Do you know how to jump-start your real estate sales production and achieve greater success in 2004?

Bernice Ross, real estate coach and Inman News columnist, yesterday explained how to do exactly that during an Inman News audio conference, “Sell More Real Estate Now! New Strategies from America’s Top Real Estate Coach.”

Ross opened her remarks by telling participants to stop the usual “me, me, me” approach to online marketing and instead focus on services and benefits. She also emphasized the importance of an immediate response to Web inquiries and leads. The first agent to make contact with the prospect is the one most likely to capture the business and delay causes many agents to lose valuable opportunities, she said.

“We spend all this money on marketing, then we don’t follow up on it,” she said.

Broker’s and salespeople’s own Web sites should be rich in pictures and virtual tours beyond what’s provided on the MLS, Ross added. Extra visuals are important hooks for not just buyers, but also sellers.

“If I’m thinking about listing my home and one agent has one picture online and another has 10 gorgeous shots and a virtual tour, who am I going to go with? Some agents are now setting up separate Web sites for each of their listings, so each seller has a dedicated site to market their property online,” she said.

Ross recommended using autoresponders to respond quickly to Web leads. The autoresponder should be as personalized as possible and offer something of value to the prospect like free reports or a chance to enter a prize drawing. She also likes video autoresponders, telephone call-capture systems and automated e-mail prospecting services like My Homeowners Club.

Marketing strategies and tactics should be well targeted to specific opportunities, Ross indicated. That takes knowing the market and adjusting your plan accordingly.

“Look at the sales board and see where the activity is, then adjust your marketing strategy based on what’s going on. If you are in a hot market, that tells you listings are the name of the game, so what can you do to get more listings? I would be looking at the lead-generation companies. This is something a lot of people don’t want to hear, but they generate millions of leads,” Ross said.

Ross cautioned that salespeople should spend their time in front of buyers and sellers, not a computer. She recommended hiring a virtual assistant, Web site designer, search engine consultant, transaction coordinator and other specialists to respond immediately to new leads, create property Web sites, organize transaction documents and perform other non-selling tasks.

The opportunities of online marketing aren’t cause for salespeople to abandon direct mail. Postcards that have “a twist,” offer an incentive for people to look at a Web site and are combined with personal contact are a good way to build a database that can be utilized for automated prospecting and other purposes, Ross suggested.

“Direct marketing works if you’re willing to go face to face and knock on doors. Otherwise, you’re throwing away money,” she said.

Savvy marketers know how to adopt and leverage a niche or a specialty that’s tied to a particular geographic territory or a personal passion like hockey, cooking or golf, Ross suggested.

“A niche should be built on a strength. A lot of agents try to be generalists in their market. You can make money doing that, but most of the top agents do something that has a twist and that is something they are passionate about…How can you build that passion into what you do?” she said.

Older Baby Boomers and seniors, people starting home-based businesses, REO/foreclosures and immigrants and minorities should be good niche opportunities this year, according to Ross. Baby Boomers and seniors still want to live in single-family houses, but they don’t want two-story residences and they need to be near transportation or within walking distance of local shops. People leaving jobs in corporate America to start micro-businesses in their homes need houses with home offices and referrals to business service providers. REO/foreclosure listings could increase this year because lenders have been very aggressive with 100 percent financing and any possible dip in home prices could put some of those homeowners in a bind. Immigrants and minorities will dominate home buying within the next six years. Salespeople should become fluent in a second language to differentiate themselves. Ross also mentioned Immobel, a service that translates MLS listings data into foreign languages.

Differentiation also can help overcome objections of sellers who want to negotiate a lower commission, Ross suggested. She recommended competing on added services or market statistics that show how long homes were on the market or how well-priced they were. She also suggested this closer: “If other agents can’t negotiate a full commission for themselves, how are they going to negotiation the highest price for your house?”


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