I heard past president of the National Speakers Association, Mark LeBlanc say that we as business owners are gamblers. Every day we gamble our time, our money, and our creativity in hope of reaching some sort of definite goal whether it is an amount of money, freedom, or future success. As buyer agents (independent business owners) we gamble the time that we spend marketing our services, the time we spend previewing homes for clients, and the time we may spend at open houses prospecting for our next open house.
If you think in terms that time equals money then we should be equally concerned with what we do with and what NOT to do with our time. Elimination of activities and using technology to maneuver quicker through the day will result in higher production of those activities that contribute to sales. That is of course if you spend time in front of qualified and motivated clients. Let’s examine some of the common responsibilities that buyer’s agents encounter on a regular basis and define maximum efficiency:
1. Searching for contacts in a daytime organizer. Every client or prospect has their own preferred method of communication which in turn needs a separate field to store that information. Let’s use in-person, phone, mail, email, fax, or social media as examples. Browsing through a paper day timer for contact fields instead of using a contact manager will consumer valuable minutes throughout each day which could be better spent on dollar producing activities. The paper alone to store this information could be too much to carry by itself. PDA smartphones that sync with contact managers like Microsoft Outlook have the built in address book can store up to 10 different contact fields for as many as 10,000 people. Since most people consider their phone an accessory like a wallet or watch, they can quickly find the contact’s preferred method of communication from whenever they want from wherever they are located. Press a few buttons and in seconds be dialing faster than you can say, “show the money”.
2. Setting up appointments for showings. Let’s say buyer A wants to see 8 homes on Friday morning, buyer B wants to see 8 homes on Friday afternoon, and buyer C wants to see 8 homes Friday evening for a grand total of 24 homes. This requires 24 calls, half of which will require a callback or confirmation to show. If you had to call or answer the phone 36 times just to schedule appointments for an average 2 minutes each then that could eat up at least an hour a day. When are you to going to have time to prospect if you are on the phone scheduling appointments? Outsourcing showing appointments to a part time staff or virtual assistant can map out the quickest route, give details about the showings in a report, and spare copy to give to the buyer client and cost $10-20 per hour. Even if you are worth $20/hr the reduced stress alone from this admin task is worth far more. A good place to find virtual assistants is at http://elance.com or the International Virtual Assistant Association http://www.ivaa.org/.
3. Operating a separate lockbox key. Total up your number of electronic devices and how many of them need to be charged. Could you lose one? The Some PDA smartphones have software that will open up the agent lockboxes instead of carrying around the little black key box. Also, instead of worrying about whether your key box has been updated, the phone will automatically do this for you every day. Check out http://www.SupraEkey.com for a list of compatible phones.
4. Faxing documents. The biggest time waster of them all. Let’s pretend you just wrote a 20 page contract that includes all of the contingencies, loan commitment, and disclosures signed buy the buyer. Now, we must write out a professional cover letter, include the contact information of the listing agent, and write a nice little note. Type in the number of the fax machine and watch the papers get fed into the machine and wait… Wait… Wait… did it go through? Precious time is wasted waiting for the fax to go through and then wait even longer for the confirmation letter. My favorite scanner is the Fujitsu ScanSnap 510 that will scan front, back, business cards, and receipts. A good thing about the ScanSnap is that it comes with Adobe Acrobat Standard which will help you edit and covert ordinary documents into PDF format. Fax the scanned documents using http://www.Efax.com with your own personalized cover page and receive a confirmation email of the transmitted document instead of handwriting and waiting for confirmation. Attach multiple documents like an email to the fax and say adios to printed paper.
5. Star driving. Some clients will ask to see houses in a specific order. That is usually no problem but by choosing their order will waste your time, their time and your gas money. A star driver is one who drives from one home to the other side of town, back to the other side of town in formation like drawing a star. Instead, use one of many virtual mapping solutions that will outline the fastest route in the proper order without double-backing. Google Maps http://maps.google.com/ will show you the driving route, stopping points, mileage driven and also allow you to switch from driving or walking mode. Walking mode will come in handy for those who work in a dense population downtown city. Did you know it would take 3 days and 22 hours of straight walking from St. Louis to Chicago instead of 4 hours 53 minutes by car?
6. Carbon copied forms. Forms that agents can buy with the carbon copy for clients to sign can be a huge time guzzler for both parties. First, printed forms purchased, organized, and then located. Second, if the form is used then copies are separated and distributed the client. Most forms today can be accessed online and are a service that most REALTOR® Association offer to their members. These online forms can be emailed immediately or batched together in a single email. Paper is often saved, time is reduced, and clients have every document they need in an electronic format. Digital signatures will also help streamline efficiency and resources by not having to print a document to sign, fax, or scan to email. Check out http://www.Docusign.com for more info.
7. Saying yes to every property. A client that sends us a list to see 40 homes in one day probably has not taken the time to review them in detail or may not be serious about moving forward unless they must write a contract today. Telling a client no is probably the toughest thing to do especially when we work so hard to build their trust. We can overcome the every property objection by simply stating, “Mr. and Mrs. Buyer, we can run all over town and see every single house that is on the market but I don’t think it would be a good use of time for the both of you or myself. Instead, let’s do some more homework online and narrow our choices based upon the needs that you have clearly indicated to me. Since this is an area that I know best, I can also help you narrow down the list further. This will give us more time to spend on me being able to negotiate the best possible term for your family.” State these reasons as benefits to them and save more time to spend on dollar producing activities.
8. Performing ancillary services. It costs a lot more than $1 for the CD Rom that stores all of transaction documents to hand to a client. It costs more than $4 for keys. It costs more than gas money to courier important documents to the title company. The biggest bill for these ancillary services is time. If each of these functions are necessary to the transaction and don’t require your physical presence then outsource these to someone else at a fraction of the cost. Produce a checklist of services that you do for every single buyer as a guaranteed level of service. Next, refer to the virtual assistant websites in paragraph 2 that will compile it all for a nominal fee which is far less than what you are worth per hour.
9. Paper transaction detail. Hand written forms and shuffling papers are the optimum time sucker. Each buyer client transaction could produce 25-100 pieces of paper and median 15 different forms. Examples include the buyer agency agreement, relocation agreement, contract, transmittal, survey order, appraisal order, title order, etc. Create these forms as a PDF documents using Adobe Professional and establish common fields that appear on each document. These fields could include primary contact, spouses name, current street address, phone number, relationship status, etc.
10. Waiting for buyers to buy. Buyers will buy when they are ready to buy on their timeline, not ours. It seems only as if we could only have the right scripts, right conditions, and the right temperature outside then our clients will pull the trigger to write. Unfortunately, none of these circumstances exist. Instead focus more time and energy on clients who are qualified, motivated, and under a time pressure to move. Tracking buyer tendencies and motivation can be simplified by enrolling them into a system online. Examples of these systems are ListingBook, Home Buyer’s Scouting Report, and Web Agent Solutions. Now you can see what properties clients are visiting most frequently, how often, and manage them in a contact relationship management system to see these results.
According to Alan Lakein, “Time is life. It is irreversible and irreplaceable. To waste your time is waste your life, but to master your time is to master your life and make the most of it.” Since we spend the majority of our time in our business, it is my opinion the more time we can save, the more time we can spend in the things that matter most to us like our relationships, family, and good health.