Real Estate

Ditch The Me-Me-Me Approach To Marketing And Negotiation

It’s Marketing and Branding Month here at Inman. As we enter a competitive spring selling season, let’s examine which tried-and-true tactics and cutting-edge innovations are getting deals done in today’s market. We’ll also be recognizing the industry’s marketing and branding leaders with Inman’s Marketing All-Star Awards.

A crucial choice agents make early in their real estate careers is how to attract and negotiate with future clients. The question is will they fall into the antiquated, self-serving “me-me-me” approach or embrace the client-centric model that prioritizes the client’s needs?

This pivotal decision influences how they will interact with clients starting on Day 1 — and throughout their real estate careers. 

When I was executive director of training for Jon Douglas Company, Jon (Jack) Douglas would always attend the first day of our live, two-week new agent sales training and explain the company’s philosophy, embodied in our tagline, “The Sign of Respect.” 

Douglas said that when he started the company, he made the commitment that regardless of whether our agents represented a $50,000 or $50 million client, every one of our clients deserved to receive the highest, most professional level of service that the company and its agents could provide. A critical component of delivering on that commitment was having the best-trained agents in the business. 

The cult of the agent

The cult of the agent, the “me-me-me” show, has been around since the 1990s. This includes the old-school approach that was often referred to “Hunt ’em, tell ’em, and sell ’em.” In other words, chase leads down by cold calling and door knocking, tell them how great you and your company are, and then hard close them to sign the listing agreement or purchase contract. 

How does the ‘me-me-me’ show up today? 

Here are some classic examples that illustrate how widespread this approach still is today. 

The personal brochure or puff piece about you and your business

The following paragraph was taken from a marketing letter that arrived along with a four-page brochure that had multiple pictures of the agent and her lifestyle. Can you spot what’s wrong with this paragraph from that marketing piece? 

“I just wanted to take a moment to say how much I value you. Building relationships is what gives me the greatest satisfaction in my career. I have enclosed a personal brochure about me and my business philosophy. I hope that you will take a few moments to read it. I want you to feel comfortable calling me if you have any real estate questions.” 

Were you able to identify the me-me-me problem? 

In case you weren’t counting, there are 11 references to “I,” “me” or “my.”

What consumers think about ‘me-me-me’ marketing postcards

Several years ago, I chatted with Steve Kantor of Best Agent Business, who had surveyed 1,000 homeowners about their responses to the types of print marketing materials they received from real estate agents. 

Here are four examples of their responses that make it very clear how they feel about the “me-me-me” type of marketing materials they received.

  • In terms of postcards with the agent’s pictures on them: “They are totally useless. Photographs of agents are especially irrelevant to their purpose.”
  • “I’m also really turned off by cards and brochures that feature your spouse, kids, church affiliations, etc.”
  • “Offers for free home evaluations — I just toss those, too.
  • “Why do agents always have to include their picture? Who do they think they are — movie stars?” 

How to eliminate ‘me-me-me’ from your print and digital marketing

Substitute ‘you’ for ‘I’ and ‘me’

Regardless of whether you’re writing a copy for a newspaper ad, a brochure, a postcard, your website or social media, shift from using “I” language to using “you” language. In other words, make it about your recipient rather than about you.

Take your picture off your marketing materials

The moment you put your picture on your marketing pieces, it makes that piece about you, not the person receiving it. A better approach is to use a QR code or link to your website where the person who wants to know more about your listing can access the information. 

QR codes are particularly effective for two reasons. First, when the prospect scans the QR code, they immediately receive the information they wanted, whether it’s a property brochure, equity checkup or some other type of value-add marketing piece. 

Second, the moment the prospect scans the QR code with their phone, the agent receives that person’s contact information. This makes it possible for agents to follow up, often while the prospect is still at the property.   

Make your marketing pieces about the lifestyle in the area

If you plan on using pictures on your marketing pieces, focus on illustrating the lifestyle in the market. If the agent in the example above had included pictures of past clients or of someone other than herself enjoying the lifestyle in her market area, she would have had a much more effective marketing piece. 

Follow the 90-10 rule for all social media posts

When it comes to posting on social media, the 90-10 rule is a proven approach that you should follow: 90 percent of your social media posts should be responses or comments on posts made by others and only 10 percent should be about you and/or your business. 

Don’t tell them you’re the expert in your area — show them

A great way for an agent to become a local neighborhood expert is to conduct video interviews. 

For example, interview the head of the planning commission, the local football coach, the owner of the most popular pizza place in town, etc. If you participate in charitable fundraising, interview volunteers. Post your videos on YouTube, Facebook, Instagram and on your website to establish your expertise not only locally but online as well. 

Provide potential clients with the information they want

Here are two headlines that you can use in your print, digital and social media marketing. 

  • “Why these properties sold in less than 7 days.”
  • “Three reasons these properties sold over asking price.” 

You can explain this in a social media post, on your website, or in a short video that you post on Instagram or YouTube. 

In terms of what to say, make sure you are subscribed to the most recent version of ChatGPT.  

Next, ask it, “Using your search app and Python, “Why would properties in this city or specific market area within a city and state, sell in seven days or over asking price?” 

This approach provides you not only with the answers but usually with the links to the sources as well. Look for the quotation marks at the end of responses to see the URLs ChatGPT used in its search.

Negotiation — the other deadly place that the me-me-me approach can sink your business

When it comes to using real estate scripts, most of the advice that’s out there focuses on that same “hunt-em, tell-em, and sell-em” style. People don’t want to be chased, and they don’t like being “sold to.” 

Here are guidelines to follow whenever you use a script that will keep you focused on your client and help you overcome objections more effectively. 

Scripts never feel ‘natural’ at first

When you’re working on mastering a new script, it never feels natural. If you practice it repeatedly, however, it becomes second nature. Practice, practice, practice.

Use ‘charge neutral’

Avoid talking down to your clients, having an edge or being manipulative. Instead, use a tactic called “charge neutral,” the calm, quiet voice you would use when you’re trying to comfort a child or friend who is upset. This is the tone you should use whenever you use a script, especially when you’re practicing. 

It’s not your house, it’s not your mortgage, and it’s not your decision

Whenever you feel like stepping in and telling the client what to do or giving your opinion, always remind yourself, “It’s not my house, it’s not my mortgage, and it’s not my decision.” 

In fact, the more you talk (as opposed to asking your client questions), the more likely you are to say something that will turn the buyer off. Keep your opinions to yourself.

Objections are buying signs

When buyers object to a feature in a property, most agents conclude that the buyer isn’t interested in the property. The exact opposite is true. When your buyers object to a feature, they’re actually picturing themselves living in the property.  

For example, how would you respond when the buyer says, “I hate the tile floors”? If you’re like many agents, you may think it’s time to move on to the next showing. 

Other agents will try to overcome the objection by telling the buyer how to solve the issue. 

Agent: We could ask for a carpet allowance, or I could refer you to someone to install new hardwood floors.  

Rather than trying to fix the problem, a better approach is to use what I call a “move-them-into-the-property-close.” 

Agent: Would you replace the tile, cover it with carpet, or replace it with the same type of hardwood floors that you have in your current home?

No matter how they respond, they have answered your question as if they are the owners of the property. 

The most crucial phrase in negotiation: It’s your choice. What would you like to do? 

The agent’s role is to be a conduit of information to help the buyers make the best possible decision. Emphasizing that “it’s your choice” makes the buyers feel like they’re in charge and helps avoid them thinking you’re manipulating them. 

Getting rid of ‘me-me-me’ in commission scripts 

How would you respond when a seller asks you to reduce your commission? You can easily see the “me-me-me” language in the first script below: 

Agent 1: 

I understand your concern about the commission. However, I believe that the services I provide and the results I deliver are worth the commission I charge. My goal is to sell your property for the highest possible price in the shortest amount of time. Through my premium marketing plan and negotiation expertise, I can help achieve that goal. The value I bring to the table should far outweigh the amount you pay in commission. 

This script uses “I” and “my” a total of nine times. The second sentence is particularly impressive using “I” four times. 

Agent 2: 

If you’re not interested in marketing your home using premium services, would you like a referral to a limited services agent who does not provide this level of service?

To use this script, you will need to provide the seller with a copy of your premium marketing plan that contains a checklist of the services that all agents provide, that your company provides, and at least three services that you provide that are different from what most other agents offer. 

What makes this second script so effective is that there’s no mention of “discounters,” because people love discounts. Second, virtually no one wants an agent who only provides “limited services.” Third, the agent doesn’t try to defend their commission but instead provides an alternative-choice close that the seller is likely to reject. 

Which choice will you make?

Whether you’re a newbie or a 40-year veteran, today’s consumers have no use for “me-me-me” marketing and negotiation tactics.

Instead, agents should embrace client-centric approaches that include making their marketing materials about the client, following the 90-10 rule for posting on social media, becoming the local neighborhood expert by providing insightful local content creation, and avoiding “I” and “me” language when negotiating. 

By implementing these changes, agents can avoid falling into the me-me-me trap and build a long-lasting, successful real estate career. 

Bernice Ross, president and CEO of BrokerageUP and RealEstateCoach.com, is a national speaker, author and trainer with over 1,500 published articles. Learn about her new and experienced agent sales training programs at BrokerageUP.com plus her latest initiative to help women build wealth and secure their financial independence at RealEstateWealthForWomen.com 

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