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Build Momentum Through Small Wins

August 31, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Big wins are the result of small wins.

Image of The Progress Principle. While you may be urged at every turn to “dream big” and “set grand goals,” there’s an increasing amount of research that what motivates us on a day-to-day are the small wins of incremental progress.

Dan Pink’s interview with Harvard business school professor, Teresa Amabile, reveals a number of interesting insights which agents and brokers can apply to their daily business to improve satisfaction and foster a progress-oriented environment.

Some interesting highlights from the interview:

“Our research showed that, of all the events that have the power to excite people and engage them in their work, the single most important is making progress — even if that progress is a small win.”

“Our survey showed that most leaders don’t understand the power of progress. When we asked nearly 700 managers from companies around the world to rank five employee motivators (incentives, recognition, clear goals, interpersonal support, and support for making progress in the work), progress came in at the very bottom.”

“Setbacks have a negative effect on inner work life that’s 2-3 times stronger than the positive effect of progress.”

To read the whole interview, check out Dan Pink’s blog post here…

Why Progress Matters:

In addition to this fascinating interview, the website Tiny Buddha also offers this helpful article on how not to be overwhelmed by your to-do list and score some small wins every day:

How to Decide What to Do Now:

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Market Others to Market Yourself

August 26, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Praise local businesses, receive local recognition.

Have you ever noticed that though the internet gives people a free forum to express their ideas and opinions 9 times out of 10, they use it to complain?

If you want to differentiate yourself online, one of the easiest ways is to use it as a channel for praise. Praise what you like and ignore what you don’t. There’s no value in expressing negativity online, while there’s a considerable upside to singing the praises of others.

What’s more, it’s a great marketing strategy for your business. It’s no secret that people like to work with positive people. A great way to spread your positive image is to go out there and use all of the web tools at your disposal to shower praise on the businesses and people you support.

Become a testimonial machine! Make a list of all of the small businesses in your community that you support. Where do you love to eat out? Is there a local fishing shop you support? Bike store? Who are those “Main St. USA” business owners that make you proud of your community?

With that list in mind, look for opportunities to express your support for them online. Get on Facebook and record a video testimonial with your webcam. Write a post on your blog describing who in your community makes your year brighter. Put together a simple PDF document that you give to clients, listing the businesses in your community you love and why.

When you project this positivity and enthusiasm for your community, you’ll receive the positivity in return. Genuinely marketing for others is a powerful tool.

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One Key Metric for Local Real Estate Market Health

August 19, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

How do you know if your market’s really recovering?

Home inventory icon Regardless of what your buyers and sellers hear in the national media, we all know that real estate markets are localized economic systems with complex factors influencing pricing, inventory, and trends.

So how do you know if your market has hit bottom, is still sliding down, or is showing signs of recovery? What key indicator should most influence your opinion?

According to the talented real estate mind of Bernice Ross, there’s one simple, precise indicator: How many months of inventory are on the market. Here’s Ross’ opinion on market health:

More than 8 months inventory = “rocky buyer’s market”
Between 7 – 8 months inventory = “bottom may be behind you”
Less than 6 months inventory = “good news, early signs of recovery”

To determine “months of inventory” use this equation:

Months of inventory = (total # of active listings)/(average # of monthly sales over the prior 12 months)

Do you use this metric? What other metrics do you use to judge the health of your market?

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Client Survey: Remember to Evaluate Partners

August 7, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

What’s your network’s satisfaction score?

Balance scale. When was the last time you asked past clients about their satisfaction with all of the partners involved in their transaction?

While it’s a great idea to ask clients how satisfied they were with you during their transaction, it’s an even better idea to make sure they felt the same way about all other parties involved in the deal. Consider the full range: Movers, stagers, title offices, mortgage officers, insurance agents, etc.

Why? Research shows that clients often rate their satisfaction with an agent based on the transaction as a whole. So if the home inspector or title agency left a bad taste in their mouth, the odds are the experience will negatively impact you as the agent.

Though you can’t control the behavior or service of those you work with, you can definitely make decisions about who you choose to work with over the long haul.

Don’t take the quality of your vendor/partners for granted; ask clients how they would rate those you work with. It just might make the difference between a future referral… and silence.

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Hiring a Real Estate Assistant

July 31, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Q&A: Do I Need an Assistant?

Feeling overwhelmed? Are you focusing on what matters?

Hiring an assistant is tricky business in real estate. For most new agents, the idea is unthinkable, and rightfully so– when the cash crunch is on, paying someone out of pocket to help with tasks isn’t realistic. But for many beginning to hit their stride, making the leap of hiring an assistant can be a huge help. If you find yourself closing three to four deals a month, overwhelmed by following up on leads, or failing to deliver the level of service your clients deserve, it may be time to consider hiring an assistant.

When hiring an assistant, your goal is to:

1. Free yourself up from the “grunt work” which is detracting from important tasks which only you can do
2. Enable yourself to focus more on growing your business, rather than playing “catch up” to keep the status quo
3. Improve the quality of your life while you improve the quality of your client service

Don’t jump into hiring a full-time assistant. Ideally, you want to ease into an arrangement that begins with 10 – 15 hours per week, depending on the sorts of jobs you feel comfortable handing over to an assistant. This will help cushion the expense as well as prevent the assistant from having too much down time because you’re too busy to train them at one time on all of the tasks you want them to handle.

Since you’ll begin by looking for a part-time assistant, a good place to start searching is via your social network. A quick status update on Facebook or a mention on Twitter is a great place to get the conversation started with people you know and trust. (Another reason you need to be sure you’re clued in on social media!)

[Are you looking for an assistant to provide you with turn-key letters and tips to market your business? Try My Real Helper today!]

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agent advice

Escape From “Shouldistan”

July 27, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

“Don’t should on yourself.”
–Albert Ellis, psychologist

Have you heard of the most dangerous state in the world? It’s called “Shouldistan” (pronounced: SHOULD-IH-STAN). It’s a legendary war zone, and more than a few ambitious professionals have seen their goals and dreams die there.

Bordered by “Could-istan” and “Would-istan,” you may recognize those who have spent too much time within its borders– they’re bitter, exhausted, and reek of standing around the coffee maker and complaining. All day they say things like:

  • “They SHOULD have listened to me when I told them their house was overpriced.”
  • “The banks SHOULD realize that my short sale package is perfect.”
  • “I SHOULD get my listing presentation in shape.”
  • “I SHOULD have done something this week to stay in better touch with my clients.”

If you find yourself on the mean mental streets of Shouldistan, you must escape at all costs.

Here’s a practical field guide to getting out alive:

First and foremost, accept that if there are conditions you cannot change, you must learn to change yourself in order to rise to the challenge. You can’t help that your market is flooded with inventory, but you can make it your business to know your local inventory inside and out. Get wise to what’s in your hands and what’s not.

Second, recognize that a step in the direction of your goals today, no matter how small, is still a step in the right direction. If thinking about “how it should be” kills your motivation and causes you to procrastinate, it’s imperative you take action. Action will give you a greater sense of control. Even if you choose small actions to start, they will add up over the days and weeks. Before you know it, you might just find out that it doesn’t matter “how it should be” because you’re on a new, more productive path.

Finally, don’t dwell on setbacks. There’s a German proverb that says, “He who spends time counting every thorn on every bush never gets out of the woods.” When you face resistance or “failure,” take a good look at what you can learn from it and move on. Remember: There is no failure… only feedback.

Everyone gets dragged into a tour of Shouldistan now and again… just don’t become a casualty!

[You know you SHOULD keep in touch with clients. Learn how My Real Helper can ensure you do!]

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8 Tips for Successful Real Estate Negotiations

July 25, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Find middle ground skillfully and respectfully.

A successful negotiation is not where your side has pulverized the other. You don’t “win” a negotiation; you get the best possible outcome for your clients while doing the least harm. No one should leave a negotiation angry — you never know when you might have to negotiate with these same people again. Below are 8 tips to help foster successful negotiations:

1. Set the Stage: choose a location that’s quiet, neutral, pleasant, and away from distractions and confusion. Ask everyone to turn off phones, pagers, and devices, and do not accept any calls or texts during negotiations.

2. Be Prepared: Be sure that all the facts are verified before the negotiation begins. Later fact-finding can cause a negotiation to bog down.

3. Present a united front: You represent clients and have been hired to act on their wishes. You may not agree with their position, but never share that with the other side during a negotiation. In private, you can certainly try to get your clients to change their mind, but always in private.

4. Leave your attitude at the door: Treat everyone in the negotiation with respect, regardless of your personal opinions. If you disagree, disagree with an idea, not the person.

5. Remember to watch — subtly — non-verbal cues and body language.

6. Hold something in reserve: Beforehand, plan what concessions your clients are willing to make and then offer these concessions when you need to concede something.

7. Don’t harp about things that don’t matter to the client: Don’t let a negotiation bog down over a minor point. Worry about getting agreement on major points such as price and terms, but put lesser items aside and return to them later.

8. Don’t volunteer too much information: Knowledge is power in a negotiation, so telling the other side any information may weaken your own position. On the other hand, learn as much about the other side as you can.

[Negotiation depends upon great client communication. Click here to learn about a system to help you communicate with clients and prospects.]

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How to Turn Concessions Into Painkillers

July 22, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Keep the deal moving by smoothing out seller concessions.

From time to time you’ll be involved in a negotiation with a buyer who wants your seller to cover an unanticipated cost. This might be a specific repair, a home warranty, or some other concession. If your seller already feels like they’re taking a beating on their listing price, these little concessions can be the straw that breaks their back. Often an “almost done” deal can quickly turn into a stalemate between entrenched seller and nickel-and-diming buyer.

One strategy that may make these concessions palatable to your seller (assuming you feel they are reasonable requests) is to remind your seller of the reasons they’re motivated to sell in the first place. If they’re carrying two mortgages, need to get relocated before school starts, or has recently taken a new job at the other end of a three hour drive, now is the time to remind them why they want to sell their home.

1. Be empathetic. Acknowledge that their reaction to the concession is valid, and offer your sympathy.

2. Don’t bad-mouth the buyer. Even if you think it’s a raw deal, speaking ill of the buyer might be the little extra comment that convinces your seller not to budge.

3. Remind them of their pain. “Judy, I know you’re anxious about being settled before school starts, and you had anticipated being in your new home by now. It’s up to you whether not making this concession is worth delaying a clean start to the year.” Or, if math works on your side: “Tom, while I recognize it’s irritating to be expected to replace the stove, you might consider the cost of carrying the house an additional month or more if the buyer is unwilling to let this concession go.”

People lose perspective during transactions. A professional coolly reminds them of their “big picture” goals and helps guide them back on the path.

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Managing Time for Client Communication

May 14, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Stop watch image.Successful Agents Schedule Rapport-Building & Client Communication as a Priority Task

In keeping with other areas of managing their real estate careers, agents who work primarily by referral credit scheduling time for rapport-building efforts as a major factor in their success.  Following the maxim, “things which get scheduled get done,” these agents set aside time on a daily or weekly basis to ensure they stay on top of staying in touch with their clients and prospects in a meaningful manner.

Though the specific times vary, most report good success either early in the morning or after mainstream business hours, citing that an hour of uninterrupted focus time pays greater dividends than a stolen few minutes between calls or appointments.

With time set aside for client communication, agents generally opt to spend the time either gathering deeper data about their clients and prospects (or entering in data gathered “in the field”), or dedicating themselves to sending out personalized letters, emails, or handwritten notes.

List of takeaways.The incremental approach pays dividends over time.  Agents who follow this “a letter a day is 365 touches a year” mindset send out, on average, over 10 times the personal letters than their competitors.  Though the results from these drip campaigns can’t always be fully quantified or forecast, interest tends to be sustained throughout the year.

Prior to engaging in a regular, systematic approach, many agents found that managing response to “batches” or “waves” of mailings (done sporadically and in bulk) frequently caused them to fall short of client expectations due to unanticipated work load.

Scheduling rapport-building activities keeps the overall task of staying in touch manageable.  Given the time it takes to cultivate trust (and the longer cycle between opportunities), a good number of market leading agents wish they had simply started the process earlier.  Many cite personal letters as the reason they have been able to sustain their business through the real estate downturn of 2008 – 2011.

An additional benefit to blocking off time for relationship building and using a CRM system to track “touches” is the ability to plan ahead for scheduled communications while adding in a periodic mix of spontaneous “one off” messages which are more timely—i.e. framed around current community events, local news, or chance meetings.

According to agents, the key to maximizing the time set aside for personal communication is ensuring that there are ample ideas available for when the time comes to reach out to clients.  Facing a blank screen is one of the most time consuming aspects of staying in touch.

Some agents keep a “swipe file” of past letters which they can use as inspiration or templates for custom communication.  In rare cases, agents with significant cash flow and support staff employed assistants to help craft content specifically for their marketing and personal communication strategy.

[Click here for a free copy of the 26-page report from which this post was originally taken, "6 Key Findings: How Successful Agents Build a Referral-Based Business"]

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The Four Fundamentals of Client Communication

May 1, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Appreciate / Educate / Entertain / Reflect & Think

Four Fundamentals of Client Communication

Effective Client Communication Leverages One or More of Four Fundamental Approaches

Agents who have perfected the “long sales cycle” approach to building lifetime rapport with their contacts do not rely on a steady bombardment of advertising and marketing messages.

In fact, a thorough analysis of their communication reveals that each exchange they have with contacts meets one (or more) of the following criteria from a client’s perspective:

1. Appreciate me

2. Educate me

3. Make me reflect / think

4. Make me laugh (entertain me)

In the best case scenario, a message will actually satisfy all four.

The acid test for any message— from a voice mail to an email or letter—is whether or not the communication will in some way improve the recipient’s day.

The goal is never to prompt immediate return, rather, the communication should create an impression of the agents thoughtfulness, trustworthiness, wisdom, wit, or character.

In keeping with the philosophy of differentiating advertising from rapport- building communication, it’s crucial to understand that agents dominating the top 1% of their markets do not undercut the goodwill of their message by simultaneously including slogans, excessive signatures, listing information, postcards, or other direct marketing collateral.

If the recipient perceives the message to be a trojan horse for self-promotion, the intent to build rapport is largely undermined.
Almost all agents with a loyal client base indicated that using market data to satisfy the second quadrant, “Educate me,” came with a few caveats:

1. Real estate-related market data was never sent without an express request from their clients to regularly receive the information. (Permission.)

2. Any market information is always prefaced by an insightful executive summary. (Interpretation.)

3. Concrete examples of how market data may tangibly impact the lives of the contact and/or the contact’s loved ones is offered. (Relevancy.)

Without meeting the criteria of permission, interpretation, and relevancy, the wholesale dispensing “market condition reports” is often perceived as noise and/or advertising.

Agents with an excellent communication track record often cited a “swipe file” or “idea folder” which enabled them to quickly and efficiently craft personalized communication that met all four of the rapport-building fundamentals. Doing so enabled them to leverage the success of past letters with new clients, resulting in both efficiency and efficacy in their communication strategy.

[Click here for a free copy of the 26-page report from which this post was originally taken, "6 Key Findings: How Successful Agents Build a Referral-Based Business"]

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