Follow-Up Letter Fails

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For the sake of efficiency, most real estate agencies use standard letters of some kind in their practice. Whether they use form letters that come as part of their database, or developed their own set of generic communications fit for property management or sales department purposes, standard letters are simply part of the landscape.

Not all generic communications are welcome or helpful, however. I recently received this (highly redacted) standard letter sent from one of Australia’s leading real estate agents to a past vendor (inserted below). Kerry (the letter’s recipient) told me that although she really liked the estate agent who sold her home and considered the sale a job well-done, she found this automated letter insensitive and mildly offensive. She’d been receiving exactly the same letter for years, and finally decided to share her feelings about the repetitive, unhelpful form letter with the agency in question by editing the letter, and sending it back.

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As you’ll have noted, Kerry has made her own amusing amendments to the standard ‘anniversary’ prospecting letter, highlighting how being reminded of her sale (as the result of a relationship breakdown) was not the best way to win her business.

Agents and BDMs have all likely experienced blowback from prospective clients for insensitivity when prospecting. I recall being verily blasted by a screaming elderly gentleman in the depths of grief when I rang his home number and asked for his wife. “She’s dead!” he bellowed. “Deeeaaaaddddd!!!!” Needless to stay, I took his name off our database quicksmart – and felt pretty dreadful about the whole thing to boot. Of course, we can’t hope to know the ins and outs of every individual we might cold-call who wandered through one of our opens five years ago. Occasionally making mistakes is just human, and sometimes irritating people is almost part of an estate agent’s purview.

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But we can take steps to ensure our current and past client prospecting is useful and sensitiveParticularly when it comes to form letters. They’re one of the most controllable forms of prospecting an estate agency does. Whether they’re sent out via snail-mail or arrive as newsletters from your database, form letters are one of the most powerful client outreach tools we have.

It’s worth considering, then – just how many ‘Kerry’s’ might you have on your database? Clients who actually liked your service, but have found your ‘post sale’ care invasive or insensitive? Referrals are some of the very best sources of business estate agents can come by, which is why investing in quality standard letters and working out when and whom you should sent them to is such a valuable activity. Here’s a few things to consider when it comes to the form letters you’re currently using:

  • Are they standard issue from your database? If they are, it means that hundreds of other agencies around Australia (and potentially in your farm area) are sending exactly the same letters to your prospects. Your prospects will notice. They might not say anything, but they’ll notice that your communications are decidedly generic and estate-agent-y. Good news is: you can create new letters and nip this problem in the bud.
  • Are they relevant? Just how valuable is an ‘anniversary of sale’ or ‘anniversary of leasing’ letter, really? Unlike the anniversary of buying a property (broadly considered a positive event), the motivation behind a vendor or landlord choosing to sell or lease their home can be as the result of a separation, death or change in financial circumstances. Rather than using a form letter to fish for listings from prior vendors, it’s probably better to give them a phone-call or send them a friendly (non real-estate branded, don’t be tacky y’all) card in the mail.
  • Can they be more effective? Generic form letters do the trick: they’re bland, they’re branded, they allow you to put in your client’s first name or property details, they communicate a request or offer and they may serve a due diligence requirement. BORING. That’s what’s they are. Subvert the dull and insensitive form-letter trend and choose to create a suite of powerful, clever call-to-action communications for your estate agency. You might choose to do this as a team, you might divide the task into sales and property management team tasks – or you might have the talented folks from Ruby Slipper create a suite of ripper communications on your behalf.

From lease renewals through to ‘just listeds’ (I think we should all put ‘anniversary of sale’ letters behind us for now) – can your mailouts and EDMs be more effective?

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Never Pay for a Vendor’s Marketing

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It’s the start of a new year in Australian real estate land, and agents all across the nation are slitting each other’s throats for the chance to hold an authority in their hot little hands. 

At the start of each new year, there is terrific pressure on estate agents to kick off on the right foot with plenty of real estate on their stocklist. Subsequently, commission fees and pants are dropping at a rate of knots, as agents scramble to list property at any cost. Much of this pressure to list comes from panicked Principals whose weekly sales meetings are enough to send their teams into paroxysms of panic as they wonder ‘will I list this week’?

When you’re working in a real estate business where the predominant motivator to list business is fear and punishment rather than a narrative of professional development and team support for your individual strengths, making good decisions about your financial future becomes a hard task. As your retainer stacks up, your confidence begins to dwindle. The thought of not making your KPI for the month makes you nauseous and dry-mouthed.

So when a vendor you’ve assisted over a period of ten years with regular appraisals and negotiation tips to purchase finally decides to list their home with you, you get excited! There is only a couple of provisos: you’ll need to drop your fee to match the cut-price agent they’ve had visit their home for the first time and you’ll need to pay for their marketing.

Well. After you’ve finished shaking your fist at the Gods and ruing the day you ever met these cheapskate vendors, and after you’ve finished monologue-ing to your partner that people these days are worse than they were in the 90s, you realise you’ve a decision to make. Will you meet their terms? 

I understand how achingly you want this listing. How much pressure you’re potentially under to list at whatever the cost. But agent, the cost of listing badly is high.

Here are some of many reasons you should never pay for a vendor’s marketing:

  • The Numbers Don’t Add Up

If you agree to pay your vendor’s marketing – even if it’s only internet, photography, copywriting and basics – you’ll personally be up for several thousand dollars in costs. Say your total fee for the vendor’s home is $20,000. You’re on a 30/70 split with your Principal, so you’ll garner $6000 for this sale. MINUS your superannuation and any fees your Principal additionally takes. And MINUS your $3000 vendor advertising. That leaves you with around a $2000 profit. And the taxman hasn’t even been paid yet.

It doesn’t take a super-genius to recognise that this is a shit deal for you, the agent. The vendor is on a good wicket. Indeed, your Principal still makes money. But you? If you agree to pay vendor marketing you are working for sweet nothin’. You are nobody’s slave. If this is the culture you are being coerced to list within, you’ll need to find a new estate agency that respects their team and wants to lift standards within the industry.

  • Danger Clients

When you’re at the point of listing and you think the cat’s in the bag, it is galling when a client you’ve nurtured for years attempts to undercut you. I’m not talking about a small commission negotiation here – I’m talking about asking you to match a complete tool’s fee and pay their marketing to boot. Such clients have broken a social contract. They are dangerous. They are likely litigious. They do not see you as a human of value, they see you as a tool to be used. Be very cautious here: such undermining behaviour from a client does not bode well for a happy sale. You’ve been warned.

  • Spend Your Money on Yourself

Remember the last time you turned down a girl’s spa weekend because it would cost $600? Or when you didn’t go to a conference because you considered it to ‘spensy at a cost of $1500? Or when you didn’t buy that Paul Smith suit that was on sale? When you didn’t invest in social media marketing because the monthly cost seemed too much? When you wouldn’t get your kid that glittery Barbie because it didn’t fit in the monthly budget?

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Don’t deny your professional development and personal desires through budgeting, only to blow it all on some bastard vendor who doesn’t respect your time or skill. Energetically paying for vendor marketing is a bad choice, psychologically it’s detrimental to your confidence as a negotiator by trade. Blow those bucks and treat yo’self and your family – not them. You’ll benefit personally and professionally by turning this narrative of saving around.

  • Lift Your Standards, Don’t Drop Your Daks

Once in a while, we all lose listings that should have been ours. They should have been ours because of the years of service we’d given the client, or the great result we’d just garnered. Such lost listings sting. When I was an agent I remember losing a listing to a total fool of an agent who cut his fee to almost nothing. The vendor was a bastard for using my time over many years, and I felt silly for investing so much time in a wanton user. I cried and cried, I remember the flood of tears hitting my callback sheets. It was all very dramatic.

But after all the nose-blowing and at-volume listening to Usher in my car, I moved on. I prospected with more intelligence and communicated with rigour to my farm area. I didn’t need that zonzo’s listing. I didn’t want to diminish myself by working for nothing, and I didn’t want to become an agent who’d list at any cost. Instead, I would work with clients who weren’t dangerous, who respected my expertise and who understood reciprocity.

Never pay for a vendor’s marketingNo matter how much pressure a Principal puts you under to do so. Working in real estate is a tricky  business where confidence is all: don’t short-change yourself to satisfy someone else’s sense of entitlement. There’s other listings to be had – go chase ’em.