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Giving Consumers What They Expect

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By John Voket

RISMEDIA, January 15, 2010—Reaching out to consumers and giving them what they want is crucial to remaining ahead of the competition in today’s real estate market. Here, Steve Earman, Co-Owner of Coldwell Banker Heritage Realtors in Dayton, Ohio discusses how he coaches his agents to be sure they understand what their customer expects.

Steve Earman
Co-Owner
Coldwell Banker Heritage Realtors
Dayton, Ohio

Years in business: 23 years in the mortgage business; agency owner since 2001
Number of offices: 9
Agents: 325
Region served: Ohio’s Miami Valley—the five-county area around Dayton
Best tip for dealing with difficult customers: We coach our agents to be better listeners to be sure they understand what the customer wants and what they are looking for. Their ability to listen and not put words in the client’s mouth is an important aspect of properly servicing the customer.
Most effective way to motivate agents: We motivate our agents by offering them comprehensive, in-house training and professional development through our “30 Days to Success” program—a 16-segment training system that allows agents to jump in whenever they can because it repeats monthly. We train them in everything from how to pull stats off our Intranet and MLS system to how to use a BlackBerry.

What strategies are most effective for you in training?
We try to keep on top of trends and make our training relevant to give the best service, whether clients are buying or selling. For example, we added a specific training system for short sales. In our market, short sales and foreclosures have continued to grow. More than 20% of our sales today are short or foreclosure sales. We also quickly added a training module and technical support to promote the federal tax credit programs available for home buyers. We even developed a website targeted for that purpose—not only a site that benefits our agents, but the community as well. When that tax credit program was first announced, we had the website and training up-and-running within a week of it being announced.

Can you give an example or two of your best online marketing initiatives?
Our website has been integral to our success and growth. I don’t think I’ve seen anything as complete and concise as our website, which is great for visitors. We also make our Intranet site easy for agents to use. For instance, this morning I circulated a note via Intranet e-mail because we heard a rumor was going around. We know that every agent got that e-mail so by sending that note, I was able to downplay the rumor immediately. I also do a Monday morning report tracking sales, closings and other business. We do a lot of outbound referrals as well and we can track those referrals from anywhere remotely through our website. We are always trying to help connect outbound clients with referrals in the markets they are relocating to within the Coldwell Banker network.

With more than two decades of mortgage experience, was it a no-brainer to expand your agency to provide mortgage, title and real estate services under the same roof?
In our market, the average sales price is $138,000, so how much profit can you make on just home sales? Our market has been slow and steady and the fluctuations in pricing are not as extreme as other regions. But from an agency standpoint, we need to do what we want to do, and that takes money. It’s hard to compete with companies that offer all three services. The consumer not only wants it, they expect it. From an agency perspective, it provides a distinct advantage as well because when all three aspects of the transaction are handled in-house, they tend to go the smoothest and the fastest. It also helps our people understand all facets of the business.

The relocation guide you offer on your website is unique. What prompted you to feature this service in such a high-profile way?
We do a lot of business with USAA through Cartus, and because of our proximity to some major military installations, we have a lot of military-associated relocation clients. We started the company with relocation clients in mind, but always saw the potential to do more. Part of being with Coldwell Banker is being affiliated with Cartus, so it’s just another way to meet the needs of clients and retain them.

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