Do You Think Like a Real Estate Salesperson or a Real Estate Marketing Professional?

Why thinking like a marketer is so Important to success in sales!

Do You Think Like a Real Estate Salesperson or a Marketing Professional Who Can Attract a Steady Flow of Clients and Real Estate Leads? 

Working with real estate salespeople day after day, I see a huge waste of time, money and energy that comes as a direct result of agents thinking like a salesperson instead of a marketing professional. Unfortunately, most agents have no formal training about what marketing is and how it relates to their sales activities. While most agents have gone through a significant amount of sales training, the sales training they get revolves around classic sales skills that assume that face-to-face or over the phone selling skills are all you need to succeed as a real estate agent.

This training doesn’t cover the impact that marketing has on the overall success of an agent. The reality is that most real estate trainers do not have a marketing education or come from a marketing background. They were successful sales people that enjoyed training and management, and they teach agents what they did to succeed as a salesperson, which only works if you have agents that are clones of each other.

So, what exactly is the difference between sales and marketing and why is it important that you understand how marketing and sales work together?

The classic definition of marketing is; Marketing is comprised of the total impact of all activities involved in the transfer of goods from a seller to the buyer, including market selection, product or service features, design, packaging, branding, advertising, shipping, storing, selling, delivery and post-sale customer service. Selling is one just one step out of the complete marketing process and is defined as a salespersons’ actions that are used to induce (someone) to buy something when they are face to face or on the phone with a prospect.  Ok, I know you are thinking, “I just wasted my time reading that.”  What it means is that great marketing makes sales much easier and excellent sales skills maximize the ROI from the investment in marketing.

How Marketing Works

Think about companies like Nike and Proctor & Gamble, which rely purely on the marketing process to persuade people to buy their products. When was the last time you walked into a store to buy a product like toothpaste and a Proctor & Gamble salesperson walked up and gave you a sales presentation on the advantage of Crest, Tide or any other P&G product? P&G relies on the impact of their marketing and advertising to create a buyer who walks into the store predisposed to buying Crest or Tide, over all the almost identical product choices that they have in the store.

Classic sales methods were designed to work without any marketing support. From the early-1930s to the late-1970s, there were countless numbers of direct salespeople who sold aluminum siding, cookware, encyclopedias, vacuums and a myriad of other goods, simply by knocking on doors and giving a sales pitch and then closing.

Supporting Your Sales Function

By the early ’80s, Two-income households were the norm, and people became less tolerant of door-to-door sales, and most pure direct sales companies disappeared. The companies that survived were the ones that found a way to give their salespeople marketing support – companies like Avon, Tupperware, Amway, Herbalife, and others. These companies’ marketing activities created demand for the products that their salespeople sold, making the salespeople more productive. They also moved from door-to-door selling to home parties, group meetings, seminar selling and other methods that combined marketing with selling.

The old-school idea of a salesperson was someone who could sell icemakers to Eskimos based on their charismatic personality and closing skills. I remember one of the real estate sales training seminars I attended in the 1970s was titled “How to Convince Anyone to Sell their Home Anytime.” It was a hardcore sales script using a combination of fear and humiliation to make people sign a listing on the spot. I remember the trainer telling us, “Remember, this presentation works on average one out of every 25 times you use it, and it will also get you thrown out one out of every 25 times.” At this point, I realized that if this what being a real estate agent was all about, that I would never make it. I believed there had to be a better more professional way to persuade people to do business with me.

A Better Approach to Building a Marketing Driven Business 

In marketing, I found what I believed was a better, more professional method for succeeding in real estate. The secret to marketing is strategic thinking, planning, and execution. You have to pick a target market that you have a passion for. Develop a point of differentiation and marketing message that makes it easy for prospects to remember you so that you can drive your personal brand into their consciousness. This predisposes them to calling you when they have a need to buy or sell a home.

Finally, you have to execute your plan. Your marketing plan shows exactly how your marketing message is going to get in front of your prospects and when to send email, mail brochures, what ads to runs to run and who those ads work with your website and branding concepts, what support materials to send out when people do respond, the follow-up plan that converts leads into clients through a well throughout set of email, mail, online retargeting ads and landing pages that create a powerful predisposition to select you a an agent so that when you actually talk to a prospect for the first time they are 80% sure that you are the right agent for them. This requires an agent to make lots of difficult decisions and trade-offs and to develop the patience to let the marketing plan run long enough to actually start working – which is normally six to nine months.

To Build a Business, Resist the Lure of Instant Gratification

Instant gratification: the problem that too many sales people get bogged down in the marketing process. The number of decisions and sacrifices they must make overwhelms them, and so does the cost associated with developing all of the pieces needed to execute a plan. Finally, they struggle to actually execute the plan consistently over time. As the decisions, organizational details and costs of building a marketing campaign bury them, the lure of getting the instant gratification of a short term sale starts to pull their focus away from marketing and turn it toward short-term sales activities like working FSBOs, cold calling for an hour a day and door knocking from 6 to 7 each night.

They think why waste all that time and money on marketing when you can just go out and cold call expireds? This is why I believe the majority of agents end up failing in real estate and those who do survive simply hang on for ten years until the referrals from their past client base start to kick in and they finally make a decent living.

Along the way, most agents end up trying some sales gimmicks that a trainer or manager they know referred to as marketing. The litany is endless: mailing free CMA flyers, holding a raffle for a new TV, car or other prize, giving away flags on the 4th of July, pumpkins at Halloween, notepads, pens, chip clips, calendars, and a host of other promotional stuff agents give away. Recently I was asked to judge a special marketing meeting for a large company that had a number of offices. Agents had been asked to bring their best marketing concept to this meeting and share in front of all the offices. Three mangers and I were asked to pick the winner from what we saw presented.

Sales Gimmicks Are Not Real Marketing

I was totally dismayed as agent after agent got up and presented some sales gimmick, open house invitations with cute bunnies, mailing out half a dollar bill and promising the other half if they would come by an open house, paper weights, social media gimmicks, magnets, beautiful presentation packages to give to FSBOs and expireds. During a break, the owner came up and asked me “What do you think is the best marketing concept you have seen so far?” I told him that I had not seen a single marketing concept during the first two hours. I explained that what I had seen was a bunch of short-term-oriented sales gimmicks that no matter how clever or cute, were hit or miss pieces at best. I realized that most agents think sending out a flyer or giving away a notepad is marketing, and that is why most of them become disillusioned with marketing and why most end up failing as agents.

A great real estate marketer starts by looking at two things. First, the marketplace they are in and, second, their skill set and personality. Then they, based on who they are, determine what segment of the market is most likely to relate best to their personality. They then look for their unique marketing proposition. A UMP should be something that is very hard for your competition to copy and something that you find naturally exciting and compelling. Then you need to take that and turn it into your core brand identity. This is made up of your core point of differentiation, and turning into a personal logo, slogan and graphic design that you will use in every single piece of your marketing. Then go to work on creating a basic marketing plan that will be used to deliver and differentiate your brand in client’s mind so that they want to do business you long before they ever meet you.

This all takes time, money, focus and it’s hard work. In many ways, it’s like growing crops. You have to analyze the soil, select the right crop to grow in that soil, add fertilizer, plant your seeds, water it, weed it and care for it during the spring and summer. All this is done so that when the fall rolls around you have something significant to harvest.

Commitment is Key

The most frequent question I have been asked over the last 30 years is something like this: “I can see how marketing is the way to go, and I really want to build my business through marketing, but how can I get started without limiting my options by having to actually pick a niche and by spending almost no money?” It is like a farmer saying, “Well, I don’t really want to commit to growing corn, because I know the wheat market could be good next year, and I really like beans as well, so I think what I will do is plant my field with mixture of seeds from the five crops I think will get me the best price next year.” We know the outcome will end up in failure, but we get to avoid having to make the difficult decisions that must be made.

Yes, you can succeed through a pure sales approach to real estate. Every now and then, I meet one of those incredibly rare, totally disciplined selling machines, who doesn’t get burned out using some script to try and close prospect after prospect. But they are very few and far between.

What’s Your 10-Year Plan?

I tell agents, in the long run, it is better to go back and get a salaried job for awhile, save up $15,000 to $20,000 to invest in executing a marketing campaign and then approach real estate as a marketing business. If you were advising your teenager who just graduated from high school whether they should go to college or not, even if it meant working part-time, borrowing money and struggling a little bit, would you advise them to go out and get a job as soon as they could because a job will make them money today, or would you advise them to invest in their education so that in the long run they are much better off?

Ten years from now your life will be determined by the choices you make today. The question is really simple: Which approach to real estate will ensure your life will be what you want it to be ten years from now? The direct-prospecting person plan or the marketing driven business plan?

I would love your feedback on this article. Send your answer, along with any questions or comments, to


Greg Herder

PS: If what to know how your marketing plan is or if you would like to improve your marketing plan press the link below and take my Marketing Review Questionnaire. It will take you about 15 minutes to complete, and it will make you think. For a limited time, I will be giving a free one on one, 30-minute marketing recommendation and consultation call for everyone who completes the Marketing Plan Review. 

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