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Getting the Call



Yeah right.

Creative Commons License photo credit: jadakatt

Dear John

A couple of weeks ago, we got “the call.” If you are an agent, any agent, who has been on more than one listing interview, and I don’t care how incredibly competent or experienced or even famous you are, you have gotten “the call.”

“We have decided to list our home with another agent, but thank you for your time.” At this point, I always ask why we came up short. Critical self-evaluation and honest feedback is essential if we are going to avoid repeating past mistakes. The problem is that we don’t always get honest feedback. What they say is usually something like, “It was such a HARD decision, it was REALLY tough, we sure did AGONIZE, but we preferred his (pause) shoes.” What they really mean most of the time is, “We preferred his price” or “We preferred his fees.”

It’s Not You, It’s Me

One could argue that this is our fault. Perhaps we didn’t do an adequate job of communicating our value. Most often in these circumstances, however, I know it wouldn’t have mattered it I had produced a testimonial from Donald Trump himself. Blah, blah, blah. We charge “x” percent. Blah, blah, blah. Your home is worth less than you think and by a factor of a gazillion.

This is why our mentors teach us to talk about experience and marketing first. Once the subject of money comes up, either probable sale price or cost of sale, and if the message is unexpected, you lose your audience. In this market, we figure that about half of the time our professional estimate of value is going to be as welcome as a mild case of salmonella. We generally spend the first half-hour holding our breath for the moment of truth, waiting for the telling reaction. Sometimes, we get knowing nods. This is encouraging. At least we have a shot. Too many other times, however, we get vacant teenage-style gazes, the ones that suggest our hosts are thinking only about how and how quickly they can get out of the room. In extreme cases, they feign death until we give up and leave all on our own.

In virtually every case where we have found ourselves in a competitive situation, the sellers have assured us that they would “let us know.” We actually get the call only a fraction of the time. So, when we received our most recent closure, I had to at least give our would-be employers bonus points for common courtesy. And, it turns out, they deserved some props for bravery.

On the Rebound

This particular home had a rich history. It had been on and off the market for the better part of the past two years, with three different agents having done time at the helm. So when they told us that they were going to be relisting with agent number two, we were a little baffled. “She is going to do it for $500!” they explained. And, this is when I had to ask myself, “Do what?”

Obviously, money is an issue; it is always an issue. I get that, but am I missing something? You can’t really make more or pay less unless the home actually sells. And in the case of our $500 agent, she had not only failed once, but I want the name of her printer! This kind of payday wouldn’t even cover the cost of my initial photo shoot and brochure run.

This is a dilemma as old as the Slim Jims at my local convenience store. There will always be an agent who will tell the seller what they want to hear, and there will always be an agent who is willing to do nothing for very little. I can tell the seller all day long that unless that agent is holding a check book and is prepared to buy their home, he does not determine value. The buyer does. Blah, blah, blah. I can explain until I am blue in the face that what an agent can do is offer a knowledgeable and studied opinion of value and commit the resources to promote their home in the broadest, most professional way possible to maximize the ultimate sale price within that range of market value which truly exists. Yeah, whatever. Sometimes, it just isn’t going to matter what I say or how I say it, because it is ultimately up to the seller to make the call and, sadly, it’s not always going to be the call we want to get.

Kris Berg is Broker/Owner of San Diego Castles Realty. She is the perpetrator of the San Diego Home Blog, a locally-focused real estate blog, and in her spare time enjoys fencing, luge, and kittens.

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  1. Rob Hahn

    August 14, 2008 at 10:38 am

    Kris –

    Great article, but a question for you. Given that the client in this case sounds like a moron, with a home that has a “rich history”… why would you even want their business?

    Sounds to me like this client is the perfect case study for “firing your client”. Wouldn’t it be better for you to send that client to your top competitor, so they can be distracted trying to service idiots?


  2. Kris Berg

    August 14, 2008 at 11:00 am

    Well, I suppose it is the Pollyanna in me, Rob. We do “prequalify” over the phone before spending our time and money preparing and presenting. Sometimes, we misread or don’t get the truth. “Yes, we are really ready to sell this time and are prepared to price properly,” we were told. So, we thought they had perhaps gotten religion and were truly ready to do things the right way. Yet, still, it came down to the lowest bidder and (not so surprisingly) a list price that was too high — again. I tend to err on the side of assuming people are being honest and dealing in good faith which, unfortunately, is not always the case.

  3. Rob Hahn

    August 14, 2008 at 11:24 am

    This so reminds me of a passage in Ogilvy’s “Confessions of an Advertising Man” where he talks about doing the presentations. Something about how he decided that he wasn’t going to take part in a lot of show-and-tells. If the client is looking to shop his account around, Ogilvy would tell him to go give it to one of the other guys, and then only come to him after the others have failed. 🙂

    That’s confidence, heh.


  4. Lisa Sanderson

    August 14, 2008 at 12:15 pm

    I agree, this seller sounds like a bonehead who still hasn’t learned his lesson. Good thing for him, you’ll still be in business when he expires unsold and is ready to be realistic. NEXT!

  5. Carolyn Gjerde-Tu

    August 14, 2008 at 12:19 pm

    Sounds like you are better off not working with this homeowner anyway. In other cases, you might be able to demonstrate to a “reasonable” home owner the value of a full service agent vs. one with a minimal fee.

  6. Ruthmarie Hicks

    August 14, 2008 at 12:36 pm

    I guess this sort of discussion always causes me to dial back to one fundamental issue: When agents have all the respect of a used car salesman, it is not surprising that our advice is ignored. How it came to this sad state has to do with many things – there IS a lot of dishonesty in the business, there ARE a lot of idiot agents running around and there ARE simply too many agents – period. An easy fix to the latter issue is to raise the barriers to entry, but I don’t see NAR doing that any time soon.

  7. Russell Shaw

    August 14, 2008 at 12:38 pm

    Kris, as usual, your writing is a joy to read. One comment I would add is that *everyone* makes their decisions based on emotion. Most people believe that they do not do that. They are wrong.

    The better we are at connecting with people the more it can seem like we should be able to connect with just about everyone. In this example, there is “something about” the failure agent the customer actually likes better than the way you present yourself. The fact that someone SAYS they really want to sell their house, etc. does not necessarily mean that is the direction they will travel. Sometimes they have a path they will adhere to – that will not and can not work – that they stick to like glue.

  8. Benn Rosales

    August 14, 2008 at 1:07 pm

    $500 bucks? I have a housekeeper client that makes more than that per month on a single house. Sheesh… Unless it’s a flatfee mls listing, I would fear the desperation by an agent willing to spend their own money to list a clients house… isn’t that what this is? I want this listing so badly I’ll PAY you for it? funny…

  9. Dan Connolly

    August 14, 2008 at 1:22 pm

    I agree with Russell, I think there is a lot more to emotion than reason that plays into the decision. I think that the strangest things will set people off and your statement about “shoes” could be the actual reason with some Sellers.

  10. Charleston real estate blog

    August 14, 2008 at 2:33 pm

    When I consider the phrase, *list to last*, how long can an agent survive on overpriced properties and $500 commissions.

  11. Eric Blackwell

    August 14, 2008 at 3:41 pm

    First off it is REALLY good to be reading what you write again. A pleasure.

    Secondly, i would concur with most all of what has been said so far (He/she wasn’t the right one for you ANYWAY-etc –grin). isn’t that how we handle most break ups?? 😉

    The truth of Russell’s point made me smile…



  12. rsg

    August 14, 2008 at 5:30 pm

    Hi Kris,

    I think there is such a thing as “right” human connection, like when everyone at a company is a certain kind of person and the new person who is either nicer or meaner, smarter or dumber than the norm cannot fit in and leaves. If the connection wasn’t made with this person, count yourself fortunate. Really good business contacts self-select by affinity. In this market, only those relationships with strong affinities will overcome all the bad news and stick it out until a deal. A strong realistic professional will put off a person who wants to be dreamer every time.

    Keep up the good work and scare off the dreamers, the realists that are left should provide a decent living as clearly some deals are out there to be made.


  13. Jay Thompson

    August 14, 2008 at 5:58 pm


  14. Jay Thompson

    August 14, 2008 at 6:00 pm

    Oh and Eric, you need to get out more. You could have been reading Kris for quite some time now on her blog. And her fancy smancy Inman column.

  15. Eric Blackwell

    August 14, 2008 at 6:10 pm

    Ha! No doubt Jay!

    With the book project and all the work, my online social (and reading) life has been limited to the bare minimum– hehe. You’re right –time to turn the RSS feeds up to stun, hit the Diet Mt Dew…well you know the drill 🙂



  16. Alexander Wilkas

    August 14, 2008 at 6:51 pm

    What Timing !!! We just received our call

  17. Kris Berg

    August 14, 2008 at 6:55 pm

    I had a “job thing” to attend to today, but I am back. Thanks for the comments. Russell – You are right of course, except… sometimes a banana is just a banana. Sometimes, I believe, personality and connection have absolutely nothing to do with it. Sometimes, it is just the money, and nothing I say or no way in which I say it is going to have the slightest impact. I always tell my children that it is hard to rationalize with the irrational.

    Too many times, we look back to realize that we were used for our intellectual property. We spend hours preparing, hours sharing market data and waxing philosophical about trends, and we nail the proper asking price only to later find that Uncle Bill lists the home and was, presumably, going to get the nod all along.

    In short, maybe that “something” they don’t like about the “failure agent” is simply the message and, specifically, the part about money. Or, maybe the “failure agent” was the pawn, much like the one in the lead photo, all along. So, I will come full circle and admit that much of the blame ultimately is squarely in my camp; I need to get better at reading intentions and motivations, and I need to adopt more of a mindset that I am as much the interviewer as my would-be employer is.

    Having said that, I will admit that I don’t click with everyone (Go figure!), so we are back to the “you can’t win them all” concept.

    Jay – Thanks, Mister!

    Now, I’m off to pack for Mizzou. I have to deliver an 18-year-old to her dorm tomorrow, and I am not sure whether I should be partying or crying.

  18. Tom Vanderwell

    August 14, 2008 at 8:53 pm


    Very well said and I think it really lays out a big challenge that all of us in the real estate fields are facing now and will be facing going forward:

    The market has changed and there are a lot of people who don’t know what we (the professionals) know about where the market is.

    Therefore, there are situations where Realtors and lenders both have to deliver realities that aren’t very kind to some of their prospective clients. Whether that be a turndown for a mortgage, the valuation of their house or whatever, I’m sure we can all make a long list. As this trend continues (the need to deliver the reality of the market), I’m predicting that two things are going to happen:
    1. Those who “give the people what they want” without any feel for what’s really right (like the $500 lister) will find it harder to do business and will be weeded out of the business.
    2. The need for professionals will become clearer and clearer to the general public and these type of calls will happen less frequently and when they do, it will be for intelligent reasons rather than stupid ones.

    There’s a saying, “You can’t compete against stupid.” But I believe that stupid is going to get run out of the business and we’ll all be better off for it in the long run.

    Tom Vanderwell

  19. Paula Henry

    August 14, 2008 at 8:58 pm

    Kris – The irony is they will probably not sell and call in three more agens in six months. By then, they will make six more house payments, and find a free agent. That is emotion and not realism.

    One of the best responses to the “well, the other agent will do it for x% or x$, is. ” I know…… in the absence of value, money is always the determining factor”. Leave them with that and a thanks.

    BTW – I always cried!

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Business Marketing

Hiring managers keep you on your toes – make them take the 1st step

(MARKETING) If you want to stand out from other job applicants, weird outfits, stunts, and baked goods will only get you so far – or it could backfire.



hiring managers interview

According to research by employment search website Simply Hired, hiring managers get an average of 34 applications per job listing, but they spend time genuinely considering an average of only 12.6% of them – that’s less than 1/3. Some applicants may feel the need to go above and beyond the average application and do something unusual or unexpected to grab the hiring manager’s attention.

Simply Hired conducted a survey to find out whether or not “nontraditional” strategies to stand out are worth the risk, or whether it makes sense to stick to a traditional resume and cover letter. They surveyed over 500 hiring managers and over 500 job applicants to find out what sort of outside-of-the-box approaches applicants are willing to take, and which ones do and don’t pay off.

Most notably, the survey found that over 63% of hiring managers find attention-grabbing gimmicks totally unacceptable, with only 20.2% saying they were acceptable. Hiring managers were also given a list of unusual strategies to rank from most to least acceptable. Unsurprisingly, the least acceptable strategy was offering to sleep with the hiring manager – which should really go without saying.

Interestingly, hiring managers also really disliked when applicants persistently emailed their resumes over and over until they got a response. One or two follow-up emails after your initial application aren’t such a bad idea – but if you don’t get a response after that, continuing to pester the hiring manager isn’t going to help.

While sending baked goods to the office was considered a somewhat acceptable strategy, sending those same cookies to the manager’s home address was a big no-no. Desserts might sweeten your application, but not if you cross a professional boundary by bringing them to someone’s home – that’s just creepy.

Another tactic that hiring managers received fairly positively was “enduring extreme weather to hand-deliver a resume” – but waiting around for inclement weather to apply for a job doesn’t seem very efficient. However, hiring managers did respond well to applicants who went out of their way to demonstrate a skill, for example, by creating a mock product or presentation or completing their interview in a second language. A librarian who was surveyed said she landed her job by making her resume into a book and creating QR codes with links to her portfolio, while a woman applying to work at the hotel hopped behind the counter and started checking customers in.

It’s worth noting that while most hiring managers aren’t into your gimmicks and games, of the 12.9% of applicants who said they have risked an unusual strategy, 67.7% of those actually landed the job.

Still, it’s probably a safer bet to stick to the protocol and not try any theatrics. So then, what can you actually do to improve your chances of landing the job?

Applicants surveyed tended to focus most of their time on their resumes, but according to hiring managers, the interview and cover letter are “the top ways to stand out among the rest.” Sure, brush up your resume, but make sure to give equal time to writing a strong cover letter and practicing potential interview questions.

In the survey, applicants also tended to overestimate the importance of knowing people within the company and having a “unique” cover letter and interview question answers; meanwhile, they underestimated the importance of asking smart questions at the interview and personality. In fact, hiring managers reported that personality was the most impactful factor in their hiring decisions.

It appears that the best way to stand out in a job interview is to wow them with your personality and nail the interview. Weird outfits, stunts, and baked goods will only get you so far – and in fact, may backfire.

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Business Marketing

Use nostalgia as a marketing niche for your business today

(MARKETING) A market that is making waves is found in the form of entertainment nostalgia. Everyone has memories and attachments, why not speak to them?




Is it just me or does it seem like there is something for everything nowadays? Let me clarify, as that is a rather broad question…

With the way communicating through technology has advanced, it’s become much easier to connect with those who have shared interests. This has become especially evident with interests in the entertainment community.

Entertainment nostalgia

It now seems like there is an event for every bit of nostalgia you can imagine. Autograph shows, meet and greets, and memorabilia collections of all kinds are held in convention halls all around the world. (To give you an idea of how deep this thing goes, there was a “Grease 2” reunion convention sometime within the last five years. Being that I’m the only person I’ve ever met who likes that movie, it’s amazing that it found an audience.)

This idea of marketing by use of nostalgia is something that is becoming smartly tapped and there are a variety of directions it can go in.

For example, the new Domino’s ads feature dead-on tributes to “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.”

What’s your niche?

If you’re a fan of anything, it’s likely that you can find an event to suit your needs.

And, if you want to take it a step further, you can think outside the box and use nostalgia as a marketing tool.

I recently began dabbling in social media gigs that have brought me to a few different fan conventions. One was a throwback 80s and 90s convention that featured everyone from Alan Thicke to the members of N*SYNC. Another is a recurring convention that brings together fans of sci-fi, horror, and everything under that umbrella.

I was amazed by the number of people that came out to these events and the amount of money that was spent on the day’s activities (autographs, photo ops, etc.). I was energized by the fact that you can take something you have a great appreciation for and bring together others who share that feeling. Watching people meet some of their favorite celebrities is something that is priceless.

Hop onboard the nostalgia train

If you’re a fan of something, you don’t have to look too far to find what you’d enjoy – going back to the aforementioned “Ferris Bueller” example, there is a first-ever John Hughes fan event taking place in Chicago next month that will bring fans to their favorite Brat Pack members.

In the same thought, if you have an idea, now is the time to find others who share that interest and execute your vision.

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Business Marketing

5 tips to help you craft consistently high-converting email marketing

(MARKETING) Email may seem too old to be effective but surprisingly it’s not, so how can you get the most out of your email marketing? Try these tips.



Email marketing

Email marketing might seem archaic in comparison to modern mediums like social media, blogging, and podcasting; however, it actually remains one of the highest converting options marketers and small businesses have at their disposal.

But Why Email?

Hopefully, you believe in email as an effective marketing channel, but in case you have doubts, let’s hit the reset button. Here’s why email marketing is worth investing in:

  • Email is one of the few marketing channels that you have total control over. Unlike a social media audience, which can disappear if the platform decides you violate their terms, you own your email list.
  • Email is considered very personal. When someone gives you access to their inbox, they’re telling you that you can send them messages.
  • From a pure analytics perspective, email gives you the ability to track behaviors, study what works, and get familiar with the techniques that don’t.
  • The ROI of email marketing is incredibly high. It can deliver as much as $44 in value for every $1 spent.

5 Tips for High-Converting Emails

If you’ve been using email, but haven’t gotten the results you’d like to, it’s probably because you’re using it ineffectively.

Here are a few very practical tips for high-converting emails that generate results:

  1. Write Better Subject Lines: Think about email marketing from the side of the recipient. (Considering that you probably receive hundreds of emails per week, this isn’t hard to do.) What’s going to make you engage with an email? It’s the subject line, right?If you’re going to focus a large portion of your time and energy on one element of email marketing, subject lines should be it.The best subject lines are the ones that convey a sense of urgency or curiosity, present an offer, personalize to the recipient, are relevant and timely, feature name recognition, or reference cool stories.
  2. Nail the Intro”: Never take for granted the fact that someone will open your email, and read to the second paragraph. Some will – but most will scan the first couple of lines, and then make a decision on how to proceed.It’s critically important that you get the intro right. You have maybe five seconds to hook people in, and get them excited. This is not a time to slowly build up. Give your best stuff away first!
  3. Use Video: Email might be personal, but individual emails aren’t necessarily viewed as special. That’s because people get so many of them on a daily basis.According to Blue Water Marketing, “The average person receives more than 84 emails each day! So how do you separate your emails from everyone else? Embed videos in your emails can increase your conversion rates by over 21 percent!”This speaks to a larger trend of making emails visually stimulating. The more you use compelling visuals, the more engaging and memorable the content will be.
  4. Keep Eyes Moving: The goal is to keep people engaging with your email content throughout. While it’ll inevitably happen with a certain percentage of recipients, you want to prevent people from dropping off as they read.One of the best ways to keep sustained engagement is to keep eyes effortlessly moving down the page with short and succinct copy.One-liners, small paragraphs, and lots of spacing signal a degree of approachability and simplicity. Use this style as much as you can.
  5. Don’t Ask Too Much: It can be difficult to convey everything you want to say in a single email, but it’s important that you stay as focused as possible – particularly when it comes to CTAs and requests.Always stick to one CTA per email. Never ask multiple questions or present different offers. (It’ll just overwhelm and confuse.) You can present the same CTA in multiple places – like at the beginning, middle, and end of the email – but it needs to be the same call. That’s how you keep people focused and on-task.

Give Your Email Marketing Strategy a Makeover

Most businesses have some sort of email lists. Few businesses leverage these lists as well as they should. Hopefully, this article has provided you with some practical and actionable tips that can be used to boost engagement and produce more conversions. Give them a try and see what sticks.

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