Setting the mood with lastminute touches

Right before opening the doors to your open house, take a few moments to enhance the warm, welcoming feeling attendees want to feel upon arrival.

1 Throw open blinds to expose nice views. 1 Turn on lights to brighten corners. 1 Burn candles and plug in air fresheners to scent air. 1 Play soft music to fill the air.

1 Set out simple but tasteful refreshments to encourage attendees to linger. (For some thoughts regarding refreshments, see the sidebar titled "Gaining customers without home-baked cookies.")

1 Place a guest book or sign-in sheet, along with a pen, in the entryway or at a point where guests gather.

1 Keep a stack of business cards and house flyers in a visible location.

Gaining customers without home-baked cookies

Certainly, one objective of an open house is to get the prospect to linger in the home.

Obviously, the more time the prospect spends at your event, the more time you have to establish a relationship and communicate the value you can bring to that person's sale or purchase transaction. And a great way to get customers to stay a while is to serve refreshments. On that point, nearly all agents agree.

The debate starts when the discussion turns to which kinds of refreshments are best.

Some agents insist that the single best approach is to serve warm cookies straight from the open-house oven. The result is a two-for-one: Refreshments plus an aroma-filled home. I know of one husband and wife team that takes the idea even further, filling the house with the scent of a roast dinner, which they cook for their sellers while the open house is underway. As you might imagine, they generate a waiting list of people wanting them to hold open houses in their homes.

I personally believe that all this kitchen activity advances the wrong message to prospects. They aren't looking for the next Emeril. They're looking for a sales professional to represent them in the largest single transaction of their lives.

My advice is to save the time you'd spend baking cookies and invest it instead into development of your sales skills. Find out how to convert an open house guest to a buyer or seller prospect by addressing that person's interests and needs, and you'll never need to don an oven mitt.

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