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.
I had a boss once whose least favorite word was “potential”. As a salesperson working for him, I never understood his violent aversion to the word but if you wanted to see him bristle, all you needed to do was tell him about all your potential business.
Our virtual tour business is currently in negotiations for so much potential business that it makes my head spin. We have bids in negotiation for several huge contracts that are right in our sweet spot and we’ve been told “Yes” by several businesses that are even now working out the logistics. Webster defines potential as “existing in possibility; capable of development into actuality.” Because I am an optimistic person, I look at opportunities that exist in possibility and calculate all the potential income. The problem with this is that you can’t spend potential!
There are certain universal laws that we believe to be absolute. The law of Increasing Returns is one of those that we strive to live by. Whether you call it Karma or the Golden Rule or sowing what you reap, there's truth to the fact that eventually what comes around, goes around. There’s a great quote by Napoleon Hill in his classic book, “The Law of Success in Sixteen Lessons.” Hill suggests that we “Render more service than that for which you are paid and you will soon be paid for more than you render. The law of ‘Increasing Returns’ takes care of this.”
A great example of this happened to us just yesterday in our Illinois Virtual Tour Business. We went to photograph a real estate virtual tour for a Realtor in a nearby city and when we arrived at the house, the place was a TOTAL MESS. I don’t mean clutter...I mean mess. The home was empty but the homeowners were doing some remodeling work and there were tools and materials all over the place as well as bags of garbage. Our job when shooting a residential real estate virtual tour is to photograph the house in a way that will appeal to potential homebuyers. At first glance, there was no way we could possibly do that. My husband is a great virtual tour photographer but there are some things that no level of creativity can overlook.
Greg and Paige Mitts of Vision Quest Virtual Tours recently attended RTV, Inc.’s national conference in Traverse City, MI where they were awarded the top honor of “Most Valuable Players” from among a network of over 1,500 other virtual tour providers. Vision Quest Virtual Tours provides state of the art 360º virtual tours primarily in the fields of healthcare, hospitality, and education. Though headquartered in Quincy, IL, Vision Quest Virtual Tours has photographed virtual tours in over 30 states.
Originally established in 1999 as RealtorVision and now RTV, Inc., RTV is a profitable and privately held corporation that proudly supports over 100,000 real estate agents and businesses in 27 countries. Their virtual tour technology has also attracted over 1,500 independent business owners who provide unparalleled worldwide coverage in the field of virtual tour photography. This makes the RTV network the largest full service virtual tour and property marketing network in the World.