Now is not the time to lie in the lounge chairs. To the contrary, you must jump in that churning real estate pool and learn the new strokes. There is more opportunity today than I have seen in the past three to four years.
“Oh, like what?” Jill (not her real name) asked recently.
“Oh, lets see,” I said. “Tons of agents are getting out of the business and even more have decided to go underground. That means they stay active, but don’t actively pursue business. Less competition means more opportunity.”
“Yeah Mike, that’s great. All that remains are the top dogs and REO agents. Everyone seems to go with the big names and the REO guys seem to be in a ‘good ole boy network.’
I looked at her with perplexed sympathy. “Jill, don’t you get it? You were never able to capture much of the big name business before. REO is tough going to be sure, but there are plenty of buyers on the fence who may prefer to deal with an unbiased agent. Oh, did I mention Short Sales? That is predicted to be one of the next big things and you are on the same level playing field as the rest.”
“Mike, I don’t want to do short sales. They are too complicated and tough. And how do I attract those REO buyers if I have no REO listings?”
I had to breathe for a moment. This was just too easy. “Jill, are you serious about selling real estate?”
“Uh, yes. That’s why I’m talking to you.”
“Okay then, start by coming to work.”
“What does that mean?” she asked.
“Just like it sounds. Show up for work. Then do your job. Which, by the way, is different than your last job.”
“I still don’t understand,” she said. “I’ve always sold real estate.”
“You need to refocus how you generate leads and also learn new closing skills. Different hot points motivate buyers these days. No longer is a house considered a cash cow. It’s right back to being a home again—you know, a place to hang your hat, where the heart is and all that other greeting card stuff.”
She started to perk up some. “What about investors?”
“Jill, don’t you think they know it’s a good time to buy? A lot of them made big money from the last downturn. By the way, good investors do not like to make a big splash. They go about their business quietly and know what they are doing. And many have no agent loyalty. Their buttons are pushed by quick inside info which leads to screaming deals that make sense for them.”
“So, where are these investors?” she asked.
“Aha!” said I. “Write down the word ‘Prospect’ on your note pad. That will be fodder for the next meet. In the meantime, you could show up at the same places these folks hang out.”
“And where might that be?” she asked.
Though my thoughts turned to visions of taking Jill’s hand and walking her to kindergarten, I behaved otherwise. “Jill, buyers and sellers aren’t this elite club, who only step out to exclusive events and then hibernate for the rest of the time. Just like you, they attend social functions, go to church, have kids in sports and, go figure, they may even have mutual friends. Real estate is a people business and requires a certain amount of social skills. Starting with the ability to carry on a simple conversation.
“Well, talking is something I do well,” she muttered.
I left that one alone. “Same thing with short sales and even regular old motivated buyers and sellers. Unless you get out there, you are failing yourself. It’s no different than any other job. Show up and you get paid. Stay home and you do not.”
“That makes sense Mike, but I can’t just start talking to total strangers about real estate. Same with my friends—I feel uncomfortable asking them for business.”
“I can understand that, Jill. Let’s start with the strangers. Since they know nothing about you, nor do they care at this time, you have a great opportunity to brand yourself from scratch. All you have to do is position your image, brand and benefits in their mind, so you will be the first, if not the only real estate professional they think of, when their thoughts turn to business.”
“I’m listening,” she said.
“The most important impression you make with these folks is the first one. Those beautiful glossy-glam post cards of you holding a sold sign, while your dog peeks over the top, or even those great recipe cards you sent out last year which, by the way, helped me with the Labor Day pot luck; I think you missed the boat. In the real world, if someone is to consider doing business with you, it must be understood that they are really only looking out for themselves, not you. That applies to friends and family as well. Which means, every contact you make, whether it is mail, phone, in person or even (my eyes rolled here) Facebook…well, it has to prove that you have something of value. As nice as you are, future clients always want to know what’s the benefit to them.
“So what do I do?” Jill asked with a half smirk. “Pass out money and chocolates?”
“Jill, Jill, Jill. At the end of the day, what does Mr. Client want, maybe even crave?”
She started to make a joke, but thought better of it after she caught my frown. “Uh, well—he wants to know that I care about him and his needs?”
“That’s a good start.”
She shuffled her feet a little. “And he wants to feel like I have the knowledge, skills and wherewithal to see his transaction through and get him the best deal possible.”
I smiled at her. “Keep going Jill.”
“Mr. Client wants someone who listens to him and will get back to him quickly. He does not want to be kept in the dark.”
“Jill, you are so on the right track,” I said. “So how do you show that you can deliver all that?”
“You tell me, you’re the expert,” she said with a sly grin.
After a moment or two of silence, she continued. “Okay, it sounds like I need to contact him more often, so he doesn’t forget me. I need to teach him what I do, how I do it and how that ties in to his needs. That means I need to keep up with the market and then turn around and share the data with him, along with how that affects his sale or purchase. I need to understand the news and then share and interpret to him. When I say I will call Tuesday at 5:00, I will call Tuesday at 5:00, not sometime the next morning.”
“I’m impressed,” I said. “So how do you propose to convert all that to action?”
“That’s the problem, words are cheap, but I still need to get these clients on my side.”
“Jill, you have teachers all around you. Take the daily news, for example and the difference between the TV news broadcasts.”
“Yeah, I like CNN,” said Jill.
“All the networks have the same news to report. The difference is the spin they put on it. Perhaps not so much to manipulate the audience, but maybe they want to express their own point of view through their presentation. Of course sometimes, it boils down to the anchorperson and the likeability factor or perhaps you are simply loyal to the show. Point is, the news is reported to the audience and they will process it through the eyes of the network. If it seems to be a good fit and have value, the viewers will continue to watch the show and of course be subjected to the commercials, which pay those astronomical salaries to anchor people.”
“How do I do this?” she asked. “I’m not a reporter, nor do I have a TV show.”
It was time to swoop in for the close. “You are right Jill. But you do have the news. It’s everywhere—the local papers, trade publications, Wall Street Journal, Internet news feeds; the world is packed with information. All you need do is to actually read the articles and match the info to the needs of your future clients. Now that you understand the information, you clip the relevant sections, add a handwritten comment or e-mail intro, which points out the highlights and—“
“Wait,” interrupted Jill. “Most people won’t read all this stuff. When I get newsletters, articles and dry info, I skim it at best and then toss it.”
“Precisely,” I said. “They probably won’t read it through. Mr. Client may think it is too cumbersome or complicated.”
“So, what’s the point?” she asked.
“Now they know that you know. Over and over you will reinforce this through e-mail, snail mail, phone calls, networking events, even (pause here) Facebook. You won’t bore them to tears and cause avoidance, but you will communicate through a strategic plan of brief communications. In essence, you will be viewed as a teacher, as well as a doer”
“Sounds good, I guess. What shall I do first?”
“Let’s start with lunch and we’ll save the prospecting plan for next time. I’m starved and this article is long enough already.”
So off we drove, in search of tacos and perspective.
Mike Butson is a real estate practiioner and a RealTown Blog member. He specializes in real estate fianance and marketing. Check out his RealTown Blog.