Client Education: The Key to Leads

Beverly Sonnier has been the proud owner of Help-U-Sell South East Rita Ranch Realty for 15 years. Last weekend, Beverly joined forces with Maria Powell, the owner of Help-U-Sell Galleria Realty, at the SAHBA Home Show (Southern Arizona Home Builders Association) to spread the word about Help-U-Sell Real Estate and saving home sellers thousands of dollars.

Last year, Beverly and her husband, Jimmie, exhibited at the show on their own. This year, it made more sense to double up because the attending audience grew larger. “The show is held on two floors,” Beverly explained, “Downstairs are the companies that sell larger items such as spas, windows, and doors. Upstairs there is space for smaller vendors in the community, and that’s where we set up a booth. Last year we were the only realtors at this event.”

Beverly went on to share, “We had a very good response and ended up with lot of qualified leads. We gave away a small TV, and a large, flat-screen smart TV. The folks that registered are definitely interested in selling or buying a home. The great thing about these events is the opportunity to explain how the Help-U-Sell set-fee works. A commonly heard response is: ‘Wow, we had no idea’. So education is really a key component of success when it comes to the Help-U-Sell Real Estate model.”

With more than 27 years of real estate experience behind her, Beverly is a solid expert. She spent the first 12 years of her real estate career learning from one of our most successful mentors and coaches, John Powell. “I started off as an agent working with John, and went through all of his training. Prior to that, I was a mortgage banker. When Jimmie retired from the Air Force and Postal Service, he became an agent, too, which was a great contributor to our success when we opened our own shop,” she added.

To spread the word about Help-U-Sell in their Tucson community, Beverly advertises in a local newspaper with a 12,000 to 15,0000 audience reach. They also employ the automated postcards for “Center of Influence” contacts and the “Arounds” program. “That connects us with past and potential clients,” Beverly said, “It keeps us present in their minds. We are also starting a sanitation station (for shopping carts) at a local grocery store. Our signage is included, and we’re handing out reusable grocery bags with marketing materials and a snack bar inside. We’re excited to see how that’s going to go. We do not underestimate the benefit of being live in front of people. It makes a big difference in the number of qualified leads we get.”

Treat Employees and Clients Like Gold

Marc Dosik, Broker/Owner of Help-U-Sell Federal City Realty, has always been interested in real estate and selling. He began as a business broker and later segued into commercial real estate. Wanting to make a name in residential real estate, Marc bought a Help-U-Sell franchise in 2005. The office is located in the Washington DC area, and has the unique distinction of serving the neighboring states of Maryland and Virginia. “I became interested in residential real estate because I enjoy working with people and making them happy. The services we provide, combined with the thousands of dollars saved by home sellers, makes them pretty happy in my experience,” says Marc.

Marc’s office is a regular on our Top Producers list, which tracks the number of transactions closed and gross sales volume monthly. When asked what makes his office successful, Marc replied, “There are two reasons we’ve done well. My team has been together for a long time and we provide excellent customer service because our systems and processes are polished. I put the right people in the right place, and I make sure that employees and customers are treated the same way, like gold.”

The team at Marc’s office includes: Melissa, a transaction coordinator, who has been with Marc for six years; Lynn, a virtual assistant for four years; and Chris, a marketing assistant for ten years. Additionally, there are six agents for whom his team provides concierge leads. The staff is busy making calls and setting appointments, and qualified leads are then handed off to the agent. Mark believes this system creates a higher conversion to sale rate, and a more productive office overall.

The numbers give credence to Marc’s method. In 2017, he closed over one hundred transactions. This year, he is about halfway there. “There are two reasons why agents fail; lack of leads and lack of training. Over the years I have found that certain transactions have nuanced details, some agents are not savvy in certain areas, ongoing training solves a lot of those problems,” Marc shared.

Help-U-Sell Federal City is situated in a population-dense metropolitan area, where the median price for a home above $400,000. There is a lot of competition from splashy real estate upstarts such as Redfin. “I’m situated in the heart of their best market, but people are still choosing Help-U-Sell, mostly because of our online reputation and expertise,” Marc said.

One of the marketing platforms Marc prefers are the Center of Influence postcards, which are sent to past clients at least twice a year. These postcards keep the brand top-of-mind and help create referrals. “All of the pieces are professional and polished. The newly-designed website has a fresh look and is easy to navigate. There are additional options offered to help you get more business, but the bottom-line attraction is our business model. When the market is good, people turn to us to sell quickly and save money. When market is tough, people turn to us for expert advice to get their home sold and save money,” Marc explained.

While his staff is highly-focused on providing impeccable service, they also make it a priority to seek great reviews from clients once the transaction has closed. “I tell potential clients to look me up online and read the reviews. We take clients away from competitors because the home seller wants everything – the savings, the service, the expertise. The unique proposition that Help-U-Sell offers makes it easier for them to choose us when they have the facts. We are flexible to whatever the client needs are,” Marc said.

There was another unexpected benefit to choosing to be a part of the Help-U-Sell Real Estate franchise. Marc Dosik added, “After four decades, the brand is familiar to a lot of people and business comes from that national reputation. I can’t tell you how many people relocated to our area, used Help-U-Sell to sell their home in the old city and use us to buy their new home. You can’t buy that kind of trust. We cultivate and cherish that reputation.”

Loyalty and Creating Clients for Life

Karen Detwiler of Help-U-Sell Detwiler Realty wants you know that she saved home sellers a total of $203,000 in commissions last year. Impressive, right? So is she.

Karen had worked as an executive secretary and made a career change to a transaction coordinator for a traditional real estate company. As often happens in these scenarios, Karen naturally caught the real estate bug herself. When Karen and her husband moved to Pennsylvania, she enrolled in a real estate course so she could pursue her license. More importantly, she wanted to be in charge of her own future.

When Karen decided that she wanted to break out on her own, she sold 15 homes during her first year and she has been blazing a trail ever since. “I worked with a great mentor who had a Help-U-Sell office in Camp Hill. He encouraged me to open up my own franchise. So I opened an office in Carlisle and eventually took over the Camp Hill office when my mentor retired. After a while it didn’t make sense for us to have two offices, so we consolidated into one. However, because we had already established ourselves in both towns, we still get a lot of current business from past clients in both areas,” Karen explained.

Now, with a staff of four full-time and four part-time agents (and one incredibly busy office manager), last year Karen’s team had 95 transactions to stand proudly behind. Over the years many potential clients that Karen encountered expressed doubt over the set-fee system for which Help-U-Sell Real Estate pioneered and is known. “I explain our system by saying if my husband and I had used Help-U-Sell ourselves over the numerous times we’ve moved, the amount of savings would have been amazing. Unfortunately, we lived in areas where there were no Help-U-Sell offices.”

Like so many others in the real estate industry, Karen’s office was no exception when it came to being hard hit by the economic depression of 2008. “Of course we went through some tumultuous times, but you find ways to work through those. You up your game to stay competitive. Part of what drives you are the webinars that Help-U-Sell puts on, and the weekly coaching groups. The other part is fine-tuning your marketing. Help-U-Sell makes that easier than ever by constantly bringing in different programs from new vendors so that we can simplify and streamline a lot of our daily processes. For example, they just started a FSBO program that we’re very excited about. There’s other programs that are beneficial, too, such as the new expired listing program and predictive analytics. Last year they improved all the franchisee websites. They look fresher and are now more functional for any device. Overall, it’s a great system,” Karen shared.

While there is some local competition, it’s not impacting Karen’s business that much. She has noticed that homes are taking a longer time to sell, primarily if they are not priced appropriately, but overall her market is seeing low inventory. “Homes that are priced right, sell fast! The driving principle behind the Help-U-Sell model is that our clients are so pleased with both our service and how much money they saved, they become our clients for life,” Karen said. “You can’t buy that kind of loyalty, you can only earn it. This has been proven over and over for me, especially now that we are currently selling homes to the grown children of our previous clients, too.” As far as additional marketing outreach is concerned, Karen shared that they use a little bit of everything to get the word out: Billboards, radio, newspaper advertising and online advertising. “We also keep in touch with our clients regularly and make them feel appreciated,” she added.

When she is not busy running her business, you can find Karen in her flower garden, spending time with her grandson, or co-chairing the local Thanksgiving food drive. “I’m pleased to say that last year we served 800 families. This coming year we are aiming for 1,000 families. One of my agents, Kelly Spasic, co-chairs that drive with me. Ultimately, this business is about so much more than just real estate. You need to make the people in your community a priority to succeed and I believe we’ve achieved that. I’ve been doing this for 18 years now. Choosing Help-U-Sell was a no-brainer for me, and I’ve really enjoyed my career thus far. I’ll probably be doing this until I’m 90,” Karen said laughing.

Real Estate Disruption and Passing the Torch

John Powell, a long-time Broker/Owner at Help-U-Sell Real Estate with several decades of experience, now the Chief Development Officer, weighed in recently on the current trends facing and affecting today’s real estate industry. He also serves as a coach and mentor.


What’s Going On Now

Trends in today’s real estate market tend to validate the business model that Help-U-Sell Real Estate invented more than 42 years ago. The industry has been in turmoil for some time, and we’ve reached a tipping point. There are many “new” business models coming into the fray with options like instant offers from well-funded groups who will buy a house from the seller for cash with a quick closing and then flip the house for a profit. Several other companies have emerged mimicking Help-U-Sell by charging a single flat fee. While their fee structure may resemble what we do, these new competitors have little in common with Help-U-Sell.

It is important to note that none of these well-funded, new competitors are using the old, traditional 6% commission model. Investors are not willing to invest in an outdated business model. Instead they are impelling the shift to consumer-oriented, consumer-centric business practices. It is remarkable that, given the shift in the industry, many traditional model companies are doubling down on the agent-centric system. They are offering new technology to agents and 100% + commissions. Some are offering multi-level type schemes where agents can get a percentage of the commissions of agents they recruit to the company. These brokerages consider the agents to be their clients instead of the consumer who actually generates the revenue. In the end, the consumer will determine the model that gives them the best value for their money.

Disruption is the Model

Help-U-Sell is the original disruptor in real estate. We have been disrupting the standard idea of how brokers and Realtors do business for more than 42 years. When we started, most people were doing business the same way they do it today: list the house for a percentage commission, usually between 5 and 7% and put it in MLS. We pioneered the consumer-centric model by going directly to the consumer.  We asked home sellers and buyers, “What did you like about your real estate experience? What did you not like? What would you change?” We based our model around those answers and formed Help-U-Sell Real Estate.

Competition and Changes

Today’s technology supports our original vision of a consumer-centric real estate experience, making the whole real estate purchase and sale process easier than ever. In the past, Realtors held the key for every house on the market and controlled access. Today, consumers use online tools to control their home search. Home sellers can look up a valuation online, or area statistics on crime or school ratings. The role of the Help-U-Sell Broker has shifted over time, but our value proposition is the same: “Full service. Big savings. The experts next door.”

Other companies are currently experimenting with a set-fee. A popular new company just raised their rate from $3,200 to $3,600. As the original real estate disruptor, we are not experimenting, we are experienced. We’ve been doing this for 42 years. As a franchise organization, we offer an opportunity to entrepreneurial Realtors that they can’t get at Purplebricks, Zillow, or Redfin. In those organizations and others, all the offices are corporate owned and the brokers are mere employees. One must wonder how quickly a corporate employee can respond to a situation that arises threatening the successful closing of a transaction. As a locally owned business offering set fee pricing, saving sellers thousands and providing full service, Help-U-Sell is perfectly positioned for today’s changing real estate world.

Flexibility and Potential a Big Draw for Maria Powell

While living in Mexico, Maria Powell was working as an executive in banking but had bigger ideas for her life and career. So Maria emigrated to the United States in 1995, determined to carve out a better life. She wanted to pursue real estate for the flexibility to be more available for her children. “When I was in banking, it was difficult to leave work for emergencies, even if your child broke an arm,” Maria said.

Maria sought a real estate mentor, from whom she would learn everything about the industry: John Powell. In her first year, she closed 16 homes. “I’ve always liked sales,” Maria shared, “but one of the reasons I was attracted to real estate was because it is one of the highest-priced items and most important things a person can buy. Being in business for myself was the best possible move because you can earn as much as you want. There is no limit.”

2018 is turning out to be far busier for Maria because she is returning her focus to her business after having spent a lot of time last year caring for a friend in hospice care. “It was important to give that time and attention, because being present for someone like that is an honor. My team at Help-U-Sell Galleria Realty has done a fine job of holding down the fort for me. I joke that my office manager is my second brain. Last year we closed 35 sides. We’re on track this year for somewhere between 45 and 50. The months of April, May and June were crazy for us, we had a ton of leads coming in,” Maria explained.

Although there are many traditional real estate offices and several set-fee style competitors in the Tucson area, Maria has never had an interest in those business models. “To me, the number one company to work for is Help-U-Sell Real Estate. I’ve never been with another real estate company. The support is tremendous, the name recognition is often what gets me in the door, and the coaching is key,” Maria said.

As a matter of fact, Maria just got involved with coaching this past year. “I needed the accountability because I want to do everything,” she laughed. The coaching helped Maria to pinpoint her talents, and concentrate on her strengths while delegating the big time drains to someone else.

Help-U-Sell is bringing more to the table for Maria. She went on to say, “Help-U-Sell Real Estate is the number one set-fee real estate company in the United States. It’s a huge advantage because the possibilities are as endless as the potential. Much of what I need to get a listing is provided for me. The scripts are polished, the marketing pieces are professional, fresh looking, and easily customizable. I don’t have to reinvent the wheel, leaving me time to work with clients.”

Talking about her own real estate career, Maria says, “There’s three big reasons I’m successful. One, the Help-U-Sell name recognition alone gets a lot of play; people call me because they know the name and what we stand for. Two, my own experience and expertise. I’ve sold hundreds of homes in Tucson and know my business. Three, and most importantly, we save consumers a lot of money. Home sellers get excited by the savings and tell all their friends. My past clients do most of my marketing for me!”

A Commitment to Community and Teamwork

When real estate chose Kimberly Zelena, she wasn’t just seeking a career path; she wanted to make it a family enterprise. Her husband, Michael, and Kimberly Zelena, Help-U-Sell Direct Savings Real Estatea business partner had put themselves in the thick of real estate in 2001 by purchasing homes for fixing up and reselling, and she wanted to expand on that. “When we looked at opening our own real estate office, we researched Assist-2-Sell and Help-U-Sell Real Estate, and we just liked Help-U-Sell a lot better. I liked the job security real estate had to offer, in addition to a steady income and a real potential for profit. The structure made more sense to us, and what they offered to the owners in terms of support was more appealing,” Kimberly (pictured above) said.

Mike sought his real estate license, Kimberly became the company owner of Help-U-Sell Direct Savings Real Estate, and they brought on Leigh Anne Losh (below) as broker. Having come from a title and settlement real estate background, Leigh Anne was also interested in making a career change. Early on she had taken a course on R.E.O. properties so she could focus on foreclosure and short sale business alone, which now constitutes a full 30% of their overall business. Kimberly said, “A lot of people don’t like working foreclosures, it takes a lot of patience, paperwork, and attention to detail. We get a lot of referrals for this because not only does Leigh Anne like handling foreclosures, she has a real knack for it.”

Of the many benefits that Help-U-Sell offers its owners, Kimberly most appreciates the coaching groups, led in part, by Jack Bailey, a 30-year Help-U-Sell Broker/Owner whose name often populates our “Top Producers” list. Kimberly shared, “Jack taught us early on that we should send out Center of Influence cards four to six times a year, and that was well before it was automated. Now that they are automated, it makes a huge difference in keeping us in the forefront of our clients’ minds.”

Another tactic employed by Kimberly’s office is to be 100% about customer service. “We get leads in part because of our great service and our professionalism. Largely, I am all about a quick response. Our staff is on the phone seven days a week until 9:00 p.m.”

Kimberly and her team go out of their way to make clients feel appreciated. For new clients, whether they are buying or selling, she gifts them with homemade fudge for the holidays. She even acquired a food license to keep everything copacetic for the business. This year they switched it up by having a ‘Christmas in July’ at a local park, inviting all 900 people from their Center of Influence list for a cookout. “When thanking people individually, we’re also big on notes and small gifts. We receive a lot of referrals, so I love giving Outback gift cards for the referral,” Kimberly explained.

Being part of a smaller community also has its advantages when it comes to name recognition and building trust. “When people move here, they rarely move away, so people really get familiar with you. Leigh Anne is known for short sales, and has a reputation for being excellent to deal with; but she’s also a presence at local festivals, manning an ‘old fashioned’ soda wagon.  People connect with her. Mike and I do the same the thing with our Lucky Duck Kettle Corn business. Of course it’s fun, but we’ve also been able to establish ourselves in the community another way that people like and remember.”

All of this diligence and hard work is paying off for team Zelena. They closed 116 sides in 2017, and the January to June report for 2018 recently published on the Help-U-Sell Connect blog has Kimberly’s team coming in fourth for the most productive office within the franchise network. Kimberly’s team closed 63 sides, which is a good indicator of closing at least double that amount for the second portion of 2018. “We were a team before teams were popular. We all work well together, and our business model works well. We are a woman-owned, woman-broker company, and every day we’re making great things happen with that commitment to teamwork.”