Reach Out and Touch More Business With Corporate Calling

April 1, 1998

Employee relocation is big business. The Census Bureau reports that nearly 43 million Americans relocated between March 1993 and March 1994. According to the Washington, D.C.-based Employee Relocation Council, corporations spend $15 billion a year moving employees around. What’s more, employees need help moving like never before; the ERC says that 70 percent of transferred managers now sell their homes themselves, up from 25 percent 10 years ago.

One way real estate companies have found to throw their hats into this lucrative arena is by starting corporate calling programs. These programs reach out to employers, offering to them the kinds of relo services once deigned the purview of third-party relocation companies.

San Diego-based McMillin Realty's investment in such a program has paid off in a big way:After four months the company's new corporate caller had contacted 215 companies and made 12 presentations. Most of the nine corporations that agreed to exclusively use McMillin for their relocation needs have already steered incoming employees there, the company says.

Admit It’s a Full-Time Job

"It's a lot of hard work but worth the effort," says Claire Clark, McMillin's director of relocation. Although McMillin is a member of the massive relocation network of Cendant Mobility Services (formerly PHH), Clark wanted to make a run for the countless smaller businesses that haven't yet developed ties to a relocation company.

At first she tried to add corporate calling duties to her own already hectic schedule. "That's the single biggest mistake in setting up a corporate calling program," says Andy Gadoci, owner of AJG Consulting, Irving, Texas, who came in later to help McMillin establish its program. "There are brokers out there who believe corporate calling doesn't work, because they attempted it without dedicating a full-time person to the job. Can't be done.

The problem is finding consultants who specialize in corporate calling. McMillin found Gadoci by answering a flyer he'd sent. Corporate calling isn’t enough of a specialty to have experts listed in the Yellow Pages. About a dozen companies--most of them practitioners advertising their own companies--popped up when "TR Inc." searched on the Internet for "real estate and corporate callers."

In Search of Virgin Business

Since Clark had taken a stab at the job herself, she knew she needed a self-starter, someone with perseverance and a tenacious ability to ask flat out for business. She foundsuch qualities in D Emerson, who already worked at McMillin as a relocation consultant. "Above all," says Clark, "she's very professional, and human resource directors like that." This further explains Emerson's impressive title: manager of business development.

Emerson, a licensed salesperson, earns a base salary plus bonuses for presentations and a small commission on closed escrow. She's supported by two assistant relocation counselors.

And she keeps a full roster of prospects by scanning local business journals and chumming it up with the folks at the chamber of commerce and other business organizations. She keeps an ear open for new and burgeoning companies, ones with new divisions, and those considering a move into or out of the area. She has found that high-tech, biotech, and insurance companies have fairly mobile workforces and so are more receptive to her calls. Manufacturing companies are more stationary and less receptive.

Taking a can't-hurt-to-ask approach, Emerson figures no company is too large and tries to target companies with more than 100 employees. "Companies smaller than that don’t tend to do much relocating," says Gadoci.

But you never can tell. One company with 90 employees signed on and expects to send McMillin at least three or four employees per year. Not bad for a few phone calls and a 30-minute presentation.

Of course, once Emerson secures the business, the work kicks in for the rest of the relocation team: Relocation counselors will conduct interviews, coordinate the varied aspects of the move, and answer questions; then a salesperson will step in to show houses and close the sale.

Gadoci estimates a program's start-up costs at $50,000-$75,000--"what with the caller's salary, office furniture and space, phone costs, and maybe new marketing material." Clark, however, places that figure much lower. "We already had most of what we needed," she says. "We have been using our regular relocation literature and are just now developing a brochure unique to our corporate calling program."

"It only makes sense to invest in a program like this," says Scott McMillin, who as president sees the effects on the bottom line better than anyone else. “The business is there, and this is what it takes to go out and get it. That's the kind of company I want us to be."

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