If you’ve ever seen a NASCAR Race or watched a bicycle race, you might be familiar with the term “Drafting”. Drafting is a strategy to use the aerodynamics of the racer in front significantly expend the effort and energy of the riders behind him. Scientists have demonstrated that a racer riding in another’s slipstream will expend 30 to 40% less energy than the rider in front.
Drafting can be done cooperatively or it can be done competitively. In competitive drafting, the racer behind the leader stays in the slipstream of the leader to conserve his own energy and also to force the leader to expend more energy. There is no give and take here. Even though the rider in front gets a physical and possibly psychological benefit from having someone inches from his front tire, the bottom line is that the rider in the front has to work the hardest.
To truly understand the beauty of drafting, watch a professional bike race like the Tour de France. This three week bicycle race across the mountains of the Alps and Pyrenees is truly an epic event which pushes professional cyclists to their very limits and it is an amazing demonstration of the power of collaboration and teamwork...
In the Biblical creation story, it says that God looked at everything he had made and was pleased so on the seventh day he rested. In the top ten list of rules He later gave to Moses, number 4 was to honor a day of rest every week. If the God of the universe thought rest was so important and even rested himself then why do we look at it as a dreaded four letter word? One of the hardest lessons for me to learn as a beginner athlete and as a small business owner is that REST is a requirement - not an option.
Either I will choose to rest or my body will shut down and force me to rest!
You may have heard it said that the definition of insanity is “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results” but perhaps it’s time to rethink that definition.
Sometimes the only way to see results IS to do the same thing over and over and over again. In fact in many cases, the definition of insanity is expecting results without doing the same things over and over again. This applies to my life right now more than ever as I train for my first half marathon and work to take our national virtual tour company to the next level.
Today I am officially registering to run the St. Louis Rock and Roll Half Marathon. It will no longer be me wanting to run a half marathon but me committing myself and my money to run a half-marathon. In addition to blogging about this, I am going to actually post it on Facebook and tell all my friends, family (and those people on my Friends list who I am not quite sure how I know) that I am going to run a half marathon in 50 days! Wow, that makes it real!!
Now understand, I have the option of waiting to register until I am closer to the race date to see if I can really do this. I can justify waiting to make the commitment -- I have never run 13.1 miles! I don’t know for sure if I can do this so maybe I should wait. Trust me, if there was a medal for procrastination, fear and excuse making, I would win GOLD!
Starting our virtual tour business was a lot like starting an exercise program. When we started Vision Quest Virtual Tours three years ago, we had no idea what we were getting into or where our business would take us. We were starting from scratch and had so much to learn before we could even begin to set realistic goals.
Vision Quest Virtual Tours is a national virtual tour provider and we travel all over the country photographing virtual tours for healthcare companies. We have photographed in 35 states in the past year and a half and while that means we have had some great adventures and seen some awesome places, it also means we have spent a ton of time in the car and eating fast food on the road. Like most new businesses, we were on a tight budget which meant that our meal choices weren’t always the healthiest.
Let me start by saying that I am not an athlete. I have always wanted to exercise and have done it in spurts but was never consistent so I never reaped the benefits. I never played sports in school and I have never particularly enjoyed exercising. My weight yo-yoed for years and as I’ve gotten older, I’ve gotten fatter and lazier and it became more and more difficult to lose the extra pounds. After my mother was diagnosed with diabetes, I realized that I was on the same path if I didn’t change something.
We recently shot a Quincy, Illinois real estate virtual tour for a family who is moving out of state due to a job change. The homeowner is moving from Illinois to Denver, CO but she knows nothing about Colorado -- in fact has never been there. She is relying on the internet to try to learn as much as she can about the Denver market.
In looking at the local MLS listings in Denver, she found that most of the listings that said they had “Virtual Tours” had simply taken the same still images from the listing and put them into a slide show and added music. She said that watching the “virtual tour” was deja vu since she had already seen the exact same pictures.
When we arrived at her home and began staging the rooms, turning on all the lights and taking 360º panoramic images, she quickly realized that what we were doing was much more intensive than the “virtual tours” she had seen.
At Vision Quest Virtual Tours, we believe that a virtual tour should be more than just a slideshow put to music. A virtual tour should offer the viewer a chance to truly look around the home and get a feel for the flow and layout. The virtual tour should allow the viewer to imagine themselves in the space and visualize their furniture and personal items in the home.
The stills are important as well because most people add filters when they are looking through local MLS listings. In addition to price and number of bedrooms, one of the most common filters that people use is Number of Pictures. Some Realtors just stick in one picture of the front of the home or a handful of shots they take with their point and shoot cameras and hope that people will be intrigued enough to want to learn more. While this may work in some cases, most buyers we talk to really want to be able to narrow down their options and tell us that high quality pictures allow them to do that more easily.
Here is the virtual tour we created for our client -- http://fusion.realtourvision.com/53178 -- As you can see, it is MUCH MORE than a slideshow put to music!
It’s definitely true that high quality professional pictures are better than nothing however there’s a big difference between still images and a truly interactive virtual tour. Our virtual tours are created using a combination of still images, 360º and partial panoramas, and can also include video clips. In addition to just the virtual tour, we offer a still package plus the virtual tour because the combination of good stills AND the virtual tours is a one two punch that provides the whole package...without the sense of Deja Vu!
Remember when you called a business for information and asked them if they had a website? It really wasn’t that long ago that the answer could be yes or no. Remember when a one page website with basic contact details was an acceptable option for a business to share their information with their customers? Again, it really wasn’t that long ago but oh how quickly things have changed. Now businesses have Facebook pages and Linked In accounts for their employees and a well designed and easy to use website is almost as crucial and expected as a working phone number. The question is no longer “Do you have a website?” because the website is an Of Course item in any marketing budget.
The same progression is happening with virtual tours. At Vision Quest Virtual Tours, about 90% of our business is commercial virtual tours for businesses. Consumers have gotten lazy and want to see a place of business before they decide to visit. Residential real estate virtual tours and hospitality virtual tours very quickly became the norm and that trend is continuing to other businesses. Many of us can no longer imagine booking a vacation without watching a virtual tour!
As the economy has tightened, many people are becoming more cognizant of where they are spending their money. Dinner at a nice restaurant is a luxury these days so consumers want to plan ahead. We have a date night this weekend and I have already been on the restaurant’s website to check out the menu and plan my meal. We photographed the restaurant’s virtual tour so we already know what to expect from that aspect but this will be the first time we’ve eaten there. This restaurant virtual tour gets tons of hits on their website of people looking at the tour so I know that I am not alone in my desire to see before I spend.
As the digital age continues to evolve faster than the economy is growing, businesses are having to carefully decide to spend their marketing dollars and a virtual tour is quickly becoming an “Of Course” item as in “We need a website, good SEO, a Facebook page...and of course, a virtual tour.”
Determining Pricing on Fusion Virtual Tours
At Vision Quest Virtual Tours, we have had a flat price for our residential real estate virtual tours. This made it easy for us in the past because each virtual tour was a combination of still and panorama images and we like having the freedom to showcase each home in its best light rather than having to pick and choose which areas to photograph and charge on a per photo or spin basis.
Fusion -- the latest virtual tour platform from RTV, Inc., has essentially changed the way that we think about virtual tours and has presented us with so many additional bells and whistles that we had to reevaluate our virtual tour pricing options.
In the end, we decided to keep the base price of a residential virtual tour the same but offer up sell opportunities that would increase the price of the tour should the agent choose to select these add-ons. Our base tour price of $100 for our local real estate market includes the virtual tour and our social ignition package. The social ignition package includes distribution of the tour to over 40 social bookmarking sites as well as a YouTube video and Craig’s List ad. We are offering several $25 upgrades that allow each Realtor to customize their virtual tour package.
We recently photographed a residential real estate virtual tour for a family in our hometown of Quincy, IL. The family was relocating out of state due to a job promotion and needed to sell their house quickly. They were given two choices of Realtors by their corporate relocation company and they interviewed them both. While we were photographing their home, the homeowners were quick to mention that they made their choice between the two Realtors solely because of the fact that the one they chose was going to have a professional virtual tour done for the house and the other was not.
We know both these Realtors and can attest to the fact that all else really was equal. They were dealing with two very successful and experienced Realtors. We live in a small town where every Realtor in town knows the others listings for the most part. Both Realtors suggested the same price for the house and were taking the same commission for the sale. If it had been a personality contest, the Realtor they chose would definitely not have been the winner!
Because the home owners are moving out of state, they are searching for their new home mostly online and then will go to the new location for a few trips before they actually have to start the new job. Their time is limited when they are in town for these short trips so they said that professional photography and good virtual tours are the one thing that allows them to narrow down which houses they are going to look at on these short trips.
For their upcoming home buying experience, these virtual tour and high quality pictures allowed them to create a short list so they knew that the buyer for their home would likely do the same. The winner of the Realtor choice for them was easy -- they chose the one who would be providing a professional virtual tour of the home they are selling.
In a recent Facebook post, a fellow virtual tour photographer bemoaned that he needed to hire a sales and marketing team to grow his virtual tour business. Someone quickly responded that he should call me to which my husband quickly replied that I was already booked and definitely NOT available. I am the sales and marketing department for our successful virtual tour business, Vision Quest Virtual Tours. I work with many new virtual tour providers who worry that they can’t do what we do because they aren’t good at sales.
When you think of a natural born sales man what traits and characteristics come to mind? We all know that person who could sell anything to anybody...whether they need it or not. Your experiences with sales may color your thinking. If you have been hounded by people trying to sell you something then the traits that come to mind may include pushy, obnoxious, distracting and someone who won’t take no for an answer. If you know someone who is truly successful in sales you may think of things like an outgoing personality, the ability to listen and a genuine interest in others.
One of my first jobs after college was selling fax machines in Atlanta. This was in 1989 when fax machines were the hottest new thing to hit the market and everyone wanted one because people were just realizing that they weren’t only for big businesses. The company I worked for offered a fine product but the price was over double what Sharp was selling their products for and my product offered no additional bells or whistles. For a comparable product, our entry level fax was $1,795 and Sharp’s was $995. The reason I did not close many sales was because when someone asked me why they should pay nearly double for a comparable product, I had no good answer. I had all the makings of a good salesperson but I was not selling a product at a price I believed was fair. I was told to sell the “value of the brand” but frankly, in a side by side comparison, there was no additional value. I originally led the company in appointments and cold calls but I failed miserably in closing sales and quickly became discouraged. This experience led me to believe that I was not cut out for sales and I didn’t try my hand at sales again until nearly 10 years later.
I have trained hundreds of salespeople and I have seen this proven many times. The people I thought would be the best at sales -- those naturally gregarious folks who never met a stranger -- often turned out to lack the discipline necessary to actually succeed in sales. In fact, I am one of those people. I, like many people who gravitate to sales, am a big picture thinker but am not so great when it comes to details. Luckily my husband is a great partner in our virtual tour business. As the virtual tour photographer, he is the creative genius behind what we do but he is also the detail guy who makes sure that those pesky details like invoicing and paying bills get done.
The secrets to the success of our virtual tour business are consistency, persistence and having a great product. Sales is nothing but a numbers game -- the more contacts and calls I make, the more sales I make. This happens for two reasons. One is the fact that the more people I talk to, the more likely I am to find someone who is interested in what I am selling. But the second reason is that the more people I talk to, the more I understand my market and the perception of my product. Each time I overcome an objection or answer a question, I am better equipped for the next time.
Persistence doesn’t mean not taking no for an answer. Instead it means finding out if No really means No or does it possibly mean Not Yet. I continue calling a lead until I have determined that they do not need or want my product. If I have understood all their objections and explained the benefits of my product then there is nothing wrong with taking No for an answer.
Finally, I have a product that I believe in and THAT is the biggest secret to our success. Our virtual tour technology allows us to provide an excellent product at a very competitive price. My husband is a great photographer and has created workflows that allow us to provide exceptional virtual tours at a very affordable price. With the introduction of Fusion by RTV, Inc., we now have what I consider to be the greatest virtual tour platform on the market so all I need is the opportunity to show it to someone and the “sale” is easy.
Sales and marketing consultant Mike Sigers says it well, “There is no such thing as a natural born salesman. You become a “natural” by talking to and negotiating with thousands of people.” In other words, sales is something you learn to do - not something you are born with. I am definitely proof of that!
Vision Quest Virtual Tours is a national virtual tour provider specializing in healthcare virtual tours and hospitality virtual tours. We are based in Quincy, IL and provide Illinois virtual tours but we have also photographed virtual tours in over 30 states. To learn more, visit us at www.VisionQuestVirtualTours.com or give us a call at 404-863-9769.