Bo Barron, CCIM Featured in CCIM Publication – CIRE

A few months ago, the CCIM Institute asked me to participate in their System for Success series for Commerical Investment Real Estate (CIRE), their award winning publication.  I was honored to do so.

This is the link to that article where I share what I believe it takes for brokers to thrive in the current economic climate.

System for Success Article for CIRE

April’s Top Posts from theBarronBlog

In case you missed them, here are the top posts from April on the topics of Next Practices in Life, Business, and Commercial Real Estate.

I do want to invite you to subscribe to this blog just to the right of what you are reading now.  This will make it so easy for you to get my new posts without having to remember to check my site.  And I will never violate your privacy!

 

April’s Top Posts:

 

Make the dang call! via iStockphotot.com

Make the dang call! via iStockphotot.com

The Anatomy of a Cold Call - While I don’t believe in scripts, I do believe in crafting your opening statement before you call.  Most salespeople have the most problems with how they start the call.  ”Uh, hi.  My name is Bo Barron and I’m with ABC Co.  Uh….how’s it going?”  Terrible!    Read more…

 

 

 

WallpaperWizard-502021866

The first face to face!

The 5 Steps of the Initial Meeting - With some experience and some great coaching, I learned a better way.  Remember, if you are following my system, this initial meeting should be short.  Actually, you told the prospect that it would be short.  If you connect and the prospect starts asking questions – great.  You may be there 2 hours.  However, you told them short.  Prepare for short as you are making an impression as someone with integrity…or not.  Read more…

 

 

 

It is go time!  What do you do?

It is go time! What do you do?

The Winning Presentation - You have now landed a meeting to make a listing presentation (or whatever presentation applies to you).  You have worked through the entire prospecting process to get to this point.  Your put in the work becoming a market specialist.  Building a database.  Sending letters.  Making cold calls.  Conducting the needs analysis.  It has all led to this moment.  You sit in front of the prospect.  The business is there for the taking.  You have the privilege of potentially improving the life of the person in front of you.  What do you do?  Read more…

 

Bo Barron Speaking

Bo Barron Speaking

Why Do We Fall? [Video] -This week I had the privilege of traveling to Salisbury, MD to visit SVN Miller Commercial.  This group is the Sperry Van Ness 2012 Firm of the Year.  They are a study in how to build a team with incredible culture.  They like each other.  They have tradition.  They have camaraderie.  They absolutely dominate their market.

I had the pleasure of training their entire company primarily on prospecting.  At the end of our afternoon together, Brent Miller played this video.  I was so moved that I wanted to share it with you.

  Read more…

 

iStockPhoto

iStockPhoto

Clarity Series – Prospecting – Summary & Conclusion – When I was 15, my dad hired me to clean out a concrete drainage ditch.  That ditch ran behind the houses of a street he had developed.  We agreed on a price and I started digging.  I soon discovered that I could hire my friends at a rate higher than minimum wage.  I made all the income when I did the work.  I made half that amount when they did the work.  Read more…

Thank you so much for reading.  Towards the end of May, I will be introducing another Clarity Series on Presence.  As always, I’d love to hear from you in the comments section.

Question:  What is the single most important activity that drives your business?  I challenge you to articulate and explain your answer in the comments below.

 

CS: Prospecting – The System Summary & Conclusion

The Clarity Series (CS) is a series of posts all on one subject.  This particular subject is prospecting.  While the context is commercial real estate, these steps and principles can be applied to any sales.  To read the introduction of this series, click here.  To read an overview of the entire prospecting system, click here.  Thank you for reading!

iStockPhoto

iStockPhoto

When I was 15, my dad hired me to clean out a concrete drainage ditch.  That ditch ran behind the houses of a street he had developed.  We agreed on a price and I started digging.  I soon discovered that I could hire my friends at a rate higher than minimum wage.  I made all the income when I did the work.  I made half that amount when they did the work.

It was an epiphany for me.  I made money by providing work for my friends.  It cost me no time.  Instead, I would mow yards.  It multiplied what I could make.  As I look back, this was the summer I was bitten by the entrepreneurial bug.  The other thing I learned that summer was digging ditches is no fun!

So let me ask you a question.  If I paid you a million dollars to dig a ditch, would you not do it?

Prospecting is much like digging a ditch.  It is no fun.  However, it is the path to substantially increasing your income?  If I paid you a million dollars to prospect, would you not do it?  This is your choice every day when you decide how to spend your time.

Dig your ditch!  Here is a recap of how to do it.

How to Dig Your Ditch

 

Don't I look smart?  My wife thinks so!

Don’t I look smart? My wife thinks so!

1.  Introduction to the Clarity Series on Prospecting

 

 

 

 

photo from iStockPhoto

photo from iStockPhoto

2.  Choose your Geography and Specialty

 

 

 

 

iStockPhoto

iStockPhoto

3.  Build your Database

 

 

 

 

iStockPhoto

iStockPhoto

4.  Write a Letter

 

 

 

 

via iStockPhoto

via iStockPhoto

5.  Purpose of a Cold Call

 

 

 

 

iStockPhoto

iStockPhoto

6.  Preparation of a Cold Call

 

 

 

 

Make the dang call! via iStockphotot.com

Make the dang call! via iStockphotot.com

7.  Anatomy of a Cold Call

 

 

 

 

WallpaperWizard-502021866

WallpaperWizard

8.  Needs-Analysis Meeting

 

 

 

 

WallpaperWizard-261612976

WallpaperWizard

9.  The Winning Presentation

 

 

 

 

This wraps up the Clarity Series on Prospecting.  My hope is that you will now have actionable steps to implement into your business.  Adopt the mindset that someone is paying your a million dollars to dig this ditch.  Systematize your prospecting.  Delegate every task you can.  Make the calls!  Do this and join the 5% of top performers.  Nothing is holding you back except…you.

There are more Clarity Series topics to come in the future, but I want to hear from you.  What topics would you like to read about in more depth?  Comment below!

CS: Prospecting – The Winning Presentation

The Clarity Series (CS) is a series of posts all on one subject.  This particular subject is prospecting.  While the context is commercial real estate, these steps and principles can be applied to any sales.  To read the introduction of this series, click here.  To read an overview of the entire prospecting system, click here.  Thank you for reading!

WallpaperWizard-261612976

I was an Arabic Linguist in the Marine Corps.  Those with my job specialty went one of two paths.  They deployed in support of infantry units, or they were sent to a support battalion state-side.  Those units did not deploy.  I was placed on the second path.

My mom was thrilled as was my wife.  I was not.  I would volunteer for every deployment (they never sent me).  I wanted to go and do the job.

I compare this to faithfully studying for a test.  You have put in the work.  You are ready.  You know that you will come through when it matters at test-time.  You are confident that you will ace it.  But you never get to take the test.  That is what it was like for me.  I had put in the work and needed to take the test.

You have now landed a meeting to make a listing presentation (or whatever presentation applies to you).  You have worked through the entire prospecting process to get to this point.  Your put in the work becoming a market specialist.  Building a database.  Sending letters.  Making cold calls.  Conducting the needs analysis.  It has all led to this moment.  You sit in front of the prospect.  The business is there for the taking.  You have the privilege of potentially improving the life of the person in front of you.

What do you do?

Normal Listing Presentation

Before we get into what the winning listing presentation looks like, let discuss the industry standard.

typical listing

The industry standard listing presentation is broker-centric and follows the sequence in the picture.

  1. Bio – the broker talks about how awesome he is.  The prospect gets to hear the bio, breadth of experience, etc.
  2. Company – the broker then talks about the company.  They have been serving their clients faithfully for 45 years, etc.
  3. Buyer Lists – My database is bigger than anyone else’s.  This is the claim that kills me.  There is no way that any one firm knows all the potential buyers for the property.  It is simply impossible.  But this is the claim.
  4. Advertising – Explanation is given to how the property will be marketed.  They promise to pre-screen all buyers to not waste the prospects time, etc.
  5. The property – Finally, the broker gets around to discussing something that effects the prospect – their property!  The broker takes the seller through the underwriting and analysis.
  6. Listing Agreement & Commission – Once the broker has made the case for how awesome she and the company are, and explained how they will produce the sure-fire buyer, they make the case for their fee and negotiate the listing agreement.

Note that the prospect must sit through a presentation that has little to do with them and everything to do about the broker and his/her company.  Often, the prospect has 4 of these  back to back in an afternoon.  The last broker in should bring a six pack.

 

 

Winning Presentation

In contrast to the broker-centric presentation, the winning presentation is all about the prospect.

  1. Start by connecting – You have already had the needs-analysis interview so you know what the main concerns and highest interests of the prospect are.  Start there.  Demonstrate that you were listening.  Assure the prospect you have custom crafted your presentation to meet those needs.  Discuss with the prospect your conclusions about the property and demonstrate how you got there.
  2. Explain your action-plan – As your prospect has specific needs, explain how you are going to meet those needs.  Think of all your capabilities as the proverbial toolbox.  Which tools are you going to pull out and use together to accomplish the goals of your prospect.
  3. I have, I am, and I will do – Now share with your prospect a deal story where you have accomplished a similar feat before.  Use the “I have, I am, and I will do” method.  I have accomplished this before.  I am working to accomplish this right now with other clients.  I will be able to do so again for you.
  4. Close – Summarize the key points of your presentation.  Emphasize your understanding of the prospect’s situation.  Show how you custom solution will accomplish the prospect’s goals.  Then ask for the business!  Don’t forget to actually ask.  Too many salespeople stop just before this point.

I realize that this is over-simplified.  But what do you do to win the business?  What are your key steps to a winning presentation?  Share those thoughts in the comments section.

CS: Prospecting – The 5 Steps of the Initial Meeting

The Clarity Series is a series of posts all on one subject.  This particular subject is prospecting.  While the context is commercial real estate, these steps and principles can be applied to any sales.  To read the introduction of this series, click here.  To read an overview of the entire prospecting system, click here.  Thank you for reading!

WallpaperWizard-502021866

Over the last couple of weeks, we’ve discussed the first 5 steps of the killer prospecting system:  geography, specialty, database, use the mail, and make the dang cold call.  You have done these 5 steps and now have a meeting with a prospect.  Here is what I used to do.

I would go into the meeting guns blazing about why me, why my company, and why now.  It was all about me.  I would give my canned listing presentation.  I would use this on a 2 acre piece of raw land just like I would with an $8MM apartment complex.  I cringe thinking about this.

With some experience and some great coaching, I learned a better way.  Remember, if you are following my system, this initial meeting should be short.  Actually, you told the prospect that it would be short.  If you connect and the prospect starts asking questions – great.  You may be there 2 hours.  However, you told them short.  Prepare for short as you are making an impression as someone with integrity…or not.

5 Steps of the Initial Meeting

Your purpose in this meeting is two-fold.  First, you need to find out if there is a problem or an opportunity.  Second, you want to leave with an appointment for a second, longer meeting.  This second meeting is where you will make your proposal.  Here is how to pull it off.

  1. Ooze Gratitude and Excitement – Too many brokers or salespeople act too cool.  If you have done your homework and worked the system, then you are sitting with someone who you want to do business with.  You are sitting across from someone who you have pursued.  Don’t act like you could care less.  Show the prospect that you are excited.  Let them know that you are thankful they have given you some time.  Gratitude and manners go a long way.  ”Mr. Prospect, I lost sleep last night I was so excited about meeting with you today.  Thank you so much for the time.”
  2. Arrive Bearing Gifts – To get the meeting, you may have offered them something of value – information on a comparable sale effecting their property’s value, etc.  Be sure you have it.  It is likely they aren’t meeting with you because of your reputation.  Deliver this information in the context of a story.  Stories are a great way to communicate the emotion of the deal.  It will help you connect with the prospect.
  3. Make the meeting about them – This is contrary to a salesperson’s natural inclination.  Don’t drone on about your experience or your company.  You should have researched the prospect.  Try to quickly connect around some common ground.  Did you go to rival colleges?  Do you have children of similar ages?  Ideally, you will be in their office.  This gives you the opportunity to see pictures, awards, diplomas, etc.  Pay attention to detail.
  4. Ask Great Questions – Here is where you are trying to uncover motivations that could lead to a transaction.  Better stated – you are trying to uncover opportunities to serve the prospect and build trust.  Asking open-ended and insightful questions is how you will do it.  Try to find area of frustration or pain.  Ask them what keeps them up at night regarding their property.  The answer could be about an opportunity they are excited about.  It could also be about pain they are having.  Ask them about frustrations they have had with previous broker relationships.  The answers to these questions are gold.  This is the information you will use to prepare your customized proposal to win their business later.
  5. Ask for the next meeting – Now that you have conducted your needs-analysis meeting, ask for the next meeting.  Explain that you will need a little more time for the next meeting to propose how they might achieve their highest interest (this is the same highest interest you learned in step 4).  Once you leave with an appointment, it is now time to prepare for your proposal.

What are your thoughts about an initial needs-analysis meeting?  What are some questions that you would ask?  Please leave your comments below!

 

CS: Prospecting – Anatomy of a Cold Call

The Clarity Series is a series of posts all on one subject.  This particular subject is prospecting.  While the context is commercial real estate, these steps and principles can be applied to any sales.  To read the introduction of this series, click here.  To read an overview of the entire prospecting system, click here.  Thank you for reading!

In the last two posts, we have discussed the purpose and philosophy of cold calls as well as how to gain confidence by solid cold call preparation.  In this post, we are going to talk about the ideal anatomy of a cold call.

Make the dang call! via iStockphotot.com

Make the dang call! via iStockphoto.com

Anatomy of a Cold-Call

Opening StatementMike Lipsey calls this the IBS – initial benefit statement.  The key here is to get right to the point. Communicate quickly and with clarity why taking this call will benefit the prospect.  In Part 2 of this post, I discussed that you want to find the prospect’s website.  What you are looking for is their mission statement, core values, etc.

For example, let’s say the prospects mission statement is to “Add value to the lives of our clients by providing unmatched products and world-class service.”  Your opening statement could then be:

“Mr. Prospect.  My name is Bo Barron.  The purpose of my call is to help you add value to the lives of your clients by providing you with world-class service and unmatched expertise.”

Notice that I didn’t completely plagiarize their mission statement, but I’m talking the language of the prospect.  The prospect will know that I’ve done my homework.

While I don’t believe in scripts, I do believe in crafting your opening statement before you call.  Most salespeople have the most problems with how they start the call.  ”Uh, hi.  My name is Bo Barron and I’m with ABC Co.  Uh….how’s it going?”  Terrible!  

Knowing your opening line will give you confidence.  It will also grab the attention of your prospect.  This will give you a much better chance of landing the meeting.

Follow Up QuestionOnce you have gained the prospect’s attention with a killer opening statement, it is now time to ask the perfect question.  What is that question, you ask?  It is one that gets the prospect talking.  If you can get them talking about a problem or an opportunity – even better.  Here are some sample questions:

  • What problems are you having with your vacancy?
  • Many owners are struggling with their management.  What difficulties are you having?
  • When you purchased this property in 2004, what were your thoughts about how long you would keep it?
  • I see that you own 3 properties in this area.  What are your continuing growth plans?
  • How long do you feel like your current capacity can handle your growth?

I suggest that you have two questions ready.  If you bomb with the first, then you are ready to fire with the second.  Also, human dynamics make it very difficult to say no twice.  That is why a door-to-door salesman always has a second item to sell you when you shoot down the first.

And do not ask ‘yes/no’ questions.  They will tell you no.  Ask the prospect a question that leads them to share a little bit about their property, their plans, their frustrations, etc.

Value for Free - Here is where you can set the hook.  Have something of value to offer the prospect for free.  This could be a market report, trend report, or something in the news that could affect their property.  The best thing, though, is a comp.  Ideally, you have just sold something in the neighborhood.  Owners want to know about deals that have happened.  They want to know the details.  They want to know who was involved.  If you have that information, they will talk to you and meet with you.

Your thinking should be, “Even if I don’t uncover a possible relationship or transaction, this prospect is going to gain something valuable from taking my call.”

Close for the Meeting - At this point, you have shared with them the purpose of your cold call.  You got them to share a little bit about their property or their business.  Now you have piqued their interested in some information that you have.  Now it is time to close.

Most of you stop here.  Don’t.  You have to ask for what you want.  Ask for the meeting!

Now, you have just offered the prospect information that they want.  Do not give it to them over the phone.  Do not email it to them.  Require that they meet you face to face.  But make the requirement as whimsical and gentle as possible.  I use the assumptive and alternative calendar closes the most.

First, I assume the prospect will meet with me.  Then I give them two different dates and times that I can “pop by.”

  • I like the alternative calendar close because the answer to the question is not “no.”  I am asking the prospect to choose between two dates and times.  This increases the likelihood of a positive answer.
  • The term “pop by” is one I learned from the book How to Master the Art of Selling by Tom Hopkins (affiliate link).  This is a great book on the tactics of selling.  The term “pop by” just sounds quick – like you will just be there for a few minutes.  Maybe you will.  Regardless, it is easy for the prospect to agree to.

Within these 4 steps of the anatomy of a cold call, the conversation can go anywhere.  You need to be ready to improvise and go where the cold call may take you.  But remember, you have to actually ask for what you want.  Ask for the short meeting.

I would love to hear some of the questions that you use on a cold call.  Or how you ask for a meeting.  My way suits my style and personality.  Yours will be different.  Leave your comments below!

CS: Prospecting – Preparation for the Cold Call

The Clarity Series is a series of posts all on one subject.  This particular subject is prospecting.  While the context is commercial real estate, these steps and principles can be applied to any sales.  To read the introduction of this series, click here.  To read an overview of the entire prospecting system, click here.  Thank you for reading!

If you are like most salespeople, cold calls are the low point of your day.  You don’t like them.  You know that top producers cold call all the time. But you aren’t exactly sure what to say.  What you need is confidence.  Confidence comes from preparation.

iStockPhoto

iStockPhoto

I remember my first cold call.  I had just earned my license.  I was calling the owner of a small office/retail stand alone building that had a for sale by owner sign.  I was clueless about what to say.  I remember sitting in my office and staring at the phone.  It was a like I would be electrocuted if I picked it up to dial.  I had these thoughts running through my head:

  • What if he answers?!
  • I’m not going to know what to say!
  • I’m going to sound like a complete idiot.
  • What if he asks me about my fee?

In Part 1 of this post,we discussed the purpose and the philosophy of cold calling.  To review, the purpose of the cold call is to get a meeting.  That is it.  The philosophy that I teach and coach my clients is that you want to connect and add value.  You do not want to use scripts or try to manipulate.

Just like anything else, cold calling needs a system that marries solid preparation with an understanding of the anatomy of a call.  This post deals with the preparation.

Cold Call Preparation

Preparation really means putting your P.I. hat on.  What can you find out about your prospect before you call?  Remember, you goal is to quickly connect with your prospect and land a meeting.  Ideally, you can do this in just a few minutes.

I recommend that you take 2-3 minutes before you make a call and see what you can find out about your prospect.  There is way too much information out there not to.  Your goal is to find something quickly that you can use to establish common ground.  Remember, cold-calling is a numbers game.  Don’t spend too much time researching your prospect.  And don’t spend too much time on the call itself.

Google

This is somewhat of a no-brainer first step, but too many of us don’t do it.  Search for the name and city of your prospect.  By including the city, you are more likely to quickly find the correct person.  Take a few seconds to scan the links.  Click through on one or two and see what you can learn.  Have they been in the news lately?  If so, you can reference that article when you call.  Have they been in any financial trouble?  This can give you a clue to possible motivations to sell, etc.

LinkedIn

google search bo barron

One of the links that will likely come up in the Google search is the prospect’s LinkedIn profile.  This is what you want to find.  On their profile, you can learn where they went to school.  Especially around NCAA tournament time, their school is often an easy way to build rapport and connect.

linkedin profile bo barron

You can also see their work history.  Is there a common company that you both worked for?  Have they had a position in an industry that interests you?

You can also see if they are a connector.  A connector is a person that can be a gateway to get in front of many other people.  Connectors can be much more important to you and your business than one particular deal.  If you find one of these, purpose to build a lasting relationship.  Give lots of value for free.  Their friendship could lead to scores of deals in the future.

how I'm connected to Tony Robbins

Maybe the most important information you can find on LinkedIn is if you have any common contacts.  I would veer from my numbers game mentality of cold calling here.  If you are calling a whale (think Gordon Gekko), it may be worth slowing down if you discover you have a mutual friend.  Attempt to get an introduction from that common connection.  An introduction is much more effective than a cold call as the clout and rapport of the common connection can rub off on you.

Website

LinkedIn can also lead you to the prospect’s website.  If you find that site, you are looking for one thing – their purpose for being in business.  If you can find a mission statement, core values, etc., then you have valuable intel you can use to craft your opening statement when you call.  I will get into that in the next post dealing with the anatomy of the call.

Keep in mind that these tasks can be delegated.  I know a guy that has his assistant run through these steps.  On his cold call sheet for the day are not only names and numbers, but information his assistant found through a little online research.  Remember what you are worth.  If you have a team member to whom you can delegate this step, do so.

Now I would love to hear from you about how you prepare before a cold call.  What do you do?  Or what is something that I have left out?  Leave you comments below!

CS: Prospecting – The Purpose of a Cold Call

The Clarity Series is a series of posts all on one subject.  This particular subject is prospecting.  While the context is commercial real estate, these steps and principles can be applied to any sales.  To read the introduction of this series, click here.  To read an overview of the entire prospecting system, click here.  Thank you for reading!

via iStockPhoto

via iStockPhoto

I may have told this story before.  About a year ago, I was riding with a couple of guys through rural Kentucky.  As we drove through this one-stop-light town, we passed a Dollar General Store.  Because I was clear on my specialty and had built my database, I was able to look up the owner.  Before we were out of that small town, I was talking to the owner.  What started off with, “Hi, sir.  My name is Bo Barron and your Dollar Store in Perryville is not on fire,” ended with me in his office the next day.  Cold calling works.

The subject of the cold call is a big one.  I expect to break this up into at least three parts – the purpose of a cold call, the preparation of a cold call, and the anatomy of a cold call.  In this post, I want to address the purpose of a cold call and my philosophy of a cold call.  This first part will be a bit more philosophical.  The next posts will get into how to practically pull off a cold call

The Purpose of a Cold Call

The purpose of a cold call is very simple and there is no debate.  It is to get a meeting.  That’s it.  It is not to spend 20 minutes on the phone.  It is not to build a lasting relationship.  It is not to make the sale.  The purpose of the cold call is simply to get a meeting.

I had a guy who worked for me for a time.  Cold calling was not his favorite thing.  When he would call, though, he would make a new best friend.  These would be 30+ minute conversations.  He would have two of these in a day and think he cold called for an hour.  No!  Cold calling is a numbers game.  These calls should be short.  The more calls you make, the more meetings you will have.  The more meetings you have, the more proposals you will make…and on and on.

I want you to build lasting relationships with your clients and prospects.  I want you to know about their kids and their dreams.  It simply should not happen on a cold call.

My Philosophy of a Cold Call

I am going to give you the secret script to wealth and riches.  Regardless of what you are selling, if you use this script, you are golden.

Wrong!  I can’t tell you how many of my coaching clients have asked me for scripts.  Scripts don’t win in sales.  Connecting wins.

Many of you have probably read How to Master the Art of Selling by Tom Hopkins.  This book is full of great sales tactics, closing techniques, and scripts.  I have read this book and use it as a resource.  You should too.  It is one of the best.  However, it was written 33 years ago for the previous generation.  It suggests that if you know the right words to say in any situation, you will always make the sale.  I disagree.

Sales is not manipulation.  Sales is about connecting and providing something of value that makes someone’s life better.  A cold call is the first touch of that process.  You need to have a plan for the call.  You need to prepare for that call.  You need to have great questions ready.  You need to be ready to listen and adjust.  You don’t need a script!

My next post will deal with preparing and the anatomy of the cold call.  But before that, what are your thoughts about scripts?  How do you try to connect with someone on your first call with them?  Please leave your thoughts in the comments.

And on the note of comments, this Clarity Series on Prospecting has been generating some great sharing of information and has led to conversations off-line.  I encourage you all to keep leaving those comments and engaging with each other!

CS: Prospecting – How to Write a Prospecting Letter

The Clarity Series is a series of posts all on one subject.  This particular subject is prospecting.  While the context is commercial real estate, these steps and principles can be applied to any sales.  To read the introduction of this series, click here.  To read an overview of the entire prospecting system, click here.  Thank you for reading!

iStockPhoto

iStockPhoto

In the previous posts for this Clarity Series on Prospecting, I wrote about how I prospected on dollar stores in KY.  After choosing my geography and specialty, and then building my database, it was then time to start contacting people.  This post is a slight revision on a previous post I wrote titled The 3 Benefits of a Well Written Prospecting Letter.  It fits perfectly here.

In my next post, I will go over the anatomy of an effective cold call.  But I prefer to warm up that call.  Writing a letter is a fantastic way to do that.  Determine how many prospects you plan to cold call a week.  That is how many letters you send the week before.  Twenty was my number.  You can certainly do more.

Sending letters has had 4 different types of results for me:

  1. It hits the trash immediately.
  2. They see my name on the envelope before it hits the trash.
  3. It is opened and read. 
  4. It motivates the reader of the letter to call me first.

You have to assume that at least 50% of recipients are not going to read your letter.  They just won’t.  And that is fine.  All I’m trying to do is warm up my initial cold call.  When I call those who actually read it, my ratio for getting a meeting goes up.

On average, they would call me first about once a month.  70% of those calls turn into listings – that is our close rate when they call us from the letter.  That is a huge number for the cost of paper and a stamp.

I want to share 2 things in the remainder of this post:  why send a letter, and how to increase your open and read rate.

3 Reasons/Benefits to Sending a Prospecting Letter

  1. Letters warm up the cold call - This is obvious, but it works.  Not only do I have a higher success rate in getting meetings with those that read the letter, it gives me something to refer to right off the bat.  ”Hi Mr. Smith.  I’m Bo Barron and I’m calling to follow-up on the letter I sent you last week…”
  2. Letters force you to follow-up with a call - How is that, you say?  The letters force me to call because I tell them in the letter that I will be calling in about a week.  This is built-in accountability.  It gives you your first opportunity to follow through with integrity – or drop the ball.
  3. Letters force you to be intentional and systematic with your prospecting - This is a huge benefit for most.  To send out a certain amount of letters a week means you must have your database set up.  It means you are intentionally signing X number of letters a week.  It means that you are planning ahead.  It means that you are differentiating yourself from 95% of the rest of the brokerage community.

Now that I have covered why to send the letters, let’s discuss how to get more people to actually open and read the letter!

  • Handwrite the envelope - Studies show that more people open mail that is handwritten versus printed.  I generally had my assistant do it.  She has much better handwriting.  Once a week, 20 letters appeared on my desk.  I signed them and gave them back to her.  She addressed the letters and sent them.  She logged into my cloud-based CRM system and scheduled the cold calls to the recipients.  I made the calls.  Clockwork.  Simple.  Effective!
  • Write a scannable letter - This is a scannable blog post.  I utilize simple sentences.  Short paragraphs.  Lists.  Bullet-points.  A friend of mine runs a local Packages Plus business.  He was sharing with me that studies have been done on increasing the read rate of a letter.  The second most likely thing that is read in a letter is bullet points.  I will tell you the first in a second.  Use them.  That is where your most important information belongs – written in a benefit statement for the reader.
  • Keep the letter short - Anything longer than a page is way too long.  Three-quarters of a page is what I think is best. You have about 15 seconds of eye-ball time.  After that, you lose their attention to something else.  Short and simple works best.
  • Talk about them - Don’t send a letter all about you.  They don’t care.  They care about themselves.  Talk about what is happening that affects their property – their bottom line – their lives.  If you don’t do this, you are wasting your time.
  • Use a Postscript - That’s right – the P.S.  The postscript is the single most read thing in a letter.  Therefore, put the most important thing in the postscript.  I suggest to you that is where you tell them you will call them.  If they read nothing but the postscript, and you tell them you are going to call them, they are much more likely to then read the letter.

I have a couple more thoughts to leave you with.  First, systematize this process.  If you are prospecting on similar properties, there is a good chance that you can use the same basic letter over and over.  If not, take the time to customize the letter to the owner.  Your close rate going from call to meeting will go up.  Take the time.  It is worth it.

Second, delegate everything you can.  I initially wrote the letter.  My assistant would print out 20 a week.  She would lay them on my desk on Wednesday.  I would sign them and give them back to her.  She would then address the envelopes and send them.  Then she would log in to ClientLook and record who was sent a letter.  Finally, she would schedule my calls for the following Tuesday.

Note that all I did was initially write the letter and sign them each week.  Everything else was done by her.  When I show up on Tuesday, my call list is already waiting for me.  Delegate everything that anyone else can do so that you can focus on what only you can do.  Systematization at its finest!

Most of you will not do this.  Some because you are lazy.  Some because you don’t know where to start.  Some because you won’t pause long enough to build your database in the first place.

I challenge you to try this for 90 days.  I think you will be blown away with the results.

Let me hear from you.  Have you used prospecting letters before?  Did they work?  What would prevent you from doing it now?  Please share your comments!

Clarity Series: Prospecting – 5 Steps to Build a Database

The Clarity Series is a series of posts all on one subject.  This particular subject is prospecting.  While the context is commercial real estate, these steps and principles can be applied to any sales.  To read the introduction of this series, click here.  To read an overview of the entire prospecting system, click here.  Thank you for reading!

So far in this series, we have discussed what it means to choose a farm area or geography.  We also discussed the value of specializing.  The next step in implementing a killer prospecting system is to build your database.

iStockPhoto

iStockPhoto

In 2004, I got out of the Marine Corps and moved home with my family.  The next day, I started working with my dad in his CRE brokerage business.  As we would be driving around town, he would share with me the histories of the properties we drove by.  He knew everything.  He knew who owned the property.  He could tell me what they paid for it.  He could tell me how big they were.  We would pass some properties he had sold multiple times.  He defined encyclopedic knowledge of a market.  I remember thinking that I would never get there.

Building a world-class database is how you get there.  And you can do it in months.

Your purpose in building a killer database is two-fold.  First, you want to personify the kind of encyclopedic market knowledge like my dad has.  Second, your database is your road map – your foundation – to consistently finding and winning business through prospecting.

Here is how you do it!

5 Steps to Building Your Database

  1. Be crystal clear about your geography and your specialty – This guides you in finding the properties and owners that you will be prospecting on.  My database was built on dollar stores in Kentucky.  You are shooting for 400 – 600 properties.  Does your market have 1,300 multifamily properties?  How many does it have with 100 – 250 units?  Get it down to 400 – 600.
  2. Choose a CRM to hold and manage your database – There are many to choose from.  You can go the traditional desktop based direction with ACT!, REA9, RealHound, or others.  I chose to go the cloud-based route and used ClientLook.  If you’d like to read more about why, click here.  If you are using Outlook to manage your contacts and prospecting, stop immediately.  It is not a CRM.
  3. Find the properties – Your goal is to know everything about every property in your specialty and in your market.  Depending on where you live, this could be easy.  It could also be fairly tedious.  I used the Site To Do Business (STDB).  This is a super-powerful platform that provides site analysis and demographic tools.  You can also define a geography and then search for businesses within that geography.  It then spits you out a list.  It takes maybe 5 minutes.  STDB is available to CCIM designees and candidates.  If you are in the CRE industry and aren’t involved with the CCIM Institute, you should remedy that right away.  There are other tools that you can use in larger markets to include CoStar, Xcelligent, ProspectNow.  There are many other options. Your local PVA office can also be helpful.
  4. Find the owners – In my experience doing this, finding the properties is easy.  Finding the owners is difficult.  Kentucky is a freedom of information state.  Once we built our database of dollar store locations, my assistant went county-by-county (there are 120 in KY) getting the owners of record for each property.  This took about a month.  Where you live will determine how difficult this may be.  If a company like ProspectNow, LexisNexis, or REIS covers your market, pay the fee.  You could get what you need in days instead of weeks or months.  If you live in a freedom of information state, check your Secretary of State website.  It should tell you the members of LLCs.
  5. Maintain your database – Once you have it built, maintain it.  Pay attention and track all the transactions of the properties in your database.  Keep it up to date.  This will allow you to remain the market expert in your specialty.

John McDermott is one of my favorite guys in the CRE industry.  Here is his list on what should be in your database for each property.

  • Property Name
  • Property Address
  • Property Photo – you should take this yourself.  STP!  See the property.  See the people.
  • Property Condition/Class – A,B,C
  • Property Tenants
  • Property Rents (current & market)
  • Property Features including deferred maintenance
  • Owner Name(s)
  • Owner Address
  • Owner Phone Number(s)
  • Owner Email – if possible

Final thought – I believe and preach that anything that can be delegated should be.  You need to focus your time on the tasks that only you can do.  Building a database is an exception, however.  You should do most of this yourself.  To become a market expert, you actually need to learn the properties and the people.  There is no better way than getting on the property.

So we have now covered geography, specialty, and building a database.  The remainder of this series will deal with how to use the data to find and win business.

What are your favorite tools to finding properties and owners?  Please share with us in the comments section.