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EPISODE 10

SparkTank Media's, Jeff Lobb talks about relationship marketing in real estate. How should an agent build authentic relationships?

According to Jeff, "There's no easy relationship building. There's no magic button. You have to make the time. We have to realize this, step back and sometimes say, 'What am I missing? Who am I missing?"

Jeff Lobb, founder of SparkTank Media, sat down with First CEO Mike Schneider to talk about relationship building, how technology can help and why he ventures into the woods without his phone. We've edited the transcript of the entire conversation.

Tell me a little bit about yourself?

I coach lacrosse for young kids. I used to coach football, but they've migrated and graduated so now it's lacrosse. I’ve got youngsters, third and fourth graders. And I love fishing and hunting. I have a place that I camp up in the Adirondacks. No electricity runs off a generator. No phones. Totally off the grid. It’s peaceful. Rivers, stream, nobody but us.

Tell me a little bit more about Sparktank Media?

We work with real estate, mortgage, and title companies. Our main focus is growth strategies meaning help them grow their business, help them grow their production if their an agent, help them grow their teams. We’ve got a lot of different strategies based on who we're dealing with. We also work with tech companies in the industry as well.

What is your coaching style like?

When I coach people one on one, we need to strategize what's good for you, your family, and your big plan. Once I build that plan, you're leaning on me to help you be accountable to it. And once we start doing that, there are people that have said to me, straight up, ‘Listen, you need to be hard with me. Like, you need to tell me I gotta do it.’ And I'm like, ‘Okay, listen. That's fine. As long as we have the same expectations, I will drive it home.

How did you get into real estate?  

I started in 1988. Gold jacket, knocking on doors for a living, man. And I'll tell you; I learned a lot really quick because I had to. You know, I was a hustler. I was out there just grinding. But I learned very quickly that the older mentality in the business would sit around and wait for stuff to happen and answer the calls. And I learned real quick what desk time was and what it wasn't. And I'm out there getting all the listings, and they're taking all my leads from a phone, and I just started to say, "Hey, why am I doing this work if they're getting all my stuff?" So, it evolved quickly. Spent seven, eight years in real estate.

What happened next?  

I was recruited into technology sales management -- Bell Atlantic Mobiles. I spent ten years in dot.com. I ran fast and furious and had a lot of management roles. And then in ‘99 the bubble burst. One year, no salary. Smartest thing I ever did then, go back to real estate with no salary.

How was the return to real estate?

I started running teams. Bought some franchises. Became the vice president of a large franchise brand. I ran the tech and marketing side. And then I started my own company knowing that I could help a lot more people across all different brands and platforms.

A part of your job is to help agents and brokerages with their technology issues, and there are thought leaders in the industry that think technology is more important than relationships. I’m curious about where you stand?

There are so many things that we're calling a relationship that are somewhat artificial. Yeah, they're in my CRM. They're on social. Are we really friends? Do we have the same beliefs? Relationships to me are those who you can trust who you have no problem doing business with, giving money to, giving your business to, and knowing it's going to get done.

How do you define a relationship?

Relationships to me are those who you can trust, who you have no problem doing business with, giving money to, giving your business to, and knowing it's going to get done. Um, there's that trust factor. And a lot of it, we have, we call relationships but we don't have that trust factor.

How should agents build authentic relationships?

There's no easy relationship building. There's no magic button, you know. You have to make the time, and I've failed miserably in some cases. Even with my own personal friends from school that I still call dear friends, I don't spend enough time with them. So we have to realize and step back and sometimes say, ‘What am I missing? Who am I missing?’

You've got to always give first, never ask. Give. I'm the easiest sale in the world. Just don't sell me. Give me enough value -- give me enough stuff. If I can give you value and continue to give you value, there's no expectation.

What’s the biggest problem agents face in building relationships, especially with new customers?

Once they get people on the phone, I think we are challenged as an industry to be human and create a relationship or create the conversation versus asking the questions where they feel like they're being interrogated. Instead of asking, ‘What's really just important to you? What's important to your family? Paint the picture for me. What ideally would you want? Where would you want it to be?’ I don't want to have to start asking, ‘Hey, did you get pre-qualified yet? How much money are you looking to put down?’ Like, whoa, I'm not telling you about my checkbook or anything yet!”

What about maintaining relationships?

I would always just say, you know, ‘Listen, I would always appreciate, you know, if you have any needs in your business and I can help you out, please let me know. I would love to help your business.’

You need to continue to be human during the process. They have to understand that drip mail, drip marketing, and standardized newsletters are not building a relationship.

How can technology help real estate agents?

People say the devil's in the details, and I think our devil's in the calendar. We book a day with four, five appointments most of us. The answer is, probably something artificial. I'm surfing the web. I'm emailing people. Usually, it's nothing productive towards something. So, that's the productive time where you say, ‘I've got to make these five calls.’”

How did you learn to build relationships?

It probably stems back to some of my old managers in the dot com business where we started building relationships. I had some really good managers that were all about relationships and how do I get them to trust me with big money.

You help agents and companies with technology issues, and you were a huge help to me when I was getting First started. What does a technology that tells you that someone is likely to move in six or nine months do if you subscribe to a relationship marketing approach to selling real estate?   

It would make relationship building much easier. I would know who I’m targeting very quickly. I would want to start a conversation, but just not about real estate. Maybe I’d ask them for a cup of coffee. That’s what we’re paid to do, figure out how to talk to people.

Mike Schneider
CEO & Co-Founder, First

Jeff Lobb

Jeff is founder of SparkTank Media. A former agent, he owned agency franchises before he started SparkTank Media, a speaking, training, coaching and consulting company that focuses on real estate, technology, marketing and social media.
Say hi @jefflobb 
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