Your Last Action Speaks The Loudest

Your Last ActionIt is SUCH a great feeling isn’t it? When you complete a huge project successfully, or hit that major goal it feels like nothing can stop you – and there certainly is no reason to hold back on the celebration. In fact, celebrating big achievements properly can encourage us to tackle the next assignment with the same energy as the last. Time marches on though, and those who allow the celebration to last for weeks… months… years… (I knew someone who celebrated for decades!) may be brought back to the present with a rude awakening.

Please don’t confuse what I am trying to describe for mere “remember the good old days” talk. No, that is nostalgia and a different (if not equally unhelpful – in business) feeling altogether. Nostalgia wishes for different circumstances around a person, while what I am describing is someone wishing to be a different person to be the person they felt like during a past win, even though they are now facing a new and different challenge.

To avoid the trap described above, always remember that your last (most recent) action speaks the loudest. It is the most true depiction of who you are as a person, and more importantly how finely tuned your skill set is to meet current challenges.

I’ll prove it to you in just two words. Lance Armstrong. Ok, maybe that was a cheap shot. How about… General Petraeus. Ok, ok… imagine instead for me the BEST new home marketer in the world… in 1995. Lets say he stopped learning and interacting with the outside world until we dropped him in 2013. Would he still be the best marketer in the world? His skills have not kept up – he is no longer competitive. He’s never even heard the words “online lead” before. Yet, if you called him to a meeting he would likely reference his domination of the marketing world… back when news print was king. No one would care… and they shouldn’t! Past successes more than three years ago do not indicate any better chance of future success than someone who is unproven but well prepared. Yes, the world is changing that fast. The answers for the test back then will not work on today’s final exam.

What to do then? Focus on continually increasing your skills, and not on telling others how you’ve “done this before” or “did that once.” Always be analyzing the surrounding landscape and asking “do I have the skills to appropriately tackle this challenge should it arise?” Again, if you succeeded at the same task more than three years ago, you are likely to be blindsided without careful self evaluation.

True experts will focus on skills that will serve them well forever. Can you learn quickly? Can you teach yourself? Are you disciplined? Can you interact well with other people? Can you lead them? Motivate them? Motive yourself? Can you analyze? Strategize? Take action? Are you self aware? Those will serve you much better than becoming a MySpace expert (even if it seemed important in 2006), or an expert App developer (in 2012).

So today take some positive action, and don’t coast – because tomorrow your new boss won’t have anything else to judge you on. He certainly won’t care what you did 3+ years ago.

PS. Your resume is not a piece of paper in today’s world. It is the connections you’ve made, how you’ve treated them over time, and your last few actions. That’s it. (this goes for companies too! Mind your brand.)

“Traffic Units”: A Poem for New Home Salespeople

(Based on “Traffic Light” by Shel Silverstein – adapted by Kevin Oakley)

 

The traffic units did not come

So the sales rep stopped to wait

As competitors rolled and the wind blew cold

And the hour grew dark and late.

 

Signage, meetings, EMAIL!!

Specs and model homes,

(but no phones)

Prospects’ drive on by!

Won’t that traffic come?

 

But the days turned weeks, and the weeks turned months

And there in the model he sits

Twiddlin’ his thumbs till the traffic comes

His managers losing their wits

 

And if you walk by that model now,

You may think it’s rather strange

To see him there with a hopefully gaze

With the very same smile on his very same face

As he patiently wonders if he’ll be replaced

And waits for the traffic to come.

A Builder’s Online Strategy: Employ Your Home Owners

Get it straight from the horse's mouthFinal review – the 7 E’s are:

1. EARN Google’s trust
2. ENTICE people to visit your site
3. ENGAGE those “just browsing”
4. EMPHASIZE your differences
5. ENSURE you’re part of the short list
6. ELICIT a response – generate a lead and convert it
7. EMPLOY your happy home owners to earn more trust

You’ve done all the “hard” work of getting people to come to visit your website and convert to a lead, but it isn’t time to call it quits yet. You have one very important step left – capture your happy customer’s feelings on paper, in photos, or better yet – on video. They don’t have to be long. They don’t have to be professionally shot. They don’t even need to be 100% positive. (ie: stop making excuses)

Customer testimonials fall into a category that is known as the “wonderful and magical third party endorsement.” No, really. There is perhaps no more important or valuable asset for your marketing team to have on its side than a load of third party endorsements. Why? Because as Seth Godin says, and all consumers believe: all marketers are liars! (Don’t confuse this with the equally famous all husbands are clueless – although third party endorsements are key there too right? Just get the mother-in-law on your side and your viewpoint is sure to be accepted)

How to use them

We’ll talk later about best practices on how to capture testimonials, but assuming that you’ve got them – how should you use them on your website? The only thing I can tell you for certain is not to put them in only one place. This is true with all important content on your site – give the browser multiple points of entry on multiple pages. It’s too important to bury in one small corner of your website. Also keep in mind that many of the people who visit your site may never see the homepage because they will click on a link from Google that takes them deep within your site from the beginning.

Below are two examples from my builder’s website. The first one shows the homepage with two pieces of content highlighting customer testimonials – on the left is a video ready to play instantly, and on the right is a promotional button that will take the browser to the testimonial page. The second image shows how in a subtle and non-obtrusive way you can get this great content on every page of your site.

testimonial use on homepage testimonial use on interior page

The final piece of advice is to use this content beyond just on your own site. Think YouTube, email blasts (opt-in only of course!), Realtor presentations, and more.

 

VidBit: The Referral Engine

The Referral Engine by John JantschEvery small business owner gets their start through referrals – from family, friends, or the first paying client. Over time this word of mouth advertising helps the company grow and expand… and ironically lose site of the power of the referral – or become unsure how to cultivate them as the size of the company means less face time with each customer. The Referral Engine: Teaching Your Business to Market Itself by John Jantsch is a fantastic book for those looking to create a structured system of creating referrals. John is also the author of the well known book Duct Tape Marketing.

More sales are welcome, but the best part of referred prospects are that price becomes less important, as John puts it, “when your business comes highly recommended by a friend, the role of risk is minimized, and that fact alone moves the significance of price comparison down the list.” He talks about how non-referred prospects may instead think to themselves, well if I’m disappointed with the result… at least I won’t overpay!

Are you sick of having to justify your price – or worse… negotiate away your margins? This just might be what you’re looking for.

Below is a brief video by John to give you a taste, however if you want specific actionable strategies you’re better served to pick up the book for yourself. Highly recommended.

A Builder’s Online Strategy: Ensure You’re Part of the Short List

Ensure You're Part of the Short ListQuick review – the 7 E’s are:

1. EARN Google’s trust
2. ENTICE people to visit your site
3. ENGAGE those “just browsing”
4. EMPHASIZE your differences
5. ENSURE you’re part of the short list
6. ELICIT a response – generate a lead and convert it
7. EMPLOY your happy home owners to earn more trust

Ensuring you’re part of the short list is a very similar concept to the number one rule for professional quarterbacks – do no harm! Their number one job is to protect the football, and not cause a turnover… to keep their team in the best position to win. Consumers today use the internet to narrow down the list of homebuilders or locations they want to visit in person. It’s shopping by elimination, and you can get tossed real fast – in fact they are looking for reasons to cross you off! Here are some of the most common and harmful errors I see on real estate websites:

Information Overload

Your mother always told you that too much of a good thing was still too much, and she’s right. Builders who give detailed pricing information (beyond the base house) or option lists can quickly find themselves getting scratched off the list. Even in a custom building environment, no one likes large lists – especially with prices attached to them. This information is best presented on-site by your sales team – who can sell the benefits, not just list the features – in a compelling and personal presentation.

I especially cringe at the (thankfully) few sites out there that let you build and price your home similar to how car dealers do it. Are you kidding me? This is as dangerous as if you let people walk through your model home unattended with big stickers on every upgrade showing the cost. Yikes! Determining what information is helpful and necessary is a balancing act, but one that deserves your full attention.

Comprehensive Standard Feature Lists

Similar to how some class that every Realtor must take tells them to use a photo that looks nothing like them on their advertising… there is some mysterious class that tells every home builder that they must have a standard feature list that has, at minimum, 200 to 300 bullet points on it. It should detail everything from the door bell and mailbox to the hinges on the doors – because the builder with the biggest list wins, right? No way. This is one I often find myself at odds with even my own sales team… inevitably every new hire will ask where we keep our comprehensive list (they’ve seen it from competitors – so we must have one?).

What’s the better option? Create a list of impactful features that tell your unique story. Impactful means things people actually care about or wouldn’t expect to be included (ie: not door bells).  You will of course get customers who will ask for your standard features list – a perfect opportunity for you to explain that you are different from the rest, and tell them your story!

Skimping on the Area / Location

The number one rule in real estate is location, location, location – and yet far too many builders treat location as simply a dot on the map, and skip right on into the floor plans. That’s a big mistake – especially if your location isn’t the obvious A+ choice. Always remember people shop from the outside in, and if you don’t spend any time selling your area / location then it’s an easy way to get written off the list before they spend much time looking at your house types.

No Third Party Verification

If your site doesn’t have testimonials or third party endorsements prominently features than you run the risk of not being trusted. We know one of the rules of sales is to build trust – and your website is no exception. Also make sure you’re regularly monitoring what is happening with your brand outside your own website. Make sure to take quick action and influence the conversations.

Lack of Follow Up

If a customer takes the time to request additional information and you don’t respond – forget about it. As Nicki Joy says – follow up is your first customer service test. Make sure you have a bullet proof online follow up process in place. If you don’t know where to start – then feel free to ask or visit Mike Lyon’s blog.

If you avoid these pitfalls and include enough visual appeal (photos / videos) to wet your prospects appetite then you’ll stand a fantastic shot at ensuring you make the short list of communities or builders to visit on-site because they want to learn more, verify what they saw online was correct, and ultimately buy from you.