Secret #17: You never get a second chance to make a great first impression

I spend about $8,000 per year on pre-listing kits. It may seem like a lot, but the extra sales I win as a result far exceeds the money I invest.

Yes, I’m 100 per cent certain I pick up business from my pre-listing kit. A good example is a Bellevue Hill couple that called me in a few months ago. They had all but decided on another agent – realistically, I was just there to give them a second opinion. But they were really impressed by the professionalism of my pre-listing kit, which made them a lot more receptive when it came time for me to explain why they should pick me and not the other guy. In the end, I won their business.

My pre-listing kit system kicks in as soon as I get off the phone with a vendor to book a listing presentation. I start with a soft copy: that involves sending the client a video through my phone, which thanks them for the opportunity and says I look forward to meeting them.

Me and my team then start preparing the hard copy. This contains a mix of standard elements and things that are tailored depending on the characteristics of the property and the vendor. You can’t be too generic with your content, otherwise people won’t pay attention.

The pre-listing kit comes in a folder. When the client opens the folder, the first thing they see is a video monitor – this starts playing and says, “Thank you for considering our services”. There are some testimonials in the video, including from Angus Raine, there’s some auction footage and there’s also information about who I sponsor. It goes for about three minutes.

The client will also find a letter of introduction, which explains why they should use me or my brand – I choose one or the other depending on my relationship. I also have either my last 20 sales or my office’s last 20 sales on a separate sheet. I will also have a company profile, which explains that I’m part of a network that includes Australian offices and overseas offices.

One thing that works well is a buyer match – we’ll explain that we have a certain number of buyers interested in the client’s specific property. Often, we’ll include their names and describe the relationship we have and what properties they’ve missed out on. Everybody says they’ve got buyers, but I’ve found showing it to them works as it’s right there in front of them.

I also like to include brochures of relevant properties sold – if I don’t have suitable brochures then I’ll just do an APM PriceFinder or CoreLogic RP Data report. I’ll also do a suburb profile. The kit usually includes some PR stuff as well, such as media releases or positive stories about local properties.

I regard the pre-listing kit as my first opportunity to educate the client. So I like to talk about my selling process and also discuss days on market and auctions versus private treaty. I also include a magazine that explains the advantages of print advertising. Finally, there will usually be a photo of a vendor in front of a ‘Sold’ sign, accompanied by a testimonial.

The pre-listing kit is prepared and delivered the same day. I like to drop off the kit because it gives me an opportunity to say hello to the client. That said, I never stay for too long because I don’t want to undermine what I’m going to do in the listing presentation. If the client’s not home, I return at another time rather than leave the kit outside the front door.

I know some agents include gifts, but I prefer not to do so as I think it’s a little presumptuous. What I try to do with my pre-listing kits is to send a message of professionalism, but also to break down the barriers and introduce myself as a human being. We like to tell clients that we’re very good marketers: the pre-listing kit reinforces that message.

Vendors often make comments about my pre-listing kits. A typical sort of comment is, “Oh, we didn’t know you like horse riding.” They suss you out, which is why the agent’s profile is very important. Probably the most common thing I hear is, “Oh, so you really do have buyers.”

Previously, I used to invest anywhere from $5 to $11 in each pre-listing kit. Now the cost is about $100 – $12.50 for the hardcover binding and $88 for the video folder. That may sound expensive, but I see it as an investment in success, so actually it’s good value for money. Also, I’m able to use each video folder about four or five times on average.

How do I get to re-use folders? That’s because when I miss out on a listing, I try to pick up my pre-listing kit. I don’t do that to save money but because it gives me another opportunity to have a face-to-face conversation with the vendor. I tell them that if they’ve got any questions during the sales process, they’re welcome to give me a call. That means I come across as a gracious agent rather than a disgruntled loser. So if the vendor fails to sell, I might get the listing the second time around.

I started as an agent in 1989 and began using pre-listing kits in 2009 after hearing that others were doing it. Over the past four years or so, they’ve gone to a completely different level. I now think they’re mandatory. I’m constantly amazed by how many agents don’t do them.

Ric Serrao is the principal of Sydney office Raine & Horne Double Bay/Bondi Beach. He generates almost 95 per cent of his business from repeat clients or referrals, which helped him place fourth in the Top 100 Agents ranking in 2015 and 12th in 2014. He sponsors the North Bondi Surf Life Saving Club as well as several local schools and participates in the Raise youth guidance program.

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