What Yorkshire's best estate agent taught me about creating a showstopping proposition
Bob Beercock was a force of nature. He had an energy field of positivity around him which made him irresistible.
I wouldn’t swear that every penny he’s made has been done is a completely straight forward way. There was almost certainly a file in his office marked “Gary Barlow investment vehicle”
But he was Yorkshire’s best estate agent. I had a house in Yorkshire to sell and he was my next-door neighbour. So that’s how he came to be sitting at my kitchen table ready to talk housing ladders over a pint of Tetley’s.
Once we’d got the niceties out of the way, he stood up, and with an air of complete authority he told me three things:
“Peter, I can set a price for your house that will have a queue of people round the block wanting to buy it. That would be too cheap”
“I can set a price that will have no-one queuing to buy your house. That’s too expensive”.
“My job is to find the price that will result in a queue of one person”.
I could feel myself being sucked into the vortex of certainty he operated in, even though all he’d just explained was the laws of supply and demand. But what came next was the magic dust.
I asked him a simple question: “OK, all understood, so what price do you think the market will bear”
There wasn’t a moment of hesitation. He came straight back.
“I’m not interested in what the market will bear. Out there is someone who’s going to walk into your house and fall in love with it. After that she won’t be able to live without it. So, I’m not interested in what the market will bear. I’m interested in how much she will pay”
There was a clunk as the penny dropped and my professional world shifted slightly on its axis.
Before we continue that story, come back in time with me. Two years back in time to be exact, to when we bought the house.
We purchased it from the estate of its owner who had died about a year earlier. Her son who lived in London had contacted an agent based in York (30 miles away from the house) to sell it.
The York agent did what they did with all houses they were trying to sell. They took a few photos, threw together a bland word salad of clichés and put an advert in their shop window. They also stuck it in the local press and included it in their newsletter.
Reading their sales literature for the house was a bit like being at the hypnotist. When you hear the words “charming family house in a delightful Yorkshire village” you will fall into a deep trance and remember nothing else.
Who were they trying to sell it to? Anyone, that’s who! Anyone who would buy it.
Their generic, one size fits all approach got the results it deserved. By the time I saw the house in their shop window in York, it had been on the market for nine months without so much as an offer.
When I went to see it a week later, the woman showing us round told me that barely half a dozen people had viewed it in the time it had been for sale.
We loved it and armed with that information, we made an offer that was 20% below the asking price and it was immediately accepted.
The agent hadn’t given any thought to who the likely buyer was, nor how he could find them and make it really attractive. He cast his new wide trying to appeal to anyone and everyone.
When you try and appeal to everyone, you appeal to no-one.
Back to Bob. Given how slowly it had sold two years earlier, I was a little nervous. But I was in the hands of a master.
We set about trying to write a description of that one person who couldn’t live without our house. We described her in detail. A mother with young kids, likely to be local (not living 30 miles away), she would relish a renovation project, she wanted to raise her family in a village not a town and wanted somewhere she could settle and put down some roots. She wanted spare rooms where her friends could stay and a dining room to entertain them in. And she was a romantic who would see the charm of a mill race running under the house rather than a bill for a new damp proof course. Bob left armed with his detailed description and a determined look.
Long story short. We had a full price offer a week later. A lady, not dissimilar to our ideal buyer description had walked into the house and fallen in love with it. A quick second visit with her husband and she’d made the offer on the condition we showed no-one else.
Seven days to get an offer rather than two hundred and seventy days and a full price offer rather than 20% off.
What Bob Beercock understood was how to craft a proposition.
He understood that your value is high to a small number of people. You need to work out who they are and go and find them, rather than trying to persuade anyone in the crowd to buy your stuff
Most people wouldn’t work with me if I offered my services for free. They don’t need what I’ve got Some people are vaguely interested and would try me if I reduced my price. They’re not for me.
Then there’s a small handful of people who really want what I’m offering.
My job is to find them. I do that through my proposition and my content. Because I’m clear what I offer, like Bob Beercock, I know exactly who it’s aimed at. Because I know who it’s aimed at, I know where to find them and what to say to them. Because I know who they are, I know what tone of voice to use.
Once I know who they are, I have a few messages that I repeat over and over to them, mainly on LinkedIn.
If I get it right, those few people who really want what I’m offering make themselves known. Last week, nine people contacted me on LinkedIn about working together. And because I’ve found people who really want what I’m offering, price never comes up.
YOUR VALUE IS HIGH TO A SMALL NUMBER OF PEOPLE.
My question to you is: do you know who they are?
Do you know where they are?
Do you know what to say to them?
If not, you should.
Stop trying to appeal to everyone and start trying to appeal to that small group of really interested people.
It all starts with your proposition
If you, or someone you know, have been affected by the issues in this week's episode, then get in touch.
If your proposition has stalled and you're lying awake at night wondering where the next enquiry is coming from, call or email me and ask about my one-day Proposition Workshop - I'm on firstname.lastname@example.org or 07802 856000