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Getting the Call

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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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19 Comments

19 Comments

  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?

    -rsh

  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.

    -rsh

  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

    Kris-
    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…

    Best;

    Eric

  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.

    rsg

  13. Jay Thompson

    August 14, 2008 at 5:58 pm

    {sigh}

  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 🙂

    Best;

    Eric

  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

    Kris,

    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

The science behind using pictures of people in marketing to convert more leads

(MARKETING) People fear using their picture in social networking profiles, but we make the case not only for using pictures of yourself, but of scrapping stock graphics for photos of people that studies show improve conversion rates in marketing.

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To avatar or not to avatar?

After all of these years of people using the web, the debate continues about whether or not people should use their headshots as their profile pictures and avatars on their blogs and their social networks. Many people are uncomfortable with the way they look in photos, and some are never satisfied with their picture, so they settle for their company logo, a cartoon image, or a random photo to share something about who they are. While some believe the argument is subjective, we would argue otherwise.

It is advisable to use a photo of yourself as your profile picture wherever you go, no matter how unsatisfied you are and how uncomfortable. There are many reasons from making it easier to connect with people offline after talking online, to giving people a better way to connect with you, but a personal side has become expected on social networks and blogs, making a profile picture culturally mandatory.

Throw culture out of the window

So let’s say you’re still uncomfortable advertising your face. I personally hate every picture of me taken since I was 11 and had a bad perm, I get it. Profile pictures can send some people into full fledged panic, and at that point, who cares if web culture dictates a photo?

You should, and here’s why… science.

Science? Yep. Any parent knows intuitively, and scientists have studied for years that babies love pictures of other babies, and part of socializing a child is giving them books with pictures of other babies to connect with, learn from, and see other ethnicities. Babies love looking at other babies, it helps them connect and learn, and believe it or not, many studies show that we don’t evolve past that point in our lives, so, adults love looking at other adults.

More science

If that isn’t enough to convince you to use a profile picture, a recent study shows that a website’s conversion rate can be skyrocketed by using human faces. According to KISSmetrics.com, using human faces “get your prospects to focus more and this causes them to draw towards a common point of interest. It doesn’t get more real than that.”

The company cites an A/B test on Medalia.net, an online art shop, which presented paintings from artists on their homepage, and during testing, they swapped out the photos of the paintings with photos of the artists hoping to increase user engagement. KISSmetrics said, “Making this small but relevant change sent their conversion rate through the roof – something they didn’t expect. Their site experienced a whopping 95% increase in conversions!.”

Reading between the lines

Using a photo in your profile pictures is important, it allows people to connect with you, just like babies connect with other babies through photos, and website viewers are converted by human photos. But, read between the lines here – using photos of people in marketing is a concept as old as the idea of marketing, and your using people in your blog photos and marketing can improve your conversion over outdated stock graphics. There are legal ways to obtain photos of people (through creative commons), and using photos of your own can have the most meaningful impact.

Whether you’re nervous to share your face with the world or not, web culture dictates that you should and studies show that a percentage of people distrust social networkers without a face shot. Independent of all of that, conversion rates improve when people see other people, as it is easier to connect with over stock graphics or abstract images, so take a leap of faith and put your picture out there, and while you’re at it, try to find ways of using photos of humans in your marketing and blogs.

Just remember – babies love looking at pictures of babies, and we’re all just babies when you boil it down.

This story originally ran here on March 6, 2012.

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Business Marketing

YouTube monetization change crushes smaller content creators

(SOCIAL MEDIA) YouTube has made some cavalier changes to their monetization strategy, kicking the underdog in the gut.

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Amidst much controversy, YouTube has revised the qualifications for monetization through its Partner Program, sparking harsh criticism from lesser-known content creators. YouTube says the new rules are necessary to “curb bad actors, stabilize creator revenue and provide greater assurances to advertisers around where their ads are placed.”

In mid-January, YouTube quietly changed its guidelines, requiring that content creators’ channels accumulate at least 1,000 subscribers and 4,000 hours of watch time in the past year in order to qualify for monetization. Previous rules allowed any channel with at least 10,000 views over its lifetime to qualify, allowing creators to earn money on ads.

The rule change comes amidst a backlash from advertisers, who have been fearful that their ads may appear alongside disturbing and controversial videos, such as the much-publicized Logan Paul video in which the YouTube star finds and mocks the corpse of a person who had committed suicide.

To appease advertisers, YouTube is putting into place monitoring systems in which more videos will be reviewed by human viewers before being paired with ads. In order to streamline this process, YouTube is tightening up the qualifications for partnership.

Creators who do not meet the qualifications received an email from YouTube explaining that the site is putting in place “safeguards… to protect creator revenue across the YouTube ecosystem.” Small creators were given a 30-day grace period to attempt to meet qualifications and reapply.

As you might expect, small content creators were disappointed by the rule. Many have posted angry and sometimes tearful videos, some going so far as to beg users to run their videos in the background while going about their day to help the channel accrue watch hours.

The company admits that many creators will be affected, but that the vast majority of those who will no longer qualify were earning less than $100 a year. They say that 90 percent earned less than $2.50 last month (which proves how difficult it already was to earn on their platform).

YouTube, and many popular content creators with large followings, say that the change was inevitable to keep the site in business. If advertisers lose faith in the site, they argue, they will also lose their biggest content creators.

But many small creators say it’s not about the money. Creator Christine Barger explained “I’ve been a part of YouTube for a really long time, and I’ve finally tried to be part of this platform, just to feel like they don’t care about small creators.”

Other creators encouraged their fellow YouTubers not to be discouraged, and not to focus on the money. Said creator Kiara Nelson in a heartfelt video, “Don’t let the new rules of YouTube keep you from creating the amazing content that you do. Please don’t give up.”

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Business Marketing

MLB Cleveland Indians to finally nix controversial Chief Wahoo logo

(BRANDING) After much dispute, the Cleveland Indians will no longer don the offensive logo on the field – but is such limited progress laudable?

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Major League Baseball and the Cleveland Indians have announced an agreement that spells the end of the on-field uniform presence of the caricature known as “Chief Wahoo” (a cartoon-like depiction of a Native American that has been directly affiliated with the club since 1947), beginning in 2019. A similar version of the caricature appeared in the Cleveland Plain Dealer in 1932 and it was a popular accompaniment to news of the Indians for decades. It, along with the 1947 version of the Indians logo, is considered to be far more offensive than the current version of the logo.

A polarizing figure in recent years, “Chief Wahoo” continued the tradition of associating the Cleveland major league baseball team with Native American figures since their name change to the Indians in 1915. The Indians, called such diverse names as the Infants, Spiders, Naps, and Blues throughout their early history, are alleged to have changed their name to honor the contributions to Cleveland baseball by Louis Sockalexis, a Native American from the Penobscot tribe, who played baseball in Cleveland from 1887 to 1899.

In recent years, many groups across the nation had protested the continued use of the logo, with little interest expressed by the team in changing either the “Chief Wahoo” logo or its profile on team uniforms and on in-stadium displays. In 2014, then-team president Mark Shapiro, began to reduce the exposure of the “Chief Wahoo” logo, replacing it with a capital-C, in block format. But that reduction did not lead to outright termination, with “Chief Wahoo” displayed on the Cleveland uniform and in-stadium in high profile games, including the 2016 World Series.

After national debate was renewed during that October postseason regarding the appropriateness of the logo, Commissioner of Baseball Rob Manfred promised at the time to speak to the ownership group about the logo’s future. In April of 2017, Manfred made good on that promise, making public his intention to press the Cleveland ownership to eliminate the logo altogether. After months of discussion, today’s announcement identified the results of those conversations. In a joint statement, Cleveland owner Paul Dolan said “”We have consistently maintained that we are cognizant and sensitive to both sides of the discussion. While we recognize many of our fans have a long-standing attachment to Chief Wahoo, I’m ultimately in agreement with Commissioner Manfred’s desire to remove the logo from our uniforms in 2019.”

So this is the point in the story where we can all feel good that a business, which the Cleveland Indians most assuredly are, realized that greater forces than remaining static in the face of history exist, right?

Wrong. It’s like the old adage, “The more things change, the more they stay the same.”

While the logo won’t be seen on the uniforms or in-stadium displays beginning in 2019, “Chief Wahoo” hasn’t left the building or the public consciousness just yet. The Indians will still maintain the trademark, which means that, with the approval of Major League Baseball, they still control how the logo is used.

Maintaining the trademark to the logo is a prudent move for Cleveland—if they abandoned it, the logo could be claimed by another business or organization and be used in nefarious ways. But because they maintain control of the trademark and the logo, they can still create and sell merchandise with the “Chief Wahoo” logo on it. Which they are planning to do, profiting off of items with the “Chief Wahoo” logo on them available for sale at the souvenir shops located inside their home stadium, as well as retail outlets in the northern Ohio area. Major League Baseball has no current plans to make items bearing the “Chief Wahoo” logo available at their fan shops at MLB.com.

So, should we applaud the Indians and Major League Baseball for coming to grips with an outrageously out-of-place logo and banishing it from the field? Only if you think that limited progress is better than none.

While you won’t see it on or around the field in 2019, you can still buy it in the stadium, wear it, and thus continue to propagate a harmful stereotype in the name of team history, fan loyalty, or any one of a number of other worn excuses. The Indians move allows them to continue to profit, and to do so handsomely, thus doing nothing more than sweeping the issue aside in the name of corporate uncomfortability, when what was called for was corporate courage.

Doing the right thing isn’t easy, or popular, it remains the right thing. There’s a difference between worrying about political correctness gone amok and understanding that the times have changed from when your logo was created and deciding to reflect those changes for the better. And the Indians, and by extension Major League Baseball, chose to do the expedient thing and hope that everyone is satisfied, or at least quiet.

And that moribund silence and misplaced satisfaction is the last thing that we can afford.

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