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Part 2: Building Relationships, Not Barriers

February 14 2011

handshakeWhen it comes to technology and the real estate agent, I believe agent want to use technology to its fullest extent to serve customers better and in the most cost-efficient way. But they have been overrun by technology.

Some real estate agents are are searching for a technique, tool, software or system that will eliminate the task of prospecting, when in fact it will only eliminate prospects. It’s time to get back in touch with some real, fundamental principles about the reality of prospecting.

Tip #2: Build relationships, not barriers!

This is still a people business, so the ultimate goal of prospecting is to secure a face-to-face meeting. Too many agents use the wrong contact methods at the wrong time and the misuse of technology has hurt the business as much as the proper use of it has helped. Technology can build a barrier between the agent and the client. Are you properly handling your technology?

Telephones

It’s unfortunate that when a prospect finally does respond to advertising and promotion, the agent isn’t there. You say, “It’s the nature of the business.” I ask, “How are you holding onto the business when you aren’t there?” Are the prospects greeted with a complicated automated attendant or voicemail maze? Do callers have to suffer being put on hold, getting disconnected or being trapped in voicemail jail? When they finally reach a real person, do they ask in disbelief: “Is this a real person?”

If this sounds familiar, make a change. We have got to start talking to customers again. Let’s at least secure the easy ones—the ones who call us. If you’re not available, have a receptionist offer options: "Would you like me to page her? Take a message? Put you through to voicemail or provide her email address?"

Business cards

Does it make any sense to put someone else’s photo on your business card? It looks like some of you have! I’ve seen thousands of photos that bear absolutely no likeness to the agent. Get a current photo…today! I like simple, professional photos that reveal a bit of the agent’s personality without being too cute.


Also, don’t list a half-dozen telephone numbers. When I see cards with a long list of numbers, my first question is: “How will I ever find this person?” Consolidate your numbers to ONE that can be directed to wherever you are. Handwrite a personal number on the back when appropriate. Finally, make sure anyone can read the type on your card. Graphic designers love tiny 9-point type. Resist! Use type that is easy to read.

Mailings

We all have been swept up in .com mania, but now I think we are regaining some common sense. A website should not replace mailings to your sphere of influence. If you have cut back on mailings in a misguided attempt to save money, start them up again. The purpose of regular mailings to your farm area—just a postcard will do—is to keep your name in front of potential clients. Remember, they have to go hunting for your website. Don’t make it hard for prospects to find you.

Most successful agents mail postcards every month to their farm, come rain or shine. Agents that don’t do regular mailings fail to do them because they misunderstand the purpose. They think right after they do a mailing, the telephone should be ringing off the hook. It doesn’t work that way.

More likely, neighbors will be discussing listing a home and the agent’s name will come up as being familiar to them. Or, a potential client approaches an agent at a business or community event. He feels comfortable doing so because he has seen the agent’s picture 20 times in the last year. That’s how mailings work. They help build a reputation. If you get a call, it’s a bonus.


Email

The saying, “When your only tool is a hammer, the world becomes a nail,” applies to many email users. Once they learn to use it, it’s all they use. If you’re going to use email (and you should), use it right…and at the right times. Sometimes a personal call or even a fax would be more appropriate. Email is great for communicating across time zones, getting printed materials and photos transmitted, confirming details accurately, replacing some regular mail and transferring computer files. It is not good when you need a personal touch, an urgent response or with prospects who have limited access to it.

When you write emails, use your basic letter writing skills. Have a clear subject line that summarizes your message. Get to the point and use proper grammar and spelling. Instead of one huge block of text, break it into small paragraphs to make it easier to read. Create a signature that includes all of your contact information. Not everyone wants to respond back by email. They might want to call, mail or fax.

One of the best email features is the ability to attach documents and photos. Use Adobe Acrobat to convert documents into PDF (Portable Document Format) files. That way, recipients can see or print it exactly like your original. Some agents email a PDF of their marketing plan.

Fax

Transmitting a short document by fax is quick and easy, whereas an email requires starting the computer, opening email software, logging onto the server, attaching the document and sending. Don’t overlook the convenience of fax.


When creating documents, anticipate that they will be faxed, perhaps from one party to another, several times. Use at least 14-point type to have them legible all along the way. Make sure the contact information on your company letterhead is legible, particularly if you refer to it (as in, “Please contact me at the number below”).

Personal notes

Sometimes the best means of communication is a handwritten note. Use a fountain pen on cotton paper, hand-address it and affix a postage stamp. What a luxurious personal touch this is in these times! Your personal note will stand out in the sea of emails, faxes, bulk mailings and other impersonal communications.