If you’ve read this blog at all one thing I hope you catch on to is the fact that I am 100% keeping it real here. I shoot straight and don’t sugar coat the truth. I have not “arrived” where success is concerned but am rather still on the path seeking it. So today I’m going to share the truth about how 2015 played out for me and then I’m going to share my plan for 2016.
Not As Good As I Wanted It To Be
That’s pretty much sums it up. My goal was to close 52 pieces of business but only 15 transactions happened and some of THOSE were well under the $100,000 line. So what happened? Looking at things honestly I can say that you can boil it down “types” of shortcomings which are:
a) Things I Couldn’t Control
b) Things I Could Control
My guess is that pretty much everything that holds us back from much greater levels of success can be put into one of these two boxes. Well…there is a third. Quitting. But that’s not happening for me. So let’s go over these in detail.
Things I Couldn’t Control
This year started out great. If you had asked me in April what type of volume I expected to close out for the year I would confidently have said that 36 transactions were on the horizon at the minimum and that my “stretch goal” of 52 wasn’t unrealistic.
Then my father-in-law in North Carolina fell gravely ill in late May. He would eventually be diagnosed with the cancer that would take him from us in early September. This was a major rock-your-world type of event for our family and destroyed any calling consistency I might have had over the course of the summer.
Unfortunately, things would end up getting worse from there. My wife’s mother ended up moving in with us temporarily. Her level of distress was far beyond anything you’d expect from a normal grieving process. Her presence in our home pretty much dominated our world. It’s impossible for me to be the sturdy-as-steel in pursuit of my goals I’m-gonna-call-regardless-of-a-someone-experiencing-mental-illness-in-my-home type of person that we all think we should be. Again…just being honest. My wife’s pain and distress IS my own pain and distress….and I don’t feel bad about that
Ultimately this whole Family Tragedy Part 2 would culminate with my wife’s sister having to come down to our home, take her and my wife’s mother FROM our home and have her committed to a mental ward at the hospital.
On Christmas Day.
I’m typing this on the day after Christmas. Trying to plan my assault on 2016.
Anyway – these are the two MAJOR things that I didn’t have any control of this year. They were major anchors on productivity and I don’t see anything I could have done to dodge the negative effects that these things had on my prospecting and subsequently, on my business. Other than tell my wife that her mother couldn’t come stay with us AT ALL after the death of her husband. And I’m just not that kind of laser-focused money hungry jerk that puts my business goals before the emotional needs of my own family.
Things I COULD Control
There are a few things that I most certainly COULD have controlled though and my failure to take positive action in the areas that I could influence ultimately would make a bad situation worse. There was pretty much two things I fell short on:
#1) Losing My Focus and Going After FSBOs – after doing 6 months of cold calls in 2014 I was a it burned out. I also wanted a “short term” lead stream and decided that I’d go with FSBOs. Unfortuantely, I try to “do things right” which means not only finding the best scripts to use when calling FSBOs but setting up a system so that I consistently pull them off the internet, get them loaded into the dialer, get them pushed into a multi-phase follow up sequence that involves phone/mail/email touches, getting them OUT of the follow up sequence once they list with someone else or sell…..and the list goes on and on.
I spent time DEVELOPING all that and getting it up and running. I also ended up pushing over 800 people INTO that system over the course of the year. How many pieces of business did I close from all that effort?
Just two closings. Two. And they were not the kind of big five-figure checks that you write home to mom about.
Looking back on things it became clear to me that I would have been WAY better off if I had just skipped the FSBOs completely and just done straight cold calling. After all, the LION’S SHARE of my closed business this year came from cold calls made last year. Which brings us to the second thing I should have done…
#2) Consistent Cold Calling – my plan all along was to get the FSBO system up and running and then run that lead system concurrently with my cold calling system I already had up-n-running like a well oiled machine. But I didn’t. Instead I let the building of the FSBO machine dominate my mind, time, and focus and it ended up eating up the time I should have been using to consistently prospect via cold calls.
Gary Vaynerchuck says to focus only on the things your good at an then throw all the stuff you’re not good at in the trash. Play to your strengths and forget your weaknesses and you’ll make WAY more money. That’s his thought. I agree with him.
So I read the book “The One Thing” and came to the conclusion that my “One Thing” is cold calling. I’ve done it, I’ve got a system for it, I experienced success with it, and if I just do a lot more OF it and just increase my skills where follow up is concerned…I’ll do 10x the amount of business that I’d realize if I split my focus on cold calling and….something else.
Time For a Big Push
If you listen to Tim & Julie Harris’s real estate podcast then you know that they heavily promote this idea that you need to have “multiple spokes” to your lead generation wheel. So that when one doesn’t do so hot you’ll have another one that can pick up the slack and get you through the valley. This is pretty much directly opposite to the idea found in the book “The One Thing” which would have you identify your ONE lead source that will get you the best results and make your finding-business work much more easier or even unnecessary.
Both ideas CAN be right. But only ONE can be the BEST idea. In my opinion, it’s Gary’s approach.
So I’m going back to cold calling for 2016 and am going to focus on that one lead generation mechanism alone. To get things started on the right foot, I’m going to get running start into the year with a BIG PUSH.
100 Days of Prospecting
Tomorrow is December 27th which leaves us with 5 more days left in this year. Then it’s New Year’s Day. The kickoff to 2016 and the BIGGEST calling day of the year.
I plan to do phone prospecting starting tomorrow. I’ll cold call 100 people or more per day and I’ll do it for 100 days.
Actually, my wife has a two-day staycation already paid for in there somewhere so I’ll have to do that so it’ll end up being 100 prospecting days over the course of 102 days. But whatever. By April 6th I’ll have contacted a minimum of 10,000 people in my area and will have asked them if they’re thinking of selling their home in the near future. Past experience shows that I get at LEAST 1 seller lead that’s going to sell in the next 12 months for ever 100 contacts made. So that’ll be 100 solid seller leads before the spring walleye fishing season on the Detroit River gets in full swing.
I’m going to go back to tracking my numbers and posting them up here on the blog too. That way we can all see what type of volume of calls translates into what type of transaction volume when we get to this time NEXT year.
In conclusion, let me just say that when I get to the end of my life and look back I’m guessing that I’ll end up giving 2015 a spot in the “Top 5 Worst Years of My Life” lineup. That being the case and with a solid vision and lase focus I think that things can only turn out much MUCH better in 2016.
I recently came across a post in the Lab Coat Agents Facebook group where an agent was decrying the fact that their buyer would allow a deal to die over $5,000. Someone else responded that it’s the seller’s fault that the deal died and that the buyer is fine because “there are plenty of home out there.” See here:
This is an example of broken thinking. There are NOT plenty of homes out there. Not in late 2015 headed into 2016. It’s a seller’s market and it’s a “seller’s market” because there is low inventory. FEWER choices for buyers to pick from when shopping for a house.
Now it could be the case that the agent that said there are plenty of homes out there lives in a unique market where there really ARE plenty of homes. That is, their particular area is a pocket of difference from the national market as a whole where there is a greater than 6 month supply of homes on the market thus creating a buyer’s market in their local area. That could be true. What is more likely though is that they simply say that as a coping mechanism. That is, when working with a buyer they have deals fall apart over $5,000 and they tell themselves that it’s the seller’s loss and not their buyer’s loss because “there are plenty of homes out there” for their buyer to choose from. This thinking allows them to fight disappointment and continue on in their quest to get their buyer matched to a house so that they can get paid and not have all their previous work with that particular buyer turn to ruin and end in no commission check in the end. We all do that kind of thing in our own way. Nothing wrong with that. We all have our mental mantras we use to deal with adversity.
It’s important to point out, though, that in this case the thinking is broken.
In a seller’s market, deals dying really is more of a buyer’s problem than a seller’s problem. A home has a market value and that value rises over time in a seller’s market with low inventory. If one buyer dies on the vine at a particular offer price, it’s only a matter of time before another buyer will come along and buy. And maybe at a HIGHER price. Since time passed and time passing = higher price (generally) in a seller’s market.
This same level of benefit doesn’t transfer to the buyer’s side of the equation. Buyer’s don’t write offers on the “second best” house for them. Ever. They write on the house that they believe is the BEST. If the deal dies over $5,000 then whatever they choose next has a HIGH chance of NOT being the best house for them over the course of time that they live there.
What I mean is that the “second best house” that they end up getting because they killed a deal over $5,000 on the “first best house” – well that second-string house may be lacking things that would have been of value to those buyers over the period of decades they end up living there. You can’t put a dollar value in intrinsic things found in a home but it’s VERY possible that a buyer who kills a deal over $5,000 will end up in the “wrong” house for them. The result? They’ll lose $5,000 of Intrinsic VALUE every single year that they live in the “2nd Best House”. Simply because the 2nd Best House lacked something that “The Best House” had.
The point is that in a sellers’ market the BUYER has more to lose in the long run than the seller does. While it’s ALSO true that a buyer might actually find a BETTER house after killing the deal on the first house over the $5,000 disagreement…when there is an inventory shortage the possibility of that happy happening coming about is significantly DECREASED and the chances that they will match up to a house that will shortchange them for years to come is significantly INCREASED. This is a simple function of there being fewer choices available in a low inventory “seller’s market” while, on the flip side, someone shopping for a home in a buyer’s market – when there are many choices available – has a greater chance of finding a “better” house on the second go around. Though there’s never a guarantee of that…even in a buyer’s market.
Anyway, my point is that saying things like “there are plenty of houses” when there really isn’t is a thought pattern that can strengthen agent resolve in an adverse negotiation scenario…but it doesn’t help the buyer in the long run. Especially in a seller’s market.
Now I’ve given serious thought to this over time and as I’ve used both Cole data and Mojo Lead Store data so I started typing out a response which turned into this blog post. So here’s my thoughts on this…
When cold calling with Cole Realty’s landline data (not cell phone data) I get about a 20% pickup rate during a weekday morning calling session. That compared to the 18% I got with the Mojo Lead Store Data. So a bump…but not night-n-day difference.
That’s not to say I’ve NEVER used Cole’s cell phone data. I have. I’ve used it to hunt down expired and FSBOs who didn’t put their phone number on their Zillow listing. It worked pretty well and had the data north of 65% of the time. I can’t remember if you can do a map search and import cell phone numbers in bulk for whole neighborhood or not. I never did it though and can’t speak on how effective it could be.
What’s The REAL Problem That We’re Trying To Solve Here?
The only reason people want “better data” is so that they can increase their contacts per hour. The theory is that with better data you’ll have less bad numbers and when you’re dialing good numbers (vs disconnected numbers) that will translate into a higher contact rate…because the dialer won’t have to sort through as many bad numbers. So greater efficiency. If up the ante even more and call cell phone numbers, then you’re increase the chance of getting through to people because they always have their cell phones on them at all times while they are NOT close to their landline phone at all times. So again, greater efficiency.
The problem with this line of thought is that it makes a terrible assumption. That assumption is that the biggest obstacle keeping you from talking with more people is bad phone numbers followed closely by people’s proximity to their phones. This false assumption allows people to create a corresponding false belief: namely that as long as you’re dialing the “best” numbers…then you’ll contact more people.
This just isn’t true.
The BIGGEST obstacle to you talking with more people – hands down – is…
Individual Phone Screening Behavior
People not picking up the phone when they don’t recognize the phone number. Ignoring you. Sending you to voicemail.
As I am typing this out right now I am calling through a raw list in Canton Michigan that I got from Cole. You know what keeps happening? I get answering machine after answering machine after answering machine. That tells me that the phone numbers (the data) is GREAT. Because I’m connecting through. Also, because it’s 10:30am just a couple days before Christmas, that means that I’m calling, not at the best hours of the day, but during descent hours AND a bunch of people should be off work and home to answer the phone when they normally be available to take my call simply because they took some vacation days for Christmas. So I should be seeing a higher contact rate. But I doubt if I”ll see it get over 20%. This image here shows where I stand right now as I type this:
That’s right. Less than 8%. Terrible. All of those 33 “No Contacts” you see there are answering machines that I clicked away from when I heard them.
So think about it. A LOT of those “No Contact” answering machines were from people that were home, didn’t recognize the number, and just let it go to voicemail. You’re going to experience that same type of behavior when calling cell phones. It’s not going to be any different.
You’ll get Screening. And lots of it.
The greatest enemy to contact rate when cold calling is screening and nothing else. The long term ANSWER to this problem is…
People you’ve called before 3 to 5 months ago who answered the phone and told you they were NOT thinking of selling at that time. Those people’s phone numbers work and they’ve proved through their behavior that they pick up the phone when someone who’s number they don’t recognize calls. If you had a lists of 50,000 to 75,000 of THOSE people…then you could call through that database two or three times per year and get all the leads you can follow up with that you can handle so as to put yourself in a position to close 50 to 100 deals per year.
Of course that brings us back to the ORIGINAL problem.
Data lists of people who you have NOT called yet. You have to call through those lists at least once so you can actually GET in touch with people that answer the phone and put them into the Prime Lists for future calling.
So back to the original question. Do you pay more for the Cole data in hope that it will give you a boost in contact rate while you’re wading through the raw lists the first time around…or do you do something else?
Here’s My Suggestion
If you’re at all concerned about how much it’s going to COST you to get going with this cold calling thing but you ARE considering slicing out the $1,000+ from your limited budget in order to get access to Cole’s best data set, then change course and go with a lower quality data source like data from Mojo Lead Store and then pony up the extra coin that you WERE earmarking for Cole’s data program and reapply it to getting up and running with TWO Mojo dialers.
That’s two two phone lines, two headsets, and two Mojo Dialer accounts. Remember, it’s all about contact rate and on that front you’ll do much MUCH better by investing in two Mojo Dialers running at the same time than you would by paying for better data. Why? Because the only thing that overcomes the screening problem in a timely manner is to increase the number of dials made per hour and the best solution for that is dual Mojo dialers.
I’m going to be doing this myself starting next month.
Agents will often ask questions about how to use video effectively. Should they do a video blog? Should they use a video email service like Bombbomb? Should they do a combination of all the above? I’ve decided to do up an “Epic Post” to address this once and for all to which I can direct people to in the future when these questions inevitably arise. I’ll give the step-by-step below…but first, let me give you a WARNING.
Be Brutally Honest With Yourself
Agents are addicted to seeking out what I call “The Real Estate Holy Grail”. This is something (and can really be anything) that they believe will solve all their lead generation and follow up problems and deliver listing appointments to them on a silver platter. Vendors who have stuff to sell real estate agents like to push this button and position “their thing” as the magic widget that will accomplish this.
Video is one of these things.
So let’s get it out there right up front. If you do not pick up the phone and call people two to three hours per day and are in any way/shape/form thinking that doing up a video blog is somehow going to deliver you ready-to-list leads….stop right now. It doesn’t matter how high quality your intro or outro are. It doesn’t matter if you’ve got a great “call to action” and you remember to “ask people to share your content”. In fact, all the stuff that video bloggers tell you to do in order to make money with a video blog can pretty much go right out the window because video bloggers are in the business of selling stuff online. To anyone who will but their whatever-it-is online. Including their course which shows how they make money with a video blog boosted with Facebook.
It is HIGHLY likely that you’re here because you want to avoid using the phones and you are hoping that video will give you what you want (listing appointments, signed listing contracts, and commission checks) all by itself. It will NOT do that for you. And anyone who starts telling you that they’ve done it better provide proof because if you slit your wrists doing a video blog and close 12 deals per year from it…don’t kid yourself…you LOST money. You would have closed 30 or 40 deals if you’d used the time you burned on the video blog to simply pick up the phone and call people.
The money you DO make can be very deceptive because it can create the illusion that “you’re doing good” when really, you’re giving up 66% of the money you SHOULD be making. And to make matters worse, you could blow a year or two on this boondoggle before figuring out the truth.
So have a conversation with yourself. And be brutally honest when you ask whether you’re thinking of doing this as a primary lead generation source. If you are. Stop now.
Now if video should NOT be used by the Realtor as a primary lead generation mechanisim, then what should it be used for? Well let’s talk about that.
The Secret Formula for Success
If you have not listened to Century 21 Broker Neil Schrwartz and his seminal talk about what differentiates “The Difference Between Good Agents, Superstar Agents, and Legendary Agents”…then you really should. You can find it here.
The KEY to success in real estate is given in that teleseminar. I believe him completely and am actively pursuing it myself. It can be summarized as follows:
“Shove a bunch of people into a database and then a) email them weekly, b) snailmail to them monthly, and c) phone call every other month.”
I’m guessing that a call every 90 days would work too.
If those three tasks are the KEY to success in real estate…then it makes sense that you would only do things that fall into that plan. That means you’d spend time getting people onto a mailing list and you’d spend time on the phone following up with them every two or three months. You’d also spend time getting email out to them but the MAJORITY of your time should be spent on the phone finding the dang leads in the first place.
So where does video marketing come into play?
It’s the whole “email weekly” ingredient in Neil’s recipe for real estate success.
You will use video to enhance your the emails you send out on a weekly basis.
I am afflicted with Superman syndrome and I am guessing that you are too. When I started on this journey, I envisioned myself doing a video blog post every day like Gary Vaynerchuk of Wine Library TV fame. I had NO clue how much time it takes to do “acceptable” quality video. Forget epic-n-engaging video. Just “good” stuff.
My original plan was to make 5 video blog posts every week. While shooting each of those videos I would also shoot two “Preview Videos” that would talk about what the video blog post was going to cover in 30 seconds or less. One would be tailored for Twitter and one for Bombbomb. I would then produce the Twitter Preview video FIRST before the I even started editing the main video. Upload the Twitter preview video to Twitter with me saying, in the video, that the main post would be showing up in about an hour. I’d then produce the main video, upload it to YouTube, wait for it to encode, create the main blog post frameword at HousingTheD.com ready to publish as soon as I could grab the embed code from YouTube once the video was done cooking all ready for me to publish in WordPress.
While YouTube is encoding the main video I would work on editing up the preview video for Bombbomb in Adobe Premier. I’d upload the video that video email service and while Bombbomb was encoding it I would create the Bombbomb email “frame” that I would be dropping the video into once it was done encoding. The frame would consist of two paragraphs that would say pretty much the same thing as what I said in the video but it would be in text form so that if people are work and refuse the PLAY the video, they could still be encouraged to click the link at the bottom of the email (which would just so happen to be the header image from the main WordPress blog post at HousingTheD.com) and check out the video blog post.
By this time the main video would be done processing on YouTube and I would embed it in the blog post, hit publish, and then grab the link so that I could point the image in the Bombbomb email to that post specifically. From there I would embed the Bombbomb preview video into the Bombbomb email, send a test version of it to myself to make sure everything is fine, and then email blast it out to all my short-term leads.
What short term leads? You know…FSBOs and Expireds. My sphere and long term leads certainly didn’t need to see me showing up in their email inbox every day if they’re a year out from listing after all.
From there I would post the video to my Facebook “fan page” (or business page or whatever they call it these days) and at the same time I would “share” the PREVIOUS day’s post on that same Facebook fan page to my PERSONAL Facebook page. (Tomorrow I’d share TODAY’S video post from business Facebook page to personal page. That way if someone is following both they don’t see the same thing twice in a row if you post the new content to the biz page and instantly share to the personal page. How tacky is that?)
Finally, I would share the post to Twitter complete with header image so that the Tweet would stand out and I would then be done.
Remember, only the SHORT TERM leads would get these daily emails. What about the people that are in the database that are suppose to get the “email weekly”? Well they were not getting these daily emails were they? Nope.
So once per week I would need to shoot a video summarizing all the video blog posts I had covered over the previous 7 days, provide links to them in the email, and send them out to everyone in my database in order to get the “check in the box” on the whole “email weekly” thing from the Neil Schwartz recipe for real estate success. That video would get uploaded to Bombbomb only – but it was more work.
The point is that I thought I was Superman. I had no CLUE how long it took to do even ONE of these cycles and I didn’t even mention the fact that while the main CONTENT for the videos is done for me by Keeping Current Matters…I would still have to write an intro and outro to it so that the video would have a high quality look-n-feel. Just reading the blog post into the camera alone doesn’t cut it. The whole thing EASILY takes 3 hours from start to finish. Easily. Sometimes more.
Did I mention that I thought I was going to put these things out 5 days per week? Or how about the fact that I was going to record PERSONALIZED introduction videos for each and every lead that I got once they gave me their email before I put them on either the daily or weekly email cycle. There’s a whole nother process for that and I was going to do it with EVERYONE.
Yeah. Because I’m Superman.
The Thing You Need to Get
Before I go over the NEW plan for how I’m going to implement video, it’s important to understand that WHATEVER approach you’re going to use…the time investment has to be cut back. SEVERELY. I’m talking about no more than 4 hours per WEEK total. Unless you are paying someone to do everything for you and all you’re doing is getting in front of the camera and waiting for them to hit the record button for you.
Four hours total. Per week. That includes any time writing content to be read in the video camera, converting that same content into formatted text in the blog post itself so people can read it if they don’t want to play the video itself, shooting the video, editing the video, uploading the video, waiting for it to encode, and then then anything else that comes after that. Four hours. No more.
If you don’t make a conscious decision to do that then you’ll start robbing Peter to pay Paul in the form of sacrificing your phone time in order to keep up with your video stuff. Which we already agreed would lead to you making LESS MONEY even if you have more fun tinkering with your techy toys.
Oh, yes. We’re back to that. You didn’t think I’d let you forget that you are NOT allowed to think of this as a primarily lead gen mechanism did you? If you’re thinking of how YOU could pull this off and SOMEHOW tweek it to get you leads on the front end…well again…stop it. You’d be burning thousands and thousands of dollars. Just like throwing stacks of cash into the fire.
The New Plan
So here’s my new plan and the plan I recommend YOU use if you’re a solo agent and you’re going to work video into your business routine.
Do up some old-school TEXT blog with 5 posts per week. The content should be “Done-For-You” so you’re not wasting time writing it yourself. Of those 5 posts that will show up on your blog each week a maximum of TWO of them will be enhanced “video blog” posts. If you do just ONE in video that will be fine as long as you’re working the phones like you should.
And when I say “video blog” post I’m saying that you will be reading the text blog post content into the camera using a teleprompter. You’ll also have to create into/outro video snippets that you’ll “glue” to the front and back of your video blog posts when editing in order to make them more watchable.
Remember that extensive and seemingly mind-numbing process that I outlined earlier? I suggest you still DO that….but you only do it TWICE per week and you record ALL the video content on a single day and then, when you have a “light day” where listing appointments are concerned, you just load the content into your video editor and make it a video blog post day. If your entire week is stocked full of appointment, then you don’t post ANY video enhanced blog posts that week…you just post regular blog posts for the entire week that you basically copy-n-paste right from Keeping Current Matters to your blog and then shoot just ONE 90-second video at the end of the week that you’ll slam into Bombbomb which says,
‘Hey friends, it’s me Brian with RE/MAX…here’s what we covered THIS week in order to help YOU keep YOUR finger on the pulse of the real estate market…on Monday I showed you why a rise in interest rates will impact both buyers AND sellers and then on Tuesday I…blah blah blah’
Here’s an example of what one of these should look like…but instead of being on YouTube it would be uploaded to Bombbomb and sent in email form.
The general idea is that you’ll be doing things the right way. You won’t be wanting video to be more than what it is. You won’t sacrifice the BIGGER money maker (making phone calls for three hours every day) for the SMALLER money maker (making VIDEO stuff for three hours per day).
You’ll batch record your videos on a single day each week and parse them out as time allows. Your face will show up in front of people each week (in the Bombbomb email) and even if they don’t watch the video in the email itself or click through to check out any of your posts (which I will tell you is pretty rare….people are just too dang busy) they have at least SEEN your face in the email and they identify you as someone who is different, consistent, and likable. After all, no OTHER agent in your area is doing this same thing, are they?
So that’s it. Take it as you see fit but I’m pretty sure that this is the most efficient and effective way for REALTORS to use video consistently if they don’t have a stack of cash to pay someone else to run the whole thing for them.