Guest Column – Stan Albert – Yellow Pages canvassimg and other wacky ideas

Years ago in the mid ’60s, I became involved in a partnership to buy up properties in my home territory in the Belleville/Trenton area. I had the task of finding tenants for a nearly vacant commercial building in downtown Belleville, without a clue as to how to do it! My partners gave me the area phone books, the Yellow Pages, a desk, a phone and lots of coffee, and told me to canvass the surrounding area from Cobourg to Kingston to Peterborough. Within two months of solid canvassing the firms listed in the Yellow Pages, we found enough tenants to completely fill our building.

This memory of marketing/canvassing came to the fore during the first recession that I faced in the mid-’70s, after I’d received my broker’s licence and opened my first brokerage. If you think things are bad now, you should have been around then!

Anyway, here’s what I taught my agents then and am practising now in the 2000s.

I called the largest advertisers in the Yellow Pages and asked a series of questions, not unlike what we would normally do when seeking listings on the residential side. When phoning, always ask if it’s a good time to call or if there’s a more convenient time for the discussion.

“Hello (great opening!), this is Mark Sales from Bigreal Estate, is this the owner? Great, I just wanted to take a few minutes of your time to let you know that I’ve decided to add your name to my list of investors.”

Wait for answer – usually it will be, “Really, what do you have in mind?”

“Well, although we all know the marketplace is down, there are still opportunities for investors like yourself perhaps, who will take the time to view some of the properties that may interest you.”

If the answer is positive: “Great, when would be a good time to drop by to visit with you, or could you come to my office for a coffee so that we could chat informally and get to know each other?”

If the answer is negative: “If investing in real estate at this time is not in your plans, do you need a CMA for the future?”

Some other questions you can ask:

Do you need re-financing?

May I send you a list of some real estate opportunities that may be of interest to you?
Would you like me to send this by email or should I drop it off?
Are you interested in meeting with other professional and/or business-minded people like yourself?

Would you be interested in attending a real estate investment seminar with noted business people in our market area?

Not all of these questions will lead to a positive result, but sometimes they turn into a success story, like this one that recently happened in my office. One of these calls went out to a business person who by chance had just sold his business and building. He had a substantial amount of money to invest. A meeting took place and the new client paid for lunch and presto, my agent had a new client. It doesn’t all come together at once, but most marketing of any kind is a numbers game.

Once you establish a rapport with a new client, you can proceed to develop your relationship. If it is a rental property, commercial/residential, you can offer your services to the client to manage the property for five per cent of the monthly rental. (Note that after three years of doing this, I had 14 properties that I was managing and supplementing my income by several thousand dollars annually).

So, start at the As for Accountants and work your way through until you get so busy, you will never have to pick up the phone again. The successful people you meet through the Yellow Pages system usually have equally successful people as their friends. Some of them may have relatives out of town that may use your services as well. As stated so many times before, “Do a good job and your actions speak volumes!”

Another example of the success of this system repeated itself in the ’90s, when I first came to the Re/Max organization. A new agent came to my office and she knew virtually no one in Toronto, because she and her husband had immigrated to Canada the year before. So, I set her on the task of the Yellow Pages system. The first call she made was to a glass company specializing in auto and home repairs.

The conversation went as stated above. She asked if the owner needed any additional space or was interested in buying another location. The owner said no, but his sister, who was his bookkeeper, was interested in a condo in North Toronto. She sold her the condo and to my knowledge, she is still using the system today.

Even in a recession, there are still people who need to buy and those who need to sell. Forget what the media hype has to say. Be like the late and great Prime Munster of England, Sir Winston Churchill: “Damn the torpedoes and full speed ahead!”

As P.S. to my last column, How to market yourself successfully in the recession, you may also want to try this out: Many home owners have received their new tax assessments. So, why not offer your services to appeal them? In Ontario it only costs 75 bucks. Say you will do it for them for free (you have to ask them to appoint you as their agent to do so. Who better to know the property values than us?) So you appeal and the worst-case scenario is that you lose, but you win the respect of the owner, who may just be interested in selling or buying real estate or giving you a referral or two along the way.

I know a broker who canvasses the condos in his area and has offered this service for years. Many units are out of the country owners and obviously not knowledgeable about property values. So, you do your “good deed,” and guess what, you may be listing the property eventually, or starting your own property management income flow!

The newest Brian Buffini 100 days to greatness course offers an eight-week program that addresses this idea in full. However, I’ve been teaching it for years.

I sincerely hope that this system will help the many agents who have written to me over the past 60 days, to put something down on paper.

This system is only as good as your follow-thoughs with emails, information about real estate, and business meetings with other future investors and eventually, “thank you parties” at the end of the year.

With good wishes for a great holiday season and a prosperous and healthy New Year.

For more info, contact Stan Albert for a one-on-one coaching session. Fees to be discussed when you call. Stan Albert is celebrating his 39th year in active real estate, and is with Re/Max Excellence in Woodbridge, Ont. He serves on committees at RECO and at the Toronto Real Estate Board. He is an established trainer and business consultant and can be reached at

(photo courtesy of