Above and Beyond Customer Service
For Gail Sterling, customer service isn’t just lip service—it’s an obligation.
Gail Sterling, sales associates with RE/MAX Gulfstream Realty in Bradenton, believes that the more you give, the more you receive. “I always go above and beyond when it comes to customer service,” he says. So far, it’s proved to be his best promotional tool yet.
No task is too menial for Sterling. It’s not unusual to find him mulching a customer’s yard or replacing burned-out light bulbs for an absentee owner. He’ll even arrange for a cleaning service to come out before an open house. He says his “Do unto others” philosophy has helped him and his business partner, Sharon Harris, double their sales—to more than $15 million—during the past year.
Here’s how he does it: 1. Lend a Hand
If a home needs minor repairs or an improvement that Sterling feels will help it sell at a higher price but that the owner can’t afford, he pays for it. To make it work, Sterling allocates some of the per-house marketing budget, which he sets for each listing, to make the repairs.
For example, when one seller desperately needed new kitchen tile, Sterling offered to have it done. “We had the tile laid, listed the house and in four days we had an offer,” says Sterling. “The seller was asking $209,000, and we got $204,000.” The homeowner wasn’t required to reimburse Sterling because the money came out of the marketing budget for that particular listing. “We obviously didn’t do as much advertising,” he adds. “But we got the job done. Period.” 2. Give Unto Others
Thick mangroves blocked the view from one waterfront listing, so Sterling hired the RE/MAX hot air balloon to come out on two separate mornings and take prospects high above the property. “We put people in and lifted them up above the view lines,” he says. “The promotion cost me $7,000 for the TV ads, security, etc.” (Of course, participants were required to sign a waiver releasing RE/MAX of damages.) “It was a great success. More than 100 people came out,” he says.
And Sterling arranges for consumers and other real estate professionals who refer qualified buyers to spend two or three days on a 109-foot yacht—personal chef included. He and Harris are listing agents for Lindell Properties in Tampa, and the developer provides his personal yacht for the occasion. “[The cruise] comes from the developer, not us personally,” Sterling explains.
Everyone who attends one of his broker opens or an open house receives a $10 gasoline card (provided via Lindell and RE/MAX marketing). But the perks don’t stop there. He also gives away $5 and $10 Starbucks gift cards to customers. 3. Spread Your Generosity
Sterling teaches a spinning (indoor cycling) class at a local gym. “I’ll have my gym outfit on, and if [the topic of] real estate comes up, people say, ‘Hey, ask that guy.’ It’s almost like ask the expert. I tell them I’m the Spin Doctor, and they’ll ask me about real estate.”
Sterling loves what he does for a living and enjoys dispensing free tips and advice about the market. “I have about five to 10 conversations about real estate that turn into two to three leads through buyers or sellers a month just from being out there,” he says. 4. Create New Ways of Giving
“I have a marketing background, so I strategize, target ideas and get the budget together and implement the program before we go for it,” Sterling says.
“Our budget depends on how many listings we have during the year. We typically spend about $30,000 per year on advertising.
“The No. 1 thing is that the first thing that comes to your mind—do it! Remain positive and do something that no one else has done.”