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By Craig Proctor

RISMEDIA, January 21, 2009–One of the most basic concepts you need to understand as a real estate agent is that if you want your message to be heard, you have to say something your prospects want to hear.

How do you figure out what your prospect will pay attention to? Well, you have to try to read your marketing messages as if you were the customer and, from the customer’s perspective, you have to ask the questions: “Why should I pay attention to this?” “What will I get out of this?” You see, your prospects are tuned into the radio station WIFM — “What’s In it For Me?” If your prospects can’t find the answer to this question in your marketing, they’ll zap you almost as fast as your media dollars will fly out of your bank account.

Even if you buy into the sense of this, you may not understand how to put it into practice. Certainly the vast majority of agents have no clue who they’re really talking to. Their blatantly vague and self-congratulatory ads are written to feed their own egos rather than any researched consumer need or want. Ads that feature a nice photograph of the agent with benefit-less, me-too promises such as “I care about your business” or “I will work really hard for you” will not be seen or read by the prospects you are trying to reach.

They will fall on deaf ears. So again, what is it that you should be doing differently? How do you find out what your customers care about and will respond to?

Well if you stop to think about it, the answer is so obvious that it’s really surprising so few trip over it. If you want to know what your prospects want . . . ask them!

Customer surveys are a highly neglected part of most agent’s rituals. Most agents are so busy talking, telling, convincing and selling in their conversations with prospects that they forget how to listen.

Active solicitation of customer comments and feedback should be a deliberate and systematic part of your business, and you should do this at two levels:

1. Survey EVERY client upon closing to get specific feedback on the process and their satisfaction with the results you were able to get for them. (You should go on to use the best of these comments as input to testimonials that you should use in your marketing and presentations.)

2. Occasionally you should do an anonymous spot check of your performance (and your competitors’ performance) in order to put your finger on the pulse of the market. Hire someone to do a simple telephone survey with people who have just sold (pulled off the MLS: 50% should be your clients and 50% should be clients who were serviced by your competitors.) Conduct the survey under the guise of unbiased market research in order to solicit more objective feedback.

How will this research help you? You’ll get specific information straight from the horse’s mouth about what prospects want to hear. You’ll be able to use this information to create ads that call out meaningfully to qualified buyers and sellers, compelling them to pick up the phone and call you to get the information you know is of most interest to them.

“I have made a conscious effort to survey clients throughout the process of selling a home,” says Lynn Horner Baker, an agent in Georgia. “I began this effort after receiving a few surprisingly negative comments from clients upon closing and I was genuinely distraught about not correcting concerns much sooner. So at four weeks our first survey is sent to each of our listings and the questions are designed to elicit an honest response.

“The most insightful three words are “What’s important about…?” Your clients (also your spouse and kids) will tell you exactly what’s in their heart. It’s amazing what you learn when you show an interest. These three simple words are worth more than gold and have earned me loyalty and trust, irreplaceable values in today’s real estate arena.”

“Customer surveys are a very important tool in our business,” adds Lester Cox from Arizona. “We use the results in a number of ways, including the sourcing of testimonials, and as an important follow through on completed deals.

“Testimonials will give backup to the claims you make,” he continues. “If you think your prospects are going to believe you without any kind of proof, you are very mistaken. In truth, prospects are going to be skeptical of what you tell them without third party endorsement that supports the truth of your claim.

Cox adds, “You should have a customer service client survey form go to each and every customer you complete a transaction with, just to see how you did in their eyes. If there were any problems, I’m on the phone with a call just to see how the transaction went, and getting them to tell me the problem first hand, so I can fix it. The fact that I called, then discovered the problem, and then did my best to fix it is very impressive to the client. If I can successfully turn them around, they will then write the strongest testimonial one can get. And besides that, I’ve taken someone who may be unhappy about something and made them a raving fan. Usually, the problem they have was not our doing, but — as they say — the buck stops here.”

To find out more about how to craft and use customer surveys in your business, you can visit http://www.hypertracker.com/go/cp/a13a080402/ where you can learn about my 3-day SuperConference where I train agents on how to leverage real customer knowledge into better service, marketing and profit.

Billion Dollar AgentTM Craig Proctor has been in the top 10 for RE/MAX Worldwide for 15 years and is a real estate trainer who does what he teaches. Craig consistently sells over 500 homes per year to earn almost $4 million in commission. Over 25,000 agents nationwide use Craig’s system to make more money in less time. To receive free training from Craig with no obligation, visit: http://www.hypertracker.com/go/cp/a13b080402/. This Free Training includes free weekly teleconference training calls with Craig and some of his most successful agents where they discuss the cutting edge strategies they’re using right now, in this market, and explain how they work. You’ll also receive a free weekly email newsletter that reveals the tested and proven marketing strategies that continue to make Craig one of North America’s top agents. By taking advantage of this free training, you’ll also get advanced notice of Craig’s free half day seminars that will provide you with the tools you’ll need to start implementing these ideas immediately. These seminars are held year round in cities across the country. To receive free training from Craig with no obligation, visit: http://www.hypertracker.com/go/cp/a13b08402

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