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The simplest customer service lesson you may ever learn

(BROKERAGE NEWS) This is one of those things that you might think we don’t need to talk about, but we do. We really do.

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This is one of those things that you might think we don’t need to talk about, but we do. We really do. We’re going to talk about answering the phone in your business. The template is very simple. Feel free to use it at no charge.

“Company name. This is your name. How can I help you?”

That just took four seconds, and those four seconds can tell the caller – a potential client or customer for life! – all they need to know about you and your business. Is the person answering the phone in a hurry? Do they want to help me? Is it even a real person or could this be a voicemail message? Again, this is simple, but let’s break it down.

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The easiest client-grabber in the world

1. Include your company name when you answer the phone.
This lets the caller know they’ve actually reached the business they’re hoping to reach. Say it with purpose and enunciate.

Though you may say it a million times in your head every day, taking the time to slow down so that the caller hears you correctly is very important.

Speaking too quickly could make the caller feel like you really don’t have time for their call, when your goal with each interaction is probably the opposite: Make each customer feel like your only and favorite customer!

2. How can I help you?
Have you ever walked up to the hostess at a restaurant only to be stared at and finally have to tell her “table for four, please” because she didn’t proactively ask? Yeah, it’s awkward. Don’t make your callers tell you they need something, be proactive and ask what you can do for them. It’s just good customer service.

3. Say your name.
I saved this one for last because it may be the most important part of that four-second first impression.

This immediately puts your caller at ease because they’ve gotten a real, live human being and they already know your name. It immediately takes this call from customer to business and makes it a person-to-person interaction.

Do some of your own A/B testing

I encourage you to do some testing of my advice here. Try it with your next two phone calls.

For call 1: “CompanyNameAsFastAsYouCanGetItOut.”

For call 2: “Company name. This is your name. How can I help you?”

I bet one caller is a little taken back and maybe even fumbles when telling you why they called, and the second one is immediately at ease with your business and thankful that you’re taking the time to make them feel like your favorite caller of the day.

#AnsweringThePhone

A native Texan, Summer Huggins serves as Account Manager | Client Support for Small World Labs, a Personify company. She is also an animal advocate, active in Austin's animal rescue community, and an amateur photographer. She wants to be a Rockette when she grows up.

Real Estate Brokerage

How do you know it’s time to become a broker?

(BROKERAGE) It sounds dreamy to open your own brokerage and be your own boss, but when is it TRULY time become a broker?

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time to be a broker

Everyone joins the real estate workforce for a different reason. Some to flip houses, others to represent buyers, and so forth. And most are happy with their broker of choice, but for others, the itch to become a broker becomes so great that it cannot be ignored.

But how do you know when it’s time to become a broker? Maybe it’s time for a new broker because you’re unhappy, but it’s also possible that you have the skills and drive to lead your own company.

To find out, we asked three brokers with thriving businesses:

Jennifer Archambeault is the Broker/Owner of Urban Provision, REALTORS®, a growing Texas brokerage.

We asked her how to know when it’s time to create your own brokerage:

It is time to create your own brokerage when the limitations of your current brokerage restricts your personal or professional growth, hinders your ability to serve your clientele at the highest level or you are no longer able to see the value your current broker brings to the table.

Regardless of the reason, it is important to be mindful of your competency and ability to handle the responsibilities involved with running a brokerage and/or managing or mentoring agents.

Is there a tipping point?

There are often many tipping points causing an agent/broker to dream about having their own brokerage, but they often only clue in on one when they are parting ways. A lack of respect or dissatisfaction within your current company, the inability to come to terms on differences with management, not seeing eye to eye on the company’s mission or vision and not being able to serve clients to the desired standard often top the list of tipping points if the agent leaves disgruntled.

However, there are times it is purely a natural transition having nothing to do with any reason mentioned above and solely taking your career and income to the next level.

Is it better to do so because of a gap in the market or because someone’s independent streak is unavoidable?

Personally, I think it is the latter more than the former. Gaps in the market will change over time but often the desire to be independent doesn’t ebb and flow as easily. If someone’s independent streak is unavoidable they often exude qualities that allow extreme focus to continuously keeping their eyes on a prize.

There are benefits of having your own brokerage, but there are also limitations as well. Some people’s independence can be a hindrance to their business especially when they want to start their own brokerage because they simply do not like or cannot continually follow the rules.

I believe it is better to part ways to build your own brokerage or brand because it satisfies a personal or professional growth need rather than leaving your previous company disgruntled. The latter generally allows for a flawed mindset.

What do you wish you had known before starting a brokerage?

Do not always focus on Plan A because often you’ll end up with the most perfect fit with Plan D.

Being nimble is a must-have quality for anyone in the real estate industry, but owning a brokerage often requires stretching far beyond being nimble and reaching for superhero status. Initially, I believed every agent could be molded into a specific model or a way of doing business but quickly realized that there is a not a one size fits all brokerage regardless of someone with decades of experience said so.

The perception of a brokerage with a large number of agents on the surface implies success. However, the old saying quality over quantity rings very true in a brokerage setting. Stop worrying about what others are doing – be different because that’s how you get noticed. Do what you do well and what works with your clients, for your personality or in your marketplace.

Tyler Forte, Co-Founder & CEO of Felix Homes saw a need to marry technology and real estate.

Here is his take on starting a brokerage:

Prior to starting Felix, I was a venture capital investor and I can tell you that any successful business, whether or not it’s a brokerage, is started because the status quo does not solve the market’s distinct needs.

Speaking specifically to why we started Felix, home sellers are facing a number of challenges that the traditional brokerage model does not address. When I sold my home last year, I saw firsthand how the home selling process is broken. I knew that starting a disruptive real estate brokerage was what I needed to do in order to make the experience of selling a home better.

The challenges homeowners currently face include hiring an agent who does not have their best interest in mind, to the uncertainty of not knowing if their home will be sold and for what price. At Felix, we are looking to provide consumers with the best home-selling experience period.

As far as the challenges we faced when starting a new brokerage, there are many. For one, the real estate industry is slow to adopt new innovative models. This is because current incumbents have built moats around the data and distribution of homes all at the consumer’s expense. In addition, because real estate is governed on a state-by-state basis, educating ourselves on the laws and regulations of each state was a challenge.

Jeff Brown, Owner of BawldGuy Investing has been a broker for decades and is never ever EVER shy about telling it like it is.

How do you know when it’s time to create your own brokerage?

I’ve always contended Dad was right, as you always thought most folks didn’t know when to create their own firm. Over the years I’ve spoken with countless brokerage owners about this very question.

Roughly a third of ‘em actually thought they knew the right time. Me? I did it WAY to soon, though in my defense, I had my dad’s infinite brokerage experience IN the office daily to back my rookie play, stop mistakes BEFORE I made ‘em, and generally mentor the crud outa me.

Most brokers told me they knew when decisions made by their broker bosses just were not what they would’ve done. They usually came a tipping point, where the decision made itself. But again, that was just a third of those with whom I talked. The rest just did what I did, rush in willy nilly. The huge advantage I had was a decades experienced brokerage owner mentoring me daily, in real time, and who, you know, actually gave a damn about me.

So what is that tipping point?

The most often heard tipping point was the feeling of being constrained by their boss’s operating policies. For example, and a gigantic tipping point, was a friend of mine who wanted to run his own office using the Broker-Centric model, not the Agent-Centric model run by the broker for whom he worked.

Is it better to do so because of a gap in the market or because someone’s independent streak is unavoidable?

The latter is merely personality. Sometimes it works to breakaway, and sometimes it’s been catastrophic. Being independent has nothing whatsoever to do with knowing what you’re doing as the person in charge.

The whole ‘gap in the market’ thing has always puzzled me as a reason to open a brokerage. The exception clearly would be that the policies of operation under which you’d run your own office would substantially improve your chances of taking advantage of whatever market gap you perceived. I find that to be uncommon, at least in my experience.

What do you wish you had known before starting a brokerage?

Without even a hint of maybe having a doubt, I wish I’d understood the good news/bad news joke that says: “Well, Jeff, the good news is you’re now the Go-To Guy. The bad news? See the good news.” 🙂

The difference between signing the backs of checks and the front of those checks cannot be overstated. Every single buck stops at your desk, period, end of sentence, over ’n out. Some folks find that to be too daunting.

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Real Estate Brokerage

Why women don’t self-promote at work as often as men

(CAREER) Being visible and owning good work done well continues to be a conundrum for women in the workplace. So stand up and be heard!

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women empowerment

Ladies, if you recently met with your broker (or corporate) for an end-of-the-year review and you failed to share all of your successes and the ways you shined over the last year, you aren’t alone.

A recent study revealed that regardless of the situation, women do not promote themselves in the workplace as much as their male colleagues.

What is clear from the information gathered – women need to realize they are badasses in the workplace and be unwavering in their belief in themselves. And, be ready to share this information with their supervisors or clients if they wish to earn more.

The study, conducted by Christine Exley, an assistant professor of business administration at Harvard Business School and Judd Kessler, an associate professor at Wharton, found there is a broad (no pun intended) gender gap when it comes to self-promotion in the workplace.

As many raises and promotions to higher level roles are dependent upon an employee’s self-evaluation, women are more at risk of missing out on getting hired or higher earning opportunities. In real estate, this quality limits earning potential and can have rippling long-term effects.

The pair considered multiple hypotheses from whether women were less confident and men more, to whether it was a matter of taking advantage of systems where self-promotion leads to incentives, to whether a boss would eventually find out the truth about a worker’s ability.

“In every setting we explored, we observed a substantial gender gap in self-promotion: Women systematically provided less favorable assessments of their own past performance and potential future ability than equally performing men. And our various study versions revealed that this gender gap was not driven by confidence or by strategic incentives, and that it was robust both in the face of ambiguity and under increased transparency,” the pair stated.

What could be at play? If women are punished for excessive self-promotion in the workplace more than men, they are more likely to keep their successes to themselves, the researchers speculate. Prior research into self-promotion in the workplace found that excessive self-promotion suggested gender differences in backlash.

As if we were still living in the 1950s, women often face backlash for being too vocal about their abilities, and risk losing out on promotions because being visible and self-promotional goes against the idea of how a woman should behave. So, while being visible and taking ownership is the way to get ahead in the workplace, for many women the risk of backlash means they sit and remain quiet, being passed over because they fear being labeled “a bitch,” as the study found.

What Exley and Judd determined is there is the need for more research into they “why” of this conundrum.

Meanwhile, the pair’s message is this: Employers (and brokers), don’t overlook women on your team; they may not be as vocal about how good they are, but that doesn’t mean their performance is inferior. And to women out their busting ass and closing deals – take note of your accomplishments and promote your worth when in the field and in the office!

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Real Estate Brokerage

Why real estate brokerages are NOT startups

(REAL ESTATE) Brokerages are popping up nationwide that are sleek and modern, and also misinformed as they call themselves startups. Let’s talk about the technical definition.

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Businesses that are just starting out often refer to themselves as startups (which is inappropriate given that startups are funded differently, scale differently, and have completely different KPIs). Take real estate brokerages, for example. An increasing number call themselves startups, but when you look at the definition of a startup, can you really call yourself one?

Small businesses and startups have very different definitions (and there’s no shame in being a small business or an “innovative brokerage”). Let’s discuss.

1. Startups have a different goal altogether.

Typically, startups are about growth. They’re designed from day one to scale extremely quickly. Small businesses are often limited by a target market or geographic location. There’s nothing wrong with that, but they aren’t scalable the same way an international software brand is. Think about scaling in terms of a beauty salon versus MatchCo, an app that uses technology to create a foundation just for you. A franchise does not a startup make.

2. Startups generally seek outside funding to accelerate growth.

Startup founders often give up equity shares to generate funds before becoming profitable. Small businesses are typically self-funded, bootstrapped into profitability, and owned by one or a select few. A small business venture is typically less risky than a startup, too. The idea behind a small business venture is profit, and you want the business to last. Startups are structured to be sold or acquired once it hits critical mass – a “startup” is temporary.

3. Startups disrupt the industry.

Think about these companies – AirBnB, Google, Dropbox, Facebook, even Apple, a long time ago. In their early days, they were startups. It was risky to invest in these companies as they were trying something new (not iterating on something like the real estate practice which is one of the oldest professions in America), but they have outshone their competitors. They disrupted the marketplace. That’s what a startup does. And it doesn’t always work. Sonitus Medical attempted to disrupt the hearing aid market. They raised almost $90 million in funding before the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services decided the product wouldn’t be covered. The company held an auction and closed its doors. Brokerages have experimented with paying salaries, going paperless, or having all agents working remotely – these are all fabulous innovations and iterations, not disruptions.

The takeaway

We’ve been on the forefront for over a decade of ushering in the era of indie brokerages, paperless real estate brands, and counter-culture companies, but brokerages are simply not startups, and this is not up for debate. Iteration is not innovation.

Don’t call yourself something you’re not – be an “innovative broker” and rock it, because you’re not a temporary company seeking to scale so rapidly that you’re acquired for your indisputable disruption.

And finally, don’t fall for real estate brokerages pitching themselves as “startups” when they’re misinformed and really mean they’re simply, and beautifully “modern.”

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