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Gaining an ‘Unfair’ Competitive Advantage

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By Marylyn B. Schwartz

RISMEDIA, May 30, 2008-There are certain people who completely understand what being unique truly looks like. However, much of what is packaged as “unique” is anything but. Changing packaging, media and titles does not equal uniqueness. The fact is that the ubiquitous phrase “unique value proposition” means different things to different people and that makes unique tougher to achieve than one might initially presume.

Verl Workman, Pinnacle Quest (pqpipeline.com,) is a well-known speaker, trainer, coach and highly successful real estate sales professional. His expertise in the optimum use of technology is exemplary. We discussed uniqueness and why it has become such a major marketing issue for sales professionals.

schwartz_marylyn.jpgMBS: No matter whom you speak with or what you read, sales professionals are asking the pros to help them to develop his/her uniqueness. They want to understand and apply ways to attract new clients by using differentiation as a marketing tool. Is there one way better than another to achieve this?

VW: When working with clients in the Midwest they ask me how to achieve a sustainable company advantage. In New York it is about gaining an ‘unfair’ competitive advantage. For my business it means to be armed to the teeth with technology and 99% above everyone else in applying it. What do people want when they hire a coach to help grow their businesses? Do they want someone who is like a family member holding their hand? Or, do they want a sales ‘animal’ who knows how to get out there and nail down the business?

By a long shot, it’s the latter. Going after business 100% today means finding real buyers and not ‘looky-loos’ and not wasting time with listers who are not really motivated to sell. Becoming an Internet lead generation machine gets the job done. When you combine high standards with getting an Exclusive Buyer Agency Agreement signed every time, you are well on your way to developing real industry uniqueness. As basic as these initiatives may seem, they are not common practice.

MBS: So, what are the unique initiatives that make Internet marketing specifically work for the agent?

VW: It’s all about follow-up systems. The turn around time from initial Internet contact from the public to when the prospect is actually ready to move forward is anywhere from 9 to18 months. That requires a contact drip campaign in order to keep the prospect’s interest. The typical 4 to 6 drips before quitting contact is inadequate. The public needs to hear from the agent for a minimum of 18 months or until they ‘buy or die.’ If they do not move forward within the average timeframe, then they are placed in what I call my ‘Home Management Club.’ They get our e-newsletter for life (with an opt-out feature).

The public wants instant everything. They need 24-hour, 7-day-a-week access to information. Along with our MLS Hot-Sheet updates, we send an e-mail that tells the inquiring party how to get additional information if they want it. We provide our contact information. Then after 6 to 7 days later, we follow up with helpful e-mail information on topics such as: what to seek when purchasing property insurance, assistance applying for a mortgage, etc. Then in 3 to 4 weeks we’ll send an e-mail that acknowledges that they have been viewing property sheets for a month. Would they like to go look at some homes? It amazes people to see that we are so on top of the process. They do not get this level of follow up from other agents they may have communicated with in the past. That alone keeps our names first in the mind of the consumer.

MBS: What examples can you give me that illustrate how this helps with your conversion rate?

VW: One situation stands out in my mind as it illustrates so well the kinds of success stories we hear all the time. John C. contacted me after I’d been following up with him automatically for 9 months. He told me that we had done more communicating with him than his present listing agent had. When his listing expired, I went to see the home and he hired us specifically because of our consistency.

MBS: Do you use any particular systems or programs that you would recommend to others?

VW: People should just visit OBEO.com to see what they have to offer. If my real estate, consulting and coaching clients know anything (and they know a great deal,) the OBEO system is unique, easy to use and cutting edge. I simply do not have the time or the inclination to manage all the technology I need to stay above the fray. Neither do my clients. However, back to the issue of uniqueness; seek the technology company that fits your style and that works to make you look great while being the most seamless process possible. Once you find the right company, use it to its fullest capacity and be consistent!

MBS: What are the biggest challenges you see in marketing homes today?

VW: First of all, I think agents who use paper systems on marketing presentations are totally out of step. You cannot say that you are technologically astute and be flipping pages in a book. Everything should be done on a laptop right at the home. Selling houses is about price wars and beauty contests today. You have to be right on both counts to get it sold. Whenever I am in front of an analytical-type seller for example, I know that if I show him/her the everyday CMA with comps I have selected, they are wondering what comps I am not showing them. I bring my computer and together with the prospect we look at sold and listed properties. Think of the typical seller and buyer. They are the technology generation. How can we go before them talking about Internet marketing strategies (the most important aspect of any effective marketing campaign today) while we are presenting ourselves as ignorant flipchart users? It is tough to track our marketing efforts, yet that is just what the seller wants to know. We need to be able to answer questions such as, how is the marketing going. Who has seen the home? We must invest in technology that tracks hits and quantifies the value of our marketing investments on their behalf. They need to know and understand how many virtual people walked through their home over the past hour, week, or month? What is the value of increased knowledge if our actions and behaviors are not altered?

MBS: Yes, the online experience of the consumer is incredibly important. When the public has a lousy visual experience while viewing a listed home, how likely are they to seek out that agent for their home if and when they want to sell? There is much room for improvement when it comes to the pictures we see of homes on the Internet.

VW: We must be experts in selling real estate, not order takers. Listing a home is a matter of signing some forms and putting it in the MLS. Selling it today is a whole other challenge. Go to some of the more popular real estate sites and see how many homes have virtual tours, gallery of homes, more than six photos, etc; far too few. We claim that we understand the need for standing out from the rest, yet we are often Lemmings falling over the same cliff with the masses. Now is the time to re-tool. There are lots of challenges out there. What we need is ‘bullet-train’ thinking. After the war, Japan needed to rebuild its war-torn economy. They wanted to commercially connect the two cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki after the bombings. The trains they had going from one city to the next were slow, ineffectual and unable to move supplies over land quickly enough to be valuable in the rebuilding efforts. Thus was born the idea of the bullet-train. They were able to cut the travel time between cities by nine hours. They needed to cut through mountains, bedrock and impossible geography to make it happen. But, with the idea in place and the willingness to make it happen, Japan rose from the ashes to become the powerful economy it is today. That is what re-tooling is all about.

MBS: Sounds like you have a hard time with people saying they can’t.

VW: That is really true. I will not tell anyone that it is easy to succeed in real estate today. However, it never was easy. Success is not measured by doing well during a bleep upward that occurs every couple of decades. It is about sustaining through the ups and downs, no matter what! It is doing what needs doing day in and day out.
Marylyn B. Schwartz, CSP, is an expert in real estate and corporate sales training/management and team development. She is president of Teamweavers and a trainer for Leader’s Choice.

For more information, visit www.marylynbschwartz.com, or e-mail teamweaver@aol.com.

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