(When I first began in my real estate career, I saw a lot of salespeople taking on less than perfect listings and endeavouring to “sell” them to anyone who phoned, emailed, walked by, or even delivered pizza to.)
Several years ago (in another life) my brother and I won an advertising award for a newspaper campaign we had developed for a client entitled “Blow up the Salesman”.
The client was a prominent car dealership looking to dispel the stereotype of car salesmen being pushy, obnoxious, self-centered peons of the new and used car lots. The idea was to make fun at the stereotype by sympathizing with the consumer and actually “blowing up” the salespeople. At the top of a full page ad was a balding, short, older gentleman wearing a plaid jacket, high-waisted pants, a carny hat, and smoking a big cigar. In the centre of the page, in large cartoonish font, was the only part in bright red—the word BOOM! At the bottom was the same picture as above but instead of the car salesman, there was a giant hole and a pile of rocks where he had once been standing. At the bottom of the page was the line: “We’ve blown up all the salesmen!”, and in fine print, the pitch that was meant to draw consumers onto the lot where the dealership promised not to have them bothered by salespeople. If I recall correctly, they were one of the first lots in the area to display their bottom-line price on the windshield of every car… in prominent bright red numbers.
Although winning the award was exciting, what really turned our crank was that the campaign was a huge success for our client. We went on to produce comic radio spots to run alongside weekly print ads and the dealership was so impressed with results, they made putting the bottom price on the windshield an ongoing policy.
I have often reflected on the success of that project, knowing full well that we had purposely tapped into the consumer’s reluctance to want to deal with the stereotypical car salesman. Yes, we pushed the image beyond reality but by doing so we hit a chord with a lot of consumers, and they responded by saying “Yeah, get rid of the salesman, because I can choose my own car for myself. Just give me your best price and I’ll pick one.”
In reality, the consumer still needed a “product manager” to steer them to the best car suiting their needs but by that point the prospective customer had already: 1) walked onto the lot; 2) viewed the prices and picked what he could afford and liked, and 3) asked for the technical help required to close the deal.
Was the “product manager” still selling? Technically yes. In fact, in the case above, it was the same people with new job titles. But the consumer had been allowed to choose a product, (out of those they knew they could afford), and ask for the sale, rather than be sold.
When I first began in my real estate career, I saw a lot of salespeople taking on less than perfect listings and endeavouring to “sell” them to anyone who phoned, emailed, walked by, or even delivered pizza to. It was hard selling. They had a listing and they had to sell it. Thus the stereotype in our industry of the shirt and tie’d salesman at an open house hovering over every visitor with a clipboard, demanding they leave name, phone number & email in order for them to be methodically harassed for the next few weeks. No one waited for the right buyer to come through. EVERY one who came through was a possible buyer and should be treated as such.
Now, don’t get me wrong. This article isn’t about “dis-sing” tactics of agents. My point is that hard sell of a less than perfect product is considered the salesperson’s job. And when the property sells, the agent has done a “great job”. This is the Selling Agent.
Of course, being new to the game, and still starry eyed from all the books, movies, CDs, and motivational speaker seminars I’d recently devoured, I was dismayed to see that I was to become the real estate version of my stereotypical car salesman. But after several years of working in the field and devouring even more books, CDs and seminars, I have finally come to an epiphany: Salespeople shouldn’t sell crappy products!
Simple, right? Well, here’s my theory:
I can take a less than perfect house, sit down with my clients (who chose me over several other prospects to sell their beautiful home) and tell them they need to fix quite a few things before the house will sell.
I then add that it needs to be staged properly so it attracts normal people (insinuating, of course, that their taste in decorating is less than normal), and that there’s a good chance we’ll have to reduce the price in a couple of weeks when the market tells us that their price is too high (I, of course, wanted to list at a lower, more realistic price, but—as sometimes happens—they didn’t buy into all my professional logic and presentation skills).
Once this is accomplished—or more often a compromised variant of a completely “fixed” house is achieved—we start spending money promoting it and, “by George, the first person who comes through that door is going to buy this @*$^%$* place if it’s the last thing I do!”
… and, naturally, I expect my clients to enjoy this entire process.
I can take a wonderfully qualified Buyer, someone who has been walked through the pre-approval process, spent endless hours (of their own time) perusing listings on the MLS and other internet sites (albeit with the filtering assistance of my auto-notification skills)…. and jaunt around town at my leisure, looking at several houses they have short-listed (with my help over a nice cup of coffee, or via mutually-agreeable email tennis).
If they see a product they don’t like… we move on. I agree with everything they say because they know what they want. If I have to gently steer them in a different direction, I can do it over time. There’s no pressure to do it at one location over another.
The important part is moving on. I do not feel the need to “sell” my client the first house they see. Why? Because it’s not my listing. I have no compelling need to talk my clients into buying something they don’t like just because the seller insists it’s perfect for them (usually it’s the agent that insists in later emails). No, I simply take them back to the car, press the GPS, and go to the next house.
I am, of course, belittling the skills involved in understanding my client’s needs, ensuring the homes they see meet their criteria, qualifying their needs and—if necessary—helping them adjust to reality. Most agents, whether buying or selling agents, become adept at this, or they simply don’t last long. Hurray for intuitive salesmanship skills. But that’s another article.
Eventually, my clients find the perfect home for them and my “salesmanship skills” boil down to validating their choice (if I honestly believe so) and filling out the forms.
And, as such, I have become the world’s best salesperson: a Buyer’s Agent. I am simply providing the perfect product for my client. I don’t try to sell them something they don’t like. I only sell them what they do like. (We could get into debate about whether the client knows what’s best for them or not, but let’s face it, we’re walking a thin line there, and may well be falling back into the “talking someone into something they don’t want” mode—just using more complicated language).
What percentage of your Selling clients are absolutely, 100%, no regrets thrilled with the outcome of the experience of selling their house? (And be honest, no positive thinking techniques allowed here).
Then ask yourself what percentage of your Buyer clients are absolutely thrilled with their experience. (Now you can brag).
Next, look inward. How happy are you when dealing with Sellers? Is it a fun, exciting experience? Or would you more (professionally) describe it as challenging, fulfilling, and a growing opportunity?
To sum up, the world’s best salesperson is the person who has the pleasure and the ability to find the perfect product for every client: the Buyer’s Agent. It may take time and a little effort but the client will do the hard work… deciding what to buy. All you have to do is show up and show the products!
What all this is leading to, if you haven’t already deciphered, is my belief that the real industry is on the verge of a drastic, progressive change. It is a change I welcome and feel is likely overdue. Things will be blown up sooner or later. We will discuss it in further articles, I’m sure.