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By Kayla O’Brien

RISMEDIA, Dec. 27, 2008-Technology, technology, technology. It seems to be on the tip of everyone’s tongues-from smartphones to IDX, interactive websites, and text messaging-as many agents have come to rely on technology as a time and relationship saver for client retention. “We have a fairly robust electronic e-mail drip campaign that is not calendars and recipes-it’s informative information about the market today,” says Jake Stanton, COO & general manager of Prudential First Realty. “We also utilize a survey process, following-up after each sale with a survey that allows us to have additional contacts after the sale and get feedback directly from the client and keep them in the loop in terms of the prospecting database.” Here, meet Stanton, and learn what other ways he’s teaming with technology to stand ahead of competition.

Jake Stanton
COO & General Manager
Prudential First Realty
Des Moines, Iowa

Years in real estate: 10
Number of offices: 1
Number of agents: 140
Region served: Des Moines, Iowa
Average listing price: $170,000
Average number of days on market: 87
Three keys to getting the right listing price: Leverage, knowledge and technology. Know the market. The best way for our agents to really understand the market is to use the tools and systems that we have to assist them, including a great snapshot for our marketplace, closed contracts, price per square feet, days on market, etc.
The best way to approach a difficult client is…To first overwhelm them with facts and statistics. In the event that for whatever reason they don’t want to face the market realities, my suggestion is for the agent to walk away. We encourage them to walk away but keep them as prospects and when they’re ready to be realistic in six months, we’ll provide them with lots of good tools and systems.
Keep meetings productive by: Taking the tools and systems and helping agents better utilize them to better prospect. While these are great tools for presentations, they’re also very effective for prospecting, so in the business meetings we highlight how to use our tools and systems to keep and get more customers. The other thing I’ve learned is that it’s far more effective when my agents train each other than when I train them. They are much more open to utilizing the tools when other agents tell them how they’re using them.
Print vs. online marketing in 2008: We cut our print allocation in half as we went into 2008 and we have had no significant negative impact by that move. And part of the reason is that we reallocated a big portion of that savings into Internet marketing as well as giving agents excellent presentation tools to help explain to buyers where sellers are coming from, and why a photo and description in the newspaper is not the single answer. Once agents had those tools, it was a fairly easy push.

How are you staying one step ahead of your local competitors?

I think that when I look at our value package and what we provide our agents vs. our competitors, it is primarily on the technology front, whether that’s talking to agents about how they can market more effectively using technology, mobile phones, and social media, or by using the third party software with our MLS. I would say that how we package it is one of the things that keeps us ahead of the competition. The other selling point of how we position ourselves against competition is that we are front and center as a HomeServices company, an affiliate of Berkshire Hathaway Inc., with our strong national ties with Prudential. In this day and age, when sellers are really looking for how this process is going to play out, they do ask and our affiliations are important.

What’s the one element of your website that keeps your company competitive?

On our website, our biggest advantage locally is clean looks, simple navigation and the fact that it’s user-friendly. All of the information is there-everything they need, from searching MLS listings to drilling in on types of real estate that are becoming more prevalent, like foreclosures-it’s clean and simple to use. We offer community information, school information, etc.-it’s a one-stop-shop presentation for sure. One of the more important things we lose sight of is that we want to load everything possible onto our sites and sometimes we forget that people come to our sites for houses. Front and center, we have information on how to find a house, agents, etc.

When it comes to recruiting, what strategies have been most effective for your company?

I think it’s two-fold in this market. First, the tools and systems we have in place help our agents focus on more productive activity-they never have to take their eye off the ball when it comes to prospecting, but to the same extent, you can have tools to streamline the process, allowing you to be in front of clients, which is where the high value of return is. The second piece is that we’re owned by a very focused business organization, which provides stability and longevity in this market.

What are your best ideas for client retention?

For client retention, we leverage technology. In terms of general prospects, we have a fairly robust electronic e-mail drip campaign that is not calendars and recipes-it’s informative information about the market today. We also utilize a survey process, following-up after each sale with a survey that allows us to have additional contacts after the sale and get feedback directly from the client and keep them in the loop in terms of the prospecting database. A vast majority of our agents’ clients are repeat business.

How are you communicating with agents today?

In every way-I walk around. I e-mail. We have coaching and mentoring groups that include small group brainstorming. We hold regular sales meetings, training opportunities a couple of times a month, and I’m writing thank you notes and birthday cards-any opportunity to communicate with the agents is number one. It’s great retention through recruiting. I have to recruit within my own office.

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