August 31, 2011

What the "Eff" Are You Doing?

I spent the day today at a really cool event called Agent ReBoot. It was a pleasant mix between harnessing technology to better adapt to today's changing landscape in real estate and how to better utilize all the tools, systems and people that are out there that can provide some help, guidance or assistance.

The event was brought to Columbus by Inman News and featured some of the best speakers in real estate today including Chris Smith (Chief Evangelist for Inman News), Darin Persinger (Productivity Junkies), Steve Pacinelli (Tech Savvy Agent and Move Inc.), Sherry Chris (Better Homes & Gardens Real Estate) and Tracy Weir (Chief Marketing Officer of Inman News).

I was honored to have been invited to join a panel discussion - Social Media Insights - Making the Smartest Investment of Your Time along with fellow Central Ohio Realtor Toby Boyce where we shared our thoughts on how, when, where and why real estate agents may want to utilize social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and blogs to build better relationships and possibly increase their success and their income.

If You're Going to "Eff Up" Your Business, Choose Wisely

While all of today's guests shared tips, tricks and tools to help today's agents become better at what they do, I think everyone who attended today (or any other event like this at their local branch, board or association) needs to move forward with one main question in mind.

The question is, "are you aiming to become more efficient or more effective?"

They are definitely not the same.

Efficiency sounds great because most people think if we become more efficient, we can get more done and if we can get more done, we'll close more deals and if we close more deals, we'll make more money. Sure, that might be true, but I could be really fast at entering data incorrectly or I might only take ten minutes to deliver a poor listing presentation to potential clients but have I necessarily gained anything from inaccurate data or business I didn't get?

Efficient, yes. Effective, no.

Effectiveness also sounds wonderful. Effective seems to be when the activity we are doing delivers the end result we were hoping for. We all love to find tools and systems that are effective but if these tools and systems take us an extraordinarily long time to get from start to finish, how did that help us build our business in the long run? Could we capture more (or better) leads in the time it might take us to effectively meet a customer using passive forms or business development? Would you feel successful if you helped 100% of the clients you worked with get to the closing table if you only got to the "promised land" 4-5 times this year? How much time would be spent doing redundant tasks just to insure no fall through occurred?

Effective, perhaps? Efficient...probably not.

I don't have any specific answers and my guess is you don't either, but I do think it is sometimes good to slow down and re-evaluate what we are doing before we just keep going down the road because "that's how we got there last time."

Perhaps as you begin to analyze what you've done this year and start to draft out some 2012 plans in your head, you should start to look at where you can improve efficiencies and where you can deliver more results.

What would you say if you could develop a system that allowed you to build relationships, solve problems and have fun quicker and better than you ever have?

My guess is you'd smile and say "Eff yeah! Sign me up!"

August 28, 2011

All Work and No Play...

Monday Morning Match is a quick post - maybe a quote, inspirational story or idea - intended to spark some motivation inside each of you so your week gets off to a fantastic start on Monday morning.

Are You Game?

Real estate is a competitive business. Everyone is out there trying to find the next seller or the next buyer who might have a need they can help fill. Our listings need to be strategically positioned so they garner more traffic and attention from the buyer pool. We want our client's offers to be the one accepted instead of the other potential buyers submitting offers. We love to have more friends and followers on the major social networks and we seek to increase subscribers to our blogs. Even though it isn't really a contest, it's kind of neat to grow our Klout, become a Mayor, or earn "likes" from people.

With over 310 million people in the United States and slightly over 1 million members of the National Association of Realtors (actually 1,024,863 as of the end of July), that means there are approximately 302 people for every licensed member.

Why would the next consumer pick you?

While it may seem like a rhetorical question, it certainly is something you should be thinking about all the time. What are you doing each day to increase your odds that one of your 302 will call (or refer you) because no one should be naive enough to think that everyone doesn't know (or at least know of) more than one real estate agent.

How you choose to approach your business this week might come down to how serious you are about achieving success. And when I say "serious" I am not talking about how focused or dedicated you are. I'm talking about the "furrowed brow, never smiling" type of serious that people don't like to be around. Mark Twain once said,

"Work and play are words used to describe the same thing under differing conditions."

So perhaps instead of "working" so hard to find clients, you could challenge a fellow agent this week to "play" a lead generating game. Make it simple. Start calling prospects at a designated time and the first person to secure an appointment earns a point. The first person to three points wins ___________________ (insert something fun here - lunch, cocktails, ice cream, etc.)

Maybe you could invite your current Seller who is in desparate need of a price reduction to a game of "The Price is Right." Drive him/her around to see some competing listings and ask them to tell you what they think they are priced at. Imagine some of their surprised gasps from the passenger seat.

Hey Managers! Isn't now a perfect time of year to kick off a listing contest? Get your people focused on building their inventory. It's never a bad time to have more signs in yards. Maybe a For Sale by Owner blitzkreig? When did you host your last "Dialing for Dollars" night?

How about having some fun with your Open Houses? I heard of one agent getting creative with multiple opens on one day and attaching a "check-in" contest on the geo-location network FourSquare to build buzz and generate traffic.

All Work and No Play...

It's kind of neat to see what could happen when you start building releationships, solving problems and having fun without all the pressure of "work" hanging over your head. Look at everything you do this week and try to figure out a way to make it fun.

What kind of games do you like to use to help you stay focused on business development activities instead of allowing the work of business support activities to drag you into a "No Fun" zone?

August 25, 2011

Would You Drop What You're Doing?

Can people count on you?

Are you a willing to do what it takes to help the team?

Would you do something outside the scope of your work knowing it might not get you any credit, attention or recognition?

How do you feel going outside of your comfort zone?

You know who will do this?

Kathy will do this.

I don't want to use Kathy's full name because I know she wouldn't want the publicity. That is not the reason she came to my aid today when I was 30 minutes from starting a continuing education class and I realized I was missing the VGA cable that connects my projector to my computer. 

For those of you who might not know, the VGA cable is the cord that allows the audience to see the presentation from the computer via the projector. Not to be overly dramatic but it is kind of an important thing when you're teaching a class so that the audience can see your presentation.

I needed to find a way to get a cable or I wouldn't have been able to teach this class as effectively as I would with a full visual presentation. When I called in to my office to find someone who might be able to help, no one really seemed to feel the "urgency" of my dilemma. My former training coordinator was out of the office and another staff member got disconnected when we were talking. I didn't have time to play telephone tag. I needed to find a way to get a cord or a new projector to this location in 30 minutes or less and sadly, Domino's doesn't deliver technology.

The office is about 17 minutes from the location where I was teaching so it wasn't possible for me to return to get a cable and get back in time. It had to be a team effort.

"Who else is there," I asked the receptionist?

After a slight pause, I just said "Is Kathy there?"

Dependable People Never Say "That Depends..."

"Hey what's up?" was all Kathy said upon being paged by the front desk.

In a panting voice with a hint of desperation, I explained my dilemma and urgency and just said "can you help me?"

There was no hesitation. There was no "well, I won't be able to do it right away." There wasn't any sound in her voice of "oh crap, why did he call me?" 

"Don't worry. I'll be there right away," was all Kathy said.

I hung up and exhaled deeply.

To the Rescue

The registrants were arriving and the empty seats were filling up. Attendees were scanning the handout in anticipation of an on-time start. I was pacing near the front door trying to look relaxed and ready to teach. With 4 minutes to spare before the beginning of my class, Kathy arrived with not just one projector but two...just in case.

We powered up in seconds and kicked off the class with some high fives. It was time to "Get in the Game."

How Do You Stand Out?

There are over 300 million people and a little over 1 million Realtors in the United States. When a random person wakes up tomorrow and needs real estate services, will they call you? Will their co-worker or neighbor think of you? Odds are that they know at least one other Realtor so what would you need to do for your name have that "top of mind" awareness? 

If one of your Buyers or Sellers called you tonight and needed something answered, provided or explained, would you reply?

Can your former clients expect a return call or follow up in a timely manner?

Are you comfortable reaching out to leads referred to you by clients, friends or fellow Realtors?

Will your family sit back and relax knowing that you will do what you said you would do?

Do you build relationships, solve problems and have fun in such a way that people know you care?

Can people count on you?

August 21, 2011

Swing for the Fences

Monday Morning Match is a quick post - maybe a quote, inspirational story or idea - intended to spark some motivation inside each of you so your week gets off to a fantastic start on Monday morning.

"Every strike brings me closer to the next home run."
Babe Ruth

The smell of football is in the air with college starting up in a few weeks. The professionals have finally resolved their labor issues and are in the midst of training camps and will kick off their season in a little under a month.
In competition to the cheers soon to be heard around your local gridiron, the "boys of summer" have started heating things up and the pennant races across America's baseball diamonds are keeping at least one of the true sport's fan's two eyes on their game.
With just under 40 games left to play before the playoffs, the games will begin to get a little bit more contentious. The managers will think through every lineup change, the pitchers will throw a little bit harder and the hitters will become just a little more focused in hopes of  leading their team, city and loyal fan base into the coveted month of October where a World Series Champion will be crowned. 

80 years ago today (August 21st, 1931), the great Babe Ruth hit his 600th home run. As most sports fans know, Ruth went on to hit 714 home runs in his career and held that record until Henry "Hank" Aaron broke it in 1974. There are only 8 players in history that have knocked it out of the park 600 or more times (with Minnesota's Jim Thome joining the club just last week) so needless to say, Ruth, Thome and the other six had to swing at a lot of pitches. In fact, all 8 members of the 600 Home Run Club are among the Top 100 in strikeouts in the history of baseball.
From the Baseball Field to the Field of Real Estate
It's a new week. Let's think of it as the top of the inning and guess who's up to bat? Yep, it's you.
Are you ready to get up there and swing for the fences? Here comes the pitch... 
  • Will you call that former client of yours who you ran into this weekend?
  • Could you stop by the expired listing that just showed up in the MLS Search of your target area?
  • How about calling on that For Sale By Owner who has been trying to sell for the last several months in your neighborhood?
  • Should you try out the new dialogue that you've been practicing in the office on your next Open House visitor?
  • Don't let fear stop you from showing up at your next coaching session.
  • Reach out to some of your "less vocal" connections on your social media channels and get engaged.
The market isn't going to toss you any easy pitches so you better dig your feet in, focus on the ball and start swinging for the fences.
Get out there and start building relationships, solving problems and having fun.
There's no way you can swing and miss at all three of those.
Flickr photo credit - Meadowsa


August 14, 2011

Pencil Yourself In for Success

Monday Morning Match is a quick post - maybe a quote, inspirational story or idea - intended to spark some motivation inside each of you so your week gets off to a fantastic start on Monday morning.

"There are two patron saints to whom I have tremendous devotion: a sheet of paper and a lead pencil. Mark down at least once a day everything you do and every time you do it. It will not only make you proud to see all you do; but it will humble you by showing you all you don't do."

~ William Doyle

I hate to sound like a broken record in many of these blog posts but there are two things a successful Realtor should do every day - "business development" activities and "business support" activities.

Most agents choose to spend their time on the business support activities because those things don't involve rejection, fear or conflict. Remember though that if you spend too much time on the business support activities and no time on business development, there soon will be no business to support.

Instead of getting hung up on the insignificant things, remain focused on those things that will lead to a successful transaction.

If the things you are doing this week aren't helping you build relationships, solve any problems or have more fun, it might be a good idea to find something else to do.

Photo courtesy of Chucknado via Flickr

August 10, 2011

It Was Twenty Years Ago Today...

To my loyal readers, I beg your indulgence for a totally selfish post. It's a moment to tap into the memory bank and relive some unbelievable times. I'm sure if you're like me, the following post will bring back many memories for you from a similar time in your life.

Scene Setting- August 10th, 1991
Scene Location: Stephen C. O'Connell Center, Gainesville, Florida

[Lights fade. Scene ends with Sean confidently walking off the stage with diploma in hand]

My parents Jot and Claire Carpenter were in the audience to witness the memorable event. I graduated from the University of Florida with a Bachelors Degree in Exercise and Sports Science exactly twenty years ago today - August 10, 1991. At that moment (or perhaps the next morning), six of the best years of my life came to a close.

Apart from my 18 years of marriage and the entire lives of my children, there has not been anything in my life that has had a bigger impact on me than the time between August 1985 and August 1991. 

I'm sure you all have something in your life between the moment you entered this world and this exact moment in time as you are reading this that hold special memories for you. Perhaps it's a specific birthday such as your Sweet 16 or your 21st, your wedding day, a birth of a child (or children), a last moment with a parent or grandparent or some other personal moment in time.

For me, I can't tell you which moment from my time in Gainesville stands out the most but I can share a memories - some generic and some specific - that are in the "Play it again Sam" reel in my memory banks.

Rawlings Hall - Freshman year. 17 year old boy from Columbus enters a un-airconditioned, co-ed dormitory to begin my college years. My Dad helped move me in and still to this day, I remember every moment of that day...even my Dad sneaking in the two cases of Bud Light that my older brother Jot helped buy for me before I left Columbus. (It's not like Dad never did any underage drinking at University of Georgia when he was a freshman, right?)

Carl Bergeron - my Rawlings Hall RA (resident assistant) and the person who introduced me to my future best friends at...

Delta Upsilon Fraternity - A non-secret, non-hazing fraternity that was originally founded on November 4, 1834 at Williams College that became a huge part of my life in Fall 1985. 

Class of 1985 Pledge Class - Matt Corey, Tim Burch, Jim Daniel, Rick Marshall, Norm Cuadra and many others who became my first "band of brothers" in my adult life. Brian Marmaud, my fraternity Big Brother, was the original "River Dawg" and a huge mentor in my life over the next six years.

Jot T. Carpenter - My grandfather (a.k.a "Pop") lived in Jacksonville, Florida and was a huge factor in me choosing to attend UF. Turns out, after pledging Delta Upsilon, I found out that my "Pop" was a DU brother from the University of California back in the early part of the 20th century. Pop's beachfront property in Ponte Vedra Beach quickly because the DU House East until his death in 1987.

Joe's Deli - The eatery next door that was a legendary spot to eat before, during and after all Gator events. Many of my DU brothers worked here thru the years which meant great discounts on food and beers and many "after hours" events that weren't open to the public.

It's been said before but guys like Jim Mullaney, Tom Sandberg (River Dawg Gen II), Marc Jackson, Bill Loehle, Tim Logan, Pete Reichert, Pete Blank, Todd Meininger, Ross Bilbrey, Mike Neuwirth, Mike Richardson (River Dawg Gen III), Matt Scaringe (River Dawg Gen IV) and may other DU brothers that have a huge majority of my memory cache than any "lesson learned" in that same time frame. "Good times don't last but good people do." Dikaia Upotheke boys!

Crescent Beach, Sugar Mountain, NYC, Boston, LA, and many more road trip locations across America including most major college towns in the Southeastern quadrant of the United States. Many memories, most of which have been sealed in a pledge of confidentiality.

"Stop", "Can I get some Viresh?", "Abutments don't give," and "Calibogue" as well as many other sayings that don't mean anything except to those who ever said them.

.10 beers at The Park, .25 cent beers at CJ's, Reed Boyd at Chelsea's on Bottomless Beer Night, Danny's on Thursday Token Nights, Chili's Friday afternoon, Happy Hour at the Purple Porpoise from midnight to 2am, Balls, PJ O'Reilly's, Bennigan's, Nells for drafts and many more I am sure we've forgotten about...or probably should.

Tony and Pat's, Skeeters, Sizzler, Burrito Bros., Waffle House, Bill Knapp's, Grandy's, gator tails at Joe's Deli and anything served by fraternity cooks -  Ed, The Rev or Pat the Cook. (Please note the term "cook" used loosely and probably an insult to true chefs everywhere)

Faces of Faith, DU Lagoon, Full Moon Formal and Grand Slam Sorority Softball Tournament just to name a few events that come to mind.

Donating blood two times in a four week period to help win Greek Week

The Pike Open

Serenading sororities during dinner time

The Mallard Lounge, Work Parties and the Pent-House (forever)

Delta Upsilon's Florida Chapter earning the Sweepstakes Award for Best Chapter in the Nation - 1986. Not very often you can say you were among "the best in North America."

Dr Owen Holyoak - The toughest, meanest, most caring teacher I had in the College of Health and Human Performance. A tough SOB who wasn't liked by anyone but was respected by everyone. Without knowing it, he probably was a mirror image of my father. Earning a 100% on the final thesis in his course remains one of my proudest accomplishments in my life. 

Visits to see the lovely ladies of Delta Zeta at the University of Kentucky - some solo to visit my future wife and some with buddies to attend random sorority events.

Hitting my first hole-in-one on the 11th hole at the University Course with Brian Marmaud by my side

Seeing some incredible sporting events involving the Florida Gators and many other great SEC and rival teams.  

Wow - what a trip down Memory Lane. I hope you enjoyed the trip too and it made you flash back to some of the people, places and parties from your college years.

It's funny, because thinking about this now, it's probably during my college years that I subconsciously developed my current philosophy of "building relationships, solving problems and having fun."

I'm excited for the opportunity to continue that approach for another twenty years... and hopefully a few more.


August 7, 2011

Hey Realtors - It's Okay to Be a Little Petty

Today I got to do one of my favorite things - cut the grass.

I'm serious. I love to mow my lawn. Sometimes I even double cut it just so I can get it looking really good, even though, much like a new haircut or a kid's clean bedroom, it will only look good for a few days.

As I usually do while cutting the grass, I was listening to my iPod. Sometimes I listen to podcasts such as John Jantsch's Duct Tape Marketing, Harvard Business Review's Idea Cast, comedy podcasts by Josh Sneed (Detention) or Chris Hardwick (The Nerdist) or real estate chat like Raise the Bar Radio hosted by Michael McClure and Todd Waller from Professional One (which I highly recommend you check out some of their previous episodes as well as subscribe to their new episodes).

Sometimes I just hit shuffle and listen to a mix of the 1000's of songs I have in there. Sometimes I utilize the Genius feature which compiles playlists of similar music based on genre and songs I listen to a lot.

Today, I listened to my favorite artist - Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers - and I couldn't help but think of some of the things Realtors can learn from Petty's song titles.

Photo courtesy of Match the Hatch via Flickr

Learning to Fly - Are you taking advantage of the training, education and mentoring being offered by your broker, local board or National Association of Realtors?

Runnin' Down a Dream - If you don't know where you're going, how will you know when you get there? Creating and following a business plan is really no different from getting in the car for a family vacation and having a map to your destination. Check it often and make adjustments as needed.

I Need to Know - If there is one thing your clients and potential clients count on you for it is knowing the market. Are you studying your hot sheets every day? Do you have a good gauge on the current inventory in your local markets, what is pending and what has sold so far this year?

Breakdown - No, I'm not referring to the mental struggles of Realtors. I'm more focused on an agent taking the process of working with a Buyer or a Seller and breaking it down into simple, repeatable steps. Have you developed systems for every possible occurrence in your business? If not, why not? If you have, when was the last time you reviewed them? A system is only good if the steps in it are current and relevant to the user and the end customer.

You Don't Know How It Feels - When was the last time you actually role played dialogues, objections or scenarios that might occur today, tomorrow or next week? I always joke with my students that doctors have it easy. They get to work on cadavers, so no matter how poorly they do in their practice sessions, their "role play partners" are already dead. If you don't role play on a regular basis, you just might be killing your next opportunity for business. 

Don't Come Around Here No More - That might be what you here from For Sale by Owners and Expired Listings but don't let it discourage you. In challenging markets like the one out there right now, people who want to sell need us now more than ever. Stay persistent and always seek to offer value. Build relationships first, seek to solve problems second. Don't start selling until the potential client has expressed a need.

Time to Move On - While we want to be in front of a lot of potential clients, if they don't have the required motivation or ability to actually do something, find another client. It's been said that the only agent who would take an overpriced listing is a desperate agent. If you can't get the right price, the right terms and the right commission, find another Seller. At least aim for two of the three. Otherwise, walk away. It will be quite empowering.

Photo courtesy of Julio Enriquez via Flickr
 You Got Lucky - Have you ever had one of your past clients call you back out of the blue and ask you to come list their house? That's a great feeling, isn't it? Especially when you haven't been in consistent contact with them since your last transaction. Don't leave your future business to luck. Develop a planned out, consistent follow up plan that includes social media, direct mail, phone calls and face-to-face contact on a regular basis.

Even The Losers - You can learn a lot from the deals you didn't get...if you ask. Next time you lose a listing to a competitor, don't pout. Call the Sellers and wish them well on the sale of their home. After you show them your professionalism, ask them if there is anything they can tell you about your presentation that will help you become better next time or if there was something that you could have done differently. Do the same with potential buyers who end up choosing to work with someone else. Who knows? Your genuine approach just might keep you in the running should something go wrong.

Free Fallin' - The market is challenging right now, no doubt about it. Just like the song, keep a simple tune in your head that there are opportunities out there and you're just the person who can help find them.

Too Much Ain't Enough - Profit is not a dirty word. Neither is sales. Use your knowledge, competence and determination and blend it with the Code of Ethics and you'll be in great shape to keep growing your business.

I Won't Back Down - Even the best Realtor will face rejection. But if you're just faced with resistance, stalling or one of the standard objections, are you prepared to handle it with a phrase, dialogue, facial expression or stance? Prepare for every presentation as if you will get every objection in the book so when you do "knock it out of the park" they will just look at you smiling and say "when can you start?"

The Waiting (see below) - You don't know where your next deal will be coming from so instead of waiting for it to come to you, get out there and make something happen. Get proactive, not reactive.

It'll All Work Out - It all starts with a positive attitude. No matter what happens today, you must stay focused on the things you can control and then make it happen.

Built to Last - When you stop treating your career as a real estate business and start treating it as a real business, that is when your success will start to blossom. Everything up to today has created a great foundation. Now start adding on the next level of your career. It will be fun to watch it grow knowing you have a sturdy base.

Into the Great Wide Open - After 20 albums/CDs and 40+ years of making awesome rock and roll, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers continue to have fun doing what they do best. That's a pretty good example to follow for anyone in real estate who wants to be a star. Keep looking ahead to all the possibilities this career offers.

Most importantly, keep building relationships, solving problems and having fun.

Here's a cool video on the story behind Petty's classic song The Waiting. (click here if you don't see the video below)

Shut Up, Will Ya?

Monday Morning Match is a quick post - maybe a quote, inspirational story or idea - intended to spark some motivation inside each of you so your week gets off to a fantastic start on Monday morning. 

"A good listener tries to understand thoroughly what the other person is saying. In the end he may disagree sharply, but before he disagrees, he wants to know exactly what it is he is disagreeing with"
~ Kenneth A. Wells in Guide to Good Leadership

Did you ever hear your mother or perhaps an early grade school teacher tell you "God gave you two ears and one mouth ao you could listen twice as much as you talk."
Well. Did you heed that advice? As a member of the real estate profession, I'm hoping the answer is yes.

The longer I am a part of this industry, the more I am confident of this; Real estate sales is about people and building relationships with those people. It really has nothing to do with houses. Houses just are the "widgets" that we deal with.

Here's a simple to remember, 3-step system for building deeper relationships with your customers and clients, solving more of their problems and having more fun along the way.

#1 - Ask more questions

#2 - Shut Up

#3 - Listen to their answers

Ask Questions - It's been said that "you can't answer someones prayers until you know what they are praying for. Your role should be more about uncovering wants, needs, dreams and fears than telling people what you think they want to hear.

Shut Up - You asked. Now give them the courtesy and respect of being quiet for a second so they can express their thoughts. Don't get an objection for opposing counsel for "leading the witness."

Listen to their answers - In today's egotistical world, most communication is just a battle of talkers. While the other person is talking, we are spending more time formulating what we're going to say next rather than hearing what they are saying. You just might be surprised at what you find out when you are actively listening. Your clients might be surprised as well, either immediately or years later when something from one of your conversations has a chance to be brought to the surface such as a favorite restaurant, vacation spot or personal story.

So can you do it? Can you start putting these three steps into action today?

Keep your mouth shut. It was a rhetorical question.