Many years ago, I was involved in negotiations to sell a privately owned company to a publicly traded company for $6 million. The negotiations had gone on for over a year and the final vote of the board of directors was scheduled. The night before his final presentation at that meeting, the owner and CEO of our company got a phone call that his father had died. The meeting went on without him and someone else made his final presentation for him. In the confusion, the wrong materials were presented at the meeting and the deal fell apart.
I learned from this was that when you are making a sale -- whether it be a $6 million sale or a $60 sale -- no one can tell your story better than you. This is a lesson I have never forgotten and keep in mind when I am making sales calls. I believe that I can tell my story with a good voice mail but it’s not unusual to find a business where the person I am trying to reach does not have voice mail and I am asked if I want to leave a message.
My answer to the question “Can I take a message?” is to simply and politely say that it would probably be easier if I just call back. I usually say, “Why don’t I just call her back in case I get back on the phone. That way we don’t have to play phone tag” and then I ask when might be a good time to try back. I tell the person taking the message who I am and who my company is but then explain that I would prefer to explain what we do and it would be much easier for me to tell that story than ask the receptionist to do it for me.
When I get the chance to talk to a decision maker, I am pretty good at sharing my passion for what we offer in a way that convinces them of the value of a virtual tour for their business. The challenge is trying to share that passion in a little pink message slip to be interpreted and conveyed by someone else. This is what I must do when I am asked to leave a message and my preference is not to take that risk.
There are many reasons I want to be the one telling our story. I am passionate about our virtual tour business. I am lucky to work with my husband who is also my best friend and I am very proud of his talent as a professional photographer. We have an incredible portfolio and have worked with leaders in the industries we represent. I have seen firsthand what having a virtual tour can do for a business.
Again, I find it helpful to tell the person on the phone who I am, what we do and why I am calling because the main job of a receptionist is to act as the gatekeeper and keep pesky salesmen like me from bothering decision makers. By befriending the person answering the phone, I greatly increase my chances of getting through the next time I call.
Vision Quest Virtual Tours is located in Quincy, IL. We provide virtual tours in Illinois, Missouri, and Iowa as well as all over the country. We specialize in healthcare, hospitality and education as well as residential and commercial real estate. To learn more or to schedule a tour, visit our website at www.VisionQuestVirtualTours.com or give us a call at 404-863-9769.
Vision Quest Virtual Tours has just finished our first virtual tour for Sullivan Auctioneers, LLC . Sullivan Auctioneers does anywhere from three to 10 estate sales every week. The items for auction include homes and farmland but also tools, collectibles, antiques and furniture, cars, farm equipment and much more.
The auctioneers list the information about the auction in the local newspaper, create a flyer, and post pictures and information on their website. Prior to the sale, they catalog the items and hold a preview day prior to the sale where people can come by and take a look. As with many real estate open houses, the people who come to the open house are often curious neighbors and not seriously interested prospects.
A virtual tour is a perfect way to provide a preview of the items for sale as well as show the property that is included in the auction. We did our first virtual tour for them yesterday and were thrilled with the results. The house is being remodeled so we will go back once it is done and take the interior pictures of the home but this tour allows someone to get a great idea of what is being offered without having to go to the preview day.(click here to view the tour)
We have priced the auction tours a little higher than a plain real estate tour since we will be doing more stills of particular items. We are looking forward to creating a great partnership with Sullivan Auctioneers and the best news is I get a sneak peek at what is going to be in the auction!
Vision Quest Virtual Tours provides high quality 360º real estate virtual tours in Quincy, IL and the surrounding areas. We focus nationally on healthcare virtual tours, school virtual tours, bed and breakfast virtual tours. To learn more, visit our website at www.VisionQuestVirtualTours.com or give us a call at 404-863-9769.
How many times have you gone in a store and had a salesperson approach you with the same question, “May I help you?” The standard answer is usually, “No thank you, I’m just looking” even if you are there for a specific reason. Until we have decided that we want to do business with someone, we don’t want to be engaged or hounded by them.
As the internet has evolved, so have our expectations for websites. Remember when people used to ask you if you HAD a website? Now having a website is a given -- if you have a phone number and a business card, you probably should have a website. The internet has provided us a virtual mall where we can browse around and get a real understanding of our options before actually actually engaging the services of a particular business.
The problem is that many websites today are nothing more than a glorified business card. The days of just putting pictures and text on your website and asking people to decipher your message are over. We are so inundated with data that we no longer want to sift through pages of information to find out who you are and what you charge. As I research prospective customers for our virtual tour business, I am amazed at how often I have to search multiple pages just to find the phone number for the facility much less the name of someone to talk to. Now granted, I am on the website trying to get this information so that I can sell our virtual tour services to them but MOST people are on a company’s website as potential customers for THEIR services.
Whether we are talking about healthcare facilities and treatment programs, vacation rentals or residential real estate, there is no shortage of competition for business in today’s market. Most people use internet searches to create a “short list” of options to call later. I know that’s what I do. Once I have created a short list, I go back and review all the detailed information to help me further narrow down my choices. Most of the time, I want a quick overview from the home page that answers my basic questions -- who is this business, what do they do, what makes them special and who do I need to talk to if I am interested.
A virtual tour is a one click way to answer many of those questions. If the information on the home page interests me, I will then go on to read the rest. By providing an automatic overview of the program, home or business, the virtual tour allows the prospective customer a chance to walk around without a pesky salesman asking “Can I help you?”
Vision Quest Virtual Tours provides high quality 360º virtual tours for healthcare, hospitality and education. We specialize in virtual tours for therapeutic residential treatment programs but we work with any business that wants to give their customers a chance to “look around”. We are located in Quincy, IL but work with businesses all over the country. Visit us online at www.VisionQuestVirtualTours.com to see why businesses in over 30 states have chosen us as their marketing partner.
Several of my very wealthy friends were walking through a parking lot together many years ago. These men had annual incomes ranging from $500,000 to millions. Near the back was Hubert, the richest of the group. He was the founder of their company and their mentor. In the 80’s, Hubert was the first man in his company to make over $3,000,000 in a year and later went on to start his own company.
As they neared their very expensive cars, Hubert bent down and picked up a quarter. As he held it up, he asked the other men in the group if they had not seen the quarter on the ground. Their answers were either that they hadn’t noticed it or hadn’t deemed it worth stopping to pick up because after all, as one man said, it was only a quarter. Hubert looked at them all with disbelief and said “The day I step over money is the day they put me in the ground.” Perhaps there’s a reason he was the most successful of the group.
It was Benjamin Franklin who is credited with the quote “Time is Money” but I have most often heard that quote repeated by people who have much more time on their hands than they do money. I think Hubert would agree with me when I say that Time is Time and Money is Money. I have been in sales for a long time and if there’s one thing I’ve learned it is how to tell the difference between Time and Money.
At Vision Quest Virtual Tours, we determine our prices based on the amount of time and effort that a particular job will entail. We publish guidelines on our website but those prices are often negotiable based on many factors such as our current work load, our travel schedule, the volume of tours a particular client is ordering at a time.
We are working with a ministry that has an extremely limited budget. I explained to them that if we could do a tour for him on a Saturday before we leave town for a large out of state job, we would do the tour for 1/4 of our normal price. It is a win/win situation for us -- he gets a high quality virtual tour and we get paid on a day when we would otherwise be sitting home watching television. Now keep in mind, we are going to sleep late that morning and be home in time to watch the University of Georgia football game that evening.
It’s true that we will invest our time to do the job at a greatly reduced price. We will have to pay for gas to drive to the job. It’s true that we will then come home and have to process the job and create the tour. And yes, we will have to pay for the hosting of the tour. But at the end of that day, we will have more money in our pockets than we did when we started the day and frankly, Greg will be processing and building the tour as he sits beside me on the sofa watching the University of Georgia football game -- which is where he was going to be anyway!
I have blogged before that a business with no income is a hobby. It’s true that we are in business to make money and as your business grows, you have to weigh the value of your time. But I have to laugh when I hear people say that it’s not “worth their time” to leave their house for less than a certain amount of money. Until there is someone willing to come to our house and pay us for sitting home, we will consider ANY job no matter what the price.
The key is to weigh the cost. We don’t turn down full price jobs to do discounted tours and when we do a discounted tour, it is with the understanding that we will schedule them around our other customers. I also spend my time talking to and encouraging new virtual tour providers who call me for advice on how to grow their business...but I schedule them for times when I am in the car between jobs or on the weekends when we are home relaxing - not during peak phone calling hours.
We rarely want to lose money on a job although we look at the big picture. If the job is one that could open other doors for us, is for a ministry that we want to support financially or a new business we want to encourage, we have no problem making less than our normal price or even doing the job for free sometimes.
We have been blessed in our virtual tour business and we love to give back...whether it is of our time or money. To end with another quote by Benjamin Franklin,
“For my own part, when I am employed in serving others, I do not look upon myself as conferring favours, but as paying debts. In my travels, and since my settlement, I have received much kindness from men, to whom I shall never have any opportunity of making the least direct return. And numberless mercies from God, who is infinitely above being benefited by our services. Those kindnesses from men, I can therefore only return on their fellow men; and I can only shew my gratitude for these mercies from God, by a readiness to help his other children and my brethren. For I do not think that thanks and compliments, tho’ repeated weekly, can discharge our real obligations to each other, and much less those to our Creator.”
I blogged recently about the impact that blogging has had on the Google rankings for our website, www.Vision Quest Virtual Tours.com. Over a 60 day period, we watched our daily website hits grow from an average of 10 per day to an average of 30 - 50 per day. The only thing that we did differently during that time was to blog consistently about our business.
We went from the place where a great month was 350 hits to the point where we were consistently at 1,250 hits for the month. About that time, life got in the way and I stopped blogging for a few weeks. We were out of town visiting family, we were packing to move, we were really busy photographing tours...there are plenty of “good excuses”. But the fact is that Google is a fickle friend!
I don’t pretend to understand the mechanics of Google rankings and analytics but I do know that Google loves blogs or should I say, Google loves fresh blogs. We blog on our own website as well as over 40 other blog sites and once I write a blog, I get an instant jump in visits to our website. I get some residual readers over time but it's a trickle compared to what I get when I put in a new blog. But during the time when I was too busy to blog, I saw a very profound drop in our website hits. Our hits still maintained some of our momentum but we very quickly dropped from a consistent montly number above 1,250 down to 1,000. Having worked so hard to get up to 1,000, I got busy with my blogging to make sure it didn't drop again.
The problem with being a small business owner is that you can’t rest on your laurels or past achievements for very long. My part of the business is sales and marketing and that entails a long to-do list that must be maintained every day or else we will lose momentum in our virtual tour business. I have now realized that near the top of that to-do list is to keep my blog current and fresh. The value of Google Analytics is that I can track the results of my efforts. I can see whether the cold calls I am making and blogs I am writing are driving traffic to the sight. I've always said that you can't expect what you don't inspect and Google Analytics allows me to inspect my results.
Since Google’s constant question seems to be “What have you done for me lately?” and I’m going to be pretty busy for the next two weeks, I am writing several blogs over the next few days so I have them ready to post over the next few weeks. After all, Google doesn't make exceptions for you when you're too busy!
After spending most of today out on the lake, I went out to dinner with a baseball cap and no make up on. Now, I am not one of those women who can pull off the all natural look so I spend a great deal of time most mornings putting on makeup in an effort to look natural. The goal of everyday makeup is to put on enough that you look pretty but not so much that all people notice is the make up. Have you ever seen a woman with too bright lipstick or way too much eyeliner? If you were to try to describe her later you’d likely not be able to say what color her eyes were but you could sure describe that eyeliner.
Preparing for a virtual tour is much like putting on make-up. The goal is to achieve a natural look without catching the eye of the viewer on a detail that isn’t what you want to show. I believe the key to preparing for a 360 degree virtual tour is to stand in the middle of the room, turn in a circle and see what catches your eye. Obviously you want to remove out and out clutter but there are other things that can cause a distraction when viewing a picture of a room.
Here are some things that are we find eye catching - and not in a good way.
- Trash Cans -- One thing that we always try to move are trash cans. Unless a trash can in a room is part of the decor, we move them out of the picture.
- Mini blinds -- The metal ones are are notorious for hanging crooked or getting bent and this grabs my attention. With a little adjusting, we can usually either pull the blinds up or straighten out the slats so that it doesn’t show.
- Dust Ruffles/Bed Skirts -- These things somehow get pulled out of place when the bed is made so I try to make sure that the bedspread is even and the bed skirt is straight.
- Light Bulbs -- The first thing I do when I go into a place to photograph is turn on all the lights and nine times out of ten, there’s at least one light bulb burned out somewhere in the house. We don’t always have access to extra light bulbs so I am frequently moving hot light bulbs from one room to the next as we shoot.
- Lamp Shades -- Speaking of turning on lights, lamp shades are another nemesis of mine. Crooked lamp shades jump right out of the picture. In addition to leveling them, I also try to remember to turn lamp shades so the seam is in the back.
- Pictures and Mirrors -- Art, like makeup, can really enhance a room but a crooked picture is like smeared lipstick in my mind. Sometimes pictures are hung crooked but most of the time you can nudge it a little and get it straight.
- Papers and sticky notes -- I have a terrible memory so I understand the need to tack reminders all over the house but when it comes to taking the pictures, this little reminders just look like clutter. Take them down for the picture and then stick them right back up.
- Refrigerator Displays -- We all like to tack things on our refrigerator door but when taking a picture in a kitchen, we clear off the front of the fridge.
These are just a few of the things that we try to look for before starting to photograph but when I stand in the middle of the room and turn in a circle, there are often others that I see. If you don’t pay attention to the little things, you may look back and realize they were the big things.
(Final line of this blog was a paraphrase of a great quote by Richard Brault -- “Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things.” )
Vision Quest Virtual Tours specializes in 360º tours for healthcare, hospitality and education. For more information, please visit our website at www.VisionQuestVirtualTours.com.
Barbara Streisand is universally known as one of the most talented singers of all time but what many people don’t know is that she struggles with intense stage fright after forgetting the words to a song she was singing at a concert in 1967. Said Streisand in an interview with ABC news, "I didn't sing and charge people for 27 years because of that night ... I was like, 'God, I don't know. What if I forget the words again?'" Streisand returned to the stage in the early 1990s.
I have been in sales for years and making cold calls is an integral part of sales. But I will be the first to admit that I still get butterflies in my stomach every time I sit down to make calls. Given the chance, I could probably find enough excuses to put off cold calling for 27 years. The problem is that if I don't sell, we don't eat so I have to find a way to overcome my cold call stage fright every time I pick up the phones.
I love CLOSING sales because I am a very competitive person and closed sales is how you keep score in my world. Part of closing sales though is getting through all of the No’s and overcoming objections and making it through the gatekeeper to talk to the person you need. I believe that some of the butterflies that I get when I sit down to call are just adrenaline and excitement of getting to do what I love. Some of the butterflies are from knowing that Greg can't photograph what I don't sell so no matter how good he is on the back end, the front end is up to me and I don't want to disappoint him. Some of the jitters are from plain out fear of the unknown because face it, there are a lot of unknowns when you make cold calls.
Keep in mind, I have great confidence in our company Vision Quest Virtual Tours. I believe that virtual tours make a huge difference in the marketing efforts of the businesses I am calling and in the lives of people who own the homes and businesses we photograph. I know that I am good on the phones and can build rapport with my clients. When stage fright comes -- and it always does -- I have to remind myself that our customers are excited when we come to do their virtual tours.
My very first call this morning started with my standard question, “Have you considered adding a virtual tour to your website?” The answer was, “Yes, we were just talking about it yesterday but I wasn’t sure who to call.” I’ll admit that not all of my phone calls go that well or else I probably wouldn’t have the jitters when I sit down to make calls...BUT enough of them do that I keep calling and can estimate a predictable stream of income when I overcome my fears and put in the effort.
What we do has the potential to change people’s lives -- the home owner who sells their house because of the tour, the business who sees their business increase because their customers have a vision of what they do, the client who decides to get treatment they need because their fears are allayed by seeing where they will be going. It’s worth fighting through the nerves because what we do matters. At the end of the day, even if I haven’t closed a sale, I have shared information about a valuable service that we provide and I know that the Yes is always worth it no matter how many No’s I hear.
Vision Quest Virtual Tours specializes in virtual tours for healthcare, hospitality and education. We believe that when making big decisions, the big picture makes a big difference. To learn more, please visit us online at www.VisionQuestVirtualTours.com or give us a call at 404-863-9769.
We are moving. But not just moving, we are downsizing - a lot! Both of us lived in big houses before we met but shortly after we got married, we downsized into a small two bedroom duplex. Now we are downsizing even more -- from 884 square feet, two bedrooms, big closets and a storage area to a one bedroom that is probably less than 650 square feet, has one bedroom, one tiny closet and very little storage.
We travel most of the year with our virtual tour business, Vision Quest Virtual Tours, so the original plan had been to give up our little apartment and put everything in storage but the thought of being homeless was abandoned when we found this amazing little house right on the Mississippi River. It is in Quincy, IL where my husband Greg grew up and where most of his family lives.
We fell in love when we saw the first sunset off the dock and knew that we had found our home. Greg snapped some quick pictures and did some panoramas and created a virtual tour so we could show family and friends our new place. We only had about three weeks from the first time we saw the place until we load the U-Haul. Furthermore, we have a two month trip to California and Oregon so we won’t be moving in until the end of October. Everything we own will be in storage for two months while we are on that trip and I had two weeks to pack it all up.
I got a great understanding of the value of a real estate virtual tour from this experience. We only looked at one house and we knew we had found our home. I can’t imagine working with a realtor and looking at multiple homes and trying to keep them straight from notes or snapshots. We only saw the house a few times and I am relying on the virtual tour to decide what comes with us and what we are giving away or selling. Sure, I measured walls but it’s hard to envision how things will work without seeing the actual layout and that’s something I would not have had without our virtual tour.
People often ask us why we charge by the job instead of by the image and the answer is because we think that a virtual tour should really give you a chance to look around and get the big picture and we take as many pictures as necessary to tell the story. We shoot a combination of 360º spins, partial panoramas and still images so that the viewer can really see the space. Because I have that tour, I have been able to see how our furniture will fit, where the pictures will hang, what size curtain rods I need to take, where my dishes and kitchen stuff will go. I have donated stuff that just doesn’t work in the new space.
I can close my eyes and see the sun setting over the Mississippi River from our deck but I am not as good at remembering how many cabinets are in the kitchen. I would never have understood how valuable real estate virtual tours are without this experience.
Vision Quest Virtual Tours will be moving to Quincy, IL as of October 30th. We specialize in 360º virtual tours for healthcare, hospitality and education but after seeing how helpful the virtual tour is to a home buyer, we will be offering our services to real estate agents as well! For more information, visit us at www.VisionQuestVirtualTours.com or give us a call at 404-863-9769.
It would seem logical that when you are starting a new business, your best prospective clients will be your friends and family. But think about it, Jesus was the son of God and even his family didn’t think he knew what he was doing. Matthew 6:4 says, Then Jesus told them, “A prophet is honored everywhere except in his own hometown and among his relatives and his own family.” It may seem counterintuitive but I’m going to have to go with Jesus on this one.
We live in a town whose main industry is tourism and there are dozens of businesses locally who would benefit from the work that we do. We have family members who owns a hotel and cabin rental company just a short drive from where we live. My best friend’s husband is a realtor. If one were applying “logic” then we would seem to have had built in markets to start our business. However, when dealing with friends and family, logic does not always apply.
As small business owners, we don’t always have the budget to do all the things we love. We made the decision early in our relationship that we would live within our means. For us that means we run our life and our business, Vision Quest Virtual Tours, on a cash only basis - no credit cards or loans. We reinvest most of our profit back into our business so how is it that we have stayed in villas and luxurious bed and breakfasts and mountain top cabins and flown in acrobatic bi-planes and eaten in fine restaurants and gotten massages?
It’s called bartering and IT ROCKS!!!