There’s always something to howl about

Archive for August, 2010

A kinder, gentler Jeff Brown challenge: Catch yourself doing something worthwhile — for every day in September.

It’s hard not to love Jeff Brown’s prospecting challenge. But it’s kind of easy to note that most of us have not raised our hands to submit ourselves to its arduous benefits. It goes for me, too: If I have six hours to spare on any given day, I’m going to throw it at marketing — specifically software — not prospecting. Mainly, though, because our marketing is producing healthy results, I don’t have a lot of time to spare in any case.

Take note: I am not absolving you of anything. If you don’t have enough money work, and if you don’t have any money, prospecting will solve those two problems in very short order.

But whether or not you are running Jeff’s gauntlet, the kind of goal-achieving behavior we have been talking about is hugely beneficial — to your health, to your wealth and to your happiness.

So: Let’s set ourselves a challenge. Declare a worthwhile goal — prospecting, exercise, learning a new skill, etc. — and then jump in and actually do it for every day in September. You can use the don’t break the chain strategy I talked about yesterday. Here is a printer-ready September calendar.

Goal-setting is easy. It’s actually accomplishing your goals that is so hard. Between public declarations here, in the comments below, and that growing chain of red X’s, the month of September 2010 could mark a turning point in all of our lives.


Tag-teaming off of Jeff Brown: Daily action builds habits, so don’t break the chain.

I had a short sale get to approval this morning, which puts us one tiny deal away from a million-dollar September. We haven’t seen many million-dollar months since 2005, and it’s a harder target to hit than it was in those days. I’m loving where our business is going, and I feel like we might be just that close to the glide path. It’s been a hard road since the market turned, but it has been the dedicated — driven — dogged — pursuit of sales fundamentals that has put us back on the road to financial recovery.

Meanwhile, I’m loving the hardy souls who have taken up Jeff Brown’s prospecting challenge. Quoted below is a snip from a Lifehacker post we have talked about privately for a couple of years. The topic? If you want to master something, do it every day and don’t break the chain:

Years ago when Seinfeld was a new television show, Jerry Seinfeld was still a touring comic. At the time, I was hanging around clubs doing open mic nights and trying to learn the ropes. One night I was in the club where Seinfeld was working, and before he went on stage, I saw my chance. I had to ask Seinfeld if he had any tips for a young comic. What he told me was something that would benefit me a lifetime…

He said the way to be a better comic was to create better jokes and the way to create better jokes was to write every day. But his advice was better than that. He had a gem of a leverage technique he used on himself and you can use it to motivate yourself—even when you don’t feel like it.

He revealed a unique calendar system he uses to pressure himself to write. Here’s how it works.

He told me to get a big wall calendar that has a whole year on one page and hang it on a prominent wall. The next step was to get a big red magic marker.

He said for each day that I do my task of writing, I get to put a big red X over that day. “After a few days you’ll have a chain. Just keep at it and the chain will grow longer every day. You’ll like seeing that chain, especially when you get a few weeks under your belt. Your only job next is to not break the chain.”

“Don’t break the chain,” he said again for emphasis.

Over the years I’ve used his technique in many different areas. I’ve used it for exercise, to learn programming, to learn network administration, to build successful websites and build successful businesses.

It works because it isn’t the one-shot pushes that get us where we want to go, it is the consistent daily action that builds extraordinary outcomes. You may have heard “inch by inch anything’s a cinch.” Inch by inch does work if you can move an inch every day.

Daily action builds habits. It gives you practice and will make you an expert in a short time. If you don’t break the chain, you’ll start to spot opportunities you otherwise wouldn’t. Small improvements accumulate into large improvements rapidly because daily action provides “compounding interest.”

Before Teri Lussier became a recovering Twitaholic, she reTweeted a remark to the effect that, once you’ve made a habit of exercise, it’s hard to quit. To this I say: Bullshit. Exercising is the second easiest activity in the world to quit. What’s first? My guess would be prospecting — and getting yelled at and hung up on — every day.

But: Whether it’s exercise or prospecting or some other burdensome chore, if you fall in love with the idea of an unbroken chain of red X’s, you’ll find the time and the determination to get the job done. When you hear that first compliment or cash that first pay-check, things will get easier. But you know you want this job done, and the only obstacle between you and having done it is digging in and doing it.

Good hunting!


Facebook: The Ultimate CRM

Since my last post and a couple of comments happened, I’ll scribble my basic lead gen/followup methodology down.  This changes all the time, and it’s the part of what I do that’s grinding/belly to belly/phone banging based.  That part gets me 35-45% of my business.  Another 35-45% comes from referrals/social media.  Roughly 10% is “pure” PPC/internet marketing stuff.

There are fuzzy lines everywhere–how do you categorize someone that was referred in by Greg Swann?  What of the person that opted in 16 months ago to a different product?  Anyway.

The excuse to call: I am resuming my webinars that teach my bareknuckle brand of internet marketing/salesmanship.   I invite people to these, for free. They are low key, soft selling events that have what I know.  At the end, I simply offer to “do it for your business for X.” These have done well for me in the past, and will do well for me again.  Twice a month is about as much as I can handle, and still be “on.”  I generally invite people here, or offer up one of my other contacts as a way to connect. “I have 1500 people on my fb….feel free to ask for an introduction to anyone.”

GenuineChris Axiom:  My efficiency at cold calling literally doubled when I stopped allowing anyone to try and buy on the first call. “Oh, you’re a lead? Great, gotta go, call ya later.”  “Almost leads” talk your ear off on the initial call, but they never buy.    People that buy do so quickly.

The Next Part of The Equation- Your Goal: Your goal is not to convince a singular person to do ANYTHING on the first call.  I don’t set appointments.  I don’t troubleshoot.  I only wish to identify need.  If they have a need for us, THEY WILL SAY SO.  “Do you have anything broken about your $thing_you_sell?”   You’re working the list. “Hey, we’ll see if I can help–mind if I call you back this afternoon?”  Why are you doing this?

Because you want to work your list. Getting through your list is where the value is.  You have a lead.   Act like you’ve been in the endzone before. You’ve got someone to call back. (There are scripts for this).  Your goal is to get through your list.   Contact 20 people, 3 need something.  Call the 3 back later and put them in a different (e.g. no longer cold calling) category.

Another thing: When you don’t oversell on the first call, you keep control of the relationship and they don’t treat you as a beggar.  You’re asking for zilch.  You’re not one of those Google Bot Monkeys that calls from the 425 area codes 3x daily, you’re the real deal.

More methods:

My Facebook is 1500 people.  Try to hit 2x yearly.  750/half = 375/quarter. 60 working days in an average quarter. 6.25 contacts/day. That’s enough for any friggin’ agent to sell 30 homes.  And you don’t have to harass, you’re just lookin’ for info.  No biggie, just info.  You’re cool and calm and it’s not a big deal, and you’re patently NOT selling.

I call people in about the following order:

  1. People that Express an immediate need: Search.Twitter.Com “Know anyone + keywords,” “Need+ keywords, Recommend + keywords, help me +keywords” produces 4-5 good leads daily.
  2. Friends/business contacts: I call people who know me.  Like in the above paragraph.  
  3. Targeted Likely: For PC, political consultants are golden.  For FRB, it’s social media coaches.  Looking for killer “one-to-many” relationships.  These folks can send 2-3 sites/quarterly and I have several performing like clockwork.   Those are my “best customers,” generally.

Now, I do this in excel, and an assistant dumps everything into HEAP, firing the appropriate activity series.   I don’t do this because it distracts me.  I am only to be using the spreadsheet with callto links& skpye.

More methodology:  I have my FB contacts in an excel spreadsheet.  Of my 1506 contacts, 1191 have phone #’s listed, and we have phone #’s on another 100+.  This brings the calls/month down.  I separate the FB tabs, and I got it started over a month by adding  a letter of the alphabet each day.  Icky work, to be sure, but it was done once.  I average 50 randoms/monthly, so they get CRM’d a little more aggressively (those that  I add, I don’t send an autoresponder to).

That’s the system. More complex than necessary.  I have more complexity than this, but I’m draining my systems of complexity.  I want to be selling 3 hours a day.  We will get there.



Tag Teaming Off Of Jeff Brown: Rescue Time

Right now, there’s no real way to do business with me online.  This is not an accident–and I’ll get to the Jeff Brown section of the equation momentarily.  I’m redoing everything. We’ve not been marketing lately, because we’ve got to raise the standards of everything.

This won’t be interminable, we’ll be done with this at some point real soon.  Like this week.   I’ll be up on Tuesday or Wednesday (read Thursday or Friday) and this will certainly be the last ‘public iteration,’ that I ever go through.  I’ve got to end the “stay up all night and then roll the site back to how it was” school of doing things for myself.

A detail to peep at before it gets built into the shopping cart: what happens after people buy. This is one of many things that we’re rolling out, and it simply takes time. Making a sales channel that is tight, that makes and keeps promises and that is reasonably indifferent to the volume it handles.   I’m working back to front- from the customer experience in the first minute, day, 3 days 5 days.

Here’s the “thank you” page that most see the moment their credit card is processed.

There are a series of emails that go out in the first few days, and my illustrious customer service turk calls people within 2 business hours to restate the same stuff and welcome them to our team.  While I was waiting to get this done, I tore out my old shopping cart.  I am not sorry I did this because the project is moving faster.

Now: there is no way to do business with me but sales are not down.  Projects are getting done and delegated, my books are more or less kept (the bane of a small business for many reasons).   Revenue is coming in at the same clip it had been before.

Why?  Because I know what the hell I’m doing all the time.

As part of a fun & semiprivate project, a few of us wanted to get good at what we do for a living . I wanted to be more intense. We  joined forces to set good goals for the last part of the year, so we didn’t take the time between Halloween and St. Patty’s day off.   We wanted to know: what do we do?

So I got a service called “RescueTime.”  And it’s remarkable. 3 weeks on it, and I’m more productive–maybe by an order of magnitude.  It’s the “spouse in the room,” that Jeff wanted.  “26 Minutes?  Reading Klosterman?  You don’t even like him. (I don’t, I respect the talent, hate his subject matter)”

It spits reports like this: was a “news and opinion” reportthat I considered ‘distracting.’   You’ll see that Copyblogger is blue.  That’s not distracting.  Why?  Because Copyblogger commentors are the a top 10 source of business for me.  You can edit manually after the fact.

It gives me nagging warnings: “WTF were you doing between X&Y time.”

You can also “get focused,” and all of the sites below will be blocked. You won’t be able to check and see Sports.Yahoo.Com if you’re “focused.”

Screen shot 2010-08-29 at 12.07.54 PM.png

When Greg tells of 70+ hour workweeks, I don’t doubt it.  But I do think that he can shave 15 hours off this time easy, in 3-5 minute bites and chunks.   I know that I have, and I am doing what’s necessary.

The before and after is profound.   I have tracked revisions and “time in the system,” as a primary rubric.   Things that I’m doing are getting done way faster than at any point in my life.

This program is that “spouse in the room.”  Each night, Heather and I have a brief meeting the moment the kids go to bed.  (Recommended: plan the meal for tomorrow, plan the workout, go over money–has changed our marriage).   I share this with her willingly, because if she’s gonna defer her dream by watching munchkins, I gotta do what I gotta do so she doesn’t explode.

So, what I’m doing differently, is staying vertical.  I have a standup desk that’s made to call people. stand, headset on, and I use Skype.  I can contact about 22 people per 60 minutes. Most of them are from facebook.   I see if they need anything, and then follow up with those that do.   I’m averaging 45 minutes per day doing this, and I am increasing it by a bit each day. I hope to work myself up to 90 minutes.

The following is a quick youtube vid of an inelegant system I use:

Tomorrow’s monday.  Tomorrow, there will be 122 days left in the year.  Enough time, I would think, to do some serious damage if you hustle.


“The Next Time You Actually Work 40 Hours In a Week Will Be the First”

Note: This post isn’t aimed at the (IMHO) 10-20% of the real estate agent population who, day in and day out, work hard, effectively, and with massive purpose.

Dad, ‘FDB’ to some of his friends and family, said those exact words to me a few months after I’d gone from part time agent/student, to real estate full time. He wasn’t one to sugarcoat his words. Silly me, I not only protested like a stuck pig, I gave examples of how hard I’d been workin’.

22 year olds can be exceptionally clueless at times. 🙂

Mind you, in 90 days of hard 40 hour weeks I’d produced exactly one damning goose egg on the listing/sales board. I now know what Dad was talkin’ about, cuz a 14 year old C- student could put something on the listing/sales board after 12 hard working 40 hour weeks. It’s seriously not possible to get shut out workin’ that many rigorous hours week in and week out for a full quarter.

The trick is to be honest about how you’re defining hard, effective, work.

It’s not what you tell everyone else either. Imagine your husband/wife is in the room with you. Now how hard are ya workin’?

I’ve never understood this, even though I was guilty of it myself. Dad busted me for constantly gettin’ ready to get ready, to do something really lame, that wouldn’t produce squat anyway. Why do people get licensed only to pretend to work, then complain about how bad the market is, or the rest of the litany we’ve all heard — or uttered ourselves.

Lord knows I’ve put in my share of overtime over the years. But I’m hear to tell ya, with rare exception, those who work at doing what gets them in front of serious buyers/sellers and/or doing what gets those buyers/sellers where they wanna go, don’t hafta work wicked long hours to make an exceptionally good living. If you like working longer hours for whatever reason, good for you — and your bank account. But you can earn six figures workin’ 40 hours.

It’s like diggin’ 4′ X 6′ holes, 6′ feet deep, for sump pumps. If you’re gettin’ paid $1,000 a hole, you’ll press hard to learn just how many you can dig in 40 hours of real work. You won’t be spendin’ time cleanin’ your pick and shovel, or takin’ an hour to lay out the hole’s dimensions. You won’t spend hours upon hours searchin’ the internet and bookstore for books on how picks ‘n shovels are made.

You’d be creating holes as fast as you possibly could. You’d be figuring out ways to dig more efficiently, without wasting energy. You’d learn about what tools might work better.

All of which begs the central question.

Why are you consistently screwin’ the pooch when it comes to diggin’ all the holes you can as a real estate agent? What is it that stops you from swingin’ that pick high in the air, bringin’ it down hard, and repeating that ’till yet another hole is dug — and another $1,000 earned?

Once and for all, ask yourself: Whom do you really think you’re kidding?

After I’d flailed and stuttered my way into a corner, Dad laid down what I’ve since called the FDB Challenge. If this post even pretty much describes you, consider growin’ a pair and take the same challenge.

Get a notebook, create a spreadsheet, grab a legal pad — anything on which you can document every single hour of your 40 hour workweek. Keep this journal for the next 12 weeks. If a task takes less than an hour — note how long it took. Leave no minute unrecorded. Don’t make a big deal about it. Each entry should take a few seconds. There’s no whining in real estate. 🙂

The Rules

1. At least six hours a day must be spent prospecting. Not marketing — prospecting. Pick a method(s), but do it. All prospecting must include direct contact — phone, email, custom written letters, FSBOs, expireds, etc. You know the drill, so don’t pretend you don’t. 🙂

2. You must stand in front of a mirror repeatedly callin’ yourself a wuss if you don’t strictly adhere to rule #1.

The over/under for most agents is lasting ’till around 2ish on the first day. See, it’s not that we don’t know how/what to do, we just don’t wanna do it. So stop with the excuses, you sound like a 10 year old girl who’s skinned her knee at recess.

I Promise

I promise you’ll be a completely difference agent if you take the FDB Challenge to heart. There’s no way you won’t generate tremendous new business working 40 hours a week for a dozen weeks with this much prospecting. You’ve got nothing to lose since you’re not producing much now anyway, right? Keep your eye on the ball. Don’t let up for the entire 12 weeks. Become driven.

Here’s what happened when I took the FDB Challenge

I’m goin’ from memory here, but I remember the numbers fairly well.

90 days later I’d listed eight properties. Four were already in escrow by the 90th day. I’d put five buyer sides into escrow. Two had closed by the last day. I had numerous potential listings in the pipeline, along with many who were referring to me.

Using today’s values, (in San Diego) those 90 days would’ve fattened my bank account by roughly $120,000 or so.

I was 22 years old, and couldn’t find my ass with a map, two guides, and a GPS. Yet those 90 days of seriously hard work, almost all of it prospecting, changed by life forever. It stripped me of ever having an excuse, regardless of market conditions, for not making a decent to magnificent living. It also caused me some acute embarrassment for a few days. I almost couldn’t be in the same room with Dad, I was so ashamed of how I’d been such a pathetic, excuse making slacker.

All that vanished in an instant when he allowed one day that I might have a future in the business after all — a huge AttaBoy comin’ from him.

Are you flailing around, wondering if you’ll be in the business next year?

Is theFDB Challenge for you?


It’s Not My Fault

I pride myself with being a fairly understanding person, yes, sometimes to a fault. But I just can’t understand how so many sellers are unwilling or unable to accept any responsibility for their current situation. Sure, facing a short sale is not a position in which any one would want to be in but at some point we all need to take responsibility for what we do (or don’t do).

Most recently I was on the listening end of a tete-a-tete in which the potential seller blamed EVERYONE but himself. “It’s the government’s fault!”. Yep, the government is an easy one to blame, whether it was Bush’s foreign policies or Obama’s socialism. “I didn’t know what I was signing.” Want to blame the mortgage broker who helped you get financed? Sure, every homeowner is a victim of unscrupulous lending practices. “I thought property values only go up!” Or was it the Realtor who didn’t have the Magic 8 Ball to tell you property values would decrease? Yes! How about NO! How about accepting life, successes and failures, as they come? When did accountability go out of fashion? Is it fear or embarrassment that keep people from saying ‘yes, it was my mistake’? Is it a learned skill or an inherent attribute? Oh well, I better get used to it.


Prospecting Your Way To Prosperity With Social Media

Most real estate agents and mortgage loan originators don’t know how to find business.  I fear that some of the social media strategies I’ve shared have morphed into a  “build it and they will come” approach to business development.  Greg Swann did a nice job of identifying this problem when he said that time spent on social media marketing is wasteful:

“Marketing” by social media is a huge waste of time. Selling is one-on-one, focused, time-consuming and goal-directed. Marketing, done properly, is broadcast, diffuse, time-efficient and passive and long-term in its goal-pursuit.

He’s absolutely correct.  The time investment required, to keep your social media current, never pencils out if you want to make six figures annually.  You will get some results but trust me when I tell you that you could have equaled or bested those results by handing out business cards at the swap mart (and yes, I’ve done that, too).  Here’s where his opinion gets a bit murky, though:

Even if you are really doing your best to market your services on-line, if you are doing it by engaging people one-on-one in fleeting media like Twitter or Facebook, you are almost certainly wasting your time.

That, I can tell you from experience, is only partly true.  Using social media to prospect can be exponentially more effective than cold-calling or handing out business cards at a swap mart because of the rich information users provide.  People buy from people they trust and connections help to build trust more quickly.    I’ll come back to this later but it helps to understand the difference between marketing and prospecting as lead generation tools.

Greg’s working definition of marketing (op. sit.) is a good one.   The long-term benefit of marketing is that it is scalable.   Online marketing, especially blogging, can be a workhorse, which generates inquiries from prospects for as long as the information is relevant.  The hour investment in a well-written blog post can attract tons of inquiries over time (I have a few blog posts that perform that well).  Likewise, a consistent display advertisement in the town’s weekly newspaper can trigger you to “top of mind” status for people seeking to sell their home.  The problem with marketing?  Marketing costs either time or money.  If you need rather than have money, you might consider prospecting as a lead generation tool.

Prospecting is best defined as an active business generation effort.  You seek potential customers in the “river” and sift through the “silt” to find little nuggets of “gold”.  It is, by nature, a disqualifying process where you throw out people who have no immediate or pressing need for your services.  Good prospecting rejects certain interested people as much as it does to accept them.  Consider this advice about prospecting from Russell Shaw:

You don’t want to pay a lot for advertising for two reasons: you don’t have the money to pay and you wouldn’t know what to put in the ad anyway.  Okay so skip advertising for now.  Prospect.  Learn what people consider valuable just by trial and error.  See enough people and ask enough people what they might be interested in and in very short order (a few hundred people from now) you will know what to say and what not to say when you are talking to a prospective customer.

There are exactly two methods of getting business in our business: marketing or prospecting.  Learn to effectively do one or both of those or leave real estate sales.  Fortunately, or unfortunately, those are the only three choices.  The skill of getting customers is the “important skill” in our business.  For a really bright future make this important thing your important thing.

You can blindly cold call names out of a telephone directory.  You can wear out the shoe leather by knocking on doors for listings.  You could ask the question “Wanna buy a home?” when you hand out the business card at the swap mart; that action alone turns the marketing effort into a prospecting effort.  Ask any top-producing securities broker or insurance agent and they’ll tell you that, in the beginning of their career, they built their business through cold prospecting.  The top producers still prospect but they use a much more sophisticated strategy; referral prospecting.

Referral prospecting leverages your proven work results by soliciting introductions from happy customers.  This can be as crude as the “referral card at closing” or as sophisticated as asking a past customer for an introduction to a specific person.  A personal example of the latter was when I asked a securities broker, for whom I secured a refinance loan, for an introduction to another broker in her office.  I thought I might have an opportunity to write a bigger loan for next broker; I was right.  The challenge with that strategy is that you must have a specific “target prospect” in mind.

Social media offer us a peek behind the curtain of the previously hidden relationships our customers have.  It helps you to identify that “specific prospect”.   LinkedIn shows us our customers’ colleagues, friends, and customers.  Facebook might identify our customers’ political connections, work colleagues, kids’ Pop Warner coaches, family members, and neighbors.  Social media narrows the field so that you can more effectively “target” the people with whom you wish to speak.

Social media marketing is really not a cost effective strategy for business generation but social media prospecting can help you fire an arrow at more bull’s eyes.  I’ll share some specific strategies, which can produce immediate positive results, in future posts.

Happy hunting!


Want More Showings and Quicker Offers? The “Secret” Source of Buyers.

In a recent comment on his own post: Are you closing on the wrong objectives? The most insidious form of sales call reluctance is proudly racking up empty “accomplishments.”  Greg Swann, the author, said this:  “we devote a lot of effort … 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.”  That’s a very good point, as far as it goes – which is not far enough.

A couple of days ago, in a post by Glenn Kelman comparing days on market to listing activity level the discussion led, as it should, to actual offers in comparison to days on market.  I wrote a comment that in our local market, “If you go more than two weeks without an offer, you’ve done something wrong… which, generally speaking, means you’ve priced it poorly.”  Again, true as far as it goes – which is not far enough.

Agents don’t realize who their target market is or, if they do, agents don’t act on that knowledge.  Who sells a home?  The buyer?  No.  The buyers’ agent.  According to the latest statistics from NAR, when asked where they found the home they eventually purchased, the number one answer is: agent.  Think about that for a second: the primary referral source for the actual buyer who purchases your listing is the buyers’ agent.  Do you think maybe they merit a little of our marketing focus? Duh…

I co-host our weekly Brokers’ Open Caravan.  I have a few minor responsibilities: inject a little humor, keep the energy in the room up, and a weekly “Marketing Minute” presentation.  But my primary job as MC is to keep the highlight on the Listing Agents who are there to pitch their property.  Most agents, God bless ’em, get up to the front of the room, drop their head down into their notes and, in their best impression of a sleep aid, recite the Agents’ Manifesto of Facts: “This beautiful home has 3 bedrooms, 2 baths and 1400 square feet.  It’s offered at…”  Shoot me now!  Good Grief Myrtle, I already have that info right here in fr0nt of me!  I can read…  What the agent should have have done is realized the golden marketing opportunity facing them.  What they should have done is remember to answer these two simple questions:

  1. What’s Something Interesting About This Property?  Tell the other agents something about the property that we don’t already know:  sellers’ motivation, unique aspect of the property, a humerous anecdote, something to remember!  I’m an agent in your audience and I hear about ten homes a day.  Give me a hook.  Give me a reason to remember your home when I meet with my client tomorrow.
  2. Who is the Perfect Buyer for This Home?  Describe the buyer in enough detail that even I, a donut stuffed, coffee dependent, escrow-in-trouble distracted agent, might recognize them.  Force me to run through my mental rolodex.

I know this will come as a surprise to many of you… but some real estate agents are lazy.  If you do their work for them, your listing will see more showings.  What do you think Greg means when he says: “…salespeople need something to say…”  He means you’ve got to put the words in their mouth and give them a reason – hell, even tell ’em which buyer – to show your listing.

There are only a few true channels for marketing your listing: Signs, Flyers, Single Sites, the MLS and Brokers’ Opens.  The sign?  It has only two purposes: sell the home and sell people on you as a listing agent.  (Vast majority fail at both! Want to know more?  You’re reading the #1 source – just search Custom Signs).  Flyers and Single Sites?  Designed toward the buyer; designed to make the house “sticky” and create an emotional response in the buyer.  This is important because the internet ranks #2 in finding the actual home a buyer eventually purchases; yard sign is (a distant) #3.  But what about the #1 source?  What about the buyers’ agent?  The MLS and the Brokers’ Open are your venues, but are you using them?  Are you creating a memorable image of a home and a buyer that will stick inside of an agent’s mind?

Good marketing makes use of more than one tool to reach an audience.  Great marketing realizes that there may be more than one audience and dedicates marketing channels to each of them.  Next time you put together a marketing campaign for a listing, realize that your biggest and most influential target audience is other real estate agents!  Act accordingly.


React to this idea, if you would: “BloodhoundBlog Unchained and Unwired in Las Vegas: The Return of the Sales Monster.”

I was talking to Scott Cowan this morning, and he asked me about future Unchained events. It happens that I’ve been thinking about doing something, and Scott and I explored a few ideas.

Here’s one I really like: BloodhoundBlog Unchained and Unwired in Las Vegas: The Return of the Sales Monster.

I’m thinking Friday, November 26th, 2010, the day after Thanksgiving. One day, one big room like we did in Orlando, 9 am to 9 pm, bop ’til you drop. You could fly in Thursday night after the family stuff or early Friday morning. Arrive when you can, leave when you have to, and maybe we do streaming video and a webinar all day as well.

For content, I think I want to focus on selling, rather than marketing. We can be counted on to cover a lot of wired marketing just in passing, but, as I have been writing, there’s is a lot of ground on the sales side of our business that we’re leaving uncovered.

I also want this to be a Stone Soup project, if we can get that done. I want to keep it cheap, so you can afford to come, and I want to keep it simple, so that I can coordinate things without going up in flames.

So tell me: Is this a good idea? Would you come?

Also: Hit me with ideas. Content ideas in particular, but I’m game for anything you have to say. We might set up the room in “rounds” so that we can structure the day half as formal group sessions and half as mini-kennels, self-coalescing unconference sessions.

I’ll listen to a sponsor if you’ll pay for the room and two rounds of snacks-‘n’-beverages, and I’ll give you banner space, a meet-and-greet table and a 30 minute speaking slot in exchange. Conference space should be cheap in Vegas right now, so we might not be talking about a very big check.

I truly don’t know if this is worth doing. I think Realtors need to get back to selling basics, but the great mass of wired agents seem to be so infatuated with selling small talk to each other that they may have no interest in what we have to say. If we can’t fill a lot of seats, I can stay home and take a nap that day, instead.

So: Are you in? Where should our minds be focused? And: Can you take 12 straight hours of a Bloodhounds baying out their sales techniques?


We’re all Vendors, Every one

It should come as no surprise that the average “good customer,” doesn’t spend a lot of time (or wish to learn) anything about the Real Estate Industry.  Even when it serves them–even if they should know.   The average “good customer,” would prefer that their real estate was “handled,” for them, that they could swallow a house selling pill and the house would get itself sold, with maximum convenience and minimum hassle.

They don’t (generally speaking) want to know anything about how you get paid, why a Divorced Real Estate Commission is better, or how many homes that you’ve sold.  They don’t give a rat’s rear about who owns what shortcodes, about your social media marketing, or anything else save the HUD-1 at the end of the month(s) it takes to sell.  Because of the time spent (and also because the NAR seems to benefit from marketing the anxiety inherent in the real estate transactions) Realtors delude themselves to think that their clients want new friends.  Realtors have made a world where “who you know” and “rapport” are more important than “what you know” and “fiduciary obedience.”

Realtors (and we vendors) delude when we think client-o-mers want new BFFs. Clients like congeniality, they need fiduciary obedience.  But they have families, lifelong friends and unless it’s happenstance, we ain’t amongst them.  Sure, our businesses require have frequent interactions when we are engaged, but we’re not friends with people because they needed a website (or a mortgage, or a house).  We are their servants, dutybound (and moneybound) to do the work that we say we are to do.

The charlatan or confidence man becomes a friend as a way to again divorce accountability from the results–either consciously or unconsciously.  If we become friends, then we get the “friendly” treatment should the webiste not rank or the home not sell for the price we promised.

If our customers could simply eat a pill and have everything “get handled” they would.  And many of them did, from 2000-2006, with the maniacal mortgage funding process.    When you leave your financial decisions to those folks that benefit from churn, well, then, you get what you got.  Churned finances. There are more vacuous, personal branding oriented Power Agents than there are fiduciaries.

There are more people centered on themselves than centered on excellence.

What winds up happening is that because the customers don’t hold us accountable (because they don’t want to be bothered with the burden of accountability), the currency that we have to use to fuel our business isn’t business excellence.  It’s contacts.  People don’t want to cross the street to get better coffee, so Starbucks put one on each side of the street. The need for the feeling of convenience and the desire to eat a pill and make the real estate issues/website issues/whatever issues go away lets mediocrity in the room.

We then realize that we don’t have to be any good–that just we need people, so we adopt a congenial flacid face that Winston Smith would be proud of– we save our ire for bitching about At&t and Dell’s customer support.

What then happens–if we don’t fight it–is that we disingenuously ingratiate ourselves to others and we become supplicants of the horde.   We realize that a large amount of contacts can insulate us from coming to grips with our own mediocrity, so we become congenial, tame, toothless and mildly amusing.  It’s an easier path than thinking, than enduring the anxious tension and fear that you must create to create something awesome.

We find ourselves rejoicing and spreading mediocrity.

What becomes clear is this: people are worth more than excellence, and any new idea–even in the bright space of new ideas–will be subject to shunning.  IF the new idea came from an egoist like Pearson or Swann then it’ll be as dead as a vook.  No consideration because we’re not in a meritocracy, we’re in an ad hominem world where stuff is only as good as it’s creator is congenial.  Mediocrities insist on congeniality because that puts them in the kingmaker role that they covet.

We are all vendors, now.  What we do about it is our choice.  We don’t need to seek approbation if we’re doing a great job, in fact too much of it may mean that we’re not a threat to the status quo.

Our 2.0 world requires less and less: you have to be excellent.  You sit through reBarf camps and unconferences to make connections.  You go to AmSpirit networking meetings (or BNI) groups in the hopes of leveraging the contacts of your contacts.  So we’re all friendly, albeit disengenously.  We get smothered and covered in mediocre and then you get confused so the currency that you start trading on is “if people like me,” not “what problems am I solving.”

Some measure success in terms of followers, Alexa rank and page views.  I measure success in terms of bank account, waistline and nookie.  This year has improved on all counts.


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, 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.


Now or Never

Redfin published more data today arguing that a listing overwhelmingly gets most of its traffic on debut: about four times more than it does only a few weeks later. What we didn’t discuss was the correlation between traffic and a transaction. Is the day-one traffic spike due mostly to rubber-neckers?

My sense from watching how listings actually sell is that the spike is real, and that it behooves clients to focus on a perfect debut.

The question was still on my mind when we got together for a monthly business review with Dave Billings, who runs Redfin Seattle. When the conversation turned to listings we’d been struggling with, Dave commented that if a listing doesn’t sell in 60 days, we almost never sell it all.

He also noted that, as time goes on, our system of surveying clients sometimes make agents recalcitrant to tell a long-time client what he really needs to hear, for fear that the client will resent the advice he fills out the survey.

What’s your take? Do most of your sales occur in under 60 days? Or does it take longer for reality to set in?


Unchained melodies: How can you afford your TwitBook lifestyle?


How to succeed at failure . . .

I wrote this in the Summer of 2001, also. At the time, my friend Richard Riccelli convinced me to sit on it because it’s pretty arch. Even so, this is the counterpoint to Shyly’s delight.

How to succeed at failure

I work in sales, and while I don’t have many role models for success at my job, I am lucky enough to have an immense number of role models for failure. My co-workers fail all day, every day, and they are gracious enough to share ideas with each other about how to fail even more. Watching them and listening to them, I’ve been able to abstract the principles of a whole new self-help discipline: How to succeed at failure.

There is no better field in which to succeed at failure than straight commission sales. If you succeed at failure in education, they make you the principal. If you succeed at failure in politics, they elect you president. But if you succeed at failure in straight commission sales, you slowly starve to death… Top that!

And succeeding at failure in straight commission sales is easier than you think!

Here are a few simple rules:

First, start late and leave early. Some people try to make failure an endurance contest. This is a mistake. If you spend too much time in the office, sooner or later someone is going to buy your product from you just because no one else is around.

In the same way, when you do get to work, immediately do something useless, irrelevant and unproductive. The newspaper is a good bet. So is the restroom. The two together make for a perfect combination. Take your time. The point is to establish to yourself, to your co-workers and to the world that doing business is the last thing on your mind.

Once you get to the office — stay there. Don’t go out looking for business, make the business come to you. Show the customer who’s boss. That way you’ll have plenty of time to complain to your co-workers that customers just don’t appreciate all you’re doing for them.

Find innovative ways to waste your work-day. Do research about things no one cares about. Organize things that no one uses. Implement plans, policies and procedures that will help everyone waste more time.

If you should happen to accidentally step out of the office, be sure to waste your time. Attend useless classes. Take careful notes at irrelevant seminars. Make yourself available for every possible unproductive meeting.

Chances are, this kind of busy-work will endear you to your sales manager. The only measure of success for a salesperson is sales, but it’s more than likely that your sales manager is striving to succeed at failure, too. Your public displays of frenzied unproductiveness will redound to your credit and to his.

Whatever you do, don’t model the behavior of the top producers in your field. They’re doing everything wrong, as everyone hanging around the office will tell you. They might be making a few sales right now, but it can’t last. Besides, they never even have time for the newspaper…

Now you may think this is enough, but it’s not. The simple fact is that even the laziest, whiniest, most unproductive salesperson occasionally makes a sale. It’s not the end of the world, but if you really want to succeed at failure, you have to be prepared for this kind of thing.

First things first: Never, ever prospect. Don’t go out to see people, don’t get on the phone to call people, don’t give out your business card. Don’t engage people to find out if they need your product; some of them will, and then where will you be? Don’t ask your family or friends for business; that’s unseemly. Don’t forge relationships with past customers; you know where that kind of thing leads. The less you look for business, the less you’ll find, and having fewer opportunities to succeed is the first step to succeeding at failure.

But what if you just can’t avoid making a sale? The customer wants the product. Now. At full price. And he wants it so badly, he’s even willing to buy it from you. What now?

First, don’t close. Present forever. A simple rule of baseball is that, when you’ve hit a home run, you stop swinging, drop the bat and run the bases. Don’t do that. If you keep presenting, sooner or later you’ll arrive at an objection the customer hasn’t thought of, and then you’re done.

But suppose you have to close? Gotta get home early, after all. Well then, close badly. Clumsily. Manipulatively. Make your best possible deal look like larceny. Few customers will have the fortitude to overcome a truly loathsome close.

Loathsomeness in general is worth cultivating, if you want to succeed at failure. People buy for a vast array of reasons, but they never, ever buy from someone they don’t like. You can achieve the greatest possible success at the greatest possible failure simply by being the kind of person no one wants to do business with.

And success at failure isn’t just something you do on the job. No, if you master these techniques and apply them in every part of your life, you will successfully fail at everything.

Infinite poverty can be yours.

Boundless misery can be yours.

You can damage every relationship of your life — utterly, irreparably, permanently.

You can do nothing, have nothing, be nothing, just by following these two simple principles of how to succeed at failure:

First, always do what should not be done.

Second, never do the things that should.

If you like, you can seek more information about how to succeed at failure. It’s perfectly safe: No salesman will call…

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If you are a working Realtor — if you list and sell residential real estate for a living — the time you spend on social media sites is almost certainly anti-marketing, doing you more financial harm than good.

Chris Johnson pulled this out of our phone conversation the other night, quoting me on Twitter:

People don’t want a relationship with you. They just want your damn services.

We were talking about real estate weblogging, but the principle applies even more firmly to the world of social media — Twitter, Facebook, etc.

The notion that strangers are seeking out Realtors in order to befriend them is absurd. For a Realtor to get invited on a getaway weekend with three people who are not old school chums would require that all the undertakers and life insurance salespeople they know are already engaged. We all know what to expect from Realtors in any sort of social setting — which is why there is an entire mini-industry of RE(education)Camps to train Realtors to resist their smarmy, deal-probing impulses on-line.

That’s point number one, neatly Tweeted by Chris — who is, don’t forget, a vendor: You are the means to your clients’ ends, not an end in yourself. Even though you might sometimes hit it off just right with a client and forge a serious friendship, in virtually all cases — including those where you make a friend — it’s the mission-critical job that matters, not your sweet personality.

And that friendship? It will seem serious to you alone. If you are any good as a Realtor, your deep, deep friendship will be invisible to everyone else. You should be much too busy to be anyone’s friend. If you make a stout effort, you can hold up your end with your spouse and kids, but, beyond that, you should expect to hear this from the people you think of as being your friends: “The only time we ever get to see you is when we’re buying or selling a house!” That is real estate in real life.

Here’s point number two: “Marketing” by social media is a huge waste of time. Selling is one-on-one, focused, time-consuming and goal-directed. Marketing, done properly, is broadcast, diffuse, time-efficient and passive and long-term in its goal-pursuit. Even if you are really doing your best to market your services on-line, if you are doing it by engaging people one-on-one in fleeting media like Twitter or Facebook, you are almost certainly wasting your time.

In other words, if you spent that same time preparing a broadcast direct marketing piece or writing an enduring, canonical weblog post, your efforts would almost certainly produce better cash returns in the long run. Selling is harvesting the crop that you brought to fruition by marketing. If you spend all your time trying to do the sales job — one-on-one direct contact — you will never have a crop to harvest.

But, of course, this is not what you’re doing on Twitter and Facebook, anyway. What you are doing with the irreplaceable hours of your day is schmoozing with other Realtors and with vendors. Yes, I’m sure you’re also sharing cute jokes with potential clients, but we all know what you’re really doing on-line: Wasting time, in order to argue to yourself that you are working when you know you are not.

Want to prove my point? Get all huffy about it. Serious Realtors don’t have time to grumble to the world about how unfair it is to be called on their vices.

But this brings us to my third point: Even if you are actually engaging your clients productively on-line, and even if you can point to some actual paychecks that resulted from your having wasted your precious time on TwitBook, nevertheless, your Tweeting and Facebooking is almost certainly anti-marketing.

Why? Because you are an employee of your clients, that’s why. Even if your client is a high-I who likes the way you kiss his ass in public, he does not want to see you wasting time kissing anyone else’s ass.

Even if your client is a high-S who thinks it’s sweet that you have been so warm-and-fuzzy, so touchy-feely — even that client will start to wonder about your priorities when she sees you reTweeting your twentieth bad joke of the day.

What about the high-Cs? They are unlikely to admire your continuous exhibitionism.

The high-Ds? You’re screwed.

We are lucky as Realtors that our clients — our employers — supervise us so lightly. But if one of your clients is subscribed to your Tweetstream, expect to discover, sooner or later, that he is selling his home with a Realtor who works all day in the real estate business, not in the small-talk trade.

This is me from the Todd Carpenter is the NAR Social Media Piñata thread on ActiveRain:

I say that trying to sell real estate via Twitter/Facebook is a waste of time — and it is anti-marketing even if it seems to produce some results. Why? Because the bulk of your chatter is going to look like… chatter. Your clients might like it when you schmooze with them, but your public schmoozing with every other time-wasting Realtor and vendor in the is going to look to your clients like just what it is: Time-wasting laziness. God help you if they see you talking behind other people’s backs — as is going on in the Tweetstream that led to this post. If you plan to dispute any part of this argument, I will want to see real numbers. If you won’t produce the numbers, I’m going to assume you are rationalizing failure — a skill at which Realtors excel.

Just to ward off specious objections, vendors like Chris Johnson, lenders like Brian Brady and Realtors like Jeff Brown all have good reasons for marketing on Twitter or Facebook: Their objective is to sell to you — and they know where you can be found. Your potential clients aren’t looking for you on social media sites, and they’re not looking to make you their best-buddy in any case.

To the extent that anyone is paying attention to you as a Realtor, they are looking for reasons to reject you, not to embrace you. If you fool around all day on line, talking trash and ganging up and generally acting like a jackass teenager, people will see right through you. And that’s not the good kind of transparency. Many people like a hail-fellow-well-met when they’re out to have some fun. But when their financial lives are at stake…?

This is reality, deny it at your financial peril: If your front-line, every day job is listing and selling real estate, goofing around on sites like Twitter or Facebook is a huge waste of your time — and a wide-open invitation for everyone in your sphere of influence to turn to a serious Realtor when they have a serious real estate need to fulfill. On the other hand, if your objective is to convince everyone who sees you on-line that you’re a clown, you could not have picked a better marketing strategy.


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