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Work the Right Customer Base/Users/adamp/Desktop/APR08/Optimized/MakeOver

Our expert shows this new sales associate which prospects to target.

Jackie Fortier was a professional real estate assistant for three years before she made the switch to real estate sales last summer. If anybody knew the ins and outs of the business and had the drive to succeed, she certainly did.

But success hasn’t come easily for this sales associate with Cinderella Realty in Kissimmee. She regularly puts in 15-hour days holding open houses for builders and investor-owners of short-term rentals near the Disney corridor, but is dismayed that her long hours have produced less-than-stellar results.

“I love what I do, and I’m not afraid of hard work, but I haven’t gone anywhere yet,” she says. “And as for listing appointments … who has the time? There must be a better way.”

Bring in the Expert
Real estate trainer Pat Zaby weighed in on Fortier’s situation. Here’s what he had to say.

1. Work Smart
 For the last seven months, Fortier has held open houses for the short-term rental properties that her company lists for its U.K.-based sellers (none of which is hers individually).

“Mostly, I’m educating [prospects about] the market,” Fortier explains. “Vacationers come down and stay in the houses. Some are interested in looking at a vacation home. I’m there to answer questions, and I get to meet so many neat people.”

 “What jumps out at me, Jackie, is that you’re working plenty hard, but you’re not doing the right things,” Zaby says. “You could be the best at what you do but if you’re not making money after seven months, my gut reaction is that you’re trying to work the wrong market.” He recommends that Fortier start targeting owner-occupied properties because they’re still selling. “Even when interest rates were 18 percent back in the 1980s, people were still buying properties to live in,” he says. “So, regardless [of] what kind of market you’re in, you’ll still find buyers.

“Investors are spoiled rotten,” Zaby adds. “They’ve heard every urban myth about the market, and they want to pay 50 cents on the dollar.”

2. Become a Buyer’s Advocate
Zaby likes that Fortier is holding open houses—but he thinks she’s wasting her time on vacation homes. “This is the hardest market to sell,” he says. “Tourists may visit homes on a rainy day because they can’t go to Disney. And the gestation period could be five years, but you need to sell something now.”

He encourages her to appeal to the broadest portion of the owner-occupant market. “If you meet a potential buyer who doesn’t own a home right now but eventually wants to buy something, become their advocate.”

3. Put Builders on Hold
Fortier spends much of her time working with builders, but Zaby advises her to rethink that as well. “Builders are in a horrible position now,” says Zaby. “The main reason they want to work with sales associates is to hand off their marketing costs to them. But keep in mind that the only thing worse than not making a sale is racking up expenses.”

4. Reach out to the Right People
“Remember the AT&T commercial, ‘Reach out and Touch Someone’? You should do that every day,” says Zaby. He suggests that Fortier block out time on her calendar to contact people. “Whatever time you’re at your best, block that out like an appointment and call people,” he says.

For inspiration, Zaby wants Fortier to go to and look up the National Association of Realtors®’ image campaign, which consists of vignettes of different buyers explaining why now is good time to buy.
5. Stay in Touch via E-Mail
An e-mail campaign is another inexpensive way for Fortier to build her new market, Zaby says, and he encourages her to find unique occasions to stay in touch. “There are basically eight days a year that it’s recommended to fly the American flag,” he says. “They’re all predictable, so if you could do a campaign saying, for example, ‘Tomorrow is Presidents Day’ and then e-mail a little history. Then, if you picked up their birthdays and anniversaries, you’d reach people 30 times a year and distinguish yourself from the zillions of other agents in Florida and around the country.”
6. Continue Your Education
Finally, Zaby shares the advice his mother, also in real estate, gave him when he was starting out: “There are two ways to learn in life. One is through personal experience—but the tuition is too expensive. The other is to learn through other people.”
He recommends that Fortier check out the Graduate, Realtor Institute and Certified Residential Specialist (CRS) courses. “I’d like to see you take two courses a year. Start with CRS 201 (advanced listing practices) or CRS 202 (advanced sales techniques), and spend four to six months applying what you’ve learned. Review your notes, build an action plan and work it.”  

This column provides advice from industry experts concerning marketing, technology and business issues. It won the Silver Award in the 2007 Best Column category from the Florida Magazine Association.