Matthew Ferrara, Philosopher
 

A Difference of Six Words

matthew says career and lifeWhat separates the great agents from the rest of the pack? Is it fancy training, an incredible manager or the latest tech tools? Ask agents and they’ll tell you it’s luck, being in the right place at the right time, or even the power of statues buried upside down in the corner of the yard.

We think, however, that it only takes six words to make a huge difference in a salesperson’s productivity.

What are these magic words – and why do they account for such a big difference in success-levels for agents (and their companies?) We think they are these:

“The customer never called me back.”

Take it from us – nobody has worked with more companies on leads worldwide than me. I’ve also discovered that these six words appear to be the most common denominator in agents whose productivity never improves.

Look at it another way. Most internet market actually works. Most  portals drive thousands of buyer inquiries each month to their agents. Smarter sites – with great photos and video tours – drive hundreds of leads a day. This isn’t news – it’s been happening for a long time – and yet too much of this business ever converts into closed deals.

Not all business comes from online, we know. There are still phone calls and walk-ins, depending upon the marketplace. Yet the biggest opportunity (online leads) seems to generate the biggest gripes from salespeople that online leads are bad. Why?

Because of these six words.

No matter how a customer reaches out, too many salespeople throw leads away too quickly – because these six words keeps them from turning customers into . And in a sense, it’s because  they’re waiting for the customer to do their job.

Companies that track  leads find that these six words are the number one reason potentially viable prospects are abandoned. When they examine their leads management databases, it’s not uncommon to see these words left by the agent in the comments. The customer inquires on a property, the agent provides information, then tries to follow up once, maybe twice.

Then: they give up.

The agent assumes the customer isn’t interested (but they mostly don’t know, since few of those follow ups ever became conversations). That’s where the self-defeating six words undermine success.

Whose should be chasing whom? That’s the heart of the issue: If we simply give up on business too fast, does it really mean the business was bad? It’s partly a by-product of the boom-times, too, when inventory sells fast. Why bother incubating a long-term lead if your inventory barely lasts a month on the market.

Because some day it won’t be a boom time.

Students of Peter Drucker, like me,  know that these kinds of performance problems start with the core values of the sales and management teams. If they believe all leads are worth something – or can be made to be work something with sales effort – then the six words are kept at bay.

Is it really that simple? Could agents turn more leads into business if they did just a little more follow up? Yes. The “secret” to converting more leads is to have more stamina than your initial inclination. To keep following up. To make the seventh, eighth or ninth contact. And to turn potential into actual closed business.

Top performing salespeople realize that it’s their job to pursue the customer. Even if a lot of customers start the buying process early by researching online and even asking for help by email, they may not be ready for months (or years). But that’s life in sales. Still, a lead received today, closing in six months from now, is still good revenue. If you have the stamina to succeed.

So it comes down to six words. The biggest difference between top salespeople and the rest isn’t a silver-bullet technology or super-scripts. It’s the recognition that a salesperson’s job to chase leads – and to sell them with stamina. 

Otherwise, you’ll never build a successful career by sitting around waiting for the customer to call you back.

– M

  • Worse than waiting for the customer to call them back:
    An agent receives an internet lead with a phone number as well as an e-mail address; the lead asks for information about a specific property. And the agent never bothers to pick up the phone and call to see what it is about that property that interested the customer! Instead, they e-mail more information about the property to the customer and then wonder why they never get answers to succeeding e-mails that they send to the customer.
    The fact is, you can’t start a warm, fuzzy relationship with a customer by e-mail. You have to get directly to them and find out what their needs are so you can satisfy those needs. A lead with a phone number is potential gold, but agents throw away the gold time after time by not calling. It doesn’t matter if the customer’s initial e-mail says that they prefer to be contacted by e-mail. If they have a phone number, pick up the @*&!% phone and find out what it is that interested them in that property. You’ll either be able to book an appointment to show them properties right away or you’ll be able to develop a list of suggested properties about which to dialog with the buyer.

  • Worse than waiting for the customer to call them back:
    An agent receives an internet lead with a phone number as well as an e-mail address; the lead asks for information about a specific property. And the agent never bothers to pick up the phone and call to see what it is about that property that interested the customer! Instead, they e-mail more information about the property to the customer and then wonder why they never get answers to succeeding e-mails that they send to the customer.
    The fact is, you can’t start a warm, fuzzy relationship with a customer by e-mail. You have to get directly to them and find out what their needs are so you can satisfy those needs. A lead with a phone number is potential gold, but agents throw away the gold time after time by not calling. It doesn’t matter if the customer’s initial e-mail says that they prefer to be contacted by e-mail. If they have a phone number, pick up the @*&!% phone and find out what it is that interested them in that property. You’ll either be able to book an appointment to show them properties right away or you’ll be able to develop a list of suggested properties about which to dialog with the buyer.

  • Good post…. You have to become an expert in your area to sell real estate. Buyers can smell a lazy agent form a mile away. The top 25% are the top 25% because the work hard and are good at what they do.

  • Good post…. You have to become an expert in your area to sell real estate. Buyers can smell a lazy agent form a mile away. The top 25% are the top 25% because the work hard and are good at what they do.

  • Excellent article! Purchased a car on Saturday. Started my research online, contacted 4 dealers. One in particular not only responsed by email immediately, but called as well. He got the order. Auto response from 2 dealers and the third never responded to my follow up email.

    Good lesson for all!

  • Excellent article! Purchased a car on Saturday. Started my research online, contacted 4 dealers. One in particular not only responsed by email immediately, but called as well. He got the order. Auto response from 2 dealers and the third never responded to my follow up email.

    Good lesson for all!

  • Matt

    I just came across your blog, and while all your posts are great, this one hits the nail on the head! I am so guilty of this. There are many reasons, and many excuses why agents do not follow up enough, but in this market you have to balance being agressive and proactive without overdoing it. One email response to their inquiry is not enough! You have to give the buyer value – and that is your skill and knowledge.

  • Matt

    I just came across your blog, and while all your posts are great, this one hits the nail on the head! I am so guilty of this. There are many reasons, and many excuses why agents do not follow up enough, but in this market you have to balance being agressive and proactive without overdoing it. One email response to their inquiry is not enough! You have to give the buyer value – and that is your skill and knowledge.

  • Debbie Watson

    Matt you are so right!!! . The secrete is so simple agents don’t believe it. What a shame! oh, well you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make them drink. More business for those that get it. Great article.

  • Debbie Watson

    Matt you are so right!!! . The secrete is so simple agents don’t believe it. What a shame! oh, well you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make them drink. More business for those that get it. Great article.

  • For the most part I think if a client or customer really forgets you, It’s the agents fault. Education, Caricaturization and consultation. I believe you have to not just chase down business, you must have Value. There must be (VAB) A value added benefit to you over all others.

  • Mike Dewar

    Excellent points. After finding an interesting property on Yahoo this year it took dozens of e-mails and phone calls before I found an agent interested enough to respond. I even tried “Have Cash want to buy TODAY” as a subject! We did buy a foreclosed Condo in Ft Lauderdale sight unseen for cash. Turned out to be a great property and I’m thinking of buying more.

    Its not just real-estate though, buying stuff is just getting harder!

  • Melissabrownriley

    Matt, this post is dead on. Many agents do not approach their business like a business. Many rely upon leads dropping into their laps and then they may not even follow up to the end. I always tell my agents that working with prospects or clients is not “Tag Your It” but making sure that you maintain the contact with them consistently, on their level, whatever that looks like. It’s being proactive versus passive. Unfortunately, the business is still burdened with agents that don’t understand the basics of business. And, many of them stay in the business too long because they get lucky and close one or two deals each year. As we know, even a “blind squirrel gets a nut every now and then” and this encouraging them to hang on in a business that they are ill-equipped for.

  • It’s a good point that “periodic luck-based success” as your squirrel
    analogy makes is one of the most troublesome aspects of all sales
    industries. That’s because the market can often reward bad behavior: See,
    I got a listing, and I didn’t have to prospect! Yet this is often very bad
    for the consumers, because the people they work with are not practicing
    the skills daily required to do the job properly, which might be to
    respond to online leads to capture that buyer for the listing they got
    “without trying.”

    Proactive. Stamina. Consistent. Whatever we call it, it’s amazingly simple
    how easy it is to be effective in real estate. But in so many cases, we
    have to conclude that too many practitioners are simply lazy. And that’s
    bad for them; and bad for customers.

    Thanks for commenting!!

  • David

    Matthew, I think one of the keys is to chase the consumer without them feeling like they are being chased. Good follow up is very important, just don’t come across as pushy.

  • I totally agree; the best sales technique is to build a relationship, not
    push your products and services. You can follow up by offering helpful
    advice, answering questions, providing marketing data, etc., none of which
    needs to be “buy now, or I’ll cross you off my list!” Sadly, some people
    are still taught that way, but the modern consumer just doesn’t work that
    way.

    So, don’t give up too early! But don’t go for the jugular too fast, either
    :>:>

  • Pmoss

    excellent points and well taken – The hardest part to build a relationship is when you only have the email.  Much rather have both as it gives me an opportunity to follow-up in different ways and start the relationship/loyalty process