Sales Musings, Anecdotes & Insights

The wise teacher leads you to the threshold of your own mind (Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet)

Real Estate Expiries

I had been in real estate sales for approximately one year and one of the tasks I found very difficult to undertake was the successful pursuit of expired listings. A lot of self–defeating thoughts used to run through my mind when it came to chasing expired listings during the early days of my selling career: the house didn't sell, so the vendor must be in a foul mood; he started out so optimistic but basically got rejected; sure he was overpriced, but his agent must have tried to get him to lower his price—and now that is the last thing he wants to hear from me; every agent in the neighborhood is trying to get his expired listing, so why would he see me as any different? And the list went on.

Then one day a new agent joined the office. He was in his mid twenties and of average height and looks; in short, there was nothing particularly special about him—at least not on the surface. Yet, during his first 6 days in our office, he brought in 4 expired listings—four of the very listings that were on my target agenda too. Although inexperienced in real estate, he had been a very sophisticated salesman for several years in another field. My school–boy admiration of his ability was instantly obvious to him and he befriended me.

"How do you do it?" I asked. "Expired listings have got to be among the toughest to get."

"Why?" he replied, making it obvious that he was not privy to the negative lingo that abounds in real estate offices as most agents attempt to justify their failure to bring in expired listings. "I think it's an easy way to get business," he added confidently.

"Really? Well how do you do it?" I needed to know.

"Simple," he told me. "I show up at their house early in the morning, just before they leave for work—"

"Whoah!" I said. "That takes guts, doesn't it? I mean to go there before 9 a.m."

"Well there is never a perfect time to call on them, so I might as well make it obvious that I want to be first in line for their next agent."

"But what do you say? Like are you apologetic?"

"Nope. I knock on their door and when they answer I look at them earnestly and say: Why didn't it sell?" As he role–played his technique for me, he opened his hands as though he were asking a question and smiled. His point was that he did not believe he came across in an intrusive, offensive or threatening manner. "I don't waste any time on small talk or asking them how they are or on any of the things that the rest of you probably do," he went on to say. "I want them to tell me why they think it didn't sell and then I address their concerns as I make my case for why I can get the job done where their previous agent failed."

I must say, I was taken aback by his attitude and he picked up on it.

"Your reaction tells me that I can do something you think you're not capable of doing," he said to me. "But all I'm doing is making it obvious that I am not the stereotyped salesperson they expect to see. From there it is up to me to continue to differentiate myself from the herd by using my particular talents at every turn. I'm simply selling me."

It was that last statement that got to me, and here's why: I had a steady track record at the time and I considered myself a successful salesman even then. But he had appealed to my base instinct to be the best—and his insistence that he was merely selling himself gave me hard pause to face the fact that someone else was better than me at something I wanted to excel in. Indeed, I will readily admit that during the nearly three years that he and I worked out of the same office, his monthly sales exceeded mine, save for the occasional month when things fell into place for me. Hence, I could not argue with his success. I was definitely number two in that duo and that realization motivated me to raise my personal bar higher—and, to my very pleasant surprise, I kept meeting my new goals. Moreover, many insights began to find their way to me and, not so coincidentally, more and more expired listings were finding their way onto our office's listing board with my name attached to them. Wow! This turned out to be a eureka moment for me and a turning point in the evolution of my sales career.

Importantly, what I learned from my exposure to that young man was that we were both performing at the level that deep down in our respective hearts we felt we deserved. Another way to put it is that we performed at the level that defined who we were. On page 18 of his idea-filled book Zig Ziglar's Secrets of Closing the Sale, Zig says 'you can't be one kind of person and another kind of salesperson'. Brian Tracy, author of The Phoenix Seminar, put it 'as within, so without'. As for myself, over the years I've adopted the phrase 'we sell the person we really are'. I had never looked at myself in those terms previously and, albeit unbeknownst to me, I was gaining insight into the role our Sympathetic Nervous System plays in either helping us achieve our goals or else hindering our attempts to do so. Quite simply, I was learning that the secret to my sales success was to be found inside me. In other words, while it is valuable to emulate a successful person's work ethic, and perhaps even his/her work habits, my real value as a salesperson to my customers lay in the fact that I brought something unique to the table that other people could copy but never quite duplicate. I soon realized that it would be the cultivation and honing of my unique qualities, as they applied to the context of a sales call, that would make me uniquely valuable to the prospects who were attracted to those traits in the first place. And it was this last realization that turned me into a consistently productive salesperson thereafter.

As a social scientist, I have studied this phenomenon and I've come to believe that we are programmed by our Central Nervous System to be exactly what we project to the world, which is a reflection of our upbringing, our life experiences (both positive and negative), our self esteem, etc. In my opinion, it is precisely this dynamic that has given rise to expressions such as you get what you aim for. I also believe that it is because of this phenomenon that athletes and other high–performing individuals say they visualize the outcome they desire ahead of time. As a salesperson, I have experimented with this theory and I have seen my own sales mirror both my behavior and the beliefs that engender that behavior. Of great importance to my salesperson role was the realization that my customers, too, have a Sympathetic Nervous System that influences their behavior as well. Hence, I was able to gain a greater understanding of (i) why they objected to certain of my techniques to sell them; (ii) why they sometimes felt buyer's remorse; (iii) why their desires did not always match their stated needs; (iv) why certain people specifically sought me out while others specifically avoided dealing with me; etc. A detailed summary of the role our Central Nervous System plays in dictating a person's behavior (with particular emphasis given to both customers and salespeople in the context of a selling situation), along with several examples that give insight into how to deal with the base instincts that are linked to our Sympathetic Nervous System, can be found in my electronic ebook Pathways to SOLD! The Science Behind the Sale, available through amazon kindle.

Until next time ... Happy Selling!