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It’s hard to be good at selling things. That’s why real estate agents spend a month’s commissions on sales coaches and attending seminars, and why bookstores dedicate entire sections of their shelf space to it.
Like all skills, selling takes practice, requires failure and demands patience. Of everything you need to be good at in order to succeed in real estate, unfortunately sales is the one thing licensing classes tend to neglect. It’s merely assumed you’re good at it.
In an odd and somewhat cruel twist, you’re being sold the whole time, because being good at real estate is about much more than knowing the difference between encumbrances and liens.
This is the kind of market that favors the savvy salesperson, even above all the technology and marketing and trendy national brands. These are the times to get back to basics, to rediscover — or begin to uncover — the power of sales.
Consider the following list a reminder of what it takes to win deals in a thriving, borderline-overheated, real estate market. What’s below won’t make you automatically better at sales, but it should provide insight into why those who are, are.
1. Ask, don’t tell
During my commercial real estate days, one of our fellow brokers was previously a consultant for McKinsey. He had an incredible knack for calmly getting everything we needed from prospects by engaging them in a flexible, investigative line of questioning. It’s often referred to as consultative selling.
Instead of asking what they wanted in an office, he’d ask why they needed one. He wouldn’t ask where they wanted to be in town, he’d ask from where their executives are commuting.
He was never directly selling our services or telling them why we’re who they should work with; he was setting us apart with service and needs-attention. It also let the prospect remain in control of the conversation.
Thus, don’t seek black-and-white answers. Explore the topic, make your leads think about their answers, and always be sure to listen. Get to the reasons behind your clients’ choices instead of merely reacting to their initial whims. This works for both buyers and sellers.
2. Win with humility
Whether you have a 50 sales this year or 10, let the client bring up your resume. The fact that you’re sitting down in front of them (on a screen or the couch), typically means they’re already familiar with your track record. Surely, they Googled you.
The point is to get them to trust you, not the numbers. Let them know you’re the person for the job, even if you have to admit to not being the most productive agent in your office. Focus on your strengths. This is especially important for new and growing agents.
If you’re having a record year, play it down — it’s easy to dismiss a braggart. Let them know your clients are responsible for your success, and that commissions can’t be earned without trust.
3. Create a problem
It’s pretty rare for buyers or sellers to only interview one listing agent, especially in a market this hectic. So be ready to compete.
It’s important to not let prospects punch you into the corner with questions on why you’re better than the last person they spoke to, even if you feel like they’ve already made up their mind.
What you want to do is go into every sales meeting with the intention of creating a problem for the prospect. You want to be the person who makes them rethink an initial choice. Remember, buyers often veer miles away from their initial choice in a home, and there’s no reason they won’t do the same with their decision on an agent.
4. Be confident
You can be confident without sounding condescending, but doing so takes practice. It always helps, of course, to know your market better than the lead, which shouldn’t be hard, even with how much data is available today.
This is when you need to know something they don’t, and share that with them in a balanced way. Manage up. You should be able to prove why your recommendation is the right one, and show what might happen if they list at higher price, or only agree to a 30-day listing contract, for example.
Remember that it’s OK to negotiate, which is where confidence plays a critical role. You need to be on solid footing. Confidence is not a bad thing — unless it’s unearned.
5. Don’t know
It’s OK to not know. The best sales professionals have no trouble admitting they don’t know something, and even less trouble finding the answer. It’s the second part that matters most.
Don’t fear being wrong. Fear giving your clients a reason to seek the answer elsewhere. Trying to wing it is best left to improv comics. Be honest, and move on to the next point.
6. Accept a ‘no’
Believe it or not, you’re not always the best fit for the client, and vice versa.
Objection handling is a sales skill, but don’t let that fool you into thinking you should win every deal. There comes a point in the discussion where the ongoing objections you’re trying to handle should indicate that this client may not be right for you. Should it be that challenging?
You can lose and learn at the same time, and those are often the best lessons.
7. Trust yourself
Mentors and coaches can be important to becoming good at sales. It always pays to have a sounding board and new perspectives on deals and business challenges.
But you can’t become self-sufficient in the real estate business until you trust yourself. Gut feelings matter, and risks can pay off. There will be times when you disagree with your coach, and if they’re worth what you’re paying them, they’ll let you go with it.
8. Keep promises
I once worked alongside a business performance coach who centered his premise on how well we kept promises to one another. (There’s a lot more to his approach.)
In business, a “promise” is ultimately a stated transaction between two parties, and it can range from something as “trivial” as sending an email when you said you would to making sure the seller’s funds are wired on time. Every “promise” adds up and contributes to your value as a salesperson. Promises are currency, and they’re all worth something.
This doesn’t mean you can’t change an appointment or that every thing you say will happen without error. The idea is to communicate regularly and be transparent about what happened.
9. Stop glorifying the hustle
Working weekends and evenings comes natural to real estate agents, and the reasons why are many. However, don’t act as if you never take time off, or that you’re always there for the client — because you don’t have to be. You can be responsive to clients without neglecting your well-being or impacting those important to you.
Top sales professionals know how to do more in less time. Set boundaries with clients and openly discuss why it’s important for both of you to take a step back on occasion.
There will be times that are busier than others, but take notice of those periods, and reward yourself for getting through them. And leave the hustle to the pseudo-gurus on YouTube.
Lastly, sales is not marketing. Websites and lead capture forms and email campaigns are critical but designed to put you in front of leads, to make the on-ramp less scary. Assuming those things are successful, it’s up to you to convert the lead into a client. It’s up to you to sell.
Craig C. Rowe started in commercial real estate at the dawn of the dot-com boom, helping an array of commercial real estate companies fortify their online presence and analyze internal software decisions. He now helps agents with technology decisions and marketing through reviewing software and tech for Inman.