Your Primer for Transaction Success

Introducing your 1996 selling and marketing guide.

February 1, 1996

Know what it's like when things just click? Usually it happens right after something dawns on you that makes you say, "Oh yeah!" Here are five sections of "Oh yeah!" ideas---from prospecting to saying thanks---to make this year's busy spring and summer residential buying and selling season click.

PROSPECTING

  • Turn your contacts database into a community service tool, says Janice Miller, a salesperson with ERA--First Advantage Realty, Newburgh, Ind. Hers has generated "an incredible amount of goodwill." She cites the time a farm area resident's beloved cat was lost. Miller mailed cards asking for help in finding the kitty, and a card of thanks when the wayward feline was found. "Such things root you to a community," she says.
  • When talking with prospects on the phone, Don Korpi says, put your best voice forward. Salespeople at Century 21--Korpi and Associates, San Leandro, Calif., where Korpi is principal broker, learn the cadence of their own speech and that of others by practicing telephone conversations to the rhythm of a metronome. "The key is to match prospects' tone and vocal pacing," he says. "Being too fast and loud comes off as being pushy. Too slow and quiet makes you sound timid."
  • Letterhead stationery is making a comeback, says real estate guru Dave Beson, of Minneapolis-based Dave Beson Seminars. "The letter offers you more latitude. What if you don't like your picture or can't think of an appropriate graphic to use on postcards?" Letters also give you more space than a postcard to be helpful, informative, or humorous. To encourage recipients to open your envelope, hand address it with colored ink or enclose something like a stick of gum to give it weight and thickness, Beson says.
  • You've landed an appointment. Now what? Have a colleague deliver an envelope to the sellers marked Special Delivery, Korpi suggests. Enclose your biography, written in third person, as in "Don Korpi is a true real estate professional. He has listed and sold . . . " "Writing in third person distinguishes you from all the salespeople whose literature says, 'I am this, I am that,'" Korpi explains. A letter of introduction from your broker will double the impact.

MARKETING AND SELLING

  • To stimulate ideas for creative ad writing, salespeople at a breakfast meeting at broker-owner Larry Simonson's RE/MAXNorthwest, REALTORS®, of-fice in Seattle wrote an ad for a recently listed house they had viewed that morning. Their list of descriptions included "warm brick fireplace," "entertainment-sized rec room," "1920s character," and "you can almost smell the cookies baking." Note that picturesque descriptions engage other senses besides sight: "warm" (touch) and "smell."
  • For postcard and other mailings, Bobbi Wehle, a salesperson with ERA--The Polo Group, Tampa, Fla., finds that action terms bring results. "When I started using terms like 'sold in 10 days,''' she says, "my response rate shot up by 70 percent."
  • Before open houses, distribute flyers, open house invitations, and free market analysis certificates to neighbors and people in cars (go ahead, flag them down), says Greg Garrett, principal broker with Century 21--Greg Garrett Realty, Newport News, Va. And on the big day, walk in and out of the front door periodically to give the appearance of activity to passersby.
  • Put flyers in a back room of the open house, Simonson suggests, so that viewers can get the feel of the house as a home before they're faced with the marketing realities. Also, bring your son, daughter, spouse, or dog with you. "It makes the home feel more family friendly," he says, "and gives people a chance to see you as a person instead of someone who's trying to sell them something."
  • Jeff Albrecht, a salesperson with ERA--Einig & McGuire, St. Louis, saw a great injustice in offering aerial photography only to sellers of high-end property. But who could afford airplane, helicopter, or blimp flybys on a regular basis at $500 a pop? His solution: He attaches a remote-control camera to a motorized 14-foot helium blimp. As the balloon sails up to 200 feet above a listing, Albrecht adjusts the framing, guided by a handheld video monitor, and snaps the pictures. "I have three years and thousands of dollars invested," he says. "But I've already received more attention than I could buy." He'll forgo the money he could make taking aerial shots for other salespeople in favor of the unique marketing advantage it gives him.

NEGOTIATING

  • The art of negotiating starts well before an offer hits the table. "Prepare clients for negotiations," says Roger Turcotte, of Roger Turcotte & Co., Contoocook, N.H. He suggests familiarizing clients with purchase and sales agreements and any other forms they may encounter. Also review current market conditions and buyer attitudes that may result in lowball offers. "Being prepared for the worst takes the sting out of low offers and makes the whole process go smoother," he says.
  • If negotiating erupts into an emotional Mount St. Helens, "let your clients vent," Garrett says. "Wait until they've reacted fully, then explain that at least a qualified buyer is interested. Rejecting the offer outright is the same as buying back their own house. Tell them, 'A little give-and-take may allow us to reach our goal of selling the house.'" Show camaraderie by using "us" and "we" instead of "you."
  • Substitute the word opinion for position in sentences like "My position is that this property is worth such and such," says James B. Warkentin, broker-owner of Warkentin Co., REALTORS®, McLean, Va., which handles both residential and commercial properties. "A position leaves no room for flexibility even when new information comes to light that should change someone's mind. Negotiating differing opinions keeps things in perspective."
  • In the midst of battle, it's easy to say too much. To help keep private information confidential, imagine that your clients are sitting beside you (if they aren't, as in many commercial negotiations). "Say only what you would if they were listening to every word," advises Erle Rawlins III, managing broker with Buyer's Resource-Park Cities, Dallas.
  • Escalating voices and fast speech are sure indicators of flaring tempers. Warkentin has found that reversing those symptoms can cool tensions. "Slow your speech," he says. "Talk softer. Pause longer between sentences. Take deeper breaths. If nothing works, take a break. When you open the door to leave the room, it's like letting the air out of a balloon that's ready to pop."
  • "If sellers think buyers are trying to take advantage of them," says Kobra Brake, a salesperson with ERA--Brake Realty, Roscoe, Ill., "emotions become stumbling blocks. Sellers may even blow the sale out of spite." That's why she explains the dates and conditions first. "I get sellers to think of other elements of the offer. So when I tell them the price, they don't fixate on it but see it as part of a big picture---just another item to be negotiated."

CLOSING

  • Right after getting a listing, to speed the process of getting an offer closed, Buck Stapleton, a salesperson with and general manager of Commonwealth Land Title Co., Glendale, Calif., recommends ordering an inspection. "A lot of sellers balk at paying for the inspection," he admits, "but I can usually convince them that it's in their best interest. They find out what they should be disclosing. They can prepare for objections or make necessary repairs."
  • Miller, of ERA--First Advantage Realty, helps close deals by meeting the appraiser at the property with a package of information: plat records, comparables, and work sheets that show improvements. "I've never had an appraisal problem. I don't know anyone else who can say that, and I attribute it to my helping the appraiser do a good job."
  • When inspection problems pop up, Lynne Weiss suggests looking to home insurance policies first. "That sounds like common sense," says Weiss, a salesperson with Coldwell Banker--Residential Real Estate, Sherman Oaks, Calif., "but I've had many clients say, 'I didn't know that was covered!' I've had a $300,000 sale and a $1 million sale saved that way."

SAYING THANKS

  • Give practical, home-related gifts, such as a fire extinguisher or a home records book, suggests Brake.
  • Bruce Umstead, a broker associate with RE/MAX--DFW Associates, Coppell, Texas, says his referrals are highest among people he thanked with tickets to Dallas Mavericks basketball games.
  • Jerry McKeon, a salesperson with Max Broock Inc., REALTORS®, Bloomfield Hills, Mich., usually donates about $250 to his client's favorite charity.
  • On the appropriate day, Stanley Mills, a salesperson with Crye-Leike Inc., Memphis, Tenn., sings "Happy Birthday" to his former customers and clients over the phone. And don't forget to send birthday cards to buyers' and sellers' kids as well, says Brake, of ERA--Brake Realty. "Kids are involved in a lot of family decisions and tend to remember people who remember them."
  • "Salespeople generally thank clients or customers when they should also be following up," says John Foltz, principal broker with Realty Executives of Phoenix. "Saying 'Thank you' should be a way to open the door for more communication."
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