April, 2018
Inspection News and Views from the American Society of Home Inspectors

Targeting Your Sales Efforts: Real Estate Agents, Part 1


The first stage of any selling process is to understand your prospects’ needs. Remember that your prospects buy for their reasons, not for your reasons. It is your job to uncover the most important needs of your audience. This is the key to success in home inspection—recognizing what people are looking for and finding ways to deliver it better than anyone else.

What does the real estate agent need?

  • to sell more properties
  • to list more properties
  • to sell the property for a higher value
  • to sell the property faster
  • to remove obstacles to the sale
  • to find tools that help with closing the deal

This list is simply a starting point for identifying these needs. You can probably think of many more.

The Sales Process
Prospecting ensures that the sales funnel is kept full of people who need a home inspector.

The approach is when you ask your targets for permission to sell to them. For instance, the approach happens when you call an agent to ask if you can meet him or her.

The presentation is your discussion of the benefits of your service relative to the prospect’s needs. You must first uncover the needs or problems of your prospect by asking questions. Showing your prospect how your service is ideal for their situation involves handling objections. This relies on your ability to anticipate objections, and overcome them with questions and responses that are well thought out. Create a list of all the reasons an agent may not want to refer their clients to you and prepare your best response in advance.

The close is where you get the agent to agree to refer you for his or her next inspection.

Customer management involves organizing yourself so that you have time to build and maintain your relationships. This means that your customers will call on you over and over again.

The Real Estate Agent (Sales Representative)
Let’s look at how we would step through the process with a real estate agent.

Prospecting for Agents
We’ve discussed prospecting in several articles we’ve written for the Reporter. To summarize, we suggest checking with your local real estate board to find out who the top agents are. You also may find top agents identified on real estate websites and social media. This knowledge will allow you to focus on agents with the highest “prospect value.”

Approaching the Agent
Approaching a real estate agent can be difficult if he or she has never heard of you. You can make the approach over the phone, asking the real estate agent to spend five minutes with you. There are three things you can do to make this first contact 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 presentation in the real estate office. In our experience, these talks do not change the referral behavior of real estate agents; however, 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 also may 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 office. The presentation goes well. Before you leave, you 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 to you, 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. Talk to the “other” agent attending your inspection. For instance, you are doing an inspection with a buyer’s agent, but the selling agent also may be at the inspection. Talk to the selling agent (without giving away any specifics about the home you are inspecting for your buyer, of course). 

These strategies will help make the approach easier and increase the probability that you will get a “yes” when you ask the real estate agent for a five-minute meeting. But don’t forget to offer a trade during the approach. If you simply 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:

Give something of value to the real estate agent for free. A popular book or mobile app related to real estate may be of interest, for example. If you have any printed material that may be valuable to the agent, you can offer this. If you have written an article that 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 their time. A one-hour consulting fee may be fair.

Cautionary note: If you do ask for the real estate agent’s advice, you may hear something you are not prepared to do or cannot do. For example, at one 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, solve a current problem or help the transaction go more smoothly, you should talk about it. For example, you could call and say, “I’ve developed a system for home inspections that makes the deal more likely to go through with fewer stumbling blocks. This system will help you make more money. Can I drop in for five minutes to tell you more about it?” 

There are many examples of solutions a home inspector can provide. For example, 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. Or perhaps there are circumstances that make it difficult for prospective purchasers to get house insurance and you have found a way to solve the insurance issue. (We accomplished this by building a relationship with an insurer who recognizes our inspection reports and offers insurance to our clients when others will not.) This makes the transaction easier on the agent.

There is a cost to the agent associated with anything that may interfere with the transaction. If you can eliminate just one of those frustrations where others cannot, then you are in a better position to present your service as the best choice.

More on this topic will be featured in the Marketing Focus article in the May issue of the Reporter.

Carson Dunlop - Consulting engineering firm devoted to home inspection since 1978. www.carsondunlop.com