Editor’s Note: The Playbook is a new RISMedia weekly segment centering on what brokers and agents are doing to ensure they not only survive but thrive in these challenging times. Industry professionals explain the strategies they’re employing and unique ideas they’ve formulated. Tune in every Thursday for another addition to the series.
There’s not much worse than being trapped in a snore-subject conversation. Like, say, plumbing, traffic or insurance. Lucky for you most people are delighted to talk about real estate, since they’re either homeowners, renters, or better yet, looking to buy or sell a property. So you’ve chosen a profession that plays well with most anyone you come into contact with.
That said, ensuring you can walk the walk when you talk the talk is vital for converting strangers or casual acquaintances into clients. That means the ability to get across almost instantly that you are an expert in the field, and not just in the area you usually guide clients.
“My team makes fun of me, but before going to a party or anyone’s home I’m running comps like it’s an appointment, because real estate always comes up in conversation and you want to know that market,” says Anthony Friedman, team leader at Long and Foster’s Northrop Realty, serving Maryland and Washington, D.C.
“And it’s also a good way to learn that market, to know it better than anybody else. Every street, nook and cranny. To know about that community and all the sales. You’re the professional, so if you take care of your clients and give great customer service others will follow. There’s no need to chase the shiny object and pay for different lead sources. They’re right in front of you.”
Pam Rosser Thistle, a REALTORⓡ with Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Fox & Roach in Philadelphia, takes a different approach when engaging with new people and real estate talk begins. It’s her tried-and-true belief that what goes around comes around.
“I have a vast network of specialists, know strong agents in different markets and readily refer to those agents for the best service,” she explains. “Most are in my phone contacts so I can share right away when I meet someone in a personal or professional setting. I will answer questions or provide resources. That is how I get a lot of business, by providing resources.
“I’ll talk to someone on the phone for an hour because I want to, or they need me. Not for the business, but it does come around sometimes because people remember. I’m sharing knowledge and cracking misconceptions to save them time.”
Handing out detailed business cards to everyone she meets works for Debbie Lang, a REALTORⓡ in the New Jersey office of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Fox & Roach.
“I give out cards for the two markets I service,” she notes. “I also have a combined fold-over card with information for both offices on it. My friends and past clients are always recommending me and mentioning me to others they know and even to strangers with a real estate need on social media sites like Nextdoor, Instagram and Facebook.”
Real estate agents are rarely off duty
For Friedman, his profession is both a labor of love and an obsession. He leads his team through example, and recognizes that being the expert on a topic in a conversation is both stimulating and rewarding, literally.
“This is our job, to know the real estate market,” he says. “What better way to learn than to run a market analysis for anywhere you go? Plus, wherever you go people love talking about real estate. It’s going to come up, so be prepared for it.”
Friedman tells a true tale of how being prepared paid off in an unlikely setting.
“I was at a buddy’s surprise 30th birthday party thrown by his parents at their home,” he explains. “They live in a very nice neighborhood on a golf course. We’re sitting around a bonfire, hanging out. My friends knew I was in real estate. I knew most every comp and sale price in that market but did a refresher anyway. They were like, what do I think this house is worth?
“I started pointing at others, saying that one sold five years ago for so much, and the one over there sold for X amount a year ago. So I think this one is somewhere in this range. The owner overheard and was impressed. He said, Anthony, when the time comes to sell my house, you’re my guy. Fast forward three years later and I got the listing, sold it, and even got some new buyer clients at the open house.”
Friedman has no qualms about having real estate be a talking point in social settings, is happy to lead the conversation and tries, gently, to make new contacts from it.
“You want everyone to know what you do,” he says.” I’m not obnoxious with it. If I can fit it into a conversation, I certainly will. But I do feel like real estate naturally comes up. People are always interested to hear what their home is worth, what the market looks like, the real estate market in general. It just seems to always come up.
“I don’t know if I’m subconsciously kind of making that conversation happen. I think it’s just people are generally interested in knowing about the market and how it relates to them, how it affects them. So when it comes up, I ask what do you wanna know? What interests you most? What are you most interested in learning?
“I would be embarrassed if I walked into a social setting and didn’t know about the house that just sold down the street. That’s my job. I’m the real estate expert. I want everybody to think of me as the real estate guy. I want your mom, your sister, your neighbor… I want you all to think of me as the real estate guy.”
Friedman meets a lot of people, but doesn’t hand out a card to everyone. His strategy is to get their information, and keep in contact that way.
“I have a little bit of a different approach,” he admits. “I think the chances of you handing out a card and having them actually call you are slim. Early on I learned to naturally, casually just say hey, what’s the best number to reach you at? How can I follow up with you? I put them in my phone and then follow up with them.”
Guidelines for long-term sales success
Friedman provides the same advice here that he does to his team at Northrop Realty.
“Don’t be a secret agent; let everybody know what you’re doing,” he stresses. “Your database is the foundation of your business. Everything starts with that. So build that up first and add everybody, from who cuts your hair, your friends, your relatives. Who you go to church with. Who your kids play sports with. Everybody.
“Consistently stay in touch with everyone, whether it’s a newsletter, postcards, whatever. Let everybody know what you’re doing and ask for their business. Ask for the opportunity. If you’re new to the business, be a sponge. Be in the office and listen to everything everybody else is saying on the phone, how they talk to clients, how they talk to leads, how they talk to other agents, the title companies, the mortgage guys. Soak all that up as much as you can and you’ll learn.”
- Researching sales and houses on the market in outlying areas can lead to listings and clients if you converse with people living there.
- Referring information or potential clients to agent contacts closer to them often gets you the same courtesy when they know of people in your area looking for help.
- Handing out business cards is fine, but also try to obtain email/phone contact information for those people so you can follow up with them.
- Tell everyone you know or come into contact with that you’re a REALTORⓡ, build your database and stay in touch with them.
If you’re starting from ground zero, how do you know/learn how to get into social media ?