Without question, we have entered one of the most precarious and dark times in both world history and our profession. Where do we go from here? When the dust settles, how do we restart our businesses?
Realtors who were around during 9/11 and the 2008 global financial meltdown will recall that the taps shut off for inbound leads overnight. This time around, it seems even more personal, even more dire.
In many markets across the country, we have seen strong seller market conditions. The tide will turn though. We will see worried sellers and unmotivated buyers nationwide. This environment is where we, as true professionals, will earn our salt. Unfortunately, many markets in Canada, particularly in the West, have experienced such challenges for some time.
We will survive this. The taps will re-open and we will get through this difficult period. However, to succeed, each of us needs to create an action plan focused on getting back to basics, trimming expenses and staying positively focused. Shrink your budget, but not your time nor your effort.
The best salespeople in our industry don’t just sell houses and condos. That is only one aspect of their work. The top salespeople are also the best communicators and have an incredible ability to connect with prospective buyers and sellers. More than ever, we must communicate clearly, confidently and dispassionately. Although our communications must show empathy, they may also include “tough love”: giving sellers information that may be hard for them to swallow but will ultimately help them make decisions that will be in their best interests (although they may not see it that way at the time). In difficult markets, compelling and well-priced listings still sell. Listings will in turn generate buyers and the cycle of our business will restart.
The COVID-19 crisis has created inertia in our business. Let’s get the ball rolling again. When buyers fear missing out on a good deal, they’ll jump in. When sellers fear losing more capital, some will start to price ahead of the market. Where buyers’ and sellers’ fears of missing out intersect is where we will be able to put transactions together.
This leads me to our action plan.
Step one: Getting back to basics
Start by buying 100 (or 500) non-branded thank you cards.
No one gets handwritten notes anymore. They are truly very special. All of our communications tend to be so impersonal. Start by handwriting notes (yes… handwriting) to your recent past clients (beginning with the most recent transactions and working backwards). Thank them for doing business with you and add a warm thought you have about the client, their family or their life. Include your business card because, after all, we are businesspeople.
Start by writing 20 to 25 notes of appreciation a day. If your budget doesn’t allow for card purchases, create your own personalized letterhead on Word, print off the sheets, and then hand write the note. Or try to find a local purveyor of handmade greeting cards. Every city has one. I found Inkwell while visiting Halifax a few years ago. Let’s support Canadian small businesses like our own.
Dig up all of your past opinions of value.
Reach out to those people. Are they contemplating a move in 2020? This can be done through your contact management system, in bulk. Better yet, pick up the phone and call them.
Step two: Trimming expenses
Analyze your business.
Speak with your accountant and your managing broker. Where can you cut unnecessary costs? Where can you best focus your efforts? You probably now have more time than money. Pick up the phone and make some calls, simply to touch base.
Social media engagement.
I mentioned the support of small businesses and taking a positive approach to your own business. Social media is the least costly method for building visibility.
Here’s a thought: Write down the names of 10 small businesses that you have supported over the years. Call each owner or manager to say that you would like to highlight their business. When it’s safe to do so, maybe you can shoot a brief amateur video of yourself baking bread with the baker in your favourite bakery; donning an apron and making a cappuccino in your favourite coffee house; interviewing the organic greengrocer. Or arrange a group of friends to clean up a park or public space and post your achievement. You can be the voice of your local neighbourhood. YouTube features countless videos to teach you how to ramp up your social media presence.
Step three: Stay positively focused
Change your attitude.
Be positive. Present market facts (dispassionately). Present your best advice and strategy to your sellers. Pricing is more important than ever. Be positive in your social media posts, advertising and newsletters.
Expect traditional public open houses to bring poor results.
Yes, this is the new world order. Will buyers fear congregating in groups? Will they shift their consumption patterns online in even greater numbers? Will sellers continue to have reservations about public open houses? You will need to find new ways to connect with people. This further emphasizes the need to connect with past clients on a highly personalized level.
There will be business this year. Simplify your business structure and get back to basics. Devote more effort and more of your time on it. Together, we can get through this challenging period: we will survive this.