Competition in real estate is “electric”, says Raine & Horne’s Ric Serrao, who adds that it has never been more important for agents to differentiate themselves from their competitors in the industry.
In this episode of Secrets of the Top 100 Agents, the number five-ranked agent joins host Tim Neary to give listeners the inside track on how he effectively prepares for and manages listings presentations, as well as how building a rapport with clients and truly personalising each experience has allowed Ric to source business from his competitors in real estate.
In this episode, find out:
- Why vendors trust confident figures in real estate
- The importance of preparation for successful listings presentations
- Why agents needs to differentiate themselves to succeed
Tim Neary: G'day everyone, it's Tim Neary here. I am the editor of Real Estate Business and host of the Secrets of the Top 100 Agents show. Thanks for tuning in. This is the show where we bring in and chat to the very best agents in Australia.
Very pleased to welcome on the show today, ranked number five in the REB top 100 agents ranking for 2017, from Raine & Horne Double Bay and Bondi Beach in Sydney's eastern suburbs, it's Ric Serrao. Hello Ric, and welcome to the show.
Ric Serrao: Hey Tim, good to chat to you again.
Tim Neary: Yeah, yeah, it's really good to have you back on the show. Now, the last time you were on the show, we sort of talked about the generic stuff about the business - the database, the building the business, building your brand. And today I want to just drill down a little bit more into the more granular stuff of the industry. I want to talk a little bit about listings, and a little bit about selling. So if we could, let's start there.
In my mind’s eye, and correct me if I'm wrong, but you would go into a listings presentation … I would see that there would a sort of pre-listing routine, a listing routine, and a post-listing routine. So let's just talk a little bit about that.
Ric Serrao: Okay.
Tim Neary: How do you start? What is your pre-listing routine? What do you do?
Ric Serrao: Thank you for the 30 seconds of preparation.
Tim Neary: You're welcome! We like to wing it!
Ric Serrao: All good. I guess this industry, my philosophy is that you can't sell what you don't have. So it is all about listing, listing, listing. And effectively there's a process that will get a property sold.
So, pre-listing. A call comes out, or you've been prospecting. Pre-listing kits should just be a norm. Try to make a pre-listing kit relevant. We've gone to the extreme where we've got some amazing folders with video and what have you. And you know what? Some of the best competitors, my best competitors and colleagues out there, will go in with, when they go into a listing, with two pieces of paper. But they can do that because they've got the skillset and the personality to get things over the line.
Tim Neary: Right.
Ric Serrao: So I think, stick to a process even with a pre-listing kit. Make the information relevant to that client. Try not to have too much fluff. And I think have a pre-listing kit that is also e-mailable, with video, and hardcopy.
Tim Neary: So what needs to be in that kit? What are the things you need to cover off?
Ric Serrao: In my opinion, a client, depending on your property that you're going for, or how you've been called into it, they either calling out your company, or they're calling out you, as a person. So your profile's important. Everyone should have either their own profile video, or a brochure on themselves. As we all know, we're always being Google stalked. I think we should have something in a hardcopy as well. So, something about yourself. Not how many billions of dollars that you've sold in the last three weeks, but the human touch. Do you ride horses? Do you enjoy swimming? Whatever it may be, something about you.
A lot about your company in terms of what your company specialises in is very, very important. If you're part of a franchise, always sell the strength of the marketplace in terms of numbers. If you're a boutique, well, you reverse that at the end of the day. Recent sales, as we all know, should always go in. Be very careful about how you put that in. Don't always put them in as if you've sold them. Sometimes you've got to be a little bit generic as to the company has sold it, or your network has sold it. But comparable sales, marketing budgets, timelines. Always be prepared. I pretty much send everything out in my pre-listing kit that I'm going to repeat at my listing presentation.
Tim Neary: Okay. I read somewhere once that in writing a novel, you never put a revolver on the fireplace unless you're gonna use it later on in the story.
Ric Serrao: Oh, I see. I like that, I'll pinch that from you.
Tim Neary: So I guess it's the same principle. How soon before the listing, or how ... what time do you send it out?
Ric Serrao: I tend to send out, whether it's email and/or hardcopy, as soon as I get that invite. Now, I'm not a big fan ... It's funny. I remember doing a course many, many years ago and they said "Don't be too keen. If you get call out or that appointment, don't drop everything and go there this afternoon or early in the morning. Be hard to get." Bullshit. Get out there-
Tim Neary: Things have changed.
Ric Serrao: Things have changed. You snooze, you lose. Your competition, the standard out there, is electric. As Tom Panos said recently, "How do you compete with people that don't sleep?"
So you get that call, you go out there whenever it's appropriate. How soon? As soon as you possibly can.
Tim Neary: Okay, cool.
Right, so you've sent the listing kit out, and then you get ready for the preparation for business for the day.
Ric Serrao: Listing kit. Send out a text to confirm, before the appointment. Send out a text to confirm again in the morning. Make sure you've got a copy of the listing kit. Find out who you're meeting. Hopefully they're the decision makers. Is there more than one decision maker? Do your research via social media, see if there's common connections with that person, or likes, dislikes, so that you've got a little bit of know-how about that person, if you can, of what you might start talking about when you get in the front door.
And I've got to tell you, when I go in the front door, I'm actually not talking real estate. I'm trying to talk about them, the property. We're all trying to find common denominators.
Tim Neary: Okay. And what are you looking for? Is our common denominators probably something that you know that you've found it when you've found it?
Ric Serrao: Yeah, exactly. Open the front door, you're polite, you're polished, and you're trying to connect, connect, connect, connect, and connect.
Tim Neary: And build rapport.
Ric Serrao: And build rapport.
Tim Neary: And yeah.
Ric Serrao: Recently it was interesting. Recently at AREC one of the speakers, and I'm embarrassed, I've forgotten his name. He was saying how we are always trying to get the client to like us. But the reality is clients want to deal with people that like them. So whether it's complimenting them on things- you might see something that you connect with in the house. But be a little bit of yourself, rather than the stiff person who's there just to list the property.
I had an appraisal last night which went for just over two and a quarter hours. We started at 8:30 in the evening, and we talked real estate for the last 12 to 15 minutes. But we got the business.
Tim Neary: Yeah. And I wanted to ask you that. It's a good point you actually bring up, is how long should the listing presentation be, and at what point do you go for the close of the sale? And I think you've already just answered that, but I'll let you do it again.
Ric Serrao: It should be as long as it needs to be. I think one of our biggest challenges is cramming. There's nothing more important in my opinion than the listing presentation. So if you've already pre-determined who's going to be there ... is it just a walkthrough? Okay, a walkthrough is going to take you half an hour to 45 minutes. If you're going to have to do a full presentation, I always allow two hours. I always try to take somebody in with me, so if I need to give the signal that I'm going to be late for the next thing ... I tend to actually pick up a lot of business from other agents that were rushed. Or the client felt that they were too busy and rushed. So take your time with it. If it means you need two, two and a half hours, to make a connection and impression, that could be the difference between making or breaking that deal.
Tim Neary: Yeah. And I get it. It's a good example that you use - that the presentation may go on for a long time, and it depends on who you're dealing with. If you're dealing with somebody that's fast and sharp it'll be short. If it's somebody that likes to chat, it'll be long.
Ric Serrao: Yeah. I mean that's the ... I hate using this- well I don't hate using this analogy, I seem to use it a lot, only 'cause I've got a lot of males in my team, and I always say "It's like a relationship. This is the foreplay stage, you know? Take as long as you need to get to the end, so to speak."
Tim Neary: Yeah. And then talking about getting to the end, so to speak. There would be some things in that listing presentation that you would want to cover off.
Ric Serrao: Yes.
Tim Neary: That there would be -
Ric Serrao: I mean there's basic stuff, not always regimented though.
Tim Neary: Yeah. And you would work them in, so you'd [wing 00:08:27] them into the-
Ric Serrao: At the end of the day, you're always there to try and walk out with a signed agency agreement.
Tim Neary: Yeah.
Ric Serrao: But you've got to feel it, at the end of the day. One thing that I admire a lot of people that do, is they role-play different situations, because it's an expensive exercise when you're trying to feel something in a listing presentation.
So, things that are always going to be covered are: obviously, yes, fees are going to be covered. Marketing timelines, what shop somebody needs to do to the property to present it, do they need styling, do they need something repaired. Offer yourself as a project manager, where you will oversee all of those things. Take the stress away.
I mean, don't forget, they're interviewing one, two, three, four, five agents. And as far as they're concerned, the vendor's concerned, we're all the same. Hence why the commission thing always comes up. So you've got to show empathy, and a point of difference.
But yes, what's going to be covered? Sometime during that hour to two and a half hours, you will talk about fees when it's appropriate. You will talk about marketing. You will feel whether you're going to jump straight into an auction campaign, or whether you're going to do a two-stage campaign. You'll feel it, and a lot of that is experience, unfortunately.
Tim Neary: You get a gut feel for it.
When you talk about a two-stage campaign, what is that?
Ric Serrao: So what's very popular in the marketplace at the moment is very much a case of "Well why don't we list it now, get a contract prepared, and bring our qualified buyers through."
So the client's not feeling that they're being rushed into "I've got to go to auction." They may feel intimidated by that.
Tim Neary: Right, okay.
Ric Serrao: So hence a two-stage situation.
Tim Neary: Okay. And then if you don't sell it there, then you take it to auction.
Ric Serrao: Yeah, conclude it. Yeah. The ultimate is to ... I actually think everything should go to auction personally, especially in this marketplace, but doesn't mean that that client's there yet.
Tim Neary: Yeah.
Ric Serrao: And yes, although you're there trying to get the okay to move forward with that listing, and close it, sometimes they're not ready. And sometimes you're expecting, and they're not ready, and you ask another- you spend a bit more time and they are ready.
Tim Neary: Yeah.
Ric Serrao: But I think in the listing presentation, they've also got a bit ... They've called you for a reason, so you can't pussyfoot around, and feel that "Oh, I'm a salesperson, and we like get it" or whatever. Have a bit of a conviction, have a bit of authority, you know? Clients will respect you. You are the professional at the end of the day.
Tim Neary: They've called you in as an expert, so they're looking to you for some guidance aren't they?
Ric Serrao: Yeah. And a point of difference.
Tim Neary: And a point of difference.
So, for example, you would go into somebody's lounge room, and they would tell you that they want to sell the place, and you would see, because of your experience, that there's some things that need to change. Do you talk to them about that part? Do you say-
Ric Serrao: Hundred per cent. You'll always guide them as to things that you feel, but you'd be sensitive. Whether certain things need to be de-cluttered, and it's got, you know, sentimental value. So take the time to explain why things need to be de-cluttered. You can also be ... you know, what do they say? The bull in the china shop.
Tim Neary: Yeah.
Ric Serrao: And say "this has got to be the way it's gotta be done." It will probably need to be done the way you want it to be done, but maybe in stages. But I think you go straight into things, and offer the service. We as agents today have to offer value. With disruptors and this, that, and what-have-you, so to show value, always show yourself as the person who's going to embrace the whole situation for them. It's more than just opening up an open-for-inspection these days.
Tim Neary: I like the way that you say that as well. As that, you show value, you open it up for them, you show the whole package, and you offer the service. So rather than going in and saying "We need to change that", or "That needs to change", or "You need to change that", say -
Ric Serrao: "I can do this for you. I can organise this for you. I can get quotes for you." You've got to give them a reason to want you.
Tim Neary: To go with you.
Ric Serrao: Yeah. At the end of the day, yes they have to like you, they have to trust you, they have to feel comfortable that your profile is the right profile to sell their property, but you've got to make it easy.
Tim Neary: Yeah. Make it easy for them. I like the way that you put that.
You also said a little earlier, you mentioned that word "experience". And I suppose that that would come into the play at some stage in that listings presentation; that you would get that instinct to say "now's the time to talk about- are you prepared to sign." Or how do you do that? At what point do you go for the close, if I can put it that bluntly?
Ric Serrao: I'd love to be more specific, but you just simply feel it. You go through, you start ... I try to use the timeline as my test for if someone's ready or not. So when I'm going through a timeline, and you're talking to them, "Can this be achieved by this?" They're "Oh no, we can't because of ... " Okay, well you back off a little bit. Try a different timeline. If they're working with you, "Yes this can be achieved."
So you've gone through it all. We had one on Sunday, and the client was thinking of listing much later in the year. I explained to that client my concerns in the marketplace, and she's just gone "Well, hey, I'll leave it to you." Bang. I didn't actually expect, believe it or not, to list it on a Sunday. It was more of a walkthrough.
That's the other thing as well. When you walk in that door for a listing presentation, have everything that you're going to need. I see so many agents going in thinking "Oh. They're ready to sign, and I didn't bring my paperwork." It shits me.
Tim Neary: Rookie error, yeah.
Ric Serrao: Oh, hello? I mean, you're there. Presume you're going to walk out with a listing. Even whether you try to close or not, have all the information with you.
Tim Neary: Yeah, yeah. It's a bit like Jack Nicklaus said at one time. You know, "Jack, you so often nail that last putt on the 18th. How do you do it?" He says, "Well in my mind’s eye, I never miss a putt."
Ric Serrao: That's well said.
Tim Neary: And it's the same thing. Go in there assuming that you're going to get the listing.
Ric Serrao: Yep.
Tim Neary: You may not get it, you may not on that day -
Ric Serrao: Be prepared.
Tim Neary: But if you do, you can do it.
Ric Serrao: Because, I mean, how many times have we gone into properties that you thought wasn't going to be ready. They are ready. You've then thought "Okay, well I'll send you the paperwork." And you've pretty much got the verbal go-ahead. Next day, next two days, someone else has beaten you to it. And you think "Aaw!", you know? Rookie error, but also an experience error. Always be prepared.
Tim Neary: Yeah.
Ric Serrao: So, actually, in saying always be prepared, have your folder with you. And in your folder just have your basic budgets. Have your basic kits in terms of timelines. Have all your auction days. Have some testimonials. Just stuff that you can pull out if need be, rather than just being generic.
Tim Neary: But that's also good advice, and I just want to take a step back to the golf analogy, and I'll explain this. It'll all become relevant as I go through.
In golf, the golfers talk about having three putts in their bag. A short putt, a medium putt, and a long putt. And wherever the ball is on the green they can pull out that putt to get it to, or into, the hole. Is it the same in a listings presentation? That there are say three or four or two or whatever it is, generic listing presentations?
Ric Serrao: Oh very much so. I mean, my folder, specifically has got four budgets in it. Whether it's digital, whether it's with print, and the different sizes of print. So you've got variations that you can pull out at any time. Number one.
Number two, I've got our auctioneers profile. I've got our company profile. I can mix and match. I've got my exclusive agency, I've got my auction agency. I do have an open agency, although I try to not use those open agencies. I try and just … If I've got to make it an exclusive for a short period of time, at least make it an exclusive for a short period of time.
Tim Neary: Yeah, yeah. But you've got it in case you need it.
Ric Serrao: But it's there.
Have your comparable sales. We've got quite a large database, so I'll always do a buyer match. 'Cause let's face it, before you go into a property, you know roughly what that property's going to be worth, within a range. So be prepared with doing a buyer match of how many people you've got on your database with a specific price range. It's the little stuff.
Tim Neary: Yeah. And I guess also, if you're in the presentation, and you're talking to the buyer, and the buyer starts going, and you're going with the buyer, and then they start asking you some questions which are starting to get sort of off the norm, and you can cover them-
Ric Serrao: You mean the seller.
Tim Neary: Oh sorry, the seller, I beg your pardon.
And you go off the norm, and you can cover them, then that seller's going to start to go with you, and start to get confidence in you as you go along.
Ric Serrao: Yep.
Tim Neary: Ric, let's just move on a little bit now. So, in that listing presentation, let's assume you get the presentation.
Ric Serrao: Yes.
Tim Neary: What's the next step? You get the listing. What is the next step? What do you do from there?
Ric Serrao: Yes. Okay, the next step is to leave them with a summary before you walk out that door. "This is what's going to happen in the next few days, the next few weeks." You then follow that up with an email as to "This is what we're planning to do. Johnny's going to be there on Wednesday, and he's going to do this, and I'm going to be there doing this." So you reiterate -
Tim Neary: Become the project manager at that stage.
Ric Serrao: Yeah. So, you become the property manager that night, you confirm verbally what you're gonna be doing. You send it out in writing the following day. Obviously if you haven't left them a copy of the agency, email them a copy of the agency, so you're protected within the 24 hour scenario.
I often think, because of cooling off periods, the next 24 hours is very important. Because don't forget, if they interviewed other agents, they will be calling other agents to let them know that they've missed out. You need to really work the next 24 hours. Some agents still like to send out a little gift. I don't. I don't think it's warranted. I like to just service the client with communication.
Tim Neary: Okay, yep. And I think the gift is also a way of staying in contact, and staying in contact is another way of staying in contact.
Ric Serrao: Yep, yeah. And then, what happens next? What happens next is the process that you've embarked on, whether it's a two-stage campaign, whether it's going online, whether it's going to auction. Whatever you said you were going to do, you need to do.
Tim Neary: Start putting it into practise.
Ric Serrao: Yeah.
Tim Neary: Let's assume the worst, and you didn't get the presentation. What do you do now?
Ric Serrao: You don't get the listing. I think the most important thing is to tell the client how disappointed you are, in a nice way. And how you felt that you were the better agent. Always ask for feedback as to why. They may give you a corny excuse. That's fine. Sometimes you get some genuine response. But always ask the question.
And then ask them if you don't mind keeping in contact with them, and that you wish them the best of luck, and that they should feel free to contact you at any time, or do you mind if I check in on you in a few weeks to see how you're going.
We've been very, very lucky with the market in the last few years, but markets changing a little. Days on markets are gonna blow out a little. So from that point of view, leave yourself open to getting it second time, or third time around. So many agents bag other agents, or go off when they miss out. I'm so glad that happens, because it's where I pick up a lot of my business to be truthful. If I have missed out on something, I can almost say I've got a greater than 80 per cent chance of getting that listing second time round.
Tim Neary: And I suppose it comes back to what you were saying earlier as well, about when you go into the lounge room, you want to spend all that time sort of building rapport -
Ric Serrao: Yes.
Tim Neary: And getting to know that person. So you establish that relationship with the person. If they don't go with you, there's a reason they haven't gone with you, but it doesn't break down what you built up before. And if you don't break it down, you can pick that up at another time when the conditions are right.
Ric Serrao: Well said.
Tim Neary: Right. We're sort of getting to the end of the show, but I just want to talk a little bit about, you get the listings, assuming that you've got the listing, and selling it.
So, just sort of marketing best practise, and I would imagine that there would be certain milestones that you would want to check -
Ric Serrao: There's a process.
Tim Neary: Let's just go through the process.
Ric Serrao: Okay. I'm very fortunate to have a couple of assistants that help me from a paperwork point of view. We just have a standard checklist which I'm happy to send out to anyone that contacts us. I'll send it off to you Tim.
Tim Neary: That's be great, yeah.
Ric Serrao: And it goes through to the A to Z of everything that's gotta be done. But the standard things are ... look, it's all about communication. We can go through the nitty-gritties of things, but there's some basics that don't change. Communicate, communicate, communicate.
As I say to clients, if you're my age and you're not great with social media, and you're dealing with clients that are very much tech-savvy, or they just want an email, or be SMS-ers as I say, or Snapchatters, then adopt that. But if you're a younger person coming through, learn to pick up the phone and talk to people! It's what we do.
So, basic things that we do, which I know we all do, but I'll just reiterate. After every open-for-inspection, a client gets a text. If you're savvy today, clients will get little videos as well, from the open house, to say what has just occurred. So you'll get a text and you get a phone call. Clients want to know that day, and preferably not before the late afternoon, as to how their open house went.
Tim Neary: 'Cause they'd be anxious, wouldn't they?
Ric Serrao: Of course. As you would be if you were a consumer. So it's important. Don't leave it till the Monday. You're setting yourself up for a negative scenario. So yes, it's important to do callbacks, but the first callback you should be doing, or communicating to, is your vendor.
Tim Neary: Yeah.
Ric Serrao: At the end of the day. Now, I'm not saying you need to contact your vendors every day, but you need to, at least once a week, have a verbal discussion with them, and you need to set up a meeting. We have a text that goes out after each open-for-inspection. We have a verbal discussion as to how the open went. Monday mornings, we'll give them another call, and between Monday and Tuesday we'll send out a written report as to internet hits, what Mr and Mrs Smith said, what Larry said.
Tim Neary: And then you go through it more detail.
Ric Serrao: Yep.
Tim Neary: Hey Ric, it's been terrific, and we've sort of run out of time now. I think I'd like to do a Ric Serrao series as we go forward, and it'd be good to talk a little bit about, in some detail, that open-for-inspection that day. In the kind of level that we went through in terms of the listings presentation, you know, the do's and the don'ts of the open-for-inspections…
Ric Serrao: You know what? Opens are where I would suggest that I pick up most of my business, in all fairness. If it's not by referral. I call myself a little bit of a lazy agent; I don't like to door-knock these days. I think you try and specialise what you're good on. But open-for-inspection, it's when you are on show. It's the theatre. I actually send out to my staff mystery shoppers. Not from a negative point of view, but these are experienced people that have bought and sold that are going in, and they're trying to see, "Right, is the right light on? Is the blind angled the right way? Does the salesperson know the basics? What's the land size? The internals, product knowledge."
We do a lot of quality control, but we can talk about that later.
Tim Neary: Okay, I'd love to talk about that, and I love the way that you talk about it as being the theatre, because I think that's what it is and it's a great way to describe it.
Ric Serrao: Yeah. As we all know, clients are coming in for two reasons. They either want to buy a property, or they're researching to see what their place is worth and who they're gonna use.
Tim Neary: Yeah.
Ric Serrao: Tim, good to talk to you.
Tim Neary: And it's a good idea to have that in your mind, so you know what you're doing.
Ric Serrao: Well we go to ... I wouldn't say extremes, but you know. I remember going down to Paddy's Markets about six months ago, and bought 8,000 soft toys, 'cause you can buy it in bulk and there's like a dollar each, right? And we give out soft toys to the kids. It just breaks the atmosphere up, and you get clients, moms and dads, saying "Oh, that's very thoughtful, very nice of you." Well you just want them to connect with you little bit more. I've got salespeople that have water at open-for-inspections. They're all little things. We used to give out a lot of pencils for example, for the kids, and colouring books. That got a little bit crazy, but you've just gotta think outside the square, you know?
Tim Neary: Yeah, yeah. Ric, terrific to have you on the show again, and look forward to getting you back next time.
Ric Serrao: Thank you Tim, all the best.
Tim Neary: Nice one, thanks Ric.
Remember to follow us on all of the social media stuff, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn. You can follow me also on Twitter @timothyjneary if you'd like to do that. Realestatebusiness.com.au is where you'll find us, bringing you stories there on the business of real estate across the whole of Australia, and on my guest today, Ric Serrao. Thanks again for tuning in, and we'll see you next week. Goodbye.