A successful North Carolina agent once had a client who, after a two-hour listing presentation, told him that he wanted to think about his decision. The agent said “OK” and went into the client’s living room, sat down and turned on the TV. When the client asked what he was doing, the agent responded: “I’m not leaving here without this listing signed because I know I’m the best agent for you. I’m giving you time to think about it before you sign.”
A successful North Carolina agent once had a client who, after a two-hour listing presentation, told him that he wanted to think about his decision.
The agent said “OK” and went into the client’s living room, sat down and turned on the TV. When the client asked what he was doing, the agent responded: “I’m not leaving here without this listing signed because I know I’m the best agent for you. I’m giving you time to think about it before you sign.”
It worked, the client signed, and the house sold in a couple of weeks.
“It was way out of my comfort zone,” adds the agent, in case anybody thinks he was enjoying himself.
Half of this agent’s business is listings; he’s doing up to 10 appointments a month and he wins more than 80 percent of them.
This story, as told through Inman’s Special Report survey on listing presentation success, falls on the extreme side and is not one to be casually replicated if there’s a chance of any party feeling unsafe.
But it certainly shows how important listings can be to agents who have made a connection and are convinced that they can do an excellent job, especially as low inventory markets dot the country.
The big message coming out of this survey? There’s no magic bullet when it comes to listing presentations.
You have to provide relevant market information and tell your story, of course, but once that’s done, the rest is thinking on your feet and making a real connection with the seller.
A triumphant result from a listing presentation comes in all shapes and sizes, whether it’s sitting at the kitchen table with two Dobermans’ noses in your lap while you present, sealing the deal over a bottle of wine or two or three, arriving with some Chinese takeout or bonding over cars.
The overwhelming advice from the senior agents who responded to our survey — nearly 70 percent had over 10 years of industry experience — is to leave space for listening, solve clients’ problems so they can feel free to make a decision, and do whatever it takes.
Babysit, make the beds before a viewing, drive clients to the city to get the permits necessary to fix a cracked slab — in essence, win them over.
And savvy agents should be looking for ways to bond the moment they meet their potential client or, ideally, before the meeting.
A good pre-listing package can be extremely useful in paving the way for a more relaxed listing presentation, during which the seller gets to talk first and answer questions before you tailor your presentation to them on the spot.
The stats that matter
The survey revealed an array of insights from sourcing listings to getting the contract signed.
Real estate agents are largely finding their listings from their sphere of influence (47.45 percent), referrals, (36.81 percent) and to a lesser extent internet leads (7.02 percent) and expireds (4.26 percent.)
Respondents also reported getting leads through open houses, farming and cold calling/door knocking.
Nearly two-thirds of respondents said they give presentations one to three times a month, a little less than 20 percent were in the four-to-six times a month range, and around 7 percent were on the higher end at seven to 10 times a month.
Respondents’ listing presentation format is still largely hard copy (over 70 percent) with just 13 percent using a tablet, 7 percent on a laptop and 5 percent on email.
Asking which part of the listing presentation influences sellers the most, the survey found that personality, communication skills and the rapport agents developed came in first (31 percent), followed by having a good strategy for marketing their home, (22 percent), the CMA you provide (17 percent), your track record of homes sold (11 percent) and the explanation of the services you’ll provide (6 percent).
Other elements in the sub 5 percent tier that impressed clients were information and statistics relating to pricing strategy, local market data and statistics, information that shows the strength of your brokerage or brand and client testimonials.
The majority of agents (56 percent) tailored their listing presentations based on price point/features, on whether a seller is a repeat client, and depending on a seller’s technology level.
Just over 17 percent said that a good listing presentation did not need many alterations between clients.
When asked how they tailored their listing presentation, one agent said: “I don’t go page by page; I just talk to the client.”
If using a digital presentation, remember your audience, advised one seasoned North Carolina broker with a good listing success rate.
“You may be excited about your digital presentation but most of the time sellers don’t want the frills of electronic,” the broker said. “I’ve had sellers actually thank me for not going through this long digital presentation about what I can do for them. We get down to what they want to know, which is what is their home worth.”
What sets a listing presentation apart?
What most effectively makes a listing presentation stand out, according to the biggest slice of respondents (30 percent) is simplicity and comprehensibility of the information presented.
Twenty-three percent pointed to verbal presentation persuasion abilities, nearly 20 percent said deep local market knowledge is most important, and 9 percent favored a low-tech, personalized approach.
One experienced agent added that the ability to listen at a high level, ask better questions and get on the same page is key.
Displaying skills in social media marketing and forming a connection with a client were also important parts of the presentation, respondents said.
The most commonly used listing presentation tools that respondents reported include:
- PowerPoint (28 percent)
- Cloud CMA (20 percent)
- Canva (7 percent)
- Google Slides (6 percent)
- TouchCMA (5.32 percent).
The 50 percent of respondents who fell into the “other” category also mentioned Vimeo, YouTube, Toolkit CMA, Focus 1st, Evernote, Top Producer Presentation, RPR, MoxiWorks and Keynote. Many also noted using their brokerage’s in-house tools.
The PDF above is a packet one respondent sends to expired listings, FSBOs, sphere of influence and Offrs leads. “I attach a letter to the packet and print everything on heavy bright white paper,” he said.
The biggest listing presentation mistakes
Where are agents going wrong? Respondents ranked potential listing presentation mistakes as follows:
- Neglecting sellers’ preferences and questions (22 percent)
- Coming off as too promotional or sales-y (21 percent)
- Not explaining their value proposition effectively (17 percent)
- Failing to follow up (14 percent)
- Displaying poor market knowledge and offering weak CMAs (12 percent)
One energetic California agent had an answer ready to show his value proposition: “Sellers think we do little to sell their homes. I give them a list of over 100 things I do to earn my money.” It works well; he reported winning 80 percent of his listings.
Other faults our agents see in their markets include agents who “act desperate” and fail to listen.
“I see too much ‘I am’ and ‘me’ talk and not enough emphasis on the ‘you,’ the client,” said a New Hampshire broker with a very high success rate.
Another voiced an unorthodox idea: “What agents need is a muzzle; stop talking yourself out of the listing!”
“Failing to realize the client views his property as very personal and treating it — and the client — with (dis)respect, is another critical error agents make,” said a Hawaiian broker with a 90 percent appointment-to-listing success rate.
In addition, being so intent to follow protocol that you can’t see when you’re disengaging the seller is something that a rookie California agent warns of.
“I’ve seen it where the agent just plods through the presentation, not reading the body language of the sellers and totally missing the cues to move on and get to the point,” she said.
A Wisconsin agent expressed concern for a lack of professionalism after noticing a “marked increase” in agents allowing sellers to determine the price, also known as “buying the listing.”
“It seems that so few agents today really know and understand the market,” she said.
Handout submitted by a respondent.
Being unable to immediately tailor your presentation to address the needs of the potential client can bring you down, said another respondent.
An experienced Arizona managing partner who coaches her agents recommends a more informal approach to the listing meeting and a collaborative step-by-step process in choosing a suitable price.
“Good research should not be presented but shared with the seller so that they can see values in the neighborhood,” she said. “Then compare that with competition and then select a reasonable price entry point based on their needs.”
With agents being criticized for their failure to follow up after their listing meetings, we asked respondents what about the best way to check in (and the best time to do so).
Our respondents recommended a phone call (42 percent), a handwritten note (35 percent), email (9 percent) and text message (less than 2 percent).
Over half of respondents thought the best time to follow up with a potential client after a listing presentation was after 24 hours, while over 20 percent said immediately and 15 to 32 percent said after 48 hours.
It can never be too soon, argued one trainer/agent from Birmingham, Alabama, who claimed to win 100 percent of her listing presentations.
She said: “Pulling out of the driveway, using Slydial, I’ll say: ‘I know we just met but it has been my experience oftentimes people have questions that they forgot to ask during our time together. Please feel free to call me and ask any additional questions.’”
And here’s another idea: Sending flowers or bringing by a cake the day following the presentation with a thank you card is a gesture that a Californian coach makes with a high success rate.
What would most improve a listing presentation?
We asked what changes would most effectively raise the standard of a listing presentation, and the most popular suggestion was improved graphics/design, (24 percent), better understanding of technology/tools, (17 percent), a better pool of scripts/responses to handle objections (16 percent) and savvier price negotiation tactics (14 percent).
Another handout submitted by a respondent, which “comes out in part three of our listing conversation after reviewing seller needs and pricing. By the time we get to this, we spend about 5-10 minutes going over it because they are [ready] to sign.”
Pre-listing information sent to the seller prior to the listing meeting can pave the way for a more relaxed listing presentation, added a number of respondents.
While nearly 30 percent didn’t use a pre-listing packet, others swore by them. The most important part of a pre-listing packet was to provide an outline of skills (23 percent), a personal marketing brochure (21 percent), and testimonials from past clients (19 percent).
“My pre-listing notebook provided by my broker includes good information that will answer many of the seller’s questions before I come in person to discuss how best to market and sell their home,” said a Texas agent with two years of experience.
What is the difference between the pre-listing package and the listing presentation?
“The pre-listing part focuses on our accomplishments and marketing tools,” said a coach, trainer and VP of professional development from the Mid-Atlantic region. “The listing presentation is all about understanding the seller’s needs, expectations and fears – and demonstrating how we can meet their needs, exceed their expectations, and make it a great process.”
Video can be a great way to get across pre-listing information. A West Virginia agent sends out a pre-video with a “who we are” explanation as well as samples of photography, aerials and 3-D marketing so sellers can be prepared to ask questions on arrival.
Being known in the market through social media can work well for listing agents, too, and sometimes cut through the need for a formal pre-listing package.
“Social media is the ticket; when they meet me they say: ‘I saw you on Facebook, or Twitter, then I have my foot in the door, and they see what I have done with other listings and they want to see their property there also,” said this North Carolina director of sales and marketing.
Listing presentation assistance from brokerages
Agent-centric brokerages with good marketing departments will often help their agents with their pre-listing package or listing presentation materials.
Our survey looked at what kind of training brokerages are providing agents.
Besides the agent who got a “go get ’em,” as training, over 30 percent of respondents said their companies were giving them training and coaching on listing pitches. Just over 20 percent received a listing packet, 14 percent received a listing presentation kit, nearly 10 percent a CMA template, and 9 percent useful proprietary tools.
Keller Williams, Sotheby’s International Realty, Compass and Coldwell Banker Global Luxury were all mentioned for providing useful listing and or pre-listing tools.
Top producers who share their stories, of course, are another obvious resource a brokerage can provide, bringing them in to run listing presentation classes for instance, or just mentoring rookies.
However, not all top agents are fun to listen to: “Many times listening to an agent brag…one learns what not to say,” said a respondent.
But they can be a great source, they agreed.
“When I was a novice, I was inspired by my broker and several other experienced agents in our company. They went with me to early presentations, gave me tremendous moral support and showed me by example what a great Realtor does,” said an experienced Hawaii broker who wins 90 percent of their listings.
A thriving Florida agent remembers being rescued by a top producer during a listing presentation. “When I had my first million dollar listing appointment, the seller told me he loved me but didn’t think I had the experience to sell a million dollar home. Right in front of him, I called the top producer in our market center who had sold several million dollar homes and asked him to co-list with me. Then the seller gave me the listing right there.”
Young agents can help established top producers with new tech ideas for their listings so it can be a mutually beneficial relationship.
An experienced West Virginia agent with an 80 percent listing success rate is willing to both give and accept advice and noted: “I love hearing the young Realtors on how they prepare using technology.”
Keller Williams also had a very helpful system in setting pricing for a home.
One Keller Williams agent mentioned receiving listing and pre-listing templates, scripts and practice presentations as well as help in price setting:
“Without this training, a new agent would not have the success to sell their first listing quickly. Selling a listing quickly, the shortest amount of time, for the most amount of money is the goal. The training at KW allows you to do this, which in turn, gains me many referral sellers.”
Meanwhile, agents at any level need to get in front of other agents/brokers and practice presenting throughout their careers, said an experienced Illinois agent who wins over 80 percent of her listing pitches.
“I have another agent I touch base with every six months or so to fine tune my presentation and help him with his,” she said. “That is the best thing an agent can do for oneself — get feedback. All the tools and resources in the world are useless if you don’t practice them and present with confidence.”
Spreading the net wider for inspiration
Motivated agents are also finding inspiration beyond their brokerages. A number mentioned the Ninja Selling program. They are also drawing from YouTube presentations, Facebook groups, books, the National Association of Realtors and a number of coaches including Brian Buffini, Floyd Wickman, Tim and Julie Harris, Tom Ferry and Mike Ferry and Keller Williams’ Ben Kinney.
Inspiration should come from the sellers themselves, a few respondents pointed out.
Said one seasoned Portland, Oregon agent: “Asking sellers later what was most helpful, is useful.”
He added: “And one speaker reminded me that for every seller I am selling my services anew. Even old clients.”
Whoever you are getting your inspiration from, make sure that these are people who suit who you are, urged a Minnesota agent.
“Agents are well advised to look all over, from many different sources tailored to their personality and ability to present. I deliver my value without boring the client to death. Leave your ego at home, be genuine and businesslike,” said the successful agent.
Drawing from a variety of thinkers is also useful because no one potential client is the same, added a successful Palm Springs broker.
“It’s our job to make sure that we have access to whatever tools and information is available to tailor make the presentation to fit the needs of the seller,” he said.
A former Illinois consultant draws on a background in sales training:
“I worked in consulting for over 20 years before I became a Realtor. We had lots of sales training and the best lesson I learned was to always ask: ‘So what?’ after everything I want to communicate. So often people sell features about themselves, for example: ‘I’m the top agent in my office.’ A seller needs to know, ‘so what does that mean to me?’ Whenever I make a statement, I try to translate it into a benefit for the seller.”
Creative ideas for listing presentations
Our respondents were happy to share approaches that had worked for them in winning listings. The following ideas are agent-tested and were all well received:
- Putting photos of clients’ pets on their CMA reports
- Taking the sellers out to show them the competition
- Creating a game board outlining the sales process
- Door knocking the neighbors right in front of the seller
- Acting as if you already have the listing — “I write up the description of the home and read it to the sellers,” said an established New Jersey agent.
- Helping to install a dishwasher
- Making the beds before a showing
- Finding common ground — This worked out well for a Palm Springs broker. “I discovered that a potential client was a ‘car guy’ as am I,” he said. “So I came prepared. It allowed us to bond on a subject which then lead to a deeper trust level.”
- Showing before and after photos of the home using a virtual stager website
- Having a drone video created prior to getting the listing and creating a website for the home.
A Hawaiian broker has a well-honed technique to build a rapport with a potential client and wins the majority of her listing presentations as a result. “I usually walk through the property at the beginning of the presentation,” the broker said. “Then I choose the two or three of the most interesting features and let my client go into detail about them. Often these features are very important to the client. It helps establish rapport when I take personal notice, and the client realizes I’m paying attention to what’s important to them.”
Another successful Hawaiian agent’s biggest tip is: “Silence. Let the seller speak first. I get nearly all of my presentations. If I don’t, it is usually because I don’t believe I can work within the seller’s expectations.”
And finally, an established Colorado agent knew how to press the right button with her client: “I suggested we film the seller fly fishing on his river during the drone tour. He loved the idea. We filmed and photographed him for our all our marketing and the MLS, and so on.”
Show sellers that you have buyers
Proving to sellers you have good access to buyers can be very effective, advised survey respondents. Three effective approaches to do this include:
The speakerphone effect. “I called a potential buyer on speakerphone who was likely to be a good match for the home and scheduled a showing on the spot for the sellers. And the buyer did purchase the home,” said a New Jersey coach/ trainer.
Ask around and come with a list. “I got a list of responses from agents in my office who had buyers interested in their home and presented it to the seller in the listing appointment,” said a Tennessee agent with a high success rate.
The boldest move. “I brought a buyer to the listing presentation,” said a seasoned Charlotte, North Carolina, agent.
Problem-solve for your prospective clients
In some cases, sellers still need a little push to imagine leaving their homes. By helping them understand why they should sell and solving their concerns about where they will go next, they will be inclined to take action, said an experienced Connecticut agent.
A ride into town did the job for one California respondent.
“The seller needed help getting permits to repair a cracked slab. I told him to hop in my car and I took him to the city. I got the listing,” he said.
And one St. Paul broker’s network got his buyer on the inside track: “They wanted to live on the lake, but nothing ever went to market,” the broker said. “I told them that I could get them into three houses on the lake. They dismissed two for different reasons, but we bought the third after one showing. The purchase price was $2.3 million. Having the inside track in any market can get you listings because it shows how well you are connected.”
Put your money where your mouth is
A Santa Rosa, California, agent from a team went all in: “We offered to spend up to $6,000 of our own money upfront to fix the property up for the seller and that we would sell the home in one week from the listing date at, or over the asking price, which we would be listing it at $650,000.”
“The seller had already attempted to sell it six months prior at $550,000 with no success as an FSBO.
“They ended up getting three offers in the first seven days and they were all over the asking price.
“It allowed us to get the listing and to get the seller an extra $100,000 over what he was initially trying to sell his property for. Win-win.”
Show your caring side
In some cases, you just have to step back and acknowledge that the listing may not happen.
Act in the client’s interests, not yours
“I suggested to a divorcing father that it might be in the best interest of his kids not to sell and to give them some continuity by staying in the house until they graduated high school,” said this Newport Beach agent who wins 90 percent of her listings. “He knew instantly that I had his best interests in mind and he could trust me.”
In the end, his wife ended up staying in the house and the agent found the husband a new home and commercial office space.
They are both now her good friends and clients, and she hopes to sell the family home in a few years.
When patience pays off
Another survey respondent took the unusual step of urging his potential client to choose another agent.
“I was in competition against a few other Realtors for a $1.7 million listing. The family told me that another agent they interviewed already knew of a buyer that would be interested and ready to purchase.
“I told them they should follow up on that buyer, knowing they were scarce in that price range and for that type of home. They agreed and said if that buyer didn’t work out, they would hire me.”
“The buyer did work out and purchased the property. They appreciated my honesty and my instincts to go after a known buyer without getting in the way of the deal.”
He didn’t miss out though.
“They were so shocked at my honesty, they then hired me to help them find the next two homes and their daughter used me as well,” he said.
Compassion over closing
Another agent who shows her caring side and is authentic about it also wins most of her listing presentations.
“I talked about my compassion of seniors. It’s the niche of what I do. I’ve been there personally and it resonates with clients and their senior family members,” said the Orange County agent.
Relax, and show you are human
Other times, it can just be a matter of showing that you are human.
Everybody’s gotta eat
A Michigan broker tells a tale that could have ended in “h-anger.”
“It was a long day and I hadn’t eaten,” he said. “I stopped by P.F. Chang’s for pick-up and ordered a bunch of takeout and showed up with the food. We all ate dinner during the presentation and I ended up with the listing.
“You should never list on an empty stomach,” he told them.
In good spirits
And after giving their presentation, two team members from Orange County set everything aside and settled things the Californian way — over a few bottles of wine: “The sellers just wanted to get to know us and feel comfortable with us. Then they made us a four course dinner, and, we got the listing.”
‘Let’s not put you through this again’
Seasoned agents know that selling your home can be an emotional process. A capable San Diego agent showed that she was the sensible one in the room.
“After a particularly long and grueling session, which included a house tour, the sellers said they planned to interview a few more agents.
“I said I was glad they had three more hours to devote to each interview. They decided to sign with me.”
How to respond to: How are you better than other local agents?
A client asks “How are you better than other local agents?”
How do you respond? The survey suggestions offered a mixed bunch.
“Over the last 12 months according to the MLS, I sold homes 67 percent faster and for approximately $45,000 more. Would you like to see the testimonials others have left?” said one respondent.
Another Florida agent replied: “I’m in the top 1 percent of local agents and I’m full-time, whereas thousands of other licensees are not. My list-to-sell ratio is 98 percent when the industry average is 94 percent. That means I can negotiate an extra 4 percent more than the next guy, right into your pocket.”
Who do you trust?
One argument put forward was: “We pretty much all do the same thing, so it’s about: Who do you trust and like?”
Digital savvy + market intel: A powerful combination
An experienced Philadelphia agent with an excellent listing record tells sellers “I know your market. I will get it out on the internet and social media; I will make different videos and post them all over the internet. That is where people look for homes today, on the internet.”
Team vs. solo scripts
A number of respondents described the power of their team, while the independent single agents talked about their personal touch.
From the sole operator side, one respondent argued: “I am an independent agent. You get more attention from me, and I focus more attention on your listing and getting it sold rather than having more listings than I can manage. With a team, you may not get as much attention as they try to manage multiple listings.”
And from a Vermont agent: “I am it, no team. When you call with a question or concern, I will answer, and I will know your listing situation. I do not take on more clients than I can take great care of.”
And from the team side: “In our area, the average agent sells five properties per year. My team and I sell over 100 per year; who would you want to work with? Someone that is considered a part-time agent or a professional that has a proven track record?”
A team from Pittsburgh had a good line: “We are the only local team with a licensed general contractor/licensed agent who shares his contractor discounts, helps to get properties ready for market and can provide assistance when repair issues come up during inspections and appraisals. We emphasize how we can save clients time and money and back it up with testimonials.”
‘Stop them in their tracks’
So what do the experts say?
Tim Smith, head of The Smith Team, a team of sales associates affiliated with the Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage Newport Beach office, ranked no. 1 out of all teams in North America (on AGC) for Coldwell Banker NRT, is unsurprisingly a big fan of teams.
Smith is also a firm advocate of providing his upmarket Orange County clients with financials to “quantify his difference.”
“Your track record, in my opinion, has to be first — everybody should be required to value add. I think numbers tell stories. If you have taken over listings that have been listed before, show how you have been successful, then explain what your unique selling proposals are.”
Showing you know buyers and sellers is very important in his market of Orange County, added Smith. “Sellers sum you up in two minutes by how well you know the inventory, how well you know the people buying and selling and how intimately connected you are to them.”
Smith is a huge fan of sending out pre-listing information.
He sends out an email to every listing appointment ; he has a template, but it is written specifically for where the homeowner is, giving case studies of what the team has done well in that market.
“If you do it right, sometimes you are just planning the listing when you get there because they are sold by then,” he said.
Having said that, if sellers are settled on another agent, Smith loves nothing better than the chance to change their mind.
“The listing presentation, in my opinion, is an opportunity for someone to reform their decision,” Smith said. “Never underestimate the power of a really great listing presentation.”
The emotion you can create in a fantastic presentation, even if they have made their decision should “stop them in their tracks,” he said.
Local knowledge is gold
Another top producer, Tom LeMieux, who sells in the Palo Alto and Menlo Park markets for Pacific Union Real Estate, sums up his approach to listing presentations simply. “Most want to know what their home is worth, the process for getting it ready, the timeline to market and what services I offer,” he said.
“I believe sellers are best served by hiring a real estate professional who has local market knowledge and significant experience in their neighborhood. This is why we specialize in certain local and contiguous market areas.”
To new agents looking to make their way and win their first listing despite their lack of track record, he said: “Do your homework on the local market and be familiar with each comparable active and sold property.”
If needed, bring in an experienced agent to increase the odds of winning a listing, he said.
‘Calm down, I’m your Realtor’
This has not been necessary for ERA American Real Estate top rookie seller, Paul Domenech, based in Shalimar, North Florida. In his second year, he’s snagged 23 listings. In 2016 he did 45 transactions, including 12 listings.
He has firmly positioned himself to his sphere of influence as a problem solver, with the catchphrase, “Calm down, I’m your Realtor.”
When going to listing presentations, Domenech, a former martial arts match organizer and world champion in jui-jitsu, shows humorous videos of where he has gone the extra mile by improving properties for sellers during crunchtime: getting out a paint brush, fixing a fence, hauling his post-hole digger out of his truck.
When starting out, he even took the furniture out of his house and put it into a vacant home he was struggling to sell, as a video can attest.
A photo of him sitting on a bar stool at home watching television in an empty room, brings home his commitment to the property’s sellers who had bought elsewhere and were paying two mortgages.
He told himself: “If you want to feel comfortable, you have got to sell this house.”
Fortunately, it sold in two weeks.
Domenech has support in his listing presentations from ERA American marketing director, Kim Luckie.
She said some agents, even those at the top, don’t know why or can’t explain how they are different. Role playing and data that highlights an agent’s particular strengths can help — it might be sales rate for one agent, and performing well in a certain price range for another.
“Anything that is a short cut for them, that is the difference between them and another agent,” Luckie said. “It is so critical to meet expectations; agents talk about a much more informed consumer, they come in far more predisposed to what success will mean.”
Luckie agrees that personality does win the day.
“All things being equal, if everybody has the same presentation, some would get the listing and some wouldn’t,” she said.