April 27, 2022

How to Keep the Deal Alive - Closing Bigger Clients Part 2

Before you can sell a brokerage or Agent team on any sort of partnership, you need to understand what they’re trying to accomplish. I'll break down what Brokerages really want and how to handle their objections.

Paul Chareth

When Flylisted started with Tonomo 1.5 years ago they were just 2 people. Now they have grown to a 13 person full time team and the top real estate marketing agency in their area.

We invited Paul to give his thoughts on how to handle objections and keep your deals alive. 

In case you missed it, here's Part 1 in the series on Winning Bigger Clients.

Growth with Partnerships

It’s only the first 4 months of the year and I’m closing a a partnership with a top brokerage that will add $1 million to our bottom line this year.

This deal is only the latest in my partnership program that now includes over 3,000 agents across my territory.

These deals didn’t throw themselves into my lap. The burden was on me to grind, keep us top of mind, and handle objections. The real estate industry can be frantic and full of distractions. If you want to close deals, you need to master managing the relationship.

I’ve found there are two things that can go wrong when working on a big deal. First, they’ll have specific objections that you’ll need to address. Second, they can ghost you even if the conversation is going well.

The solution to both of these problems starts with understanding brokerages and how they work.

What Big Customers Need

Before you can sell a brokerage or Agent team on any sort of partnership, you need to understand what they’re trying to accomplish. My friend Brendan Hsu dug into this in the first article of the series, but I have a few extra points.

First, you need to understand that nine times out of ten, the primary goal of any brokerage manager is to acquire and retain excellent agents. For a brokerage or leading agent team, good agents are their lifeblood. Good agents bring more deal flow, losing agents cost them big.

Now, don’t make this assumption. It’s always better for the customer to admit it themselves instead of you stating it for them. Do this by asking good questions about their goals for the year and the challenges they’re facing. Listen for key phrases like “we just lost a couple of agents last month.”

Next, you need to understand if they are subsidizing the marketing costs of their agents. This helps inform your pitch.

If they aren’t subsidizing their marketing costs, your next step is to educate. Subsidizing marketing is one of the best ways for brokerages and teams to attract talent. It isn’t necessarily even about the marketing media. It can be about how the marketing process is streamlined and the agent can spend less of their valuable time on marketing.

On the other hand, if the brokerage is subsidizing marketing costs, then your sales process is more about direct competition. Where are they getting those marketing services? Are they satisfied? Are they accomplishing their goals with their provider? Again, check out Brendan’s breakdown on needs assessment.

Because you’ve done your homework on this brokerage and you’ve already been chatting with some of their agents, it can be good to learn about all of this beforehand. It’s always a good feeling going into a sales pitch where you already know the answers to the questions you’re asking the decision-maker.

Who are the Decision Makers?

But who is the decision-maker, because it’s not always going to be the first person you get on the phone with. The decision-maker is most often going to be the brokerage manager or lead agent of the team.

If you’re talking to a “marketing manager” or “operations manager”, you may be talking to someone whose goal is to get the cheapest price in marketing, not solve the primary goal of the brokerage.

Pop-quiz - remember what that was?

Acquiring and retaining top talent agents.

If you’re talking to someone who isn’t the decision-maker, they can be a useful ally, but they can also be getting in your way. They may be so concerned about your solution, that they don’t want to spend time on the problem. The “problem” is your ammo. You need as much detail about the problem as possible.

Ask “is there anyone else we should include in this conversation?” or more directly; “is this a partnership you’ll be able to sign off on or is there someone else we should include in the conversation?”

Here’s how I get around an obstacle to the decision-maker: “Hey, this has been a great conversation, lets start a group text with the manager, can you introduce us?” Everyone’s texting. It’s not weird to work sales through text.

This keeps my new ally engaged, but gets me closer to a yes without getting bogged down in the details.

Top 3 Objections

Once you’ve got in front of the right person, you understand their real problems, and you’ve discussed how you can help, you may start to hear objections.

Objections aren’t necessarily a straight “no”. They may be hesitation, a reason to slow down, or a “Yes, if something else happens first.”

I’m going to walk you through the top 3 I run into.

Objection 1: “Not right now”

First, you know as well as I do that real estate is seasonal and agents and brokerages never say “no” to deal flow, they just work more hours! So a “not right now” may not be the end of a deal. It may mean their pain associated with their marketing problems is not as large as the pain of the deal flow on their desk.

So don’t be annoying and push during a bad time. Someone who is truthfully in a busy month of their busy season should go on to your drip-feed. Send them an article, meme, or thought you had related to your conversations every few weeks.

Follow them on instagram, like a couple good posts every week and drop them a weekly comment.

The point is to stay top of mind so that when they have a slow week, they want to sit down.

These days, most of your deals are going to happen over text and Zoom

Now the other kind of “not right now” is the blow-off. It’s a lazy objection people might throw up for no reason at all. If I get the sense that’s happening here, I’ll be empathetic and tell them I understand.

Then a week later I send them a text with a link to my instagram post of a killer project we did in their territory and say “Hey, we just completed this project in [neighborhood] for [brokerage].”

That usually causes a little bit of panic that their competitors are putting together excellent marketing and they need to get their act together before they lose agents.

Objection 2: “You cost too much”

The dirty secret of brokerages is that they actually aren’t that price-sensitive on marketing. Compared to the volume of deals a top agent brings them, a few hundred bucks per order that they’ll often recoup through higher commissions is nothing.

So frankly, while I hear this one, it rarely is a serious block to closing the deal.

My shooting team that needs paying!

I negotiate this objection by saying something like:

“Look, we work just like buying anything in bulk. If you’re ordering a lot and it’s a really good relationship, of course we can discuss price point. But just starting out, I’ve got to pay my team, cover my bases, and make sure that we execute flawlessly on your projects.”

They’ll have had the exact same conversations with agents as they recruit them. The agent asks for a better cut on commission, the brokerage says “not yet, but we’ll see how it goes.”

If price is still a sticking point, my next strategy is to add goodies to the deal that add value for them without costing us much. I’ll throw in websites for every order. I’ll throw in annual headshots for their agents. Or maybe a virtual twilight per order.

I get the same revenue, and yeah, those services cost us something but compared to lowering the price, it’s a win-win.

Objection 3: “My agents won’t use you”

Here’s another dirty secret of selling to brokerages: just because you sold the brokerage manager, that doesn’t mean the agents will use you.

That may be surprising, but agents have their own biases and preferences in marketing. Maybe they don’t see the value in your offering. Maybe their cousin does their shoots for next to nothing.

But a self-aware brokerage manager may know that no matter how much they like your offering, they can’t control if their agents use you or not.

This is where I bring in my secret weapon. Remember earlier how I talked about how I’ll keep a marketing or operations manager engaged in the conversation even if they aren’t the decision-maker?

Well guess what, they heard their boss say “I want this to succeed, but I need help doing it” which any good manager would think “If I help this succeed, I’ll get credit.”

I turn this person into my Flylisted Ambassador. The job of the Flylisted Ambassador is twofold; customer service and sales.

That’s right, I get someone who works for my customer to do my customer service and sales for me.

The customer service is easy enough. Booking through my system is super simple, so I host a 30 minute call where we walk through the portal together.

As for sales, the marketing or operations person is already fielding questions and support requests on marketing efforts, and so I need to make sure we’re staying top of mind. We are the solution to those questions and support requests about marketing.

I do this by “buying them coffee” by sending them a $5 starbucks card to their email. Then we hop on a call, I ask about how business is and what they’re hearing from their agents. We chat for 15 minutes once a month or so and that’s it.

Other times I’ll send them swag or gift cards to a local shop or something. Little simple things because no one else is doing this for them. They manage lots of vendors and not one of them talks to them unless there’s a problem.

This makes the Flylisted Ambassador one of my best “employees” to head off problems before they get to me and get me more deal flow.

Getting Started

Your first deal may not be a $1 million dollar partnership and frankly, I wouldn’t recommend it. I recommend starting with some local relationships, some agents who you know well and are part of a local brokerage.

If you’re looking for a way to get started, check out Brendan Hsu’s Part 1 in the Winning Bigger Clients series.

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