It was a cold wintery day in February, 1995. My office door flew open and in walked the most successful salesman I’d ever met. As he stamped the snow off his boots his presence filled the room. It was intimidating.
It’s ironic. This guy was earning nearly two million dollars a year and he wanted to talk with me. I was a struggling salesman, who for the better part of 10 years had been living hand to mouth and barely getting by. Yet he was a legitimate super-star seeking my advice.
As he launched into this whirlwind of excitement, he talked so fast I could hardly understand him. He said something about an “IVR system” he was using and how it had more than doubled his real estate business in the last year.
I asked him, “What’s an IVR?”
He said, “I don’t know. All I know is the leads I’m getting from this system have my business exploding and I want you to write some promotional materials so we can sell this to other agents across the country!”
That’s the fateful day it all began…
So I dug in and started to investigate this new IVR thing, and then it hit me like a ton of bricks!
See I had been plagued with one of the worst cases of call reluctance you can possibly imagine. Every time I picked up the phone I’d get physically ill. I would tremble, my stomach would turn, and I’d feel this overwhelming sense of dread that had me doubting whether I would ever make it in sales.
But thankfully, as I was studying this new lead generation system and how it worked, it all came clear. With this system agents could actually spend 90% of their time talking with interested prospects…instead of 90% of their time just trying to find those people.
The power of that mental lightning bolt launched a grand obsession that took me down a six year path of near complete and total starvation!
In less than a year I parted ways with the super-star. He was making plenty of money and lost enthusiasm for trying to sell this to other agents. Just using it and making huge money in his real estate business was enough for him.
But as for me, I couldn’t let go.
I formed a new partnership, spent the next five years struggling, writing and re-writing my marketing materials, and barely getting by.
See I’m a bit of a slow learner. But one thing is sure, when I’ve got something I believe in, I’ll stay the course until we succeed…or I’ll die trying.
The funny thing is…I almost died!
During that time, my business partner and I each took a salary of $1,200 a month out of the business, and reinvested the rest. So when it comes to tight cash flow and having more month at the end of your money…I can honestly say, “I know how it feels.”
But fast forward nearly two decades and we’ve had the good fortune to introduce our ideas to over 225,000 online subscribers and over 28,000 actual client-partners who’ve had varying degrees of success, from modest improvement to those almost hard to believe success stories.
22 of our clients have grown to become one of the “Top 200 Agents in the World” according to the Wall Street Journal. We’ve even had the unique distinction of teaching what a study at the Baylor University School of Business proved conclusively was, dollar-for-dollar, the single most profitable marketing system for real estate agents before, during, and after the great real estate collapse.
Now I don’t say any of this to impress you. I only mention it to illustrate the fact that we’ve been around the block a time or two and we’ve seen and done a lot in this business.
But what’s more important is the massive opportunity that’s coming next.
See during the meltdown the fact is we suffered right along with our real estate clients. I took a lot of the resources we had been blessed with during the real estate run-up and invested in commercial real estate, a number of multi-family complexes that were bought at near peak prices, and we even thought our supposed “Midas Touch” would work well in other industries. So my business partner and I started three other businesses in 2006 & 2007.
Well, I bet you don’t need a crystal ball to guess where all those grand ideas took us. The fact is they took us very close to the edge of financial collapse. But fortunately, by the grace of Our Maker, we woke up early enough to rescue our nearly two decades of blood, sweat and tears from plunging right off our own fiscal cliff.
That’s when in early 2009 we cut every unnecessary expense, rolled up our sleeves and started working 14 hour days again, in the one business that always gave me the most satisfaction anyway. And that’s why today we’re still here and I’m able to share our story with you.
The bottom line is we love our clients and we’ll do damned near anything humanly possible to help them be successful. We’ll consult with them, spend time with them and do our absolute best to help them see the light.
So what’s the light?
There’s a right way to approach your sales and marketing. And there’s a wrong way.
A driving philosophy of our company is that your sales and marketing has to earn a profit…or you have one of two choices. First is you modify it, test it and measure the results. The second is, once you’ve exhausted every effort to make a program work, if it’s not profitable you cut it from the payroll.
That’s it…plain and simple.
That’s why around the mid-point of 2010 we really began a rigorous reassessment of our core flagship service…Call Capture. That’s the label we coined for it years ago, because IVR just didn’t make sense from a sales and marketing perspective.
And to give you an idea of how effective our Call Capture system has been over the years. At the peak of the market we were generating and delivering over 2 million unique leads a year to our clients. As a single company (we’re not a lead aggregator like the big boys) we’ve delivered more leads to real estate agents than any other single company in North America.
In fact, we’re still generating and delivering over 100,000 leads a month via that system, even though many agents have labeled it “old.” Regardless of those opinions it’s still going strong in one respect…it’s delivering leads.
Now again, I don’t say any of this to impress you. It’s really just a recap of our journey so you can know our heart on this issue of helping agents.
Well like I mentioned, in mid-2010 we began to recognize a very alarming trend. It wasn’t that we weren’t producing leads. Again, we’ve been pumping out leads to our clients as consistently as the sunrise, when they apply the marketing correctly.
The bigger issue is agents weren’t converting as many listings and sales from their leads. Which, again, this was very disturbing data.
So we started looking deeper, asking tough questions, and doing our best to determine: Where was this growing disconnect coming from? The leads were there…but the transactions weren’t happening.
Interestingly, we discovered a huge disparity between some of our agents and teams. Some were still doing extremely well, closing lots of business. While others were not doing very well.
Upon further investigation, we found the teams who were still doing well had engineered strategies that led more of these “leads” to actually direct connect for a live conversation at the point of the lead being captured.
Instead of capturing the lead and following up, they were driving 15-20% of those leads, with a clever “call-to-action” at the end of their recordings, to connect for “current pricing.”
Frankly, it was BRILLIANT!
Instead of capturing leads, our more perceptive clients cut right to the chase! They understood it was all about the conversation and talking with the person at the best possible time…right while they were sitting in front of their listing, looking at their ad, or visiting their web site.
The other thing is these agents and teams had an extremely strong focus on sales skill development. They all understood that it’s not how many leads, or even how many conversations, it’s all about how many of those conversations did they convert into client relationships that turned in to closings that counted most.
So…as we stepped back and evaluated those who were succeeding and those who were struggling, it became clear.
It’s all about the number of high quality conversations, combined with highly developed prospect-centered sales skills…not the number of “leads.”
With that understanding we began asking ourselves, “How can we drive more of these perfectly-timed conversations to the front of the line?”
Then a bold of inspiration hit my business partner that shook us both. He conceived the idea of layering in a technology into our service called ASR (Automatic Speech Recognition) that would ask the caller if they would like current pricing information.
Now I say it shook us because as simple as this idea might seem. Technically it was a complete rewrite of our entire system that was generating and distributing over 100,000 leads a month. And frankly, we were in no position to invest the time, energy and massive resources into its development on a hope that it would work.
But honestly, that never stopped us in the past…so why should it stop us now.
See on one level I’m an extremely conservative guy. Every marketing dollar has to justify itself in the form of profit. Every investment needs to produce a positive yield. I spend less than I earn and I save my money.
But my Achilles Heel tends to be in the levels I will go to, striving to make things better for our clients. That’s where I’m somewhat of a risk taker. So when the idea exploded into his head and we brainstormed, we both started to get worried.
We knew we had solved a major riddle in the real estate world… when the technology-insulated consumer is stopping agents on every front…we knew we could get our clients to the conversation!
So we made the leap, took a highly-calculated risk, and spent the next 16 months, hundreds of thousands of dollars in development, and brought it to market.
Then the final piece of the puzzle came together for our completely new offer.
Over that 16 month development period, during our beta, an obvious weakness in the approach reared its head. It was that some agents were doing extremely well, while others were struggling.
The agents who were doing well had a very different set of highly-developed skills. However the thing that was obvious was these weren’t ordinary, everyday sales skills. The skills, examples and scenarios agents were sharing with me didn’t seem anything like the sales skills that have typically been taught in real estate over the last 20-30 years.
And the agents who were doing well weren’t just doing well…they were CRUSHING IT! They were literally knocking it out of the park, while agents on the other end of the beta results were floundering around not closing much business. We were delivering live conversations on a daily basis, yet these agents continued to struggle.
So being the inquisitive minds we are we started digging for the reason, why?
After de-briefing and questioning agents about their process we found a stark contrast in the agents who were doing well. They all had a highly-developed sense of “prospect-centeredness” and could skillfully bond and connect with prospects they had never met.
Contrasted against agents who were used to working 80-90% referral, they struggled with the connecting part. They seemed to approach prospects with an expectation that the prospect should somehow automatically trust them.
Well, unfortunately we live in a highly-cynical, mistrusting world and those social skills that are great with referral business do not enter the picture with prospects who don’t know you, know of you, or have a friend who knows you…yet.
They will come into play once you’ve made the connection and developed a sense of rapport. But on the front end it all hinges on a skill set we’ve labeled “Prospect-Centered Sales Skills.” These are the skills to connect and bond with someone you’ve never met and lead them to a face-to-face meeting as fast as possible.
Then your presentation skills come into play and you continue to extend and use these same “Prospect-Centered” skills to close the listing or buyer agency agreement.
So what we did to build value and bring this new system roaring into today’s new economy is we combined our latest technology and marketing breakthrough, our Mobile Voice Routing® technology, along with a skill training program to teach these crucial Prospect-Centered Sales Skills.
Our thinking is fairly basic, yet very powerful in the final result…and it’s this…
No conversations = no closed business.
Conversations + weak skills = little to no business
Conversations + strong prospect-centered skills = lots of closed business
So if this long convoluted journey is starting to add up and make sense it then begs the question…
If this new system is so fantastic, why do we even offer the old service anymore?
Well, frankly some agents have viable strategies for the old system and they use it in different ways. For example, some of our agents are in property management and they use it to screen out tenants and save themselves time.
Others simply don’t want to change. “Good enough is good enough.” The unfortunate thing here is our clients who don’t take the time to step back and honestly assess the environment and their new opportunities here, may look back in a couple of year with regret.
However, we just didn’t feel right turning our back on them and saying, “If you don’t change we’re dropping you.” After all, they’ve been paying clients, some for many years, and they deserve better than that.
My hope is they will all eventually take the time to understand what they’re missing out on and really consider whether the change could benefit them or not.
I sincerely believe that if they give everything an honest assessment most will want to change over. And gradually I’m certain, as we communicate with all our clients more effectively, over time they will.
Then there are the agents who simply can’t part with more than $50 a month right now…I understand that place too…I’ve been there. And as a lead generation option our call capture system still produces better quality leads than any other source out there. So for those who aren’t ready for the best option, at least we still have a way to help them too.
All that said, the evolution of our system, our company and our approach is at a better place than it’s ever been and I sincerely hope you’ll take the leap of faith and trust us enough to give this a try…or better yet…commit to an honest sincere effort and take what we can share with you and make it a huge success.
If you do, I’m confident you won’t be disappointed.
Here's to your success!
Proquest Technologies, Inc.