Have you ever noticed how some real estate sales brokers seem effortlessly to have listings at all times, pumping out sales like a fired-up ATM machine squirting out dollars, while other brokers struggle just to get 10 seconds on the phone with an owner?
Well, the first thing you should know is that almost every broker started out with nothing. For the purpose of this article, we will assume a clean and level playing field.
The tried-and-true, traditional method of acquiring listings or product is to canvass or cold call. It sounds simple, but it can be one of the most difficult elements of being a broker. If you cant get past cold-calling 101, this is not your career. Not everyone is cut out for this.
Cold calling requires balls of steel. If you have a fragile ego, move on. Cold calling will be discouraging for the faint of heart. But once you gain momentum, it should get easier.
One sassy broker described cold calling as “dialing for dollars.” Since he loved money and the pursuit of it, this thought alone was enough motivation for him.
A veteran broker keeps his momentum up by reminding himself that every “no” he gets from owners means he’s getting closer to a “yes.”
Another seasoned broker told me he starts each call to a seller with a joke of the day. Once he changes the mood or tone of what the owner believes is a cold call, the owner is disarmed and ready to be enticed.
One of the more serious brokers I spoke to told me she starts her calls with news about the location she is canvassing or some kernel of valuable information about what’s going on in the real estate world that would be of interest to the owners she was targeting.
Cold calling is the most effective method of getting in touch with owners. Eventually those cold calls get warmed up and the relationship between the broker and owner becomes more substantial. An experienced broker will continue to nurture those relationships by staying in regular contact with the owners. Some brokers will offer to meet and prepare opinions of value and demonstrate the value they will bring to the seller if they list with that broker.
While some brokers will overstate a value just to entice the seller to list with them, this can have negative consequences for the seller, especially if the property doesn’t sell and is returned to the disappointed owner. Once returned, like it or not, it is imprinted in the minds of those who saw it as an unrealistic seller and a difficult deal.
Providing accurate market evaluations for owners is a broker’s fiduciary responsibility. An owner may be overly optimistic about his property’s value. The experienced broker will prepare an accurate and realistic opinion of value with indisputable data and concrete facts in the form of comparable sales, market trends and buyer profiles. The seller must make a decision to sell based on proper information. A broker must be willing to advise the client when selling isn’t a viable option. An owner is best served by the broker who puts aside his own personal interest and guides the seller toward the right alternatives.
Relationships are just as significant as cold calling. Most experienced brokers will cultivate relationships with ancillary industries such as mortgage brokers, lenders, attorneys, etc. These relationships should be treated with respect and not abused. Again, as tempting as it can be to cross the line from ethical to not, staying on the right side of that line will be more valuable than not. Some will test a broker’s moral standing, which can be used against him in the future. Always consider the consequences before stepping off the cliff of Mt. Ethical.
Listings can come from places you least expect. I was shopping with my cousin Rose, and while we were in the dressing room, another woman was complaining about a tenant in one of the 100-plus-unit apartment buildings that she owns in Manhattan. After I listened sympathetically and offered some solutions, she turned and said “Since you know so much about real estate, would you consider selling it for me?”
That was the best shopping I ever did!
Adelaide Polsinelli is a veteran real estate professional with more than 25 years of real estate brokerage experience. She is senior director at Eastern Consolidated, an investment sales firm in New York.