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Archive for October, 2010

The defenestration of Don Draper: My take is that Mad Men will end Sunday with a bouncing exit from the biggest baby on Sixth Avenue.

I don’t have time for this, but I wanted to get my bet down on paper so I can bask in the glory — or ignominy — come Sunday night.

1. Don Draper is a coward. Whenever things don’t go his way, he tries to run away.

2. This season, he has played tentatively with the idea of making a real, adult commitment to his made-up life, but, even then, he has successfully run away, again and again, from his own redemption.

3. This most recent episode, “Blowing Smoke,” shows Don actually making a commitment — to the ad agency, to his relationship with Faye and to Peter Campbell.

4. All of this will fail.

5. When it does, Don will make the flying exit foretold episode after episode in the opening credits.

6. This will be the end of the series.

Tune in to AMC Sunday night to see if I’m right.

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Social Media has come home to Roost

I just posted a quick note about this blog post that was posted by Roost on Real Estate Industry Watch, but wanted to throw in a quick observation or two as well.

First the facts, then my opinion. Roost has decided apparently to shift 100% of their effort away from generating “blind internet leads” (their words, not mine) and towards their social media efforts. Ok. That was the facts part.

Here comes my opinion. 😉

I am sure that there will be a fair amount of folks saying “You should defend what you do! (search engine marketing)”. Actually I think they made a very calcualted and shrewd business decision. There are too many agents in this business. There are too many brokers. And there are too many online lead generators. 😉 (in my opinion). They decided to try and pick a fight they could win. (Probably a good call.)

As for the search marketing vs social media arguments…they are two DIFFERENT games. They have two different sets of rule. In any given city you can win at either, neither or both. If your game is to see how much you can sell to how many agents, social media is a more attractive play. It is warm and fuzzy and has the bright and shiny objects that so many agents are mesmerized by…

If you are in the search marketing business, it is a play for less agents, because you really are better of being the lead generator for only one or a couple or two in a given town. You just need a person you trust and who is gifted as a closer to close the leads.

Oh crud…I would LOVE to stay and explain more about the differences between the two, but I am actually really busy getting business CLOSED off of the internet… 😉

I wish the folks at Roost the best in this change of direction.

PS – Jeff Brown is right…his last couple of posts are really well written…ah heck, his stuff is almost always great. (grin)

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Talent and Hard Work — Overrated? Do Results Factor In?

Most marketing and branding efforts fail miserably. We all know a ton of so-called talented folks who’ve failed — and they worked their asses off. How’s that possible? I used to ask myself that question all the time. Then one day Dad pointed out a guy in the office who looked completely average. One might even say he blended into his surroundings. He made beige exciting.

He’d been a teacher for 20+ years, was in his 40’s, and had been licensed about three years. He was the fourth highest producer in terms of commission dollars in the highest volume real estate brokerage in San Diego. I was 16 at the time. Dad said to watch him and learn whenever I was cleaning the office. (I was company janitor.)

Watchin’ this guy was beyond boring. All he did was make practice calls to FSBOs. Then he practiced cold calling. Then he practiced listing presentations. Then he practiced showing property — all in the office. It was irritating. His name was Bob, and since I was still in school at the time, I could only imagine how terminally bored his students must’ve been.

In his third year, 1967, he made over $35,000. To put that in perspective, the median income for the nation then was about $7,500 or so. In today’s figures, and adjusting for currently available splits, his earnings would be roughly $700,000. More about Bob later.

Many times after monthly TechTard meetings adjourn, I walk across the hall to attend similar get-togethers with those equally handicapped in the disciplines of marketing and branding. No real point here, except to establish street cred when it comes to my lack of expertise when it comes to these subjects.

For the purpose of this post we’ll leave out selling, which is a stand-alone skill, generally not reliant on marketing or branding. Yeah, I realize bad marketing or branding can significantly hinder selling.

I hereby publicly plead guilty to multiple counts of Marketing By the Seat of My Pants, and Branding By Default.

If you know how to sell, great. If you suspect you could improve, do so. Under-skilled sales forces are where great marketing/branding efforts go to die — or so I’m told by experts in those two fields.

We all know those who swear by their marketing programs. I’m willing to be dead wrong, but IDX ain’t marketing. It’s cowboy real estate — herding home buyers into your personal corral — effective for some, though not for most. Don’t get me wrong, I love an effective IDX.

A cold caller buddy of mine has the best ‘pre-listing’ packages I’ve seen. By best I mean it’s so effective his listing appointments rarely proceed more than 5-10 minutes before the property owner clearly indicates their intention to sign a contract. I’m unaware of his actual batting average, but given his production, something for which I have first hand knowledge, I’m pretty sure it’s way north of .150. What magic is he including in that package to generate such stellar responses?

90% of the package is a list of scores upon scores of properties he’s listed and successfully sold — along with the names and numbers of the sellers.

Geez, I dunno, bet if you were a seller that might impress you a tad. Ya think? Not real sophisticated, is it? I’ve come to call it ResultsMarketing.

It’s the opposite of “I’ll do this, and I’ll do that, cuz I’m MarketingGodzilla — King of the real estate jungle.” Instead, show empirical evidence of actually, you know, consistently delivering superior results.

It’s long been my belief that most marketing consists of makin’ up for the agent’s or brokerage’s lack of proof demonstrating — that word again — results.

Dad’s only foray into what we might loosely refer to as marketing, was a giant billboard which said: F. Doyle Brown — San Diego’s Mr. Real Estate! It went up on a Wednesday, and by the weekend my friends at school had made my life a living hell. 🙂 That sign was up for a month or two, I don’t remember exactly how long. He never did anything like that again. It didn’t change a thing.

Why?

This is only my opinion, but his ‘marketing’ was made up of 100’s of ‘sold’ signs on front lawns — without there ever having been a ‘for sale’ sign up first. Frankly, even that part is probably given too much credit. The fact is, his company was known as the one that sold real estate — quickly — and well.

If you listed with him, you got…wait for it…here it comes…RESULTS. Wonder if that was his ‘brand’?

Openly producing tangible results, over and over again, will brand you almost against your will. Feel free to write that gem down. 🙂

Everyone talks about results, but nobody does anything about it.

Marketing ain’t gonna help ’em — .150 hitter syndrome. Branding? They’ve already branded themselves. Since they haven’t learned to sell, and/or haven’t produced enough of a resume of results to show new prospects, they must resort to what currently passes for marketing. In the end, most conversations are gonna get around to the questions these agents dread — almost all of which are seeking evidence of previous and ongoing results.

The solution to your marketing and branding dilemma.

Surely Grandma told you this when you were a kid. If something’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well. You may suck right now, but today you can make yourself .2% better than yesterday. Most us go through our professional life without consciously striving to improve on a daily basis. I remember back in the mid-late 70’s I was asked to assess my agent skills and ability to produce results, then compare that assessment to 2-3 years earlier.

I was completely embarrassed even though I was the only one who knew there’d been no real improvement anywhere. I’ll never get those years back.

Whether we do it or not, the consequences are nearly always staggering in their impact. Becoming excellent at anything relies, for the most part, on practice — repetition. Here are the kickers though — they may surprise you as they certainly did me.

Talent, especially in real estate brokerage, is criminally overrated.

Hard work? Almost always misdirected — and therefore massively overrated. It is best spent becoming excellent. Those working hard at anything other than constant practice, that is, becoming excellent in all their job requires, are waxing rusted out cars, then wondering why they can’t make them shine. Hard work, in and of itself doesn’t lead to success, absent the long and painfully honed skills necessary to produce real and consistent results. The .150 hitter will tell you, honestly, that’s he’s worked as hard at batting practice as the .330 hitter. The problem though, is that as most of us have heard so many times — practice doesn’t make perfect, perfect practice makes perfect.

Take those words literally and change your life.

The .150 hitter reaped the ‘rewards’ of having his endless hours of practice groove multiple bad habits. All his hard work provided him with was the same bad swing, perfectly honed.

The day I stopped looking outside myself for reasons leading to my poor performance, was the day I took the first step down the path of excellence. I’m an average palooka who was given the key to the vault.

Consciously become better at tasks that produce superior results, and do it every day. Be your own worst critic, acknowledging errors and correcting them. Be brutally honest. Look only to yourself as the reason you succeed or fail. All this will require you to constantly push a bit past an ever expanding comfort zone.

Nobody is a born real estate agent.

Great real estate agents are made. Mentors can only point in the right direction. You are the only one who can choose to take 200 swings a day in the batting cage — just as you’re alone stepping into the batter’s box when game time arrives.

Practice the right way to do things long and hard. Pretty soon the reward of superior results will take care of itself. Remember Bob? All he did for his first two years was practice, make mistakes, correct them, practice more, rinse and repeat. His third year he exploded. I remember him tellin’ Dad how easy it was for him to produce so much, when it’d been so damn hard for him to learn how it was done.

I’d modify that statement as a result of my own experience. Most of us know how things are done, we just didn’t/don’t have the wicked good skills to do it in an excellent manner.

Talent is overrated until it’s perfected. Working hard doing things poorly will only get you tired — not well paid.

The public always pays exceeding well for stellar results. Stellar results are only consistently produced with stellar, wicked good skills.

And the congregation said, Duh!

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I had a hugely productive day yesterday, despite everything, so I got to give all that time back today.

We’re back, after some travails.

Yesterday, I showed with two different clients, wrote five contracts, opened one escrow and moved 39 domains. I finished the day in South Phoenix, just as the mother of all storms was rolling across the Valley of the (cloud enshrouded) Sun. Y’all think you have weather where you are, but you ain’t seen a storm until you’ve lived through one of ours.

Witness:

That’s hail, forty-five minutes after it pummeled everything, followed by heavy rainfall, followed by still fairly warm temperatures. In other words, that’s some hardy hail. There are more photos here.

I left my clients soon after that photo was taken. The streets were paved with rushing rivers, and the trip home, which should have taken 20 minutes, lasted a full two hours.

Even so, the server swap was grinding on without me. We had a little trouble getting the (very big) BHB database back on line, but all else was pretty smooth. Scenius.net is down, and I have to make a host of minor fixes to some of my PHP files, but everything else seems to be normal.

Was all this worth it? We’re faster than a raped ape, and i haven’t done anything to supercharge our performance yet. It sucks when things don’t work just as you planned, but this — at last — was the right move.

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Once more unto the breach…

We’re moving again starting now. If this post is at the top of the blog, you’re probably still on the old (new) server. I’ll post something new when I can on the new (new) server. My apologies for all this mishegoss. On the plus side, I’m learning a ton about web servers…

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Wanna Be a Big Hitter? Spend Some Time on Your Legacy…

A little song, a little dance, a little seltzer down your pants. A final end, a funeral’s toll, a little wisdom for your soul.”

Legacy is a bitch for most of us. What will you be remembered for? Do you know? Are you sure? Me? Heck, right now I’d be happy to simply know it’s not the little ditty you just read in ode to life and death! I attended a memorial this weekend for a truly remarkable man. In my lifetime I’ve had over 50 teachers, from Catholic grade school nuns to Princeton University professors. Of those, three stand out for their impact on me: there was Miss Carlson in 5th grade, who first taught me that life was fun even in a Catholic school; and my anthropology professor at Princeton who asked me a question so powerful, I finally left the church for good. But in between those two wonderful theological bookends, was Mr. Jerome “Jerry” Lipetzky, for whom the memorial was held. He taught me that there’s no end to learning and nothing quite so liberating as the exploration of a new interest. He was also one of the smartest and sarcastically humorous men I’ve ever met. (In his classroom there was not one square inch of wall space that was not covered with something funny, educational or challenging and usually all three at once.) My favorite memory to this day: a bumper sticker casually stuck to a small, flat boulder near the back of his room that read:

The World is Flat
Class of ’91

Think about that for a minute… humor, history, a little sarcastic jab at what we think we know, and how often we are wrong; that’s an amazing sticker and trust me when I tell you he was an amazing man.

So What…

“Yes, yes, so what’s the point of this post Sean?” Coming to it. At the memorial, one of the speakers stood before us and read aloud a list of seven rules, for lack of a better word, that Mr. Lipetzky tried to live his life by; each rule came with a short explanation. As I heard them I was reminded again why Mr. Lipetzky had the impact he did; why hundreds turned out at a memorial for a high school teacher; why he was so beloved. I began to write each one down on my hand and when the speaker was done I understood Mr. Lipetzky’s legacy. Now I want to pass it on to you…

The 7 Lipetzky-isms

  1. The world is fascinating. Travel! Make time to see other parts of the world. It doesn’t have to be expensive, but you do have to make the time. Do so.
  2. Nature is beautiful. Get outdoors: hike, bike, camp, crawl, whatever it takes to get out into nature and see the beauty that quietly surrounds us.
  3. Animals deserve respect. We are but one of many species sharing this planet. (This in no way conflicted with his love of hunting and fishing!)
  4. Get off your butt. Turn off the TV and the internet. Go outside & breathe fresh air. Interact…
  5. Make things with your own hands. Whether a cabinet or a computer code, you’ll be surprised how competent you are and how beautiful is your creation.
  6. Question authority. It’s fun… it’s needed… did I mention it’s fun? Who says authority knows anything anyhow?
  7. Make and keep friends. No explanation needed…

If you are wondering what this post is doing on the premier real estate site in the nation… if you’re wondering what a little “memorial-inspired” wisdom has to do with becoming a better real estate agent… if you don’t understand that to become better at almost anything we do, we must first become – just better… then I suggest you get out of the profession as soon as possible. This is the people business and the good ones know that to their very core.

One last thought. The final speaker, a young woman who became a friend of Mr. Lipetzky’s through their shared love of painting, quoted this one line from him: “Life begs to be lived!” Live begs to be lived… now there’s a legacy for you.

1 comment

So… We’re moving again, alas…

I’m really unhappy with everything, so I’m taking a different tack. The move will be easier this time, at least.

More news in the next couple of days.

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Well… This is not working…

We’re being overwhelmed by spiders, which is not a loathsome fate, but it’s using up a lot of power. The bad news is I think I’m going to have to move this domain yet again. The good news is, this is now my only problem, with everything else humming along sweetly on other servers.

News when I have it…

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Giving a .150 Hitter More At-Bats Only Leads To More Runners Left On Base

The title is an analogy — for the .150 hitter, substitute a real estate agent who couldn’t sell a house for a nickel to a homeless person — and for ‘runners left on base’ a sales board filled with prospects but no sales. Though unmentioned, it’s the manager penciling the .150 hitter into the lineup on a daily basis, who gives him 4-5 at-bats game after game. Continuing the analogy, the ‘manager’ in real estate in this case is technology, which often gives .150 hitters far more opportunities to strike out with the bases loaded.

What managers learn early on, that is if they wish to remain managers, is that continually sending .150 hitters up to the plate with runners in scoring position leads to losin’ a bunch more than winnin’ — the last loss being their job.

Just as .150 hitters often think more at-bats will improve their average, real estate agents often believe that if they only had the technology to give them more at-bats, they’d be drivin’ a Ferrari in no time.

This is what passes for wisdom in the world of real estate brokerage.

The reality is that the lousy hitter needs to learn how to hit, and the starving real estate agent needs to learn how to sell. Why is that concept so elusive?

BawldGuy Axiom: The next time you master a skill by continually doing it wrong, but more often, will be the first. Duh

A Simple Example

As a hitting coach in youth baseball for several years, I learned to spot the flaws in hitters’ swings. We had a strong kid join our team in the middle of the season once, who wanted with all his heart to be a great hitter, but had never been taught. He struck out over half the time, and weakly popped up or grounded out otherwise. His mom told me he’d never been actually coached, one on one. After practice that day, Mom looking on, I had a couple of our pitchers throw him fast balls right down Main St. After about 20 swings, he was frustrated. Turns out more swings wasn’t the answer. Go figure. But I could see the problem(s).

Sonny was a smart boy. He quickly grasped the concept of hitting as a simple chronology of hips, hands, bat — not just the oft quoted, ‘see the ball, hit the ball’ nonsense you hear all the time in Little League. Ask any kid, they’ll tell ya it’s all about the bat hittin’ the ball. What they don’t understand is the mechanics that make that an almost inevitable consequence vs an accident happening every now and again. 🙂

There’s nothing like watchin’ the look on a kid’s face the first time he crushes a ball — on purpose. The satisfaction is immeasurable.

Long story short, Sonny worked his butt off two weeks straight. In that time he got exactly one hit in four games — a weak, seein’ eye grounder. But in the process he looked more and more like a real hitter. One step at a time, right? Then one day in practice, after countless swings off a tee, plus an equal time spent hitting underhand tosses into a fence, he hit a ball so far over the fence even he couldn’t believe it. Hell, I was impressed.

Hips — hands — bat.

The next game he hit his first line drive, and his first homer. He not only earned a starting job, but was voted onto the all-star team that year. In the city-wide playoffs between leagues, held before all-stars, he hit another couple homers, one of which I’m sure NASA’s still tryin’ to track. 🙂

He developed into a huge RBI guy for one simple reason: He learned HOW to hit. He learned that merely walkin’ up to the plate with a bat in his hand didn’t make him a hitter. Just like having a real estate license doesn’t make you and I a salesman/woman.

If you’re getting more at-bats from all the hi-tech leads, yet still a stranger at your bank, I have a suggestion that may help — but only if you’re sick and tired of strikin’ out most of the time.

Learn how to sell. Think about Sonny. We gave him more opportunities — but only after we taught him the skill of, you know, hitting. When it came time for his turn at bat? He was alone in the box — just like you are with prospects. Succeed or fail — there’s no middle ground. You don’t fake a line drive in the gap, and you don’t pretend to go to escrow. You do it– or you don’t.

How to sell? I prefer not to write on that topic. I will tell ya one thing about it though — in my opinion. It’s not about ‘closing’ or ‘overcoming objections’ or anything else that’s been taught the last 100 years or so. Far from it. In my opinion, almost all of what’s being taught these days about selling, is an all-out assault on intelligence.

If a buyer asks you if the window coverings go with the house, and you answer with: “Would you like me to put that into the offer?”

You’re a .150 hitter. “And that’s another three runners left stranded.”

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It’s October the second. Do you know where your goals are?

That, literally, is a snapshot of my goal-pursuits for September 2010.

W is for walking every day for 30 minutes, a little over a mile, with Cathleen, Shyly, Odysseus and Ophelia. I sneered at walking before we started doing it, thinking it nothing compared to a hard half-hour on my mountain bike. But wrestling with 150 pounds of Shyly and Odysseus makes a work-out out of a walk. Ophelia is only 60 pounds, but she’s so puppyish and impulsive that she gives Cathleen and even better work-out.

The X is for weight-lifting, also 30 minutes a day. I’m doing this at around 6:20 in the morning — up at 6, then just enough time to deal with the overnight email as I hydrate and put two Tylenol into my bloodstream. Free weights work best when you are pushing yourself to the outer limits of your endurance. I do 30 repetitions each of ten exercises, all upper-body for now. The last four or five reps of each exercise are right on the verge of being agony. I literally feel as if my bones are not just going to break but to snap with a resounding crack. But like hitting your head against the wall, it feels so good when you stop.

S is for software, and you would not believe how easy it has been, this past month, for me to put in at least 30 minutes a day on our web sites. I started the month with a great idea that gradually destroyed the SplendorQuest server. While that train wreck was progressing, I built another set of cool tools that is generating huge quantities of new content — and a huge number of click throughs. But by the time that got cooking, I had created a monster on our dedicated file server, so I got to finish the month moving us into four new homes. The last three domains of that effort will be done today and tomorrow. Meanwhile, I know how to rebuild the first monster project on its own new home in such a way that it will be sleek and fast and — one may hope — trouble-free. And I undertook quite a few smaller chores, too, and discovered a great many more still to be done.

F is for fast food — following Scott Cowan’s lead, not eating any food from a drive-through window. This was insanely easy, no challenge at all. I ate a little better than I normally do, but no going through the drive-through only made a difference to me in the sense that it was kind of inconvenient. I eat on the road, and there’s no escaping that, I don’t think. Yesterday morning, to celebrate the advent of October, I drove through McDonald’s for two Egg McMuffins and a large orange juice. O, the decadence!

A is for appointments, and that was where I let September down. Almost all of my own money work is with buyers, so if I don’t show, I don’t sell. I’m thinking that I’m going to have to count engenu-style previewing as an appointment, though. I put two houses into escrow this week, even though I haven’t seen one of the buyers for more than a week, while the other is a Canadian I may never meet. The other notion is simply to count Opened and Closed escrows — and to aim for at least one each every business day.

Here’s an interesting fact: I started the month weighing in at 238 pounds, and I finished weighing 239. What happened, though, is that I moved a lot of weight around — fifteen tons or more a day on the weight bench and at least two inches off my waist. I’m still wider around my gut than I am around my chest, but that’s a fast-changing stat. If I keep throwing my weights around, I will add more and more lean muscle mass, which in turn will increase my base metabolism — the amount of calories I burn every day. I really like lifting weights, despite the pain, and I like the way I feel when I start the day exercising hard. My expectation is that I will experience still more waist-reduction in October.

Which brings me to this, the next calendar. This is what I think I want for this month:

W for walking. It’s good for all of us.

X for exercise. I want to add some lower-body stuff, squats and lunges.

S for software. I may push this to an hour a day. What I think I want, on top of regular maintenance and new software, is to devote some attention each day to one of our sites, considered by itself, thus to fine tune each site as often as twice a month.

I want to continue to track appointments with an A, counting any selling activity, belly-to-belly or not, as an appointment. To that I want to add a C for new contracts, an O for opened escrows and a $ for closed escrows.

Finally, I really want to make more time for the guitar, so I’m going to put an acoustic by my desk and see how many G’s I can record for October.

Yesterday was the first day of the month and also the first day of the fourth quarter. I wanted to talk about this a couple of days ago, but I’ve been wall-to-wall. But there’s a lot of red on that calendar, and not a heartbreaking amount of black. This is a doable praxis, and I now have proof of that fact.

So here’s my question for you: What are your goals for October, and what is your plan for achieving them?

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And we’re back…

If you’re seeing this, we’re back live, running on the new server.

I’m interested in hearing about any hitches or glitches.

Thanks for your indulgence. This was an ugly mess, but, by now, it should be over.

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