Real estate agent shakes hands with new homeowners

Transforming Salespeople into Marketers

Stopped by McDonald’s yesterday for my fake cup of Starbuck’s and two headlines jumped out at me:

“This weekend’s event will include food, music, the chance to test drive Mercedes cars and Harley Davidson motorcycles, plus the chance to win prizes.”

“The lucky winner will also get a brand new red Corvette thrown in at no charge.”

If I read those two headlines just two years ago, in 2007, and someone told me that these promotions were related to selling a house, I would have been dubious. But here we are in 2009, and increasingly real estate professionals are finding that in order to be successful, and actually capture prospective customers, they need to do more.

Until recently, most real estate salespersons, as their titles implied, focused on selling, and selling only. Marketing was either ignored completely, or left to the owners and brokers – And why not?

Through 2006 customers were easy to find, they usually came to us, and in the feeding-frenzied atmosphere of that period of “over-exuberant” optimism, most real estate salespeople were so busy they were hiring assistants to help with the workload. All they needed to do then was literally “sell.”

But in the today’s more competitive marketplace, marketing as a science is back. And “sales” is always a subset of marketing.

Without trying to sound pedantic, let’s remember the difference between marketing and sales, using McDonalds as an example. The science of marketing begins with two columns. On one side is “Product Differentiation.” The other side has “Market Segmentation.” The idea is that there is a scale or balance that says: “My product is a fast-food breakfast served with great coffee,” (left side of the scale) “that will perfectly fill the needs of the soccer mom on a budget who needs a quick bite and a social center with other moms,” (right side of scale.) Once we have those two sides in balance, we then move into the communication of that to our prospective customers. That’s where selling comes in.

In this abridged example, that means that we now put a guy in a Ronald McDonald clown suit on the corner to wave traffic in and “sell” people on the idea that they should pull into McDonalds right now, order that great breakfast, and chat with the other moms while little Danny Jr. is occupied with the legos.

Now, before any of my fellow real estate professionals get offended, I am not comparing us to circus characters with helium, hats and horns. But in today’s real estate marketplace, if all we are doing is trying to wave people in to our businesses with a big smile, lots of makeup, and a bright red coif, we will likely be disappointed with the results.

Clever real estate salespeople today are realizing that it is far better to begin with, and take advantage of, all the tools in the marketing formula, not just personal selling. So today we have boat tours of Florida foreclosed properties, online open houses with prizes, and everything from boats to planes to tickets to the Superbowl now included in listings – or even thrown in at the last minute to sweeten a deal. In marketing terms, we call those additional incentives “sales promotions,”, and they can and do work as long as we know who our target customer is.

McDonald’s ideal target customer is soccer moms.

So why the clown?

Because even though Mom is driving, little Danny Jr. sees the clown on the street, and through tears, bribes, or whatever other coercions 3 year old boys have in their arsenal to get what they want, he forces mom to pull in.

Every real estate agent knows the old axiom- it is the wives who ultimately “buy” a home, based first on how she feels about the beautiful kitchen and Master bath. So why the Corvettes and Harleys?

Because just like McDonalds discovered, sales promotions work when you know your target audience.

Park that Hog or Corvette on the lawn as the average house-hunting couple drives by and I guarantee Danny SENIOR will use tears, bribes, or whatever other coercions 30-year old boys have in their arsenal to get what they want, and he’ll force “mom” to pull in.

After that, sure we’ll show Mrs. Danny Senior the kitchen and bath, we’ll talk up the walk-out basement, and we’ll use our sales skills to win the day. But these days, in many cases we never would have gotten the Mrs. into that property, without Danny Senior seeing the car on the lawn.

Don’t think these types of promotional techniques are not for you. Sales promotions are easy, and they are becoming one of the many new tools we use to ride out this tough market, and keep our businesses growing.

Besides, parking a Harley in front of an open house is much more fun, and way less humiliating than putting on size 18 shoes and sporting a red nose in a funny hat.
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About The Author: Geoffrey Thompson is an owner and founding partner of Colibri Real Estate, LLC. Since 1996 the companies under this banner have offered online real estate licensing and insurance licensing courses as well as online real estate exam prep and insurance exam prep.