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I always tell people I could go sell 10 houses in one day, take 11 listings, but if I didn’t lead generate I just feel dirty. ~Aaron Wittenstein
My main source of real estate leads is from internet marketing, so I am a big SEO girl, I like to rank on the search engines, I drive a lot of traffic through social media, through real estate agent referrals online, and through pay per click marketing, both regular paid search and paid social.
I am very, very passionate about lead generation. So passionate that I opened a marketing company called Ballen Brands, where we now build real estate agent websites and create blogs and real estate market reports, manage all that pay per click for agents.
So I am now out there interviewing agents who are really rocking out a particular lead generation activity, a particular source. And today we are very fortunate to have Aaron Wittenstein from Westchester County, New York, who specializes in prospecting. Welcome to the show, Aaron.
Last year Aaron’s real estate team closed about 50 units in New York. Based on it being an attorney state, he likes to point out that the workload is about double what 50 transactions would be somewhere else.
More than half of his business last year came directly from cold call prospecting, expired, for sale by owner, circle prospecting, which we’re going to dive into, and that equates to about $400,000 dollars in commission from that source.
Aaron offers a program called Expired Mastery which is a four-week course. He offers group lead generation coaching as well, which is a weekly call on Tuesdays at 1:00 to 2:15. It’s called Trajectory. You can check that out at trajectorynow.com.
The first question is: how many days a week are you prospecting?
Aaron W.: Five days a week. Realistically, yeah, I’m at five days a week right now. I don’t miss a day. It’s ingrained in me over the last four years where if I don’t do it I feel like I didn’t shower. I always tell people I could go sell 10 houses in one day, take 11 listings, but if I didn’t lead generate I just feel dirty. I just feel like I did something wrong.
Lori Ballen: That’s a great start to this interview, I love it. Okay, so if you don’t lead generate, you feel dirty. Totally got that. I’m a very similar way although I can say I’ve never probably described it that way. Okay, how many hours a day, then, are you committing to or is your goal for the day to make those calls?
Aaron W.: On Mondays, I take my son to school in the morning, so I don’t start till 8:30, and then I’ll roll till about 11, so two-and-a-half hours on Monday. Then Tuesday through Friday I do eight to 11, that’s unless something family-related or health gets in the way. So, it’s pretty much almost 15 hours a week is what I’m doing right now.
Lori Ballen: There we go. 15 hours a week, okay. And in that 15 hours a week, do you have either averages or goals as to how many contacts you’re hoping to make or how many appointments? What’s your big goal? You go for appointments, I assume?
Aaron W.: I go for appointments, that’s the main thing. Well, actually, I should say it’s a combination of either appointments or leads. I call them callbacks, someone that says call me back at some point down the road. So, what I found is if I do 20 contacts, that should equal out to one appointment or four leads is what we should be looking at. And then every four leads should turn into one appointment eventually.
Yeah, that’s a two-way real estate related conversation. That’s not somebody who hangs up the phone on me, tells me to forget off, someone who our house already sold. That’s not a two-way conversation.
Lori Ballen: Okay, so out of 20 contacts that you actually speak with, your goal is to turn one of those into an appointment or four of those into call-me-back leads?
Aaron W.: Exactly.
Lori Ballen: Okay, perfect. Are you using dial software?
Aaron W.: I use Seize the Market.
Lori Ballen: Okay. Does it track how many dials a day you’re averaging?
Aaron W.: It does actually. Oh, there’s a way to figure it out but I’m going to wind up sitting here forever to do it.
Lori Ballen: That’s alright. That’s okay. That’s okay.
Aaron W.: Yeah, it does tell me how many dials I make.
Where are you having the best success? Is it for sale by owners, expired, circle prospecting?
Aaron W.: It’s a combination of both. I’m sorry, expireds and for sale by owners. I don’t personally do circle prospecting-
Lori Ballen: Okay.
Aaron W.: Just because it’s kind of like throwing a needle in a haystack almost. So, not a bad idea, not for me.
Lori Ballen: Okay, so you’re doing expired and for sale by owners?
Aaron W.: Yes, ma’am.
Lori Ballen: Okay. Where are you getting the numbers to call those?
The Phone Numbers
Aaron W.: I use data from Vulcan Seven is where I get for sale by owners and expireds. I also use another program, fsbohotsheet.com that I also get some for sale by owner data from as well.
Lori Ballen: Fsbohotsheet.com.
Aaron W.: I’m averaging 105 dials an hour.
Lori Ballen: You average what?
Aaron W.: 105 dials an hours.
Lori Ballen: Oh, 105 dials an hour, perfect. I knew you had that number. Okay, amazing. Okay, so Vulcan Seven, that’s a paid service. Is fsbohotsheet.com a paid service?
Aaron W.: It’s really cheap, it’s only $75 bucks a quarter.
Lori Ballen: Okay. How accurate do you find the information on those two lists?
Aaron W.: Extremely accurate. Extremely. I wouldn’t be using them if they weren’t, so extremely accurate data.
Lori Ballen: Do they filter through the Do Not Call list?
Aaron W.: Yes, they do.
Lori Ballen: And do you find these are mostly landlines or cell phones?
Aaron W.: Both. With the expireds, the Vulcan Seven winds up getting an obscene amount of data from people. They’ll typically get two to five phone numbers of different … Whoever the contacts are. And then FSBO Hotsheet will give you usually whatever phone number is listed on that ad.
Lori Ballen: Okay, perfect. Okay, so you throw these lists into your dialer, your dial goes to work, I’ve seen you do your Facebook Lives and stuff, it’s really cool. So then once you get a live person on the phone, that’s when you jump on and go into script mode. So, scripts. Are you using any kind of specific scripts for these?
Aaron W.: Yeah, I create all my own scripts, so the answer is yes.
Lori Ballen: Oh, you create all your own?
Aaron W.: Yes.
Lori Ballen: Did you start off that way or did you use some other ones in the beginning?
Aaron W.: I started using other ones. I kind of went between Mike Ferry, Kevin Ward, stuff like that, some Bold Scripts, all over the place, until I really started tweaking them to myself. I found that I took this from here, this from here, and I liked this one that one said, and I made my own scripts.
Lori Ballen: Perfect. Are those scripts part of your program that you … ?
Aaron W.: Yeah, the Expired Mastery program. For sale by owner, I really don’t have it written down on that one, but my expired script is pretty killer and I do that on Facebook Live all the time.
Lori Ballen: Okay, cool. I have an idea on that, I’ll message you after the fact.
Aaron W.: Okay, cool.
Lori Ballen: I love scripts even though I’m not a cold caller. I love to … Scripts is one of the most popular Google searches for real estate agent businesses, did you know that?
Aaron W.: I had no idea.
Lori Ballen: Yeah.
Aaron W.: That’s good to know.
Lori Ballen: It is really good to know. Somebody like you could really take advantage of that. Alright, so. Okay, so, you’re making these calls … What do you think that somebody just starting off on this, what is the goal of the call? So they get somebody live on the phone, obviously, the goal’s the appointment, but are you going right into, “Hey, I hear your house is expired. I’d like to list it.”? How does that kind of go?
Aaron W.: Oh, it’s pretty simple. First off, I think when people are starting brand new, and this is kind of a side note here, is they should really focus on time that they’re on the dialer for. So in a perfect world, every brand new agent should be on for three hours. You don’t focus so much on context because you’re not going to be very good at the beginning, yet you can count on the amount of time that you’re actually making the phone calls for.
Lori Ballen: Why is that matter? If they’re not reaching anybody, why is the focus three hours on the dialer?
Aaron W.: It’s doing the activity. It’s getting ready … Not saying getting ready, it’s actually doing the activity upon activity upon activity because you’ve got to get used to in the habit of doing on a regular, consistent basis. Because you don’t have to be the best person making the phone calls, you just have to be the most consistent person doing it. And consistency will lead to … Leads, I guess is the best way you could put it. And it will lead to money. I may not be the best person there, but I’ll tell you right now I’ll consistently beat anybody else out there.
Lori Ballen: Oh, I love that. Basically what you’re saying is focus on the system, not the goal, although-
Aaron W.: Yep. In the beginning.
Lori Ballen: We all have set goals. Yeah.
Aaron W.: In the beginning because you can’t control how many people are going to pick up the phone every day. That’s out of your control completely, okay? Yet, you can control the number of hours that you’re doing it for. And, if you have time, for example, like I’ve only hit 10 contacts today because I was only on the phone for two hours, I’ll pick up for another hour and see if I can rip through those this afternoon.
Lori Ballen: Okay. Is there a best time of day to … I’m going to come back to your script, but is there a best time of day to call, do you find?
Aaron W.: 8AM for me. Monday through Friday. Eight to 11 is when I make the phone call. The thing for me is I have a young family, I got a six-year-old and three-year-old twins. Keep in mind, with all the work I do, I’m home every day by four o’clock.
So the reason that I call first thing in the morning is that it’s the most convenient time for me because I’m in the office, I’m ready to go, I got energy, and I don’t care when the best time to call is. All that matters is you’re going to do it and what’s the best time for you.
Lori Ballen: It’s so funny to hear you say that because I interviewed Robin Mann a few weeks ago on door knocking and she said the exact same thing. I asked her if there was a particular time and she said, “You know what, whatever time’s the best time for me to do it, it’s just being there and actually doing it.” So there’s a common thread there.
Aaron W.: Oh, yeah.
Lori Ballen: Okay, that makes sense. So you’re calling an expired and, like you said, originally the goal is just make sure you’re putting in the time and you’re there three hours. So somebody answers the phone now and you’ve got an expired. What’s kind of your approach?
Aaron W.: First I … Lori?
Lori Ballen: Yes.
Aaron W.: Okay, so the reason I ask a person by the first name is because that’s the way a friend’s going to answer the phone. What I found is if you say, “I’m looking for the owner of,” or you say, “Hello, is this Jim?” Then they’re going to kind of wonder who you are calling and it sounds much more business related that way. So, like Lori it’s, “Hi, Lori?”
Lori Ballen: That is so smart. Yes, hi.
Aaron W.: “Lori, hi it’s Aaron, I’m a local realtor,” I don’t use my last name and I don’t use Keller Williams because too many Keller Williams’ agents call. “I’m the local realtor. As you’re probably aware you’re property came off the market last night. Did you sell that property privately or do you have it up for sale by owner?”
Lori Ballen: I was listed with an agent.
Aaron W.: “Got it, so you were listed with an agent for it, got it.” Now, the reason you ask that question is because it’s a real pattern interrupter because no one’s asking that question and it really throws them off their game.
Lori Ballen: Yeah, that’s interesting, because it did … I had to stop and process because if we’re doing an expired it would’ve just … Yeah, that’s great. Okay, so now I tell you that it was listed with an agent.
Aaron W.: “Got it. So I’m trying to figure out how in the world did that place not sell?”
Lori Ballen: The real estate agent didn’t market it correctly.
Aaron W.: “Got it. So you had poor marketing, is that correct?”
Lori Ballen: Yes, absolutely.
Aaron W.: “So, what happened?”
Lori Ballen: Well, there weren’t very many open houses and didn’t seem like we got very many showings so … I’ve kind of called the real estate agent several times to see what was happening with it and they told me it was in the MLS but I really didn’t see much else beyond that.
Aaron W.: “Got it. Now, are you living in the property or is it vacant?”
Lori Ballen: I’m living in it.
Aaron W.: “You’re living in it?” Because the reason I say if it’s vacant is that I’m not getting off the phone without that appointment if it’s vacant. Then I’ll be like, “Okay. Well, what my team actually does is we specialize in selling homes that are on the market for extended periods of time without selling. I’ve taken homes that were on the market for as long as 1,039 days and flipped them around in an average of 29. I’d love to stop by and have a conversation. What works better for you, late morning, early afternoon or Saturday?”
Lori Ballen: I got to call my husband first. I’m not really … He can call you back.
Aaron W.: “Sure, sure. So you want to talk with your husband first?”
Lori Ballen: Yeah.
Aaron W.: “Alright, when do you think you’d have an opportunity to speak with him?”
Lori Ballen: Probably tonight after work.
Aaron W.: “Okay, so why don’t we do this? Why don’t get a tentative appointment down in the schedule and that way you can chat with your husband, we can firm it up to make sure the time doesn’t get booked by somebody else? So what works better, late morning, early afternoon or Saturday?”
Lori Ballen: Okay, that’s good. Alright, so now we booked the appointment. So I like what you said, going back a second, I like what you said about the vacant. So you paused there and said, “I’m asking that question because if they’re in the house I’m not missing the appointment”?
Aaron W.: No. If the house is vacant, and it’s expired, it’s like a slam dunk right there.
Lori Ballen: Oh, gotcha, because it should’ve sold. I noticed you also did not respond … You acknowledged the fact that I said it was the real estate agent that didn’t do any marketing, but you didn’t really respond to the fact that the real estate … You didn’t try to counteract that or prove your value or any of that kind of stuff. You went right into your next close for the appointment which was, “We sell homes on average blah, blah, blah.” So, you didn’t address that. So, does that mean no matter what objection I would’ve thrown out right there that would’ve been your next line?
Aaron W.: Well, yeah, because what happens is people get so tied up in objection handling when the goal is not to handle objections.
The goal is to three R is what I call it: repeat, reaffirm, redirect with another question.
So any objections that you give me I’m just going to take it, I’m going to be like, “Alright, cool. I understand,” I’m going to repeat what you said and I’m just going to do one of my objection handlers that just move on to the next question. And then I’m going to ask my next question and a series of questions that I have.
So, I’m a for sale by owner and you’re calling me.
Aaron W.: With for sale by owners I don’t have a full and firm script to really rationalize … What’s the word? Not rationalize. I don’t have a firm script that’s set up. The main goal of the for sale by owners is to find out information and just dig a little bit and keep in touch with them on a regular basis. So, it’s more of a long-term nurture on a for sale by owner. So I’ll call and be like, “Hi, I’m looking for,” this one use I don’t have first names, “I’m looking for the owner of 123 Smith Street.”
Lori Ballen: Okay.
Aaron W.: And then, I’ll be like, “I’m looking for the owner of 123 Smith Street.”
Aaron W.: “Hi, my name’s Aaron. I’m a local realtor, I just want to get that out of the way right off the bat. And I’m just curious, how’s everything going for in the process so far?”
Lori Ballen: I’m not listing with an agent.
Aaron W.: “Totally respect that, totally respect that. My intention isn’t to help you list the property, it’s just to kind of stay in touch with you, everything’s going.” Now, I never use the “I have a buyer” script or anything like that. So, what I’ll do, depending on what it is, I’ll just dig. I’ll be like, “So, got it. So are you planning on staying in the area?”
Lori Ballen: No, we’re going to be moving to a nearby smaller town.
Aaron W.: “What type of a timeframe, in a perfect world, would you like to be out of the home by?”
Lori Ballen: Well, in a perfect world it would be yesterday, but we don’t have any specific reason we need to move fast.
Aaron W.: “Got it. Okay, so what my team actually does is we specialize in helping for sale by owners that had their house on the market for whatever period of time because what I found is that is who can net you more money. Alright, so the question is, if I can get you the same amount of money that you could for your property, would be open to sitting down and having a conversation?”
Lori Ballen: Sure, if you can show me how I make more money.
Aaron W.: “Okay, so let’s say this. Hypothetically speaking, alright, let’s say that you wanted a million dollars for your property, alright? And I found somebody that’s willing to pay the million dollars and I charge you another million dollars, alright? So, therefore, we’re at two million dollars. And I can find some idiot to pay the two million dollars for your property, you’re still getting the million, I make a million, and we can even split the difference. Does that make sense?”
Lori Ballen: Yes, sure.
Aaron W.: See, I usually do one dollar and a million, I just messed it up right there.
And then the reality of it is is that I’m never locking down an appointment right there in that first week. What I’m going to do is I’m going to follow-up within a week, “Lori, hey, it’s Aaron Wittenstein over at Keller Williams Real Estate, how are you?
Great. Just wanted to catch up on the property, see how everything’s going.” And then by … You just do the same thing on the next phone call and the same thing on the next phone call and then by the third phone call they get to know you a little bit and then you can sense their frustration as you go. So it’s almost just staying in touch, staying in touch, staying in touch, staying in touch, because most … 80% of for sale by owners will list within six weeks of putting a property on the market themselves.
Lori Ballen: I heard that. I was at the Keller Williams Family Reunion convention and Jackie Kravitz was doing a presentation and I’ll tell you, when I heard that stat, I forget what she said if it was they list in the first 90 days or something similar to what you said, I was blown away. I’m like, I need to go start chasing for sale by owners.
Aaron W.: They’re great. It’s just people don’t want to stay in the long haul for it, they want the one and done, one and done, one and done. It just doesn’t work that way.
Lori Ballen: Yeah. So, expireds you’re going right for the appointment, and for sale by owners are more of a nurture, trying to build trust and relationship through follow-up calls.
Aaron W.: Exactly.
Lori Ballen: Which one do you find the most success with? I would imagine there are a lot more expireds than for sale by owners, right?
Aaron W.: Expireds I had massive success with last year. This year we’ve been having a lot more success with for sale by owners just because there’s not a lot of expireds, that’s what we’ve be challenged with and a lot of them are just re-listing with the same agent, which I just don’t understand logically in my head whatsoever. So, I’ve been shifting a lot of my work to for sale by owners.
We actually went back two years on old for sale by owners to get some really old stuff which has been working out really well so far.
Lori Ballen: Oh, I love that. We’re the same way with Internet leads. The best opportunity is to go back through web leads that are two years old and start calling them because, just like for sale by owners, if they didn’t sell and they decide to sit on it you’ve got a year of this cultivation time or two before they put it back on the market or, with an Internet lead, before they’re qualified or have their credit approved so I love going back through old leads. I think that’s really smart. If they didn’t sell, right, you’ve got a gold mine.
Aaron W.: Well, no one else is touching them too, that’s why. They’re not getting inundated. The brand new for sale by owners get killed, but the old ones really work well.
Lori Ballen: Yeah, I love that. Do you ever back that up with any kind of direct mail or anything?
Aaron W.: Yeah. We have an Eight by Eight email campaign that we use and we’re actually implementing, as soon as the docs come in, we’re going to be implementing a 10-day blitz for expireds. A mailer every other day for 10 days on top of an Eight by Eight expired email campaign.
Lori Ballen: I love that and I’ll be fascinated to know what your results are after the fact. When I was doing direct mail, let’s see, it was 2007 to 2010, we were doing a ton of direct mail, and that’s where I was getting a lot of my business from expireds and it was through direct mail. And that’s exactly what I did, as soon as it expired the first day I sent a card, like a full on greeting card so there was a financial investment. But, everybody’s going to open a greeting card.
Aaron W.: Yeah.
Lori Ballen: That’s not something they’ll throw away, so I wanted to make sure that that landed. And then I set that up on a series to where it touched them seven times. Or, actually, I think it went 10 or 12, but seven was my average. It took about seven … So, if I was spending a buck apiece, it was like a seven dollar investment before I got that call. But I didn’t find over time that that was … It seemed like direct mail was waning. But I think with your calls and piggybacking on that direct mail, I love that brand reinforcement and trust. Oh, there he is again. Oh, there he is again. Right?
Aaron W.: I’m just going to bomb them for 10 days and I figure I’ll give it a try. I bought enough for 500 houses, so we’ll see how that goes. I figure after 500 we’re going to know if it works or not.
Lori Ballen: Yeah, I love that. I think that’s a really good idea. What else … So, anybody, that’s listening here in our last five minutes, what advice would you give somebody … You gave us great advice that one, they just need to stay on. They just need to be there for their three hours and do their dials. What else might help them be more successful?
Aaron W.: Realize that you’re not going to be very good for a long time. Because basically, you’re going to suck, is the best way to put it. What winds up happening with most people is like I say, you consistently dial for 15 hours a week.
So you talk to someone that’s brand new and they’re like, “Cold calling’s not for me.” I’ll be like, “Interesting. Why is that?” And they’re like, “Because it didn’t work last week.” I’ll be like, “So let me get this straight. You dialed for a week, right?”
They’re like, “Yeah, we dialed for a week. It didn’t work.” I’m like, “So, you dialed three hours a day, right?” They’d be like, “Well, no, we did more like two hours a day.” “Okay, got it. So you cold called for 10 hours last week?” And I’ll be like, “How many times were you going to the bathroom? Did you stop to talk to somebody? Did you grab a glass of water?” They’re like, “Ah, well, maybe half.” “Alright, so let me get this straight.
You lead generated for five hours last week and you wonder why you suck?”
Lori Ballen: I love it. You’ll average your way to success. That’s genius. How do you handle the rejection?
Aaron W.: You can’t be rejected by someone that doesn’t want to call you in the first place and somebody you’re not even looking at face-to-face.
The way that I look at it, rejection is like back in my single days or something where you go out and someone says, “I don’t want to have anything to do with you. You’re ugly.” That’s rejection. Rejection is like my wife telling me (I don’t have any hair) but saying, “Your hair looks horrible.” That’s rejection. But these people, they never wanted to be called by you in the first place. So they don’t know you, they’ve never seen you, so how can you be rejected by someone that you’ve never seen and doesn’t want to hear from you ever? It’s not rejection.
Lori Ballen: Okay, well, how about if I’m worried that I’m disrupting somebody’s life?
Aaron W.: You are.
Lori Ballen: Yeah, you are.
Aaron W.: No, but here’s the thing though. The way you come at it is that I’m really good at my job. Like I’m really good. And I’m calling to help you out. Because you have this mindset that you’re helping to make a contribution, whatever you want to say, is that if you have that mindset that these people are just normal people that are pissed because if you think about it, your house just expired from the Multiple Listing Service, alright? And you had an agent for six months that didn’t do their job, and the next thing you know, you’ve got 37 million agents calling you? I would be pissed too. That’s why you’ve got to be the first one that makes the phone calls.
Lori Ballen: Ah, love it. Okay, so if anybody wants to send you a referral, do you have a team or is it just you?
Aaron W.: We actually … Like last year it was just me and my operations manager, so the transactions we did was just the two of us. Now I’ve got … The two of us, we’ve got a virtual assistant, we’ve got a buyer specialist and just brought in a listing specialist last week.
Lori Ballen: Whew, you’re about to go through some growing pains.
Aaron W.: I know, I’m looking forward to it, I think.
Lori Ballen: Ah, I remember that. Okay, so they would … I’ve got your number here, 914-406-6483, and I will put that in the write-up. You’re email@example.com. Aaron Wittenstein, Westchester, New York. And you told us the links to your training programs so we will put those in there as well. Is there anything else I didn’t ask you or any leaving thoughts for our audience?
I think that whether it’s Internet marketing, whether it’s for sale by owners, whether it’s expired, whether it’s door knocking, whether it’s database, whether it’s whatever it is, just whatever you’re going to do, take the time to figure out what that is and consistently do it.
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