An Interview with National Speaker Roberta Ross
By Julie Escobar
As we head into the spring season, many agents are asking us how they can “cultivate” the right habits, systems and strategies for success in this and ANY market. To help answer some of those questions I dialed up one of my favorite speakers, coaches, motivators, and ProspectsPLUS! fan, Roberta Ross who just happens to be publishing a book on the topic: The Five Biggest Mistakes Real Estate Agents Make and How to Avoid Them. Let’s take a look:
Q: Roberta, I’m thrilled for you that your new book is coming out and excited that you can share with our readers some helpful how-to solutions for steering clear of some of the biggest missteps both new and even experienced agents can make. First though, can you tell us why you chose this topic for your new book?
A: Absolutely Julie! After working with and speaking to thousands of agents over the years about marketing and lead generation, I really began to see such clear patterns emerging of the common “traps” agents often find themselves falling into.
That inspired me to create a resource that could help to spotlight those pitfalls and hopefully help some agents avoid the “pain” they can cause year after year. You know, so often you see agents get into this business and feel overwhelmed with so many aspects of becoming a good business person vying for their attention. It’s too simple to walk blindly into that “just do what everyone around you is doing” path. They get caught up in learning the legalities, contracts, marketing, and foundation building they need to ensure they don’t launch themselves into a career long rut of living commission to commission. That’s not a fun way to build a career and it certainly isn’t a great way to ensure longevity.
Q: I agree, many agents fall into that “blind leading the blind” approach of “follow Bob around for a month and do what he does” school of hard knocks. While it’s good to model yourself after talented agents, you have to be sure you’re choosing the RIGHT model! Let’s dive into some of the biggest mistakes you’ve seen agents make and how to avoid them. What tops the list?
A: I would have to say one of the biggest and most common mistakes I’ve seen is most agents have no identity. Meaning they try to appeal to everyone, which is a proven recipe for appealing to no one. You’ve seen them. Those agents that literally take on anything that flies past, from clients and customers to training or tools, without first inspecting it, and weighing out whether it’s in their best business interest.
These agents haven’t found their niche and fail to target the people that they are trying to attract business from because they haven’t clearly identified who they are. I’ll give you an example. Take that agent who chooses a farm area an hour and a half away, or takes ANY listing from that piece of vacant land, plus a single trailer, then they add a listing an hour away, but wait – they would really love to list that $500,000 property as well. See how scattered that is? Their common marketing message is simply, “I’m a REALTOR and I help buyers and sellers.” Ok – which buyers? Which sellers? Who do you serve? From a consumer’s standpoint – that agent becomes part of the blur. There’s nothing in that agent’s marketing that makes them throw their hand up and say, “That’s the agent for me!”
Instead, look at the agent who has effectively identified their niche market. Maybe it’s first time home buyers and everything from their marketing pieces to their farm area to the way they answer the phone is designed to attract that first time home buyer. So, they know, when they send their targeted message to area renters and it says something along the lines of “Still renting? Own a home for less—here’s how…” those potential buyers say, “Hey, that’s me! How do I learn more?”
Q: So, finding a niche and clearly identifying yourself as the ‘turn to’ agent for that niche is step one right? Can you give us a couple more examples of that?
A: Sure. Target niches can be traditional of course – such as FSBOs, Expireds, Luxury market properties or Condos. In fact, I’ve met agents who’ve done extraordinarily well in each of those categories. There is an agent in Manhattan whose focus was privately owned townhomes in Manhattan and who turned that “little niche”(just the top 1% of his market) into big business and put him among the top agents in his area. Another agent I know has worked nothing but FSBOs for the last fifteen years. She’s so proficient at it she can literally name EVERY FSBO objection possible and has an effective response to each of them. She can’t lose at the listing table because she knows that niche better than anyone else and she knows without a doubt how to sell to the mindset of a FSBO and provide the best service to get the job done.
Q: That’s a great point Roberta; let’s talk for a minute about the importance of selling to the mindset of a specific niche. Can you share some of your thoughts about that?
A: It’s so important to speak the same “language” as the niche you are targeting. When you really understand what that person is looking for, what they need and what’s in their best interest and you can wrap your marketing and your conversations around that, you create a connection that is unbeatable. For example, that agent that works with FSBOs – she knows that her customer base is eager to save money and get the most for their property without a lot of hassle. She can share the National Association of REALTORS’ statistic that says “homes sold using an agent sell for 16% more even with a commission than homes sold by owner.” She can also share her personal experiences and success rates for helping homeowners get their homes sold for more in less time with no headaches.
Then there are those agents who think outside the box. Take those agents who market to people going through divorce. That’s a unique niche with special sensitivities and needs involved. By focusing on one type of client, they can really reassure their prospects they’ve got the experience necessary to understand the dynamics that occur when dealing with divorce and having to buy or sell property. Because that agent is well versed in the situation, they can better protect the best interests of the client through the process. These savvy agents also tend to reach out to area divorce attorneys with marketing materials designed to let those attorneys know that their clients would be in good hands.
So you can see by creating targeted marketing messages that answer the questions in the minds of your target niche – you set yourself apart from the faceless masses that say, “I’m an agent and work with buyers and sellers,” and create opportunities for new clients to say, “That’s me! I want to work with you!”
Q: Matching your message to your market really is the key, Roberta and clearly something we’re passionate about at ProspectsPLUS! Let’s talk a little about another common mistake agents make you talk about in your workshop and in your book — and that’s ineffective branding. Can you tell us a little about what you mean by that?
A: Of course! In my years, I’ve certainly seen the gamut when it comes to agent branding and marketing materials. What I’ve found is that agents who choose branding just for the sake of branding almost always find themselves regrettably having spent too much for branding that doesn’t work. I came across an agent who once spent thousands of dollars to be “different” – to brand herself and her marketing materials with a zebra theme and another agent who loved to take walks in the woods – so she branded all her brochures, flyers and business cards with images of the woods. In both cases, the agents succeeded in making their materials look “different,” but failed to give any specific target group a reason to raise their hand and say, “That’s me! I want to work with you!”
You also often see agents who go out of their way to be “cute.” Unfortunately, “cute” doesn’t often cut it when you’re trying to address the specific real estate needs of today’s consumers. Keep in mind – you don’t have to mortgage your house to brand yourself effectively. That’s one of the things I love most about the ProspectsPLUS! Software – with more than 600+ pieces, it allows you to always have the right message for the right niche without having to spend a fortune.
Q: Absolutely! Agents are much savvier about how they spend their marketing dollars in today’s economy – and they should be! What’s another common mistake you see agents make?
A: I would say next on the list is failure to leverage the business they already have and the people they already know. You know, agents work so hard to promote themselves, learn the business and get to that listing table. Then, once they have it, they start all over again from scratch. A better use of their time, energy and marketing budget is to leverage each listing as a springboard to get new business. A great place to start is by sending out Just Listed and Just Sold postcards to surrounding homeowners. Add to that your sphere of influence list, and take the opportunity to even get out and walk the neighborhood and create new relationships.
The National Association of REALTORS tells us that top agents now attribute up to 75% of their business to their sphere and that 89% of consumers say they would use their same agent again, but only 11% do simply because agents fail to stay in touch and leverage those relationships. I can’t tell you how often I hear stories from agents who are gun-shy about communication, when the truth is; there’s never been MORE opportunity or means to easily stay in touch. Agents who reap the benefits of that 75% referral base understand all too clearly how much business that represents and effectively put tools in place to ensure what I call a strong SEND-CALL-SEE-POST cycle of communication is always in place. That is, every 30-45 days they make sure to:
- SEND: a postcard, a letter, an email – something that let’s their sphere know they are there with the answers and resources they need should that customer or ANYONE they know need real estate assistance
- CALL: What? Pick up the phone? Absolutely – if nothing else to say, “Hi, just checking in. Need anything? I appreciate you as a customer.” If you did nothing more than that – that minute out of your week could earn you one, two or even more extra commissions a year. Why? Because it communicates your professionalism, your willingness to help and that you care about them.
- SEE: Create opportunities to see your customers at least a couple times per year. Whether that’s at neighborhood events, customer appreciation parties, or one- on-one. In today’s high tech world – a little “high touch” can go a long way!
- POST: Take advantage of the power of social networking to reach many people at once. Don’t, however, wait 30 days for this one – make sure you’re online presence is up to date at least weekly as you share ideas, market trends, area events, great news and more – all while staying in touch on a new level with your sphere.
Statistics tell us that more than 90% of agents quit after the third contact but most transactions occur after the fifth! If that’s not reason enough to stay in touch think about this. Recent statistics show that roughly every 275th person in the United States is a real estate agent. What’s that tell you? That if you’re unwilling to communicate with your customers, you can be sure someone else certainly will.
Q: Excellent point Roberta! There’s never been a more opportune time to stay in touch. It’s interesting though – I recently had a conversation with an agent who had fallen “out of touch” with her book of business for several years and wanted to know how to go about reestablishing those connections or even if she had a right to. What advice would you give?
A: Well first of all I would say it’s ALWAYS an opportune time to stay in touch. Sure, our market changes provide a good platform to ask customers if they have any questions, but EVERY market provides some common reasons to reach out to your sphere. Even if you just call to apologize and say, “I’m sorry I haven’t been in touch. It’s my job to keep you updated and I’d love to make sure you always are by sending you my _____, would that be all right?” Fill in the blank with an offer for a monthly newsletter, neighborhood updates, list of homes, etc. Believe it or not, about 95% or more of those people will say yes and you’ve just effectively re-opened the door to those customers.
Not acting because of fear will not serve you – the only thing that serves you is action. Find opportunities to reach out to consumers with messages that mean something to THEM, not that are all about YOU. Really start seeking out those opportunities to connect with the people you already have done business with and you’ll be rewarded with a healthy, long-term referral business throughout your career.
Q: Good advice! What else can people expect to learn in your book?
A: I talk a lot in the book about focus and mindset and the ways that agents can begin to both SEE and SIEZE new opportunities to build their businesses. So often fortune is hidden in misfortune and opportunities exist where many people only see obstacles. That’s why I offer a lot of tips and tools for training agents how to process information differently and create an eye for finding those opportunities and making the most out of them.
We also create a plan to help agents stay focused on their vision and goals, not distracted by the “herd.” I tell my audience there is a million and one ways to be busy and making no money. The goal is not to be busy – but to focus on revenue and service.
Agents will learn how to leverage their time and energy to avoid the trap of only working IN their business rather than ON their business as well as how to get rid of some of the “toxic waste” that we mentally take in every day that slows us down and robs us of real potential. I also believe and teach the “principle of slight edge” –that is if you learn one new thing or are reminded of one thing that is the impetus for you to do more business – then it’s time well invested.
Q: Sounds like a “must-read” to me! Thanks for lending your voice to this topic! As always, it was a pleasure talking with you!
If you’d like to learn more about Roberta Ross, or more about scheduling a Five Biggest Mistakes Real Estate Agents Make and How to Avoid Them seminar for your office, please contact Roberta at www.SixFigureRealEstateCoach.com or info@sixfigurerealestatecoach. To learn more about ProspectsPLUS! And how you can ensure that you ALWAYS have the right message for your market, contact me at 1.866.405.3641 today or visit www.prospectsplus.com.