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The Place

I was attending the Spring Meetings of REOMAC (The REO Manager’s Association of California) in Indian Wells California earlier this month. This event is one of two annual meetings of the Nation’s premier Default Management Organization. It attracts many members, and a number of wannabe REO specialists.

Many of these agents have determined that they are the next great thing to assist the mortgage industry in the liquidation of real property. So they come to these meetings to get face time with lenders who are frankly more concerned with dealing with the issues involved in asset disposition and loss mitigation then they are with meeting the “next new best thing”.

The Event

At the end of one panel I was talking to a long standing client when we were interrupted by a real estate professional who asked her if she knew that her agents in the San Diego market were stretched beyond their capacities and having difficulty handling their inventory. She politely replied that’s she was not hearing that from her agents. The agent then changed his comments stating that he had heard that from buyers and other agents. He then told her that there were missing lock-boxes, some properties without electricity, and that “her agents” weren’t returning calls from to her agents. She replied (with commendable restraint) that her firm monitored the work of their agents and the results of their efforts, firing any agents that didn’t meet their standards. He smiled at her and said, “That makes me feel much better, if you need more agents in that market, here is my card”.

A few minutes later, another agent introduced himself to her and told her about the bad agents in his market who didn’t return calls, and didn’t provide what he considered sufficient information in their MLS entries . He also complained that there often weren’t enough photos in the MLS, and a number of other whining criticisms. The lender’s representative explained that REO agents often limited the information they supplied to the MLS since they received very little information from the client, but had full liability for any information printed in the MLS. He nodded, smiled and asked if he could contact her in the future to see if he could list properties for her.

So This was a Strategy?

So let’s back up and figure out what the strategy was here.

These agents read articles about REO business. Since the market is slow and there are REO properties springing up in their area, they thought they should be listing them. Or maybe they paid for a course or bought an REO certification, and thought they were ready to find the clients.

They were spent some time and money advertising or prospecting or emailing mortgage companies, or attending REO functions. And then they finally met someone who actually assigns REO business to real estate agents. Their heart pounded furiously, their cheeks were red and flushed, the adrenaline is coursed through their veins as they stepped in past the throng of agents waving cards at their prey, and positioned themselves found face to face with a potential client. And each one did the same thing…

  1. He handed his a card to the potential lender client, he told them the market he’s in, and that he had a question.
  2. Then he asked a question framed to indicate to them that their hiring process is so flawed that they have employed incompetent, uncommunicative and irresponsible agents.
  3. As a follow up to this master stroke, he asked questions and made statements to indicate that they (the potential client) had failed to monitor the actions of those agents.

Having shown them that they (the potential client) are failing at their job (to hire and monitor agents for their firm) he went on to show them that he’s smarter then they are! So he provided them with his opinion of their agent to demonstrate that they (the lender client) misunderstand the job of selling real estate.

The next step was to indicate to them that they are so uninformed they don’t realize that their current agent is failing. And finally,because this agent is not only smart but generous, the final strategic move was to tell them that he was prepared to forgive the faults of his potential client and allow them to hire him, thereby remedying all of the problems they face in their marketing strategy.

It does however raise the question of why he would want to be associated with such a moron… Doesn’t sound like much of a plan does it?

Ok, I get it…

I understand that foreclosure properties and short sales are seen as the best place for agents to go finding new business. There is a perception that it is easy to list bank owned properties, they require less maintenance on the part of the agent, you don’t have to deal with Mr. & Mrs. Seller, and the corporate client is an ongoing source of business which can make the successful REO broker financially more secure. The fact that these perceptions are only a small piece of the picture has little or no relevance to the burgeoning foreclosure specialist.

I’m not going to bore you with horror stories of checking occupancy and finding a hostile former mortgagor in possession of the property, or an outraged tenant who was clueless that there was a foreclosure in process. We don’t need to talk about trash filled, flea infested properties, urine soaked carpets, or the really tough, urban marketplaces where some of these properties are located. Those are part of the REO business, and if you weren’t aware that such things were part of the process, stop reading, find a post on something else, because this one isn’t directed at you (or read on to enter new territory and be dazzled by my wit and wisdom)

The truth is that REO business, while it has its own particular issues and needs is a good specialty in the real estate business, but getting started in it is not really different from doing any other piece of business. It requires a long list of tasks not included in a “regular” real estate listing, and financial commitments that some agents are unwilling or unable to make. But getting started in it requires a lot of cold calling and door knocking to meet corporate clients who are so busy handling their existing work load that increasing their circle of new friends is not real high on their”To Do” list. And with the current market, the competition for this business is even more intense then it is for “regular” real estate business. So it is understandable that when you meet an Asset manager you want to make the greatest impact possible in the short amount of time available to you. That however is not in itself any excuse for bad behavior.

So Here’s the Problem

You never make yourself look good, in either B2B or “regular” real estate by making someone else look bad. Your competition’s incompetence doesn’t make you more competent any more then their competence makes you an idiot.

Over many years as a trainer and as a company owner, I have shared an experience of mine that illustrates that point.

As an active agent, I called on FSBOs regularly. As part of that schedule I met on a particularly sharp retired electrician. Years before the Do Not Call List this man was so organized that he had a special unlisted phone line installed just so he could preserve his privacy while marketing his home. When this line rang, he knew it was an inquiry on his home and answered the phone appropriately.

I and two other agents were in the final consideration for listing the home when he decided to get professional help marketing the home. At the final interview, he asked me what I thought of the other two agents. I told him that I had nothing negative to say about either of them. I thought that they were fine agents, working for good companies, that would do almost as good a job as I would, but that in order for me to do my job, I had to believe that I would do the best job of any agent in the marketplace. I then asked him when he would be making his decision. He told me that he already had – he was giving me the listing.

Of the three agents he interviewed, the other two each one had something negative to say about the other, and I was the only person that had nothing negative to say about anyone. As a result, that night I listed his house,the next week I listed his daughter’s house and shortly after, sold his daughter another house (which I sold again for her several years later when I sold her the next home she bought).

I tell you this not because I was better then the other agents – they really were good agents, but we differed in one respect. I just never understood the idea of talking poorly about the competition. Maybe its an unconscious concern about Karma, or that what goes around really does come around, but the idea of promoting yourself by demoting others just doesn’t seem to me to be a good plan – long term or short term.

So What’s the Answer?

You’ve gotta accentuate the positive
Eliminate the negative
Latch on to the affirmative
Don’t mess with Mister In-Between

You’ve got to spread joy (up to the maximum)
Bring gloom (down) down to the minimum
Otherwise (otherwise) pandemonium
Liable to walk upon the scene

From: AC-CENT-TCHU-ATE THE POSITIVE (Mister In-Between) by Johnny Mercer / Harold Arlen

  • Differentiate yourself from the competition in a positive manner.
  • When you sell services, sell what you have or do, not what the competition does or does not do.
  • Stay on the moral high ground, you don’t make yourself look better trying to make someone else look bad
  • Answer the four simple questions that are in every potential client’s mind thoroughly –
    • Why should I use a real estate agent
    • Why should I use your brand?
    • Why Should I use your company
    • Why should I use you?

If you can do that, you really don’t need to trash the other person do you?

Bill is an unusual blend of Old & New - The CEO Century 21 Advantage Gold (Philadelphia's Largest Century 21 company and BuzzBuilderz (a Social Media Marketing Company), He is a Ninja CEO, blending the Web 1 and 2.0 world together in a fashion that stretches the fabric of the universe. You can follow him on twitter @Billlublin or Facebook or LinkedIn.

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9 Comments

9 Comments

  1. Matthew Rathbun

    May 10, 2008 at 9:41 pm

    Bill, I don’t think the technique that these folks used is reasonable; but I agree with some of the statements.

    My experience has been awful with almost every REO agent I’ve ever dealt with. There is only ONE exception to this and she was amazing.

    Getting in touch with most of them is impossible, getting offers presented in a timely manner is impossible and half of the listings in our area that are REO, don’t have signs and if you’re REALLY lucky there might be a real lockbox and not a $2 combo box that you can’t get the code to.

    I know that they can do better because of the one agent I’ve encountered who did a good job. The number one complaint I hear from agents is in regards to the REO agents they have to work with.

    If someone can do a better job so be it, but I agree that 90% of the peeps who seek REO listing agreements have no idea how poorly the lenders are going to make them look.

    I think the REO’s get treated like crap, so they pass that right along to the Buyer Broker who is trying to help them clear the inventory.

    In both the case of the lender and REO. Too much work, not enough money and insufficient staffing… Sorry I just think there is a better way, I just haven’t figured it out yet.

  2. Bill Lublin

    May 10, 2008 at 10:59 pm

    Matthew; I think that the statements they made were not necessarily accurate (though they might have been) but the point is that its just not the way to get the business. I’ve been an REO agent for 20 years, and there is a definitie disconnect between the average retail agent and the REO specialist.

    The Retail agent has trouble understanding what the words “as is” means, and the REO agent is usually not as responsive to the needs of the buyer as they might be since they have so many investor buyers constantly seeking their attention, but the real deal here is that trashing the competition is abad way to try to get the attention of a client under any terms. We’re constantly looking for new REO clients, and we nevere talk about the bad job the current agent is doing (even if they are) but rather about what we can bring to the table to suit their needs.

    As far as dealing with REO agents from a cooperative perspective, I thik that the agent needs to have expectations that are different from the “normal” deal. We try to help the coop by explaining to them how its going to work, but an amazing amount of them just don;t listen when we talk about timelines, response from the corporate client, the seller’s parameters and the guidelines they put out. Guess we just have to keep trying 🙂

    And BTW, Happy Mother’s Day to everyone in your family!

  3. Russell Shaw

    May 11, 2008 at 4:34 am

    EXCELLENT post, Bill. I liked everything about it. Over the years, many many times I when I was in competition when asked about the other agents I would go out of my way to say something nice about them. When I knew who they were, if they really were a great agent I would even say, “If you hire them or me you are going to get a great agent, either way”. I can’t think of a time when saying that didn’t help me.

    Also, I am sure some REO agents are bad about returning calls, etc., but overall I find them to be – by far – much better and smarter then the average agent.

  4. Matthew Rathbun

    May 11, 2008 at 7:14 am

    Bill,

    In my area we have three primary REO agents to take care of an overwhelming number of REO properties. I do think other agents (if for no other reason than spreading out the work) could do far better.

    One of the three is exceptional and I have enjoyed working with her. The other two are just bad.

    I have reasonable expectations – 1.) present in a timely manner 2.) return phone calls and e-mails in 24 hours and 3.) know and obey the licensing law.

    Like I said 1 of the 3 does that – the other two simply don’t. And not to open the can of worms, but the only difference in the three that comes to mind, is that the one who does fantastic job is a Realtor and the other two are simply licensees. One actually was caught (rumored) to be living in the REO properties…

    Obviously it’s regional, like everything else in RE. But what I am saying, is that I get your point. Degrading other practitioners to get business is counter-intuitive; however given the chance to bend the ear of the Asset Manager who hires these guys – I wouldn’t let go till they heard how badly these agents are ruining the lenders chances of selling the property.

    MLS stats show that in my hometown, REO’s are priced well under other homes; but stay on the market noticeably longer.

  5. Bob

    May 11, 2008 at 8:43 am

    Bill, I think your main point goes to all aspects of business. Ripping the competition is frequently a losing strategy. Unfortunately, I’ve seen it work enough to understand why agents still try it if they think they only have one shot.

    Part of the problem is that many agents don’t know how to sell. They push and insult, instead of asking questions with the goal of finding a need or problem that they could resolve or meet.

    We try to help the coop by explaining to them how its going to work, but an amazing amount of them just don;t listen when we talk about timelines, response from the corporate client, the seller’s parameters and the guidelines they put out.

    Dead on. I deal with short sales. EVERY situation is different due to multiple factors, but some agents are locked into their preconceived notions that they took away from a short sale workshop or office meeting. it doesn’t matter what our parameters are, they’ll argue or complain.

    There are a few REO agents here that are just awful to deal with, but since the properties get sold, I doubt the asset manager cares. Another is a jewel to work with and I check her inventory first when looking for clients seeking REO deals.

  6. Barry Cunningham

    May 11, 2008 at 2:59 pm

    Bill you hooked me on this one. Thanks for some valuable insight. I, like Russell find REO agents a bit smarter than the average bear.

  7. Bill Lublin

    May 11, 2008 at 8:56 pm

    @Matthew – I agree that there are many REO agents who need to learn better how to relate to the real world

    @Bob I agree that too many agents don;t know how to sell, and that their interpersonal skills could use some work – agressive isn;t a good substitute for skillful I feel your pain on the short sale situation – everyone seesm to think that there is a quick fix, and there just isn’t

    @Barry – Boo-Boo and I both thank you for the kind words – 🙂

  8. Thomas Johnson

    May 13, 2008 at 7:33 am

    If you speak ill of a competitor, you lose a little bit of your soul.

  9. Mary Ann

    May 7, 2009 at 4:46 pm

    Every company aims to formulate good strategy and execute that strategy well. But many times it is found that it was either good strategy, bad execution or bad strategy and good execution.

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Business Marketing

Buffer’s four-day workweek experiment: Boost or bust?

(BUSINESS MARKETING) After trying out a four-day workweek last year, Buffer is moving forward with the format going into 2021, citing increase in productivity and work-life balance.

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Man working in office with headphones on, making use of flexible four-day workweek.

The typical five-day workweek is a thing of the past for Buffer, at least for now. The company has decided to implement a four-day workweek for the “foreseeable future.”

Last year, the company surveyed its employees to see how they are dealing with the ever-changing landscape of the pandemic and the anxiety and stress that came along with it. They soon learned employees didn’t always feel comfortable or like they could take time off.

Employees felt guilty for taking PTO while trying to meet deadlines. Juggling work and suddenly becoming a daycare worker and teacher for their children at the same time was stressful. So, Buffer looked for a solution to help give employees more time and flexibility to get adjusted to their new routines.

Four-Day Workweek Trials

In May, Buffer started the four-day workweek one-month trial to focus on teammates’ well-being. “This four-day workweek period is about well-being, mental health, and placing us as humans and our families first,” said Buffer CEO and co-founder Joel Gascoigne in a company blog post.

“It’s about being able to pick a good time to go and do the groceries, now that it’s a significantly larger task. It’s about parents having more time with kids now that they’re having to take on their education. This isn’t about us trying to get the same productivity in fewer days,” Gascoigne said.

Buffer’s one-month trial proved to be successful. Survey data from before and after the trial showed higher autonomy and lower stress levels. In addition, employee anecdotal stories showed an increase in worker happiness.

With positive results, Buffer turned the trial into a long-term pilot through the end of 2020. This time, the trial would focus on Buffer’s long-term success.

“In order to truly evaluate whether a four-day workweek can be a success long-term, we need to measure productivity as well as individual well-being,” wrote Director of People Courtney Seiter. “Teammate well-being was our end goal for May. Whether that continues, and equally importantly, whether it translates into customer and company results, will be an exciting hypothesis to test.”

Trial Results

Company Productivity
Buffer’s shorter workweek trials showed employees felt they had a better work-life balance without compromising work productivity. According to the company’s survey data, almost 34% of employees felt more productive, about 60% felt equally as productive, and only less than 7% of employees felt less productive.

However, just saying productivity is higher isn’t proof. To make sure the numbers added up, managers were asked about their team’s productivity. Engineering managers reported that a decrease in total coding days didn’t show a decrease in output. Instead, there was a significant output increase for product teams, and Infrastructure and Mobile saw their output double.

The Customer Advocacy team, however, did see a decline in output. Customer service is dependent on customer unpredictability so this makes sense. Still, the survey showed about 85% to 90% of employees felt as productive as they would have been in a five-day workweek. Customers just had to wait slightly longer to receive replies to their inquiries.

Employee Well-Being
With more time and control of their schedules, Buffer’s survey shows an increase in individual autonomy and decreased stress levels reported by employees. And, the general work happiness for the entire company has been consistent throughout 2020.

What’s in store for 2021?

Based on positive employee feedback and promising company results, Buffer decided it will continue the company-wide four-day workweek this year.

“The four-day work week resulted in sustained productivity levels and a better sense of work-life balance. These were the exact results we’d hoped to see, and they helped us challenge the notion that we need to work the typical ‘nine-to-five,’ five days a week,” wrote Team Engagement Manager Nicole Miller.

The four-day workweek will continue in 2021, but the company will also be implementing adjustments based on the pilot results.

For most teams, Fridays will be the default day off. For teams that aren’t project-based, their workweek will look slightly different. As an example, the Customer Advocacy team will follow a different schedule to avoid customer reply delays and ticket overflow. Each team member will still have a four-day workweek and need to meet their specific targets. They will just have a more flexible schedule.

Companies who follow this format understand that output expectations will be further defined by area and department level. Employees who aren’t meeting their performance objectives will have the option to choose a five-day workweek or might be asked to do so.

If needed, Fridays will also serve as an overflow workday to finish up a project. Of course, schedules will be evaluated quarterly to make sure productivity is continuing to thrive and employees are still satisfied.

But, Miller says Buffer is “establishing ambitious goals” that might “push the limits” of a four-day work week in 2021. With the world slowly starting to normalize, who knows when a four-day workweek might reach its conclusion.

“We aren’t sure that we’ll continue with the four-day workweeks forever, but for now, we’re going to stick with it as long as we are still able to hit our ambitious goals,” wrote Miller.

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Business Marketing

10 easy steps to get into Instagram marketing

(BUSINESS MARKETING) Want to up your social media marketing game? Start better with Instagram for your business using these easy tips to quickly get established.

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Instagram post open on a tablet

When Instagram first came on the scene, it was simply a place to share pictures of your cat or a pie that you just baked. While it still is a place for that kind of content, it has also grown into a platform where one can influence others and build an empire.

So, if you’re looking to step up your social media marketing game through use of Instagram, look no further than using these 10 steps from Neil Patel.

  1. Switch to a business profile: This is super easy and can be done in just a few clicks. Switching from a personal to a business profile gives a better look at your followers through Insights, allowing you to see analytics and impressions. It also adds a contact feature that takes a visitor right to an email draft to you – just like it would on your website. All this and it makes it possible to publish ads.
  2. Use free marketing tools: Because Facebook owns Instagram, they operate kind of similarly. As mentioned in #1, Insights allows for a deep dive into personalized analytics to see what kind of posts are clicking with your audience and which aren’t. That way, you know what kind of content to continue with and what to do away with.
  3. Post product teasers: There are a variety of ways to do this, including posting about flash sales or linking business platforms that sell your product to make it easier for your customer to shop. The trick here is to not be pushy, but instead be enticing and make the post convenient for your consumer.
  4. Create a sponsored ad: Like Facebook, you can post ads and include a specific budget of what you want to spend. You can showcase one ad or multiple with the carousel feature. You can also target the exact demographic you’re looking to hit.
  5. Instagram stories: These last 24 hours and don’t have to be as “fancy” as a regular post. Give followers a glimpse into your brand with behind-the-scenes shots, polls, fun questions, etc. Make them feel like they’re part of the experience and use this as a way to tell your brand’s story.
  6. Partner with influencers: Work out a deal with influencers who have a decent following. Send them one of your items in exchange for them posting a photo of the item and tagging your brand. This will reach their whole followership and build your credibility.
  7. Collect user-submitted photos: Share photos posted by customers loving on your brand or product. Either share them to your story, or use a regram app to repost customer photos to your feed. It’s basically free advertising for your product.
  8. Hashtags: Come up with an interactive hashtag solely for your brand. Think in terms of verbs (a la Nike’s “Just Do It”). It can be punny or practical, but something that people attribute to your brand and your brand only.
  9. Timing and over-posting: Look into the best times to post – this is when your users are most active. It will be helpful to use Insights to understand when your time to shine may be. According to SimplyMeasured, the worst days to post on Instagram are Wednesdays and Sundays, while Mondays and Thursdays are the best days to post. Also, don’t over post. It’s annoying and it’s always best to err on the side of quality over quantity.
  10. Track the right metrics: Insights do no good if you aren’t looking at the right data. You need to keep tabs on whether or not what you’re doing is increasing your follower growth as well as growth for your interaction. With research, use of Insights and a little trial and error, you’ll get yourself to where you need to be.

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Business Marketing

Unpopular opinion: Coworkers are not your ‘family’

(MARKETING) “I just want you to think of us as family,” they say. If this were true, I could fire my uncle for always bringing up “that” topic on Thanksgiving…

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family coworkers

The season 10 opener of “Undercover Boss” featured Walk-On’s Bistreaux & Bar. Brandon Landry, owner, went to the Lafayette location where he worked undercover with Jessica Comeaux, an assistant manager. Comeaux came across as a dedicated employee of the company, and she was given a well-deserved reward for her work. But I rolled my eyes as the show described the team as a “family.” I take offense at combining business and family, unless you’re really family. Why shouldn’t this work dynamic be used?

Employers don’t have loyalty to employees.

One of the biggest reasons work isn’t family is that loyalty doesn’t go both ways. Employers who act as though employees are family wouldn’t hesitate to fire someone if it came down to it. In most families, you support each other during tough times, but that wouldn’t be the case in a business. If you’ve ever thought that you can’t ask for a raise or vacation, you’ve probably bought into the theory that “work is a family.” No, work is a contract.

Would the roles be okay if the genders were reversed?

At Walks-Ons, Comeaux is referred to as “Mama Jess,” by “some of the girls.” I have to wonder how that would come across if Comeaux were a man being called “Daddy Jess” by younger team members? See any problem with that? What happens when the boss is a 30-year-old and the employee is senior? Using family terminology to describe work relationships is just wrong.

Families’ roles are complex.

You’ll spend over 2,000 hours with your co-workers every year. It’s human nature to want to belong. But when you think of your job like a family, you may bring dysfunction into the workplace.

What if you never had a mom, or if your dad was abusive? Professional relationships don’t need the added complexity of “family” norms. Seeing your boss as “mom” or “dad” completely skews the roles of boss/employee. When your mom asks you to do more, it’s hard to say no. If your “work mom or dad” wants you to stay late, it’s going to be hard to set boundaries when you buy into the bogus theory that work is family. Stop thinking of work this way.

Check your business culture to make sure that your team has healthy boundaries and teamwork. Having a great work culture doesn’t have to mean you think of your team as family. It means that you appreciate your team, let them have good work-life balance and understand professionalism.

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