Having spent over 40 years in the land business, I am occasionally asked about the biggest change I’ve seen in those four decades. The answer is one we can all be proud of, and it’s an excellent starting point for this article on winning large land listings. It’s the change in the culture of our profession.
With RLI leading the way through offering the ALC Designation, LANDU Education Program, annual National Land Conference as well as regional and state chapter events, the level of knowledge and expertise of the average land professional has improved dramatically.
The expansion of knowledge and expertise have allowed us to keep pace with rising seller expectations. As land prices have increased, sellers have become increasingly particular in the process they use to select a listing agent. It’s assumed the agent will have the level of skill and knowledge needed. Land education that was once considered optional is now a must.
“Better is not Differentiation” – Shark Tank
A major shift in the thinking of the seller has changed the way we now present ourselves and our services to them. Not long ago a listing presentation was 75% about the agent and their company, and 25% about the seller’s property. Today its 25% about the agent and their company and 75% about the seller’s property. The person who is able to articulate differentiation more clearly will win the listing almost every time. This is especially true for large properties. As the price goes up, the need for differentiation becomes even more important.
As a rule, brokers and agents create differentiation one of two ways. They show value by putting together a strong detailed presentation illustrating how they are different and uniquely equipped to help the seller sell their property, or they cut their commission.
That’s the big picture but each presentation will involve ﬁner points of differentiation, as well, that need to be emphasized or countered. For example, a competitor may have more experience than you, the seller wants to auction and you don’t do auctions, your competitor has the same marketing tools you do and you are not much different in any way. You need to be prepared to address these and other points that will arise.
Experience Helps Win Large Land Listings
Let’s look at experience ﬁrst. After my presentation for RLI’s Virtual NLC20 event, someone asked “How do you get in front of the seller to present in the ﬁrst place?” I get that question a lot. Some have the misconception that other REALTORS® are just invited to present. If they are invited, it is only after a lot of hard work. You must consistently communicate your message to those who own the kind of property you want to sell and use every opportunity you have to show that you are relevant in that market. If you are doing that and still being looked over it’s almost always about experience.
This is common, many agents skip an all important step and try to compete for prime listings before they are ready to do so. It sounds odd but the ﬁrst step in getting large land listings is to get experience. It’s extremely hard to win this type listing until you are proven. So, how do you get experience when sellers won’t list with you because you don’t have experience? You ﬁnd someone who has experience you can partner with; you borrow their experience.
The truth is you need an experienced partner for the same reason the seller wants experience. There’s a lot more likelihood you will get the property sold. Establish a network of people (RLI is an excellent place to start) you can work with on speciﬁc properties. Get a partner for each property type: farms, ranches, recreational, timberland, commercial, etc., and for separate geographical areas. In Texas, for example, selling property in West Texas is different than selling in East Texas so get someone who knows the territory. Often when you cross a state line things change, so having a partner in the state will be helpful. Also look for opportunities to gain experience. Work with other agents in your ofﬁce on large Listings. Help them gather information and build a package or prepare a listing presentation. If your company does auctions, help show buyers around on inspection day. Your focus should be to do everything you can to add that deal as one you worked on as part of your experience.
Selling someone else’s land listing is a great way to get the credibility to win more listings. Get to know the players in your area, tour their listings when you have the opportunity, know the inventory in your market so you can work with buyers. It doesn’t take many sales at this level to make a big difference in your resume.
Sometimes you will ﬁnd yourself in a presentation where it appears you are not really much different than some of the others you know you will be presenting against. The level of experience is close to the same, they’ve had some nice sales of similar properties and you have too and you both use almost exactly the same marketing tools. If you know the competitor that well, you probably have an idea how they will present and how you can present differently. If you think they may just show a website or publication, you dig deeper. Know how many visitors the website has or how many subscribers the publication has. Know the kind of followers the source has and why they are the kind of people who might buy the seller’s property. Show examples of properties similar to the seller you’ve sold or that others have sold through that source. If nothing else, prove that you pay more attention to detail and are more thorough that your competitor.
Consider An Auction To Land Large Listings
There is no better example of differentiation than trying to convince a seller to give you a conventional listing when they have a reason they need to sell at auction. That scenario literally deﬁnes differentiation. Remember, differentiation is giving the seller something they want that your competitor can’t do for them. While every property is not right for auction, many of the deals that do go to auction are large properties with a motivated seller. When I had my brokerage, the biggest sale in my market almost every year would be an auction. I wanted that business but, even with auctioneers charging a signiﬁcant upfront marketing fee, I was never able to win a single listing from an auctioneer. The seller simply had needs that could only be met by the auction method. For example, auction allows the seller to choose the day the property will sell.
Auction allows the seller of a prime property to get more than they might have listed it for conventionally because the seller does not have to disclose his asking price ﬁrst. Auction allows the settlement of ownership dispute or estate liquidations with more transparency. Auction provides a cleaner “as is” sale without contingencies, and auction compresses the marketing period and accelerates the sale time.
“Don’t act like an amateur and expect to be paid like a professional” – Jared James
All those things are extremely difﬁcult, if not impossible, for a conventional broker to do. The only way you can win part of that business is to ﬁnd a good proven auctioneer to work with and offer auctions yourself. It’s unlikely that you will be able to recruit the kind of auctioneer you will need as an associate. You will probably have to work on a co-op basis, with you ﬁnding the auction and bringing them in to help negotiate the contract and do the sale. Experience is extremely important in the auction business. A failed auction can cost you credibility and take years to recover from. Do your homework.
Choose an auctioneer that has a history of success and fair dealing then work hard to hold up your end of the bargain and form a long and lasting partnership.
Nail The Presentation To Land The Listing
All these things should come together in a formal presentation. Remember, your presentation is the seller’s ﬁrst glance at your work as it relates to their property. It’s hard to spend the time and resources preparing when there is a chance you might not win the listing, but you have to. It’s game day and not a time to hold anything back. Your goal should be to have the most professional presentation the seller is going to see put together in a way that highlights the seller’s property and your differentiation.
By now, I hope it’s evident that winning the best listings is a long-term commitment. It won’t happen by accident. Create a plan with a timeline for getting the training and education you will need to deliver the highest level of service. Form and maintain a strong network of professionals by specialty and geographical area, build an exceptional listing presentation and learn to express your value in terms of how you are different, and how and why that difference will help get the seller’s property sold. Aim for excellence every day. It’s hard work but, in the end it’s well worth it if you're winning large land listings.
This article was originally published in the REALTORS® Land Institute Summer 2020 Terra Firma Magazine.
About the author: Richard Thompson began selling land in 1974 and joined the management team of United Country Real Estate where he now serves as Executive Vice President in 1988. He participated in hundreds of land transactions as an agent and broker and assisted with many others nationwide in his current role. His experience includes farming wheat, soybeans, cotton, milo, rice, hay and cattle which helps him connect with a broad range of sellers. His specialty is listing and seller representation.