By Julie Escobar, Director of Corporate Marketing, ProspectsPLUS!
Much like the proverbial apple that keeps the doctor away, committing at least an hour a day to your professional well being is the right prescription for the salesperson savvy enough to take a pro-active, preventative and inspired approach to growing their business.
What difference can an hour make? It can mean all the difference in the world when it comes to repeatable, sustainable success in this business. This business, like most sales industries is above all else, a people business, which means if you want to STAY in business, you’ve got to make staying top of mind with your customer base a priority. Did you know that National Association of REALTORS® statistics still show that more than 80% of consumers who list their homes don’t list with the person they bought it from? Why? They didn’t stay in touch. They failed to stay connected with their book of business. Now consider the national statistics that tell us that the average consumer moves every seven years, and buys a property worth at least 25% more than their current home – that puts an estimated career value of a client well over $110,000. With that kind of perspective in mind, an hour a day doesn’t seem like too much to ask does it?
What hour? Real estate expert and coach Bernice Ross shared, “Just about every top producer that I know starts their prospecting first thing in the day. They know that of the activities that are closest to the income line for them – prospecting is right there in the top three. Getting those things done first allows them to continually grow and stay connected to their book of business. Secondly, it really gives those agents a sense of control, power and self accomplishment – and isn’t that the BEST way to start a day?”
Speaker and coach Darryl Davis, who labels this important time for his students as “going to the prospecting gym,” thinks that timing often varies depending on the agent’s niche. “When I was focused on FSBOs and Expireds for example, I found the best times for me to prospect were Sundays, Mondays and Tuesdays after homeowners felt the disappointment of not selling over the weekend. That’s when they need answers the most.”
Many agents choose to stagger their prospecting time and map out their week in advance, selecting 8:00-9:00am three days a week, and evening hours from 6:00-7:00pm two to three days per week. Jason Edwards, speaker and trainer for the Floyd Wickman Program shared that this is an important practice and good habit they teach students right from the beginning. “We call it a Smart Week, and it’s a five-step process of calendaring their week in advance, and includes making that all important appointment with themselves to power through their prospecting. It’s a way of getting them to commit to that time and view it much in the same way they commit to a closing or listing appointment.”
Sherry Chris, CEO for Better Homes and Gardens adds that in her experience, top producers generally still can be found sticking close to that old rule of thumb investing about 80% of their time getting face-to-face, on the phone or online sharing with both past and potential clients. “Things have certainly changed in our industry and prospecting has truly taken on a new pace with the advances of social media. It’s definitely developed into a more ‘give before you get’ mode of contact. Whereas our old methods of prospecting meant picking up the phone and offering a service, now we can feed valuable information, fun facts as well as personally connect with our clients.” Sherry, for example, spends roughly 60% of her time building the Better Homes and Gardens brand and shares some valuable tips when it comes to building ‘social capital.’ “To be truly effective you have to successfully balance business information with personal touches, photographs, upcoming events, career milestones, etc. If the only thing you have on your Facebook or MySpace is your listings, you’re missing the boat. Let’s not forget too, that as valuable as social media is in today’s prospecting world, there is still no substitute for getting face-to-face or on the phone with your clients.”
How do you stick to it? While not always easy, it is important to find the motivation to continuously invest the time in building and maintaining your business. I’ll take you back to Darryl’s “prospecting gym” idea, in that daily doses both ensures that you’re building business “muscle” but it also has another side benefit – it gets easier. “Agents will tell you that the first couple of calls, if you’ve missed day or two, are the hardest,” shared Daryl. ” The more you stick to it, the easier it is because repetition takes away the fear of getting on the phone. It also helps to have an integrity partner. That is someone willing to commit the time with you. As entrepreneurs, it’s easy to put off prospecting if there’s no one to answer to. If you know that someone else is counting on you however, it’s a little harder to hit the snooze button.”
Having an effective system certainly helps as well. For busy agents, it’s no longer a ‘should do’ but a ‘must do’ if you expect to keep up. What’s interesting is to note how these systems still run the gamut from complex contact management systems to good old fashioned 1-31 files. Bernice Ross shared a story of one agent who is among the top in the business who makes it his goal to talk to fifty clients a day. “Sometimes he talks to 5-10, leaves messages for a few more and uses social media options such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter to send out links or messages to 25 or more additional clients. The point is that every day he’s making that commitment to sustain contact with his clients. When you consider the average person now knows at least six REALTORS®, you can be sure that the one they’ll do business with is the one they’ve heard from the most.”
Do you HAVE to get involved in social media? Well, you certainly don’t HAVE to do anything you don’t want to, but in terms of keeping pace with today’s consumers, it’s a step in the right direction. Reggie Nicolay, Director of Social Media for Cyberhomes.com wisely points out, “It’s interesting to note that Facebook was originally designed to be an online address book, which perpetually updates itself so it’s always evolving as opposed to an offline solution such as Outlook which is always out of date. It’s also a tremendous resource for changing the face of how you prospect. Where in the past, building rapport may have been difficult or cumbersome and time consuming, social media allows me to market on a more one-to-one level with my target audience. Clive Thompson said it well when he called it an ‘ambient awareness’ that occurs. You’re offering bite-size pieces of information and solutions with your customers and getting to know them better through these social networks. It’s kind of like making deposits and withdrawals from a social ‘account’ if you will. You get to know your customers better and they get to know you better, and in doing so, you build that trust that’s necessary to grow your business.”
Sherry Chris added, “Technology has really allowed us to become more specialized in that it makes it easier for agents to identify their niche and build a network around it in a far faster, and easier way than ever before. That’s great news for all agents, but especially for those just coming into the business.” In talking with agents every day, I couldn’t agree with her more. With time, energy and marketing dollars all in short supply these days, it just makes sense to pick a niche you’re passionate about, find those groups both in your community and in all of these online communities and build your business that way. It’s less time, less money and a whole lot more fun!
“If you’re looking to engage with Gen X and Gen Y consumers, social media is by far the way to go,” shared Mrs. Ross. “It’s important to communicate with people in the manner and method that’s most comfortable for them. Social networking is also a great way to get outside the box a little. I’ll give you an example. I had an agent tell me that she met a new doctor in her community who was obviously just getting started and looking to spread the word. What did she do? She went over and interviewed him then wrote about him in her blog. Soon after, she heard from the doctor who was happily getting referrals from her article, and he was happily referring customers to her as well. That’s a classic case of ‘giving to get,’ of helping first and reaping the rewards for a long time to come.”
What I loved about speaking with all of these talented experts is that while all brought wonderful new ideas and insight to the table, is that they all did seem to find common ground on three major points:
- You’ve got to be willing, in today’s market, to make a friend first and a sale later. Take the ‘get by giving’ approach to your business.
- Whether it’s one hour a day, ten hours a week or 80% of your time, make and KEEP your prospecting appointments with yourself. Put them right up there with a payday in terms of importance – because they are!
- There’s still no substitute for personal contact. Getting on the phone, meeting face to face and getting to know your customers will ALWAYS be tops on the ‘to-do’ list.
I hope you’ve picked up few lessons along the way. Our customers need us now more than ever, and it’s up to you to let them know that you are there for them, with answers, with integrity and with resources they can trust. It’s incredible to me to hear story after story of agents who are literally having their best year ever despite tough economic times and sometimes shaky markets. Why? They know that it’s a people first business and they do just that – put people first.
Thank you to all the extraordinary people who lent me their voices for this article. Sherry Chris, Bernice Ross, Darryl Davis, Reggie Nicolay and Jason Edwards. I challenge you to find them on Facebook and make them your friends! You’ll find all have incredible ideas to share, stories to tell and certainly set an example of what to do right in today’s marketing arena! Thanks all!
While you’re there, look for me and our ProspectsPLUS! page as well. We?re happy to consistently provide the best resources in the business for our real estate and entrepreneurial friends! Visit our interactive and ever-evolving website www.prospectsplus.com for many business-building solutions and powerful prospecting tools. Call me today at 1.800.287.5710 if you have questions or need assistance! Making it easier for you to succeed is what we do best!
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