Editor’s note: This is the first of a two-part series. Want to hear directly from consumers and walk away with fresh insights to improve your business? Hear it Direct will host a live consumer panel at Real Estate Connect San Francisco, which takes place July 16-18 at the Hilton San Francisco Union Square.

What types of advertising and marketing strategies work best with today’s buyers and sellers? At a recent Hear it Direct real estate consumer conference, co-creator Sue Adler and her team tackled this topic with a live consumer panel plus “best of” videos from previous Hear it Direct conferences.

What would it take to move your production from $62 million to $110 million in just one year? Sue Adler’s answer is, “Listen to the consumer!”

Adler attributes her team’s tremendous income increase to implementing what she learned from interviewing buyers and sellers at Hear it Direct.

Show your value

One of the most important steps you can take today is to demonstrate your value to your potential customers. The question is, “How?”

It used to be that agents were gatekeepers to the multiple listing service information. Adler correctly observes, “We are not showing our value if we are lockbox openers.”

Hear It Direct’s consumer panelists explained that when they contact an agent, they have already searched multiple sites to find out as much detail as possible about the properties they want to see. Consumers don’t want agents to tell them what they can already discover online. Instead, the panelists said, agents should help consumers learn about the lifestyle and what’s special about living in this location.

One of the most repeated comments from the buyer panels was: “Don’t send me random listings. Take the time to weed out the properties that don’t fit our criteria. Let me know which ones are the best fit.”

Furthermore, consumer after consumer cited issues where the buyer’s agent took them to see properties that were higher than their preapproved price, outside the area they requested, or that were an architectural style that they did not want to see.

Bottom line: When your clients give you specific guidelines, listen to them!

Finally, buyers and sellers have no idea of what closing a transaction entails. Provide them with a checklist that outlines every step they must take to close the transaction. Also give them a separate list documenting every step that you must take as well. This is a simple but powerful way to illustrate your value.

Do a better job

What was painfully apparent from the Hear it Direct interviews is that a substantial number of agents do a poor job. They fail to stay in contact with their clients; they don’t listen; and they don’t explain what is entailed in the process of listing or buying a home. This is a partial explanation for why real estate agents are often placed in the same category as used car salespeople.

Here are just a few examples:

Buyers and sellers repeatedly indicated that they would have welcomed an opportunity to discuss their needs in detail with their agent. They were more than willing to come into the agent’s office to do this, but most agents never asked. This is a key ingredient in contributing to the complaint, “My agent didn’t listen to me.”

Buyers also said repeatedly that having a timeline of events in the transaction would be extremely useful, but very few agents supplied them.

Agency and commission confusion

Explaining agency is a mandatory requirement in virtually every state. At the Austin Hear it Direct panel of six buyers, only one agent explained buyer agency to the buyer.

The lack of clarity about agency is partially responsible for consumer confusion about commissions. Many consumers believe that the agent receives the entire amount of the commission, not a portion of it. What makes this situation difficult is that the clients are not particularly interested in having the commission conversation.

A simple alternative is to have this conversation as part of your discussion about agency. Once you explain the agency requirements in your state, you can then weave in the discussion about how commissions work.

Assuming that you are not the broker of record, here’s what you could say:

“Mr. and Mrs. Seller, when you list your property, your listing is actually with my brokerage rather than with me as the salesperson. If another company represents the buyer and the salesperson is not the broker of record, that brokerage will be the actual buyer’s agent, not the salesperson.

“Consequently, the commission is normally split four ways: half to each agency that represents the buyer and the seller. Then each agency splits that half with their salesperson.”

Smart multiple-offer strategies

One of the best pieces of advice from the Austin Hear it Direct was to tell your clients to stop watching HGTV, especially if you’re in an overheated seller’s market. Help them understand that they will probably have few choices and little time to make a decision.

Adler also sets up the expectation that if there is a multiple offer, there may be appraisal problems.

To prepare her buyers for a multiple offer, Adler has her buyers bid against each other before she presents their offer. She encourages each party to get the best possible price. This approach helps the buyers to uncover what their bottom line is so that if they are not the winning offer, they won’t have any regrets.

To make her buyers’ offers stand out, Adler often sends both a picture of her buyers’ family as well as a letter to the seller. This humanizes her clients and may make the offer more attractive as well.

How would consumers like you to market to them? See Part 2 to learn more.

Bernice Ross, CEO of RealEstateCoach.com, is a national speaker, author and trainer with over 1,000 published articles and two best-selling real estate books. Discover why leading Realtor associations and companies have chosen Bernice’s new and experienced real estate sales training for their agents at www.RealEstateCoach.com/AgentTraining and www.RealEstateCoach.com/newagent.

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