Friday, April 28, 2006

Internet Marketing made all the difference

Agent CEO Holly Clark was the guest speaker at the HouseValues seminar recently in Fairfax, Virginia, and shared that she had won and subsequently sold seven listings so far this year, beating many more tenured agents in her market. She attributes this to her aggressive Internet-based marketing strategy, including HomePages and

In her listing presentation, Holly actually lists 10 reasons why sellers should list their house with her - the first being her Featured Homes strategy on, and the second is her ability to attact interested buyers with

"By the time I get to JustListed, they're already signing the listing agreement," Holly said at the seminar.

But after the seminar, she had a big listing appointment. She got the listing, with the same listing presentation strategy, and it was her biggest listing to date - a $819,000 home, well above the medium home value in the Winchester area. This is the highest-value listing anyone in her office has ever achieved.

Great work Holly!

Monday, April 24, 2006

Profitable People Skills

Most real estate agents, and especially Agent CEOs, have fabulous people skills. But are you putting people skills to your best advantage, specifically to help you make more money?

Last week, Mastermind and Agent CEO Don Love spoke about his profitable people skills and proven personal delivery methods, and gave advice to thousands of listeners. Here are highlights from that call.

Featured Speaker: Don Love, Portland, OR
Moderator: Raymond Gravelle, Distance Learning Specialist

Raymond: Don, would you let our audience know how you earned the title of “the godfather of hand deliveries”?
Don: When we joined HouseValues six years ago, Market Leader did not exist. We received only leads. So I would call, email, etc., but we didn’t get any business. Finally my partner Steve and I figured out that we must get in front of people to win business from the leads. That’s when we started doing hand deliveries on Saturday morning. Then the leads started to turn into deals. I urge everyone who is serious about a career in real estate to get a partner or buddy to assist them. The help with the hand deliveries is a godsend.

Raymond: What is the goal of hand delivery?
Don: The goal is to find out the story. Introduce yourself as the local real estate representative. Explain that you stopped by with a hard copy of the consumers' request because with email you never know if the information went through. The 10-page packet that I hand deliver includes my introductory letter, a sheet on pricing a home, a home-condition page, testimonials, and an explanation of our services. Our seller service guide shows the different commission percentages and what service each provides. This gives the seller a choice.

Raymond: What do you say at the door?
Don: I ask questions like: What did you think of the numbers? Were we close to what you were expecting? If you sold a home, where would you want to move? Would you like to receive listings? Of all your friends and family, who is going to be next to move? Is it okay to use you as a referral? After each question, I probe deeper with exploring questions. I also take notes on a printed copy of the profile. I always say, “Let me make a note of that, let me make a note of that,” an old Tommy Hopkins trick.Remember that most people didn’t read the fine print, so they don’t know an agent is coming. Yet they love the service. The National Association of Realtors® tells us that 74% of consumers will go with first agent they meet. Some prospects will always work with a friend or family member who is an agent. You can’t worry about those. Hand deliver to everyone even if they say don’t worry about dropping by.

Raymond: What do you do if they are not home?
Don: Leave my package, then call them and try to go through the same questions. Then I try to pin down a time for full evaluation.

Raymond: Are most people receptive?
Don: Everyone likes quick information. With the sellers you can drop by on the weekends because you have an address. With buyers you need to act a little faster. Find information in the tax records if available. I’ve found about 30 to 40 percent of buyer prospects own houses. Every seller is buyer first; they have to find a house before they can sell. You should always send listings to seller leads. Use the email template that offers to send listings, and send it multiple times if needed. Do your buyer drop-bys on weeknights right away. Measure their motivation; see if the buyer has a lender. Buyer leads are more critical than sellers these days because inventory low. Packet quality is important. Print on heavy, white paper. Quality makes the difference. One of my clients kept my packet for three years and then called for a listing presentation. She had kept it because I made a strong impression and gained her trust.

Raymond: What do you do differently in hand deliveries now as compared to six years ago?Don: We now try to find out a timeframe for when the prospect will take action. We touch base through out that timeframe via email. Then I find a reason to stop by. I take them something of value.

Raymond: What new technology are you using to facilitate hand deliveries?
Don: We use Microsoft Streets and Trips software. It’s an inexpensive mapping program. You can enter unlimited addresses and then it routes your trip. We also use this to deliver calendars in the autumn.

Raymond: Give us an update of last year’s marathon of calendar hand deliveries.
Don: It was lots of work. We didn’t realize how many prospects we had until we ordered calendars. You need to order in July to receive in August. We try to be done delivering by Halloween. Some prospects are on their third or fourth year of calendar delivery. We offer two types of calendars: either puppies and kittens or Saturday Evening Post. You must get in front of prospect continually. Many people now know me by name. You can’t get a better testimonial than that.

Raymond: How many hand deliveries do you think you’ve done?
Don: Over 2,000 in almost six years. The best day of week is Saturday because I get to go meet the people. I want to find out the story: what’s happening in their lives, is this a divorce, how we can help.

Raymond: What are you doing with HomePages?
Don: HomePages is a very valuable listing tool. It is offered in my listing service plan under Platinum and Gold plans only. The plans just mention HomePages with no explanation because I want them to ask me what HomePages is. Then I explain the benefits of HomePages in consumer terms. It gives me an advantage. I don’t talk about commission until we are sitting down at the table. At the door, I simply say there’s a page on pricing in package.

Question & Answer

Question: Why do you choose Saturdays for hand deliveries? Do you call them before visit
Answer: I choose Saturday because many people work Monday through Friday. Saturday catches them relaxed.

Question: Many of my emails go to people’s spam. Do you address that at the door, and do you ask them to add you to their email address book?
Answer: I suggest adding me to their address book in the pre-email. Then I say at the door that one of the reasons I drop by with a hard copy is because I never know if the emails go through.

Question: What percentage of Internet leads do you think you have converted?
Answer: I’m not really a numbers person, so I don’t track that. My partner does track that. To me, cashing checks is the important thing.

Question: Would you fire a client for being dishonest?
Answer: You get to choose who you want to work with, but you also have to make a living. There are always underlying reasons why people may not tell you everything. They don’t know you.

Question: What do you do when you can’t get face to face—for example, with out-of-state buyers?
Answer: You must follow up whenever possible. If you can’t get face to face or on the phone, you must rely on the drip campaigns.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Your Photo is Worth a Thousand Transactions

First impressions can make or break a real estate agent. As the saying goes, you never get a second chance to make a first impression. It’s essential to put your best foot forward all of the time – including the photo you put on your printed materials and emails.

On the traditional side of marketing, Dee Nott of Fayetteville, N.C., finds that the first impression created by her ads have led to an increase in business. “I get a lot of calls on my ad using my photo,” she said. “People comment that they called me because I didn't look like a stuffy agent. I even get recognized around town.”

The perils of a bad photo are many. George Wurtzinger of Machesney Park, Ill., told this story: “My first broker sent me to the photographer where they had a house account that was conveniently located across the street. Now, I know they didn't have much to work with, but she managed to capture blemishes that were still deciding if they would be born or not. I never saw a photo that was in such perfect focus. Portraits should be soft. Mine wasn't.” Naturally, George found someone else to take his photo.

Jim Wolcott of Burlington, Wash., said, “Methinks that in the case of the Internet, you only have about five seconds to make a good impression. Maybe less.”

So how can you ensure your photo makes a great first impression?

- Make it a head shot. If people can’t see your face, they won’t feel connected with you.
- Smile. Straight-faced mug shots are a surefire way to turn off a potential client.
- Avoid distracting or “busy” backgrounds. The most interesting part of the photo should be you.
- Look your best—but not so good that you’re unrecognizable in person.
- Stay up to date. If you change your appearance significantly—hair color, eyeglasses, etc.—it’s time for a new photo.

Eileen Landau of Naperville, Ill., offers this advice: “Find a good professional photographer. Make a hair appointment at least a day before, 'cause if you cut your hair, you'll need to feel comfortable with it. The ladies will know what I mean. Women should also use makeup. And consider what you're wearing. Bring several different outfits. With digital pictures you can immediately see what looks best. Then shoot away.”

After you’ve had your photo shoot, choose a photo that’s warm and friendly and use it consistently in your marketing. George Wurtzinger explains effective photo strategy: “[Personal marketing gurus] suggest action shots that tell a story. A few agents in my market are [using action photos] and what a difference! They really stand out.”

And that’s a key to winning more business.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Contribute to the HouseValues Employee Cookbook

OK, this is a bit off topic, but it's for a great cause, and it's also a lot of fun!

The folks at HouseValues are collecting recipes for their first-ever HouseValues Employee Cookbook, and all of the proceeds from sales of the cookbook will be donated to Hopelink, a great organization in the Pacific Northwest that helps homeless families get into affordable housing and back on their feet.

The cookbook will be made up mostly of recipes submitted from HouseValues employees, but they've agreed to also include recipes submitted from all of the Agent CEOs out there.

If you have a favorite recipe you want to share, please email it to Please include your name and where you're from, so they can credit you with the recipe.

Once the cookbook is published, I'll let you know how you can pick up a copy. You're going to want this - not only is it for a great cause, but it's clear from this post HouseValues has some great cooks.

Feel the Doubt, but Follow Up Anyway...

I consistently advise agents to follow up with every prospect – no matter what. It’s my mantra, and it should be yours too.

Why? Because it works. Great success springs from working with many different prospects over the long term. On the other hand, if you second guess yourself and let doubts get in your way, you can almost guarantee that nothing will happen.

Sometimes agents think, “The prospect told me that they just wanted information, they only wanted it so they could refi, they were just curious.” Or worse, they find the home is already listed. Successful Agent CEOs have these doubts and challenges, too, but they follow up anyway—and they earn high incomes.

When you encounter these doubts, it’s important to remember that in many cases the prospect initiated the contact. You’re simply responding to a request for information. If a home is already listed, your response is entirely ethical because you are not interfering with any contract. In fact, the prospect will be more disappointed if they receive no response at all.

Time and again, top agents win new clients even when the prospect appears unlikely to become a transaction at first. For example John Reit, a relatively new agent from Redding, Calif., struggled with the decision to respond to a recent prospect, saying that he knew the property was not in a good area and would be difficult to market.

Nevertheless, John followed the "treat all prospects equally" mantra and gave the person a call. John later said, “Do you know what? His child is in my wife’s class. He has other real estate needs too. His listing expires in 10 days. We had a great conversation and he’s anxious for me to come over once his listing expires.” If John had followed his gut, he would not have called, and he would have left money on the table.

So often we feel we can guess the motives and worth of an Internet prospect. In truth it’s tough to do that while meeting a person face to face, let alone online. There’s no telling what story is on the other side of that “Submit” button -- until you ask. Only by following up with every lead and committing to the process wholeheartedly can you maximize the potential earnings.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Patience and persistence pays off!

I'm making a swing through Florida this week, meeting with some very impressive Agent CEOs. But last night I heard from an exciting Agent CEO in Memphis Tennessee - Sue Parker from RE/MAX Elite Memphis.

In less than two years, she's generated more than 21 listings from her Internet marketing efforts. That's more than one per month on average! Her secret? Patience and persistence.

Case in point: She met one prospect online back in September of 2004. The prospect wasn't ready to sell, but Sue knew it was only a matter of time. She put the prospect on her email marketing campaign and went to work on her other business. Earlier this month, eighteen months later, the prospect listed her home with Sue.

That's patience and persistence at work, and without that important strategy Sue probably woulnd't have earned that customer's business. Great work Sue!

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Making Market Leaders

Wow, check out the story about Agent CEO Holly Clark on the HouseValues blog today. An inspiring story about how working with Internet consumers can make an enormous impact on your business. Don't worry if the other agents in your office aren't doing it. If your story is anything like Holly's, they'll soon be asking you for advice!

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Breakthrough Marketing for a Changing Market

On last week's Mastermind Conference Call, sponsored by HouseValues, Agent CEO Tonia Mann shared several stories about how she's leveraged Internet leads to grow a large and successful real estate business - including nine buyer agents and two assistants. Since joining HouseValues, Tonia's team has been ranked #1 in the Atlanta market and #5 in the U.S. by Coldwell Banker.

Highlights from her call are below, including how she's responded to a changing real estate market with new strategies that have continued the growth of her business.

Featured Speaker: Tonia Mann, Atlanta, GA
Moderator: Raymond Gravelle, Distance Learning Specialist

Raymond: Tonia, please share with us how you tripled your income in two years.
Tonia: I created a business plan which included building a team. There are now 13 on my team: my husband Don, nine buyer agents, two assistants, and myself.

Raymond: How did you handle the market shift in Atlanta?
Tonia: The market shifted to the buyer side. We converted our HouseValues subscriptions to JustListed subscriptions. It was easy to transition and take advantage of the change.

Raymond: What were your production figures for 2005?
Tonia: We closed 153 transactions last year with $875,000 in gross commission income -- $430,000 of that from HouseValues and JustListed.

Raymond: What is your system for working the HouseValues leads?
Tonia: I immediately send the pre email, then a wide range CMA with two comparables. Don and I hand deliver a pre-listing package. My assistant does the follow-up phone calls, offering service.

Raymond:How do your buyer agents work the JustListed leads?
Tonia:Our assistant sends the pre email and sets up a search, then refers the lead to an agent. That way the prospect receives a response immediately in case the agent is in the field. The agent follows up and I keep track of how they’re doing in my Market Leader.

Raymond:What is the systematic approach your buyer agent, Carla, shared at a recent seminar?
Carla: I needed a process to give me a grasp of what my numbers were. I use the category field in the prospect’s information page to add the expected purchase month. I bring them up in List Builder and touch them more often close to their month. I spend the most time on 30/60/90 days. I call and/or email with the message, “It’s getting close to the time you indicated you wanted to buy. What more can I do for you?” I also use the category field to prioritize. If they respond by email or we had a phone conversation, I add “LC” (which stands for live contact) as a category.

Raymond: What are your results?
Carla: I use the information to help me get a sense of my conversion rate. My stats for six months were 211 in my database, 64 who had unsubscribed, leaving 147 potential prospects. Seven sold in that timeframe – that’s one in 14, better than the industry standard of one in 25. Now I know to keep doing what I’m doing because I’m getting good results.

Raymond: Are you doing anything new for 2006?
Tonia: Yes. We just subscribed to HomePages. I will be sending a postcard with the message, “Look at your home in a whole new way,” to drive people to our HomePages Web site.

Question & Answer

Question: Most of my prospects aren’t really interested in selling, they’re just curious about the value of their home. How would you handle them?
Tonia:I maintain the relationship over time. I get listings from prospects after they’ve been in Market Leader for years. That’s because at the very least they are getting the automatic email campaigns. My assistant also calls if she has a phone number whenever that activity pops up.

Question: Do you get buyers to sign a contract?
Tonia: I personally meet them and show a few houses before committing. I’m not sure I want to work with them and vice versa. Work on building a relationship by offering and providing service.
Carla: I have an email template that explains buyer agency with “someone who cares” and “buyer services – priceless.”

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Free Marketing Webinar next week

Wanted to let all Agent CEOs know about a great learning opportunity next Tuesday.

On April 11, HouseValues is offering a free Webinar to help you better connect with the millions of potential customers using the Internet to search for and to sell homes. Did you know that 77 percent of home buyers use the Internet for their home search, yet only 11 percent of real estate agent advertising is online? Seems inbalanced, doesn't it?

The Webinar will also feature Donna Harris, a Dallas-based real estate agent who will share her secrets of how she’s built her business, the majority of which comes from online leads.

The Webinar takes place at 11 a.m. Pacific Daylight Time on Tuesday, April 11, and will last for one hour. You can register at

Via this seminar, you will:

* Discover the three core benefits of working with Internet consumers.
* Understand how and why Internet consumers are different from non-Internet consumers.
*Learn how to beat out competitors by shifting traditional advertising to Internet marketing.
*Tap into the best online sources to reach the greatest number of Internet-savvy consumers at the lowest cost.
* Learn to use Web capture, automated follow-up campaigns, and e-farm to consistently expand their pipelines, close more transactions, and generate referrals more often.

No strings attached, no subscription required. Sign up today at

Monday, April 03, 2006

Success Stories From the Road

As most of you know, I spend a good amount of my time traveling the country, speaking to agents about the Agent CEO philosophy. It’s exciting for me to speak with so many successful agents from across the country, not only to hear what the local markets are like but to hear so many individual stories of success.

In most cities I visited in March, the real estate markets has definitely changed. This seemed especially true in Florida, where an extreme seller’s market experiencing 23-26% appreciation is now much more balanced. Newer agents shared concern about this change, but the experienced agents find it much less stressful. They no longer have to write up eight buyer offers to get one accepted. Instead of considering this change a negative, they literally told me “now it’s back to normal.”

A few more specific Agent CEO stories worth sharing:

Mary Kreulskie in Tampa joined HouseValues about a year ago, after having been in the real estate business just three months. She had tried many of the traditional prospecting methods her broker taught her, but wasn’t getting anywhere. A year later, she had not only closed several transactions directly from Internet leads, but used her prospect management tools to turn those customers into several referrals.

Linda Harper in Orlando has grown her business so quickly that she has her son assisting her. Simon Conway from Orlando earned more than $450,000 in commissions last year by working his Internet leads better.

Roger Nakazawa in Washington DC mentioned that for every dollar he spends on his current marketing strategy, he receives five dollars back. That’s a 500% return on investment. Awesome!

Rayna Henchon in Austin has been a real estate agent for two years, and a subscriber of for one year. I remember her from last year, when she told me she was inspired by Sherry Daminski and wanted to exceed her prospect pipeline (which currently stands higher than 15,000 prospective customers). Today, Rayna is on her way, with more than 4,000 prospects and positions open for two full-time assistants to help her.

Catherine Gortner told me in Fremont, California that Internet leads from HouseValues account for 80% of her business.

It’s April, and 25 percent of the year is behind us (can you believe it???). Are you 25% towards your 2006 goals? If not, how do you plan on getting back on track? You are the CEO of your business. Make new goals, and stay focused. Incredible success still awaits you this year!