Starbucks; “Where The People Are…”

StarbucksIn June of 2008 I posted “My Real Estate Business Owes A Lot To Starbucks. New Realtors often ask me, “How did ‘you‘ get started?” I often respond, “I went to Starbucks.” When they look at me puzzled I continue, “Then I would go to another Starbucks…” When they squint their eyes for more, I explain….”That’s where the people are!” I watch the light bulb go off, almost every time…”

Why am I bringing this up now? Inman News, which has become one of the industry standards, if not THE banner of information and shared content, recently published an article about the potential opportunities of places like Starbucks, Panera, etc.

If you know me, have followed this blog, or have seen me at Starbucks time and again, you’re well aware that I was onto this a decade ago. After a decade+, I am still a Starbucks fan and simply go because I like it.

It’s kinda funny because before I read the Inman article I listened to one of my favorite podcasts personalities report on it and absolutely slam it (as in, not in a good way). He calls Realtors that practice this way, “Low-information agents,” that sell their souls of who they really are or want to be for a sale or two. Another endearing term is, “realtwhores.”

While I love what most of my podcasting man is getting at, I proudly admit I hear and learn a great deal by being at Starbucks, and my clients directly benefit from this. Big picture, part of my vision for this job is to know things, and Starbucks is an information tank.

I can think of many sales that have come from being at Starbucks, and as I think about it, I met my most productive client by hanging out at the 5-Points Starbucks store. I bet we’ve closed 10 homes now, and to this day he is responsible for the biggest day of my career. My admin, Amy Ackerman Cartin, and I closed six sides that day (600 King’s Grant Drive, both sides of Westshire, both sides of Chimney Hill, and Stratford Rd.). Now, because of a happenstance meeting at Starbucks and real estate notwithstanding,  Robert is genuinely one of my best friends.

Anyway, and before I get too long winded, I’ve pasted the article below. Did I practice any of the tips you’re about to read? No. That said, when people ask about how our whole real estate “thing” began, I often talk about how I networked like I was running a political campaign…and how it began at Starbucks at Trenholm Plaza. After all, as I’ve said many times, “That’s where the people are.”

Ten years later, see below.  FJ

How to turn Starbucks into a lead goldmine

Get out of the office and make personal connections that generate leads

Starbucks isn’t only the place to pick up your daily triple nonfat latte with a drizzle of caramel and extra foam on the side — it’s also a great place to find leads.

In Lab Coat Agents, James Michaelin recounts how he got two leads in one morning at Starbucks thanks to good listening and quick action.

“I overheard a business meeting that someone was starting a business and they brought up needing to find a Realtor for a location,” he wrote. “Well, [the] keyword Realtor was said so of course I introduced myself, gave my card to both of them and they [wanted] to get together soon.”

Twenty minutes later, James got another lead from a man who overheard his conversation with the two businessmen.

As it turns out, Michaelin isn’t the only agent who uses Starbucks as a lead-generating tool. There’s been a lot of chatter online over the past two months about the power of Starbucks and other places like it, such as Panera Bread or even Dunkin’ Donuts.

Here’s some of the advice agents gave on how to make Starbucks work for you:

1. Mark it on your weekly schedule

Raj Qsar goes to Starbucks three times a week to do local real estate research and work on handwritten thank-you notes. Because of his consistency, customers expect Qsar to be there and look forward to asking him questions.

 Consistency is key. Make it a point to work outside the office a few times a week.
2. Make your presence known

Agents aren’t the only people who use Starbucks as a second office. Most of the people are there are to get work done and rarely look up from their phone, tablet or laptop.

So how do you let people know a Realtor is in the room? JT Takacs suggests telling the cashier to write “Realtor (insert name)” on your cup, so when the barista calls your name, everyone will know your profession. Also, it never hurts to wear a name tag or Realtor badge.

 3. Discreetly advertise yourself with branded accessories 

Order a customized laptop cover that has your name, logo, website URL and a great call-to-action. Amanda Miller Hudson says: “I have the Realtor ‘R’ logo in sticker form over the apple on my MacBook Pro. It works! I picked up a seller lead last November at Panera.”

 4. Focus on making personal connections before generating leads

What agents love about Starbucks is the chance to get from behind the tech wall and make real-time, face-to-face connections. Don’t stop in with the expectation that you’ll walk out with a handful of deals each day, because as many will attest, there will be days and weeks when you won’t.

But you will build the relationships and familiarity crucial to establishing your brand and long-term success.

 5. Offer on-the-spot advice

When Zillow evangelist Jay Thompson goes to Starbucks, he brings a sign that says: “Have a real estate question? Fire away!” And he buys a cup of coffee for those who are brave enough to take the offer.

 6. Bring marketing materials

This seems like a given, but some may feel apprehensive about bringing their regular marketing materials with them into Starbucks. David Fresquez suggests having a set of “ready-made buyer or seller folders that includes information about you, your latest accomplishments along with some social proof.”

Keep these folders in your briefcase, backpack or bag and give them to your potential lead once your conversation is done.

 7. Small sacrifices can hook a big fish

At Luxury Connect in October, Josh Altman shared a story about how he was able to snare a sale at Starbucks. He frequents one Los Angeles store in particular and had purchased his coffee when he saw a well-known celebrity join the line.

So Altman threw out his just-procured drink and stepped in line behind the celeb, struck up a conversation and discovered he was looking for a home. He offered the star $1,000 to come with him to a place he thought would fit the bill — certain it was perfect. And it was. Being willing to throw out the coffee and offer money to show sincerity generated a happy ending to the story, a $12 million sale.

Do you have any extra advice for getting leads at Starbucks? What are some other places you like to hang out? Share them in the comments below.

Email Marian McPherson.

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