Tuesday, May 16, 2006

The power of personalized service

Although many of your buyers and sellers today rely on technology to both research and communicate with you, don't underestimate the power of the right personal touch, and exceptional customer service.

Here's a story from an Agent CEO in Chicago, in his own words from the HouseValues Mastermind Forum. It's a strong message of both high-touch customer service and patience, which clearly has generated strong results.

I hand delivered a CMA about a month and half ago, and the reception I got was so warm that I began to wonder if the lady wasn't my sister. We signed the contract last night; 8% listing commission.

If there's any new agents reading this post, I have some advice for you:

Go and knock on that door, and wear your best smile, and offer them a service they didn't even know existed and more, put them on the drip marketing campaigns and give them some time to reach the conclusion that you're actually better than their sister in-law's cousin who's a Realtor, and they'll list with you EVENTUALLY!


Monday, May 08, 2006

Stay on track by thinking long-term

The smartest Agent CEOs across the country are busy with "right now" business, but are also engaged in multiple activities that set up future business - in the weeks, months, even years to come.

What do these Agent CEOs consistently do to ensure long-term success? You can read some of their best practices in my latest column in Realty Times. It offers real-world best practices of some of the nation's most successful agents - all things that you can emulate in your own business to match their success.

Happy Reading!

Saturday, May 06, 2006

How to Convert FSBOs

Dan Volker, an Agent CEO in the suburban Chicago market, is one of the best agents I've ever seen at converting FSBOs into his customers. In the time I've known him, he's converted literally dozens of FSBOs by showing those sellers how he can help them earn more money for their home, and sell the home faster and easier in the process.

Click here to read more of Dan's story, including his strategy for showing FSBO sellers the incredible value he can provide them.

The Truth about FSBOs

I've heard many agents talk about For Sale by Owner Listings (FSBOs) lately, and many are worrying that the rise in availability of information directly to consumers will increase the number of FSBOs.

This couldn't be further from the truth, and research supports this.

In 1991, before homes and other real estate-related information started appearing on the Internet, for sale by owner transactions made up approximately 19% of the market. In 2005, after almost 10 years of having homes for sale on the Internet and consumers more empowered with information than ever, FSBO transactions made up 13% of the market.

At a time when consumers were empowered with more and more information, the volume of FSBOs actually decreased by 46% - almost cut in half!

It could be that many consumers realize that they can actually earn more money by working with a Realtor, as recent data suggests. But I also think consumers just don't have the time or expertise to market a home themselves, let alone get the highest possible price, and smart consumers (empowered with more information) increasingly know this.

Only real estate agents have the market knowledge and experience to price a home correctly given real-time conditions, but also effectively market that home to interested buyers. Real estate agents bring to the table a wealth of local knowledge, marketing strategies and advantages that individual home sellers simply don't have on their own, and increasingly don't care to take on themselves anyway.

As the data suggests, working with a real estate agent to sell your home simply makes financial sense, and also makes the entire transaction faster, easier and far less stressful.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Beginner's Guide to Building a Team

If you’re like most real estate agents, you’ve dreamed about getting more free time and increasing your income. But maybe you didn’t know how, or didn’t think you were ready yet. By working your prospects with the support of a team, you can achieve the kind of success you want—and it’s a lot easier than you think.

How do you know you’re ready?

Most successful agents say you should start hiring a team when you:
* Lose business because you don’t have time to follow up
* “Have no life” because you’re working all the time
* Close 25 to 35 transactions a year and simply can’t follow up on all those transactions and still find new prospects
* Seem to spend all your time handling paperwork and putting out fires
* Do $10 an hour tasks, like filling flyer boxes, instead of $100 an hour jobs, like negotiating a deal

Every agent has an a-ha moment sooner or later. For Tonia Mann, an agent in Lawrenceville, Ga., it was at the HouseValues “Agent CEO” conference. “It got my attention and was just what I was looking for. I knew I needed to hire other agents to help me reach my goals.”

Where to Start
When creating a team, most agents start with an unlicensed assistant. At first, this person may work hourly filling flyer boxes. Over time the assistant’s responsibilities can grow to handling administrative tasks, taking house measurements and photos, and responding to email.

Virtual assistants are another increasingly popular start to a real estate team. Working on an hourly basis from their own home, a virtual assistant may be a more affordable alternative to setting up an office for a traditional assistant. There are usually fewer training and equipment requirements for virtual assistants.

When Tonia Mann started her team, she researched different business models and picked the one that suited her best. “We wanted to have new agents on our team so we could train them in our way, the Internet way of doing business. We didn’t want them to know the old way of cold calling, etc., because they take too much time with little result.”

Tools for the Team
Market Leader provides an easy way to start working with an unlicensed assistant, virtual assistant, or buyer specialist. Simply set them up with a Market Leader account, divide up your follow-up tasks, and schedule regular check-ins to ensure maximum effectiveness.

You can add other positions over time as your business grows: closing coordinator, office manager, and one to four buyer agents, using Market Leader to manage them. “Team Manager is a feature in Market Leader that I use to keep track of all the leads I refer to our agents,” said Tonia. “It’s a tab on top on your Market Leader home page.” The Team Manager feature lets you delegate leads and keep track of how quickly each agent on your team responds to them.

Team Success
Tonia’s success increased dramatically when she got her team in place. “In 2004, with two buyer agents, we doubled our business from 2003, with 86 transactions,” Tonia said. “That’s the top four percent in the nation, and number four in Coldwell-Banker. Over half of that business came from HouseValues leads.”

By investing in a team, you’ll have what it takes to grow your business much more quickly than you ever could alone.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Proof that Realtors save sellers time and money

Agent CEOs already KNOW this, but now there's simple, statistical proof that FSBO sellers are losing a significant amount of time AND money by not working with a real estate agent.

Click here to read a short post on the HouseValues blog explaining the research behind this.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

You don't need bigger magnets

There have been many articles written on how to work with Internet consumers. We know that they need a quick response, we know they expect instant service, we know that effective email communication skills are key, we know that they expect access to a lot of information on their own, etc.

What no one discusses, however, is the fact that we need to take the time and make the effort to convert these Internet relationships into personal relationships. Real Estate is and always will be a numbers game, but it's also a people business. We can use technology to work with more people than ever before possible allowing us to make more money in less time.

Technology, however, is only a tool. Technology opens the door to help us meet more people and helps us begin to create that relationship, by quickly providing the information requested and consistently staying in touch to earn their trust.

To build that relationship, we need to establish personal contact – phone or drop-bys. Following up with a phone call, using a script like, “Hi, this is _____, with ____. I am calling to make sure you received the information you requested (state where they made the request, i.e. from my website) and were able to view it.” This is an effective service call. That is WOW factor service. When was the last time you requested something online and someone actually called to make sure you received it?

As a whole, agents tend to be call reluctant. However, most consumers actually appreciate the follow-up.

Or, if you have an address, drop off a hardcopy of some information. It provides you with the opportunity to meet face to face. The agents who have worked extremely successfully with Internet leads know that personal follow-up yields results. Their conversion rate from leads to transactions skyrockets as soon as they make the time to build that personal relationship.

Awhile ago, I spoke with an agent who was frustrated about working with Internet leads.
He told me he had been working the leads for about 1 month and they hadn’t converted to listings or sales. I explained to him that Internet consumers take a little more time up front, but when they are ready to go, they choose an agent quickly. I told him that research tells us 62% of consumers select their agent in 1-3 days. And NAR mentions that 73% of consumers work with only one agent. That means if you provide service, personalize the relationship and stay in touch, you have a distinct competitive advantage.

I asked him how he was following up. Calls? Drop bys? He told me he didn’t like to call or drop by. He told me that he sends out magnets.

I asked him if he would consider making the follow-up phone calls or doing drop-bys, since most Agent CEOs have had great success with the Internet leads once they made that personal contact.

The agent told me he was a top producer, and closed almost everyone he worked with. He told me he didn’t want to make phone calls or drop by. He had a better idea. He would just send them bigger magnets.

So, real estate is a contact sport. If you would like to experience great success, personal follow-up is essential. If you schedule time to do that, you can then treat it as an appointment with yourself to grow your business. If you don’t schedule it, you probably won’t do it. It is not just about time management. It is really about self-management.

Don’t just send out bigger magnets!

A little down time (or monkey business)

Those of you who know me know that I love a little monkey business. That's what I call a good joke, or fun little game that lets my brain relax for a bit. Even hard-working Agent CEOs need to let off some steam and relax every once in awhile!

The little game you can find here is a lot of fun. Click on the bear, and click again to swing. See how far you can "bat" the penguin through the air and across the snow. It's addicting, and a great brain break!

To make it interesting, let's have a little contest. Play the game a couple times, and post your "high score" in the comments section. I'll have a little prize for whoever can get the highest score (no cheating, please).

Click here to start playing.

Have fun!