Sitting Down With Jennifer Allan-Hagedorn, Author of “Sell With Soul”

Jennifer Allan-Hagedorn, Author of Sell With SoulJennifer Allan-Hagedorn, the top producing real estate broker turned Author, Speaker, and Trainer, knows how to energize a real estate sales career, and, as any of her followers will tell you, can motivate, inspire, and advise like no other.

Jennifer’s books, Sell With Soul: Creating an Extraordinary Career in Real Estate without Losing Your Friends, Your Principles or Your Self-Respect and If You’re Not Having Fun Selling Real Estate, You’re Not Doing it Right, have been tremendously successful and instrumental in helping Agents improve their careers. Her most recent book, Prospect with Soul for Real Estate Agents, was just released in May of 2011. When Jennifer was a broker, she sold between 40 and 60 houses per year and since then has been passionate about sharing her knowledge with others.

IXACT Contactrecently sat down with Jennifer for a special Q&A blog post. “It’s all about professionalism; acting as an advisor, not a prospector, and loving what you do,” she says.

IXACT Contact: I’m curious to know what motivated you to move from your successful career as a real estate broker to the work you’re doing now?

Jennifer: Well, it was a series of serendipitous events that led up to the career change – which at the time didn’t seem so serendipitous! I owned a real estate company with a partner who, one day, decided she didn’t want to be in real estate sales anymore. BAM!

I wasn’t in a position at the time to continue without her, so I took the “opportunity” to finish up a book I’d started three years earlier. I had no idea at the time what was involved in becoming a world-famous author so I made a lot of mistakes, took a lot of wrong turns and enjoyed a bunch of “learning experiences!” But it’s been worth every single painful moment – I absolutely LOVE what I do and appreciate my extraordinary good fortune to do what I love AND get paid for it.

IXACT Contact: “Sell With Soul” is such a captivating phrase! What is the essence of the Sell With Soul approach to a real estate sales career?

Jennifer: The definition of Selling with Soul is to enjoy a wildly successful career selling real estate by treating clients and prospects respectfully, as you yourself would like to be treated.

Sounds suspiciously like the good old Golden Rule, huh? But to go a little further – on the cover of Sell with Soul (the book), there are four words: Respect, Competence, Enthusiasm and Confidence, which I believe are the inter-related pillars of success in a real estate career:  Respect your clients and prospects… Be competent (even exceptional) at what you do… Love what you do… all of which leads to a self-confidence that is far more attractive to your potential clients than any elevator speech, fancy brochure or scripted sales pitch will ever be.

IXACT Contact: That’s such a refreshingly common sense approach and I can understand why it has resonated so powerfully with so many people.  On the flip side, what are the most common mistakes you see new Agents making?

Jennifer: Oh my… where do I start? The biggest mistake I see them make is to head out into the world looking for business before they know what to do with it – in other words, focusing on real estate prospecting without taking the time to learn how to BE a competent real estate agent. I’ve seen agents literally on their first day of work handed a list of expired listings and told to start calling them for appointments – before the agent can even spell MLS! Aside from the obvious issue of whether or not that agent is capable of handling any business his efforts might produce, this can be highly frustrating and discouraging for a new agent.

I hear from these poor agents all the time. They think there’s something wrong with THEM. These Agents would like to have a little training before they try to drum up business.

Another very common mistake is to enter the profession without proper funding. Most people wouldn’t dream of opening their own business without a nest-egg to get them started, but it happens every day in real estate sales. Selling real estate is not a get-rich-quick career, or even a get-paid-in-a-reasonable-amount-of-time career in the beginning but I see agents every day who enter the field with less than $1,000 to their name. Crazy!

IXACT Contact: Good points Jennifer!  We would add that failure to capitalize on existing contacts is another common rookie Agent mistake.  So many new agents feel they have to generate all their business from strangers that they completely overlook the gold in their own contact list.

Most seasoned agents know it’s important to stay in touch with their clients, but they’re not sure how to go about it.  How do you recommend Agents keep in touch with and market to their clients better?

Jennifer: By “clients” I assume you mean their sphere of influence – the people they know (as opposed to just their current active buyer and seller clients). So, let’s use the abbreviation “SOI”, okay? The secret to an effective stay-in-touch campaign with one’s SOI is NOT to bombard them with postcards and newsletters and doo-dads every two weeks.

Your goal in communicating is not simply to remind your SOI that you exist, but to inspire them to smile and think of you fondly. No off-the-shelf or boilerplate real estate marketing piece is going to do that; in fact, being bombarded with such material will likely have the opposite effect – that of annoying your sphere or at the very least, training them to ignore your communication efforts.

A better approach is to take the time to create quality real estate marketing pieces – and by “quality” I mean ones that will be interesting to the intended audience and reflective of who YOU are. If your marketing materials are quality materials, you don’t have to send them out nearly as much, but the irony is that your audience won’t mind if you do because they’re enjoying them!

IXACT Contact: We couldn’t agree more!  We’re big proponents of only sending quality keep-in-touch marketing communications that are relevant, personalized and timely.  It’s downright sad how many real estate sales people are still doing the old monthly “batch’n’blast” of a poor quality generic email or postcard that might actually be doing their reputation more harm than good.

Let’s explore this a bit more.  Why exactly are relationships so important in real estate sales?

Jennifer: There are so many different ways to answer this question! If you look at it from a purely financial perspective, inspiring people you know to support your real estate sales business is going to be a whole lot less expensive than going after strangers with any mass-marketing effort. And most real estate agents don’t have it in the budget to implement a strong-enough real estate marketing campaign to create any real brand or name recognition in their market area.

So, if we agree that it’s more cost-effective to focus on the people you already know instead of strangers, then it becomes critical that you make an effort to nurture the relationships you have, and to always have your antenna up to make new friends. Not that you have to spend all day, every day hanging out with and making new friends (when would you get your work done?), but if you’re going to rely on your sphere of influence for most of your business, it’s obvious that you’ll have to stay in touch with the people you know and to come across to them as someone they can trust with their business and referrals. So, while I don’t consider real estate sales to be a traditional “numbers game” it is true that “the more people who know you, and like you, and trust you… and know that you sell real estate, the more real estate you’ll sell!”

IXACT Contact: This raises another question.  Why is building a business based on referrals such a great approach?

Jennifer: Well, building a business based on referrals is optional, of course. I see two paths to success in a real estate sales career – the first path is the traditional burn ‘em & churn ‘em – the heavy real estate prospecting model where the agent spends the majority of his or her time looking for new business.

Since there are only so many hours in the day, if one is spending most hours on the hunt for new customers, it’s likely they aren’t spending much time taking care of the ones they have, which, unfortunately can mean that those current customers will never become good sources of future business for the agent (which may not be a problem for the agent as he enjoys and is good at the process of prospecting, or “making rain.”)

The other path to success is to take such great care of one’s current clients that in a few years, the agent has enough satisfied past clients to keep his pipeline full for the rest of his career. The beautiful thing about this path is that it creates a sweet cycle of business – the less time an agent has to spend searching for new business, the more time he can devote to his current clients, and therefore, the more raving fans he has in his database. If a real estate agent does a fantastic job for someone, all he has to do to guarantee their future support is to stay in touch with them on a reasonable basis after the transaction is closed.

For many agents, a referral-based business is the preferred model, not only because it’s easier business to get, but it also affirms that we did a good job for our clients and they obviously trust us with their precious referrals! To me, this is critical – if you’re getting referrals from past clients on a regular basis, it means you’re good at what you do – and if you’re going to get up every day and go to work, doesn’t it sound like more fun to be so darn good at what you do that your clients happily refer you to others?

IXACT Contact: That’s a very profound point.  Too often we focus only on what approach or system will make us the most money.  But isn’t it better to find a way to be successful that not only makes us money, but also lets us feel great about ourselves and our lives?

Let’s switch gears and talk about the execution side of the business as opposed to the relationship side.  Do you see poor time-management and/ or organization a common barrier to success in the field?

Jennifer: Yes! Many people think of real estate as primarily a relationship business – that is – the more of a “people-person” you are, the more successful you’ll be. While there’s some truth in that, and being a people-person certainly won’t hurt your business, it’s not the most important factor. What we do (if we do it well) involves managing a lot of moving pieces and parts, staying on top of dates and deadlines, making sure everyone involved is doing their job… all of which requires a fairly high level of time management and organizational skills. Sure, an agent who is socially outgoing and extroverted may bring in a lot of business, but if they can’t manage it, if things continually fall through the cracks, they will likely fail sooner or later.

IXACT Contact: How can a real estate contact management system help an Agent become better organized and in control?

Jennifer: I think every busy real estate agent (or one who hopes to become busy!) owes it to him or herself to have (and use!) a contact management system to manage their business. I call it conTRACT management – that is – using the system to stay on top of their active listings, their listings under contract and their buyers under contract.

Once you have any business at all – that is – a few buyers, some active listings and some listings under contract, it’s easy to let things slip through the cracks if you don’t have specific, detailed checklists. And any time something slips through the cracks, you take the risk that 1) you’ll lose the trust and affection of your client (and therefore his future business and referrals), 2) you might get to write a check – maybe a big one – to correct the problem your negligence caused or 3) you’ll lose the sale all together.

Paper checklists are better than no checklists, but having your checklists in a contact management system that auto-populates your to-do list – ahhhhhhh – it’s a beautiful thing!

IXACT Contact: You’ve worked with many of the leading real estate CRM systems over the years. Why did you ultimately select IXACT Contact as the system you recommend to your clients and partners?

Jennifer: I used to be a Top Producer fanatic – I loved it! At one point, I was even a distributor for the product because I was such a fan. BUT, as I was introducing it to others, I was reminded of the steep learning curve. In the year I sold Top Producer, not one of my customers was happy with their purchase because they simply didn’t want to take the time to learn it.

So I went on the hunt for a simpler real estate CRM solution to recommend to my readers. I found several, gave them a test-drive and was very disappointed. The contact management systems either didn’t do the very basic functions I thought they should do (e.g. notify me of upcoming birthdays) or they just weren’t intuitive to learn so I gave up in frustration. I decided that there just wasn’t an easy-to-learn contact management system that would do everything I wanted it to do, so I stopped looking.

But then I discovered IXACT Contactand found it had the perfect combination of features and was very easy to learn for the average, non-technical Agent. I call it Top Producer OFF steroids because it’s not overwhelming to learn and does 95% of what I think a real estate CRM system should do. And the 5% it doesn’t do – those features are either in the works or there are easy workarounds to them. I’m very satisfied with IXACT Contact. In fact, it’s one of only three or four real estate products I fully endorse and stand behind (outside of my own, of course!).

IXACT Contact: Any last words of wisdom you’d like to share with our readers regarding effective contact management and/or IXACT Contact?

Jennifer: For those who say they can’t afford contact management, I hear you – with every dollar being squeezed to death these days, an extra $35/month can seem like an unnecessary expense, especially if you don’t quite understand how it will help you. But when I recommend any product to a real estate agent, I do so with the caveat that it will pay for itself and more (if you use it, of course). And I’m 100% convinced that if you use a contact management system, even on a very basic level, you WILL see a return on your investment.

IXACT Contact: Thanks so much for taking the time to chat with us, Jennifer.  It’s been a pleasure as always, and I know our readers will appreciate the ideas and insights you’ve shared with us today.