Improving Seller Calls

It was a fall Sunday morning before a Denver Bronco game. I was playing fantasy football and desperately wanted to watch the pregame shows to make the best decisions for my fantasy team. There were bragging rights on the line after all, but instead of going to the remote, I went for my phone.

I had a small office in the basement of the house I was living in located in Thornton, a northern suburb to Denver. It was basically a hallway outside of the laundry room and my roommate was busy washing her clothes. I had to stand at my desk in order to let her pass each time she needed to check on things. There were several other places I would have rather been and other things I wanted to be doing. I did not want to be in that hallway with a phone to my ear while laundry was blasting away, but I had a goal to reach. I needed to make 30 calls before the Broncos kickoff.

This was my routine every weekend and most week nights. I had a great phone script, but it was the tweaking to that script, making it mine, and the practice on the phone that helped me become successful. I purchased more than 50 houses by calling sellers directly, and over the years I learned what makes an investor successful on the phone. Here are three keys in cold calling sellers that will make you successful.

Have a script. Routine breeds success. This is nothing new, but it is worth mentioning. The most successful people in the world, in any area, have a routine for what they do best. This could be a professional golfer, a builder, a waiter or waitress, or a school teacher. In business, if you find something that works and you do it over and over, you will become rich. It is really that simple. A script is your routine, it helps you work your way through a call and should be used every time you make a seller call.

Make the script your own. Although a script is extremely important, it can also hurt you. If you follow a script that you are not comfortable with and read it word for word, you will sound nervous and rigid. This will make the motivated seller uncomfortable and make them want to end the call. It is best to find a script that you can change a little to fit your personality. It is also important to know that you need to be prepared to veer from the script and go with the call. Enjoy the conversation. That is why I like real short scripts with plenty of flexibility.

Don’t sell on the phone. When I was just starting, the script I was using had me make a creative offer on the phone. If the seller was open to the offer, I would set the meeting and negotiate the numbers. It took hundreds of calls to get an appointment with a seller, because I was over qualifying them by selling on the phone. Maybe someday your time will be way too valuable to meet with sellers that you might not do business with, but for most of us, getting the appointment with a qualified lead is the most important result. The way you do this is to qualify their motivation and then schedule a time to view the house; the goal is not to get a deal on the phone. If they ask for an offer you can simply say you need to see the house before you can discuss it and that they should invite you over. The qualifying question in my script is, “Sounds like a great house. Why would you even consider selling?” The answer to this question will give me enough information to schedule a meeting or not.

Focus on “no” oriented questions and never trap your lead. Many sales books teach “yes” oriented questions. Hearing the word no is scary, and as a sales person we are taught to get our prospect saying yes. This is done by asking questions that the only answer is yes. For example, you might say “Most people are looking for the best price for their home, do you agree?” Of course they are going to agree with that. Doing this can create some unease and make them uncomfortable with you. People want to feel like they have options and giving them the option to say no can be powerful. A question like “Do you disagree?” will be much more powerful than “Do you agree?”

Another strategy often taught in sales that makes people uncomfortable is giving them limited options. I think this can be extremely useful and is a great strategy, but you need to be careful. I had a solicitor call me the other day asking for a donation. His questions were, “Would you like to donate the normal $50 or would $25 be easier?” This is a great close when you have rapport with someone, so it could be very effective in a meeting, but it made me hang up the phone. I don’t know you!

The Perfect Disaster

Why trying to be perfect is a great way to fail – and how to avoid it.

The best is the enemy of success! What I mean by this is so many of us are so focused on the best that we take very little action towards our success. We are focused on the best place to eat, the best time to work out, the best way to lose weight, or the best way to make some extra money. We are focused so much on the best that we think too much about what we should or could be doing.

Focusing on a process toward success will prevent failure and accelerate your results. Take Travis in our office for example. He loves the gym and wants to get bigger and stronger. He can focus on the perfect diet, the best supplements, the best workouts, and the best technique. Or, he can eat healthy and get under the bar. The reps give him experience and strength. The results provide the momentum, and he finds himself spending more time in the gym and focusing more on diet and supplements. Now he has trouble fitting into his shirts. It all started with reps.

Dating is another good example. Typically, we need to kiss a few frogs to find our prince or princess. It does not come easy, but as we work through it, we start to learn what a good match looks like. We should start to get more confidence and our decisions become faster and better. Eventually, we hope, we find someone we are compatible with and live happily ever after.

Business or investing is no different. Obviously, we want to strive for quality, but quality will come with some thought-out quantity. Takes sales for example. If we just pick up the phone and start making calls, we will get better and better on the phone and will start closing more deals. The practice on the phone will produce better results than spending time finding the best phone script or the best people to call. With investing, we start taking steps to our goals. Maybe that is interviewing agents or sending out mail to motivated sellers. As we see results, we can adjust and improve. The fact that we are taking action, organically gets us closer to perfection.

So how do we avoid the perfection trap?

Goals are so incredibly powerful. A goal should be a tremendous help, but it can also hurt you. For new investors I love the idea of setting action-oriented goals. What I mean by this is to not focus on results, at least to start, and only focus on the small actions that should lead to results. As you hit your goals, you gain confidence and momentum. Let me give you an example. If you want to make $30,000 a month, you might start with how many deals you need to do to hit that goal. If you are a fix and flipper, it might be one deal. Then focus on how many offers you need to make to get one deal. Because we are in a tough market, we know that it might be 60 or more. Obviously, this is a bit of a guess until you can track it, but let’s start with 60 for this example. A great goal to help get you started would be to make 60 offers this month based on your buying criteria. The criteria being deals that should net $30,000. Focus on the fact that the goal is the number of offers, not the number of deals or the amount of money you want to make. That way, even if you don’t get a deal, you can, and should, celebrate the fact that you accomplished your goal. If you consistently hit action-oriented goals, you will see tremendous results.

I recently read a story about a college art professor that split his class in half at the beginning of the year to do a study on actions and results. One group was the quality group and one was the quantity group. The quantity group would be graded on the number of photographs turned in by the student. The quality group, as you can probably guess, was graded on only one photo for its quality. Guess which group turned in the best photos? The quantity group had more high-quality photos turned in because they were out practicing their skills trying to hit a quantity goal. Because they were not trying to take the one perfect photo, they ended up taking more action and better photos.

Disney in another great example. In the 80s the company had 3 CEOs and was not profitable. Then CEO, Michael Eisner, changed the way the company thought about the movie business. Instead of producing perfect movies, they went for quantity. In the late 80s and through the 90s they more than doubled the number of movies they were producing. They spent less time, money and energy on any one movie. The result? Blockbuster smash hits like; Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, and Lion King.

Owning a Classic Craftsman Home in Northeast Los Angeles

NELA home architectural styles vary widely: Modern, Art Deco, Victorian, Tudors, and others. But perhaps the Craftsman residences get the most attention.

Craftsman homes are among the most sought after real estate in Northeast Los Angeles neighborhoods. One of the many reasons why homes for sale in Pasadena, Eagle Rock, Hermon and elsewhere have become hot commodities is a renewed interest in so-called “character homes”. But Craftsman homes come in significant variations, sizes, and conditions – opening up opportunities for homebuyers in a range of prices.

The high value – i.e., prices ranging from $400,000 on past $2 million – being placed on Craftsman homes in NELA is an interesting turn of historical events. These solid structures were originally designed for the advent of middle class home ownership in the late 19th and early 20th century. Gone were the features of Victorian homes that included butler’s quarters and kitchens only used by household staff. Instead, the family prepared their own meals while some features of kitchens blended with dining rooms – which are why there are those built-in, glass-front cabinets for dishware that was previously stowed out of sight from formal dining rooms.

The characteristics of Craftsman homes range from low-pitched roofs to deep eaves, exposed rafters (usually with distinctive decorative knee braces), dormers, one- to one-and-a-half stories, large fireplaces (often flanked by built-in cabinetry), and double-hung windows. Outside, Craftsman bungalows had large porches that welcomed newcomers to the California lifestyle, which offered a longer outdoor season for people arriving from the Northeast and Midwest.

Note that Bungalow and Craftsman style homes are often – but not always- the same thing; Bungalows always have that front porch (“veranda” if you prefer), while Craftsman sometimes do not. (If looking at homes for sale in Glassell Park, Garvanza or Mt. Washington, you might nerd out with your realtor by looking for the distinction.)

A further distinction might be made between Craftsman homes designed by certain architects (Greene & Greene built the trend-setting larger versions, which drew from Spanish mission and Japanese aesthetics), while Craftsman-style homes had a lower cost and were more modest in proportions and features. Craftsman-style homes may have shipped by train in a kit (e.g., “Sears homes”) or been a much-replicated design used by 1920s developers who knew a popular style when they saw one.

What made Craftsmans so popular when first built is what makes them equally popular today. These solid buildings have a relaxed style, one that accommodates an easy flow between rooms and activities. Mothers and fathers making meals in the kitchen can take a break to help children with their homework while keeping an eye on something cooking on the stove. Throw a party on the veranda but some guests might easily drift inside to admire the Arts & Crafts detailing of the cabinetry, fireplace surround, or wainscoting. They are healthy, unpretentious and sturdy: anything standing today has withstood a century of seismic activity, testimony to the sturdy craftsmanship of these Craftsman homes.