Prospect Follow-Up is Not a Sprint – It’s a Marathon

Today’s commercial real estate landscape looks far different than it did a decade ago – even just a few years ago, in fact. While personal connections and relationship management are still solid and traditional ways of communicating with your prospects, the Internet has changed the way we do business.

We’re connected in ways that we never thought imaginable. As such, consumers have become accustomed to near instant responses, unparalleled information and transparency, and expect sales professionals to go above and beyond in all new ways. These aren’t options in today’s market; they’re requirements. If so, how do you stand out from the crowd?

It’s in the follow-up. In many industries, it’s estimated that it takes between 7 and 13 sales touches to convert a prospect into a client. Whether you’re calling, sending drip emails, touching via social media, or work tirelessly for the in-person meeting, follow-up is a marathon – not a sprint. It requires a plan – and your dedication – to see it through to fruition.

How to Make Your Follow-Up Go the Distance

When it comes to making your follow-up go the distance, a good CRM system can do wonders for your closing rate. Not only will it keep you organized, many great systems will alert you when it’s time to make a touch and will allow you to make notes on pertinent information and your most recent interactions – thus allowing you to tailor your contact to be more personable.

But what else can you do? Here are a few tips:

  1. Follow-up immediately after the first contact. Just last week a customer of mine called and said “Steve, you have to talk to Mr. XYZ, the CEO of ABC Co.  I just told him how great your product is and he’s expecting your call.”  I called him about 2 minutes after that conversation.  There have been a number of studies on lead follow up that indicate time is of the essence.  I know if I had called Mr. XYZ even a few hours later, he would not have remembered the conversation with my customer. Whether you’ve just met a prospect for coffee, spent some time on the phone or exchanged business cards on the subway, be sure to follow-up right away.  Even a quick “thank you” to show appreciation for the prospect’s time can go a long way.
  2. Create value for the prospect. During your follow-up, always try to create an immediate value for your prospects. Maybe this means you introduce them to a contractor who can make repairs to their property or to a mortgage lender you know does a great job. You’ll instantly bring something of value to the relationship, and your prospect will remember that.
  3. Use technology to your advantage. With so much technology available to you, why not use it to your advantage? Reach out to your prospects via social media. Connect with them where they’re interacting and you’ll find yourself in the middle of the conversation.  Social media is not a silver bullet…but not being on a social media is a good way to ensure you are not even a part of the conversation.  Technology for the sake of technology is just noise, but technology with a very defined objective and  purpose is a game changer.  
  4. Don’t underestimate the importance of lead intelligence. Lead intelligence, or gathering as much information on the prospect as possible, is hugely beneficial when making follow-up connections. When you know more about your lead, you can custom tailor your responses and interactions.
  5. Keep going … and going. Follow-up takes time, patience and a plan. Just because a prospect has seemingly fallen off, it doesn’t mean you stop interacting. Develop a plan for prospect follow-up – maybe using technologies that help with drip campaigns – to stay on top of your game.
  6. Know when to quit.  While this may seem entirely contradictory to item #5, there is a time to give up.  We have a sales person in the office here who is consistently number one in her weekly calls.  She makes more calls than anyone, but when we drilled down on her call to closing ratio it was clear the quality of her calls were not as good.  As we investigated further, it became obvious that she was spending too much time on follow up with unqualified leads and not enough time focused on new business.  There is a time to give up the ghost.

 

Happy prospecting!

Updated Broker Survey: Why Do People Sell?

You may recall last year we did a real estate broker survey and we asked thousands for brokers “Why did your last seller sell?”.  Many of us in the real estate community have speculated as to the reasons people sell, but we figured it would make sense to survey our customers to find out the answer.  The answer to this question will help us determine how to find likely sellers before they list their properties.

When I was in real estate brokerage, I quickly realized that the key to the business is getting listings.  Provided I had a decent property that was priced fairly, actually selling the listing was not nearly as challenging as getting the listing.  I became fascinated with how to obtain listings in a systematic way that scaled.  In order to figure out how to obtain listings, we need to understand why people sell.

Especially for ProspectNow users,  this is valuable since it can help us filter for likely sellers.  Below you will find the updated survey that we conducted July 30th, 2015.  Since our email newsletter database has grown, this year’s survey included even more participants than last year.

Last year, the number one answer was “Retiring and wanted to downsize” where as this year the number one answer was “Tired of Managing the Property”.  I think these answers are related and would tell me that finding older properties with deferred maintenance would be a good approach for target marketing.  For example, in ProspectNow you can filter by year built.  You can also filter by ownership date.

Take a look at the specific answers below and happy prospecting!

Why to people sell their real estate?
Broker Survey

 

Investment Broker Survey: Why Do Sellers Sell?

This is a follow up to my previous post “Why do Sellers Sell?”.  The previous survey asked this question to predominately residential real estate agents…so I though it would be interesting to see what our commercial/investment customers had to say.  We sent this survey out to investment and commercial brokers and asked them why their last seller sold.  We added a few answers that are common investment properties, such as “management headaches” etc.  We also asked the type of property along with the ownership entity.

Incredibly, the answers were very similar to the first survey.  While “other” was the most common response, the second most common response was that the seller was retiring and looking to downsize followed up by ‘tired of managing the property” and 1031 exchanges.    This is not surprising considering that boomers are retiring in large numbers.

If you are prospecting for listings, it makes sense to target the most likely sellers.   While this is a moving target based on  many different variables, It is possible to focus your marketing efforts in a more targeted manner.  Stay tuned, as we will review some specific searches you can do in ProspectNow that will help you identify more likely sellers.

Survey Results

Survey: Why do Sellers Sell?

We recently conducted an interesting survey of approximately 100 residential real estate agents from all over the US.  The question we asked them was incredibly simple….”Why did your seller sell?”.  This was specific to their last listing.  What we found may help you in your prospecting moving forward.

While “other” was the most common response.  It’s interesting to note that the second most common response was that the seller was retiring and looking to downsize.  This is not surprising considering that boomers are retiring in large numbers.  We plan to do subsequent surveys focused on different property types and locations.  More to come!

Survey Results

Take over those expired listings

Nothing is more frustrating for a seller than to go through all the effort to get a property ready to sell and put it on the market only to have it sit there for months and not sell. These expired listings are a gold mine of opportunity to entrepreneurial agents.

When I was a real estate agent, a mentor of mine liked to say, “Go where real estate is happening.” What she meant is that instead of randomly hitting up people who may or (more likely) may not be buying or selling, target people you know are in the market. One example is hosting open houses for residential property. Everyone who walks in the door has buying or selling on their mind. Expired listings are another great example, and one that works for residential and commercial property. These owners have gone beyond just thinking about selling, they’ve made a serious commitment to sell.

One thing to keep in mind with expired listings, the owners are often not in a good mood.

  • They are discouraged
  • They are not a big fan of real estate agents and may assume they are all the same (worthless)
  • They probably know a little about their market, but not enough
  • Most likely, they DO want to sell

Think about it. They want to sell, they’ve gone to a lot of trouble to get the property ready, they’ve hired an agent (making a commitment to pay a commission), they’ve watched the marketing efforts…and nothing. After all that, they didn’t get to the finish line. They probably aren’t too happy with their agent, either. And, they transfer that blame to any other agent who comes along.

Adding insult to injury, many owners of these expired listings get bombarded with insensitive phone calls in the days after it expires, from agents all pitching the same old line: “Hi, I see your property listing expired. Are you ready to list with a professional who will get it sold and closed?” – or some variation. Most of these cold callers are trying to dial as many numbers as possible, without regard to the human touch.

The easiest and best approach to an expired listing is to bring them a buyer. When you pick up the phone to call, your intro is, “Hi, I understand you are selling the place at [address]. I may have a buyer who is interested. Are you still hoping to sell it?” Even if you don’t have a buyer at the moment of the call (remember you said “I may…”) you have an opportunity to find one for the property in the time between the call and the meeting you set up.

Expired Listings Calling Scripts

There are dozens of other expired scripts you can use to connect with property owners. Here are a few.

Getting the Phone Number

The challenge is getting in contact with the property owner once the listing expires. Normally, the listing doesn’t include the property owner’s phone number. Internet research can often turn up a name, but in the case of commercial properties, the name is likely an LLC or company name. The fact that the phone number is not handy is a two edged sword. On the one hand, it makes it hard to contact these people.  On the other hand, if you can get number, you will be one of the few who do. The competition pool will be much smaller.

This is where ProspectNow comes in. With ProspectNow, finding property owner numbers is easy. The painstaking research of property locations, LLCs, owner names, phones and emails has been done for you already. Just follow these steps in ProspectNow to get phone numbers for expired listing owners.

  1. Collect the expired property addresses in a single place. Normally, you can search your MLS and then export them to a spreadsheet.
  2. Copy (cut/paste) the addresses.
  3. In ProspectNow, click on Search Properties, then Advanced Search, then on Multiple Address Search.
  4. In the large blank box, paste the property addresses you copied in Step #2.
  5. Click Search
  6. Now you can click on “Contact Owner” for each individual property, or you can select them all and look up all the numbers at once

[See a quick video of these steps here.]

With the phone numbers in hand, you can start your expired listings calling campaign and tap this source of ready and willing sellers.

Happy prospecting!

Finding Off Market Real Estate Properties

I’m a real estate professional. At various times I’ve been a property owner, real estate agent, and an investor. Combining a past in high-tech and love for real estate, I recently joined the ProspectNow team when I realized how powerful a tool it is for both investors and real estate agents looking for home sellers.

A few weeks back I was talking with a friend of mine. He and his girlfriend both quit their high-tech jobs to pursue real estate investing full time. They came to me for advice on how to find “good deals.”

The market is hot right now, and like everyone else out there, they want to find properties “off market” – i.e., not listed on the MLS. Everything listed on the traditional real estate sites is picked over by both owner-occupied buyers and investors, bidding up the prices. There are no deals on the MLS – nor on Zillow or Craigslist, either. Real estate agents are in a similar position. Inventory is low and everyone is looking for potential sellers. Listings drive success in real estate. The key to finding these properties is to get on the phone with property owners before they tell anyone else they are selling.

Can I Tell You A Secret?

Every investor I talk to has the same question. “How can I find off market real estate deals?” They are all looking for the secret properties – the ones no one else knows about yet. The bummer is, there just isn’t a good source for “off-market” homes for sale.

What my investor friends need, and what ever real estate agent wants, is a way to identify and contact potential home sellers that have not yet put their home on the market but are thinking about selling. If they can get to them before anyone else, they have a significant advantage. ProspectNow is that secret source of homes and sellers.

ProspectNow is a godsend in two specific regards. The first is that it aggregates property and owner data in one place. Normally, property address, LLC name, owner names, phone numbers, emails, etc. are all in widely disparate systems. Owner phone numbers, in particular, are difficult to find and correlate back to a specific property. With ProspectNow, investors can look up a property address and instantly see who owns it and get a phone number. (The system has phone number coverage for about 60-70% of properties, which is far better than any other phone number source available.)

The second major feature of ProspectNow is the ability to do targeted searches on critical criteria like number of properties owned and if the property is owner-occupied or not. With just a basic search using Prospect now, an investor or agent can look up the properties in a specific neighborhood, get the phone numbers, and start making calls. While this brute-force approach can be effective, I prefer a more surgical approach – one that allows you to better target sellers and make “warm calls.”

Search For Hidden Homes For Sale

First I put in all the standard search criteria: bedrooms, baths, size, and location (you can even search by drawing a shape on a map). Then, in addition to the standard search items, I ask ProspectNow to show me only properties with out of state owners. A property with an out of town owner indicates the home is a rental or is vacant. I can even ask the system to show only properties whose owners own more than two properties (or 3, or 5, or 2-7). These properties are “warm” for selling. These owners are investors, and an investor is always thinking about selling – the only question is when and at what price.

I could try this same method using property lists from other sources. But ProspectNow has something the others don’t – phone numbers of the property owners. Even if the property is owned in an LLC, ProspectNow has info on the LLC members and their phone numbers.

Here is a script to use when calling these prospective home sellers: “Hi, my name is Robert in [city]. I’m calling about the house on [street]. Is that your house? I am a real estate professional and I have investors looking to buy in that neighborhood. When are you thinking you might sell the house?”

I call these “warm calls” instead of cold calls because I’m not asking these people to sell the home they are living in out from under their feet. These are already investment properties; it’s a business call. These calls are easy to make.

Real estate is a contact numbers game. Success depends on the number of times you can contact the right property owner at the right time. It’s not just about dialing more and more phone numbers. It’s about calling the right people and actually dialing fewer numbers, but the right numbers.

Commercial and residential agents, as well as investors are using ProspectNow to find new listings and investment opportunities before they go on the market.

Finding Property Owners by Prospecting Smartly

If you’ve been in commercial real estate for more than…about 15 minutes, then you know prospecting for leads is the number one critical task in your career. If you’ve been in commercial real estate for more than 30 minutes you know prospecting for leads is time consuming, laborious and painstaking. This article gives some tips for finding property owners by prospecting smarter, not harder so you spend more time talking to ready decision makers and less time chasing rabbits down empty holes.

Let’s face it, lead generation is not the sexy part of the job. The fun is being out there, meeting with people, doing deals. That’s what gets the blood pumping and puts money in the bank.  But, without the lead generation, the deals don’t happen. You have to commit to lead generation daily. You need to be calling property owners and/or tenants every day. You need to find out who is making a move? Who has space? Who is ready to sell one building and buy another?

The good news is prospecting is not hard. You just have to be smart about it. Before you make your calls, you need phone numbers. If you don’t know where to find people to call, you will struggle.

Which Property Owners to Call?

Here are two sources of targeted people you can call every day to keep your real estate career on track.

Your number one source for phone numbers is your personal database of key contacts and decision makers. These are people you have met before and done business with. These are people you know and, more importantly, already know you. These are warm calls. “Hi Ted, it’s me, Robert, from Keller Williams Commercial. How is it going? I’m just checking in to see if you are thinking about expanding your operation this year like you mentioned last time we spoke.”

Stay in touch with your database. It’s your job to make sure they think of you when a real estate need comes up. Don’t for a minute assume they will remember to call you if they haven’t heard from you in the last 90 days. Your competition is trying to reach them, too. Even your best friend from college who owns the shopping center can be wooed to another broker if you are not current and top of mind. Stay in touch! You should plan to call 5-10 people from your own database ever day to check in.

Getting More Phone Numbers

Once you have a good system for staying in touch with your own database, you need to research other people to call. On top of calling 5-10 people from your own contact database, you need another 40-60 names and numbers to call every day. You need phone numbers for the decision makers – the property owners, tenants, and LLC partners who can ink the deals. That information (good phone numbers and emails for the right people) is out there if you will spend the time looking and if you have access to the right sites.

In the past, agents had to comb the internet, hopping back and forth between sites like title companies, to county records, to white-pages sites, etc. tracking down phone numbers. This brute-force approach still works if you have access to all the relevant sites and know which ones have good data and which don’t. Depending on your county and other factors, you may have to pay for access to some of this data. Also, with this approach it is difficult to fine tune your search to just those properties and owners you are interested in.

The alternative is to use ProspectNow.com’s database of commercial property owner information to build a targeted call list. Basically, ProspectNow does all the research leg work for you, collecting data from multiple sources into a single database of over 8 million properties with owner contact info. Not only is all the data on one single website, you can target your list by searching on detailed parameters such as location, type of property (office, industrial, hotel…), owner-occupied, size, loan type, etc. If you already have a list of properties and just need phone numbers, you can even paste your list into ProspectNow and get all the numbers with one click.

However you build your call list,  you should be able to dial about 50 numbers in 2 hours. Depending on the quality of the data you researched, you should get through to between 10-30 people.

Prospecting takes time. Calling takes time. Lead generation takes time. The winning secret is to be smart and make your time count. Every day, when you first get into the office, make the decision to prospect smart and to prospect now.

Building a Sales Force to Grow Your Business Fast

I thought I’d devote this month’s post to one of the most important things you can do in a business…and that is building a sales force that is efficient and effective . I think this applies to virtually any business, and especially to commercial real estate brokerages. In any case, the manner in which you choose to grow your team has a direct impact on revenue of your company. The Prerequisites to Scaling a Sales Team.

Prior to ramping up your team, the most important thing is to determine that sales people and top-line (ideally profitable) revenue growth are proportional. What does this mean? Simply put, the more sales people you add, the more your company grows. Just like testing new products, you will want to test this on a small scale first. You will want to answer the following question prior to aggressive growth:How long does it take and what is the cost to get a sales person to break even?

To answer the question, you need to know the average value of a customer, the cost of the sales person, and how many sales they will need to make per month/year to break even. The best way to answer these questions is to add a few people on a small scale and measure. Then you will have exact numbers you can plug into your model. Every business is different so your model will depend on the specific business you are in. For example, at ProspectNow, we know we can get a sales person to ramp up to full speed in about 45-60 days. This helps us plan exactly what our investment is. Of course this assumes you are hiring the right person. Recruiting and hiring is a completely separate and necessary part of the equation, but for the sake of this blog, let’s assume you are able to bring in the right people.Once you know what the numbers are for your business, you can start to add people efficiently. You want to get to the “just add water” point where your system scales with more people and actually gains efficiency the more you add.Training, Ramp up, and Motivation

With regard to minimizing ramp up time, I’d recommend building a best practices sales training guide that provides the following:

  • Calling Scripts
  • Objection Handling
  • Competitive Matrix
  • Best Practices

You will build out this data with the first few reps that you hire, then you will use that information to provide to all new hires. The goal is to get the sales person comfortable enough to get on the phone ASAP because that is where the real learning begins. I am a big believer in the “learn by doing” approach. So the sales training guide is really just a tool to help develop enough confidence to get going.

It’s really important to build a culture of cooperation in a sales environment. If you do this well, then your ramp up time for new hires is even faster because sales people help each other. When someone does well, his or her peers should be happy for that person. I love it when I hear our sales people sharing or borrowing each others ‘best practices’. Each time we hire, our ramp up time has gone down because of this.

Sales should be fun, and competition is part of that…but too much competitive pressure can also have a negative affect. Clearly the first step is to hire people that want to do well. After that, I think that transparency in numbers is a great way for people to be competitive with the back drop of cooperation to ensure it’s not so competitive that it ceases to be fun. What do I mean by transparency in numbers? Specifically, every metric that relates to sales production should be tracked including calls, talk time, meetings, proposals, sales etc. This is absolutely critical because you can develop a correlation to sales success and address issues early. Make sure all sales people can see how they are doing, and learn from those that are doing well. This speaks to the “transparency” part.

If you are a ProspectNow customer, you will see you can track these metrics in the “Activity” section of the website. If you have not used that, give it a try and set some goals for yourself and you’ll see overtime you can start to build a profile of success.

Process and Efficiency at Scale

Sales people should have the infrastructure and tools they need to succeed. The last thing you want them doing is any ‘non revenue generating’ activity. Ironically, this is why I started ProspectNow…because I spent way too much time dealing with property and owner data research. As you are building your sales force, you should think of your internal operations as a business, and your sales people as the customer. This mind set causes you to serve them in a way that helps them make money and in turn makes you money.

You will know you have a solid process and infrastructure when each hire gets easier and easier. Good luck in growing your businesses!

Business Lessons in a 120 mph Ferrari

What Business Lessons Can You Learn from Driving a Ferrari at 120 mph?

Last week I had the tremendous experience of driving a Ferrari 430 Scuderia on a closed track with a professional driver coaching me. This blog is my excuse to post the video below. I also was amazed at the techniques and skills that one would have to acquire to really get around the track quickly and how these same disciplines apply to business. I thought I’d share some of my thoughts with regard to the parallels below.

First, Here is the Video…

Thanks to Kenny and the guys at exoticsracing.com for a great time!

Get Out of Your Comfort Zone (without dying)

I have to admit that when I was still standing on the throttle down the straight away and I saw break lights in front of me…it was a bit unnerving. The coach was telling me “keep going, keep going” yet I was staring at red break lights from another Ferrari right in front of me. I followed his instructions and continued to accelerate, which clearly put me outside of my comfort zone. After a few laps I gained confidence in the car’s breaking ability and started to get more aggressive.

I have never come across a successful entrepreneur that did not step outside their comfort zone. I also have discovered though, that you don’t have to be so far outside your comfort zone that you are putting your business at the risk of failure. This concept of risk tolerance is a delicate balance. You want to take risks where the success is significant upside, and the failure is not your complete demise. I have seen people take risks when starting companies that are excessive (such as taking on debt too early). Get out of your comfort zone, but don’t take on so much risk that you will crash your car into the wall 🙂

 Pick a Line -Stay Focused

The line I picked into the corner was critical to my exit speed though the corner. You can see in the video that the driving coach is telling me to turn in, clip the apex of the corner, and then exit at full throttle out of the corner. I realized if you don’t pick the right line, you can’t exit the corner at maximum speed. Picking the right line is critical. In business, the parallel is “focus”. There are some many directions you can go, especially in the technology space because technology is so malleable. Often times there is a temptation to pivot too early before you have really tested and applied your vision. Just like in driving the car, you start to get a “feel”, I also believe there is a lot to be said for the “feel” of trusting your gut in business.

When I started ProspectNow, I just knew there was a market for it. In fact, I had no doubt because I had experienced the problem first hand. While we did many pivots with regard to execution and trial and error…the core vision of helping brokers/lenders close more deals has not changed. Don’t get distracted, pick a line, and stay focused.

 Slow Down to Go Fast

This is the old race car adage that you have to “slow down to go faster”. I really noticed this on the track. If I tired to get to cute or to creative with the car (such as too many down shifts or entering the corner too fast), it slowed me down. I really think this can be applied in business. Sometimes we feel we always have to be doing something regardless of how productive it is. It feels good to be “doing” but often times this leads to doing the wrong things that slow us down. Everyone has a “to do” list, but it’s just as important to have a “don’t do” list.

Hope you enjoyed the video and happy prospecting!

New Feature Worth Checking Out

As many of you know, the relentless pursuit of prospecting perfection never ceases here at ProspectNow.  I wanted to take this opportunity to share with you a new feature that can make a big difference in your business.  Many of our customers are listing agents and they focus using ProspectNow to contact building owners who may be interested in selling.  But what about buyer’s agents?  How can they use ProspectNow effectively?

One of the most qualified types of buyers, is the 1031 exchange buyer.  In order to defer taxes, the seller has to identify the replacement property in 45 days and close in 180 days.  Clearly with the increase in capital gains tax, investors are looking for any tax advantage they can get.  This creates a compelling event for the seller to find a replacement property within the timeline.  So if exchange buyers are highly qualified and great leads for buyers agents….how do we find them?

ProspectNow has added the ability for you to get the phone numbers and contact info of the seller of the property now in addition to the current owner.  The key is to find sellers that have just sold in the last 45 days so that they are still in their “identification period”.  Here is a screenshot and the steps:

Click "Contact Seller" for Seller Info
Getting Seller Contact Info

 

  1. Advanced Search – Recording date from 45 days back to today.
  2. Search
  3. Click on the orange button “Contact Seller” to get the phone number
 
That’s it!  Hopefully this new feature will help you find and close more property transactions this year. Happy Prospecting!