The “OPEN” Open House

People in sales are taught early on to build a big list of possible leads. After all, there is no customer or client who was not at first a prospect. So, we want to identify those people as soon as possible. Not everyone we encounter will be realistic, creditworthy, or even seriously looking for what we have to offer. Why waste their time, why waste ours? We collect names, numbers, email addresses, zodiacal signs, whatever it takes to pour all those prospects into the “funnel” so one true customer will shake out of the bottom.

For those of us in real estate, the open house is the ideal place to begin that sifting process. If there is a house for sale, what better way to get potential buyers interested in the property than to simply invite them inside. We greet them at the front porch before they even knock on the door, put the biggest smile on our faces possible, and bring them in so we can all get to know each other a little better. We shake hands to introduce ourselves, and never let go of their hand until they give us their name. Then, we attempt to find out where they currently live, and ask if they need to move in a hurry. We study their attire, and glance at their car to assess financial ability. Once we finally leave the foyer, we are sure to give them the “grand tour”, so when we point to a toilet, they will know they are in the bathroom. All along, we probe for even more information on them, their family, and lifestyle. If this model fits your approach to an open house; congratulations, you’re a stalker!

Stalkers love to gather information, and keep current records. However, a good stalker will reveal just enough information themselves to keep their new victim under their thumb. The really adept ones will take control of the situation, so no one can get away without being on the hook for something. Perhaps the name of a friend or family member they could stalk as well. Oh, our timeshare counterparts love this one! But, is this an effective approach, or are we just wasting our energy on someone who we teach to resent us?

My decade-and-a-half experience in real estate, and hundreds of open houses within that time, have led me to some pointers to help create a more efficient open house experience which is a lot less energy draining than most. In the process, the sales professional will come across a lot less… creepy.

DO leave the front door open in the Spring and Summer months. After all it is an “open” house. This is more inviting, and suggests prospective buyers eventually get to leave.

DON’T be ready to ponce on them in a moments notice. In fact, let them find YOU. A sheepish “hello?” from you down the hall signals they are not going to be placed on the defensive.

DO introduce yourself as an industry professional. Hand them your business card, and let them know you are there to answer any questions they may have. If you are not the listing agent for that property, EXPLAIN to them you would work for the buyer, and could even show them several other properties.

DON’T lead them through the house. They know a bedroom when they encounter one. Once introductions are made, tell them you are available to them, and WALK AWAY. They will be perplexed, confused and befuddled that you don’t want to know their blood type. They will then seek you out for details.

DO ask broad, open-ended questions “What are YOU looking for in a home”, versus “What do you like about THIS home”? This will let them know you are on their side, and help create a dialogue.

DON’T hand them the open house flyer until they leave. You want them to ask you the questions about square footage, acreage, schools, etc. The intent here really is not to “control” the situation, simply to show the lookers you don’t bite, and are happy to help them however you can. This also sparks conversation, which could lead to a professional relationship once trust is established. At this point, give them ALL of the public information the MLS will allow.

Some additional ideas to solicit contact information;

– Ask them to fill out a very brief survey about the house. Include a heading for all their pertinent info.

– Offer a prize drawing to be conducted at your office once a month, or for the week if you pool with other Realtors. The information they give here tends to be more accurate since they want to be notified should they win.

– Actually schedule an appointment in your office, where you will take time to better understand their buying needs.

By allowing the prospect to take the lead, you assure them that you are NOT a stalker. They will also feel positive and empowered by the process. Along the way, they should feel better about you if not our industry as a whole. No, not every prospect will convert to a client, but you will have saved yourself a lot disappointment not wondering if you could have been more in control of the situation.

Having said all this, you do need a few tricks up your sleeve for safely sake. Your Broker should know where you are, and there should be a red flag code word, should you feel compelled to call a friend, or into the office. Unfortunately, Realtor safety concerns are paramount in today’s world, but that is another discussion. In the meantime, consult your Broker’s office policies concerning open house safety.

http://MomentumSeminars.com

A Realtors Stock in Trade

Every other year, the National Association of Realtors (NAR) publishes its statistical findings from the year prior. One of those reports is the Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers. The publication reports buying and selling trends in real estate as well as other influencers affecting the market. One stat I find especially interesting every two years is how buyers actually found the home they bought.

In the latest edition, print media was dead last. That’s no surprise to anyone. The overall effectiveness of signs has wavered somewhat as well. But at the top of the list is the internet with half the total. Just below that, with 28% was the real estate agent. What the report does not take into account is how many of those online views are from a public version of a Multiple Listing Service (MLS) or an agent’s website.

where-buyers-found-the-homes-they-purchased-04-23-2019-2400w-2619h

I remember over a dozen years ago, those top two numbers were flipped! Back then, several real estate experts were concerned that the internet was going to be the end of their profession. Without a Realtor to help buyers locate a suitable home, the industry would just shrivel up. “After all, if they don’t need us to find a home, what do they NEED US for?”

Decades ago, the general public assumed the most important thing an agent did was help locate a home. Why the experts gave in to that way of thinking is beyond me. Unless you are in a very rural area, it’s not about helping clients FIND a home but rather to GET a home. Realtors do so much behind the scenes to make a family’s dream a reality. And there is the problem… it’s too much behind the scenes. We need to better inform our people of the actions we take to work for them.  Otherwise, they assume we did nothing, especially when they locate the house. No one considers a material defect or liability issue until they have one.

And now the industry is ringing its hands again anxious that an online retailer is going to get in the act. How will this change the industry dynamics? Even Zillow is worried about it! Relax… it’s not day trading, it’s real estate. Abraham Lincoln once stated; “A lawyer’s time and advice is his stock and trade.” The same is correct for real estate agents. A seasoned expert has been around the block a few times and knows how to guide her clients. Great attention to detail must be given for a house to close. The type of attention given by a local individual, not a website and customer service pods half way around the world.

I recall about fifteen years ago, there was a large retail chain looking to get into the realty business. The idea was to have kiosks set up in their stores where customers could browse listings of properties in the area. They would sit down with a store clerk and simply “put in the order.” There were even a few pilot programs to test the waters. In the end, the mega retailer dropped the project. It was just too much of a hassle.

A Little Encouragement Goes a Long Way

The need to feel unique starts in grade school or even earlier if we have siblings. With so many people in the world, we want to stand out and be noticed for our talents and ideas. That is not something that goes away when we graduate from high school, however.  It carries on to adulthood and in to business, where even if we do not work for praise. it is still nice to be recognized for the effort we put in.

A good manager will have the emotional intelligence to realize a paycheck doesn’t get people to go the extra mile. Even if our leaders miss the mark, any member of the team can increase morale by letting others know they are appreciated. This is where honest, positive reinforcement comes in to play. And many in the American workforce are starving for professional validation.

All human beings need to feel appreciated by others we respect. Simple, sincere words can be inspiring to those who may have no inspiration otherwise;

“I AM PROUD OF YOU!”

This phrase, when sincere, can touch someone at the core of who they are. However, in some work environments, it may be too familiar. A more professional comment may be;

“YOU DID A GREAT JOB!”

Of course, both mean pretty much the same thing. The idea is to recognize those teammates around us who may not get the much needed recognition they deserve or even crave.

The Leader of the Band

Every team has a leader, either officially or otherwise. We typically think of a leader as one who is out front like an officer leading his unit into war, a businessperson at the end of a meeting table or a conductor with an orchestra. Though not every influential person is out front, this is likely what we imagine and for good reason.  A team will take comfort seeing the one with control over our livelihoods at the head of the pack. Or else, we start to wonder where that person is and get paranoid with all sorts of frightful thoughts.

In college, I was required to take a music appreciation class. I reluctantly attended, after all, what were you going to teach me about AC/DC or Billy Idol I didn’t already know? To my surprise, I actually got a lot out of the class. Though I rarely listen to Classic Music these days, I did learn a rConductor.jpgespect for other genres. Perhaps the most was gained for an orchestra and all the tireless work that group goes through to make a concert seem effortless. One nagging question I had for years before the class was; what instrument does the conductor play? If the musicians know what they’re doing, why do they need that guy? AC/DC didn’t need a conductor.

I asked the professor to shed some light on the issue. He stated a conductor is also a composer and will many times put his own spin on a classic piece. Although he cannot play all the instruments, he knows HOW each should sound. If there is a problem, the conductor can devote time working with the musician to figuring out what is wrong. There are many such things that go on behind the scenes, but when it is “go time”, the orchestra and the audience expect to see him there.

In a lot of ways, that is how it is in business. The CEO may not have all the answers or be the smartest person in the room, but she is expected to lead nonetheless. Like a conductor who cannot play the tuba, a leader may not be someone who has come up through the ranks of the technicians (accountants, maintenance and IT people)  they lead. However, it is very important the leader demonstrate her abilities. Members of a team are always giong to ask; “How is my job easier or more difficult with her around?” It’s a fair question and one that all bosses must answer. Otherwise the team will suffer from trust issues.

If the president of an engineer firm has a civil engineering degree and spent the past couple of decades working on high profile projects, that president will easily gain the confidence of rest of the firm. Otherwise, management must go another route to win the trust of everyone. Years ago, medical centers were run by the smartest doctor on staff. Now, many hospital administrators in the 21st century do not come from medical backgrounds. So, they are expected to show expertise in being up to date with procedures, keeping the facility out of lawsuits, confirming people are properly trained, making the important decisions and sharing the overall vision of the hospital with its people. NOT performing open heart surgery.

I do know one hospital administrator who has her RN, but she also seems to display her managerial prowess as well. She’s very approachable and even takes lunch with patients. And that is the point. A leader MUST SHOW the team they are worthy of the leadership position. Where there is no trust in the leader, there is paranoia among the team. Position power is short lived and “because I told you so” just doesn’t cut it in today’s world.

Analysis Paralysis

I have taught Realtors and sales forces for almost a decade now. From brand-new rookies to career agents, I know one thing that will never change… change itself! Change will constantly come at us, and no matter how much we think we know, we don’t. There is always the need for additional knowledge and training. Information and experience are vital to the decisions we make on a daily basis. With the knowledge we have, and the benefit of past lessons learned, we can better assess the risk involved with any endeavor that may require an investment of our time, money, or emotions. That being said, we will seldom have an unqualified answer to the question: “Should I stay, or should I go”?

Several years ago, I was training a new twenty-something agent on my sales force when I was with a local RE/Max franchise. One of the first skills I taught this group of “newbies” was how to find prospective clients. This particular agent was attentive, thoughtful, and took copious notes in my Tuesday morning sales meetings. Jeff was what most sales trainers dream of; a clean slate devoid of bad sales habits, someone who was “coachable”. Indeed, he asked a lot of questions every Tuesday morning, and most every other day as well. He asked a lot of good questions, but mostly just A LOT of questions. Initially I didn’t mind. After all, that was part of my job. Although, after a month or more of this, and no clients to show for it, it finally dawned on me where his head was. His lack of confidence in being able to overcome every possible objection, stopped him in his tracks.

One Tuesday morning, after the rest of the team of new agents cleared out of the training room, I said to him; “Jeff, you do realize you will never have all the answers to every challenge that may arise beforehand, don’t you? In other words, you cannot possibly absorb everything from a textbook, or class in an attempt to eliminate a problem before it reveals itself to you”. Jeff looked to the side, back at me, then widened his eyes. This was his moment of Zen. Though I do not consider myself his “guru”, a light had clicked on for him. A switch that for many of us never gets flipped. It’s the realization that in order to pursue success, we must first be willing to fail.

So many people want to keep a perfect track record. As though THAT was more important than actually doing the job itself. I have stated several times; “perfection is overrated“. More on that in a later post. But, this concept of never being willing to make a mistake is sadly permeating our society. It’s not just with the young people, either. Those changing career fields, also seem to have a certain aversion to failure. Granted, there’s nothing wrong with wanting to do a job well. That’s admirable, though it shouldn’t stifle our ability to perform at all. In the words of Marcus Lemonis, “Have no fear and be willing to fail.” Most challenges have more than one solution, but none of them will be completely perfect anyway.

Fortunately, it is NOT the job of a Realtor to know everything. It is the job of the Realtor, or sales professional to understand our client’s goals, then find the information that will be pertinent to our clients making an informed decision. Yes, we are compensated for helping others to avoid (or at least properly assess) the risks involved. That’s why we exist! We are the professionals. But, we didn’t become that by never making mistakes or by just asking a bunch of questions. So stop worrying about not knowing everything, and get to work. Your clients need you!

www.MomentumSeminars.com 

Developing the Team

Much like a corporation is considered its own entity, teams will take on a life of their own. This is a good thing when you have the right bunch of people and can lead to better productivity. Micromanaging is counterproductive in the long run and not a growing trend for leadership in the 21st century. The conundrum is how to let go of control and signal to the staff it’s alright to pick up the slack. In an organization where all plans and decisions are centralized, that transformation will not take place overnight. This is where the boss must be willing to let go of a certain amount of control and begin to encourage employees to take more initiative. But, the proper relationship between team and team leader needs to be in place.

Workers need to have a certain amount of trust before they are willing to take on greater responsibilities. A common fear is someone might make a mistake (and they will) and be blamed for a bad decision. People need to know it is alright to occasionally go out on a limb because management will offer the safety net below. This begins with a sense of belonging.

When team members know they are legitimately valued as a part of the organization, they tend to take ownership. Ownership of the department, ownership of decisions, and themselves ownership of their own mistakes. Empower people and give them access to more resources and decisions. Allow them to speak freely about concerns they may have about a specific task. This will not only lead to better morale but less stress for management.

Several articles and business text books have been written of the extreme measures the five-star hotel chain Ritz-Carlton will undergo to satisfy their guests. In fact, each employee has a budget of up to $2000, per incident, to ensure guests will come back again. If a valet or maid can fix an issue, they do so, even without managerial approval. This level of trust in turn, spurs greater loyalty from company employees. With the average patron paying a quarter-million dollars over a lifetime, it’s a wise investment.

http://MomentumSeminars.com

 

 

 

The End is Near!

What does the end of 2018 mean? It’s time to start thinking about our ambitions for 2019. (Pssst, it’s just a number). According to a recent article in Forbes Magazine, only 8% of Americans actually achieve their New Year’s resolutions each year. Yikes! Statistically speaking (92% to be exact) I will NOT achieve my 2019 goals. Now what? Well what is a “goal” any way? It’s a dream we write down on a piece of paper to make us feel like we have accomplished something, or that we’re at least on our way. In short, we get a certain short-term satisfaction for having done something positive that day. We believe we are beginning to take charge of our lives! For a little while, we feel as though we are in control. Sadly, reviewing our little wish lists, is not taking action. And what were we doing the REST of the year, anyway?

Of course, you could scrap those goals all together, and simply BECOME the person you want to be, irrespective of the number on the calendar. That’s right, simply take on the disciplines and behaviors of the top sales rep in your company, act as if you were already regional manager, or earned that coveted industry designation.  We can incorporate the aspects of a positive personality TODAY, and that will get us to where we want to be a whole lot faster than a “wish list” on a slip of paper. In order for us to redesign our lives, it’s going to take… wait for it… CHANGE. Perhaps we avoid change not only out of complacency, but more the fact that to change today is to admit we were wrong yesterday. It’s a vicious cycle, but we can break it by becoming, rather than planning.

I’m not suggesting we should not have goals or pursue worth-while accomplishments. But we mustn’t be lulled into believing the goal itself IS the accomplishment. It is not. In order to achieve something new, we must do something different. That means moving out of our comfort zones, no two ways about it.  Fortunately, that’s something we can do that any time of the year, not just January first.

http://MomentumSeminars.com/

Silence is Golden

The Holidays are here, and some of us will spend more time with our extended families than we spent in the first eleven months. Hey, it’s family, what could go wrong, right? Well, you all know the answer to that! Nonetheless, this is the time of glad tidings, and good cheer. So, why not give them the gift that may ultimately reward us in the long run; silence.

If you are in management, education, or sales, you are taught to talk, and talk a lot. Talk every chance you get. We talk to establish who we are, what we do and hopefully build a relationship. But, when grandpa starts describing his latest stomach ailment in graphic detail, or when little sis goes on nonstop about her fifth boyfriend this year, it may be time to pause, and spend some time on the OTHER half of communication; listening. You don’t have to have a degree in psychology to know there may be a greater reason for our loved ones to “dump” all their problems on us.

Perhaps they think WE are the only ones who will actually listen to them. Think about that, just remaining quiet could be very important to those we care about. This is not to say the project should be attempted without a good stiff eggnog, but it is an exercise in your own level of compassion. By remaining quiet, and hearing them out, we remove ourselves as active participants in their latest challenge, dilemma, or scheme. When we are just with them in a nonjudgmental way, we allow them to vent, and remove what they have been carrying around with them all year long. Don’t attack them, defend them, or try to “fix” the problem. Instead, just hold your tongue. They may finally move off the point of their own issues, and ask about you! Nonetheless, they will be convinced, it was one of the best “conversations” they ever had with you. So this year, give the gift that is worth its weight in gold, just be quiet, and LISTEN.

Holiday Listings

Each year, about this time, Realtors across the country hear those same three little words “…after the Holidays”. The real estate market tends to go into an economic hibernation for a couple of months as activity slows down. Our focus shifts from seeking listings and promoting sales activities to turkey and hanging out with the family.  We plan our cross-country trips, hang the lights, buy gifts for our loved ones, and make sure we are stocked up on eggnog. Mmmm, eggnog!

For our clients, it is just as stressful a time of the year as for us! Not to mention the kids. Oh yeah, they’re around! Many times, the last thing our sellers want is the added stress of selling a home. So, each year, about this time, we resign ourselves to having a slow month or two. These are all valid points, but certainly not the only points to ponder. This December could be a productive work month if you know how to position yourself.

Occasionally, I will send out a postcard to my farm area entitled “8 Reasons to List during the Holidays”.  The intent was not only to promote myself and the services I could provide, but also to create a shift in the mind of the seller who had already decided to put off listing until the New Year. I would also send the little card to my current listings who I knew might expire during this period. I will share a few of those ideas with you.

First, the listed home is already looking pretty! No need to “tidy up” before a showing or make the place look festive, or bake wonderful smelling cookies in the oven to make it all seem like home. It already does. The owners did your staging for you!  There’s also no need to cut the grass just before a showing appointment.

For sale in snowAnother good consideration is the Holiday schedule itself. Many times, manufacturing plants and other businesses will completely shut down for a couple of weeks.  This means those “by confirmed appointment” sellers are now much more flexible, and easier to reach by phone. The brokers appointment system can simply block out important family days and sub-Holidays like New Years Eve. Buyers are in the same boat with extended vacation and many want to take advantage of the free time.

Another key factor, and perhaps the most important, is a smaller market! Remember, a lot of sellers are thinking “…after the Holidays”, and the inventory actually shrinks. Real estate is already competitive, so why not take advantage while the competition is on hiatus. Not to mention, come January, all those new and “new again” listings will twinkle in our MLS system like lights on a tree.

Plenty of people, people just don’t want to get out in the cold. However, if someone is willing to bundle up, schedule an appointment, and take a meeting with a Realtor in the dead of Winter, they’re serious! It’s a good opportunity to eliminate the “Looky Loos” who are less than serious and think of house hunting as a hobby. Buyers are also stressed out and otherwise involved, yet if they take the time to see a home with your sign in the yard, they may just be willing to put ink on paper. You couldn’t give your sellers a better gift!

These are all great considerations when it comes to working for your clients, but there are distinct advantages for the professional as well. Not only is the overall market better for our clients, but it’s better for YOU! For years, I have made myself available to anyone and everyone who want to buy or sell. Without fail, I always pick up new clients at this time because everyone else had their phones turned off. Consistently, I heard stories of how people must have called a dozen agents, but no one picked up or returned their call. Well, I do, and I get new clients out of it, too. Some of them will be people relocating to the area in a few weeks or months, and had this time to look for properties. I don’t mind the delayed gratitude if I know the buyers are serious.

Yes, there are a lot of points to consider during the Holiday season, but your mental default should not be that of “Nobody wants to buy or sell during the Holidays”.  By working smart and being available, you just might be able to put a nice little bow on the end of your business year.

 

There is No Leadership Without a Sense of Vision

As a corporate trainer, I often open my seminars stating; “The single most important skill of a good leader is that of communication”. A manger or executive with an industrial expertise may point to another attribute such as accounting or engineering. However, when it comes to the task of actually LEADING others on the team, one would be hard pressed to disagree with me. Otherwise, just ask anyone who had a great idea and could not bring it to fruition because others did not share in the vision. 

Unfortunately, there are a lot of professionals who perhaps due to their technical skills, gained a position of influence and yet do not truly appreciate the need for them to be “visionary”. He or she has the degree, certifications, experience and skill sets to accomplish the tasks at hand. Yet, business professionals many times fail to understand the moment they take on the responsibility of a staff, team, department or even a single intern, they automatically become a LEADER… like it or not. I say that because there are a lot of business people who detest the responsibility of dealing with others and seeing to it staff members contribute their individual portion to the team. The attractiveness of title, prestige and more money clouds the reality that there will be a huge shift in their personal responsibilities. It is no longer the emphasis on individually doing, but instead relating what needs to be done by the team and WHY. 

Recently, I was presenting to the executive staff of a large energy company. The organization had recently undergone several growth spurts and weren’t done. They understood the importance of creating a strategic plan relating the direction they were moving to their more than 1000 employees. Out of this, came the need to develop core values, as well as mission and vision statements. The company was undergoing such change they wanted to ensure all the workers were aware of the new direction they were going. Otherwise, employees would not see the need to be flexible in their understanding of what the individual job was. Where thee is confusion in the ranks, you have a loss in productivity, effectiveness and profitability. There could even be safety concerns for any entity that changes course and does not bring its members along.  

Followers WANT to be led! The good ones show up to work and fully expect to receive that day’s marching orders or to be informed if the daily routine has been altered. Without a sense of direction, employees lose confidence in the organization, their leaders, even themselves and their abilities. To fill the void, they will many times create their own set of priorities, process policies and deadlines. However, these will all be different from one worker to the next and more than likely not be up to company standards. In time, the company will be swallowed up by inefficiency, lose their customer base, and eventually fold. The frustration an executive may feel is often one of the signs something is wrong and it may present itself too late.  

As a business leader, it’s not enough to be proficient in your position, you must also bring the team along for the ride. That means telling members of the team where the ride is going… and why. In short, creating a vision. Key concepts, such as a vision statement is not the only way to do that, but it’s a really good start. It may also require additional training and frequent updates. By opening good lines of communication to allow for questions, ideas and feedback, a leader can be assured that the team understands his or her direction. But if that leader simply assumes everyone knows priorities and what to do without follow through, that professional stands a good chance of not being in the position for long.   

Blaine Little

http://MomentumSeminars.com/

BlaineSpeak@gmail.com