21 years ago a guy drove up in a dusty tired car and... (true story with a marketing lesson)

Services for Real Estate Pros with John Henry Masterworks Design International, Inc. 13013

It was at the beginning of my second year here in Orlando after having moved from Texas in '87 (after OPEC ruined the economies of the gas producing states).

I had taken over a very large luxury home and we were discussing the details of the plans on site when out of nowhere...

...this older, sagging car drives into the sandscape and in the middle of a very hot August day a bedraggled but excited fellow gets out and asks who was in charge -- and then inquires if we were interested in seeing his natural stone product.

Well, we hadn't thought about even using stone as the owner (a Disney PR exec) had raided Disney's Italy and France pavilion warehouses and pulled out the fiberglass moldings that were being prepared now for much of the exterior detailing.  I was about three quarters through the re-design --see below the original elevation plan and how I 'embellished' it by adding turrets and redesigning many of the details:

above: before and the drawings inherited  below: after and the final execution

The stranger opened his trunk and pulled out sample after sample of beautiful Mexican canterra, a type of volcanic stone that could be had in strawberry to chocolate coloration and even in a veined marble imitation that with a gloss finish looked like the most expensive honey-colored marble costing three or four times more.

The owner was intrigued and showed him our plans and asked for some ballpark numbers.  We used yellow marker to identify all the places we thought stone would look great and work well.  In a few days, Barbara Tattersfield (partner with Anthony Tattersfield) came back with a solid bid and walked away from negotiations with an initial contract for carved and flat stone worth over $100K.  Anthony had no office at that time in the area, no staff, and no marketing materials.  It was just their product and him.  Their successful office and showroom now are in the Miami area, catering to upscale builders, interior designers, and custom clients.

I thought about this story because of the recent discussions about face to face marketing and client contact.  This man was the co-owner of the company.  Anthony and Barbara had connections in Mexico and coordinated everything from full-size prototype drawings to shipping, importing, and execution on site.  The product looked good, the cost seemed quite reasonable, and the final installation was dazzling.  

We had never heard of their company.  I can't remember even if he had references on hand.  There was no previous cold call, no appointment made.  Having just moved from Texas, I had seen this stone being applied in Austin and recommended it.  Anthony and Barbara were knowledgeable, frank, seemed honest and personable.  The owner took a risk and the result was outstanding with negligible negative issues.  The Tattersfields were paid as product came in.  I received a second design commission for a luxury mansion shortly after this house was underway and the same stone was used not only on the exterior but interior.  The second owner, Payne Stewart, kept buying the beautiful canterra as it came in on palettes.  Here are some photos of the Stewart residence with the marvelous canterra stone inside and outside: https://www.dreamhomedesignusa.com/Villa%20Serena%20Payne%20Stewart%20Mansion.htm



The takeaway:

1. The fastest way to get in front of someone for consideration is to actually meet them face to face.  If you are just starting a business or may be relying too much on other marketing methods with little traction, go to their home or office and knock on the door!  A personal intro and meeting, even impromptu, bypasses days, weeks, or months of marketing by other means and makes you real, and a fresh contender.  You must be polite and not pushy though.

2. Be prepared to explain your product or service quickly and show examples of what you can provide to solve your potential client's immediate or future need.  Do a bit of research to find out what are the unique business features of your prospect and play to them.  Sell to them.

3. Persistency can't be underestimated.  If you have made calls, sent emails and mailed brochures, but with no response -- just walk in their office and ask to meet them.  Wait even until they show up.  I have heard several stories like this that ended very very well.  The people who you try to contact DO remember your name - they just may not need you at the moment you contact them.  Do not be obnoxious but push forward.  

4. A good personality helps.  Congeniality is important.  While having a decent car or appropriate clothes are a great back up, you can do what needs to be done if you are simply a great 'people person'.  Practice these skills.  If you don't have them, never mind.  With experience, you will get them.  No one is the perfect salesperson or professional rep at the beginning.  Study mannerisms, body language, talking skills, etc. 

5.  Necessity is the mother of motivation.  Often great gains are made when you MUST make a sale to stay above water.  There is no alternative.  In this case, I could sense that the stone company was trying to get a footing in Central Florida and needed to sell product.  The co-owner was acting as the marketing rep.  In a small office, YOU are everything!  You wear all the hats.  And YOU must get the work, so you have to plan and ACT.

6.  Timing is everything.  You may try several times to contact someone until the moment is perfect.  Cold calling (a solid marketing move, but not touted of late for some reason) can land new projects, accounts/clients if your call is timely!  My own first major project was a consequence of very nervous cold calling for just a couple of days.  It takes more time and effort to meet someone in person but if you have done the research and the timing is good, you should be on their mind.  More here.

7.  Do you have a great product or service?  If yes, then you need to find the people most interested in working with you.  And you should have a solid presentation covering all the reasons your prospect would profit from your association.  It's about them more than about your curriculum vitae.  Name dropping works, but be careful about how their competition is compared or presented.

8. You may get rejected.  But you should try again and again if your product or service is a good one and has shown positive results.  In this example Anthony Tattersfield was obviously going 'door to door', and I don't know what kind of research he had done to find this project -- probably none.  He simply drove by, saw piles of dirt and some construction and figured this was a good prospect: house unfinished.  Maybe stone hadn't been ordered or wasn't considered?  Consider this also: maybe only 5% of ALL custom home construction would even think about specifying this type of stone.  So he was looking at the narrowest of potential customer.  He drove and drove and drove until he found something that matched perfectly. (thanks to Dorte Engel for this last point)


Now, just a few bits of information about columns, arches, and moldings. Do you know that nearly the entire exterior walls, frilly details, Victorian moldings, fish scale roofs, turrets, etc. at today's modern theme parks are created out of plastic.  Yes, plastic.  It is called FRP: fiber reinforced plastic.  It is used because it does not rot or break down like wood; it is cheaper to simulate stone this way; it is far less expensive to put up and fasten.  It simply lasts longer, even in harsh climates.
We had FRP moldings installed in this custom luxury home in Orlando.  They were used more on the exterior but many interior beams, door surrounds, medallions and other trim were executed in FRP.  Now, this material is not good for paving obviously but can simulate nearly any stone product including columns.

In the aerial shot below you can see the canterra pattern on the pool deck in shades of rose and brown.  The column capitals and bases, balusters were all cut in stone:

Canterra was used for the double stair railings, column capitals, and trim around the base of the columns.  Also see the stone details mixed with the FRP in this close-up:

All the round Corinthian columns at the bottom of the photo are hand carved in stone.  The columns on the turrets, the trim, and base around each are in FRP.  These could have been further faux painted to look more like stone or stucco.  The small paired twisted columns are FRP.  Under the left turret is a panel over a window cast in concrete.  The front door surround was cast onsite also in concrete using a screed cut from a pattern I drew.  The medallions in the upper turrets and at the center panel in between are FRP, as is the entire eave detail under the roof facia.  You can spot them in the Italian pavilion in EPCOT next time you go.  I had specified FRP for the 'S' brackets at top center but costs started to rise and we had those done in powder coated aluminum.  The exterior walls were wood framed with a stucco veneer.  The roof was a ceramic tile.  To see how the Italians would have done this in the 1650's click here.  For a few more interesting historical details click here.

And to see all available photos of the house highlighted above go to John Henry's portfolio page here.  See a great video of this eclectic luxury house here:

To contact Barbara Tattersfield to learn more and order this fantastic natural stone product, click here.

(All photos Harvey Smith Photography)

Comments (50)

Grant Schneider
Performance Development Strategies - Armonk, NY
Your Coach Helping You Create Successful Outcomes

Good morning John Henry - you have an excellent message here.  I am glad that this was featured.  Face to face is also how I got started.  I urge it for any new business owner.

Nov 19, 2018 06:53 AM
John Henry, Florida Architect

Grant Schneider Hello Grant, the tried and true is often the quickest and best.  I think we hide behind the digital technology too much and expect too much of it.  Thank you.

Nov 19, 2018 01:35 PM
Richie Alan Naggar
people first...then business Ran Right Realty - Riverside, CA
agent & author

The powers that the Universe contains await instructions by us mere humans so why keep them waiting? All is possible and doable in this short life-span

Nov 19, 2018 06:56 AM
John Henry, Florida Architect

Richie Alan Naggar 

Richie, I am going into the mountains next time with you and get into a Zen state of mind.  Love it and thanks always for your comments.

Nov 19, 2018 01:35 PM
Dana Hollish Hill
Hollish Hill Group, JPAR Stellar Living - Bethesda, MD
REALTOR * Broker * Coach

Face to face is always better. For sales and for writing offers. If you take the time to meet with someone and give them your time, they are connected and committed. 

Nov 19, 2018 07:47 AM
John Henry, Florida Architect

Dana Hollish Hill I agree here.  Connectivity is more likely face to face than in any other situation.  Commitment comes through familiarity of personality and ability.

Nov 19, 2018 01:37 PM
Mike Cooper, Broker VA,WV, MD
Cornerstone Business Group Inc - Winchester, VA
Your Neighborhood Real Estate Sales Pro

John, that is a beautiful home. And, your tips are well taken. Thanks for sharing. 

Nov 19, 2018 08:06 AM
John Henry, Florida Architect

Mike Cooper Thanks very much Mike.  Glad you liked the tips.

Nov 19, 2018 01:38 PM
Will Hamm
Hamm Homes - Aurora, CO
"Where There's a Will, There's a Way!"

What a great information blog John,  Barbara is always good at points out blogs that we may miss.


Nov 19, 2018 10:02 AM
John Henry, Florida Architect

Will Hamm Hi Will, glad you found something of interest here.  Barbara is a guiding light.  She has connections...

Nov 19, 2018 01:39 PM
Jeff Dowler, CRS
eXp Realty of California, Inc. - Carlsbad, CA
The Southern California Relocation Dude

Hi John

That’s a great story with some valuable take-a-ways for us all to keep in mind!


Nov 19, 2018 11:22 AM
John Henry, Florida Architect

Jeff Dowler, CRS   Hey there Jeff, if you have gotten something out of this blog I am happy.  Thank you!

Nov 19, 2018 01:40 PM
Stephen Turner
Burkentine Realty Group (Burkentien Builders) - York, PA

great story, great home and so many lessons to be unpacked. Thanks for sharing with us!


Nov 19, 2018 01:19 PM
Elisa Uribe Realtor #01427070
Golden Gate Sotheby's International - Oakland, CA
Opening the Doors to California Homes -East Bay

Wonderful post John, those are all very important indeed! I believe in Persistency, and building your network and relationships are key as well. Thanks for sharing this!

Nov 19, 2018 01:35 PM
John Henry, Florida Architect

Elisa Uribe Realtor #01427070 Hello Elisa, appreciate your comments.  There is a LOT to do in any business, especially in a small business!  Tough to get everything done.  Thank you

Nov 19, 2018 01:43 PM
John Henry, Florida Architect
John Henry Masterworks Design International, Inc. - Orlando, FL
Residential Architect, Luxury Custom Home Design

Stephen Turner Hello Stephen, glad you enjoyed the story and home.  Thanks for commenting!

Nov 19, 2018 01:40 PM
Anthony Kirlew
Group 46:10 Network @ eXp Realty - Gilbert, AZ
Helping You Make Fiscally Sound Choices

Great story of a guy getting it done instead of "waiting until everything is perfect" (which it will never be).

Nov 19, 2018 01:53 PM
Anthony Kirlew


Nov 19, 2018 08:52 PM
John Henry, Florida Architect

Anthony Kirlew Anthony, you just won the First Place Cognitive Reality prize here!! EXACTLY EXACTLY!!  You read between the lines.  Don't we ALL wait until everything is perfect??!!  Just go out there and DO IT.  Great comment, thanks.

Nov 19, 2018 02:01 PM
Robert Caston
Home Junction Inc. - San Diego, CA
Real estate market data & tools - Home Junction

Great story. My accountant told me one time that if you are the owner of the business and are working that business as opposed to an absentee owner, you will generally make it through tough times, because after all, you care.


Nov 19, 2018 04:42 PM
John Henry, Florida Architect

Robert Caston Very true, very true.  You blame yourself for the losses and the wins. No one is pushing you.  And that's the scourge and beauty of running your own business.  And also why you MUST motivate yourself to work harder, stronger, smarter, and more consistently.  I am realizing this a little late in the game Robert!! Thank you.

Nov 19, 2018 06:50 PM
Kathy Streib
Room Service Home Staging - Delray Beach, FL
Home Stager - Palm Beach County,FL -561-914-6224

Hi John- a two for one on this post...a great marketing analogy and another wonderful architectural lesson!!! Thank you so much!!! 

Nov 19, 2018 05:17 PM
John Henry, Florida Architect

Kathy Streib Hello Kathy, thanks for the compliment!  Every time I think there is nothing more I can say, something in my brain sparks a connection and there you go.  My next post is based on a line I heard in the new Robin Hood film.  ha.  Also, glad you liked the info on the FRP application and use of real stone.

Nov 19, 2018 06:52 PM
Georgie Hunter R(S) 58089
Hawai'i Life Real Estate Brokers - Haiku, HI
Maui Real Estate sales and lifestyle info

Very interesting, but I wish I didn't know about FRP.  Kind of like when you learn what hot dogs are made of.

Nov 19, 2018 06:39 PM
John Henry, Florida Architect

Georgie Hunter R(S) 58089 Georgie, I am so sorry about that.  I didn't even think those struck with pixie dust would be upset!!  Great point.  I never wanted to know the actual science behind plant life because I didn't want to go into a forest and call out each species I saw but rather be enchanted by the overall experience!

Nov 19, 2018 06:54 PM
Pat Braithwaite
Braithwaite Realty - Marietta, GA

John, Great lessons learned here. Thank you. 


Nov 19, 2018 06:45 PM
John Henry, Florida Architect
John Henry Masterworks Design International, Inc. - Orlando, FL
Residential Architect, Luxury Custom Home Design

Pat Braithwaite   Thank you Pat!  Glad something tugged at your thinking process!

Nov 19, 2018 06:55 PM
Jan Green
Value Added Service, 602-620-2699 - Scottsdale, AZ
HomeSmart Elite Group, REALTOR®, EcoBroker, GREEN

What a great story!  That eager "salesman" knew he had something of value, just finding the right home for the product kept him going. I think each of us has something of value. Retaining that enthusiasm and working to find the right person/cllient makes it all worthwhile, especially face to face!

Nov 20, 2018 11:01 AM
John Henry, Florida Architect

Jan Green Jan, exactly.  Really, it is the same thing a door to door salesperson would do except he is catering to luxury home builders and architects.  Face to face and without introduction, office, or appointment.  Amazing things you can do!  Thanks

Nov 20, 2018 05:13 PM
Sajy Mathew
Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage - Lancaster, PA
Making your real estate dreams become a reality!

Great reminder to get away from behind the computer and not be afraid of face to face meetings and being persistent.  Its been easy to hide behind a computer and do a sales job.  Get out of that comfort zone and get out and shake some hands!

Nov 20, 2018 08:48 PM
John Henry, Florida Architect

Sajy Mathew Hello Sajy, yes, this is the moral of the story.  We are lulled by the computer into thinking all problems are solved on social media, websites, etc.  Getting out for some one on one meetings is very effective and worth the time.  Thank you.

Nov 21, 2018 03:50 AM
Kevin Mackessy
Blue Olive Properties, LLC - Highlands Ranch, CO
Dedicated. Qualified. Local.

Great story.  I've had a renewed sense of success this year in talking to all my clients on the phone once a month.  Has helped to really get in front of them and establish a longer lasting relationship.  

Nov 21, 2018 02:24 PM
John Henry, Florida Architect

Kevin Mackessy Hello Kevin, that is a good report and glad to hear how getting on the phone is helping maintain a good business relationship.

Nov 24, 2018 03:46 PM
Cynthia "Cyndi" Cook
Keller Williams Realty Alabama Gulf Coast - Orange Beach, AL
Residential Real Estate Sales and Vacation Rentals

Hi John! I think getting in front of them and word of mouth marketing are the best. This is a great story and what a beautiful house. We considered moving to Orlando once, we are on the Florida- Alabama line. 

Nov 23, 2018 07:07 PM
John Henry, Florida Architect
John Henry Masterworks Design International, Inc. - Orlando, FL
Residential Architect, Luxury Custom Home Design

Cynthia "Cyndi" Cook Hello Cynthia, I agree on both counts and glad to see you are doing this regularly.  Thanks for liking the house.  I think further north is better climate-wise and to be closer to Atlanta!  

Nov 24, 2018 03:47 PM

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