West down Observer Hwy. left on to Monroe St., right on to Newark Ave., pass around the bend, merge and pass through the light, apply brakes, swerve left — dodge enormous pothole — swerve right, take turnpike exit, and onward…

Five days a week, unless I’m traveling, this is my “pre-turnpike” route to the office, which sounds fairly standard, and it is. However, the “enormous pothole” portion of the journey, considering it’s July, serves as an unpleasant reminder of a harsh, and now distant, winter.

But this surviving pothole wasn’t simply forgotten or overlooked. Some days, in fact, I discover a bright orange traffic cone standing bravely, marking the pothole’s location, warning me that “death-of-tires” or “mangling of wheel axle” is imminent, unless I change course.

Lately, as an aside, I’ve come to see the height of the traffic cone as a sort of guide to the depth of the crater. Some days, even, the cone is placed deep inside the pit and is nearly swallowed whole. But I digress. This is my point:

Why not just fill the pothole? Since the cone is M.I.A. some days, I’m left to assume it’s somebody’s job to, on a fairly regular basis, walk out onto the street and drop a cone—exerting his or her energy to make it “passable,” rather than simply fixing it. Perhaps the project seems too minuscule to be given concern—who knows?

In the real estate practice, when the road is free of potholes and debris, the path to the closing table, I believe, is generally much smoother. Don’t we sometimes plant traffic cones to flag potholes in our businesses rather than simply filling them? For instance. . .

  1. The “coming soon” page on your website that is intended to display videos and resources to help visitors learn more about the respective neighborhoods or communities you serve in your marketplace perhaps implies to website visitors that you don’t have time to follow-through or you don’t think it’s really necessary.
  2. A step-by-step list to place in the client’s hand to guide them through every detail of the real estate process—that is, YOUR unique real estate process, not somebody else’s.
  3. Using an AOL, Yahoo, or Gmail email address (or the like). While they are fine email products, I believe it’s [arguably] unprofessional and sort of makes you appear second-string. When you’re affiliated with a brand as known and respected as Coldwell Banker, why not showcase its domain name in your email address?
  4. The outdated headshot that’s from another age. Come on, you know who you are! Perhaps the message you’re sending to clients is that you don’t think they’ll notice—but they most certainly will!
  5. A social media presence that lacks all presence. If you’re claiming to be engaged in a particular network (e.g., Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc.), then engage… otherwise you might create the impression of one who often turns up absent.
  6. A CRM, eSignature service, or other technology investment you’ve made but haven’t taken the time to master. While your client may never know (or care, even) your grasp of the tool, they’ll surely be attentive to the quality of service you provide with the tool in effect.
  7. Reluctance to hire an assistant when you’re overwhelmed with transactional paperwork. Appearing busy (in a “I’m drowning in paperwork” sort of way) isn’t a necessarily a turn-on for most prospects or clients. I personally prefer working with operators who are prepared for and have the bandwidth to support whatever challenges or madness may be triggered as a result of simply being in business.
  8. A listing presentation that needs to be updated to address current market conditions. Of the items listed above, this one, perhaps, is most critical. Your listing presentation sets expectations for the subsequent listing experience. Showing clients outdated or inaccurate market information, I personally believe, throws the whole notion of being [or becoming] a “trusted advisor” right out the window.

Bottom line, every pothole, big or small, is a barrier and every traffic cone imparts a warning that something should be avoided. So what kind of message might the potholes and traffic cones on the surface of your business be communicating to your prospects or clients? If the list above in any way describes you, then why not mix some concrete and fill the potholes?

Photo by Infrogmation of New Orleans

Jason Pantana, Realtor, Speaker, NashvilleJason guides real estate professionals through current and emerging trends in consumer behavior, sales and marketing, and entrepreneurship. To invite Jason to speak or to schedule a consultation, visit: www.JasonPantana.com/Contact