August, 2008
Feature
Inspection News and Views from the American Society of Home Inspectors



Build Your Business: Sales Presentations to Realtors

GRAHAM CLARKE

Welcome to Smart Tips, a monthly ASHI Reporter feature written by one of North America’s most successful home inspection firms, Carson Dunlop & Associates.  Each month, we  feature a new article that provides some sound approaches to strategic business growth that have been field-tested for success by some of the most experienced home inspectors in North America. Whether it’s sales and advertising strategies, tips on making your business more customer-centric or how to evaluate public relations opportunities, our goal is to stimulate your interest to work on your business rather than just in it.

Approaching a real estate agent for a meeting is difficult if he or she has never heard of you. You should make the approach over the phone, asking the agent to spend five minutes with you. There are three things you can do to make this easier:

  1. Make sure the agent has heard of you. One of the most effective ways to make sure the real estate agent has heard of you is to do a real estate agent presentation. Although, in our experience, these talks do not change the referral behavior of real estate agents, as soon as you pick up the phone to make your first call to an agent, you will know why real estate agent talks are a good idea. The agent will already know who you are and may also see you as an expert.

  2. Make sure someone the real estate agent knows has referred you. How can you get referrals? Every time you meet with a real estate agent, ask him or her to refer you to another real estate agent. For example, you have just met with a real estate agent from the local RE/MAX office. The presentation goes well. Before you leave, say something like, “My goal is to meet with top-producing agents like you. Who else in your office is a top producer?” After taking the names the agent gives you, then say, “Do you mind if I mention your name when I call them?” If you get a “Yes,” it makes your job much easier because your opening line to the next real estate agent will be, “So-and-so from your office suggested that I give you a call.”

  3. The third thing you can do is talk to the other agent attending your inspection. For instance, you are doing an inspection with a buyer’s agent, and the selling agent is at the inspection. Talk to the selling agent.
These strategies will help make the approach easier and increase the probability that you will get a “Yes” when you ask for a five-minute meeting. But don’t forget to offer a trade during the approach. If you ask for five minutes, it’s not a fair trade. Even if it is unspoken, the question the real estate agent is asking is, “What do I get out of it?” You should have an irresistible offer.

Here are some effective tools for generating interest:
  • Have something of value that you can give to the real estate agent. For example, a popular book or a subscription to a high-quality magazine related to real estate may be of interest. If you have material that is valuable to the agent, you can offer this. If it has been published, this also builds your credibility.

  • Speak to the ego. You can tell an agent that you are trying to improve the quality of your inspection service and you would like his or her advice. Could you drop in for five minutes? In return, you will give the agent a gift certificate for a free lunch or tickets to a movie. You may even offer to pay a top agent for some of his or her time. A one-hour consulting fee may be fair.

  • There is one caution here. If you do ask the real estate agent’s advice, you may hear something you are not prepared to, or cannot, do. For example, at a meeting with an agent, we asked what we could do to improve our service. The agent said that we should be available to do an inspection on 30 minutes’ notice, 365 days a year. Needless to say, we could not make that promise. It made it difficult to follow up with that agent, although we pointed out that no one could live up to that commitment.

  • If you have an offer that will help the agent do more business or solve a current problem, you may be welcome. For example, you call and say, “I have developed a system for home inspections that makes the inspection process go more smoothly. Can I drop in for five minutes to show you?” One inspection company uses a team of inspectors at every house, so the inspection takes about an hour. Agents like to get in and out quickly, and appreciate this shortened time commitment to the inspection.
Next month, we will look at the meeting itself.

This article is based on content from “Building Your Home Inspection Business – A guide to marketing, sales, advertising, and public relations,” authored by Carson Dunlop and published by Dearborn Home Inspection. Carson Dunlop also authors the Home Reference Book, Essentials of Home Inspection, the Illustrated Home and, most recently, HORIZON, a unique Web-based reporting system. 

See www.carsondunlop.com or  www.dearbornhomeinspection.com for more information.