our sellers instead of relying on the convenience and expediency of a built-in price reduction?  

So let’s look at the pricing pickle in a different way. Howzabout if you, during your pricing discussion, explain to your seller that you will review the market every 30 days and provide an updated CMA to him. Then, CASUALLY mention that due to the unstable market (or even declining if that’s the case), the seller needs to be prepared that your 30-day CMA may show a lower market value. That your 60-day CMA may show an even lower value. You just want him to know this ahead of time so that he isn’t surprised or blindsided.

Then BE QUIET.

Don’t draw any conclusions for him, or try to summarize your pricing strategy. Your seller is no dummy; if you respect his intelligence, he may just come to the right conclusion himself. In fact, he probably will. However, if he feels you are beating him over the head with your agenda, he may dig in his heels and start throwing out those objections we’ve heard over and over. BAM! You and your seller are suddenly adversaries.

But if HE asks YOU how to avoid the price reduction game … suddenly YOU’RE the expert in his eyes! It’s a beautiful thing. If he asks, feel free to demonstrate your expertise and brilliance. Talk about the 30 day sale, the market value death spiral, how the DOM statistic affects buyer perception of appeal. But again, let him draw his own conclusions. If you LET HIM, he will almost always choose the right path.

What think you?

posted by on Working with Sellers

Got this idea from Herb Hamilton’s featured post today “Doom or Gloom or Huge Success.”drive

Active Rainers – let’s have some fun. In the next 48 hours, go out and preview ten listings in your area. Any ten you want. Make it easy on yourself and preview the ten homes closest to your home. It’ll take you an hour or two.

Then report back. Of those ten properties, how many are being competently marketed? How many are not?

To my way of thinking, here’s what “competently marketed” means:

  • The home is easy to show (yes, even on Sunday)*
  • The sellers know to be gone for the showing*
  • The home is clean, tidy and smells good*
  • It is, of course, priced well
  • If there’s a brochure box, it’s full
  • The MLS description is enticing and intriguing, not to mention accurate
  • The MLS listing includes great photos
  • There are no barking dogs locked up in the laundry room*
  • There is no lingering odor of Football Game Chili in the air*
  • The lockbox and key work smoothly*

*If you’re saying that these are seller responsibilities and beyond your control, you’re wrong! It’s our job to make sure our sellers know THEIR jobs as partners in the home-selling process.

See, here’s the thing. Our job, as real estate agents, is not to prospect prospect prospect until our fingers go numb. The reason we have a license for what we do is because we provide an important service to those people who honor us with their business. We owe it to our sellers to give their listings our full attention and commitment … instead of fitting in our home-selling activities around our prospecting efforts.

I’ll betcha that out of the ten listings you preview, very very few will meet my standard of competent marketing. I’ll betcha most will fail miserably. I’ll bet it will be clear to you which homes are marketed by someone who gives a damn about selling their listings… and which ones are marketed by someone who has better things to do.

Imagine if we all cared about selling our listings. I mean, really really cared. Imagine if we all had the guts to tell our sellers what’s what and why. And how. If we all spent just one hour a day making sure our listings are being properly marketed and presented to the market.

We could turn this mess around.

posted by on Working with Sellers

telephone

What’s the Number One Thing “they” say that homesellers complain about?

All together now…

Communication (or lack thereof) from their agent. And, having been on the other side of the For Sale sign a time or two, I can certainly second that emotion. But “communication” isn’t just about calling every week to say “Hi, how’re doin’?” No, it’s also about keeping the seller informed on local market activity. On providing feedback from showings. On notifying him of new competing listings and recently closed sales. And, frankly, on making sure the seller knows exactly what his agent’s been up to to promote his home!

If the only time a listing agent contacts a seller is to ask for a price reduction or a listing extension, well, I can pretty much guarantee that seller is less than tickled with his agent. And that agent deserves every bit of his seller’s discontent! Oh, the seller may not complain to his agent, but I’ll bet he’s not keeping quiet around the coffee machine!

The good news is that keeping a seller happy isn’t that hard. They just wanna know what’s going on and that their agent cares. Is that too much to ask?

Here are sixteen things you can do to keep your seller happy with you. And a happy-with-you seller just might be a great source of future business!

  1. Notify him as soon as the listing hits the MLS and send him a copy of the listing
  2. Send him links to all your online advertising (Realtor.com, Craigslist, Postlets, Active Rain, your own blog, etc.)
  3. Send him a copy of the home brochure before it goes to print and ask for feedback
  4. Make sure he knows when home brochures will be delivered
  5. Schedule an open house right away (yes, you must do an open house)
  6. Call after the first showing(s) to see if he has any questions about the process
  7. Pursue and deliver feedback, especially in the first month
  8. If you do any print advertising, send the seller copies (including Just Listed cards)
  9. Send him a “state of the market” report showing all the competing listings. Update this report every two or three weeks
  10. Call periodically to find out if he’s running low on brochures (if it’s impractical to keep the box full, just remove it.)
  11. Be sure to provide feedback after open houses (if someone else does your open houses for you, be sure to follow up with them afterwards)
  12. Schedule an appointment to review the latest market activity
  13. Preview any new competition and provide feedback to your seller
  14. Refresh your Craigslist ads and send the seller a link
  15. Ensure that your photos are in season
  16. Ask for feedback on how you’re doing

How many of these items do you already do? If you do at least 50% of them, you’re blowing away your competition. Sad, isn’t it? The last few times I’ve had my own properties listed, my agents did ZERO of these activities. ZERO… Zero.

A happy seller is a cooperative seller. An unhappy seller is not, and will likely become more and more uncooperative as time goes by. You pick!

RELATED BLOG: Get Good… or Get OUT!

 

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

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 Working with Sellers

Tree

Picking up from yesterday’s blog about what to do to impress your seller during the first weeks of his listing… (hint – let him know EVERYTHING you’re doing!)…

Are you the world’s greatest listing agent? (If not, let’s talk after class – it’s not that hard to be).

But if you believe you are, do your sellers know about it?

If you’ve ever had your own home on the market with a real estate agent, you know how important communication is to your satisfaction with that agent. I’ve had various non-owner-occupied homes of mine listed with agents around the country and I’m amazed at how few of them seem to think I’d want to know what’s going on.  And not only would I like to know what’s happening, I’d think they’d want to share with me everything they’re doing!

Apparently not.

Did my agents do open houses? I dunno. Did they keep the brochure boxes full (or even create brochures)? I dunno. Newspaper or Internet advertising? I dunno. Did they follow up on showings for feedback? I dunno. Heck, did we even HAVE any showings? Again, I dunno.

And what’s up with the competition? Had any of the homes competing with mine sold? Did any lower their price? Did any new listings come up I should worry about? Did the agents get any internet inquiries or sign calls?

Inquiring minds would really like to know.

Fact is, my agents may very well have been doing their jobs. They might have been marketing the heck out of my houses and keeping a close eye on recent market activity. But if I don’t know about it, does it really matter? Even if their efforts sold the house, am I going to give them much credit for that? After all, as far as I know, all they did was the 3P’s* and hoped for the best.

Last year I hired someone to do something for me. After several months of paying him to do what he did, I’d received no updates, no status reports, no nothing. So, I got pissy. He fired back with a long list of all the stuff he’d been doing on my account, all huffy and indignant and self-righteous, and yeah, I was impressed. But… it was too late. That tree most certainly did fall in the forest, but since I didn’t hear it… it might as well not have.

*The 3P’s – Put a sign in the yard; Put it in the MLS; PRAY

posted by on Working with Sellers

The other night, Loreena Yeo and I did a show at the SWS Virtual Studio on the topic of getting listings SOLD quickly. And yes, assuming there is a buyer in existence for a property, it is entirely possible to sell a house in a matter of weeks, not months. In fact, that should be every listing agent’s goal – that their listings sell to the first “real” buyer who comes along… or maybe the second or third on an off-day ;-]

The basic premise of our show was that if you know how to price and prepare a home for market, and if houses are selling in that market, a listing can and should sell quickly. Assuming the seller agrees to your pricing and preparation recommendations, of course (which I’ll write about soon).Relax

During the show, we got a little flack for this message from listeners who wanted to know how Loreena MARKETS her listings to ensure that quick sale. Sort of a “yeah, yeah, yeah, we know pricing and staging are important, but what about the MARKETING?”

Loreena responded with “I don’t do anything special. I just sit back and wait for offers.”

That apparently didn’t sit well with some listeners. They didn’t seem to want to believe that marketing isn’t the deciding factor in the success or failure of an attempted home sale. But I agree with Loreena 100% – as I’ve said many times, Houses Aren’t Pet Rocks – no amount of marketing will inspire a buyer to buy a home he doesn’t want, if there are better houses on every other corner.

Whether or not a listing is going to sell is determined before the sign goes in the yard. Once that sign is in the yard and the “product” hits the market, our systems take over and the market will determine whether or not it approves… and no amount of marketing will change how the market feels about it.

In case I wasn’t clear, I believe that we real estate gods and goddesses earn our money in the pre-listing phase (and then later in the contract-to-closing phase), but not really all that much during the actual “marketing” phase.

But to accept and embrace this philosophy will require a massive paradigm shift in our industry. After all, we’re SALESPEOPLE! We SELL houses! So, obviously, it must be our MARKETING that is the most important factor in the sale, right?! And besides, our sellers aren’t WILLING to do all that work ahead of time (“I asked and they said no way, Ho-Zay“), so the best we can do is price it right and market the heck out of it!

Well, um… I’ll just say this. That attitude is pretty much the norm in our industry, and maybe it’s just me, but I seem to have noticed a little stagnancy in the real estate market lately, like, for the last several years? That houses aren’t exactly screaming off the shelves? You think that maybe, just maybe, the “norm” is WRONG?

And maybe, just maybe… there’s a better way?

posted by on Working with Buyers

Ooooh, I must respectfully disagree with my friend Jim Crawford’s featured blog today. But that’s no surprise, I think Jim and I almost always disagree on matters of real estate philosophy. No worries… there’s room on this planet for both of us.

Jim’s blog is entitled “Desperate Times Require Drastic Measures: A Survival Guide for Real Estate Professionals.” It’s a story of how real estate agents are so foolishly desperate for business that they’re willing to work with anyone – egads!

But here’s what I’m thinking…If I were going to write an article or blog entitled “Desperate Times Require Drastic Measures: A Survival Guide for Real Estate Professionals,” it would have a 180 degree different spin!

As in… “Agents! Go out of your way to RISK your time and your gas! Bend over backwards to spend time with not-yet-qualified or not-yet-committed buyers! If someone is evasive and elusive with you, take even more time to gain their trust!”

Folks, in my world, buyers are not growing on trees or beating down my door. Maybe I’m in the minority, but I could use a few more buyers in my pipeline and if they don’t buy til next spring, I’ll take a paycheck in April just as surely as I’ll take one next month. I’ll also happily accept their referrals for years to come.

Here’s the thing… in the Good Old Days, a little triage was expected and necessary. When you had ten qualified, signed-up buyers in your pipeline, yes, you may have had to shuttle off the not-yet-qualified or not-yet-committed ones, simply due to the realities of the 24-hour day. What Mr. Crawford proposes in his Desperate Times blog makes much more sense under those circumstances than under today’s… where most real estate agents, even successful ones, are not buried under a pile of pre-approval letters and Buyer Agency contracts.

If you are so busy with pre-approved, EBA’d buyers, then knock yourself out blowing off anyone who needs a little winning over. In fact, please send them my way. I might have a little repair work to do to get them to trust me, after they’ve been summarily dismissed by the first five agents they spoke with (or tried to speak with), but I’m up to the task. I have the time… and I can afford the gas… and…

I LOVE a full pipeline!

ja

 

www.SellwithSoul.com

posted by on Working with Buyers

I was reminded yesterday that it’s been two weeks since I’ve posted here on Active Rain. Wow – that must be a record for me! Anyway, here I am… and I’ve been working on a Q&A for a Colorado online real estate school to include in their weekly newsletter, so thought I’d give one of the Q’s a test drive here…

So, without further adoooooooo…. 

Question:
How can I convince a buyer that now is a good time to buy?”

JA Answer:
I don’t believe in “convincing” anyone to make a huge decision like whether or not to purchase a home! Our buyers are adults and should be allowed to reach their own conclusions, based on their personal circumstances, beliefs and tolerance for risk. That said, you CAN help them reach the right decision for themselves by being knowledgeable, supportive and non-pushy.

  • Knowledgeable: Stay on top of market trends and data. Read those articles and reports that come across your desk or email regarding the local real estate market and economy (both the positive and the doom & gloomer ones). Be prepared with facts & figures in case your buyer asks for them (see below).

  

  • Supportive: Did you ever notice that when someone argues with you, you tend to dig in your heels and hold even more firmly to your opinion? I know I do, you probably do, too. So, if your buyer declares that the timing isn’t right for him to buy a house, acknowledge and respect his position. Don’t argue with it! Have you heard the saying “Those convinced against their will are of the same opinion still?”

 

  • Non-pushy: Our buyers know that we’re paid on commission. Therefore, if you appear to be pushing them to do something they’ve decided they don’t want to do; you’ll likely lose their trust, and subsequently their future business. Buyers expect their agent to be looking out for their best interests, so any indication to the contrary (i.e. the agent seems more concerned with a paycheck than with the buyer’s needs) may seriously damage the relationship.

The Punch Line: Here’s the cool part. IF you are knowledgeable about your local market, supportive of your buyer’s opinions and you DON’T PUSH him, one of two things will probably happen.

First, once the buyer realizes you are on his team, he may actually ask you for your opinion on the matter, at which time you are free to give it (this is where having the above-mentioned market knowledge comes in handy). Once he asks for your advice, he’ll be much more willing to listen to it than if you’d pushed it on him, uninvited.

Or, second, he may decide not to buy a home right now, but will be back on your doorstep at a future date when he feels better about the market, the economy or his financial circumstances. And there’s nothing wrong with a full pipeline!

Happy Friday, my friends!

 

sws

 

 

Get an Autographed Copy of Sell with Soul!
www.SellwithSoul.com

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 Working with Buyers

Liar

Buyers can be hard to nail down and you’ll hear agents talk about the “Buyers Are Liars” phenomenon. It’s a phrase usually used in frustration either when an agent loses a buyer or when he’s at his wit’s end showing homes that the buyer says work for her, but don’t inspire her to make an offer. It simply means that buyers don’t really know what they want, and often it’s true.

Remember, buyers don’t shop for houses every day and they probably don’t know what they’ll respond to until they see it. So you’ll need to have a little patience with them.

Find out your buyer’s preferred neighborhood. If he is unfamiliar with your city, find out what kind of neighborhood he thinks he’d like – urban, suburban, rural, mountains, coastal? Any particular commuting distance? Does he like charming older homes near the city center or new contemporary homes near the shopping malls? Price range?

Moving on… number of bedrooms, baths, garage? Any special needs? Don’t get too specific though. Pushing buyers for too many details is counterproductive, believe it or not. If you keep pushing, he may start making things up to please you. Doesn’t everyone want a garage and more than one bath? But he might not really care that much and, if you limit your search to his non-critical parameters, you’ll miss a lot of great homes.

The other danger in asking for too many details is that your buyer will start telling you things like, “I really want a window over the kitchen sink” or “I want an open floor plan with lots of light.” Depending on your inventory, you may end up with nothing to show her if you rely strictly on her wish list. And if you show her homes that don’t meet her “requirements,” she may think you weren’t listening. You (and she) need to gauge her reactions to different styles of homes in person. Remember, buyers don’t shop for homes every day and don’t really know what they will respond to until they’ve seen it.

And you know what else (by the way, this is new material from here on out)? Buyers change their minds about what they want or need. OMG! How dare they? I mean, they TELL us they want to live in this-and-such neighborhood and then, BAM! They find a new favorite neighborhood they’d like to explore. Egads – the nerve of them! (that’s sarcasm ;-])

When I was looking for a home in Alabama, I changed my mind at least three times as to whether or not I wanted to live in the City… or the country. Whether or not I could live without a garage. Whether that fourth bedroom was REALLY necessary. My real estate agent hung in there with me, never breathing a hint of annoyance at my incredible insensitivity to wasting her valuable time. Good thing, because if she had, I’d have found someone else more appreciative of the $7,000 paycheck I eventually generated for her, as well as the two other $7k-ish paychecks she got when I bought two rental properties.

My friends, our buyers are not liars. They’re just regular human beings who deserve to be treated with respect and dignity. And we are well-paid to do just that.

posted by on Prospecting & SOI

A little while ago I wrote a blog called The BEST Way to Build a Strong Sphere of Influence. If you didn’t read it, what do you think it says? To stay in touch with everyone you know? Nope. To send everyone in your SOI a $10 Starbucks Gift card? Give fabulous Christmas presents or closing gifts? Pay juicy bribes for referrals? Not even close.

No, the best way to build a strong sphere of influence is to be a fabulous real estate agent. It’s simple; when you are blessed to have a buyer or a seller, TAKE CARE OF THEM! As your first priority…

Here’s an email I got yesterday from my current seller/buyer who has, to date, referred 6 people to me during our less-than-two-month relationship.

“It’s so easy — it just happens naturally every time someone hasn’t seen me in a while and goes ‘Oh yeah – how’s selling your house going?‘  Everyone is convinced the market is terrible, so as soon as they hear we sold our home in only 2 days, they are dumbfounded and of course want to ask a million questions as to how on earth we pulled that one off…  sometimes I forget how many people are or may potentially be in the market for a home. I love having someone good to recommend.”

Guys – when we are actively working with a buyer or seller, remember that they are talking about their real estate experience with everyone who crosses their path! If their agent sucks, you can believe the world will hear about it. But if their agent is really special….? IMAGINE the opportunities for good PR over the next month, two months, six months.

No fabulous closing gift or monthly newsletter even comes close.

The moral of the story… Taking Good Care of the Clients You Already Have blows away any other form of active or passive marketing. Set your daily priorities accordingly… and enjoy a full pipeline for years to come…

posted by on Prospecting & SOI

I’ve been writing for a few years now on tips, techniques and strategies to build and maintain a strong sphere of influence business model. soi

But y’know what the all-time most powerful way to run a successful business based on the personal relationships in your life is?

Do a hell of a job for your clients.

Go above and beyond every chance you get. Don’t ask what your client can do for you, ask what you can do for your client. DO that open house, even if you don’t want to. Attend your buyer’s inspection even if inspections bore you to tears. Call your seller every single week, even if you have nothing much to report. Cheerfully take your buyer back to the house for the 3rd time so he can measure the windows before writing an offer. Follow up with your buyer a few days after closing to see if any problems arose during move-in that you can help with.

And then, stay in touch with them on a personal basis forever and ever.

Did you notice that there’s nothing in the above paragraph about buying them a fabulous closing gift or putting them on a canned drip campaign? Nothing about mailing them recipe cards or pestering them for the names of three friends you could contact with your sales pitch?

Nope. Gifts and drips won’t change anyone’s opinion of whether or not you are refer-worthy. If you did a lousy job for your client, but buy them a Rolex at closing, you just threw your money away on the watch. Following up with consistent sales pitches will only alienate someone who could otherwise be a huge source of business for you.

Especially if you’re in your first year, please take this advice to heart. If you go all out for the clients you have today, they will enthusiastically support your business for years to come. After 3-4 years, if you’ve done a reasonably good job staying in touch, your phone will start to ring without any effort on your part.  

It’s a beautiful way to make a living.