Ep 115: Lisa Harris – How Trade Shows Reveal a World of Hidden Leads


Lisa Harris is a South Carolina-based real estate agent with more than 20 years of sales and marketing experience. She’s discovered an incredible opportunity to generate business at home shows, wedding shows, and even craft shows.

Today on Stay Paid, Lisa explains how she uses trade shows and other events to generate leads.

Key Points:

  • There is room for real estate agents to make connections at home shows and other community events.
  • Relationships with vendors can yield leads for both parties.
  • Approach all your relationships from a position of a contribution.

Q: Introduce yourself to our audience.

I have over 20 years of marketing and sales experience. I like to tell people I’ve had a wild ride. I’ve had really cool experiences in other jobs that I’ve been able to apply to real estate.

A bad experience actually led me to get into real estate. We had a house on the market. My husband was in the restaurant business at the time. When I was looking for homes, my builder, agent, and lender all told me I had more real estate knowledge than a lot of people already in the business. They said I asked smart questions, which I think is a big key to success in our business—asking smart questions to get the right answers.

I realized that if some of these other people could do what they were doing, why couldn’t I?

We were selling a home, building a business, and raising young children. I was helping my husband with marketing for his new restaurant. It was pretty much a baptism by fire.

A friend and I made a pact to go to real estate school together. About three months later, she came back to me. She suggested renting my house through her broker. It turned out she went to school and got her license while I was busy with everything else. I went home and told my husband. He said, “If she can do it, you can do it.”

I went to real estate school that November and had interviewed with eight different brokerages by that December. I like to say I interviewed them because I wanted to go to a place where I could really hit the ground running. I also wanted there to be an abundance of training, and I wanted to know I’d be able to make the most money for my efforts.

My real estate practice was a business right from the beginning. A lot of people make the mistake of not treating it like a business. You get what you put into it.

I sat in the back of the class at four different brokerages. And in one of those classes, they mentioned a Rookie of the Year. I’m competitive, so this interested me. They told me that it only takes two appointments a week to make $100,000 a year. The instructor walked us through how to get to those numbers, step-by-step.

I wasn’t looking for easy. I knew it was going to be work. But when I heard you could get 30–35 transactions by doing two appointments a week, I told him I wanted to do more. I wanted to make $150,000 a year. He told me to get 2.5 appointments a week.

Come April, I still didn’t have my first closing, but I had five listings and two buyers in the pipeline. But I closed my first buyer by the first week of April, and then I closed more than 30 transactions that year.

I called people in my sphere of influence. I didn’t call people and tell them “I’m new to real estate.” That’s a mistake a lot of people make. You’re not new. You have a whole set of skills that you bring with you to real estate. You’re just new to the real estate processes.

My first year in the business, if there was a training available, I took it. If there was a webinar, I was on it. If there was a podcast, I was listening to it. I didn’t ever stop learning.

I also got a productivity coach right out of the gate. To me, that was the best investment I made in myself.

Q: Explain to our audience how you find leads at home shows.

Let me just say first that if you don’t have home shows in your area, you can do this at wedding shows, community events, career events, fairs, or even craft shows. You can apply this approach anywhere.

I saw a need at home shows. No real estate agent was really setting themselves apart as an expert in the field. When you go to a home show, there are all these different contractors and experts, but there’s really no one there who represents real estate.

People are not at these shows looking to find someone to sell their home. But if you can give someone a chance to look at what their home value was before they do any renovation to it, you’re coming from a place of contribution. They can figure out whether it would make sense to do a remodel or an update. Then, that person can figure out where they’ll get the return on their investment.

I wanted to make sure that people were going to get the return on what they did to their home. Did it give them the home they wanted? Was it in the right location? What did they really want? I’d ask, “If you have this done to your house, is it now your dream home?” A lot of people would say no.

If people said yes, that they would die in that home, I’d still ask them to take a card—so that I could help their family down the line, when they passed away and their family needed to sell that home. They got a kick out of it.

I ended up developing a lot of good relationships with those people, as well as the vendors at those shows. I send the vendors leads, and they send me leads.

Q: How does this work in practice?

Whether it’s a home show or any other type of event, you’re there to get information. But you also have to come from a place of contribution.

People want to know that they’re getting something of value. We have a wine drawing. The bottles have stickers with our logo. There’s also the imprint of a hand. It says “Let us give you a hand selling your home, or buying your dream home.”

We’ll ask people to register and get their contact information. We’ll give them an idea of what the market looks like in their area. If they don’t need that information, someone they know might need it.

We’ll give away a bottle of wine every hour throughout the day. Over the weekend, it’ll be about a case of wine. But we’ll also give accurate information and set people in the right direction. If they’re not selling right now, maybe they’re ready to sell five years from now.

We can also follow up with these people around other home shows, to find out whether vendors have met their needs. We can connect people with other vendors, and we’ll use social media to do that.

A lot of people have vendors they’ve loved to work with, and we’ll use that information to help other people.

Q: What kind of return are you seeing?

It depends on the time of year. For example, it’s more difficult to make appointments right before the holidays. But those leads are higher quality because they’re specifically looking for something.

At the top end, a case of wine might cost us about $300. We’ll pay about $2000 for a booth.

At a recent show in November (which was small), we walked away with seven appointments. We had an appointment where they were both buying and selling. We had another appointment the other day where people were both buying and selling, and so was their daughter.

Q: How much of your business comes from referrals from your partners?

I have seven or eight partners, off the top of my head, whom I’ve done transactions for. That’s working directly with those partners on their real estate needs.

Of those partners, I’d say three of them send me referrals on a regular basis. They’re part of my packet that I give to my clients. I tell them, “I don’t make money on this. But if you ever need these services, these people have been vetted. You can use them.”

Q: How does someone use a craft show to get real estate leads? Which other strategies have you used that have been successful?

I have this little popsicle house my daughter made in class. I put it out on my table and say, “Are you looking to buy or sell in real estate? Don’t let this be your first home.”

I have had some amazing conversations at craft shows that have opened up doors you would not expect. That’s because they didn’t come there to talk real estate. I tell them, “Think of me as your network expert.” I’ve referred people to doctors, nail places, or whatever else they need.

Another thing we’ll do is host presentations at home shows. We’ll go into the seminar area at these shows and speak on different topics, like buying a first home or building or renovating a home. We’ll partner with local lenders who will come in and help people.

When we do wedding shows, the thing that we promote is a separate first-time buyer seminar a few weeks after the wedding show. We invite people to this free seminar, where they can talk to experts about how the process works. We say, “By the way, did you know that 70 people touch a transaction? That’s 70 opportunities for something to go wrong. My job is to fix things quickly so that you don’t even know those things go wrong.”

Buying and selling a home is only part of what real estate agents do. People can do that on any website out there. But can they get it to closing?

I’ve fired buyers and sellers because they don’t understand the value I have to offer. People should not use and abuse you. It is not worth being run over. You have to know how to teach people, but you also have to teach people how to treat you.

There are transactions I’ve closed that I might as well have not made money on, but I still made a difference in someone’s life. And that winds up coming back to you a thousand-fold. Those clients wind up becoming raving fans who will refer you time and time again.

Q: What advice would you give to your younger self?

I don’t know that I would do anything differently. I’ve had a really fun, adventurous life to this point. I’m very blessed to have learned something from everything that I’ve done. As Gary Keller says, “Go forward faster.”

If I could go back and tell my younger self one thing, I’d tell myself, “Do it faster.” I would’ve walked away from things faster and gone on to the bigger and better.

Don’t hold on to something in desperation. We do that too often as human beings. Usually there’s something a lot better on the other side. Don’t be afraid to let go and move on.

Action Items:

  • Look up the events in your community and pick one where you will implement Lisa’s event lead generation strategy.

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