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Introductions: How to tell people what you do in Real Estate

by Tracy Royce on December 27, 2012 · 18 comments

  

As newcomers flock to the real estate investing world once again, I see the question proposed more…”How do I introduce myself when people ask what I do?”

Whether you’re brand new to this business, or a seasoned vet, you should always be making it known what it is that you do. There’s no better way to do that then to use your current sphere of influence and new acquaintances. So, when I’m approached to explain to others how to share what they do in real estate, I ask what their background is in, what sort of communication they feel works best with them, and what sort of activities they or their family is involved in.

How Do You Define What You Do?

For instance, when a mentoree and I had our first sit down, we quickly dug in to discuss how she could quickly start generating leads. I asked my normal questions, and she had shared that she had a large brood that was always on the go, a cleaning business, and had a background in phone sales. (Yet, she was anxious about getting the right mail, postcard, or flyer out. Too many seminars, I joked. You’re overeducated.) “Whoa, nelly,” I smiled. “You own a cleaning business, have worked in phone sales, and are constantly involved with your children’s activities? You’re sitting on a gold mine, my friend!” I was excited to share with her the fact that she had a business that was already attached to real estate, was in contact with hundreds of people a week, and not afraid to get on the phone, she simply needed to start letting anyone and everyone know she’s moving into the world of real estate investing.

“So, what do I even say?” she asked.

“Well, for starters, be semi-casual..you don’t want to be the overbearing real estate sales person that people shirk away from at parties, yikes. You want people to FLOCK to you for information!” Face to face and phone contact work best for her, so I said to start with that. Just as importantly, we went through  what NOT to say. (Hopefully you, dear reader, don’t say these!)

  • I do real estate (really? what precisely does that mean? Real estate can mean residential, commercial, land, leases, etc).
  • I buy houses (ok, don’t we all. WHY do you buy houses? For what purpose?)
  • I flip properties (yikes, don’t earn us ALL a bad rap, ok? As more investors come into the market, make sure we’re represented well as a community. Flipping can have a negative connotation, so perhaps frame it in a more positive way.)

Suggestions for Ways to Define What You Do

Might I suggest some alternative elevator pitches that have a more lasting impression?

  • Rehabber: I/we pay cash for houses, and then renovate them to sell on the retail market. It improves neighborhoods, helps pricing, and I usually sell to first time home buyers that adore the property.
  • Wholesaler: I / we buy properties cash at a discount and sell them at wholesale prices to buyers. Do you know of anyone that is looking for properties below market value?
  • Investor: I/we buy homes that cash flow to keep for the long haul. I buy from all sorts of sources so if you know of someone that is looking to sell and has some flexibility, please give me a call first.
  • Doorknocking: Hi, I work with cash buyers that are looking for homes in the neighborhood and were interested in yours. Do you think you’d be interested in selling, or know someone who is? (Don’t patronize these poor people, be the welcome guest, not the circling vulture. Most likely they know they’re in foreclosure, no need to repeat it back to them and make it even more apparent.)

NOTE: With all these intros, if you offer referral fees, don’t forget to mention that! And always extend your card and ask them to think of you first.

What Do You Say Next?

“Ok,” she said, hesitated, “but I have NO CLUE what to say next! What if they ask me any questions, I can’t just run away!” We laughed and then I explained, just tack on “I work with a team / referral network that..(works with cash buyers, etc)” and finish it with the rest of your pitch line accordingly. So if they want more information, just explain “Well I’m still cutting my teeth in this business, but I work with an experienced team” (if in fact, you do) and/or  “I’ll have my partner get back with you to talk more about that, great question..” and then exchange the topic of the conversation to them and/or what THEY do! You can always reach out to your referral network to help you put the deal together/funding/etc.

Beyond that, we custom tailored some of her pitches, depending on who the audience would be.

Result? She hit the ground running and within a few weeks had a handful of leads, 2 sellers under contract, and a short sale deal, all just from telling people concisely and memorably what she does.

So practice with a friend, family member, or even rehearse in the mirror or on your camera phone (yes, I highly suggest you record yourself to see how your pitch comes across). Just make sure that you have your introduction down so you become the confident, go-to source for your practice.

What do you think? What works for you?

Photo: Kheel Center

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{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

Tiffany December 27, 2012 at 2:36 pm

Tracy! I’m happy to see a female in the mix here. Thanks for this post. Even, though I’ve been involved with REI for a while (since 2008), I still struggle with phrasing and precisely what to say when asked so that I can be easily understood AND considered if someone has a prospect or situation that could use my help.

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Tracy Royce December 27, 2012 at 3:26 pm

Hi Tiffany, thanks for your comment. I would say make sure to have your title in there, but couple it with a value add of what you do. So for instance, if you’re a Professional Stager, I would say something to the affect of “I’m the owner of Stage To Sell Inc. I help Sellers get an average of 5% above asking price by showing buyers how gorgeous the home really is with tasteful furniture & staging decor. We make life easier on Listing Agents and my staged homes typically sell 5 days faster than vacant houses.” It sounds like a mouthful, right, but once you get it down it will flow. If all else fails add a quick story at the end…”You know when you walk in a model home and you just ohh and ahh and see how nicely decorated it is and want to buy the house? THAT’S what I do!”

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Tiffany December 27, 2012 at 3:48 pm

Good example. How’s this one? Instead of “I’m in real estate. I do landlording,” perhaps, “I buy unwanted residential real estate for cash flow. So, I buy property from tired or accidental landlords, heirs and banks. I focus on creating solutions for problem properties and love giving and getting referrals, talking about real estate, and working with private individuals’ retirement accounts to help them grow.” ???

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Tracy Royce December 27, 2012 at 4:51 pm

I would frame it something like “I buy homes and keep and manage them for cash flow. I’m great at helping people get out of sticky situations like landlording gone wrong, inherited properties the kids don’t want, these type of things. Property management really is an art and a science, and I’ve found most people end up doing it by accident. So, I get referrals from all sorts of places and I actually give referral fees as well. Mind if I give you my card? Please keep me in mind if you come across (name a couple situations, specifically) or someone who’d like to invest in cash flow properties.” Hope that helps Tiffany!

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Jeff Brown December 27, 2012 at 3:29 pm

Welcome Tracy. Good to have ya here.

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Tracy Royce December 27, 2012 at 3:48 pm

Thanks Jeff, appreciate the comment!

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Page December 27, 2012 at 5:49 pm

Great down to earth approach to the elevator pitch conundrum. Another great way to practice is to record yourself on your cell phone, then send it to yourself so you can hear how you sound. Sometimes just changing the tone of your voice can make you sound more confident.

Practice makes perfect. I enjoyed your tips, especially the suggestions on how to be specific about what you do, rather than making very general comments.

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Tracy Royce December 27, 2012 at 9:19 pm

Thanks Page for your feedback. Yes, I am a firm believer in practicing (as my piano teacher used to say…”Perfect practice makes perfect!”. Thank you Ms. Char!)

Glad you enjoyed the info and nice to know your perfecting your pitch; communication is not only words but your presence.

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Jose Gonzalez December 29, 2012 at 8:39 am

Hi Tracy,
Great things about how to explain what you do and leave an impression! I actually was in a situation yesterday (friday 12/28/2012) when a guy asked me what I did, and explained him something general. Then he asked how many properties do you own? I paralyzed since didnt really want to tell him the number, but still if I choosed to lie and say a lower ammount, one person that works in the management company is in that same breakfast and wasnt there.. so he could easily tell him that no way he has much more! And I would have left with a very negative impression.
What do you recommend to respond if they directly ask you for how many units you own and dont want to tell?

Thanks for the post!

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Tracy Royce December 30, 2012 at 9:55 pm

Hi Jose thanks for sharing your story. Many investors own houses with partners and/or in trusts, so it’s easy to defer the “ownership” questions in those instances. I understand why you might not want to disclose your assets in a general conversation, so I might just reply “I do this full time but I partner with people frequently, so I can’t really give you a direct answer…” or something of that nature. Hopefully that will peak their interest to them asking what it would mean to partner with you, (referral fee, equity partner/private $ partner). Hope this helps!

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Donald Whitehead December 30, 2012 at 5:33 pm

Hey Tracy that was great information Thanks.

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Tracy Royce December 30, 2012 at 9:56 pm

Thanks for your feedback Donald, glad you got something out of it.

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Ziv Magen December 30, 2012 at 6:31 pm

Sorry to be a party pooper, but to my ears (perhaps over sensitive from years of incoming telemarketing calls and greasy sales pitches) those don’t sound like elevator pitches – more like personal cued introductions in an industry event (“lets go around now, joe, what do YOU do in real-estate?)…in my view, the elevator pitch is meant for someone who’s no necessarily from the industry, not necessarily in the market for my services, and most importantly, not necessarily interested in what I’m about to say, unless I make it a ‘hook, bait and tackle’ sort of statement, so I’d NEVER follow up with an ‘added benefits’ section like “we improve neighbourhoods” or an obvious begging sales pitch like “do you know anyone who might be interested”.

I’m no marketing guru, but something with close to zero jargon, much shorter and not directly sales oriented, that instantly addresses the most common concerns potential clients normally have, works better for me, personally (then again, I don’t live in the US ;) – along the lines of “I help people find safe, profitable investment properties with no management hassles”, in my particular case.

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Tracy Royce December 30, 2012 at 10:08 pm

Thanks Ziv, appreciate your comments! In some cases the value-add pitch might be a little much, I agree. Just like when doing a regular presentation, you have to think of who the audience is and tweek the delivery towards how it will be best received (for them.) In my mind, the main takeaway is to have something more poetic than “I buy houses” or “I’m a real estate investor” when asked. As a professional I would expect someone to offer at least a brief insight of what their specialty is so it registers more. I like your introduction, glad you added that in there. My go to is similar; “I’ve worked with Arizona homeowners facing foreclosure, and have done it for about 10 years now.” Short and sweet! :)

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Ziv Magen December 30, 2012 at 10:43 pm

LOVE that intro, actually :) solid gold!

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Tracy Royce January 2, 2013 at 5:13 pm

Thanks Ziv, me too! ;) It’s short & delivers the backbone of what I do, which is enough to get the conversation started.

Michael January 1, 2013 at 8:44 am

Hi Tracy – Great advice!
I think people get too stressed out on what they are going to say and worry about saying the wrong thing. The bottom line is if you are new to any business or networking you are going to stumble a few times. It is natural and most have started this way including myself. I faced all those same “fears” when I first started in Real Estate Investing. Now I speak at many of the REIA meetings. Amazing how
how your confidence builds over time but more so because of your experience & education which is a product of time. You are so right too many newbies have too much education not that you can ever get too much but when it paralyzes you from doing nothing then it is too much for sure. Marketing with letters, post cards…..is all good but you nailed it by suggesting her to just start introducing herself and telling people what she does. Cost nothing & bam look what happened.

Welcome & thanks for a great article and advice to BP fans

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Tracy Royce January 2, 2013 at 5:15 pm

Hi Michael, thanks for your comments. I’m actually one of those weirdos that enjoys public speaking, although I do still get nervous from time to time! But, you’re absolutely right that the most important step is the first one, and confidence builds with experience. Appreciate the kudos. Cheers!

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