Thursday, October 29, 2015

The Scariest Stat in Real Estate

The real estate industry is full of frightening figures – from interest rates to inventory levels.  But the statistic that scares me the most (as both a marketer and realtor) is this one:

70% of consumers only talk to one agent before making their move.

Think about that.  Even in this age of Internet access and unlimited information, even with all of today’s tools and technology, in nearly three out of every four cases when a prospect is seeking an agent you still have absolutely no chance.
Why? I believe it’s because we haven’t given consumers a reason to talk to more than one agent.  In fact, we rarely even suggest the idea.  To most consumers, one agent is the same as another; we’re a necessary evil or (worse yet) a commodity.  As a result, interviewing different agents looks like a needless chore and waste of time.  Prospects just go with the first agent their friends or family mention – and we brag about how most of our business comes through referral.

By the way, if you’re thinking not having to compete with other agents in 70% of referral scenarios is a good thing, think again.  If they never talk to another agent, they’ll never know just how good you are and how fortunate they are to have you on their side of the table.  That lack of perspective can only lead to further commoditization and devaluation of your time and expertise.

So, how can we improve our chances?  How can we increase the number of opportunities that come our way and enhance the probability we’ll be chosen? The first step is obviously to educate consumers about the difference between agents and encourage them to compare those differences before they decide.  Even a simple phrase like “Compare me to any other agent and you’ll soon discover there’s no comparison” can have an impact on the number of new listing appointments you attend.
Start asking new prospects if they’re interviewing other agents and, if not, ask if they’d like you to recommend another for the sake of comparison.  Sales is largely psychology and the image of confidence you convey through this single act can only raise your standing (and will often seal the deal right there). The agent you recommend can even be someone else in your office or team (one of the best reasons to start a team).  All that matters is that your prospect have an opportunity to make a choice and take ownership of that decision.
Real Estate is one of the only industries I can think of where the best cost no more than the worst, and yet, most consumers don’t bother to “shop” before “buying” an agent – largely because we haven’t given them the right criteria for comparing us.

Which brings us to the second step: Positioning.  No matter who you are or who you’re trying to attract, there’s going to be that moment when you’re sitting across the table and those prospects all ask the exact same question: Why you?  What do you say?  That’s where branding comes in.

In simplest terms, personal branding is all about helping consumers attach specific ideas, information and impressions to your brand.  In other words, it’s about answering that “why you” question in a meaningful way that differentiates you from everyone else who does what you do.  And what differentiates you from other agents has little to do with number of years in the industry or the indecipherable designations after your name.

We all talk about how “this is a people business,” but few of us take heed when it comes to positioning ourselves with prospects.  It’s not about statistics and systems. It’s not about tools and technology.  It’s about fit and interaction and connection.  And while intellectual compatibility is important, the most meaningful way in which we connect with other people is emotionally.  Not necessarily in a touchy-feely-butterflies-and-rainbows sort of way, but in a you-get-me-and-give-me-what-I-really-need sort of way.

What this means from a practical standpoint is that we need to talk less about what we are and more about who we are; less about what we do and more about how we do it; less about process and more about results.  All from a more emotionally compelling point of view.  What adjectives would your best clients use to describe you? (Collaborative? Committed?)  What are the real benefits of working with you? (Confidence? Financial Security?)  The only thing you’ll find on the back of my business card is the phrase “You’re Going to Love the Way We Work Together.”

Of course, trying to differentiate ourselves and really connect with clients also means we need to start paying more attention to personality types and personal style.  If you’ve never heard of DISC assessment or experienced one yourself, my friends at Workman Success Systems will be happy to provide one for you absolutely free and the results can be life-changing.
In summary, I believe the key to more successful client recruitment comes down to more frequent opportunities for comparison, more meaningful points of differentiation and more personal communication with each prospect.  Great marketing isn’t about finding the right clients.  It’s about helping the right clients find you.

Statistical Source: National Association of REALTORS, 2014


Tuesday, February 3, 2015

The Real Reason I Became a Real Estate Agent

About this time last year I had what some might call a professional epiphany. At the age of 55, after nearly 30 years in marketing and media, I decided to become a licensed real estate agent. (Insert gasp of horror here).
For some who know me, the move seemed almost obvious. As a personal branding consultant, I've already learned how to run my own firm and market myself as a professional resource. And since much of my work over the past ten years has focused on real estate marketing, I not only know the business but dozens of top agents and industry leaders who can help me advance my expertise.
But if we're friends on Facebook or connected on LinkedIn, my decision to become a real estate agent actually had more to do with you than me. 
It's You
Call it a "midlife moment," but I started thinking about all the bright, interesting, genuinely good people I've been fortunate enough to know and work with in my time; from Burnsville High and Luther College alumni, to Tulsa and Twin Cities media associates, to Life Time Fitness and Cuneo Advertising team members. And I realized the odds of us ever really working together again were pretty slim - unless one of us made a move. So I did.
Being a realtor is my way of enhancing the possibilities we might work together again, if only for a short time. It gives us an opportunity to expand the conversation beyond LinkedIn notes or Facebook posts and gives me a chance to be of real service to you. (Yeah, I know how sappy that sounds, but it's true).
Chances are, you already know a real estate agent or two. You can hardly swing a dead cat without hitting half a dozen. (My apologies to cat lovers). But if you, your friends or family are ever thinking about buying or selling a home, I hope you'll remember me. Even if it's just to provide a point of comparison or objective opinion.
In the meantime, I invite you to share your thoughts or questions thru the Comments section below. You can also reach me directly at 612.636.4554 or So, don't be shy. You're the reason I'm here and I look forward to hearing from you.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Three Things Your Clients Will Never Understand

One of the biggest blowouts I’ve ever had with a business associate was over his repeated use of the phrase “the client has to understand.” (As in “The client has to understand how the flux capacitor works” or “The client has to understand all the steps of gizmo design.”)  By definition, the client doesn’t have to understand much about your business. They’re the client. Understanding is your job. And sometimes the less they understand it, the better it is for you (but we’ll get to that in a minute). Based on my experience – on both sides of the desk – there are three things your clients may never understand.
What You Really Do
The speed of business now demands a high degree of specialization on your part and a summary approach on the client’s part. Real success in any field requires a massive amount of both topical knowledge and practical expertise. So, while your clients may have a general idea of what you do, they'll rarely recognize the breadth and depth of those services. In fact, no matter how many different things you do (and do well), your clients will likely come to think of you as the master of just one. So, you need to decide what you want "your thing" to be.
How You Do It
Good clients want to understand the basic process you follow and the approach you take, but that’s usually where their interest in the mechanics begins and ends. Or at least should. The Death of a Thousand Questions not only inhibits overall progress, but discounts your expertise and diminishes trust. Most clients, however, aren’t all that interested in how you do what you do. They just want to know you can really do it and when it will be done.

Why You Do It
I’m not talking about tactical rationale or specific business strategies. I mean why you’re in the business you’re in at all. Think about it. No matter who you are or what you do, most other people’s work sounds pretty unappealing. And if they list all the reasons they love what they do, it often makes it all sound worse instead of better. Your clients are no different. Most couldn’t imagine doing what you do every day. All things considered, that’s a good thing.

Ironically, I spent the first half of my career looking at the client’s lack of deep understanding as a curse, when it’s clearly a professional blessing.  Not understanding what you really do or how you do it are the pivotal reasons your services are worth paying for. In the end, it doesn't matter if you’re a marketing consultant, systems analyst or something else. The only thing the client really needs to understand are all the benefits they’ll reap from hiring you.