Breaking the ice
Real estate is a people business (yes, we all know). But most agents who get in because they feel they've perfected the social aspects of the trade, nevertheless fail because they just can't nail the cold intro beyond their inner sphere. It's okay... but if you're going to make it in this biz, you're going to have to break through the ice to more fertile fields beyond.
Forget the sale (yeah)
The first mistake many agents make is leaping at the lead's throat. When has this ever worked on you without disdain for the person on the other end? You're not selling timeshares here... and if all goes well, you may have a client for years to come - one whose family and friend referrals more-than-compensate for a laundry list of high-pressure sales calls.
Sure, go for the win when the opportunity presents itself, but at the start of the relationship, lead generation for real estate is about planting seeds of trust which you'll then care for and grow over time. This isn't a one-time sale and it's not even a quick sale. There are a lot of steps ahead for both of you and if the person on the other end of the call just isn't groov'n with your approach, then why on earth would they choose to spend their free time with you over the coming weeks and months?
Let's make this easy from the start... a cold intro is not about sales... forget the sale.
While the above may come across as taboo for red-lining agents used to the meat-grinder that is sales... if you're reading this, then you likely already doubt the Viking approach to relationship-building. Whatever works works (it's as simple as that). But times change and the last few generations have had their fill of the 80's hard sell. These days, it's about social credibility (who trusts you) and establishing a trust brand that you can leverage over time (think "emotional bank account" for your brand to deposit into and occasionally draw from).
- Be Yourself. You can use every ice-breaker in the book, but if you come across as sounding like you're reading from a prompter, it'll backfire fast. Practice with friends, family, colleagues, the squirrels at the park... really whoever will listen to you. Say it until you mean it... then all you have to do is be you. You'll be the premiere real estate lead generator in your region in no time! ;)
- Be Friendly. Easy-enough to say, but how do you remain friendly in often hostile situations such as a cold call intro? Be humble... be willing to let them go (it leaves the next conversation open). Show interest in the other person by actually finding something of interest in the other person. Hey... you're interested in what they know about the neighborhood (even if it's just gossip).
- Ask Open-Ended Questions. Keep in mind that breaking the ice is not really what you say, but what you ask. Aim for common ground by asking an open-ended question, then listen carefully and keep the thread of conversation going. You're seeking connections, points of interest that you both share. Their neighborhood is a good start... ask questions... see what they know that can help you be better at what you do.
- Be sincere. Nothing is more cringe-worthy to today's generations of home sellers than a salesperson blowing smoke in your ear. There's enough ground to cover that you shouldn't be grasping for conversation. Relax... you're the pro here. To help with any awkward silence, get into the habit of writing down their answers. It not only shows genuine interest, it demonstrates that you take your work seriously.
- Don’t dominate the discussion with questions. Okay, so you've found a solid list of oyster-opening conversation-starters. Awesome, but be sure to dedicate yourself to the call. Listen carefully when the other person talks. Then, find a natural opening to share something with them. Remember, you don't have to have an answer to everything they say. "Interesting..." or "Huh... I hadn't heard that before..." will work just fine.
- Research, Research, Research. Before picking up the phone, do your homework. Find their neighborhood's HOA site and get to know your call lists' common concerns. Social media pages can also provide a wealth of excellent ice-breakers or at very least, arm you with some no-go topics like their rival sports team.
13 Cold-Call Ice-Breakers
Remember to use questions that are personal and unique; don’t spend five minutes trading weather forecasts (they've got friends and family for those conversations). Okay, now that we've set the tone... let's get to the juice of it. Here are 13 in-person and over-the-phone ice-breakers to help you establish a beachhead...
1) "Ahhh, you’ve got the [Samsung phone/iPhone], how do you like it? Is that the one with the battery issues?"
2) "I have to say, I really love the neighborhood here... did you know about the [insert historical feature]?"
3) "So, are you from this area originally? I’ve never been to [the place they’re from] but I’ve heard a lot of great things about the area!"
4) "I understand you’re a [profession]. My [son/daughter/niece] is interested in that industry. Any advice I should pass on?"
5) "How did you get involved in [industry they work in]? Is that what brought you here?"
6) "I read on LinkedIn that you speak [insert language]... that's really cool. What got you interested in learning it?"
7) "Obviously, there's a lot to love about the area, but what brought you to this neighborhood specifically...?"
8) "The [their industry] industry is fascinating. I have to admit, I don't know the first thing about it other than what I read here or there. What drew you to it?"
9) "I saw on LinkedIn that you used to be in [industry the person worked in previously]. Was it easy to make the transition to [industry they’re in now]?"
10) "Your Facebook page is [hilarious/insightful]. Where do you find all the funny posts? I've found a few sites, but I'm always looking for fresh sources."
11) "That's a unique [piece of furniture]. If you don't mind me asking... where'd you pick that up?"
12) "My kids attend [name of school] down the road, I assume yours go to [local school]? What do you think of it?"
13) "What a gorgeous gardening bed. I seem to kill every plant I put in – any advice?"
Teach people how to treat you
Notice how you never once heard a word about selling their property, preparing for a listing, reviewing housing market statistics or any other high-pressure language. The key is talking about things they know, not the things you know. Let them be the expert at the start of the relationship. Right now, you're teaching them how to listen, then... when you demonstrate your knowledge around listing... you'll have their full attention. Following this model, you’ll find that you can establish long-lasting relationships you can bank on.
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