It all starts with a phone call.
Whenever I get a new agent with my company, or whenever I first work with and independent homeseller or FSBO, I try to impress on the this one thing at first. Nothing happens in this industry without a conversation. Nothing ever gets sold without a conversation.
We carefully select the nicest looking primary photo for the MLS for one purpose only. We want the looker to take the next step. That step is to click on the picture and go to the media page where there are more pictures. We want all of those pictures to be very nice-looking. In fact it is good to have captions under those pictures. All to encourage the looker to move on to the next step, which is to actually go inside the home. This natural flow is a process that can be interrupted and therefore, usually ended.
The step that actually gets that prospective buyer through the front door of the house involves calling for and setting up an appointment. The buyer may be calling the seller by himself, or if he’s working with an agent, the agent will generally be doing the calling. But that is a very important step in the sale process.
Phone calls rarely come at a perfect time.
It seems that I can be working beside my silent phone for hours, and the minute I walk away from it, it rings. Sometimes if I am eating, it rings. It has been known to ring while I am watching a movie, working in the garden, or even taking a nap.
In a perfect world, we would be sitting at our desk or table with a tablet and pencil and calendar when the phone rings. On the table we could also have all the specs on our house and all the utility bills in little piles around us in case the caller asked about those things. So it is just not going to happen that there even exists a perfect time. There are only two times. When you can answer the phone, and when you cannot answer the phone. Let’s say you work eight hours and you also sleep eight hours. So the odds are that the prospective buyer will not talk to you, at least when he first wants to.
How does your voice mail message sound?
I have been on the receiving end of answering machines/voicemails that are not very helpful. I want to be encouraged that even though I picked a bad time to talk right now, eventually I will get to speak with a person who can answer my questions. Too many times instead I am greeted by adorable, but hard-to-understand children, lengthy musical selections, or someone eating a cheeseburger while recording the outgoing message.
Listen to your outgoing message. Write down what you are wanting to say on your message if you need to. Practice it a bit before you record it. Go get your neighbor to record it for you. Just don’t leave people with the initial impression that if it’s this hard to talk to you when you’re not here, how hard will it be to talk to you when I CAN talk to you.
How often check and how quickly return?
Check for messages often. Maybe every half-hour or so. If you are at work and can’t check for messages until 6, say so on the outgoing message. Don’t have your message say you will be gone all day, but rather that you will be in and out and promise to return any phone calls at 6. the best surprise is NO surprise.
Customers and buyers today like things to be immediate. If they know they won’t get a call-back until six, that’s one thing. Otherwise they will be getting cranky in about seven minutes if they haven’t heard back from you.
There is always the very good possibility that as you are returning a phone call you call at a less-than-perfect time for the OTHER party. Just leave a short message identifying yourself and saying that you are sorry you missed them. Now they can never feel that you have slighted them by not returning their call.
And now you are back at square one. Rinse and repeat.
Are you working with a Realtor?
This should be one of your first questions when you finally do speak to the prospective buyer. This will determine the next step. I will deal with some tips and dialogs you need at that point in other articles. But for now you have succeeded in the First Conversation step. Some people never get there, but you have, Congratulations!