Early in my land career, I learned a valuable lesson. I got a call one day from a broker who works in my market area saying he had a prospect for one of my listings. They toured the property, submitted an offer, and we negotiated to an executed contract. About a week later I was gathering some information for the closing attorney via the property assessor website. It was then that I discovered that the buyer was the landowner immediately adjacent to my listing. The broker that submitted the offer had seen the property marketed online and was friends with the eventual buyer. He made one phone call to his friend and became the buyer’s broker in the deal. By failing to contact that individual myself, I gave up half of my commission – over $100,000.
Before I go on, I want to make it clear that I have no issues cooperating with other brokers. Our land broker community is a small one and pretty tight. I have done plenty of deals that would not have happened without the cooperation of fellow brokers and I welcome their involvement. But in the case above, this buyer was someone I could easily have gone to directly.
It seems like a simple thing – get in touch with the adjacent landowners to gauge their interest in your listing. But I screwed it up. So, maybe by pointing it out, I can help someone out there avoid the same mistake. Certainly, we all have go-to buyers who we contact the moment we have a property that fits in their wheelhouse. But it’s always possible the simplest solution is literally right next door.
Since entering the land brokerage industry 5 years ago, I’ve made a few (a lot of?) other mistakes or simply failed to do some (MANY!) important things. So, I’d like to offer some tips on prospecting to help you get more deals and maintain a more consistent pipeline.
When on the phone, if they will keep talking, let them talk!
When I first started cold calling, many of my calls lasted less than 20 seconds. I would get someone on the phone and ask if they wanted to sell. If they said “no”, conversation over. Move on to the next call. Over time, I realized I was doing it wrong. I began engaging people in conversation – even if I knew they weren’t sellers. I learned about people. I built relationships. And pretty frequently, I got a tip on a family member or friend nearby who owned land as well. By making the phone call less about a “yes” or “no” and more about gathering information, I was able to make my calls more productive and, frankly, more enjoyable. It was also a great way to set myself up for doing what I recommend in the next tip.
When prospects tell you “no”, call them back later
At this very moment, I am working on a rather large deal that is the result of consistently calling back a “no”. I’ve been following up with this guy for over 3 years and he is finally ready to sell. In fact, on my most recent follow up with him, he told me he still wasn’t a seller. Then he contacted me a week later and wanted to move forward. The point here is that people change. Regular follow up is VITAL to make sure you get to them when they are ready. Many things can make a landowner change their mind: a bad crop year, a death in the family, birth of grandkids, or whatever. The answer may be “no” today, but is likely to change to a “yes” at some point in the future. You want to make sure that when “yes” arrives, you are the only person that owner will think of.
Flag down the tractor
This tip falls a bit more under the heading of canvassing than prospecting. But when done well, it leads to more effective prospecting. Have you ever been out looking at land (in my case row crop farms) and seen someone plowing or spreading fertilizer? Next time you do, park your truck on the side of the road and see if you can get his attention. He might be a contractor, or a farmhand, or maybe even the owner himself. But no matter what his role or position, you’re bound to get some great information from him if you simply engage him in conversation. Using this technique, I’ve gotten names, addresses, and even cell phone numbers of quality prospects. It may sound a bit weird or make you uncomfortable, but the tractor driver generally welcomes the company. He likely spends most of his day alone in that tractor cab. Give him the opportunity to talk, ask the right questions, and before you know it you’ll be listing that $10MM property that you got from the guy on the tractor.
There are millions of different tips and tricks to effective prospecting. I’ve written in the past on outsourcing your time and using good software to boost your prospecting efforts. But there is no substitute for getting on the phone or talking in person with people who own property. In my opinion, this is far and away the most directly effective method for listing and selling property. First, call the neighbors. Then, call EVERYBODY ELSE.
This post is part of the 2018 Future Leaders Committee content generation initiative. The initiative is directed at further establishing RLI as “The Voice of Land” in the land real estate industry for land professionals and landowners. For more posts like this, click here.
About the author: Caleb McDow, ALC, is a land specialist and vice president with Crosby & Associates, Inc. in Winter Haven, FL, with a Master of Science in Real Estate (MSRE) and is a licensed private pilot and drone operator. McDow joined the institute in 2014 as a Military Transition Program (MTP) member. He serves on the Institute’s Future Leaders Committee and regularly blogs on real estate issues. Caleb McDow can be reached at 352-665-6648 or firstname.lastname@example.org