We all tend to stick with the methods we know to work, but does this mean that sales and marketing techniques that always worked in the past will to continue to help us build our careers in real estate in the future? Sadly, the answer is probably not.
In his book Success as a Real Estate Agent for Dummies, Dirk Zeller offers a number of tips aimed at helping agents reach the top of their game. What’s interesting about his advice is that he doesn’t dismiss the marketing techniques that agents have been utilising for years, but he notes that relying on those initiatives is never going to be enough and that agents have to do far more than hand out a few promotional items and then sit back and wait for buyers and sellers.
In the old days agents would splash their names and telephone numbers on every available dustbin in a particular area, have key rings made, print calendars and hand out hundreds if not thousands of flyers. Although there is no data available on the success these various techniques brought, it was generally held that one of the important aspects of any agent’s selling career was linked to exposure, and as such it would be fair to say that agents who marketed themselves extensively enjoyed more success.
Branding is and always will be important, and while wrapping your car in the company colours and logo may well get you noticed, it’s unlikely it will be enough to secure good, solid leads and clients continually.
Securing new clients is the backbone of any agent’s business. Known as “prospecting”, how agents go about this vital aspect of their business varies from person to person. Remember, prospecting is hard work, and not every lead is going to become a client. Like the miners who prospected for gold way back when, you may have to sift through an awful lot of dirt before you hit gold. Some agents appear to have a knack for finding new business; however, this is due not to luck, but rather to the way that they go about securing clients.
Zeller has compiled a list on prospecting, highlighting what it is and what it isn’t. Picking up the phone and calling past clients is prospecting; mailing them fridge magnets, calendars and other paraphernalia isn’t. Calling people in your sphere of influence is going to net buyers and listings; setting up a website and sitting back, waiting for clients to call, isn’t. Cold-calling for listings and sales is going to result in more work; simply wearing a name badge and hoping that buyers will seek you out isn’t. Hosting show houses is going to attract buyers; sitting in the office and hoping to snare the odd walk-in isn’t.
Clients have to form some sort of bond with the agent with whom they work, so agents need to get out and meet people in order for these ties to be formed. Not every meeting is going to end in a positive result. However, making a feeble attempt to secure ongoing business is more than likely going to fail completely.
Alternative ways of securing new business include:
• phoning the owners of properties that have been on the market for an extended time – the sellers’ circumstances may have changed and they may be willing to drop the asking price
• keeping in touch with previous buyers and sellers
• contacting absentee owners in order to ascertain that they still want to hold on to the home
• going door to door – this is perhaps the oldest method of finding buyers and sellers but is still a sure-fire way of finding new business.
One of the most common gripes that sellers have is that agents don’t give them feedback. It’s easy to understand why this important part of the job is often overlooked: agents are busy people, they have houses to sell and as such administration duties often take a back seat.
Zeller refers to the admin side of an estate agent’s job as “production-supporting activities”. These tasks include: filing, documenting a listing, advertising, giving feedback, dealing with conveyancers – in fact, just about anything that doesn’t directly make the agent money.
It’s easy to get caught up in an admin whirlpool. Zeller suggests that agents dedicate blocks of time to these necessary tasks instead of haphazardly trying to fit them into their day. Keep a list of what needs to be done and focus on these issues only during the allotted time period. Use this time to check on your online listings to ensure that all relevant information is current and that the spelling and grammar is correct. There is nothing more irritating than seeing the same property listed at different prices by different agencies, yet this appears to be a common problem. Check in with the sellers monthly to see if anything has changed. Amend the listing on every website immediately if there has been a price reduction. Agents who struggle to keep up with the more mundane parts of their job should consider delegating as much of this work as possible.
The internet has become an invaluable tool for selling properties. While every agent may know this, many still don’t understand that first impressions extend far further than the way an agent dresses or what car they drive. Zeller notes that buyers enjoy the anonymity of looking online before contacting an agent, which means that those who want to make a good impression need to do so from the get-go. He correctly states that although agents will never turn every online visitor into a good lead, they can increase their conversion rates dramatically by presenting an effective call to action. He maintains that the best way to achieve this is by offering to supply additional information or by inviting the visitors to fill out some sort of survey.
“After you capture a lead, you need to go into full court press to convert the name and contact information into a prospect for your business. For some reason, agents don’t follow up with internet leads as aggressively as they do with ad call or sign call leads. I consider this a mistake because in today’s world you stand to generate more leads online than from any other source,” he says.
Those who want to grow their business will follow up on every single lead, every time, all the time, regardless of where they are sourced. Although Zeller points out that not every lead will necessarily turn into a successful sale, he uses the following example to illustrate just how effective a few tweaks to an agent’s webpage can be.
“If your site draws 1 000 visitors and 150 of those visitors request your free report, you’ll have a 15% visitor-to-lead conversion ratio.
“If you convert 5% of the resulting 150 leads to buyer-consultation interviews, you’ll generate 7.5 interviews from the 1 000 site visitors, or a 0.75% site visitor-to-interview conversion rate.
“Based on your online conversion rates, you’ll have a base from which to work as you adjust your marketing and conversion strategy. For instance, if you want to generate 15 instead of 7.5 interviews, you’ll have to either double the number of visitors to your site or double your conversion rate. It all boils down to the numbers.”
Those who continue to struggle to find effective ways of garnering new leads may well be advised to look at the way other, more successful agents conduct their business. There is nothing wrong with taking tips and advice from those in the know. After all, if it worked for them, there’s a very good chance that it will work for you.
Words: Lea Jacobs