The Complete Guide to Cold Calling in Real Estate
I hate making Cold Calls.
But I do them. I know something about you without even knowing you. I know that if you are a licensed real estate sales agent you hate making phone calls. How do I know this? Because I hated making cold calls for a long, long time and don’t get me wrong, even to this day it’s not on my top 10 list of favorite things to do. You don’t have to like making cold calls to be successful. Hell, I don’t like doing cardio at the gym for 30 minutes either-but I do it because I know it’s good for my heart and it helps burn calories.
You don’t have to like making cold calls to be successful, but you have to be proficient at them to be successful. There’s a huge difference.
An actor doesn’t have to like the hundreds of auditions required to land a role, or the 14 hour days once they’ve landed it, but those gripes are just part of the profession they love. They have to love it-or why subject themselves to the darker sides of what they do?
Our profession, like almost any job, has its dark sides, and one of them is cold calling. You may argue that you can buy leads from entities like Zillow or Realtor, and you are correct. I dare you, if you aren’t already a subscriber to their lead services, to call or email Zillow and inquire about signing up for their Premier Agent campaign and you will be bombarded by a flurry of daily phone calls from their sales center trying to close you on a contract for leads. The Zillow salespeople are closers unlike no others. I wish I had some of them as my real estate salespeople. They are relentless closers and will call you from different telephone numbers and blocked numbers if need be. So if the same lead portal that is selling you “internet leads” is still using an outbound phone campaign to close sales-why wouldn’t you?
So how do you become good at it? Below is my complete guide that will help you become one of the most proficient sales professionals over the phone using my strategy called the “HOCA Method.” I’ve spent the last 20 years of my career prospecting over the phone and I’ve built 3 multi-million dollar companies doing it.
1) Go to the Office
When you are feeling down you need the office. When the office is down it needs you. When your sales are down you definitely need the office, and when the company sales are down the office definitely needs you. Think of the office as your gym. Sure you can work out alone at home (and many people successfully do) but because of the distractions in the home it is 10X easier to find something else that feels more important to do at the time. You aren’t a one person team even though you are independent. Get into the office and listen to what the success stories are doing. Watch them. Study them. Listen to them. Duplicate them. You aren’t going to win any prizes being a hermit or a secret agent. Rule #1 GET INTO THE OFFICE.
2) Make cold calling the first thing you do every morning.
I wake up at 4:30 AM (courtesy of my wife who is a fitness bikini competitor) to get to gym by 5 AM. We work out until 7 AM, rush home, get our 5 children up and ready for school. Our children are divided into two morning crews. She gets one group. I’m responsible for the other. After dropping off my group I’m in the office by 8 AM.
You’re gonna get beat up on the phone. You’re gonna be told some things you may not deserve. You’re going to question yourself. These are natural emotions, and so if you are going to be subjected to this it’s always a good idea be fresh and energized as it will keep you going. You have more energy in the morning than at any other moment in the time. Use this to your advantage. START early. Plus, most agents get in the office by 10 AM (I wish I could say it was 9 AM, but as a Broker Owner I know this isn’t the case) so you’ll have a 2 hour jump on them in terms of contacting people.
3) Dress like you’re meeting the most important person in the world that day.
It’s been said that if you’re 70% more likely to get the gym or do exercise if you’re dressed in gym attire. I believe this true. You’re 100% more likely to exude confidence when you dress the part and feel like a million bucks. Even if you don’t have any clients-DRESS LIKE YOU DO. Your demeanor and voice will sound the way you feel. Trust me.
4) Role play with someone for 30 minutes prior every day.
Agents fight me on this all the time. Amateurs wing it. Professionals have practiced, drilled, and rehearsed. Even the POTUS reviews, practices, and rehearses their delivery of speeches that are written for them. What makes an agent believe that they are above this is beyond me. There are no new objections. The same objections a home seller had 50 years ago still applies today and will still apply 50 years from now. Questions like:
“What is the name of your company?”
“What is your commission?”
“How many homes have you sold?”
“Are you familiar with my type of home?”
are the same questions I was answering 20 years ago. The only difference between you and me is that I made sure I knew how to answer these questions a long time ago by role playing daily with live partners.
5) Play Some Music while You Work
The seven dwarves were onto something. They were in the mines mining for jewels and diamonds and yet they did it with a smile and a song. In essence you’re doing the same thing except you’re not physically laboring, you’re not inhaling dangerous dusts & chemicals, and you’re definitely not risking your life in a mine. You are mining for diamonds though, and instead of a pick axe you are armed with a phone. PLAY SOME MUSIC. Something that makes you happy. Not too loud to where it disrupts your calls, but loud enough to where you keep pace and it keeps you going. Trust me. Don’t work in silence. It’s grueling.
6) Stand Up
The next time you are in the middle of a heavy discussion with someone I want you to stand up and feel how the energy INSTANTLY shifts in your favor and you feel more authoritative. This isn’t magic-this is physiology. Consider it a gift from God. Simply standing while you speak makes you feel powerful and in control. Use this to your advantage and stand up when you make calls. It’s also good for your spine.
7) Get In The Game
I played on my high school basketball team. I love basketball. I learned at a really young age that in order for me to improve I had to play with bigger & stronger athletes that were more proficient at the sport than I.
The same applies here.
You have to get in the game. All the preparation in the world isn’t going to mean squat if you don’t pick up the phone. “But Paul, I get embarrassed by people hearing me and what I say.” Trust me. The agents around you don’t care, and those who do care enough to criticize aren’t the ones making the calls. If I’m around someone who’s calling I’ll coach them on what to say not make fun of them. Spend less time worrying about what others might think of you and spend more time on the phone.
8) Who You Gonna Call?
No. Not the Ghostbusters. The first thing you need is a list to call. I am going to strongly suggest that you start with calling expired listings. When the seller contracts with an agent to sell her home, the listing agreement will have a set expiration date. A listing expires when this expiration date has passed without the property being sold, and without the seller renewing the listing contract with the real estate agent. Some people may argue that calling expired listings is not truly cold calling. Tell that to the sellers who don’t know who you are. I completed a free video training on expired listings.
The logic behind calling expired listings, is that these people already had a desire to sell their home, and what better lead is there to call than someone who was already interested in the services or product you offer?
The next type of prospect or lead that I would call and spend most of my efforts on would be the For Sale By Owners or FSBOs. The number of FSBO’s in any given market is going to fluctuate on how bullish or bearish it is. I’ll cover precisely how to prospect a for sale by owner and the best strategy to use in a follow up post. Start by creating a log of EVERY FSBO in your market. These future clients should not be any further than 10-15 minutes away from you as you need to visit them often-especially during their open houses. Every Monday and Friday you should be calling your list of FSBOs.
“Happy Monday Jane Doe! It’s Paul Argueta. Pleasure meeting you on Saturday at your open house (if applicable)! I am working on my inventory list and wanted to see if you had accepted an offer yet? (They more than likely didn’t.) If not, I will keep it on my list of active listings this week. Talk soon!”
Wear them down with your enthusiasm.
“Happy Friday John Doe! It’s Paul Argueta. I am planning my weekend and working on my inventory list and wanted to see if you had accepted an offer yet? (They more than likely didn’t.) Are you having an open house this weekend? Talk soon!”
If they are having an open house-STOP BY. It is your job to stop by every FSBO open house in your area. It is more effective when you call first, but if it’s open, don’t miss it. The more contact you make with that seller, the more likely they are to use you if they don’t sell it themselves.
Make expired listings and FSBO listings your priority when cold calling. Other categories include Just Listed/Just Sold prospecting and Rentals.
9) Where Do You Get Your Lists?
Here are your options:
- Manually Download the list of expired listings from the MLS (which does not provide any contact information other than the tax mailing address of the seller.) While doing it this way does not cost you monetarily-it costs you in the time it takes to collect the data. This is how I used to acquire my lists 5-10 years ago. It’s a very time consuming and antiquated way to do business, and yet I still see agents who choose this route despite the fact that time is money.
- Subscribe To A Service that provides you with these lists. This is the best and most effective option. There are about 4-6 different services that provide these lists and most of them are provided as a side product to an autodialer. In a separate post, I dive into the top five autodialers for real estate agents. For now here are the links to the ones most commonly used. I personally use Mojo and Vulcan 7 almost daily.
Have you ever gone to the same broadway play twice? How about the same concert twice? What did you notice? The set, the routine, the songs, even the jokes were the same. I remember seeing Michael Bublé in concert recently and not only did I think he was a great performer, but man, was he witty. That is, until I saw the same act for the second time and realized that every single joke-even the ones where a random audience guest participated in-was rehearsed and stage. He had mastered his act so well, that even the jokes seemed happenstance and off the cuff when in reality they were not. Professionals practice, drill, and rehearse until their acts become second nature. In essence-they have mastered their scripts. Lawyers? Ask a successful attorney if they practice their opening and closing statements? Ask them if they spend hours with their witnesses preparing them for the onslaught of questions that will be directed towards them from the opposing counsel. Ask an MD if he or she has a routine set of questions they use to diagnose a patient. That too can be argued-is a script.
Don’t want to call it a script? Fine. Call it dialogue. Call it whatever you want. Bottom line, you need to know what to say and when to say it. You need to know how to overcome objections. You can’t walk into a consultation with a homeowner or homebuyer and think that you can wing it. Learn the most common objections objection handlers. Be prepared. I used to drive around with the scripts playing in my car over and over again until my children started to learn them. It annoyed them, but my response to them was, “You want new Jordan sneakers right? Then we’ll have to listen to this again.”
11) “We’ve Never Met.”
I suggest that you DO NOT open your call by saying that you are a real estate agent or that you represent a real estate company. In my opinion, the minute you do this, you’ve built a wall and/or the caller has already zoned out. I normally start my call like this:
“Good morning! I’m looking for Mr. or Mrs. Smith. Mrs. Smith, my name is Paul Argueta. We’ve never met. Here’s why I am calling…”
By all means, introduce yourself, and follow it up with “we’ve never met.” What this does is it piques the other parties interest. In other words, it gets them curious and more attentive. They have absolutely NO IDEA where this call is going. They may have won the lottery. They may me preparing for bad news. Either way, you’ve got their attention.
12) Lead With Questions
My career is inching towards 25 years and during that period, the most important thing I have mastered is to lead with questions. I’ve learned that when I make a statement it can be doubted-even refuted, but when the client says the exact same thing it is truth.
For instance, if a prospective client asks me, “Do you specialize in this neighborhood?” The old me would have responded with a “Yes” or “No” thereby committing myself to success or failure. Be careful what you say, because if you say “Yes.” and are caught in a lie you will never recover as everything you’ve said is now suspect. That doesn’t mean you have to say “No.” either.
A better response would be, “Is being a specialist in the area the most important part of your decision making process when it comes to selecting your agent?”
An ever better response would be, “Mr. or Mrs. Seller, are you looking for an agent that can bring you buyers only from this neighborhood or would your prefer one that could bring you buyers from multiple neighborhoods. Which is better for your, smaller buyer pool or larger buyer pool?”
In both examples I led with questions that led the client to my intended result as it is only common sense that anyone selling a home wants to have as many home buyers as possible looking at it. Now one might make the argument that they only want qualified buyers touring their home, but that would be a different conversation and a different objection handler in the form of question.
13) The Appointment (Real Estate Porn)
No one is going to ask you to come over. Period. Get that out of your head. That’s a dark, dirty fantasy. I call this Real Estate Pornography. You will have to learn to ask for the appointment just like you will have to learn how to tactfully ask for the client’s signature on a contract. Don’t be discouraged by the fact that you will have to ask more than once. People are afraid to make little decisions let alone big ones. I’ve discovered through years of closing that the magic happens right around the third or fourth attempt. Amateurs give up after one rejection. Professionals give up when the prospect hangs up or walks away. I had to ask my wife to dance four times before she agreed to dance with me when we met at a club.
When closing for an appointment you don’t simply ask, “Can I come over on Monday?” as this is a yes or no question and will most likely elicit and “No.” response. Instead, give the client options. “I’d like to interview for the position of being your agent. Are mornings good for you or would you prefer evenings?” By doing this you have given them options and people are more likely to select one of two options. Follow up this question with, “Is Wednesday good or Thursday better?”
14) The HOCA Method
I developed this method really only by trial and error. HOCA stands for “Handle Objection Close for Appointment.” All this meant to me was that EVERY time I successfully overcame an objection I would follow it up with me closing for the appointment. The younger version of myself would answer an objection and then shut up and wait. I thought that me answering the question would satisfy them enough to say, “Sounds good. I’ll sign.” Real estate porn at it’s finest. It took hundreds of listings that I didn’t get until I figured out that I had to close, and close, and re-close the client EVERY time I answered a question.
Here is a sample of what a typical conversation might go like:
Client : “Paul, can you sell my home for $1.2 Million”
Me : “Is $1.2M the lowest price you would be willing to accept?”
Client : “Yes. Can you get me that price?”
Me : “I will make a mental note that you wont take anything less than $1.2M and when I get there you can show me all the wonderful things you’ve done to make it worth that amount. Is tomorrow good or Friday better?”
Client : “I don’t want to pay more than 4% commision”
Me : “I’ll make a mental note that you do not want to pay anything more than 4% commission. Is tomorrow good or Friday better?”
Client : “Do you have a real buyer?”
Me: “At any given moment I am working with 15-20 real buyers. I’m sure one of them is going to be interested. Is tomorrow good or Friday better so that I may preview your house?”
Naturally, you won’t be able to close for the appointment with without really answering the question, but once you’ve addressed it, I give you permission to close. Close early. Close often.
15) Don’t Dispute Price or Commission Over the Phone
This is another mistake I made often early on in my career and it cost me hundreds of appointments. Stop fighting the commission objections over the phone. Instead acknowledge it, approve it, and close for the appointment. Same thing with the price. You already know that every seller believes their home is worth more than what your CMA indicates. So what? Deal with the price objection in person during your listing presentation. Most of you are killing the deal before you even get a chance to sit down in front of the client to demonstrate your competency. The best way to handle price and commission is to say, “I’ll make a mental note of that. So is tomorrow or Friday better?” and reconfirm the meeting. You’ll thank me later.
16) Repeat. Approve. Confirm.
What does this mean? When someone makes a statement, I repeat what they say. Then I acknowledge it with an approval remark such as “fantastic”, “great”, or “wonderful” if applicable. Lastly, I confirm what they said with, “Is that correct?” Allow me to explain the psychology behind this strategy.
By repeating what the person on the other end of the line just said, it shows them I am listening. By approving what they said, they feel accepted. By confirming what they said, I am conditioning them to say the word, “Yes.”
Here is a sample of what a typical conversation might go like:
Client : “I don’t want to sell my home.”
Me : “I see. You don’t want to sell your home, is that correct?”
Client : “Yes.”
Me : “And just out of pure curiosity, I see it was on the market for 90 days. If it had sold during that time period-where would you have moved to next?”
Client : “Texas”
Me : “Texas? Good for you! And what was bringing you out there?”
Client : “A job transfer.”
Me : “A job transfer is that correct?”
Client : “Yes.”
Me : “That’s amazing. And how soon was it that you wanted to be out there?”
So in real conversation, it won’t be perfect, but I think you get the idea. This strategy works. Trust me.
17) Close Early.
I will close out my guide with this. Don’t be scared to close early. In other words, if someone says:
Client : “I’m interviewing agents tomorrow.”
That isn’t your queue to continue with your script. Don’t a slave to the system if it doesn’t apply to the situation. In other words, don’t talk yourself out of a close. When someone is inviting you to close the sale-CLOSE IT. Let’s revisit the latter conversation:
Client : “I’m interviewing agents tomorrow.”
Me : “You’re interviewing agents tomorrow, is that correct?”
Client : “Yes.”
Me : “Fantastic. I’d like to apply for the job of being your agent. Should I pop by tomorrow at 11:00 AM or 3:00 PM?”
Some real estate trainers will tell you to pre-qualify the prospect, and while I see the value in this with regard to time management, I’d rather see you with too many appointments that require follow up versus someone that has none because they talked themselves out of a sale.
There are many ways to generate business in real estate. I am a HUGE proponent of SEO and internet marketing. I am a Zillow Premier Agent. I consistently ask for referrals from my sphere of influence and past clients. I also cold call. I’ve built a career cold calling and while all other techniques do in fact work, calling expired leads, in my opinion, is the FASTEST way to get business NOW. Here are my 3 steps to success.
- Subscribe to an autodialer that provides expired leads
- Master your scripts
- Learn to close 4-6 times per conversation using the HOCA Method.
“The only thing standing between you and your goal is the bulls#!+ story you keep telling yourself as to why you can’t achieve it.”