For Help-U-Sell Brokers: Listing Consultation Clarification

In my conversations with you, I’ve noticed an occasional quirk in the way you present the Help-U-Sell program to sellers.  I call it a quirk – but it’s really a misunderstanding, one that can create problems for you.

You don’t have three programs for the seller to choose from.*  You have one; and it is FULL SERVICE, including MLS.

We acknowledge that, even with FULL SERVICE, there are three ways your home could sell and each one comes with a different cost.  We charge the seller at closing based on how the home actually sells.

Your Set Fee is the same no matter how the home sells, so you don’t really care which way it goes (although we love it when there is no outside broker/agent involved because then the seller saves more and leaves the transaction very happy.  Happy sellers are the most powerful part of our marketing).

If a seller is willing to partipate aggressively in the marketing of the property (open houses, outreach to neighbors and co-workers, sharing on social media, etc) they may CHOOSE to stay out of the MLS, thus increasing their chances of saving the most.  But it is a choice they make within your Full Service program.

The message is:  don’t over-complicate your listing consultation by forcing the seller to choose this program over that program over the other program.  Present your program for what it is: Full Service with savings. Show the seller how s/he can save and how they can save the most.  Then be what you are, a consultant, and help them make a good decision (choice).

This is very important because it is one of the things that separates us from most of the new compeitiors who are emerging.  These high tech/low touch offers are not designed for choice, not designed for consultation.  It’s one size fits all and take-it-or- leave- it approach.  The expertise that sellers seek is not there or not available to aid them in decision making.  That’s your edge.  You are HIGH TOUCH with technology.  You bring human interaction to the process, helping home sellers understand what’s going on, and functioning as a trusted consultant.

Today’s sellers have been trained to believe they have only one choice:  go with a percentage based dinosaur who may or may not do the mechanical part of the process and advise them through it – OR – go with one of the new machines that only does the mechanical.  YOU are the logical choice in the middle.  You are the new way to sell your home and save, making ample use of existing technologies to get the job done while maintaining the personal, consulting posture that sellers need and want. Your task is the same as it has always been: Educate home owners in your Target Market that you are HERE, people use you, it works and they save thousands.

*It’s ok to end a sentence with a preposition today.  Look it up.  It’s not my favorite form of syntax but if it aids in clear communication, I’m all for it.

Eight Things You Can Do To Get A Listing TODAY!

Here is a post from 2012.  The market was a little different back then.  We still had a lot of upside down homeowners, lots of Short Sales and quite a few REOs.  Still, there’s good stuff here.  Challenge yourself!  See if you can’t get one by nightfall!

Can you get a listing today?  I’m waiting . . . can you?  Let me rephrase the question:  If you were to be hung by the neck until dead at sunset if you didn’t get a listing today, could you get one?  I thought so.  Getting a Listing is something you can DO in real estate.  You can’t force a sale, you can’t force a closing . . . but you can DO a listing.  You can get one.  It is always within your power.

And today, more than ever, a listing is precious.  Inventories are so low right now and prices are inching (and in some cases, racing) upwards.  Multiple offers abound and the person with listings is in the driver’s seat.  But listings are also hard to come by.  Many potential sellers are sitting back, noticing the upcreep in prices and thinking: ‘If I just wait a few months maybe I won’t be so upside down . . . ‘

So, what can you do TODAY to get a listing?  Here are 8 ideas:

1.  Call all of your past clients.  It’s a simple dialogue:  you need their help.  Inventory is drying up, buyers are frantic to find something.  Have they heard of anybody thinking of selling?  I would be surprised if you didn’t uncover at least 1 listing lead for every 20 calls.

2.  Call all of your fence sitting, luke warm potential sellers and heat them up!   They’re not doing themselves any favors by waiting.  The bargains are disappearing rapidly and while they’re waiting for a few percentage points gain in equity, they’re missing opportunities.  Here – use this set of graphics from Help-U-Sell University:

I love that graphic.  Unfortunately, the improving market of the past four years has made it a bit irrelevant.  Today, if you want to heat up a fence sitting seller, work on where they want to go.  Spend an hour or two showing them houses, get them excited about moving.  And if they’re moving out of state, start that referral relationship early and have the other agent help get them motivated. 

3.  Pull all the expired listings for the LAST 12 MONTHS – that’s right, a full year’s worth – and drop them a note about the improving market, the scarcity of listings and the fact that you can save them money!

4.  Choose one of your buyer clients who is hot to trot but having trouble finding a suitable home.  Working with them, isolate the one or two perfect neighborhoods for them.  Then make a flyer with their photo and some humanizing detail,  saying they’re looking for a home in that neighborhood.  If you’d like to sell, contact Help-U-Sell.  And put your ETM on the back.  Deliver it however you’d like:  snail mail, Excel’s mailbox stuffer program, slide it under the doormat . . . although if you’re trying to beat the hangman at sunset, you’d better stick to doormats.

5.  Follow Kurt Steffien’s lead:  start cultivating probate attorneys.  They are certainly interested in being heroes to their estate clients, and will see your money saving (estate preserving) offer as a way to accomplish that.  In other words:  they get it.  And if you get one and do a good job, it’s not just one listing, it could be many.  For months and years to come.  Really.

6.  Work with Tony (today that’d be Alejandro, Mike or Soren) to build a landing page on your website to capture contact info on people wanting to know what their house is worth.  (By the way:  this home value landing page already exists on your website!  AND, it generates a report instantly so that the people who request it don’t have to wait for a response)  Then create a QR Code for it.  Have flyers made with nothing more than the QR Code and the words:  ‘See How Much Your Home Is Worth Today.’  Put them all over the place.

7.  Call every FSBO in the area and ask:  ‘If I were to find a buyer who made an offer that was acceptable to you, would you pay me a commission?’  (I know, I know . . .you guys usually choke when you have to say that word, but in this case it will serve you better than ‘Low Set Fee.’).  The answer will almost always be yes, because they’ve usually made the same deal with every other Realtor in town.  Quickly calculate what, say, 3% is (let’s assume it’s $4,500), and respond: ‘So if I find a buyer who makes an acceptable offer you’ll pay me 3% which is around $4,500 dollars, right?  Let me show you what I can do for you for just $3,950*.  I mean – I’m Help-U-Sell – you get my complete full service program for less than you’d pay some agent just to find you a buyer.  For $3,950*, I’ll help you refine your pricing (if necessary), do all the marketing, get you on dozens of websites, qualify all interested buyers, help you weigh the pros and cons of every offer and calculate your net proceeds, process all the paperwork and handle the details all the way to closing.  How’s that sound?’

(*Or whatever your Set Fee is.  By the way:  Commissions, whether percentage based of set fee, are always negotiable.)

8.  Call Jack Bailey and ask him what you should do.

This is July 5. (It’s actually August 9, but the principal still holds true)   The longest day of the year was, what?  A week and a half ago?  So you’ve got a few extra hours of daylight to get it done.  Go on now:  get out there and don’t come home until you have a signed listing agreement in your sweaty little hand.

*about that graphic:  For the arithmetically impaired: If you subtract the current value from the peak value of the first home you get $75,000. That’s the amount of the drop in value, what the homeowner ‘lost’. If you do the same for the second home you get $112,500. That drop is $37,500 more than the drop on the first home. Everything else being equal, that’s $37,500 less the buyer is going to have to mortgage. Translation: quit moping about what you ‘lost!’ Get out there and buy your dream home before it becomes unaffordable again.

 

Whiney Home Sellers

I had a very interesting call with a Help-U-Sell Broker today.  She was talking about her preference for working with Buyers, which is fine.  Buyers are great.

However, the Help-U-Sell edge, our identity, is our low set fee offer to home sellers.  It’s great to love buyers but your primary marketing thrust should be to find and list sellers.  It is our LISTINGS that create the buyer leads that flow through the office.

‘What is it about the listing process you don’t like?’ I asked. ‘Is it the presentation and dealing with pricing issues or is it the followup and the communication?’

She prefaced her answer by saying, ‘Oh gee . . . this is going to sound really bad, but . . . what I really don’t like is . . . the whining!’

Sellers whine because they want a higher price or they want more or better marketing or they don’t think there’s enough activity or they don’t know what you’re doing and on and on.  It’s just what they do.

Because that’s how ordinary Realtors pre-frame the relationship.

Think about it.  In the ordinary real estate world, every company has the same tools.  Every company has the same consumer offer (6%).  There is no difference between companies beyond the color of their signs. In that world, sellers make their choice of listing agent based on personality.  The key question becomes, ‘Do I like and trust you? Are you warm, friendly and accessible.’  Being the listing agent begins to look like becoming a friend.

An there ain’t nothin’ wrong with that . . . except that it erodes your power as a business professional.  If the basis of your business relationship is personality and accessibility, people are going to be comfortable whining to you . . . which is to say they don’t really believe in what you’re doing and think if they will get better results by putting pressure on you.

Help-U-Sell is different.  We charge less and we charge differently because we have marketing and back office systems that get the job done quickly and efficiently.  While we all have wonderful personalities, that’s not what we sell on the listing consultation.  We sell our step-one, step-two systems.  A business relationship based on systems is much more business-like.

Here’s an example:

I have a financial adviser who manages my paltry retirement account.  He’s a friend and was for years before I moved my account to his firm.  He’s a delightful guy and he clearly knows his business backwards and forwards, but . . . when I went to his office for our first meeting, he quickly introduced me to his two assistants, each of whom has specific functions and then excused himself.

The message was clear:  we are a business based on systems.  We don’t make it up as we go along.  I have competent personnel who manage my accounts with my supervision.  This frees me to focus on creating more business and making sure the system works as designed.

Here’s the thing:  I still talk with my friend who happens to be my financial adviser, but I would never ask him about the details of my account.  He trained me during that first meeting that my questions can all be handled by his team, and that’s the way they do business.  (It was helpful that the assistants were knowledgeable and impressive.)

That’s how you need to behave on the Listing Consultation.  It’s not about you (although they’re going to love you).  It’s about your systems.  You’re not a loosey goosey real estate person, running around like a chicken with your head cut off, available 24/7 to handle every issue that may arise (real or imagined).

I’m suggesting that you become more business-like when you do a listing consultation.  Yes, be warm and friendly, but stay focused and on track.  Your Help-U-Sell office is a machine based on systems.  When we plug a properly priced listing into this machine it spits out successful sales and happy sellers!  Your sparkling personality is nice but it’s not what gets the job done.

So:  start having your sellers come into your professional place of business for the listing consultation.  Fine tune your consultation so that you can get through it in 30 minutes (+/-). Take a few minutes explaining the process and how things will go – and maybe create a graphic to illustrate it.  Pre-frame your listing relationship as a business relationship.  Let all of those ordinary Realtors sow personality and reap the whinies!

 

The Most Important Question

There is a question you answered a long time ago, just as you were deciding to get into the real estate business.  Maybe you actually asked yourself the question, maybe you even wrote down the answer.  Chances are, however, that you just intuitively knew the answer and never questioned it, never verbalized it.

It is the most important question of your business life.  The question is:

Why?

Why did you open this business?  What were you hoping to accomplish?  What do you expect the business to do for you?  How will you exit the business when you are ready for something new?

Too often we let business gurus answer the question for us.  We allow these self-professed masters to dictate that our desire is to get bigger and bigger and do more and more deals and dominate the market and so on.  But that’s a lie.  I’ve been in this business more than 40 years and I promise you, after you scrape away all the scripts that were learned in some guru’s class, most people are in it to be their own boss and have control over their time.

That’s a very different mind-set from wanting to build an empire.  And it is perfectly all right.

There is no right or wrong answer to the question, ‘Why.’  Different people will have different answers and each answer will be laced with its own nuances.  What’s important is that you very consciously answer the question and then let the answer drive your behavior.  A broker wanting to grow to 500 closed sides a year should behave differently than a broker wanting to get to 60, even if they are both starting at the same place.

When you parrot someone else’s vision or regurgitate the picture you think some expert wants to hear, you set yourself up for failure.  You babble away about more market share, more listings, more closed sides, more staff and  . . . nothing happens.  That’s because deep down inside you don’t really want that.  You don’t want to manage all of those people, to deal with issues and answers 15 hours every day, don’t want to devote yourself to that mission.

So get real.

Why are you doing this?  What are you hoping to accomplish?  How do you see your role changing as you move toward that goal?

If you do discover that you want to be an absolute beast in the marketplace, the dominant player, great.  We’ll help you get there.  But you have to want it.  If you realize that all you want is a good job where you’re the boss and you control your time, that’s great too.  But you have to admit it and plan your business accordingly.

Understand that our goal as Help-U-Sell Real Estate is to become the dominant player in all of our markets.  We have the perfect vehicle to get there: a better offer for consumers.  We are delighted that you are making that offer to consumers and moving us closer to our goal.

If you are a 30 to 60 closed sides a year person, we will work with you to become more efficient and effective and happier in your business.  If you are a 200 to 600 closed sides a year person we will pull out all the stops to help you get there.  Regardless how you answer the big question, we appreciate who you are and what you’re doing.  You are helping us achieve our ultimate goal and you are heroes in our eyes.

The Bullseye in Your Backyard

I’ve grumbled about this before but apparently, not loud enough. I am afraid, in the interest of being ‘techno-current,’ we’ve strayed from the core marketing strategy that made us great.

Help-U-Sell was founded on one powerful marketing principal:  geographic targeting.  As a broker, your job is to study your overall marketplace – I mean, really study (massage the numbers until they throb, to quote Dr. Dick McKenna) – to determine which specific neighborhoods are most likely to produce listings, the fuel that feeds our lead-generating fire.

There’s a lot in that statement.  Unlike our ordinary competitors who believe the answer to any marketing challenge is to add another agent, we look at hard data about the market and solve our marketing issues by going where the action is.  And we market for LISTINGS.  That’s it.  Just listings.  What about the other side of the business, what about buyers?  We love buyers.  As Don Taylor once said, “People forget, but Help-U-Sell has always been about the buyer!”  But we’ve learned that the best way to find a buyer is to get a listing and another and another.

I talk with brokers every day.  Often I hear the complaint, ‘My website isn’t working, I don’t get any buyer leads!’  My answer is always a question:  ‘how many listings do you have.’  I usually hear something less than 5.  Well Duh!! You don’t have any buyer leads because you don’t have any listings!  Real estate, whether the enlightened Help-U-Sell model or the tired old agent model, has always been an inventory business.  He who controls the inventory, controls the business.

Back to the idea I presented at the start of this post, the notion that we’ve lost our focus in favor of being technologically relevant.  With the entire Universe – especially NAR, Trulia, Zillow, et. al. – screaming that almost every single buyer starts their home search online, we have been lured into believing that we have to market online.  We spend money on AdWords and Facebook pay-per-click, and Google Display Ads; we obsess over our websites and constantly re-work them to become more attractive to search engines.

The results are almost always disappointing.  Even when leads are produced, the quality is iffy at best.  And what kind of leads are we getting from all of this online mania?  Buyer leads.  Again, we love buyer leads, but we also know how to produce them and it has nothing to do with point and click.

Meanwhile, as good Help-U-Sell brokers pour countless dollars and lots of energy into their online programs, I see them ranging all across God’s Green Earth to take a listing here and another way over there and heck – you’re an hour away from my office and in another area code, but shucks, I’ll take your listing!

Stop It!

Use your market data to pick the two or three specific neighborhoods in your Target Market that have the highest turnover rates, and then focus all of your energy in developing listing inventory there!   When a FSBO sign goes up, you know it and are in contact with them that first day.  When one of your competitors gets a listing, you immediately do 50 ‘Arounds’ so the neighbor who is also thinking of selling knows there’s an alternative to 6%.  When you get a listing in your Target Market, you regard it as a gift from the Marketing Gods and you exploit it to the max with signs, and brag cards and open houses and half a dozen other strategies.

Now, once you’ve done that, once it has begun to produce, once you’re getting at least 15% of the listings in your Target Market . . . then, you can consider online marketing.

And the  online marketing you do should be aimed at further establishing your brand.  It’s things like putting your latest Sold & Saved or Testimonial on Facebook and then paying to promote it within your target market.  It’s things like creating a well-focused landing page for a Google pay-per-click campaign aimed at FSBOs in your target market.

Yes, there is a place for the Zillow/Trulia/Realtor.com ‘buy a Zip Code’ programs.  I know of a few offices that have thrived with those additional marketing pieces.  But you know what all of them had in common?  Tons of listings.  Really.  Go onto Zillow and search for homes in Chino Hills, CA.  Patrick Wood will turn up in Spades.  Why?  Because he has a huge share of the listings in that town.  Zillow works for him – just as it works for Ken Kopcho – because he has a nice chunk of the listing business in his target market.

So, Help-U-Sell Brokers:  use the Internet.  Use it to gather as much data as possible about the individual neighborhoods in your overall marketplace.  Pick a few that have the highest turnover rates.  And then pursue the listing business in those neighborhoods with an unwavering focus.  Do it on foot, in the streets and the mailboxes.  Do it on billboards and bus benches, community sponsorships and involvement, Do it with signs. Get a listing and another and another.  And then, start thinking about how you an further establish your brand in those neighborhoods with online marketing.

Please.