BLOODHOUNDBLOG.COM

There’s always something to howl about

Are you closing on the wrong objectives? The most insidious form of sales call reluctance is proudly racking up empty “accomplishments.”

I want to talk about being a sales monster, so I want to issue a disclaimer first: We are all about value. I get paid for closing real estate transactions, and I like getting paid, but I never want to get paid for encouraging a client to do the wrong thing. I’m going to be talking about closing in a lot of different contexts, but I am never talking about arm-twisting or even the mildest kinds of suasion. The ancient Roman law of agency is respondeat superior — let the master answer — and this is how we conduct our business.

But still, as a salesman it’s my job to close. That’s important just by itself. It’s one thing to be an ethical salesperson, as above, but it is quite another to fail to close at all. My job — always — is to move the process to the next logical step. If my client wants to make a deal, it’s my job to make it happen, and the way I do that is by closing on the step of the deal-making process that happens next in the sequence.

That’s Salesmanship 101, except that no one teaches salesmanship these days. And, alas, many of the salesmavens who taught this discipline in the past were creepy, oily, slimy, smarmy moral degenerates. Selling is not a confidence game, and there is nothing at all wrong with helping your client take the steps necessary to achieving his objective.

Because marketing on the web is so cost-efficient, I can do a lot of my closing with software — passively, automatically, at any hour of the day. But: I still need to close.

When a new vistor lands on one of our web sites, I’m closing on one idea: More. Stick around and read — there’s lots of content. Or swap over to our free Phoenix MLS search. At an absolute minimum, I want you in our internet universe, so I do a lot to attract people, then I do a lot more to hang onto them.

When we get someone to do something we want them to do, we call it the Commitment of Action. No one is glued onto us that early in the process, but the longer they stay with us, and the more straight dope we give them, the more committed they become. What is their motivation? Their level of urgency? Their financial qualification? I know none of this. But I know that I’m doing a lot of business now with people who committed to us — passively, without our knowing anything — months or even years ago. That’s the enduring power of the Commitment of Action.

And once I’ve gotten someone committed at some level to working with us, I want to get that person to commit on the next step: Contact. Fill out a form — we have plenty, all over the place and in many different contexts. Or, even better, shoot me an email. Best of all: Pick up the phone. Calls to action are everywhere on our sites, again in all sorts of different contexts.

Do you want to see a great call to action? This is from Tom Johnson’s email sig:

Has the market stabilized? Search your neighborhood like an agent and find out here: The best map based Houston MLS search on the planet.

He’s closing on his IDX, but he’s promising a concrete benefit in exchange for getting the email recipient into his internet universe. There’s more: He’s using his IDX system to close on sellers, not buyers. That’s simply brilliant.

What I want, when the prospective client is ready to assert himself, is contact, and then I want to push matters as hard and as fast as I can. As the Bawldguy never tires of telling us, selling is belly-to-belly, so if I have an email address, I want to close on a phone call, and if I have a phone number, I want to close on a listing or showing appointment. Everything I’ve done until now has been passive and automated, but once I have a self-selected volunteer to talk to, I want to talk — for real, person-to-person, with as much focused attention as I can bring to the relationship.

Why? Because, by now, that client is mine to lose. I’ve already chipped away at the fears and the doubts and the objections, and I now have the opportunity to talk to a real live person who is listening to me and who is ready, willing and able to complete a real estate transaction. If I can sell that buyer or seller on doing business with us, at that point, I can almost certainly make it all the way to the closing table.

I’m not done yet — really I’m just barely begun. But at this point I am done marketing and I have proceeded to actually selling. That’s important: Getting prospects to our IDX system is not selling, it’s marketing. Getting them to raise their hands — by form, by email, by phone — is really the last step in the marketing process.

What’s the first step in the sales process?

Following up!

Do you want to know how to determine if you have sales call reluctance? Here’s a simple test: When you should be selling — when you should be following up with real live people who have come to be convinced by your marketing that they should speak to you — what are you doing with your time? Are you banging on the phones, as Chris Johnson would have it, or are you researching their questions so you can give deep and authoritative answers when you finally work up the courage to call back?

Here’s a worse form of sales call reluctance: Are you giving yourself bruising pats on the back in appreciation for accomplishments that do not result in any additional income for you?

Are you counting up your filled out forms and calling them client relationships?

Are you carefully recording contact information in your CRM database and calling those people future prospects?

Are you gloating over how many Twitter followers and Facebook friends you have?

Are you closing on Google.com, for heaven’s sake? A high search engine ranking on valuable keywords is a good thing — provided it leads to real income. If all you have to show for your efforts are search results, you’re closing on the wrong objective.

Be honest: Are you busily closing on actions that will not ever result in a closed real estate transaction and then calling your massive accomplishment of meaningless activities a sign of your glorious success?

Selling is getting in front of real, live people with whom you can complete a real estate transaction and thus get paid. There are many other things you can do with your time, instead, but it’s a mistake to call those things selling.

If you find that you have been closing on the wrong objectives in error, then amend your ways. But if you have been closing on meaningless activities as a means of avoiding actually selling real estate, you need to get over your sales call reluctance — or get out of the sales business.

Selling is not a sleazy con-game. Ethical selling is possible. But it will not happen if you do not close — with a glad heart and an eager enthusiasm — on every step of the sales process.

Related posts:
  • Want More Showings and Quicker Offers? The “Secret” Source of Buyers.
  • Don’t blog your listings? How about this? Don’t try to pass sales call reluctance off as social media marketing expertise
  • “The seller paid my closing costs — with my money!”

  • 11 comments

    11 Comments so far

    1. Brian Brady August 23rd, 2010 9:28 pm

      Brilliant.

      I don’t know how many times I’ve said, “Let’s put it on paper and run it by an underwriter” this year. That phrase changed everything.

      I loved where you drew the line between marketing and selling.

    2. J Philip Faranda August 23rd, 2010 9:30 pm

      And here I was thinking that not understanding the language of @whoever #crapola bit.ly/23skidoo 30 times a day was holding me back from making more money.

    3. Joe August 24th, 2010 6:52 am

      In regards to closing and being on target, one stat we place a lot of weight in is the number of dollars accumulated from closed transactions relative to other agents in our area. We have 500ish agents in our area that have at least 1 transaction closed. We try to keep Colleen in the top 10 of the 500ish agents here and when she drops below that point we start doing some critical looks at the way we might be gonig astray. There are only so many transactions that will occur in any given market, so we set as a goal to have a large part of that pie.

      With the end result in mind, we do much of what you are discussing here Greg. Often times, when we see our numbers dropping, we can look back and see that we are not following up, or neglecting some other point in the selling process. Sadly, many agents do not get this. They measure their success by the number of blog subscribers, Facebook likes, accreditations, ActiveRain points, etc. What really kills me is when they place so much effort in building a following of other real estate agents at the expense of closing sales.

    4. Greg Swann August 24th, 2010 7:25 am

      > There are only so many transactions that will occur in any given market, so we set as a goal to have a large part of that pie.

      I love that philosophy, every bit of it.

      > Often times, when we see our numbers dropping, we can look back and see that we are not following up, or neglecting some other point in the selling process.

      Check. When a client who should have converted slips away, I think it’s important to do a post-mortem to figure out where we went wrong. It’s almost always a fundamental rule of salesmanship — e.g., not identifying and presenting to all of the decision-makers — that we stupidly broke.

      Inlookers: I know this contradicts what I’ve been saying about catching yourself doing something right. The difference is, when you’re green, you’ll get better by emphasizing your strengths and victories. When you’re a journeyman, most of your improvement comes from identifying and eliminating errors in your performance. No benefit to beating yourself up, either way, but you can’t get better unless you learn from your mistakes.

    5. Jb August 24th, 2010 7:46 am

      What you Greg about closing is moving the process forward, is so true. The process of closing on the listing side is totally different than on the buyers side. I don’t think I could work with buyers but what I do pride myself on is nudging the buyer’s agent forward to get their clients to give them an answer.

    6. Greg Swann August 24th, 2010 8:38 am

      > I don’t think I could work with buyers but what I do pride myself on is nudging the buyer’s agent forward to get their clients to give them an answer.

      Taking account that, when we list, we will have very few opportunities to influence the buyer directly, we devote a lot of effort in our passive marketing of the home, especially the single-property web site, to closing on the buyer and on the buyer’s agent. Salespeople need something to say, so we go to great lengths to get them to say what we want said.

      Here’s a new game I’ve been playing: I’m using passive marketing tools — specifically engenu sites — to horsewhip banks on the price of REO listings we’re interested in. Newly listed REOs are always over-priced, so I need a way to chip away at the BPO-fueled irrationality. I can use engenu to show the comps and to document pricing trends. Doesn’t always work, but REO listers are usually just paper-shufflers, so my only hope of effecting persuasion is to get to the decision maker. I will disclose the URL of the web site right in the contract, so it doesn’t get lost in the paper-shuffle.

    7. Chris Johnson August 24th, 2010 8:53 am

      >>Are you banging on the phones, as Chris Johnson would have it, or are you researching their questions so you can give deep and authoritative answers when you finally work up the courage to call back?

      I bang phones mostly to stay frosty. Not because banging phones works (it does), but what it does is tune me into the zeitgeist of what’s going on right now and what people are concerned about.

      I make $400ish an hour for phone banging, attributing 60% of the $ to the cost of getting business.

    8. Tom Bryant August 24th, 2010 10:19 pm

      >> “I will disclose the URL of the web site right in the contract, so it doesn’t get lost in the paper-shuffle.”

      Greg, I have tried similar strategies, such as scanning a cover letter with the contract in the belief that an REO listing agent is unlikely to print the entire scan, cut out the cover letter, and re-scan the contract to eliminate it. Our strategies may have some effect on local banks and/or credit unions that have in-house REO staff.

      But for the vast majority of REO offers, the asset manager never even sees the written offer until it has been negotiated to conclusion – I have a number of REO listings where I am simply plugging in fewer than 10 pieces of bare-bones information (price, closing date, concession costs, etc.) into a website template, then scanning the contract and bank addendums only AFTER acceptance. I have a couple hundred spaces to make a few remarks and that’s it, so it’s all very cut and dried.

      Clearly, the asset managers we are working with are juggling a lot of files – there is rarely an opportunity to “advise” or coach. I recently listed a house that generated 4 offers very quickly. They accepted an offer that netted $500 more than the highest, best other offer. However, the next best offer had a much higher earnest deposit, down payment, and a more qualified buyer. I would certainly have advised accepting the “next best” offer. But the system doesn’t afford me that opportunity. It truly does diminish my role to that of a “paper shuffler” in many ways.

    9. Greg Swann August 24th, 2010 11:02 pm

      > I have a number of REO listings where I am simply plugging in fewer than 10 pieces of bare-bones information (price, closing date, concession costs, etc.) into a website template, then scanning the contract and bank addendums only AFTER acceptance. I have a couple hundred spaces to make a few remarks and that’s it, so it’s all very cut and dried.

      Wonderful… Thanks for the explanation, anyway. I’ve been telling my clients for months that banks are stupid, but I had not known they were too stupid even to think about what they’re doing. Their shareholders should sue.

      > It truly does diminish my role to that of a “paper shuffler” in many ways.

      That’s sad. Can I ask why you take the listings? I mean, I understand that it pays the rent, but REO listings seem to me to be tarnishing a lot of very strong brands that it took many years and lots of money to establish. I’m not complaining. It’s leveling our playing field as we come out of this mess. But it’s disconcerting, to say the least, to reconcile some of the homes I show with the signs in the yard.

      Since I’ve put you on the spot, here is an even more intrusive question: Are you doing anything differently with your REO listings, anything out of the ordinary to attract offers? That’s actually my biggest complaint with the banks: I don’t think they demand enough from their listing agents. Is that a topic worth pursuing, or am I all wet?

    10. Tom Bryant August 25th, 2010 2:26 pm

      >>That’s sad. Can I ask why you take the listings? I mean, I understand that it pays the rent, but REO listings seem to me to be tarnishing a lot of very strong brands that it took many years and lots of money to establish

      I take them because it is a steady stream of income, and I find it far preferable to doing short sales. We are hanging on to a level of business in our core areas of concentration, so I feel (hope) that we are protecting our brands in that regard.

      As to your second question (it’s not intrusive at all), we are doing what the vast majority of REO agents don’t. Specifically: return phone calls and e-mails (with more than one word answers) promptly, visit our properties on a weekly basis, put a couple of dozen photos in the listing, put the properties on our website, have full utilities on, and treat other agents with respect. I think that the reason the banks don’t push harder for performance is that the asset managers are overwhelmed with files. So, the whole process gets “manualized” into internet forms and boxes. There’s not a lot of room for creativity in the process, nor is it rewarded. We do more than is typical for our REO properties because we take pride in our work.

    11. Greg Swann August 25th, 2010 11:42 pm

      > We do more than is typical for our REO properties because we take pride in our work.

      Good on ya. I was in an REO today with three 30-inch termite tubes going up the wall. Something like that kills consideration of the property so decisively that it amounts to a tacit proclamation of negligence — not just the listing Realtor’s, but the bank’s as well. That kind of waste of produced-wealth is not just monetary but physical. The real estate market is poorer in housing as a result of this poor stewardship. I get used to it, day-by-day, in a kind of battle fatigue — and, obviously, my buyers can do a lot better on price with some partially-wasted properties — but the whole thing is just astounding to me when I take the time to think it through.