Leads? This is one of the biggest topics of concern for new estate sale business owners. I hear two phrases over and over from people who are starting or growing their estate sale business:
“How do I find estate sale business leads? Where do you get your leads?”
When I am coaching an estate sale business owner, this is the typical starting point. You have opened your estate sale company and now you want jobs. You need leads to get jobs. You need a good and steady source for leads.
The Biggest Mistake People Make
I would say the biggest mistake I hear from people when I ask them what they are doing for leads right now is something like, “Well, I haven't landed my first sale. I did get a lead from such and such website the other day, but 11 others got it also. I left them a message but have not heard back from the prospect. I am buying advertising with Realtors and Estate Attorneys. I’m sure one day this will work and I will have my first sale. Right?”
Wrong. Don’t waste your money thinking that ads will convert to the leads you need to start or sustain your business, it is expensive. This strategy could put you in the hole fast. It is not going to deliver the results that you need for a thriving estate sale business.
People turning to the estate sale company listing websites can request up to 15 companies to get in touch with them at once. And they typically do request that many. That is a lot of people.
If you want tips on winning over those leads, I can help you with that another day. But I am known for being honest so I will - typically, those jobs are not the best jobs. Over the years, I’ve found that these are prospects who have frequently already been denied a sale by the companies that were recommended to them through word of mouth (they have too few items left for a sale, or the items are in bad condition, the list goes on). Or they are people who already held a sale which was not successful and are now trying to find someone to help them. Ouch, yuck, run away!
Sure, as an established liquidator I am on those sites, I pay for a top tier listing. I check out those leads when they come in. But I have a multiple 6 figure estate sale business. I can afford to spend $3,600 a year so that once in a while I book a sale as a result of those leads. (Belonging to two groups costs me $300 per month. $3,600 a year for leads that are often so-so.) My main reason for being on the sites is to advertise the sales I do have, rather than looking at them as a way to get sales.
Once a year, I might get a good lead from them. Does it make sense to pay $3,600 a year for one or two good leads? Not really, but once you are established and have sales to advertise anyway, you can afford this.
If you are starting out and you can afford it and you want to spend extra money because you like tax write offs, go for it. But either way, ads won’t be your main source of leads. I see no reason to spend that much when you are just starting out. When I opened, I had the free and bottom rung memberships on those sites. My annual cost in my first year was less than a third of what it is now.
So What Works?
Now that I am established, here is what I know: there are a lot of places to find leads. And a lot of them are almost or totally free. There are two ways to work leads: one is through the virtual world, and the other is in real life.
It might seem odd but people really do find estate sellers online. Last year I conducted a $15,000 sale for a client who found me on the internet. She just Google searched estate sale companies after being told that her items were not suitable for the auctioneer that she had contacted about her move.
When I opened my estate company, I moved across the country and knew nobody in my new area. I worked with an estate sale site search and set up a very affordable estate sale website. People found me online. My first three jobs were all from my website. The people who found me online were usually searching for me from out of the area for a relative that needed an estate sale. If they are searching online, they are open to hiring someone based on what they find. The website you have is going to be their first impression. Now my website is self hosted, but it is still affordable.
Here is what you need if your website is going to attract leads:
- A professional looking website
- Good SEO (Search Engine Optimization)
- Good writing with no errors
- Your personal story, your biography and your picture so that they are truly meeting you when they find you online
- Be real. Use your own photos. Stock photos of houses and fake looking people in suits will just turn people off.
Next get your company all of the social media that you can be on. These are all free to set up. People connect with me on:
I use these all and have had recommendations that have come from a connection I made just in the realm of a social media site. It seems unlikely, but it is not a place to overlook. Start with just one if you have no social media sites yet. If you have them but they are not active, start using them. I once had a recommendation that came in through a connection from a new person I connected to on Linkedin just 48 hours earlier. That lead cost me zero dollars. Zero!
Real Life Leads
Leads in our real everyday lives come as a result of personal relationships. Plain and simple. There are two circles, personal and professional.
Friends and Family: So the first thing to do is to just make a list of all of the groups and friends you are personally are connected with and make sure they know you are an estate seller. These are your personal connections in your real life. They are your best and your least expensive lead sources to capture.
Think of your inner circle, your tribe. Next, talk to them about your estate sale venture. Tell them clearly who you serve, what you do, explain to them who your ideal clients are, and tell them why you love your work and want more of it. Ask them to carry your cards and to recommend you whenever they know someone who needs a sale.
Your friends and loved ones all want you to be happy. If they can help you, they will. They will be eager to tell people about your work whenever they can. But they can’t do this if they don’t know what you need, what you do, who you serve and that you want their help. So if you have not been talking yourself up to your friends, family and neighbors, get to it.
Realtors and professional groups: Literally the first person I met in my new town was my Realtor. When I opened my company, I called her to tell her what I was working on. She was glad to hear about my background as an appraiser and my story about my cross country move, and how I thought I could help her clients when they were moving or downsizing. She refers clients to me regularly and she recommended me publicly on my Linkedin page. I didn't even ask her for a recommendation, she just gave me one. How awesome was that?
I get a lot of leads from Realtors. Make friends with them and keep yourself on the top of their mind. If you are in a market with lots of other estate sellers, highlight why recommending you is going to be beneficial to them and their clients. You need to stand out and you have to stay in touch with them on a regular basis. Some will recommend you and some will recommend your competition, just find the ones who like your style and stay in touch with them. Help them whenever you can too.
I even send gift cards or make a charitable donation as a thank you after a sale for a client they recommend me to when I get a sale booked.
I track all of my incoming leads and here are all of the sources that send me estate sale leads:
- My Staff
- My Past Clients
- My Estate Sale Customers
- Trust Officers
- Probate Officers
- Antique and Consignment Shops
- Other Estate Sale Businesses
- Pawn Shops
- Moving and Storage Companies
- Civic Groups
- Non Profits
- Senior Centers
- Senior Communities
- Assisted Living Centers
- Funeral Homes
- My Chamber of Commerce
- Estate Sale Websites
- The Phone Book (Over the last five years only two clients have called me just due to my phone book ads. But several have told me they were looking for me because of a recommendation from a personal connection and they found my number in the phone book.)
What to do next with all these places to find leads?
This is a long list. Having this solid list in mind will help you get focused and will establish your referral network. Don’t contact them sporadically, you will achieve a lot of you can set up a routine for being in touch with your network of lead sources.
Don’t think that you have to follow my list exactly, you don’t. You can pick and choose certain groups or even one group to focus on. I’m not saying write letters and make phone calls today to everyone in your area on this list. That won’t work. If you want to start to fill your calendar and you want a successful estate sale business, what I do suggest, is that you put a plan in place for live in person networking with these groups. Introduce yourself, and start to make phone calls and personal connections with real people that are in these groups.
Then stick to your routine, get in touch every 6 weeks or so.
If you have no estate sales booked, just keep reaching out to these groups until you do have a sale. Everyday just spend whatever number of hours you are working on your estate sale venture just doing that. You will be on their mind whenever they hear of someone who needs your services. You’ll start getting jobs and seeing positive results. You will have a sale schedule that keeps you as busy as you want to be.
I believe in you. What are you waiting for? Go get ‘em.
If you want more help with this, my four week training program could be the best way to move ahead. If you are ready to grow your business and you want to be booked with great estate sales and jobs that not only cover your bills but give you the money you dreamed of when you opened your estate sale company, then you need this opportunity. I am only working with one person in each area because I want to make sure that each person gets all of my tips. If I am working for you then I am not working for your competitors at the same time that I am helping you.