BY ALICE WHEATON AND RON STANNERS
To be successful, professional athletes must abide by the “rules of the game” and the same is true for successful real estate “players”. They too must play by particular rules and follow a game plan knowing that, at times, it is going to make them feel inconvenienced, uncomfortable, and sometimes even really tired!
“That's all well and good for a sports team,” you may say. “Their rules are clear cut and well laid out”. So too, though, are the rules for becoming an outrageously successful Realtor. And since you're in the game, you may as well be playing to be one of the All Stars -‑ the first draft choice of clients who want to be part of a winning team.
The rules of good sales skills are simple, but not easy. Any Realtor who follows them will be successful, however, you must be:
– willing to feel uncomfortable.
– willing to do it imperfectly. (The perfect time to implement your plan perfectly is never going to happen.)
– disciplined enough to be consistent. (Even a poor marketing plan consistently executed will gain you some success.)
If you are willing to feel uncomfortable, be less than perfect, and consistently self disciplined, you can tap into your “success zone” by following these rules for a successful real estate career:
1. Knock on doors.
One helpful strategy is to pick a neighbourhood and farm it -‑ knock on doors, drop off brochures, and talk to anyone and everyone who lives in the area. The goal is to make your name familiar to everyone in the neighbourhood and have them associate it with a hard working, competent, and caring Realtor.
Many Realtors attempt to do this. They find the neighbourhood, send out a few flyers and then quit. Essentially, they tilled the soil and planted the seeds, then walked away from the potential harvest. It takes consistent, repeated contact for a homeowner to feel trust because one of the key elements for trust to develop is time. Almost everyone has “trusted the untrustworthy” with a high price attached, and this teaches us to be cautious with strangers. You know that you are trustworthy, now give your prospects the gift of time to find that out as well!
2. Manage your own public relations.
A good salesperson is always on duty. Be conscious of the image you project every time you step out your door. When you are driving or walking through your area, wave, smile, and say hello. People generally always wave back with a smile and onlookers will see you as a welcomed guest of the community.
Know that people do not fail because of what they do not know; they fail because they are not enthusiastic about what they do know. If you don't feel enthusiastic, act as if you are! If it means you have to run up and down the sidewalks to get that breathless, excited and enthusiastic glow ‑ then do it! You will be amazed at how contagious enthusiasm is, both for you and your prospects.
As you are coming up the drive, smile and wave in the general direction of the window. Anyone inside watching will think, “He saw me. Now I have to open the door.”
When the prospect comes to the door, be sure to be standing in front, facing them as they open the door. Once the door is open, take a small step back. It is a subtle gesture that shows a 'not pushy', 'no threat' attitude. You might say, “Hello. My name is ____ and I'm with ABC Realty. I'm working my way through your neighbourhood and I thought I would stop and get your perception of the neighbourhood.” Speak slowly in an inquisitive interested style.
“There are not many homes for sale in the area. Is this usual? Can you give me your opinion on that?” After their comments, you might then say, “Who do you know who may be planning on buying/selling a home in the next six months?”
When your conversation is complete, begin to practice “respectful marketing.” Give them a choice about having you call on them or send material. You might say, “Would it be alright with you if I phone you or put new neighbourhood housing information in your mailbox from time to time? That way you'll have a sense of the real estate market and how it affects your investment.”
Everyone is tuned to their own personal radio station called WIFM ‑- What's in it for me! If you end your request with a benefit to them, you will find that they will be much more receptive to you.
What if there is good news and the possibility of a listing -‑ how do you get in the door? Just say, while looking them in the eye, “Could I come in and visit with you for a moment?” Then without waiting for an answer, break eye contact, step back and go through the motions of wiping your feet three or four times and then step forward. Not quickly but presumptively. Next thing you know, you'll be sitting at the table with them.
3. Cold call
Even if you are a Realtor who has nurtured your relationships, both in and out of the business, and are reaping the benefits with referrals, the ability and willingness to make a cold call is just too good a tool not to use. If you are just starting out or have room in your day timer for more clients, cold calling is essential. The ability to create receptivity in the first 10 seconds is a “learnable” skill. A Realtor can be made more able, but their willingness is up to them.
4. Handle objections graciously
It's inevitable -‑ people are going to say NO. Anticipate the standard objections that you may run into and practice your response. Use humour, laugh at yourself and above all be respectful -‑ everyone has the right to say no. You will run into people who are going to be abrupt and even rude. If this is upsetting, ask yourself, “What is it about me that is bothered by someone like that…am I so fragile inside that someone else's arrogance or unfriendliness can upset me?”
5. Develop a brochure and distribute it.
A good brochure will help you “farm” and “harvest”. You don't need to break the bank to produce a good brochure. As a minimum, though, ensure that it is clean and crisp, easy to read, and without spelling errors. It's a good idea to leave some white space somewhere on the brochure so you can hand write a personal note when it is appropriate.
Leaving a brochure only once at a house is about as useful as not leaving any. In order to create name recognition, you'll need to do this over and over. How many times do you see an ad for Wendy's or Pepsi, even though these companies have created familiarity and brand recognition? Send out brochures every time you list a house, sell a house and sit in an open house. Drop off brochures when you're knocking on doors. And don't give up on an area because you aren't getting immediate results. Remember, it takes persistence and time -‑ don't quit before the harvest!
6. Stand out from the crowd.
What's in a name? Multinational companies deliberately choose a name for a product and then spend big bucks on public focus groups to test it. An unusual name can give you the “branding” multinational companies are so eager to achieve. Pick a nickname, a slogan, or even a gimmick that the public will associate with you. Make it easy for people to remember your name when they are thinking of buying or selling a home.
7. “Work” your open house.
Be sure there is abundant signage -‑ no one will be there if they don't know the event is happening. Prepare and distribute at least 20 of your brochures with business cards attached and write a note stating that you are showing a listing in the neighbourhood. Distribute 10 to either side of the house and 10 in front. This is a minimum -‑ up the ante on yourself and go for 40 contacts! Remember, these people aren't “nosy neighbours” -‑ they are potential clients.
8. Farm the out of town market.
Set up a referral network with Realtors in other cities. Send out your brochures and keep in touch. Visit other real estate offices when you are on holidays and introduce yourself. And, of course, you will be looking for the opportunity to reciprocate.
A 1‑800 number is an inexpensive marketing tool. What is the purpose for a 1‑800 number? It's for the out‑of‑province buyers who are moving to your city and may respond to a small ad you placed in the local newspapers of their province. The ad can be a three liner that you have contracted the newspaper, at a very reasonable rate, to run for six months ‑- week in, week out. It might say, “Moving to Calgary? Need a home? Please call me because I have a direct source of great homes for sale. Jane Smith 1‑800‑555‑home”.
9. Don't miss out on a captive audience.
Your car or mine? Rather than meet a client at a property, pick them up and drive them to it. You can even ask if they would be willing to drive while you navigate. This way the meeting doesn't end when you leave the house; your client has to drop you off (or vice versa). What a great opportunity to talk (sell) -‑ find out what they liked or didn't like about the property and discuss or drive by other possibilities. At least 80 per cent of the people you ask will agree to this. Some won't. None will if you don't ask.
10. Track Your Advertising Dollars.
Whether it is the newspaper, television, or Internet, stay on top of where you are getting the best response. Consider the type of property you are marketing, the area it's in, and even the current market conditions and be aware that what worked last year (or even last month) may not get you the same response now. Be smart about every cent you spend.
11. Ask for referrals and create a “lead factory”.
Don't wait for referrals, ask for them, but do it in a way that invites a positive response. If you say, “Do you know of someone who might be thinking of buying or selling a home?” you have committed a very common error -‑ you have asked them to qualify their leads for you. Almost certainly their minds will go blank and you have given them the opportunity to end the conversation with one word: “No.” Instead, ask for the names of, say, 10 people they would invite to their next party. You might say, “People in general love to talk real estate. Likely you've had a conversation in the last few months about market price, and locations. What I'd like to do, if it's all right with you, (give them a choice ‑ this creates receptivity) is call your friends to introduce myself and offer my skills and service, should they ever need them. I promise to be as respectful to them as I have been to you!” You can be sure that if they suspect any of their acquaintances are thinking of buying or selling, their names will be on the list.
When a referral becomes a client, be absolutely certain that acknowledgment is given to the person who gave you the lead. A good thank you process includes an initial note expressing your appreciation for the referral. You can follow this with a second note saying “Yeah! The house is listed” and finally, “What a team we are ‑ the house is sold!” If you send a gift at this point (and it is probably a very good idea to do so) make sure that it is of good quality and it is something that lasts. Give a top‑notch skillet or solid brass doorknocker -‑ something that is used over and over again. While the gift is around and valuable, there will be a direct link associated with you. Gifts such as chocolates, champagne, or fruit baskets may be appreciated, but won't serve as a long‑term reminder of you. When choosing a gift, consider the subliminal message a gift of poor quality will leave.
This is putting a lead factory into place. Imagine how much easier it will be to obtain the second referral with this kind of communication.
12. Know how to tap into the good graces of others.
Before you can experience the power of leverage, you must first earn the right. The key ingredient is to act with integrity and always in the best interest of your clients. When you give your word, keep it and be 100 per cent accountable if you slip.
If we honour our commitments, if we tell the truth, if we come from the highest intention, others will be drawn to us ‑ there's no mystery there!
Alice Wheaton MA is a corporate trainer, motivator, speaker and author. She owns her own consulting and training company, Alice Wheaton Inc. She says she enjoys working with those who are ready, willing and want to be more able to move out of their `performance set point'.
She speaks at conferences throughout Canada and the United States. (403) 249‑5853 or 1‑877‑542‑5423.
Ron Stanners has been a successful Realtor for 19 years. He has owned his own real estate organization for 10 years and now owns and manages Maxwell Southstar Realty and co‑owns four other Maxwell offices. His is vice-president of Maxwell Realty Inc. and is a director of the Calgary Real Estate Board. He has also served as advisor for Alberta Justice -‑ Southern Alberta Mediation Program. (403) 253‑4678.