The Takeaway with Nobu Hata, Featuring Sven Andersen

The Takeaway With Nobu Hata is an audio podcast series. It features in-depth discussions on business-building tips that successful real estate pros are using in the field. 

Listen and share The Takeaway with Nobu Hata. 


Nobu Hata, NAR director of member engagement: Welcome to the Takeaway, everybody.  This is Nobu Hata. Today, I’m super honored to bring you Sven Andersen out of the Boston, Mass., area. Sven, introduce yourself.

Sven Andersen, broker, The Andersen Team, REALTORS®, RE/MAX, Winchester, Mass.:  I live here in Winchester, Mass., just eight miles north of Boston. I run a team of six.

NOBU:  I really want to get folks prepped for action in their business this year.  I am amazed at what you’ve been doing. You track ROI (return on investment). You track your return on time granularly. One of the things that I saw in one of your spreadsheets was that, you know when the best times are to make cold calls and prospect people, which is absolutely amazing.  Let’s talk about this real quick. I mean, when it comes to metrics, what do you use? What do you think about when you’re determining ROI?

SVEN: You know what, Nobu, I got into this business 16 years ago and I realized you get into this business and you buy that shiny great object and you implement that thing and you think this is going to change your business because of this technology or tool or this system or this CRM. You think it’s going to just light up your business and change what you’re going to do, but at the end, what it comes down to is making sure that tool is pulled out of the box and actually used and implemented and tracked. Because here is the problem: most real estate agents just have no idea what the value is of what they’re doing and how much they’re spending and what the return on investment is.  Well, I decided I can’t do that. I got into this business and I wanted to find out how much I was spending on a particular product or tool and then determine at a very granular level how much it’s costing me per lead or per opportunity.

NOBU: What’s interesting is that you bring up opportunities verses actual closings, so I’m assuming you mean cold or warm leads or prospects and that you can actually convert those folks into solds. Are you finding that the majority of your time is spent on conversion of those warm folks, and do you have a much better track record of using technology, using your scripts or what have you, the warmer they get or is it more of a cold lead thing with most of your technology?

SVEN: We’re creating marketing pieces and tools with specific landing pages for what we’re doing. For instance, we’re doing a down-sizing seminar next week. We have 42 people registered for it and we used print media to reach them. People are like, “I’m not spending money on print.” But we wanted to get it out in the right hands because of the demographics of the people that are downsizing. They’re reading the local newspaper. We did direct mail pieces that tie not only our success around what we were doing, but also tied together this event and the main component of this marketing piece that was mailed to over 7,000 pieces via EDDM (Every Door Direct Mail) was geared towards getting people to register for this event and it was successful. A huge success, because the registration pieces were set up with specific phone numbers for dialing into our operations manager, who basically took on all of these pieces via the phone calls and was able to track exactly why and how these people heard about us, whether it was from the newspaper or the direct mail pieces or Facebook media, which is what we did as well. So, it was targeting to specific demographics of users as well.

NOBU: Interesting. So, unique phone numbers, unique URLs, unique landing pages, all tied to your marketing, so you know exactly, out of those 7,000 mailings, which one of those is going to be successful due to the fact that almost everything you’re using has got something unique about it and has a calling card so you know everything. You use Every Door Direct Mail, and that is what EDEM uses correct?

SVEN: Yes, Every Door Direct Mail, and you can search by zip codes, so you can use Zip-Plus 4, so within our community there’s 12 or 15 different Zip-Plus 4 zip codes. We mailed to a majority of the higher end kind of homes in our market space and we were able to generate the kind of return that we’re looking for when we spend money on Google, Pay-per-click or other pieces. So, just going back to registration, it’s taking us a step further when someone registers on our site we use Commissions Inc . as our backend lead management tool. What it does is it tells us what directed that consumer to our page? We know that in January that we had 85 leads come in and 59.3 of those leads were from Google, 9.9 percent of them were from Zillow, 9.99 percent direct from our own web site redirect, 6.6 from Bing, 5.5 from Trulia, 4.4 from open houses, 3.3 from Facebook. Talk about granular right? So, is our Facebook marketing working? Well, it’s not working nearly as well as Google or Zillow, so we’re looking at top referring sites and we’re figuring out where do we spend more money?  Because once we put those people into that campaign, we’re using a 33-touch program to talk to them and so when my team gets an inbound lead, we’re doing a quick follow-up phone call to determine what level of immediacy this particular buyer might have. That’s just on the buy side, but on all of our marketing we are really tracking it.

NOBU: So, is it safe to say that Commissions Inc. is one of those products that you can’t live without, because it allows you to see those analytics in real time?

SVEN: Yes, it’s a sales funnel tool. It’s like BoomTown, and we have used BoomTown before, but Commissions Inc. has an interface that integrates with our web site. Commissions Inc. is basically a stealth landing page piece, but we tied it into our web sites. And then what’s really more important is that within that tool is an auto dialer, whereby we find out exactly who we need to call today. We go through an auto dialer and its done right through the system. I have to bang out a minimum of 20 to 35 phone calls a day to specific sellers so that I can get the number of leads I need for the number of opportunities, etc.  We also use Slydial when we want to leave a message, so it helps us stay on track to do the number of calls that we need on a daily basis.

NOBU: And these people, they are not really cold prospectors, right? They’re actually receptive to your phone call or to your voice mail when you get them right?

SVEN: Absolutely. I’m reading an incredible book right now and if you haven’t read this book or if any of you listeners haven’t read it, it’s called Fanatical Prospecting, by Jeff Blount. My entire team is reading it but part of the puzzle is to try to stay connected. If people see a piece of information from you they know your name already. When I’m picking up the phone and calling them they’re kind of like, “Yeah, I’ve heard your name.”

NOBU: In general, people find making phone calls in this day in age very, very uncomfortable.  Is there something that you guys do? Is there some sort of magic sauce that you guys have with your scripts or something like that when you’re making these phone calls so they stand out in what is a very noisy world?

SVEN: It’s a funny question. I’m all about making sure that I add value every time I pick up the phone. If it’s a buyer lead, we want to make sure that we discover where they are in their home search process because that’s the most important part of it, and to ultimately convert them to a face-to-face meeting. But that doesn’t typically happen on the first call. The first call is a voice mail follow-up saying, “Hey, Nobu, I’m just wanting to reach out to you. I just saw that you registered on our web site and I just want to connect with you. Please give me a ring back at our phone number.” And so why do I do that? Sometimes you have left a message and the wife is doing something that the husband is not aware of or vice versa, and it gets complicated. We just leave the message and we follow that message up with a text or an email. We’re always closing. We’re trying to make sure that we convert that lead to the next phase of our leap status, from a P1 to P2 to P3 kind of person. I don’t like salespeople that call with cheesy stuff. I mean it’s just so bad. We saw that you are on our web site how can we help you? Is there a value that we can present? Oh, and by the way, because we’re in this market and you’re looking in the areas we serve, we actually have inventory on properties that is not yet on the market, so when clients call they want to hear that. Buyers are saying, “I’ve lost four houses. I’m so sick of this. I’m looking for somebody that can give me the right insight,” and this is what we offer. We do that for a lot of our clients. When you’re a buyer and you want to look at a property or want to look in our particular area, we can actually tell you, right now, there are 15 houses that are in our local market that aren’t on the market yet that we’re either listing or somebody else is listing, and that you’re going to have access to them. So that’s one of the reasons why you want to actually work with us. That’s what buyers want right now.

NOBU: So, giving them that access and telling them exactly what’s available and giving them facts. It’s not about scripts; it’s about giving them facts that they can use that earns that inquiry and that is great. This is something I’ve been talking about for a while and I’ve been finding a lot of folks like you, a lot of top producers out there, who really do hustle. You know, it’s not about scripts; it’s about giving folks value always and you have a 33-step plan. Once these folks are in your funnel, you’re 33 contacts away. I mean, that’s great. Have you found that it’s taking you less time to convert people as you hone your marketing message to them?

SVEN:  It is, but what we’re finding is sometimes calling at the right time are important so we actually are tracking when are the best times to call and so what we’re finding is that Saturdays or Sundays are the best times to call. Thursdays are the best times to call. Never call on Mondays—Mondays and Tuesdays in the afternoon.  I used to have an ISA that would work 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and I’m like, Wait a minute, 9 a.m. to p.m. everybody is at work. Nobody is going to pick up the phone. If you don’t call from 8 a.m. to 9:30 or 10 a.m. and then from 4 p.m. to 7:30 or 8 p.m., you’re not going to connect with anybody.  You have to spend the right time doing what you need to do so what we’re doing is making sure that we time block you know with our new agents to make sure they’re actually time blocking their calendars to make calls at those times and people are available. You’re going to have a better success rate. The Thursdays, Saturdays, Sundays basically when people are comfortable and they are in their weekend mode, their cruising in their weekend mode are probably looking for houses right no.

NOBU: You’re actually giving them something that they’re doing anyways that is very interesting!

SVEN: Yeah and so we do a CMA for people ahead of time so they’re not digging in the right property at the right value, etc. We’re being strategic in our negotiation process with them as well. I think getting them on the phone to convert is an important piece, but you ultimately you got to have a level of service that make them rave about you. 16.5 percent of our business last year was from Yelp. I’m trying to make sure that we convert those people and most of those people are online. Most people don’t have an idea of who they are? They are online converting with us so they say, “I saw your reviews on Yelp or Zillow and we’re calling you to help us!”

NOBU: That’s great, 16.5 percent. You have to down to the half point. I would not have expected anything less from you, Sven. When it comes to the print stuff, you do the EDDM. Do you use that for all of your print? And it sounds like you spent quite a bit of money on that stuff, right, since your clients will be there and especially your sellers?

SVEN: Well, we got away from print for a while, because we thought we we’re spending too much money on it but I got to tell you there’s nothing that delivers the volume that EDDM does. There’s a real estate agent in the market that I’m sending and gets the mailer. Do I care? No. The end game is this: the cost for that mail piece is a lot less to get out the door than it is if you try and direct mail it. We actually had an overflow of a certain mailer that we just mailed out the door and we were actually going to just mail it to some specific people out there and the mail piece cost us 91 cents to mail versus all-in costs for print and mail I think it was at 56 cents. It’s a little bit more than half. I’m looking at these numbers and I’m like, You’ve got to make sure you’re smart about what you’re doing because it’s costing you a boatload of money if you try and send it first class, so in the end, we’re trying to make sure that our print and our social and all of our marketing is actually paying off. We are really drilling down into that.

NOBU: Is the message pretty consistent when it comes to your social and digital stuff versus your offline print?

SVEN: They differ a little bit but in the end what we’re trying to do is have a cohesive brand messaging piece and so if you go to our web site and you if look at that versus our YouTube Channel versus our Facebook page, you will see that consistency is there throughout so we have skimmed through all of them. The messaging itself is pretty consistent…

NOBU: Yeah, it’s a consistent looking field but then when it comes to specific needs for urbanites moving out to the suburbs then you have a message for them and that’s when the digital aspect kind of kicks in and when you have these deals I mean do you put them up on a white board?  You had a conversation in a group that we’re in at Facebook on Facebook Live about a white board.  Do you use that whiteboard?  Is it a whiteboard web site that you use that your key is to keep track of what’s happening in RealTime in your business?

SVEN: Yes.  I found a product called CCE and this is a software tool that we have put in place and there’s a scoreboard that displays on 56-inch big screen  TV in our office the number of leads and the number of calls that are made, the number of connections that are made, etc. We push it from our laptops to Apple TV on this screen and what it does is it shows us where the agents are in terms of their goals and numbers and overall where we are as a team.  And so what it does is it drills a little bit of a competitive atmosphere and it also makes sure that we’re on track for our goals. This is a pretty slick tool because it breaks down how many phone calls you need to make to achieve your goals based on the fixed price, sales volume, etc. And it will actually show you by agent and by team what it is that you need to do to achieve those goals. Every Tuesday morning we have a team meeting. We talk through it and actually breakdown how many phone calls were made during the week. What was your success? What are you going to do this week? And seeing the numbers so you’re down in the phone calls, how are you going to make that up? What are you going to do?  And it’s a pretty cool system so that each agent can really track their own activity level and it’s makes everybody’s life easier because you don’t have to harp on people. I’m like if you want to hit your goal, you better hit your numbers. That’s what we do…

NOBU: The and I’m looking at the web site right now it’s that whiteboard and my wife is looking at it for her business and her team and because of that and the RealTime tracking and RealTime activity it’s pretty awesome… Again, you hold each other accountable with the data that’s already added there and you’re at your own disposal so that’s awesome and post transaction how granular do you get? I know you kill it with referrals. You’re big in CRS groups with referrals and other agents and within your system is just something that you just kill it with your client of events, your thankyous. Just give me an overview of what you do with your past client to drive referrals with them?

SVEN: You know what I have a coach and I wanted to turn it up a notch. My listing coordinator and asked the question what do you think other teams spend on annual marketing budget for the percentage of creating new business first and nurturing your past clients in sphere of influence?  What I found is he basically said the greatest number of deals that are made are from your past clients but the least amount of money is spent on them and it is completely opposite for us.  I mean we spent a lot of money on our clients and I have to tell you it’s paid off big time. For instance, last year we had 75 clients go to a rooftop, a private event at Fenway Park. We blocked a whole section off on the top roof deck near all the way up on the top and two hours before the event, we had a whole spread everything that you can eat outside on a roof deck, all you can drink, all you can eat it was like awesome. People ranted and raved about that.

NOBU: Is there anything that you use to keep track of your clients post transactions like CMYs? What do you use?

SVEN: We use Realvolve and the reason why we use Realvolve it’s a very cool tool and we use it from start to finish. When we have a seller for instance, that wants to do business with us we have a whole campaign that we put into place for it. And today actually we’re shooting videos that we’re going to put through BombBomb so that we can then drop them into Realvolve. The videos that we’re shooting I have a Cannon PI5S and wireless mic so we’re using prompter on an ipad and putting the scripts up and shooting video clips for our clients so that when we go through the process that everything is very sync and it’s the same thing over and over again. We have a sellers questionnaire so before we even meet with a client and that is set up by as a component of our transaction management process through Realvolve and it’s a pretty slick way to do it and everybody is filling out their questionnaires. Our conversion rate for those is 98 percent of every client we meet with and gives them an opportunity is filling them out and we know exactly what they are looking for, in an agent or a price and everything else and it’s all done electronically. We’re getting into the busy time of the year and it’s going to be where there’s going to be 50 or 70 people on that piece where we are just going to be pushing the button and everything is going to go out.

NOBU: This has been some great stuff, so using Commissions Inc. and mailings with EDDM to open the sales funnel and getting super granular and tactical both online and offline mailings, using RealTime to keep track as your CRM with the, the whiteboard to hold your teammates accountable. When it comes to the post transaction and the phone call that’s having value, value, value and everywhere you go. Thank you so much for spending a half-an-hour with us.

SVEN: I am so honored. Thank you for the opportunity.  

The Takeaway

Resources discussed in this podcast:

About Our Speakers

Sven Andersen of The Andersen Team, REALTORS®, in Winchester, Mass., a top selling RE/MAX team, tracks everything his team does so he can identify where each lead comes from, how much time his team is spending on marketing, where he gets the most bang for his buck on advertising, and so on. As a result, he can assess the best time to make marketing calls, which media to use to reach different groups of prospects, and what ad spending to increase.

Nobu Hata is the director of digital engagement for the National Association of REALTORS®. Before joining NAR, he was a real estate agent with Edina Realty in Minnesota. The self-described geek has called Alaska and Minnesota home. Now, he’s in in Chicago or on the road meeting with REALTORS® and association executives to talk about NAR, their business, and the integration of digital technologies in the real estate industry. 

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