Posts Tagged ‘networking’

Follow-up and Communication … the Final Keys to a Successful Open House

May 26, 2011

As the fourth and final installment of my open house series, I’m going to share the importance of strong follow-up and communication plans, and why you’ll never achieve the full potential of an open house without them.

Follow-up … or fail!

Quite often one of my clients will call me and say, “I thought I had the best open house! I was so excited afterward! However, nothing has come of it. Not one person has called me back. What happened?”

I’m here to tell you that if you are expecting people to magically call you back, you’re going to be waiting for a very long time. No matter how much they like you, not everyone you meet will call you after that first open house. It’s incumbent upon you to reach out to them! You may need to meet people at several successful open houses before your phone starts to ring. Rome wasn’t built in a day … and neither are relationships with potential clients.

Here are the follow-up actions that need to be part of your open house plan. Some are tried and true … but some may be new to you!

  1. Before you leave your open house, put everything back in order. You’d be surprised how many agents hurry out the door and forget to do this. The seller comes home after the open house, only to find things out of place – or worse yet – hidden away where they can’t find them – and may feel uncomfortable or angry. Remember: you are a guest in their house. Treat your time there as such.
  2. If you were successful in connecting with people who attended your open house and have an email or a phone number, send them a “thank you for coming” email or make a quick phone call. This is not the time to give your sales message!  It is, however, the time for a simple thank-you. If neighbors attended, be sure to contact them as well.
  3. Send a second thank-you when possible, including a message that says something like, “If you didn’t have a chance to sign up for my real estate market update, please give me a call or send me an email and I will be sure to get you that information on a monthly basis.”
  4. Leave the sellers an open house report. If you create this report as part of your open house system and have it preprinted, all you need to do is fill it out just before you leave the open house and put it on the kitchen counter for the sellers to review. Include how many people attended your open house, any comments (both positive and negative) that they made, and your comments about how you feel the open house went. Please be honest here – it’s not fair to only provide positive information, when the reality might be something like “most attendees felt the price was too high.” If they only hear that things are going very well, they will become frustrated quickly if there is no other activity or any offers.
  5. You have yet another opportunity to reach out to people who attended your open house by sending “just pended” or “just sold” postcards at the appropriate times. Keeping people abreast of market activity is another way to stay in touch – and it allows you to articulate your value as a knowledgeable professional.

Communication is critical!

Communication is such a key piece of having a terrific open house, yet so many agents struggle with making guests feel welcome while also trying to establish the beginnings of a business relationship.

There are three key areas I want you to be aware of:

  1. The welcome: Are you a “stand at the front door” agent, or a “sit in the kitchen” agent? What I’m getting at is this: what is your comfort level when people come in the door? I have attended open houses where the agent literally frightened me by opening the front door with such gusto they almost knocked me down! I’ve also attended open houses where the door was already open … and when I walked in the agent was at the kitchen counter using her laptop. She only looked up long enough to say “Hi there.  Come on in and look around.” Finding a balance between the two is a skill that you must learn.
  2. The home tour: Do you like to show people around the house, or would you rather they tour on their own? Some agents are very successful at corralling groups of people and leading an actual tour – others are much more comfortable just letting people wander on their own. Sometimes this depends on the layout or amenities of the house or the seller’s wishes. Regardless of what tour style you choose, you must be comfortable talking not only about the house, the neighborhood, and the current market, but also encouraging people to take a look at all of the display boards and market data that you have provided.
  3. The goodbye: Are guests leaving your open house with a positive lasting impression of you? In talking to hundreds of buyers over the years, the general consensus is that while agents are nice and will say “thanks for stopping by”, buyers rarely feel like they made a connection with the agent. The goodbye is your final chance to make that connection without being pushy. You really need to think about how you want to handle this, based on your personal style.

So remember – you can turn an “ok” open house into a great open house by implementing great follow-up and communication plans.

Don’t forget that the weekend of June 4th and 5th is National Open House Weekend.  Public attendance at open houses this weekend should be high.  Make sure you’re prepared for your best open house ever!


If you joined us for our Unforgettable Open House class this week, thank you! You are on your way to creating your own unforgettable open house during the National Association of REALTORS® Open House Weekend June 4th and 5th.

As our “thank you” to those who came to class AND to those who have been reading through this series, we would like to share a document to add to your open house tools. This is a sample letter you can send out to the neighbors of the open house, offering to put “slow down” signs up due to the increased traffic in the neighborhood. Neighbors love this! This small touch accomplishes several things:

  • It introduces you, the agent.
  • It lets the neighbor know there is an upcoming open house. Remember, people buy neighborhoods…and neighbors are a fantastic way to spread the word about your listing.
  • It shows that you are concerned about the safety of their family.

You would not believe the response agents have received from neighbors so thankful the agent has gone the extra mile in keeping their neighborhood safe.

These safety signs are available in a variety of child safety areas of stores or you can buy them online. This is just one type of sign, but there are others types as well.

This letter is my gift to you. If you use it, I would love to hear what response you receive from the neighbors! Email me what you have heard to denise@thelonesgroup.com.

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Safari is Just Around the Corner!

May 24, 2011

Don’t let the amazing event pass you by!

We’ll be looking at:

  • Where you are in your business.
  • What the last two years have brought … and what the next two years could bring.
  • Your natural work and behavioral styles, and how they dramatically impact your success.
  • The ten essentials for a successful business.
  • How to create an action plan that takes you where you want to be.

Think this is just another real estate seminar?  Think again!  We guarantee you’ve never attended an event quite like this.

Here’s what one agent had to say after our last event:

“This was the most personal and insightful seminar I have ever attended.  Denise has a great gift, and this could be the key to my personal and professional success.”

If you’re ready to take action, enroll in Safari while seats still remain!

Put on Your Thinking Cap … and Find the Right House to Hold Open!

May 12, 2011

This week, I want to discuss why it’s so important for you to choose the right house for your open house. It’s not just a matter holding an open house because one of your sellers wants you to. I want you to avoid doing that!  Instead of letting the house choose you, you need to choose the house!  And I’m going to tell you exactly how to do that.

First and foremost, not all houses are great candidates for an open house. If a house is in a rural area, or in a physical location that presents challenges, you’ll spend a lot of money on marketing and a lot of wasted time sitting by yourself waiting for buyers to find you. That is not the best use of your resources.

However, when you pick the right house – for the right reasons – you’ll find that your success rate in generating new prospects and clients will increase substantially.

Here are the categories for houses that are great candidates for your next open:

  1. New listings: New listings attract lots of traffic! People love to see what’s new on the market, and they love to be the first one through so they’ve got ‘insider information’ to share with their friends and family. You’ll also get a lot of neighbors who will come by … not only are they just curious about the house, they may be secretly interviewing agents prior to putting their house on the market.
  2. Well-priced listings: You will be amazed at the traffic you will generate when you hold open a well-priced listing. Buyers are amazingly savvy today, and they’re very aware of what constitutes good value. Well-priced listings can bring them out of the woodwork! Savvy buyers will not take the time to visit open houses where the listing price is out of line with the market. (Note: If you have listings that are overpriced, this is a terrific reason to have a serious ‘price-reduction’ conversation with your overly-optimistic sellers.)
  3. Easy-to find-listings: These listings offer a wonderful way to market yourself – and your name – by giving you lots of opportunities for signage. Imagine the marketing impact you’ll have when you place your personalized open house signs in numerous strategic locations. There’s a cumulative benefit to this when you hold open houses on a regular basis, and those houses are on well-traveled routes.
  4. In-demand listings: Do you know what style and price of house is the hottest seller in your market? You will if you search your MLS and track the most recent pendings. One of my coaching clients recently did this and then called me up the next day to say, “I thought I knew my market, Denise. But I clearly didn’t. What I thought was selling well now was actually selling well 6 months ago. But it’s not now! In my market – right now – one-level homes in the $279,000-$299,000 price range are hot. I had no idea!”  It’s critically important that you do your research. Find out what’s in demand right now – and take advantage of that knowledge.
  5. Well-advertised listings: It goes without saying that listings that are advertised well will attract buyers. But listings that are really advertised well — online, in print, and with targeted print mailing — are great candidates for an open house. There is already a buzz about them, so take advantage of that.
  6. Listings with great curb appeal: I call this the “irresistible factor. Who can’t help but want to go into a house that looks absolutely wonderful from the outside? Yes, we’re agents and we’re predisposed to appreciating fabulous curb appeal. But everyone else appreciates it too! When you’re doing research on the right kinds of homes to hold open, do not forget listings that are intriguing from the outside. When a house has ‘wow-factor’ curb appeal, you’ll generate significantly more traffic – which in turn can generate more potential clients.
  7. ‘Where fish are biting’ listings: These homes are the fastest-selling homes in you market. How do you determine this? Again – by doing some targeted MLS research. Find out what the days-on-market statistics are for a particular neighborhood, or within your community. Is there a correlation between a low days-on-market number and a particular price point or style of house? When you can connect these dots, you’ll have a very good idea of which homes are getting buyers to get off the fence and into the market.

Now that you know which houses are the best candidates for an open house, you need to determine how to attract potential buyers (and future sellers) to your open house.

Here are my “Top 5 Traffic Generators

  • Online marketing: The key here is consistency. To build strong traffic, your open house needs to be posted anywhere that open houses in your market are posted – including your personal website and your company website. Additionally, spread your social media net as wide as possible through Facebook and other social media sites. Remember to confirm with your sellers that they are comfortable having you advertise your open houses via social media.
  • Offline marketing: While many agents turn their noses up at print marketing these days, I do not. This can be a very effective method of building open house traffic. There are lots of options based on your market, including newspapers, magazines, trade publications, and community or neighborhood newsletters.
  • Immediate neighbors marketing: You’re missing a real opportunity if you’re not targeting the neighbors! If you normally hold your open house from 1pm-4pm, invite the neighbors over at 12:15pm for a special “neighbors-only” open house. Create an invitation that provides a reason for them to stop by. These could include getting current information on their neighborhood’s 10-year appreciation rate, or perhaps sales ratios and days-on-market statistics. For the neighbors, it’s not about the house as much as it’s about providing them with market knowledge. It’s about articulating your expertise.
  • Move-up buyer ‘radius’ marketing: This is a great way to generate traffic. Choose neighborhoods where the homeowners’ next move up (or down!) would likely be in the price range of your open house.
  • Database marketing: Never forget the value of the people who already know you and trust you – and support your career. List your open houses in your monthly newsletters. Send out an open house schedule via email, with a link to your website’s open house page. (Don’t forget to update this page each week!)

Lastly, I want you to think about open house options – those “outside the box” option that can generate additional traffic.

  1. Saturday versus Sunday open houses: For many people, Sunday is their ‘stay-at-home’ day. They have family activities, laundry, and yard work as priorities. Saturdays often will provide you with much better traffic, since people are already out and about doing errands. With ample signage you can attract a lot of traffic! Try this idea – test it for two or three months to see if that’s the case in your market.
  2. Condensed open houses:  Consider holding two homes open on the same day. It could look like this: House #1 (123 A St) is open from 9am-10am and then again from 1pm-2pm. House #2 (123 B St) is open from 11am-noon and then again from 3pm-4pm. Essentially, you’re increasing your opportunities to get a lot of people through in a short amount of time.
  3. Multi-property open house tour: Pick several houses that meet a particular niche and hold each one open for one hour. You could pick first-time buyer homes. Or waterfront homes. Or equestrian properties. Done strategically, you’ll quickly establish yourself as an expert in that particular niche.
  4. Multi-agent or entire office open house blitz: There’s power in numbers! Gather together a group of agents – or your whole office – and build an open house event.
  5. After-work weekday open house: This is a terrific idea for homes that are on commuter routes, or in neighborhoods that are close to bus stops. Hold an open house at approximately the same time as these folks are headed home. You’d be surprised at how many will stop in for a few minutes.

I’ve just given you a lot of ideas — and things to think about. What I want you to do now is toss your preconceived notions about open houses out the window and start thinking outside the box. Open houses can be an amazingly successful strategy for you — if you pick the right houses, determine how to build traffic, and schedule them to maximize your reach.

Are you a real estate agent working in Washington State?

If so, we want to invite you to attend our “Unforgettable Open House” event on Tuesday, May 24th.

We’ll teach you how to design and conduct a truly unforgettable open house experience. You’ll learn the secret “props” needed for success, and how to captivate open house visitors. Discover the art of truly showing a home, rather than simply standing in the kitchen while potential clients walk in (and out!) the door. Hear the simple secret to capturing client contact information, without seeming like a pushy salesperson, “man talk” versus “woman talk”, and much, much more!

We’re offering this amazing opportunity in support of the Washington REALTORS® and National Association of REALTORS® Open House Weekend, which will be held June 4th and 5th this year. Master all of the insider secrets to a successful open house … then participate in the Open House Weekend by holding your best open house ever!  Public awareness of open houses will be high, and their expectations will be as well. You need to be ready to deliver!

There is no charge for the class; however, if you wish to participate for clock hours a fee of $35 ($40 at the door) will apply.

If you want to create an unforgettable open house experience – one that will generate income for you – you must attend this memorable class.

Throw Open the Doors!

May 5, 2011

Think open houses aren’t effective in today’s tech-driven society? Think again!

Open houses – if done strategically – can generate more business than you would ever imagine.

Open houses have been around for a very long time. Twenty or thirty years ago, they were one of the only ways to get buyers into a home without an appointment. They were much more effective than printed ads because buyers had a chance to really look around and get a feel for the home. They were certainly the best way to do some low-cost marketing! Buyers simply showed up at as many open houses as they had time for and could quickly get a fairly good feel for their local market.

But then the internet arrived … and it wasn’t too many years later that real estate agents started marketing homes online. Beginning in early 2005 there were a number of articles discussing the fact that the open house – as a marketing tool – was a dying breed.

I disagreed with that theory then, and I still disagree with it today. I believe that open houses can be an incredible source of marketing for a home, an incredible source of business for agents, and an incredible tool for buyers to really explore what they want and need in a home.

According to the National Association of REALTORS® 2010 “Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers”, 45%* of buyers use open houses as part of their information source. That means nearly one out of every two buyers is attending at least one open house! That’s an important fact for agents – and their sellers – to understand. Open houses are not just a last resort to find buyers for an over-priced listing, or to find buyers at all. An open house can have a very positive effect on the sale of a home.

A lot of agents will say that rarely have they sold the listing where they were holding an open house. That may be true, but remember this: open houses sell other houses. Open houses cultivate buyers and engage them into making positive buying decisions by getting them into houses and off the fence. Open houses can help get a sluggish market back up and running!

If you’ve taken open houses off your list of marketing activities, you need to put them back on your list. Right now – today – you have a better chance picking up a buyer than you did 5-10 years ago. Why? Because today’s buyer has more access to home information than ever before. They’ve already done their research. They have seen homes online and reviewed the stats. When they attend an open house, they’re attending because they have some interest in, or at least some curiosity about, the home. Today open houses are very targeted toward ready, willing and able buyers, compared to open houses of the past. And today’s buyers are savvy buyers. They are very clear on what they’re looking for. When they attend an open house, that house has already gotten their initial stamp of approval.

Have I piqued your interest yet? I hope so! Here are more things for you to think about.

Open houses have a lot of pros and a few cons … based on who you are, what your market is like, and your natural personality style.

The Pros

  1. You have a chance to meet with potential buyers face-to-face and build credibility and trust.
  2. An open house is a great way to sharpen your client interaction skills.
  3. You’ll learn a lot about a neighborhood by doing the analysis necessary to have ready answers to buyer questions.
  4. An open house is a very low-cost marketing alternative.
  5. You’re creating an informational focus group to get feedback on the listing for you, and for the seller.
  6. You receive immediate results – and feedback. You’ll quickly get a sense of what buyers are looking for – and what prices are most attractive to the “right now” buyer.
  7. An open house shows that you are proactively involved in your local market.
  8. You can pick up a listing in the neighborhood. Many people attend open houses in their neighborhood, not only to see how their home stacks up, but to get to know agents that they might want to hire when they decide to sell their home.
  9. You could pick up a buyer for another home without spending a lot of money on marketing.
  10. An open house helps you familiarize yourself with the area or neighborhood inventory.

The Cons

  1. An open house can be a waste of time if no one shows up. (If you do an open house strategically, this won’t happen to you!)
  2. Prep time is needed, and can appear to be a lot of work. (It’s not a lot of work once you’re organized and you have a system!)
  3. An open house can be stressful if you don’t like to meet new people and you find building quick rapport challenging. (Role playing can help.)
  4. You have to be a great listener, and you need to know how to ask good questions. (Again, some role playing can do wonders for your interaction skills.)

I want you to take a few minutes right now and start a simple two-column list. On one side, write down all of the reasons why you like (or might like) holding open houses. On the other side, write down why you don’t do them. Compare both lists. Figure out what – If anything – is holding you back, and determine what you can do to help you see success with this potentially lucrative marketing strategy.

Believe me – open houses can be a goldmine for you! It’s time for you to throw the doors wide open and join the open house crowd!

If I’ve piqued your interest, stay tuned because this is just the first installment in a series of Zebra Reports that I’m going to write on open houses. Next week I’m going to talk about what kinds of houses get good traffic, and how you determine the right house (or houses) based on doing some highly-targeted research.

*Source: National Association of REALTORS® Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers 2010, page 46: INFORMATION SOURCES USED IN HOME SEARCH.

Are you a real estate agent working in Washington State?

If so, we want to invite you to attend our “Unforgettable Open House” event on Tuesday, May 24th  in Bellevue, Washington.

We’ll teach you how to design and conduct a truly unforgettable open house experience. You’ll learn the secret “props” needed for success, and how to captivate open house visitors. Discover the art of truly showing a home, rather than simply standing in the kitchen while potential clients walk in (and out!) the door. Hear the simple secret to capturing client contact information, without seeming like a pushy salesperson, “masculine talk” versus “feminine talk”, and much, much more!

We’re offering this amazing opportunity in support of Washington REALTORS® and the National Association of REALTORS® Open House Weekend, which will be held June 4th and 5th this year. Master all of the insider secrets to a successful open house … then participate in the Open House Weekend by holding your best open house ever!  Public awareness of open houses will be high, and their expectations will be as well. You need to be ready to deliver!

There is no charge for the class; however, if you wish to obtain clock hours, a fee of $35 ($40 at the door) will apply.

If you want to create an unforgettable open house experience – one that will generate income for you – you must attend this memorable class! Space is limited, so register today! 

Where Will Your Business Be Four Weeks From Now?

April 13, 2011

Without intervention, it will probably be exactly where it is today.

Now, if you’re exactly where you want to be … great!

But if you are searching for more success, or you need a jolt of inspiration, you need to join us on Safari to learn how to make business-building changes that will carry your forward.

Are you ready to set aside your belief that “the market” will dictate your success?  (Hint: we are coaching clients who are having their best year EVER!)   Do you love the synergy that comes from a room full of people focused on making a positive change in their business?  Is it just time to plan for a better business – one that you’ll love for years to come?

If you answered yes to any one of these questions, we want to see you at one of our upcoming Safari events.

Need more details?  Click here to learn more!

Out of Sight = Out of Mind

March 10, 2011

There’s nothing harder than running into a past client and learning that they just bought or sold a home … without you. It wounds your pride, it shakes your confidence, and it hurts your pocketbook. What I’ve learned over many years is that when someone tells me their story, I’m rarely surprised after I hear the full story. Here’s a hint: Out of sight = out of mind.

One of the most important truths in real estate is that you need to stay “top-of-mind” with your clients. You must be confident that when the people you know need real estate services, you are the first person they think of.

People today are busy. They have busy jobs, busy lives, and often they are juggling the activities of several family members – and everyone’s corresponding calendars. When they are ready to buy or sell property, they don’t have time to search for a new agent. If they have one who is already top-of-mind, that’s who they call. People call the agent who is in their mind, at the exact moment they decide to pick up the phone, look a house online, or send an email.

Are you that person?

Agents ask me all the time: “How do I cram one more thing into an already hectic business?”  My answer is simple: You have to.

It’s not your sphere’s job to remember to call you – it’s your responsibility to make sure they call you.

Another question I often get asked is: “What’s the best way to stay top-of-mind?”  My answer is always the same – and a bit frustrating for some agents. There is no magic formula, and there is no one “best” way. The truth is, you have to match your communication format with the way your sphere wants (and sometimes needs) to be communicated with.

Remember this: deciphering their communication code takes a lot of time! But it’s absolutely worth it in the long run.

First look at your database. Then determine the best way to stay top-of-mind with each of them. Is it in person? Is it by mail? Is it by phone? Is it via email? Or are they happiest when they see you at the grocery store?

Here is why this is so frustrating to some agents. It’s hard to put together a follow-up plan – a strategic and effective top-of-mind campaign – when you have so much to consider and not a lot of time to build a plan.

So, what’s the answer? Here are some things to think about.

  1. A great place to start is by thinking about how you are going to communicate. I firmly believe that for most agents whose client base includes a wide variety of age-groups and an even wider variety of communication preferences, a very high-quality, content-rich piece of mail is critical. It’s important that your clients get something they can touch and feel, and that reinforces the fact that you are their best resource for real estate expertise. A high-quality piece also says that they are important to you not only on a professional level, but on a personal level.
  2. Determine your message. Always send real estate-related information. (Note: If you have a sphere that really appreciates the college football schedule you send in August, that’s fine. But I consider that an “extra” mailing piece, not your August top-of-mind piece.) Top-of-mind mail needs to update your sphere on the real estate market. It needs to speak to the trends and news and also provide insight into the market. This piece needs to address the factors that impact your sphere’s ability to make wise real estate investment decisions. For example, you might include important changes to real estate laws. The content needs to include the kind of information that any buyer or seller wants (and needs) to have.

Some agents send a newsletter, and some agents send an oversized postcard. Again, the format should meet the needs of your sphere – which may be different than the format a colleague of yours sends to their sphere. And it should always be designed using YOUR brand. Remember – your sphere may be getting information from other agents in your area. If everything they get looks eerily similar, the reader will think the content is the same too. You have to stand out – and you must provide relevant content.

If you want to make your mailer more personal, consider sending out a quarterly neighborhood review. Collect data on every active, pending and sold listing and provide commentary on what the market is doing right now. One note of caution – do not just send a chart or a graph or a list. You have to also tell your reader what the data means, and why that is important to them as potential sellers and/or buyers. People like to know what’s happening in the real estate industry. They like to be kept up to date so they can feel ‘in the know’.

I often get asked about sending out an online newsletter. My answer is this: If you are very confident that your sphere is best served by an online newsletter, or a blog that you write and they follow, then that’s a good option. However, as I said earlier, most agents have a very diverse sphere. Some folks may not be connected to the online world. Or they are bombarded by email every day and what you send will get deleted along with every other email they aren’t reading. If you have a tech-savvy population within your sphere, by all means customize an online piece just for them.

The bottom line is this:

  • To stay top-of-mind with your sphere, you have to have a strong follow-up plan.
  • To have a strong follow-up plan, you have to take the time to determine exactly who your sphere is, and what your plan looks like.
  • Once you have everything mapped out, make it easy on yourself by setting up a regular schedule that ensures your sphere hears from you each and every month.

Want to go from out of sight and out of mind to top-of-mind? A strong follow-up plan will get you there.

Ask Denise: Holding a Client Appreciation Event

March 3, 2011

Q: “Denise, I’ve never held a client appreciation event, but I know I need to this spring.  Help!  What do I do?”

A: The first thing to do is to ensure that you have secured a small base of key players (and helpers) that you absolutely want to be there.  Make the date at least 60 days from now.  Plan everything. I mean everything – from the biggest detail to the tiniest ones. Your event should come off without a single hitch.

Send “Save the Date” cards immediately. Then, 5 weeks from your event send out an “Invitation” card.  The following week, send out a date and RSVP reminder. Three weeks from your event send out a “Countdown” card that says, “3 weeks to go…” with another RSVP reminder.

You’ll also have far better success with your event if you call each person up personally after the “Invitation” card is sent, to back your invitation up with the sound of your voice telling them how much you want them to be there.

At the event, always have great food and beverages, make sure you lead the show, and make sure everyone is greeted at the door.  Nametags help.  Start on time, and finish on time.  Send a “Thank You” when it’s all over with pictures you took.

New from The Lones Group Design Team!

February 9, 2011

Like many of our clients, Vic Jones wanted to convey something personal about himself via his branding. Hot Rod Properties was the result! Vic is currently in the process of restoring a classic hot rod, and wanted to incorporate that passion into his real estate business. With this brand, we’ve created a fabulous tie-in between his passion and real estate.

Whether you want to develop a completely custom brand, or select from one of the amazing designs in our “Instant Image” portfolio, we are here to help.

Interested in learning more about developing your custom branded image? We can help with that too! Please send an email to support@thelonesgroup.com or call us at 360-527-8904  to learn more.

Does Your Pipeline Need a Lifeline?

February 4, 2011

Every agent should strive to build a referral-only business. The lion’s share of income should come from past clients, a strong database and the subsequent referrals.

However, if you – like many agents I know – are not generating the income that you need to generate, it is a sure sign that your referral business is not yet where it needs to be. This means you are going to have to add a lead generation program to your business to make up for what your referrals are not providing you.

A great referral business comes about – and continues to build – after an agent provides really great service. Clients come back for more, and are willing to refer friends and family, when they have a great experience. Referral business means you’re doing something right.

The problem is that oftentimes your referral business cannot sustain the now business that you may need to keep transactions in your pipeline and income coming in. The timing of your referral business rarely matches the timing you need to meet your financial obligations.

To be really successful, your goal should be to have business in your pipeline every single monthToo many agents live a peak & valley existence – scrambling for business when they have none, and hoping that they will somehow, magically, get that all-important referral phone call to save them.

Here’s something to think about: What happens if your current database isn’t keeping you financially able to meet your commitments? What if you’re not meeting your goals – or far worse, your obligations – because you simply don’t have enough business?

In that case, you absolutely must have a lead generation system to bridge the gap.You have to find a way to increase the reach of your business, in order to generate business.

The key is to create a lead generation system that fits your individual work style, and that you know in your heart you will focus on. Too many agents just grab any system that sounds like the easiest, then fail in frustration when it doesn’t match their style or their needs. Lead generation takes work, folks. It takes time and patience.

There are two types of lead generation: Active and Passive.

Active lead generation is where you are generating leads (i.e. potential business) in person or on the phone. It includes things like joining networking groups, teaching first-time-buyer classes, holding open houses, and contacting expired listing sellers and for-sale-by-owner sellers. You are the catalyst for this type of lead generation.

Passive lead generation means you don’t have to show up. People are hearing from you, but it’s through mail, email and print marketing. Passive lead generation includes things like geographical farming. It also can include cancelled and expired listings. Your ability to articulate your expertise is the catalyst for this type of lead generation.

The reality is you need to be doing something. You need to keep your pipeline full and get out of the peak & valley existence that you may be experiencing.

An agent in one of my coaching groups recently said, “I really dislike having to go out and look for business. It’s so time consuming, and it never works for me.” Yes, it’s hard work! Yes, it takes time! Yes, you have to plan for it, and then be patient enough to let your system take hold and work for you.

If you know your referral business isn’t matching your financial goals, take the first step. Find a lead generation system that meets your style and comfort level. Decide if you want to have an active system, or a passive system. Or a combination of both. Decide what group, or groups, you want to target. Is it buyers? Is it sellers who had a bad experience, but you know they want or need to sell? Build a system that keeps you in front of those folks on a very regular basis. And stick with it. As the saying goes, Rome wasn’t built in a day.

Here’s another question I get asked all the time. “How do I know when I can stop doing lead generation?” It is really quite simple. You can stop when you’re getting all of the income you need from your referral business.

Here’s how you know when you’re at that point:

  1. First and most importantly, track the source of every transaction. Each year, you have to know how many transactions came from referrals, and how much income that business generated.
  2. Determine your annual income goal and how much of that income needs to (or will likely) come from your referral business. As an example: If you need $100,000 of referral income, and in your market the average price home is $300,000, then you can assume that – based on a 3% commission rate per side – each referral-based transaction will bring you $9,000. That means you need 11 transactions each year that come from your referral business.
  3. But let’s say last year you only had 6 transactions from referrals, and you had 5 transactions that came from open houses, sign calls or internet leads. You were short 5 referrals. You needed to somehow make up that lost referral income. The way to do that is by having a strong lead generation program.
  4. Until you can safely say that your referral business is consistently providing you with the level of income you need, you will need to continue with a lead generation program.

Don’t get me wrong. I want you to build an awesome referral-based business. I want you to enjoy the benefits of your hard work. But a strong referral business takes years to cultivate! What if you’re a brand new agent? What if your current database isn’t as fruitful as you need it to be?

There are two things I want you to focus right now. Choose a lead generation system that is based on your needs, on your work style, and on your personality. Then just get it done.

Without a lead generation system you won’t survive. And you certainly won’t thrive.

Interested in learning more about lead generation? Come to our 2-day Safari in February, where we’ll help you integrate lead generation into your business plan. Want to know more? Click here for more information and to register.

By Denise Lones CSP, M.I.R.M., CDEI

Turn Lost Opportunities Into Realized Opportunities: the Need for a Detailed Communication Plan

January 5, 2011

In the last two Zebra Reports I’ve been talking about the idea of Lost Opportunity and what it means to your business. Lost Opportunity business is business you can have, and it is income you should have. Don’t lose those opportunities simply because you didn’t have a plan to keep them in your pipeline. No more Lost Opportunities in 2011!

What’s the one essential thing that I think you must have?  A communication plan—as part of your overall business plan—that will solidify your relationship with your past, current and potential clients.

Recently, an agent I work with said, “Denise, I have a basic plan to stay in touch, but I never seem to follow it. What am I doing wrong?”  Once we looked at the reasons he wasn’t following it, the answer was right in front of him. He knew he needed a plan, and in the back of his mind he had an idea of what it looked like, but he didn’t’ have any details to guide him.

Most agents have the same problem. They may have a client communication plan in the back of their mind—they may even have it written into a yearly calendar. But if, on any given month, the notation simply says “call sphere”, it is easy to drop the ball. If you don’t know what to say, and if you don’t have details to guide you, your communication plan quickly falls to the bottom of your list. Nobody likes random calls. We don’t like making them; we know others don’t like receiving them. Random calls feel way too much like a ‘sales’ call. You won’t have to make random calls when you have a detailed plan.

Most of us are much better at following a plan. What if, in early January, your communication plan said ‘Call sphere to alert them about the predictions article.” Granted, you have to have your predictions article ready to mail out, but now you have a reason to make a quick call as well. The call sounds like this: “I just sent you my predictions article for the 2011 real estate market. If you have any questions, give me a call. Otherwise, I hope you find my article interesting and helpful.”

If you have to give last-minute thought to what to say, how to say it, or what your message is, the call will simply not be as successful as it might be when you have an actual plan for calling. When you have your plan and the details—even the script, it’s easy.

“Okay,” you say, “but it’s hard to figure out what to send, or what to call about.”

We created the visual chart, below, to make it easy for you to build a communication plan for your entire sphere, including additional communication options for your past andyour potential clients.

Sphere Database

Past Clients

Potential Clients
(buying or selling within the next year)

12  Monthly Real Estate Mailings

X

X

X

Annual Client Review and Client Appreciation Event

X

Weekly Communication

X

  • 12 Monthly Real Estate Mailings – here is an easy formula:
    • Six articles a year. These must be real estate specific.
    • Four quarterly real estate reports specific to your/their market.
    • One annual review
    • One predictions article
  • Weekly Communication for potential clients (less than a year from a transaction) should include market specific data:

Sample items for potential buyers:

  • Appreciation rates in different neighborhoods
  • Home comparison reports for different neighborhoods
  • Video tours of neighborhoods. This is especially important if they are not familiar with all the neighborhoods they might choose from.
  • Listing and sold data

All this information helps buyers begin to learn more about the market, learn where the best values are, and calm the sometimes overwhelming feeling new buyers have.

Sample items for potential sellers:

  • Regular listing, pending and sold reports
  • Days on Market reports
  • List-to-sales-price ratios
  • Inventory numbers

Not-yet-ready-to-sell clients have to get used to what comparable homes are selling for on the open market. This may not be the time in their life where their real estate will sell for what they want. You have to educate them. Be their expert and provide them with honest, accurate data on a very regular basis.

Send one of these at least once a month, and follow up with a phone call or email the other weeks. Yes, you may even count your monthly mailing to your sphere as communication for one of those weeks!:

Using this plan, and building in the details that you need to keep you on track, you will significantly strengthen your relationship with each person in your database and position yourself as their real estate expert.

Let’s recap. Regardless of whom you need to communicate with you must have a consistent, well thought-out weekly, monthly and annual plan that includes all the details you need to make your plan actually work for you. With a strong communication plan, business will come your way more easily!

Do you need more help creating a communication plan?

Join us for our 2011 Safari on January 12th and 13th at the Redmond Marriott Town Center. We’ll help you build your own customized 2011 business plan, including a communication plan that will keep you top-of-mind with everyone in your database and keep a steady flow of business in your pipeline.

I am truly excited about this upcoming Safari as I know everyone is going to walk away with the tools they need to make great strides in their business and systems in 2011. I hope you will join me!

By Denise Lones CSP, M.I.R.M., CDEI


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