Marketing Nuance – A Subtle Point

You listed with a real estate broker to sell your house, right?

Actually, that’s probably not the correct syntax. What you really did was to list with a broker to get your house sold.

It’s a subtle difference in wording, but one that points out the disconnect between thought and reality for many real estate consumers. The first phrase imbues the broker with near magical powers: he is going to take the house, wave his magical real estate wand, and cause someone to buy it. That’s really not what happens, although many brokers would like you to believe the myth that it does. Phrase two is closer to the mark: you’re going to use a broker to gain access to the natural matching of buyers and sellers that’s already going on. The broker is not magical. He is just a skilled gatekeeper.

Of course, I was selling real estate when dinosaurs roamed the earth and I’m sure things have changed (yeah, right), but . . .

Sellers used to be very concerned about what I was going to DO to sell their house. They wanted to see examples of the advertising I would run on their property, thinking that it was advertising that would cause the house to sell. They wanted to know how many open houses I was going to hold, thinking that the activity of allowing people easy access would cause the house to sell. They seemed to think that selling a house was an active process, that somehow advertising and activities would cause otherwise disinterested potential buyers to suddenly want the home.

I toyed with the idea of telling the truth – that that’s not what happens at all – but opted instead to do what I was taught in one seminar or another: play to the sellers’ misconceptions and overwhelm them with all of the advertising and activities I was going to DO.

By the way: this ‘grin at ’em and tell ’em what they wanna hear’ attitude is how salespeople die. Truth is always best.

The TRUTH was probably best expressed by my old broker back in Stone Mountain, Georgia, Richard Williams. Richard was and still is a real estate visionary and one of the smartest brokers I ever met. I was railing on one day about how he needed to do more advertising in this publication or that one when he calmly said, ‘Jim, a certain number of buyers are going to buy houses in the neighborhood today whether you are there or not. Your job is to get in front of as many of them as possible.’

That statement encapsulates the marketing function of a real estate broker as accurately as it can be. People can’t be made to want to buy real estate. They either do, or they don’t. A little education can help them make an informed decision, but it is a decision beyond anyone else’s control. Their decision to buy one house over any other is not a decision at all, it’s a choice, an illogical, personal, quirky choice. No amount of full page advertising is going to cause them to choose one house over another.

The broker’s job is to orchestrate a marketing program that puts his or her office in front of as many of these potential buyers as possible. Once that is achieved, ‘selling’ real estate becomes a matching process: buyers’ hopes and needs to inventory.

So how does a smart broker market to get in front of as many potential buyers as possible?

Job one is to be SEEN, to be VISIBLE. The consumer needs to see your sign, your logo, your name everywhere to have a comfort level that you may be able to help. The most effective way to accomplish this is with For Sale signs . . . SO: the best thing your real estate broker can do to sell your house is to go out and get another listing and another listing and another listing. The company with the largest number of signs in the neighborhood* is probably going to get the largest number of calls . . . of course, what they do with the calls is another issue, one we’ll talk about in a moment.

Job two is to GENERATE LEADS: to put marketing pieces into the hands of consumers that will motivate them to make contact with the office. When a broker decides to create a marketing piece, he or she should do it dispassionately . The decision to advertise one house or another should be made based on which one will cause the largest number of potential buyers to contact the office, not on which seller is ‘owed’ advertising this week. This is an important point. Truth is: almost always, the property that motivated the potential buyer to contact the office is NOT the property they eventually buy. There are dozens of kick-out factors they may encounter as they do their investigation. But that doesn’t matter. What’s important is that they contacted the office.

So, when a broker decides to advertise a property, it’s not to get that particular property sold, it’s to generate buyer contact. It is this general lead generating activity that will cause your house to sell and it may not even involve advertising your house at all.

Now, in today’s ordinary agent centered real estate world, this ‘orchestration’ of marketing rarely occurs. Agents, stumbling all over one another to beg for listings, promise the one tangible thing they can think of: advertising. And sometimes they actually do it: willy-nilly, this property, that property, whichever seller is most cranky this week. The broker is not taking control of this process, is not doing the higher level job of deciding what to advertise and what not to advertise, because he can’t afford to. He’s already paying his willy-nilly agents SOOO Much that he has no money for carefully planned marketing. In a universe where agents who do 6 deals a year command a 75% or even 80% split of the commission, marketing becomes the responsibility of the agent, not the broker, and there is no coordination, no strategic planning of marketing, no sense to it at all.

Ok: we’ve got Job One and Job Two. Here’s the third thing the real estate broker needs to do: CAPTURE LEADS. When marketing causes a potential buyer to contact the office, what will then cause them to agree – however subtly – to letting the office match them with a perfect property? It is a process that often occurs on the telephone, and smart brokers work on it constantly.

It’s important to understand what courage it takes for a potential buyer to pick up the phone or fill out an online inquiry form. They know they are likely going to hear from a salesperson . . . and that’s not what they want at all. What they want is the information. Period. So there is a very natural defensiveness on the other end of the line when the agent answers the phone.

How the agent handles the call, how he or she relaxes the caller, provides valuable information, builds a comfortable rapport with the caller is EVERYTHING. All of time money and effort the broker has used to generate the lead can be lost right here if the agent is not prepared to earn the caller’s trust and then to begin the matching process. Now, think back to the last time you called a real estate office for information on a property. Uh-huh. I know. It was a painful experience. If the agent made any attempt to earn your business at all, it was probably lame, stupid and full of sales scripts. And that’s IF they tried to get your business at all (most won’t).

As a business consultant to real estate companies, I can almost always increase the company’s bottom line by several percentage points (and that’s a lot) by simply working with whomever is answering the phone and responding to buyer inquiries. I’m not kidding. That phone call, that inquiry, is the ARENA. That’s where the process of ‘selling real estate’ begins. It is so important, I think it makes perfect sense for a home seller to call the office of the agent they are considering and see how they are handled. If the person on the other end of the line can’t comfortably communicate competence, if they can’t skillfully earn the right to help you find your next home, how are they going to capture the real caller who might be perfect for your house?

Bottom line: advertising wont sell your house. An agent or broker won’t sell your house. What will sell your house is an office with an active lead generation and capture process. And where will you find such an office? I’d suggest you look at Help-U-Sell. Our offices continue to keep the broker in charge of marketing, lead generation and capture. We are completely focused on the process and we do it better than anyone in the industry. AND: with low set fee pricing, we save sellers a lot of money, too.

*I talked about visibility in terms of signage only. It’s simpler that way. But understand that visibility extends far beyond your front yard. Today it’s getting the inventory all over the Internet. It’s putting the best houses in the inventory everywhere a potential buyer is apt to be looking. Marketing is like building a spider web: the more strands in the web, the more places the company’s identifiers and best listings can be seen, the more potential buyers can be caught.

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