With a decade under her belt as a residential real estate agent, Cindy Welsh has tested strategies both traditional and innovative to find just the right mix to grow her own business. Known for her dedication and genuine concern for her clients, Cindy has built a stellar reputation for herself in Houston, Texas, working as an agent for Coldwell Banker United, Realtors.
We sat down with Cindy to get a feel for how she approaches real estate marketing in an ever-changing digital landscape. The outcome of our conversation? Some excellent advice for real estate agents both seasoned and new to the game, with a special focus on how new real estate agents can build their networks. If you’re looking to sharpen your real estate marketing expertise, check out what Cindy had to say below.
OutboundEngine: Tell us a little bit about your background and how long you’ve been in the business.
Cindy Welsh: I started out working on the corporate side for my broker in the relocation department. I worked for a number of years handling transferees as they moved from one part of the country or another part of the world to our area.
I handled a different side of the transaction for about five years, and now for the past five years I’ve been working as a real estate agent out in the field. I have both a corporate background from the relocation side, and I’ve been an independent sales contractor for my broker also.
Q: What skills did you take away from your time working in corporate relocation that come in handy as a real estate agent?
A: I think more than anything it’s customer service. Everybody has different needs and ways of doing things, so you have to listen and be proactive. You need to answer your phone, and you need to return phone calls. And all of that leads well into being successful in real estate because if you don’t listen to your clients, answer your phone, and hear what they’re looking for, then you can’t meet their needs, and you’re not helping them. I think those years of honing my customer service skills helped me tremendously.
Q: What’s your personal strategy for online marketing?
A: Today, you have to have a social media and email presence. Although I know that I need it, I don’t want to be the one doing it. I want to sell real estate and interact with people; I don’t want to handle my email and social media.
When I heard about OutboundEngine, I was very intrigued. It’s everything I was looking for. There’s great email content and articles, and the posts on Facebook and Twitter are interesting. The response from my client base has been incredible. People respond back to me and say, “That was a great article. Where’d you get that from?”
It keeps my name in front of my clients, and people who aren’t working with me yet have contacted me saying, “I might be interested in six months.” When they’re not ready to buy right away, it’s a noninvasive way of keeping my name in front of them without beating them over the head with market rates and new listings.
I’ve had referrals and got listings out of it, which far exceeded what I was looking for. I just wanted someone to manage my online marketing so I didn’t have to.
Q: What’s the best way to follow up with a referral you receive via email?
A: I’m a little bit old school, and I really like to connect with referrals on the phone. I always check back with the client who sent me the referral first and ask for a phone number and permission to give them a call. When it comes to referrals, I’ll follow up with email, but I think it can be too impersonal at times.
Once you get a referral on the phone, the first thing you want to do is an assessment. Introduce yourself, mention that you had a transaction with whomever it was that referred them to you, and say how much you enjoyed working with that person.
From there, be sure to ask questions like: What are you looking for? What’s motivating you? Are you downsizing? Needing more space? Kids moving off to school or parents moving in? Based on that, you’ll know immediately how urgent the transaction is.
You have to know what’s motivating someone before you know how to go further with them.
Q: What advice would you give a real estate agent who’s not using email marketing?
A: That they’re making a mistake! You can’t be everything to everyone that you’re trying to touch, and you have to have some type of an umbrella that takes that burden off of you because we’re realtors. We’re not email marketers. We’re not social media gurus. We’re realtors, and that’s really what we need to be concentrating on. If you’re trying to do it all, then you’re taking away time and energy from the piece of business that pays your bills.
Q: Beyond online marketing, what’s your strategy for getting more business?
A: I do a little bit of whatever is necessary. Whenever there’s floor time in our office, I take advantage of it. You never know who will call in, and I’ve found some great clients that way. I hold open houses at my listings, and I hold open houses for other agents. That’s a good way to pick up potential buyers, too. And if I hear someone talking about real estate, I tell them I’m a realtor. You can’t be shy! You have to just assume that you can help someone.
Of course, you have to be careful not to overstep your boundaries. But whenever someone calls me needing help, I always do whatever I can as long as I’m not violating any principles in real estate.
Q: What kind of advice would you give someone who’s new to the real estate industry?
A: Be willing to put yourself out there.
Here’s a good example: There’s a brand-new agent in our office who’s new to the area and knew one person in the city of Houston. In her first year in real estate, she did $5 million in business. And she did that by taking every property time that she could get. She’d pick it up if someone couldn’t make their property time. She put herself on the calendar as much as possible and took every call she could get. If someone needed a house held open, she was at that house holding it open because that’s where she picked up buyers.
You have to have a “can’t quit” attitude to come into a city where you know no one and do $5 million in real estate in a year. If you’re getting into this because you think you’re going to make a million dollars, you’re going to be disappointed. You have to work this business. Nobody hands you anything. So be open to doing that — to working hard. Because it will take hard work to build your business.
And finally, enjoy yourself. It is a fun industry. You have to love working with people and remember that you’re helping them with what’s likely the most stressful thing they’re doing in their lives, so have a good sense of humor at the same time.