Tag : sellers

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Sorry: “Sold!” Isn’t Enough For Sellers

Six years ago tomorrow, my wife and I moved into our current home. Since moving here, we’ve witnessed something uncanny or at least new to us. Real estate agents regularly ask us to sell our house. Once or twice, they’ve done it in person on my doorstep. One of my neighbors actually sold his brand new home—that wasn’t on the market—to a stranger who knocked on his front door and asked him to sell it.

A few months ago, I received one of these solicitations by way of a postcard. It didn’t convince me to sell, because my wife hates moving and says we have to live in our house at least a decade. It did intrigue me, though, because I rarely see auction companies pursue sellers so well. The graphic design wasn’t impressive. The photos weren’t groundbreaking. It’s copywriting wasn’t clever, but its message was something I can rarely convince auctioneers to use.

Scan of Postcard mentioned

Without that message, I am uncomfortable wasting auctioneer’s money on advertising to sellers. Every winter, a line of auctioneers call or email me about getting more sellers. This winter was no different. The consultation unfortunately doesn’t continue long after I ask them the following questions:

  • What makes your auction service uniquely better than a seller’s other options?
  • What do they get with you that they won’t get anywhere else?
  • What is your typical seller’s pain point?
  • How do you solve that problem?
  • What supporting evidence do you have to prove that you consistently solve that problem?

No matter what the seller problem is, it typically comes down to one or more of the following:

  • They want (or need) money in a hurry.
  • They want (or need) more money than what other sale methods might net them.
  • They want easier money—fewer negotiation exchanges and/or no contingencies.

Instead of telling sellers we can get them more money, faster money, and/or easier money, we in the auction community tend to push something ambiguous like a transparent process or true market value. Sellers don’t want true market value. They want the most money possible. 

Sellers Want More than "Sold!"

Most of the auctioneers I’ve consulted this winter want me to tell potential sellers that they can get properties or estates or equipment sold. The problem is that those sellers don’t doubt auctions sell stuff. They want to know prices realized relative to the market. Like you and me, they’ve seen real estate and personal property sell for pennies on the dollar in auctions; and they’ve seen news stories about art and jewelry that sell for record-breaking figures. Most of the sellers we’re pursuing aren’t in the Sotheby’s/Christie’s asset categories; and they want reliable information to assure them they won’t lose their shirts. 

“Sold!” isn’t enough. 
“Sold at auction!” isn’t, either.

As an industry and as individual companies, we’re up against objective headlines like the one on this postcard:

SOLD IN ONLY 3 DAYS
$3,100 OVER ASKING PRICE!
Another happy client!
Learn about our “Easy Exit” listing agreement

To be sure, not all real estate markets are like the one in my school district. And this probably isn’t the result of all of Acree Brothers Realty’s listings even here. Every hit isn’t a home run. It doesn’t have to be. Unlike a listing, almost every auction we conduct should result in at least one of the three headlines—more money, faster money, or easier money. All we need to do is consistently tout that. For $35, you can tell sellers about that auction’s more/faster/easier result for a week in your market on Facebook. If you don’t think your potential sellers are part of the 70%+ of U.S. adults with a Facebook account or the 50% of U.S. adults who check Facebook daily, you can mail a postcard showcasing a group of your results to your top prospects every couple months for about a dollar a piece (not counting design).

Successful sales—whether auctions, buyouts, or listings—are your best seller acquisition tool.

If you’re not having more/faster/easier auctions, then you need to chase people who don’t care about how fast a transaction takes, how much they’ll make, or how difficult the process will be. Those folks comprise a niche for another discussion. Everyone else—farmers, retirees, debtors, collectors, consignors, loan officers, mansion owners, middle managers, estate executors, and special commissioners—they’re all looking for more money, faster money, and/or easier money.

Successful advertising happens when a company connects their solution with a consumer’s need, want, or aspiration. If our advertising doesn’t start there, it won’t usually get there. That must be our lead, our focus, our headline. Customers won’t care about our services until we prove we care about their situations. The auctioneers who do that best and most often get to be the ones with the best and most frequent commission checks.

Another Samples
This postcard arrived in the mail two days after I wrote this post after a door hanger solicitation the previous day.

Stock images purchased from iStockPhoto.com

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193: You Want More Sellers, But What Do Sellers Want?

Everybody’s looking for more sellers. I know this, because auctioneers constantly ask me to help them get more.

Some of the emails I procrastinate most to answer are the ones in response to the materials those auctioneers send me to assemble into direct mail. I don’t like telling people that sellers don’t care about what they think is important.

Sellers don’t need to know how long you’ve been in business, how many employees or offices you have, or in what trade associations you’re a member. Sellers don’t care that you won a bid calling contest in 2007 or won some advertising awards (they’ve never heard of) in 2012. Sellers rarely care how many sales reps you have or how much combined experience they hold. Outside of institutional sellers, your prospect base doesn’t care in how many states you have licenses.

Sellers want to know you’ll get them the best deal possible.

It’s not enough to tell them you get stuff sold. Few of your prospects would be surprised auctions end in transactions. What they doubt is that sellers get the good end of the deal.

Americans see house flippers buy houses at a bargain on TV. Many hear about companies going bankrupt and banks trying to get what they can. They know that car dealers make money off cars they buy at auction. I’ve even seen an ad claiming that its readers could “Buy at auction prices!” So, “SOLD!” doesn’t mean as much as you think it does.

Sellers want as many of the following as possible.

Most Cash

Bottom line. Will you net them a bigger payday? Can you show comparable sales from other marketing methods or a track record of surpassing assessed value? I’m not talking guarantees—just a pattern of strong prices. You don’t have to offer a buyout, either. The number one obstacle you’ll have to overcome is the fire sale perception of auctions. If you can’t prove that you reliably achieve market value for your assets, (1) don’t use clichés that imply that you do; and (2) emphasize one of the other two selling points.

Sellers want fast cash

Fastest Cash

Auctions are not always or necessarily the fastest way to get money for their assets. In a world with Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, and Ebay’s Buy It Now, an auction can seem like too long to wait. In real estate markets like mine, where sellers get multiple offers within 24 hours of listing, it can be hard for sellers to forego the bird in the hand for the two in the bush. If your past sellers go on record about the speed of their closing or if you have statistical evidence of your quick turns, leverage that. Otherwise, emphasize one of the remaining two selling points.

Sellers want easiest cash

Easiest Cash

Consumers (including your sellers) are willing to part with money if it means less pain or inconvenience. They probably don’t know that they want or need is an auction. They just want a solution. Short, topical testimonials typically work best, if this is your best selling point. Be careful on the length, since the American adult attention span has weakened now to less than that of a goldfish. No, really. That’s what social scientists have found in clinical studies.

If you talk abut the auction method or “accelerated marketing,” do so only in context of how it generates the kind(s) of money they seek. If you can’t prove that you can provide more money, faster money, and/or easier money, don’t waste your hard-earned dollars on company promotion. Instead, spend your institutional advertising budget to beef up your auctions’ asset advertising to look better than your competition’s campaigns—and let potential sellers make their own assumptions.

If you can prove any or all of the above, sell the heck out of them to people who look just like your past sellers. Don’t shoot one piece into the ether and wait for the Brinks truck. Create a systematic series of digital and/or print touches, and brand them with a consistent look and familiar message. If you come across as empathetic and competent, you’re more likely to grab the sellers everyone wants. That means you’ll get the deals that your competition inside and outside the auction industry won’t.

Stock images purchased from iStockPhoto.com.

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Reach the Bidders You Didn’t Know You Were Missing

There’s a sneaking suspicion in many auction marketers—and definitely in their sellers. We wonder if there was a stone unturned, a motivated bidder that wasn’t reached by our advertising.

Did we cast a big enough or tight enough net?

Missing Bidders PosterWhat people weren’t in our mailing list broker’s database?
Who didn’t read the newspaper during the weeks prior to the auction?
Who didn’t drive past our sign out on the highway?
Did any emails go unopened or straight to junk folders?
Did we choose the right demographic selectors on Facebook?

The auction community prides itself in bringing the whole market to bear on an asset at once. We tell potential sellers that we’ll deliver true market value. We rightly trumpet our concentrated advertising campaigns.

Still, there’s that whisper, that gnawing question—especially when the auction price is low and even more so when it was an absolute auction. Did we find everybody?

One of the biggest developments in advertising over the past couple of years has been a partial solution to that mystery. This development has made mailing lists more powerful, web traffic more valuable, and Facebook just short of necessary for finding buyers.

Big Data for Small Businesses

In addition to the vast amount of data users give Facebook about themselves, Facebook also buys data from outside sources and matches that information to its user base. Bank and mortgage lender records. Vehicle ownership. Purchase histories. Web site visits. As a result, this data gets woven into an astounding web of connected dots. Using advanced algorithms, Facebook can then match people with common denominators.

So, after you find the people you think are likely buyers, Facebook can find people who look just like your intended audience. With Facebook’s Lookalike Audience tool, both purchased lists and in-house lists can be matched with people just like them for use in Facebook ads.

With the free Facebook Pixel code installed on your website, you can also now direct Facebook ads to people who recently visited your auction’s page or the page of a similar auction on your site. Then, with the Lookalike Audience tool, you can advertise to people who look just like the people who came to your website.

Over the course of your advertising campaign, as more and more people view your auction’s page on your site, Facebook can learn more and more about the people coming to your site and hone the audience of your Facebook ads.

Facebook Loop

So, whether you start with just a Facebook list of demographics [B] or if you upload lists to Facebook [A], you can create a set of ads that learn and improve their effectiveness over time. You can access an automated database that keeps getting more robust. Your advertising can reach people in the cracks between the groups of people you can find yourself.

An Impressive But Imperfect Solution

Is this Facebook solution circle a silver bullet? No. This is just one medium that reaches less than 80% of the population. Does this mean you’ll definitely find more and better bidders? No, but it’s a superlative start. It’s a more robust solution than what you’ve got now.

Could this concept confront our ignorance? Absolutely.

Recently, I’ve noticed that several of my clients’ Lookalike Audience ads have significantly outperformed not only their uploaded lists but also the Facebook audiences built with the demographic selectors we chose for prospective buyers. In other words, Facebook knew who would visit these websites better than I or my clients did. For the decades of auction marketing experience between all of us, that’s humbling.

It’s also exciting. Now, our lists of past bidders and email subscribers are more valuable. Now, our web traffic can be more meaningful. Now, purchased lists don’t have to be exhaustive. We just need to find a critical mass to get the ball rolling.

Now, we can find the people we weren’t finding—even with our best laid plans.

Illustration built by request from Fiverr.com
Stock images purchased from iStockPhoto.com

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161: Creative Ways to Get Past the Gatekeepers to Your Prospects

Last year, one of my clients asked me for a creative solution to attract major developers to a multimillion-dollar auction. The property in question was a large expanse of vacant land next to a huge highway and surrounded by hundreds of homes in subdivisions. It was one of those properties that could practically sell itself.

My idea? Go to the property with a trowel; scoop some of its dirt into plastic storage bags; insert an attention-grabbing, moisture-resistant postcard into the dirt; and mail the package to his top 25 prospects.

The call to action: “Here’s some free dirt from your next development project. Name your price for the rest of it now at [insert URL].”

What do you think the chances are that the recipient visits that link? 

Effective advertising is interruptive and disruptive. It stops what the recipient is doing. Then it changes their focus, even if temporarily. We stand a better chance of getting prospects to our marketplace—our website—when our advertising “interruption” shifts the prospect’s focus and attention to us, and away from their task at hand.

Having been inundated with various advertising media, savvy consumers have become adept at filtering ads—blurring them into the background and mitigating their disruption value. We’ve enlisted SPAM filters, DVRs, remote controls, station presets, banner ad blockers, and even monthly subscription fees to keep us in our ad-free safe zone.

So, what is an advertiser to do? Well, one of the best ways to circumvent that consumer defense is the element of surprise; and one of the best vehicles for that is dimensional mail. Dimensional mail typically gets past the gate keepers, even in corporate settings. It furthermore allows for a unique advertising vehicle that is quite possibly underused and unmatched by your competitors.

It’s fairly easy to connect the problems of sellers or intermediaries with inexpensive items like:

Ibuprofen
“We can alleviate your headache.”

Coffee Packet or Energy Shot
“Could your marketing use more energy?”

Empty Plate
“Let us take some of the stress off your plate.”

Toy Handcuffs
“Do you feel handcuffed by your [situation]?”

Socks
(mailed with one sock right-side-out and the other inside-out)
“Does your vendor know [asset category in question] marketing inside and out?”

Unisom
“Carrying costs keeping you up at night? We can help you sleep easier.”

Gardening Gloves
(even better: sent dirty)
“We get our hands dirty so you don’t have to.”

Oreo Cookies
“These should be the only OREOs on your desk.”

You get the idea.

This concept isn’t for mass marketing. It isn’t for everyone on your company’s mailing list. This is for a few prospects at a time. I’d recommend sending a series of these per wave of prospects before following up with a sales call and/or email.

You still won’t “win ‘em all.” I’m not promising an overnight marketing success or some guaranteed silver bullet; but I will leave you with a thought to ponder: which would you be most likely to open and read, though: a generic sales letter or an interesting package with a cleverly-written tag line?

Do you suppose your prospects are any different from you?

Special thanks to Gillian Zimmerman for her freelance editing help on this post!
Stock image purchased from iStockPhoto.com.

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4 Stats REALTORS Use That Auctioneers Don’t

A lot of airports use their interior billboards to advertise their respective metro area’s appeal. Usually, the signs tout the city’s hospitals, higher education, technology, entertainment district, or headquarters of international corporations. Walking through Cleveland Hopkins International Airport, I saw one that fit in none of these categories.

The headline: “Within 500 miles of 43% of the US population.”

I turned to my wife and asked, “What do I do with that information?” I mean, what difference does it make how many people live within 500 miles? That had to be the first time I’ve seen anyone bragging about 43% of anything. So weird.

I’ve actually seen an auctioneer do something similar, advertising a property as only 300 miles from a metro area. I’ve also seen a local real estate agent list Colonial Williamsburg—170 miles from here—as a “local attraction.” (I’ve lived here 13.5 years and never been there.)

Statistics can be powerful tools, though—especially when they support your assertions. I’ve seen small businesses take big sales away from large firms by capturing, sorting, analyzing, and explaining data their competition either didn’t have or didn’t use.

Seller Stats Postcard

Seller StatsMy wife and I live in a fast-growing subdivision in my area. People who don’t live in our subdivision get on our neighborhood’s Facebook page to ask if anyone’s thinking of moving. It’s in high demand because it’s the closest new subdivision to the schools in a coveted district. Also, we have the lowest property tax rates in the area. So, buyer agents are looking for sellers; and one local REALTOR tried to use statistics to tease us to leave.

If you’re auctioning real estate, you should consider using the statistics leveraged on this postcard in your seller presentations. In the seller proposals and presentations I’ve been asked to design over the last 13 years, I don’t need all of the fingers on one hand to count the times I’ve seen any of these used.

Number of Nearby Properties Sold

Only an absolute auction guarantees a sale, but you can give all sellers confidence in the market to bring buyers—if this number is significant. If it’s a low number, you can use that to educate sellers and massage their expectations. If you have a breakdown of properties auctioned vs. properties listed, this stat increases significantly in value.

Local Market Sales Rate

This information is apparently easy to find, because I’ve had multiple REALTOR friends show me this data at different times. This number compliments the first statistic and can give context to expectations. While a metro area or county might be trending one way on the aggregate, a specific slice of it may not. This is true of commercial, industrial, and agricultural real estate, too—even though the statistics might be harder to find or less concentrated than residential numbers.

Average Days on the Market

If this number is high, the time benefit of an auction will seem that much more valuable. If this number is low, the timeline of an auction is actually longer. In that case, you have to sell the competitive-frenzy aspect of auctions. Also, knowing this number might help you in your due diligence to know whether you should take the auction in the first place. (This number might be skewed a bit for our neighborhood, since builders often list their homes very early in the construction phase.)

List Price to Sale Price Average

This stat can indicate that sellers have good sales agents and/or that local comps are reliable, or it can suggest the opposite. If the number is above 100%, you can make the case for the value of a competitive-bidding marketplace. If it’s drastically below 100%, you can discuss how well-marketed auctions—not comps and appraisals—determine market value.

Auctioneers regularly tell me how much they want to work with REALTORS. Maybe they should first pursue working with their statistics.

Postcard scanned. Stock cover image purchased from iStockPhoto.com.

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158: How Auctioneers Can Be Like Presidential Candidates

This presidential election season has been the most annoying and befuddling of the six for which I’ve been eligible to vote. This is the third one with Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube; so, it’s more than social media stoking the fire.

The candidates have changed their opinions and platforms over their careers enough that Stephen Colbert could even use one candidate’s footage to debate himself. Others have assembled similar video presentations for other candidates, as well.

For two hundred years, American politicians have told one audience what they wanted to hear and another audience something else. Because all of us voters vote for our interests or our perspective of the interest of others, it makes sense that politicians play the chameleon game.

The problem now is how easily that deceptive pandering is captured and how easy it is to search for those captured moments. You’d think it’d behoove a candidate to be authentic and consistently honest, but politicians know that all Americans think most politicians lie for political expediency. They also know that if they uphold enough of their party’s platform, the zealots will look past their foibles.

Similarly, many auctioneers often play two crowds with different messages. Amazingly, they rarely get caught. At the same time, the industry as a whole scratches their head as to why the profession comes with a bit of a stigma in the marketplace.

Conflicting MessagesOn one hand, we market auctions to buyers as a place to get good deals (especially at absolute auctions). One auction industry blogger recently candidly admitted that he’d wait for an auction instead of buying an asset for a fixed price, if he had the time to chase the potential discount.

On the other hand, we tell sellers that only auctions will achieve the highest market value. I’ve had to copy and paste that into more proposals than I care to count—including proposals for absolute auctions.

“Well, a talented auctioneer working the frenzy of competitive bidding can get a crowd of people, who registered to bid thinking they’re going to get a deal, to pay more than retail for something.”

That’s true. I’ve witnessed that in person, especially with guns, sporting goods, cars, and collectibles.

What happens when there aren’t enough bidders or the right bidders to get that frenzy started, though? I’ve seen that happen, too: assets selling for pennies on the dollar.

Don’t get me wrong. A number of auctioneers consistently do better than the market with their sales. I’d hire them, if I had to unload the type of assets they sell.

That said, you and I both know that a lot of auctions are contracted not for superlative financial gain as much as an expedited end to a headache, a triage for the bleeding, or quick cash to allocate to another opportunity.

We can sell “high risk, high reward” with integrity. We can sell the time value of money with honor. We can sell superlative results with statistical evidence of our prowess.

But let’s stop selling one thing to our sellers and another thing to our buyers.

Stock image purchased from iStockPhoto.com.

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154: Are You Throwing Away Income on Facebook?

Football Player Lego MinifigureIn the National Football League, commentators use a term to describe why players don’t make specific plays that would significantly increase their risk of injury. The announcers usually say it with a bit of smirk in their voice.

“He made a business decision.”

The player in question could have attempted a tackle or dove for a first down, but the long-term ability to make plays wasn’t worth the short-term opportunity of a single play. I’ve rarely heard a football player criticized for making that split-second decision. In fact, usually quarterbacks are criticized for getting hurt because they didn’t process this kind of situation quickly and wisely.

During this heated political season and the social unrest of the past few years, auctioneers and entrepreneurs have been inadvertently making business decisions. They’ve taken risky shots on social media. They’ve not processed the long-term ramifications of short-term humor and rhetoric. They’ve invested their personal brand into memes and rants and extra exclamation marks.

Political Teams

Whether we root for team donkey, team elephant, team buffalo, team porcupine, or none of the above, a short scroll through our social connections will tell us that we aren’t all on the same team. That’s actually a good thing. At least it can be. Diversity of opinions widens culture’s horizons and sometimes even leads to idealogical dialogue. Well, it theoretically has the potential for that.

Those conversations have merit in proper forums, most of which are offline. In contrast, social media tends to oversimplify nuanced topics and polarize communities through antagonism. The stock photos are either grandiose or intentionally crass. Often, the statistics are fictional or out of context. Rarely do we check multiple sources to verify a post before it’s shared, liked, or referenced.

The risks for this kind of engagement looms larger than potential egg on the face or estrangement from social connections. As small business owners or sales reps, we can actually reduce future income. See, potential clients—including auction sellers—are going to type a vendor’s name into the Facebook search bar. Unless we’re very careful with your privacy settings, they’re going to see our posts. Those playing on different political teams or even just different sides of a specific issue will now mark a mental strike against us. The opposing position might even unconsciously predispose them to disagree with our business suggestions. It’s a risk that rises proportional to the level of acidity or distastefulness they find.

This doesn’t mean that we abandon unpopular opinions or that we avoid sharing them. It just means that we express them differently. Proselytizing or personal growth is more likely within the contexts of face-to-face conversations, book club discussions, thoughtful letters, careful essays, well-researched & sourced infographics, etc. Raise a hand if a Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram post has ever changed your political stance on anything. If they’ve never worked on us, what hubris or ignorance does it take to assume they’ll sway others?

For each of us, some issues might be worth losing business to defend. How and when we defend them, though, can determine the amount of personal credence and professional respect we lose in the process. It is possible to respectfully disagree.

Multiple writers have attributed a quote to Michael Jordan that he actually didn’t say, but the invented statement holds a lot of merit. The global sports icon has (after retirement) endorsed and financially supported Democratic Party candidates including President Barrack Obama. Initially, though, he chose brand building over political involvement. The reason was summarized in this famous fictional line:

“Republicans buy sneakers, too.”

Stock image purchased from iStockPhoto.com.

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