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As the Spring approaches, just about the only thing that’s heating up hot in the real estate market is the temperature at open houses. Or at least that’s what many brokes are telling us: slump, slump, slump. Inventory has stalled, buyers are cautious and choosey. Sellers are unreasonable. Oh, and the internet now REALLY sucks.

At least, internet leads are “terrible” – if we’re to believe the agents who seem to have no problem throwing the vast majority of them away. Still, everyone’s focused on “redesigning their website” or “pay per click” or “driving traffic” or whatever other form of pixiedust they think will bring in the business.

And everyone’s forgotten about prospecting.

You know: sales basics? Generally getting back to customers who call/email/IM/visit your open house? Following up. Checking in. Chasing the sale. Any of this ring a bell?

Probably not if you joined the industry in the last three to five years. Who prospected when you could just take orders for scarce inventory. Sorry – fun time is over. Now it’s time to do what all salespeople – in all industries have to do: Prospect.

And it’s not like agents haven’t heard about prospecting somewhere before. I mean, it’s the number one thing agents are “screaming for” nowadays. How can I prospect better? Like the lady on the northshore demanded in class not too long ago: “I came here today so you could tell me the one thing I can do when prospecting to MAKE internet customers get back to me!” (We had to sedate her when we told her we had just ran out of Slick-Sales-Serum…)

Look, Prospecting isn’t MAGIC. It’s a skill; habit; a process. There is NO TECHNOLOGY that will MAKE customers build relationships with you. Not email. Not websites, Not IM. Not even blogs. If you’re reading this, then you’re reading something from me; from a person. And that’s the only way prospecting will ever work. When people talk to people. Using technology: sure. Just technology: never!

OK, ok, let’s nail it down. It looks like this:

  • Forget about all those overblown software programs that let you track every iota of consumer data: you need a basic profile for each prospect – price range, house type, area, and core needs. Research tells us they will COMPROMISE on JUST ABOUT EVERYTHING ELSE. So prospecting DOESN’T require you track their desired room sizes, roof types or heating system preferences. You need to put it in Outlook; setup a reminder and simply monitor a task list. You don’t need crazy “time-released” processes as if they added “credibility” to your follow up efforts.
  • Stop worrying about drip-campaigns. If you want to look like a robot, then act like one. Send out automatic, dry, dull, boring templates. By mail, email, any way you want. They just SCREAM: I’m an automated follow up. Just like the junk mail you get from the car dealer, rug cleaner and pest control company. I’m just a commodity – sending you junk. I don’t really care about you; I only care if I’ve got your address in my database.  — Drip campaigns are totally ineffective at building relationships. They are PERFECT for announcing sales for or a special ticket price for air travel. They might even work (to some extent) to drive interest in a “soon to be released” product. But for REAL ESTATE SALES – where only TRUST will create a relationship – there’s no way your “template campaign” will really seem authentic enough to inspire your prospects. All you really need is to just send a personal note/email/IM/whatever. PERSONAL. Short message that says, I’m thinking of you. And put something in it from your last conversation, so it’s authentic.
  • Do it. Really – the main reason prospecting doesn’t work is that NOBODY DOES IT. Don’t believe me? Fine: prove it for yourself. Do a time study. Take out a notebook. Write down what you REALLY DO every hour of every day. Then look back over the last two weeks and see that you DO NOT DO ANY PROSPECTING. Where was that block of time you spend calling old clients? How about that block of time you spent following up on those email leads you received? What day did you say you spent some time instant messaging with your sphere of influence? Right. I thought so. If you want the technology to help you, it will only do so if you actually USE it. And that means scheduling time EVERY DAY to prospect.

Let me give you two facts:

  • 74% of listing appointments come from past clients and referrals from past clients
  • 88% of internet leads are ABANDONED by the average NAR member (and the number ONE reason is that the “consumer didn’t get back to me.” So say the agents.)

You don’t need more leads. And you don’t need more technology. The internet is sending you leads to your email. And your Outlook contains a list of everyone you’ve done business within in the past. That’s it. Now just go through both lists and set a “follow up” reminder in Outlook to contact each person on a recurring basis. You don’t need hundreds; just dozens will do. Prospecting isn’t magic. It isn’t the result of a particular technology or a particular gadget. It’s the result of implementing technology to conduct a business activity.

Prospecting works. If, of course, you actually DO it.