When I started in the real estate business our main avenue to reach clients was word of mouth. At the beginning this was enough. We were able to sell real estate investments to most of the people we knew. This strategy worked up to the point where we had sold to everyone we knew because obviously family and friends are a limited resource. You can argue you can make friends fast, but earning their trust is way more complex and it takes time.
Trust is a very important factor in almost all businesses and especially in real estate. If people do not trust you, it is going to be extremely hard to close deals. When you start working in any business, the people who already trust you, usually family and friends, are the first ones to do business with you. But how do you do when you need to grow your business outside of your circle of family and friends?
In our case, we grew organically up to a point where we did not have time to speak to more clients but we still needed to keep growing. It reminds me of a friend of mine, owner of a pizza restaurant, who told me once that he was very frustrated with his business while we were having dinner and all the tables were full. I was puzzled and did not understand. He explained that he could no longer grow his business; that he had reached his maximum and could not grow anymore.
One of the best ways to slowly earn people’s trust is to be in constant contact with them. Therefore, communication is essential to earning somebody’s trust, especially at the beginning of the business relationship. We try to be in touch with our clients frequently via either meetings or phone calls. This allows us to slowly earn their trust. This model does not scale, as time is a limited resource. I needed to talk to more people to be able to close more deals. Our rule of thumb is that you have to talk to 100 people so that 10 listen to you and you close 1 deal. Therefore, the challenge lies in reaching the maximum number of qualified prospects using channels that allow you to grab their attention while slowly building trust.
For these reasons we started experimenting with social networks because the entry cost was very low, almost zero, and more and more people use them everyday. We were able to attract a lot of followers but were not able to attract new qualified prospects. We realized we needed a well-defined communications strategy to maximize the number of qualified people we could reach and ultimately gain their trust. Consequently, it is more than just hiring a community manager; you need to hire somebody who can define a realistic communications strategy that allows you to grow.
It is very challenging and costly for small businesses to hire a full-time communications expert, let alone a communications team. Therefore, most small businesses decide to hire an outside communications consultant or firm. This is a very important step, as this consultant must understand your business and your goals. They will not understand your goals –or it will be very difficult– if they have not worked in your line of business before.
After we hired an outside communications firm and defined a strategy, we started getting calls from qualified prospects. Moreover, we were able to train more salespeople to understand how to communicate the right message to prospects and how to slowly earn their trust. As a result, our team started to grow and our business started to expand. We meet regularly with our outside communications team to tweak our communications strategy and to learn from mistakes. The more they get involved to understand the intricacies of the business, the better the results. This is a very important point. I have heard a lot of people in the real estate business saying we hired a consultant who used to manage our communications and it did not work out so we stopped the service. And when you ask them how often you met to go over the strategy, most of the time they say we only met at the beginning.
Every business is different regarding communicating through social media. In some businesses you can produce a sale using social media directly. It is still really hard to sell real estate through social media, but you need a strong message to be able to catch the attention of qualified prospects and bring them knocking on your door.
It is still important to keep in touch with prospects and clients through phone calls and meetings, but if we had not hired an outside communications consultant, we would not have been able to grow our business and make more clients happy and satisfied with our service.
Carlos E. Rojas – Lic. Real Estate Broker, America Riches