Imagine for a moment that you’re out on tour with other agents from your office and they’re complaining about not making any money. How many of these laments have you heard recently?

1. "I’m spending all this time on Facebook and I’m not getting any business!"

2. "I mail out 1,000 postcards every single month. I can’t understand why I’m not getting any leads."

3. "There’s no point in holding an open house. I held an open house a couple of months ago and nobody came. It’s a complete waste of time."

Can you spot what each of these agents have in common?

In each case, the agent is relying on a passive approach to lead generation. Passive techniques include any real estate activity where you wait for the business to come to you — i.e., floor time, open house, farming by mail with no personal contact, or interacting on Facebook with no plan to develop your business.

Agents who rely on passive approaches receive leads only when someone else initiates the process.

In contrast, agents who have strong businesses don’t wait for the opportunities to come to them. Instead, they are constantly prospecting for leads using active rather than passive strategies.

For example, instead of just setting up a Facebook fan page and expecting people to find it, these agents use print marketing, open houses and other lead-generation activities as a way to generate fan page members. They encourage their fans to share information about what is great about living in their area.

They also provide posts that are real estate-related. In fact, a well-executed Facebook fan page can become the equivalent of a local-area newsletter. This is a great way to grow your sphere of influence and to demonstrate that you are to the "go to" expert for your area.

A key component in moving from passive to active strategies is to create a strong call to action on any print marketing that you may do. Without a call to action, sending out mailing pieces is usually a waste of time and money.

An excellent way to create an effective call to action is to invite recipients to visit your website where they can obtain useful information or an item of value. Some examples include coupons from local businesses, updates on the most recent sales in your local market area, or emergency preparedness tips.

When recipients visit your website, they provide you an e-mail address where they can receive the information. You then have a valid reason to stay in contact with them or a way to make additional offers that allow you to grow the relationship.

In terms of open houses, agents who have the greatest success are those who actively invite neighbors or other potential leads to visit their open house. Neighbors are usually curious about what the price is and what the property is like inside.

Approximately one out of eight of these neighbors will move in the next year. Engaging with them allows you to invite them to your Facebook neighborhood fan page as well as possibly discovering who else in the neighborhood may be moving.

Here’s another set of common complaints:

1. "Buyers are liars. I’ve worked with these buyers for six months and then they walk into an open house and buy it!"

2. "I can’t believe it. I worked really hard on that listing and spent a bundle on marketing it. I kept telling the sellers that they needed to reduce the price and you know what they did? They let the listing expire, dropped the price, listed it with XYZ Realty, and it sold immediately."

What do these two agents have in common? Their negotiation and client qualification skills are weak.

Buyers really aren’t liars. Instead, one of two key things happened when the agent began working with them. First, unless the agent conducted a detailed "buyer’s interview," the agent probably didn’t dig deeply enough into their lifestyle to understand what the buyers are looking to purchase.

Second, when you ask people about what they want in a home, they will give you a verbal answer that comes from their prefrontal cortex. What happens, however, is that the buying decision may be rooted in the brainstem and based upon emotion, not language.

The triggers for purchasing are often unconscious and can include taste, scent or sound. In many cases, the buyer may not even be aware of what triggered the buying response because it’s buried so deep in their subconscious.

To tap into some of these unconscious triggers, ask your buyers to describe in detail their favorite house from their childhood. This approach often provides better insight into what will motivate them to buy.

In terms of the agent whose listing expired, the agent either lacked the negotiation skills to obtain the necessary price reductions or took an overpriced listing. The simple cure for weak negotiation skills is training. An additional component is being willing to walk away from overpriced listings rather than wasting time and money marketing properties that will never sell.

Proactively marketing by relying on active vs. passive lead-generation strategies, strengthening your negotiation skills, and being willing to walk away from unrealistic buyers and sellers are excellent strategies for avoiding the traps that can sink your business.

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