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client management

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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client management

Shifting Real Estate Clients to a Neighborhood State of Mind

July 18, 2011 by · 1 Comment 

Help clients see the big (local) picture.

Buy the neighborhood. If you find yourself with a client who seems unduly focused on the size and amenities of homes on the market, you might want to spend a little time helping them see the big picture in terms of neighborhood benefits.

Often first-time buyers suffer from this tunnel vision that focuses almost exclusively on the home. If you run into this “biggest house with the best features on the biggest lot I can buy” mentality, you have an excellent opportunity to start a neighborhood conversation which can, in the long run, make your client happier with the home they eventually own.

Here are four excellent questions to ask your client in order to get a “neighborhood conversation” going:

1. Tell me, if you had to choose between a smaller home and a longer commute, which would you choose?

2. How important is it to you to be able to walk to grocery stores, restaurants, and other local businesses?

3. Are you concerned about having access to sidewalks and parks?

4. What about your current neighborhood bothers you? What do you like about it?

While buying the neighborhood may seem obvious to you, many clients haven’t taken a step back to consider the big picture of home ownership.

Here’s a great article from HGTV you can also share with them to get neighborhood conversations going:

http://www.frontdoor.com/Buy/How-To-Choose-A-Neighborhood/1162

[Click here to learn about a system agents use to follow-up with first-time buyers!]

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client management

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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client management

Helpful Guidelines for Real Estate CRM Usage

May 9, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Successful Agents Utilize their CRM System/Client Database to Enhance Personal Connections

Helpful CRM GuidelinesAt the core of every top producer’s business is a well-maintained CRM (client relationship management) system.

While the specific system varied from agent to agent depending on platform preferences and technical expertise of the agent, all systems contained the following features at a minimum:

  1. Robust, customizable contact data fields
  2. Ability to form groups or “tags” to organize records
  3. An unlimited, searchable notes field for each contact
  4. Integration with an appointment calendar or “reminder” system
  5. A means of recording “date of last contact” information
  6. Mobile access to editing and search

(More sophisticated systems also integrated direct mail/email management, automated letter campaigns, and social media interfaces.)

The differentiator between top producers and lower performing agents centered on essential difference:  Whether or not agents made liberal use of the “searchable notes” feature of the CRM system.

While all agents used their system for contact management, and most used their system for various mail merge and advertising functions, top tier agents kept detailed historical notes on their clients and prospects.  In this manner, their database not only provided a record of who to stay in touch with, but how to stay in touch with the greatest degree of personal relevancy.

In this way, successful agents use their CRM system as an “engine of thoughtfulness.”
With simple keyword searches, they are able to not only craft more personal communication with their contacts, but also make helpful connections between their contacts.  Records showed that agents who frequently cross-referred clients and prospects to one another were more likely to receive referrals from those contacts in the future.

Agents with a high degree of familiarity with Facebook and other social media platforms also used data found there about their contacts to further enhance the quality of the data in their own CRM system.  By keeping in “peripheral awareness” of their contacts through Facebook and their own searchable notes, they were frequently best positioned to time communications around the real-time lives of their clients.  Using Facebook as a listening post for major life changes (births, weddings, relocations, job changes) gave top producers “on the ground intel” about who might be most likely to need real estate services.

At the core of a rapport-building strategy is a robust collection of personal data.  This practice of adding “granularity” within contact records (i.e. gathering and refining the grains of information about clients’ and prospects’ interests) was cited over and over as a major reason agents were perceived as thoughtful, attentive, and experts when it came to attention to detail.

[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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client management

Improving Client Loyalty

April 13, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Scott’s Thoughts: Client Loyalty
Can you improve client loyalty?
loyalty

“I’ll take fifty percent efficiency to get one hundred percent loyalty.” –Samuel Goldwyn, film producer

Are your clients loyal to you?

With Oakley Signs & Graphics, I find that a large percentage of our customers are highly loyal, and I prize that loyalty greatly.

But it’s harder to say in real estate transactions. After all, how do you measure loyalty when the average repeat transaction may be once every 5 to 7 years (or longer)?

Well, what about referrals? Aren’t they a sign of loyalty? It seems natural to assume so. But one of the tricky things about referrals in real estate is this: You never know how many referrals you didn’t receive.

Think about it: If someone doesn’t send you referrals, you might assume that they simply haven’t had the opportunity. But what if you’re wrong? What if, the last time they were asked, they said, “Well, I used an agent last year, but I don’t know if I’d recommend him.”

Your mind immediately begins to race: Why? What went wrong? I thought things went smoothly? I assumed the client was happy.

That assumption is the costly one. Sometimes you may overlook or trivialize an aspect of your relationship with the client that was actually a deciding factor in that client’s willingness to work with you again or refer others.

There is some good news here, though: TARP, a research firm that specializes in customer satisfaction, found that in some cases a customer who had a complaint resolved successfully was more loyal than a customer that never had a problem.

Consider: How many times have you recommended a company to someone because when something went wrong, “they took care of me”? We expect things to go right, but we really value it when we know the company has a reputation for taking care of people.

Here’s the take-away: There’s a good chance that if you discover and discuss any problems a client may have had with you during a transaction that they have a higher likelihood of referring business your way.

The key is to have the right conversation. In order to make sure there’s no “quiet disappointment” lurking, you might need to probe a little to get an honest response.

Try contacting your client within a week or two of the transaction and communicate the following:

  • As far as you could tell, the transaction went well, but in the in the interest of self-improvement and client satisfaction you want to ask them some questions
  • Ask them to reflect on any aspect, no matter how small, that could have improved the experience as far as your service/professionalism was concerned.
  • Stress that their honesty is important to you; if there’s any reason they wouldn’t recommend you to someone, you’d rather know now than wonder later.
  • Listen.
  • Regardless of how you view their comments, do not judge their perceptions or go on the defensive; if you made mistakes, simply admit them. In any case, thank them for their honesty.

Yes, it may be hard for clients to be honest with you. No, you may not be able to resolve every issue that clients will air over time. But you will have made an extraordinary effort. Just imagine: If it generates even one more referral or deal per year, isn’t an effort to cultivate client loyalty worth your time?

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client management

Getting More than a Good Reference

April 4, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Maintaining References and Encouraging Testimonials.

Thursday Bram (what an unforgettable name!) recently published a valuable refresher on the value of maintaining references and testimonials. While half of the article discusses your need to have good references (especially when maintaining good business and credit terms with vendors), the real gem in the article is the section on testimonials and making use of online references.

Some quotes from the article include:

“Testimonials must also be timely: always be collecting is a good process. If you’re using a testimonial that’s several years old and a client or vendor finds out, it’s very easy for them to ask if you haven’t done anything worthy of a testimonial in the last year.”

and:

“If your customers, as well as the other companies you work with, are particularly impressed with your abilities, ask them to make those comments online.”

Check out Ms. Bram’s article here:
http://bit.ly/bg1saE

Also, on the topic of testimonials, we recently featured an agent (Tim Kindem) who takes a solid approach to making sure clients have a massive selection of proof-positive testimonials. You can read how he does it, complete with links and examples here:

How to Use Testimonials:
http://www.FHFREA.org/how-to-use-testimonials/

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client management

Learning from “No”

March 21, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

How to go about learning from missed shots.

“Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning.”
–Bill Gates

It’s hard for us to hear what we don’t want to hear. Sometimes our selective hearing is a defense mechanism that keeps us positive and keeps us moving forward. Busted listing presentation? Failed open house? Deal falls apart? Keep your head up and don’t look back, right? Sure.

And that works well… until it doesn’t. As uncomfortable as it can be to drop our defense mechanisms and really probe our failures, it is by far one of the most effective methods of self-improvement. It’s too easy to shake your head and say, “Well, they don’t know what they’re missing out on,” when someone chooses not to list with you. If you want to turn that “no” into a valuable learning experience (and after all, what do you have to lose?), consider this:

The next time something goes wrong with a prospect or a client, follow-up and find out why. A short email or letter is a great way to find out what “went wrong.” What you want to make sure you do in the letter is the following:

1. Acknowledge that you respect their decision not to choose you.
2. Thank them for the opportunity to serve them.
3. “In the spirit of self-improvement and honest feedback” ask them the main reason they opted not to use your services.
4. Impress on them the need not to “sugar coat it” and that you value their frankness
5. Regardless of how you feel about their feedback, thank them for taking the time to tell you
6. Most importantly: RESIST ALL URGES TO ARGUE

Not only does this present you as a true professional, but you’ll get straight-between-the-eyes feedback you would have missed out on otherwise.

When you take this path, those “failures” aren’t failures at all. They were steps along the way to greater success.

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client management

Questions to Ask Your Client

August 23, 2010 by · 2 Comments 

Interviewing Clients: 10 Great Questions
Great transactions begin with great questions.

“Remember you have two ears and one mouth,” is a good rule of thumb when meeting with potential clients. While you may feel anxious to explain why you’re the best agent to represent them and list their home, you’ll have a better chance of success if you use your mouth to ask questions and both ears to listen carefully to the answers.

Determining seller motivation is a key factor in ensuring how you serve them will meet their goals. If you can determine their hopes, fears, and what drives them to make decisions, you’ll be able to build a working relationship which will contribute to a smooth transaction and future referrals.

Below are 10 great questions to ask during your first meeting with prospective clients. Truly listening to the answers will help you understand where they’re coming from and what they expect.

1. How many past experiences have you had owning homes and/or moving?

2. Why is now the right time for you to move?

3. How long have you considered this move?

4. How will this move benefit you (and your family)?

5. Are there any downsides to this move for you, or potential pitfalls you see?

6. Describe to me, in an ideal situation, the best possible experience you could hope for in the sale of your home.

7. If for some reason your home didn’t sell, how would it impact you (and your family)?

8. How will having a real estate agent benefit you? (Listen carefully to this one… it will hit on their expectations of you!)

9. What were your past experiences like with real estate agents? (Or, if they haven’t had one yet, ask them to talk about experiences they’ve heard about with friends / family. Let them know, good or bad, they won’t hurt your feelings with their answers.)

10. Are there any specific issues you’d like me to address or questions you’d like to ask me?

Don’t feel like you have to march them through every question. Don’t try to fix every fear or make every promise– listen and pause before you speak. Don’t try to finish their sentences for them. Follow their line of thought and move naturally with the conversation. Along the way, you may hit upon revelations that the client had not yet discovered on their own… make sure to give them ample time to reflect!

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client management

Take it Offline

August 6, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Scott’s Thoughts: Time for Face Time
Remember to take it offline sometimes!

“There is no substitute for face-to-face reporting and research.” –Thomas Friedman (http://www.thomaslfriedman.com)

A while back, I wrote on the subject of “Managing Connections.” At the end of the day, it’s not how many people we’re linked to, but how well we form lasting relationships with those we encounter.

With the rise of social media marketing and internet-based lead generation in real estate, it’s important not to lose sight of the value of face-to-face interaction. No matter how many emails we exchange, direct messages we send, or comments we leave on blog posts, very little can rival the nuance and personal connection we deepen when we meet in person.

Many social networks online provide opportunities for meetings “IRL” (in real life). On Twitter they’re called “Tweet Ups” (a take-off on “Meet Ups”). Regardless of how you do it, or what you call it, make a point to form face-to-face relationships with some of the people in your virtual network.

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client management

Help clients put their worries away

May 17, 2010 by · 3 Comments 

Scott’s Thoughts: Find and Fix the Fear
Help clients put their worries away, and you’ll earn clients for life.

“Fear is the lengthened shadow of ignorance.”
–Arnold Glasow

Motivating people to act is more about alleviating their fear than it is about provoking desire.

People are filled with desire. Who doesn’t have a dream or two? Rare is the person who looks at their life and has no aspirations, no “one day” goal, no moment on a lazy Saturday afternoon when they fantasize about the future they see for themselves, their family.

Fear keeps the lid on real dreams. Many people go after only their small dreams because the when it comes to the really big ones, they’re terrified. They don’t know where to begin. There’s nothing they can do to put the fear aside, no one who can help them find the trailhead through the dark woods.

As much as you are the person who helps people visualize their dreams of home ownership, you should also understand your role as an educator who works on helping people manage their fear. The sale or purchase of a home is a mystery for most people. As an experienced pro, you may take for granted the ups and downs of a transaction. Your familiarity blinds you to the fear that your clients experience.

A great question to ask in a listing presentation is precisely one about fear. Possible questions include:

“What are your fears about listing your home?”

“What are your reservations about putting your home on the market right now?”

“In selling your home, what are you afraid might go wrong along the way?”

Put your finger on their fear, and then (if you’re able!) explain exactly how you will help them overcome those fears. They fear what they don’t know, and if you can educate them, you’ll alleviate their fear.

And if you can put their fears to rest, you’ll cement the bonds with your clients much faster.

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