Expert prospector Paula Burlison guides you through her process of getting expired listings. She’s currently in the top 1% of 15,000 Las Vegas Valley Realtors®, earning $368,000 in gross commission income, with a 25%-30% chunk of her business directly from expired listings. If you need help prospecting Expired Leads, Paula’s advice will help you.Download Audio
How did your last prospecting session go? Are you feeling accomplished or discouraged? Either way, one prospecting session doesn’t determine your future, making continual progress does. As Tony Robbins puts it, “Progress equals happiness. Even if you’re not where you want to be yet. If you’re on the road, if you’re improving, if you’re making progress, you’re gonna love it. You’re gonna feel alive.”
When it comes to achieving mastery, Paula Burlison understands almost everything there is to know about prospecting Expired Leads. She’s in the top 1% of Las Vegas Realtors®, a market with 15,000 agents. In such a large metropolitan area, the competition to get expired listings is fierce. So how does she do it? How does she manage to outperform 99% of the agents in her market strongly focusing on expired listings? In an exclusive interview Paula shares 22 ways you can become a more successful prospector, even if you don’t work expireds.
1. Goals get you focused
If you shot an arrow without a target, what would you expect to hit? Just like an arrow, without any clear-cut written goals, your prospecting will likely miss the target. That’s why goal setting is a fundamental principle every successful prospector practices.
A Harvard Business Study helps explain why goal setting is important. It found 3% of MBA graduates who set goals and wrote them down, ended up earning ten times as much as the other 97% put together, ten years after graduation.
Related to financial impact of having written goal, Paula says “when you set small and big goals for yourself, it keeps you motivated and it keeps you moving forward.” Goals help her to avoid the inevitable distraction that creep into her day. She understands the value of her focus and how easily it can be broken. She protects her focus by having clear and written goals.
2. Set specific, attainable goals
How can you arrive at your destination if you don’t know where you’re going? That’s one of the reasons agents gets lost, frustrated, and go broke. They’re not clear on where to go and end up going nowhere. Our friend Albert Einstein once said, “If I had an hour to solve a problem I’d spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and 5 minutes thinking about solutions.” His advice seems sound. Think through your challenges and define outcomes you desire before investing your time and money. Because what if you’re solving the wrong problem or doing it the wrong way?
On that advice, once you’re pointed in the right direction, a goal setting framework like “SMARTs” will help you set clear and reachable goals. Paula uses something similar to this:
Specific (who, what, when, where, how)
Measurable (metrics to track progress)
Achievable (realistic and attainable)
Relevant (in line with your overall goals)
Time-bound (target date and deadline)
Paula sets goals like this every month. They tell “me exactly how many days I have to work, how many hours I have to prospect, contacts I have to make, appointments I have to go on, listings I have to take, practice I have to do, what books I’m reading, and any other personal goals I might be looking to achieve. So there’s no question about what I’ve got to do every day.”
Do you know how many transactions you’ll need to earn your desired income? Paula’s approach lets you work backwards while asking three metrics: How many appointments you need to set, how many contacts you need to make, and how many calls you need to place.
Ultimately her success rests on quantity of telephone numbers she gets with every Expired Lead. Unless she has good numbers, she can’t set appointments. The way Paula sees it, the more telephone numbers included in every lead, the more opportunities she has to hit her contact and appointment setting goals.
3. Track your numbers
Prospecting expired listings (and any other lead type) is a numbers game. Most top prospectors agree, including Paula. To keep score of the game she religiously tracks her metrics, which is how she knows where and what to improve in her prospecting process. When she’s off track she can look at the numbers and correct her course before she misses her goal. She looks at, “the time of day I’m calling, if I’m off my scripts today, if I’m hitting my contacts goals” and a host of other metrics she tracks to stay on target with her bigger goals.
What she realized is prospecting isn’t one single action, call, or session. It’s not a “pass/fail” or “all or nothing” event, but a series of small actions and goals she fine-tunes over time. That’s how Paula hits her big goals and why she never worries about her income fluctuating unpredictably.
Paula knows she makes approximately 600 contacts a month, which gives her a daily target of 25 contacts a day. Her formula is pretty simple, “when I want to do 70 transactions, I have to make a certain number of contacts to make that happen, and then you break it down per month, per day, per hour.”
Having metrics well specified enables Paula to come into the office every morning confident, clear, and ready to prospect.
4. Have a daily schedule
Alongside her metrics, Paula’s daily schedule is the backbone behind her consistent results. No surprises, your day should be scheduled out to keep you on track towards your goals. A clear daily schedule eliminates you sitting around twiddling your thumbs wondering what to do next. You’ll know what to do, when to do it, and what’s next.
Paula has a strict schedule she uses to maximize her time. “I read for 10 minutes, I do 10 minutes of journaling… 10 minutes of meditation, 10 minutes of business planning” she then immediately goes to the gym at 7. “I have roleplay at 7:30, and then I’m in the office by 8:45.” Her daily schedule at work includes prospecting Expired Leads and Just Listed/Just Sold calling for 2 hours, half-hour of lead follow-up, returning calls, and going on appointments.
If checking things off your to-do list gives you a “satisfying feeling” then a daily schedule powered by big goals is one way to get your fix. Not only that, but research has shown it will also decrease your stress levels. A study by International Journal of Work, Health & Organisations found adults who had busy schedules experienced significantly less anxiety when practicing time-management tactics.
5. Your job is to sell hope
With your goals, metrics, and schedule in order, it’s time to pick up the phone and get expired listings. But as you know, these leads can be a bit “spicy” to work with. That’s why it’s important to protect yourself from rejection and angry homeowners before you start dialing. Paula does this by putting herself in the mindset of the people she’s calling. Expired Homeowners are often frustrated and “they have every right to be,” says Paula. “They’ve made their beds, cleaned the dishes, and made their house pretty every single day for the last six months, and it hasn’t sold.”
Once you understand where their anger comes from, it becomes easier to have empathy. Empathy is your greatest protection from rejection and ally in selling hope. The idea that you have the ability to fix their problem drives Paula forward. “Our job is to sell hope, and they’ve lost hope,” Paula states. “I just take the mindset that I’m going to be a hope dealer, and I sell as much hope as I possibly can that day.”
6. Getting back up after a difficult call
Even when you adopt a mindset of selling hope, picking the phone back up after a difficult conversation can still be challenging. Don’t worry, all agents deal with the emotional blows, even Paula. One way she stays motivated is by always having her vision board of goals and dreams displayed in her line of sight.
“I have my goals in front of me,” states Paula. “I literally have photos of places I want to go, things I want to do, inspirational things that are great, and I just plaster them onto a display board and put it in front of me when I prospect. So when somebody tells me something I don’t want to hear, or is mean to me, I just go, ‘You know what? We’re going to Thailand for Christmas, so I’ve got to keep dialing.'”
7. Don’t take it personally
Easier said than done, but another one of Paula’s tactics to get expired listings is not taking a homeowner’s anger personally. “When you really think about it, did this seller wake up this morning and say, ‘You know what? When Paula Burlison calls me today, I’m gonna tell her to just take a flying leap,'” Paula jokes, “No, they didn’t. We have to remember we cannot take things personally that have nothing to do with us.”
Sometimes we make things up in our heads that aren’t real. “It’s our ego that gets in the way,” says Paula. “We make up stuff about people endlessly.” You may talk to a person who seems really rude and never call them again, but in reality they were just having a bad day.
If you give people the benefit of the doubt and keep assumptions to a minimum, you’ll be surprised how quickly your fears dissipate.
8. Stop saying “I”
After setting goals, overcoming phone fears, and breaking through any angry homeowners rant, welcome to the next level! Now it’s time to get homeowners to go from tolerating to trusting you. Sounds daunting? Paula’s tip is simple, yet so often overlooked — stop talking about yourself.
“90% of calls they’re getting are from agents [saying], ‘I’ve done this and I’ve done that, and I can sell this and I can sell that,’ and they don’t want to hear that,” Paula says. “They don’t want to hear about you. They don’t want to hear how many homes you sold, because their home didn’t sell, and they’re mad.” And like Theodore Roosevelt said, “nobody cares how much you know until they know how much you care.”
“If you’re saying the word ‘I’ more than three times on a call, then you’re not listening; you’re talking,” Paula points out. So how do you effectively listen while still making sure you get the listing appointment?
9. Get in their shoes
Let’s be honest. Your prospect cares a lot more about themselves than they do about you. So asking a question like “what happened when you tried to sell?” is going to get you farther with the homeowner than “I’m the one that can sell your home.”
“The way to get through to them is to just be relatable and to be compassionate or empathetic to their process,” says Paula. When you’re the first agent a homeowner encounters who listens to their frustrations, in return, they’re much more likely to listen to you too.
Paula continues, “instead of being in the mindset of selling yourself, think of it as the opportunity we have to really hear what they’re saying and to find out exactly what went wrong. It’s our opportunity to listen instead of talk.”
10. On “I Don’t Feel Like It” days, do this
Quite frankly… there are days when it’s hard to get out of bed. It happens to even the best prospectors, including Paula. But there are ways to rise past it.
“I have the worst case of I don’t feel like its” Paula admits. “It’s a terminal disease and it doesn’t benefit anyone — your clients, customers, family, OR yourself for that matter.” The key is to find out what motivates you to keep going. One of the ways Paula stays motivated is keeping herself accountable.
Paula’s solution: “Accountability is the number-one way to deal with the I don’t feel like its. Agents should have very high accountability, to the point of being uncomfortable. Not a lot of people agree because they don’t want to be uncomfortable, but in order to grow you have to be uncomfortable. Once you make it a habit you’re still going to have bad days, but you’re going to have less and less bad days.”
So how can you keep yourself accountable?
11. Get accountability partners
A perfect way to resist hitting the snooze button or skipping a day of scheduled prospecting is to get people to keep you accountable, including friends, family and co-workers.
“If you have kids, the kids are the best accountability partners ever,” she adds. “You tell your kid that you’re going to take them to Disneyland if you go on five appointments this month, they’re going to be coming home [asking], ‘Did you go on your appointments?'”
Paula discovered the easiest way you can create accountability is to share your goals and daily schedule with others.
“Don’t be afraid to put your schedule on your door and share with the office what you’re up to,” Paula suggests. “Don’t be a secret agent. Share with your broker what your goals are. You have to make yourself known, you have to tell people what you’re up to, and you have to ask them to hold you accountable.”
What is a hyper-effective way to get yourself to prospect?
12. Bet against yourself
A well known psychological principle called loss aversion predicts people will do far more to avoid loss than to gain something. Paula leverages this principle in a clever and effective way. She formed a Google Hangouts accountability group where all the members agree to pay a penalty if they show up late.
“Five or six of us prospect together on Google Hangouts so I can hear how they handle objections,” Paula explains. “If I’m not on there at a certain time I have to contribute $12 a minute for every minute I’m late.”
Who likes looking bad or paying penalties? With other people involved, Paula knows she’s going to show up. She knows if she doesn’t show up her accountability group will spring to action and get her refocused.
“We all know that we will do things for other people that we wouldn’t normally do for ourselves and if you have someone waiting for you, you’re going to show up,” she states. “If I have other agents in my mastermind group that are waiting for me in our Google Hangouts, and if I don’t show up I get a text from them, that’s accountability. You’re going to show up, you’re going to show up more often, and just by doing that you’re going to be more successful.”
13. Practice is key
There are ways to make the first Expired listing call every day less and less daunting. Different prospectors offer different advice on how to do this, but they all share one thing in common: practice makes perfect.
“If you want to make a lot of money…you have to practice,” says Paula.
This isn’t a new concept, but it’s so easily overlooked. For example, football players in the NFL didn’t just wake up one day and know all the strategy and plays it takes to win a football game. They have to go to practice every day to get where they’re at. And even with practice they still get nervous before a game and are reluctant to step out on the field.
In his public tell-all-book, Superbowl winning quarterback Steve Young revealed his anxiety was so severe he wasn’t “going to make it through the season.” But the second he got in the zone and the center snapped the ball, all his fear faded and the glory began. And prospecting is just the same way.
Practicing your scripts, making the calls, and overcoming objections is the path to success. You might still get nervous before your first calls, but practicing will massively reduce the chances you get taken by surprise while greatly reducing your fears.
14. Keep to the scripts
Another way Paula practices is devoting time daily to memorizing her scripts. “In the evening I will either listen to all the scripts that I use on a CD, or I’ll write them out and write out the current closes that I’m using,” she reveals. “To make it interesting I change it up all the time.”
“It’s absolutely huge,” she assures agents. “Knowing what to say and how to say it is the absolute key to being successful in this business. So many people are afraid to pick up the phone because they don’t know what to say, and once you make that easy for yourself and once you [memorize] whatever script you’re going to use… If you personalize it to your own personality type, it makes the job so much easier.”
The best actors and actresses in the world memorize their scripts. The best prospectors in the world do too. Memorizing your scripts is essential to feeling confident and overcoming the fears standing in your way.
15. Get an Expired Script
If you’re a conversationalist it can be easy to get off track and waste a lot of time chatting it up. To help combat this, Paula has used Mike Ferry scripts since the beginning. The scripts are free to download and designed to incorporate probing questions seamlessly into your conversation, keeping you in control the entire way.
Paula says, “I’m an expressive personality, I can get to rambling when talking to people. We could be talking about all kinds of things, but nothing about real estate. So [the scripts] keep me on task, and keep me focused on the client and their motivation.”
If your reaction to using a script is “Oh, that’s not me. I can never ask those questions. They seem too upfront. So forth and so on.” Paula shares how she resisted scripts at first, “but I have found that once you memorize the script, you make them your own.”
16. Record and listen to your calls
In addition to memorizing her scripts so she can become better at getting expired listings, Paula puts her call sessions under microscope and examines them for defects. “I record my own calls and once a month I listen to them. I also have my coach. He also listens to them and gives me advice on what I could have done differently or things that I could do better. So always having that outside influence is really impactful,” says Paula.
Listening to your own calls can be difficult. Who likes the sound of their own voice? But that’s why it’s so beneficial. You get to hear what you sound like and as Paula said earlier, if you’re uncomfortable you’re doing something right.
“It’s always right after the call when you think of all the clever things you should have said,” Paula points out. You’re not just listening for your mistakes but for missed opportunities. “It is impactful and you go back and think: if this was to happen again, which it always does, I will handle it this way.”
17. Feed your mind good food
The best prospecting practices combined with the best Expired Leads in the world won’t get you far without the right mindset. Surrounding herself with what she calls the good, sustains her with the mindset needed for prospecting expired listings.
Paula has connected between how she feels and the food and news she consumes. “Just like our bodies, our minds are receptive to what we put into them,” says Paula. “If you eat nothing but pizza and ice cream, what kind of health are you going to have? Not great.”
She continues, “The news/media in general has nothing good to share with you,” Paula warns prospectors. “If you feed yourself vapid reality shows and spend your time watching TV that’s entertaining but not pushing you forward, you’ve fed your mind ice-cream and pizza. By changing the tape, by reading great books, listening to inspiring people, and watching inspirational videos — you’re reprogramming your mind to see the positive in the universe. And when you do that, your mindset is different and it changes everything about your reality.”
Ask yourself, “What am I feeding my mind today?” Paula adds, “You can’t expect to continually feed your mind garbage and for it to perform at its highest level mentally.”
18. Rebuild the seller’s confidence in agents
Now that you know the ingredients going into creating a “good” prospecting mindset, you’re ready to get into the mind of your prospect.
The key to prospecting expired listings is they feel they have been burned. “They’ve already had one bad experience,” Paula cautions. To overcome the seller’s bias, Paula says there are three things you must communicate before they will list with you: “The seller wants to know how much their home is going to sell for, what you’re going to do to sell it (your plan of action), and how long it’s going to take. So we have to be prepared to answer those questions,” says Paula.
Paula gets the majority of her expired listings by having firm but assuring conversations. “The bottom line is that [the seller’s] perception is their reality and there is nothing you’re going to do to change that except to sell them your reality. And your reality has to be, ‘I’m going to do A, B, and C, and I’m going to communicate with you on this day on a regular basis until your home is sold.'”
19. Have a follow up system
Oftentimes Expired Homeowners had a bad experience trying to sell because their agent didn’t communicate often or effectively. As a result their trust in you to get the job done is… let’s just say questionable. Paula knows this and it’s why her Expired Follow Up System is precise and thorough.
Once it’s clear a seller will set an appointment with Paula in the next seven days, she gets the ball rolling. “I will send them a thank you note and then email them a copy of my plan of action,” which includes an 18-point plan spelling out exactly what she will do to get the client’s home sold.
20. Get the right tools
All the drive and skill isn’t enough, without the proper tools and data. When asked what tools Paula can’t live without, she says: “This is gonna sound so scripted in, but I love REDX. I mean, I’m ridiculously in love with them.”
Paula continues, “They make my job so easy. I log into my Vortex®, the expired leads are preloaded in less than 10 minutes, I have everybody that I need to call. I use Storm® Dialer to call so that I don’t get distracted and stay on the phone…It continually dials, so I have to be paying attention. It increases my call ratio, or my contact ratio.”
Any other agent looking to create a consistent income through prospecting, need tools that can decrease the time spent calling while increasing the number of contacts made. Whatever your big goal is, Paula recommends you don’t hesitate to implement time-saving, money-making tools including a real estate specific power dialer like Storm®.
21. Always be reading and learning
Something important to remember: no one is perfect at prospecting. Which is why it’s so important to continue building your base of prospecting knowledge. The rate of change is speeding up and the only way to stay ahead is to stay educated. Paula keeps herself educated by following the authors of these magazines, books, and trainings:
- Success Magazine
- Success Podcast
- Tony Robbins
- DarrenDaily with Darren Hardy
- The Slight Edge: Turning Simple Disciplines into Massive Success and Happiness by Jeff Olson
- Versatile Selling: Adapting Your Style so Customers Say “Yes!” by Larry Wilson
- The 10X Rule by Grant Cardone
- The Art of Exceptional Living by Jim Rohn
22. Stay committed
Paula said the one thing she attributes her success to is commitment.
You have to commit to yourself, you have to commit to others, and you have to be fully invested in that commitment,” she continues. Which means “you will let yourself down more than anybody else, so put together the accountability, tell the people what your dreams are, what your goals are, and what you want to accomplish. Take constructive criticism openly. Don’t take things personally that have nothing to do with you. And if all else fails, watch something funny, read a great book, stop and read something out of a magazine that’s going to inspire you. Call a good friend.”
With that, Paula offers some final advice: “Be patient. Having a positive mindset and a strong business doesn’t happen overnight. It takes work. It takes practice and commitment. And you know what? So what if it takes a long time? You’re gonna be better for it in the end, and unless you’re not planning on being in the business, there’s no other option than to get better.”