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ILLINOIS EDITION

4 Qualities of EXCEPTIONAL EMPLOYEES 5 SOCIAL MEDIA MISTAKES Real Estate Agents Must Avoid Creative Ways to SAY THANK YOU FEATURED AGENTS

JULIE BROWN SARA WITTCHEN COVER STORY

JONATHAN DARIN

Drip Those ONLINE LISTING LEADS


ILLINOIS EDITION

Nathan T. Ewing and Andrew Smith are proud to congratulate

Sara Wittchen 6

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SARA WITTCHEN

JONATHAN DARIN

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JULIE BROWN

on being featured for the state of Illinois in Top Agent Magazine!

CONTENTS Nathan T Ewing, Attorney at Law Andrew , Attorney at 4) 4Smith QUALITIES OFLaw

COLOSIMO EWING andEMPLOYEES SMITH, LLC EXCEPTIONAL 11000 E. US. Route 34, Suite 6, Plano, IL 60545 Phone: (630) | Fax: (866) 870-1816 9) 552-8100 5 SOCIAL MEDIA nathan@ceslaw.com MISTAKES REAL ESTATE

JONATHAN DARIN

AGENTS MUST AVOID

17) DRIP THOSE ONLINE LISTING LEADS 23) CREATIVE WAYS TO SAY THANK YOU

Phone 888-461-3930 | Fax 310-751-7068 mag@topagentmagazine.com | www.topagentmagazine.com No portion of this issue may be reproduced in any manner whatsoever without prior consent of the publisher. Top Agent Magazine is published by Feature Publications GA, Inc. Although precautions are taken to ensure the accuracy of published materials, Top Agent Magazine cannot be held responsible for opinions expressed or facts supplied by its authors. To subscribe or change address, send inquiry to mag@topagentmagazine.com. Published in the U.S.

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4 Qualities of Exceptional Employees Hiring a new employee is one of the more stressful parts of being a business owner. After all, you’re taking someone on and trusting that they’ll not only be a valuable addition to the team, but won’t do anything to hurt your business’s hard earned reputation. Sometimes a person comes in and you click right away, and other times you might be blown away by an impressive resume. But there are things you should look for that might not be as obvious at first. Employees that have the following qualities are ones you should seek out, because they will definitely be well worth the time and energy you invest in them. 4

1. They have the confidence to be innovative There’s a reason people are drawn to those who think outside the box. Not only do innovations often lead to an extremely profitable business, even when that thinking doesn’t pan out, creative thinking is something that will energize your business and will motivate more employees to start taking chances. Innovative thinkers also usually have great leadership skills. Ironically, you want an employee who isn’t afraid to speak up to authority and is someone who knows how to bend the rules without breaking them. They know that

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the success of the team and business is what’s most important, as long as it’s done ethically and with respect for everyone involved.

2. They are constantly reviewing their past performance A good employee looks forward, but they also look back. They are always evaluating what worked and what didn’t work in past performances and then adjusting their plans going forward accordingly. If they are coming off a big win, they know how to capitalize on that by using the momentum and cementing in everyone’s minds the value that they add to the team. If things didn’t go as planned, they assess what they can do better next time, and they don’t get bogged down in insecurity. They take responsibility and they have confidence that they won’t repeat past mistakes. They know that failure is a temporary state, and are able to learn lessons from their mistakes, that will make them a better employee going forward. While no one wants to fail, having the confidence to try something and fail will one day let you strike gold. Someone who lets failure shut them down, leads to a dead end and will soon make them a dead weight on your team.

3. They value teamwork Even though an exceptional employee might be a rising star, they realize that success is Top Agent Magazine

not an individual endeavor, it relies strongly on who you’re working with. Exceptional employees make sure that everyone is contributing and valued for their input. They put the interests of the company above their own, and thrive in an environment where ideas and information are shared freely. Shared success is the ultimate goal for every project. Exceptional employees have the confidence to know that even when they’re not singled out for praise, they’re an irreplaceable component of a larger machine.

4. They are self-motivated learners A key thing to remember is that while experience is a valuable commodity, intelligence and intellectual curiosity is usually something that can’t be taught. Yes, you might request employees get additional training or attend seminars, but exceptional employees will be seeking out educational opportunities constantly. Even if they don’t have a lot of money for weekend retreats, they will be getting books from the library, downloading audiobooks, and most importantly, taking advantage of one their greatest resources, YOU. Exceptional employees know that the way to stay ahead is to always be at the forefront of new technology and systems. They don’t see educating themselves as a burden, they actually enjoy it. They realize that everything they take in, will one day make them not only an exceptional employee, but an exceptional boss as well.

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SARA WITTCHEN Sara Wittchen of RE/MAX Ultimate Professionals in Shorewood, Illinois has achieved Top Agent status by guaranteeing her many thankful clients the very best service available in the Chicagoland area. With her “get it done” philosophy, she has developed a reputation as one of the most trusted real estate agents working in her area today. A former paramedic, Sara found herself in the real estate industry through a convoluted series of events. The daughter of a longtime new construction agent, her mother suggested she spend a weekend taking a real estate class. As a lark, Sara agreed. When her mother was later sidelined for ten weeks following a medical procedure, she pressed Sara to get her license and take over for her temporarily. “I ended up joining the same brokerage my mom was with, which is the brokerage I’m still with today. I left my paramedic job, and I honestly think it was the best thing that could have happened to me, even if it was a complete accident.” While Sara works as a solo agent, she is quick to give credit to those who support her behind-the-scenes. Attorneys Nathan and Andrew, graphic designer Shayne, her lenders, home inspectors, and a professional photographer are all part of the network of professionals that have helped Sara attain her success. “The guys I work with are rock stars,” says Sara. “Whatever we have to do to get it done, we’re going to get it done.” What sets her apart from her peers, Sara believes, is her work ethic and commitment to servicing her clients, whatever their needs may be. “This is the biggest purchase of most people’s lives,” she says. “I’d say my demographic is more towards the

first-time home buyer, so I want to make it an easy process for them. I want people to know what’s going on, and I don’t BS them, for lack of a better term. People don’t want to be in the dark, so I keep a clean line of communication, and whatever we have to do, we’re going to do it.” With more that three-quarters of her business based on repeat clients and referrals, it’s obvious that Sara is satisfying her clients. A Premier Agent on Zillow, her perfect five-star rating is testament to her professional abilities. Reads one glowing review: “As first time home buyers, I am so happy we chose Sara to help us through such a big purchase. She was very knowledgeable about the process and helped us understand everything that was going on. As first time buyers we had so many questions and Sara was always there to answer them.” Clever and discerning marketing plays a large role in Sara’s success. “I always use professional photography,” she says. “I put a really heavy emphasis on that because that’s how my demographic and age group shops for homes. I also do a lot of internet marketing.” A member of both the National Association of Realtors and the Illinois Association of Realtors, Sara is also involved with the local Young Professionals Network. Additionally, she volunteers with the Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Illinois, and does charity work for a local shelter for women and children. When asked what she enjoys most about what she does, Sara replies: “I like that I can be creative with it. Not only do I get to help people, but it’s a different challenge every day, and a different puzzle with each client. I think it’s fun when my clients have a goal they may think is unattainable, and together with my team I’m able to accomplish it. That’s pretty satisfying.”

For more information about Sara Wittchen, please call 815 - 693 -4190 or email Sara.HomeSweetHome@outlook.com 6

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Daniel Andersen is proud to congratulate

Sara Wittchen

on being featured for the state of Illinois in Top Agent Magazine!

Daniel Andersen | Mortgage Adviser | NMLS# 227402 P: 708-261-2665 | F: 630-908-3668 Dan@RatesbyDan.com AndersenTeamML.com www.

1801 S Meyers Road. Suite 500 Oakbrook Terrace, IL 60181 Company NMLS #63371 Top Agent Magazine

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Nathan T. Ewing and Andrew Smith are proud to congratulate

Sara Wittchen

on being featured for the state of Illinois in Top Agent Magazine! Nathan T Ewing, Attorney at Law Andrew Smith , Attorney at Law COLOSIMO EWING and SMITH, LLC 11000 E. US. Route 34, Suite 6, Plano, IL 60545 Phone: (630) 552-8100 | Fax: (866) 870-1816 nathan@ceslaw.com 8

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SOCIAL MEDIA MISTAKES

Real Estate Agents Must Avoid There is perhaps no greater marketing tool for agents these days than having a large presence on social media, but there is more to social media marketing than just opening an account and gaining followers. A lot of agents forget the social part of social media. It’s all about engagement, but it needs to be the right kind of engagement. This can often be the first impression potential clients or industry peers have of you, so make it count. There is no second chance to make a first impression, and that is especially true for real estate agents. Here’s just a few things you want to avoid.

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1 Using it to Vent

Social Media is a great place to complain and commiserate about things, but save that for your personal page. A real estate transaction is already a stressful ordeal, the last thing anyone wants is someone who seems like they’ll bring a negative energy to the process. Even worse? Bad mouthing other Realtors® or listings. You’re selling yourself and your skills, so don’t sell anything that shows you in a bad light. Much like marketing a property, everything you put out should be professional and inviting.

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Lack of Consistent Branding

Yes, social media is about social engagement, but it’s also about creating brand recognition. While you don’t want it to be purely promotional, you are running a business, so create a consistent branding across all social media platforms. If you can afford a professional graphic designer to help you out with this, that’s great. But at the very least, have the same profile pic, cover image and highly visible contact information, across the board. And don’t forget to share links to your other accounts, some people prefer different social media applications.

3Not Posting Enough

It’s good to create a schedule of how many times you’ll be posting per day and to pick times when you might have the most engagement. Don’t over do it, but three posts a day at the right time, tends to be a good goal. There are numerous tools on Facebook, for example, that

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can let you see when interactions are the highest. Stick to your schedule and adjust accordingly. It’s also important to not just post your listings. Be a resource for people who follow your page. Post community events, or other informative articles that are relevant to home ownership. Be a page they want to follow even when they aren’t buying or selling a property. They’ll remember you when the time comes.

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Not interacting With Your Followers

It’s called social media for a reason. The more you engage with your followers, the more they see you as a real person, and not just a marketing tool. Not only do you get to know your past clients and potential clients, on Facebook, engagement actually will make your posts seen by more people. So it’s a win/win.

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Not Sharing or Linking to Others

It might not seem like a good idea to not promote the blogs, pages or listings of other people, but it’s not only an excellent way to build goodwill, it will also increase your own presence when they reciprocate. So make a point to share posts and links for local businesses and even the blogs of your peers, if it’s a post that offers valuable insight into an expertise you don’t have. That will encourage them to share your posts and even your listings, which will increase your potential buyer pool. This is another incentive to create your own blog. Unique informative content is always of value, and more likely to be shared than promotional links.

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JONATHAN DARIN Top Agent Magazine

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Jonathan Darin has quickly become a rising star in the industry, and was recently honored with the Coldwell Banker 30 under 30 award, which recognizes young agents for their sales achievements and their community involvement.

JONATHAN DARIN Although Jonathan Darin seems like he was destined to enter the real estate business, he initially pursued a different path. After getting a degree in business management, Jonathan decided to try his hand outside the family business, but nothing quite fit. In 2011, he approached his grandfather, who owns Coldwell Banker The Real Estate Group, about starting a division focused exclusively on internet leads. “I managed that division for two years and quickly started turning a profit for the company. I finally decided I wanted to try my hand at sales and went into that full time in 2013.� 12Copyright Top Agent Magazine

Jonathan quickly became a rising star in the industry, and was recently honored with the Coldwell Banker 30 under 30 award, which recognizes young agents not only for their sales achievements, but their community involvement as well. As a Coldwell Banker 30 under 30 award winner, Jonathan serves as an ambassador for Coldwell Banker at events throughout the year. In 2014, Jonathan started a team with one other agent, that now consists of four full time, full service agents who include John Benisek, Patrick Maier, and Stephanie Darin. Top Agent Magazine


The team dynamic allows them to serve a large geographical span, including Will, Cook and DuPage Counties. Jonathan credits his team’s focus on communication and follow up as being key ingredients to their success. “It’s all about providing an exceptional customer experience for us, and that all starts with excellent communication. People expect a fast response time these days, and we give that to them. We are constantly updating them, and when we have bad news, we don’t hide, we offer them solutions. Even if there’s no news, we Top Agent Magazine

keep the dialogue going, informing them about what we’re doing. Everyone on our team can handle every aspect of the real estate transaction, so no one is ever left out of the loop.” Jonathan and his team are focused on creating clients for life and already have an impressive rate of repeat and referral business. “We work with a lot of first time homebuyers and we really take an educational approach with them. A lot of times their parents see the job we’ve done for their children and hire us when they want to downsize. It’s a great feelCopyright Top Agent Magazine13


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ing to earn people’s trust.” Jonathan and his team maintain those relationships they build long after the active transaction. Another area in which Jonathan and his team excel is in the marketing of their listings. “We do everything everyone else does, but I would say our social media marketing is really what sets us apart. We use targeted ads so we expose the listings to the most likely buyers, and that’s been quite successful. We’re constantly looking to take our marketing to the next level and Top Agent Magazine

are currently working on some innovative new ideas.” Jonathan and his team are actively involved in their community, and Jonathan is particularly passionate about raising money for the Special Olympics. His office also recently sponsored an Adopt a Pet Event, that helped 28 dogs and several cats find forever homes. When he isn’t working, Jonathan enjoys seeing live music, and spending time with his wife, family and friends. He also unwinds playing softball, golfing and traveling. Copyright Top Agent Magazine15


Jonathan would like to continue expanding his priority. “I truly love what I do. Helping people team, but keeping the level of personal service through what is often the biggest financial decithat they’ve built their reputation on is their main sion they make in their lives is very rewarding.”

To learn more about Jonathan Darin call (708) 473- 5241, email Jonathan@HomesbyJDT.com or visit JDHomeSource.com and facebook.com/jdarinteam www.

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Drip Those Online Listing Leads By Walter Sanford

My coaching clients are beginning to find more success with their online listing leads. Whether the lead is coming from postcard-generated invites to complete forms on their site or third-party consolidator leads, the web leads are coming in. The problem with a lot of these leads is bad phone numbers but good email addresses. The question is - how do we engage them in a conversation that leads to a listing appointment? Uncovering the seller’s needs prior to an appointment is always the first step in creating client satisfaction, but it’s very difficult to do without good contact information. By showing these potential sellers value, my clients have found that many sellers who wanted to remain anonymous are now holding up their hands and shouting “I want some of that!” The drip system that creates this kind of excitement is one that’s immediately started after the lead is received. The system shows the value that you can bring to their discovery process. Every three or four days, send an email that lets them know that there is so much more that a top, local, professional agent can add to their search. With my clients, we only give a little bit of information at a time. Usually within a few weeks, we have the serious leads contacting the agent for an over-the-phone consultation. Below are some of the points that we stress in our drip system email campaign for online listing leads: Top Agent Magazine

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Week One: Thank you for contacting us for more information regarding the sale of your property. I hope the information we have already provided was of some help to you. We believe that a real estate relationship should be based on the client’s needs. Once we know those needs, we have some very unique solutions that our past sellers have mentioned were available nowhere else. Please give us a call so we can supply some unique answers to unique challenges. Week Two: In our earlier email, we talked about unique solutions. One of the unique solutions we provide our sellers is a pre-listing consultation. Go to www.(yoursite).com/prelistingconsultation to answer a few questions and schedule a phone call that’s convenient for you. This will allow our team to be better prepared to give you some insights regarding what to expect in this market. Week Three: In continuing our theme of delivering value to our potential sellers, one of the most appreciated value propositions that we give our potential sellers is our “seller education system.” If you call us, we can program a search for brand new listings each morning. The search will include specs that compare to your home and the results will be emailed directly to you. This provides you with brand new listings that would be competing with your home, if it was on the market. This makes you the most educated seller in town knowing what the competition is. You’ll receive these new listings at the same time agents in (your town) receive them! Week Four: Occasionally, we have a seller who isn’t interested in considering a sale unless he/she knows the value first. We came up with a solution that eliminates a lengthy listing presentation. We call this our free 48-hour phone value analysis. Go to www.(yoursite).com/valueanalysis. Complete the form and within 48 hours, one of our team members will call you. Based upon the same comparables that appraisers would use, we will let you know the value of your home. This is a fast and inexpensive way to bridge the gap of an expensive appraisal or a time-consuming listing presentation with a service that can be just as accurate. There is no charge for this service, and we are happy to put the numbers together for you! 18

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Week Five: One of the services that our sellers most appreciate is our “meet the team” concept. You can go to our website or call us directly for the contact information on a trusted team member for almost any service. We know the best plumbers, HVAC techs, electricians, roofers, landscapers, painters, carpenters, and carpet installers in the area. We use them on our own homes, we trust them, and we have long business relationships with them. If you need anything done around your home to prepare for a potential sale or if you just want to get it ready for a special occasion, we know who does the job well here in (your town). Week Six: Our sellers get higher prices because we make their homes desirable to buyers! We call this service our “primp and polish” service. Any consultation is free! We can provide you some simple tips to make your home more inviting to buyers. We will point out any potential red flags and help you place furniture to get things ready to create that emotional pull. We have professional decorators on call. Their services cost money, but we have found their service is a good investment based on the additional monies that we receive for our client’s properties. The initial consultation is free! Please give us a call so we can set this up for you. Week Seven: Did you know that our company has access to a majority of the top real estate agents in any city in the world? If you are considering selling your home here and buying out of town--we can send you to top agents who understand your needs. Top agents know they can’t solve client’s challenges without first knowing what those challenges are. If you want a special house out of town, then give us a call. We know agents who will not only show you standard MLS properties but also properties that are not yet on the market. We call these “secret properties.” These secret properties can be owned by past clients who might consider selling or sellers developed from a postcard mailing campaign in your neighborhood of interest. These agents know many ways to find property that other agents will not show you. We find this service to be one of the best that we provide for our buyers so we wanted to make sure that you get the same service when you move. Top Agent Magazine

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Week Eight: If you’re not quite ready to list your property, we have a system called “sell the sizzle before the steak.” I know it sounds a little corny, but we can discretely present that your home might be available to our database of buyers. This helps us to do a little pre-marketing prior to a full commitment of our complete marketing plan. If you are interested in this service, please don’t hesitate to give us a call. Week Nine: Did you know that we have a policy where no real estate agent will be allowed to negotiate with you in person? We do this because many times real estate agents can be very forceful in the presentation of offers from their clients. We ask for that offer to be presented to us, and we will spend as much time as you need with just us - your representatives. This eliminates awkward meetings where you need more time to think, and the buyer’s agent is pushing for an answer. We believe that selling a home should not only be massively profitable but also fun. If you’d like more ideas on how we differ from the competition, email or call me at your convenience. All contacts will be kept confidential. Well, I hope you get the idea that we’re trying to start a conversation with that potential seller instead of letting them fall through the cracks. A drip email campaign for a seller is similar to the campaign for buyers. It’s necessary for listing leads since the majority of information requests come via the web with incorrect or inoperable phone numbers. The only way to get these leads talking is to present them better value than everyone else. Copyright©, 2015 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Walter Sanford has been designing and implementing real estate systems for 30 years. One of the most successful REALTORS® and now wealthy from his systems, Sanford teaches his systems and strategies through his products, seminars, and personal coaching producing the best results in the industry. Do what works, do what is proven. Hire Walter Sanford. Call our office at 800.792.5837, email walter@waltersanford.com, or chat with us online at www.waltersanford.com. 20

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JULIE BROWN

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JULIE BROWN Every real estate agent is different, says Julie Brown, who entered real estate in 2005 after listing her own house for-sale-by-owner and witnessing a lack of professionalism from agents bringing their clients through it. “I wasn’t licensed at the time and heard I could make more money if I sold by-owner,” she says. “It was a real hassle and agents who came through didn’t highlight any of the home’s features to their clients.” Eventually, Julie hired an agent and, after her home sold, was intrigued to learn that her selling agent’s office was seeking an assistant. “My sister-in-law is a top agent in Chicago and always told me to do real estate, so I got my license and started.” Quickly, she saw how her 20-year background in sales and marketing, along with her personality and eagerness to nurture relationships, made her a perfect fit for a career as an agent. Based in Libertyville, IL, a northern suburb of Chicago, she transitioned to Chicagoland based @properties in 2013. “I was an independent agent for a long time, but when I started getting busy, I worried I would forget things, so I started a team,” says Julie. She now has two buyers’ agents. “My managing broker and I decided I should focus on listings, due to my marketing background, along with any buyers referred specifically to me. The agents on my team work closely with our other buyers.” Julie realizes that every client is different and customizes her service to meet their needs. “I provide a lot of hand holding,” she says. “Walking them through the process makes them comfortable, because selling a house can be very overwhelming.” Given the positive and sometimes surprised reactions of her clients, she suspects some agents don’t help people the way she does. “I’m here for them 24/7; they can always get ahold of me.” With listings, for example, Julie would never simply get the house under contract and hand the work over to a colleague. “My clients always talk to me. I go through everything step-by-step from

pricing, marketing, negotiations, contract, inspection, more negotiations and closing.” She walks through inspection reports in detail with clients, discuss which requests are fair to honor for the buyer. She also stays in touch after closing, giving pies at Thanksgiving and keeping up on their lives through email, social media, and handwritten notes. She’s also active in her community, having raised her two children there, where she was very involved in local sports and schools. Given her sales and marketing background, Julie particularly enjoys listings in the community she loves. “@properties is the best marketing company I’ve ever worked for,” says Julie. “We do comprehensive social media and online marketing, but I also do a lot of marketing prior to activating a listing.” Julie describes the “friendly competition” she enjoys with local @properties agents who help find buyers for their colleagues’ listings through the @ properties agent app, which reaches 2,600 @properties agents in both the city and suburbs with one “tweet.” She also takes advantage of a Facebook page for networking with other local agents. Julie’s thorough, pre-market work expedites sales and eases the stress for sellers and buyers. Meanwhile, Julie is also in the empathy business. “I believe that every real estate agent should list and sell their home once 10 years so they remember what it feels like!” says Julie. “I just sold mine two years ago, so I know.” All the hard work is more than worth it, though, when Julie witnesses the happiness of clients at the closing table. Julie wants anyone she works with – whether they’re a buyer, a seller or another agent – to know how much passion she has for her work. “I really do enjoy it and all the interesting things that come into play every day.” Looking both back and to the future, Julie considers herself fortunate that 99% of the people she works with are past clients or referrals. She considers it her pleasure do well by the people who trust her while empowering her team members to enjoy their own success helping people through real estate.

To learn more about Julie Brown, visit juliebrownhomes.com or on Facebook at facebook.com/juliebrownteam, email juliebrown@atproperties.com or call 847.367.0500 http://

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Creative Ways to Say Thank You

Most top real estate agents find ways to welcome their clients to their new home. A common theme is a bottle of wine and some wine glasses for that first post-threshold toast, or a bouquet of flowers to brighten up that empty living space until the furniture arrives. But are you truly being as creative as you can with your appreciation? Here are some innovative gift ideas that will truly keep you front of mind with your valued customers and assure their gratitude and repeat business, not to mention a slew of referrals.

1. How about a streaming video device, like a Roku

or Amazon Fire Stick? There’s a good chance your clients will not have their cable service up and running for a few days, and this is an excellent way for them to enjoy their television before they get that connection going. Bundle it up in a basket with some DVD’s for the kids, and don’t forget all necessary cables.

2. Matching bathrobes and Bath kits: Fleece or ter-

rycloth bathrobes and a basket filled with highend his and her body scrubs, bubble bath and other luxurious pampering items can make the first night in a new home feel like a check-in at a fabulous resort and make the memory of that first night one to cherish. Again, don’t forget the kids!

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3. Arrange a catered meal from a local vendor. As-

certain in advance dietary preferences and restrictions, and have a wonderful, healthy meal delivered on move-in night. To complete the magic, provide brand new plates, silverware and glassware to serve it all on.

4. For homes with swimming pools or Jacuzzis, a

stack of fluffy pool towels is always appreciated and will be used by family and friends for years to come. Additionally, acrylic stemware for celebrating safely can be provided alongside them.

5. If it’s winter time and the home has a fireplace, make sure there’s plenty of wood to burn. Some fireplace accessories and a log holder will certainly make your clients appreciate you on every chilly night to come.

So when it comes to gifting your buyers, the trick is to be creative. A bottle of wine lasts one night, and the flowers wilt in a few days. Try coming up with something a little more creative that will remain with your clients in their day-to-day lives and remind them of you consistently. The little bit extra you spend to show your gratitude can reap huge dividends when it comes time for your client to purchase a second home or refer a friend. 23


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