Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, many salespeople were saying that they were selling everything they listed. “We’d make more sales if we had more listings” was a common statement.
March 2020 was an uncertain month. Nobody knew what restrictions the government would apply and what effects those restrictions may have on business. This caused many salespeople to ‘mark time’ where actions were concerned. Some cut their hours, most cut their prospecting, and often their offices cut marketing to save money.
Nobody seemed to notice the overall drop in actions that create listings, because most were focused on survival.
Fair enough – but action and inaction have consequences. Cutting marketing and prospecting (inaction) had a knock-on effect months later. That knock-on effect was a shortage of stock.
Pre-pandemic, salespeople complained of a shortage of stock. But cutting down prospecting actions, and cutting down marketing actions, only compounded the problem. If you were low on stock before the pandemic started, and if you cut actions that create listings, you’re even shorter on stock now.
Obvious in hindsight, huh?
Okay, you’re short of stock. What are you doing about it?
If a lack of marketing and prospecting caused a lack of stock, it stands to reason that by increasing marketing and prospecting to HIGH LEVELS, over time your stock will increase. And with that increase in stock come more sales.
For decades we told salespeople, “Massive action leads to massive results”. But more recently I modified that saying. I now advise salespeople: “Massive RIGHT action leads to massive results”.
You can be very busy on the wrong actions. It’s massive amounts of the right actions that get results.
As I wrote this article I received an email from Wayne Beard, of Harcourts West Ryde. The email said, “We have had 10 listing enquiries so far this month. This is because I doubled our letterbox drops last month”. Smart man.
If you’re low on stock, you have an empty listing pipeline. That empty listing pipeline means that you have little to sell. That leads to an empty buyer pipeline.
If you’re not talking to people, you’re emptying your sales pipeline.
You can’t sell what you don’t have.
What are you doing to get more stock?
I have said on many occasions that clear goals are an essential element in achieving consistent results.
No doubt, many of you began 2020 with clear goals. Then along came COVID-19 and perhaps your goals went out the window. And if you didn’t abandon the idea of achieving goals this year, you may have put your goals on hold. I wouldn’t blame you if you did.
But without goals, the adverse effects of the pandemic on your income will be deeper and remain longer.
If you put your goals on hold, may I suggest that you dust them off and reset them?
Survival, or Growth and Prosperity?
By the end of September, three-quarters of 2020 will be behind you.
You have four months to get yourself out of survival thinking and into a growth and prosperity mindset. You have four months left of the year to get results.
And which line of thinking will serve you better – focusing on surviving, or focusing on growth and prosperity?
We become what we think about. Think survival and you will survive. Think prosperity and you will do the actions to manifest prosperity in your life.
The last pandemic the world saw was in 1918. I’ve never seen a pandemic before and neither have you. COVID-19 was a shock.
However, we need to keep moving forward!
Set goals, put plans in place, and focus on prosperity. Then get to work.
Your thinking makes all the difference.
What you do from this point on determines whether you’ll be a victim, or somebody who overcame adversity and who grew not only as a salesperson but also as a human being.
I can’t change the COVID situation, but I can change how I deal with it. I can choose to set goals and to work toward them.
You have that choice too.
Dust off those goals!
Talking with salespeople at differing skill levels, I notice a subtle, but critical, difference between the pros and the rookies. The difference is that pros have an ‘eye’ for results.
Let me explain.
Talk to a professional salesperson and the conversation quickly moves to results. How many listings they got, how many listings they’re working on. Likewise with sales – sales they’ve made, sales they have ‘cooking’.
Contrast this to a rookie or struggling salesperson. The conversation bogs down in process – how many people they’ve prospected, how many appointments they’ve attended. These conversations centre around actions.
Whether their actions were the right actions that lead to results hardly rates a mention.
Don’t get me wrong, process is important – but focusing on process alone may see you lose sight of the bigger picture.
When I interviewed Jeff Haden, author of The Motivation Myth, for Pittard TV, he said:
“Your goal must always choose your process”.
Put another way…
Your planned RESULTS determines the ACTIONS you do.
Without a focus on results, actions can be random, misdirected, and make you no money.
Ask a rookie or struggling salesperson, “Why do you prospect?” and the answer will most likely be, “To find somebody who wants to sell”. And while this is technically correct, contrast the answer to one a professional salesperson will likely give to the same question: “To get a listing!”.
Actions are a means to an end. That end is the result.
Focus on the results you want, then choose the actions that will get you those results. Then get to work on those actions, but always keep in mind that it’s the result you’re after.
Develop an eye for results. You’ll achieve more.
When an aircraft takes off, a huge amount of energy is required to get it off the ground.
Aircraft use a lot of fuel and require a lot of thrust to take off. Once clear of the ground, climb power is applied. Once the aircraft reaches the cruise, thrust is set to cruise power. Each power setting is lower than the one before.
In the cruise, the aircraft has momentum – a high cruise speed is achieved with a minimum amount of power, which allows the aircraft to fly high and fast. High speed with a lower fuel burn.
Momentum is a lovely thing. It takes a while to achieve it, but once you have it, you accomplish more with less energy.
Sales careers are the same.
If you are new to Sales, or are experienced but in a performance slump, your present position is like an aircraft on the ground – you’re going to need maximum energy to get ‘off the ground’.
- Getting off the ground means speaking to people, building contacts, creating leads, working those leads, following them up, converting them into business, and repeating the process until you see a constant flow of results.
- Getting off the ground means consistently looking for new business – prospecting in large numbers, every day. It means diligently entering new leads into your CRM, tracking those leads accurately so that they are followed up on the days when you said you would be back in touch with those clients.
- Getting off the ground means working on your listing presentation, perfecting it so that you win more of the presentations you give. It’s counterproductive to generate leads, only to blow them at the listing presentation.
The profession of Sales is just that – a profession. It requires study, practice, competent actions and good old-fashioned hard work. Lots of it, to get off the ground.
But once momentum is built, results seem to come a little easier, with less effort. That’s the power of momentum.
Are you still on the ground? Are you denying yourself the power of momentum?
You can do something about it. You can study. You can practice. You can get to work. Once you’ve built momentum and the results are flowing, you can reduce ‘thrust’ (effort) and still enjoy the results.
It’s work before reward. It’s thrust before the cruise. It’s effort before momentum.
On an agency visit I spent time with a salesperson who had fallen short of target for the previous two quarters. When I asked what her goal was for the coming quarter she replied, “Hang in and keep my job“.
I told her this was the wrong focus. Fear-based thinking is always the wrong focus. It’s a terrible way to work – there’s nothing inspiring about it, nothing to look forward to.
Focusing on keeping your job robs you of focusing on something better.
This salesperson needed a holiday – she was running on empty. I suggested that the holiday should be her goal. Work hard until Christmas and focus on earning $10,000 for a decent holiday with her husband.
I discussed planning with her. I asked what she needed to produce in fees, and then sales, listings, and the amount of prospecting she’d need to do in order to achieve the fee production target. Once the planning was done, it was time to get to work.
When I spoke to her one month later, she was already halfway to her goal. She was booking her holiday. She sounded like a different person.
Fear-based thinking causes you to second guess yourself. It robs you of confidence, decision-making ability, and it prevents you from seeing opportunity
By changing her focus, and then planning how to achieve it, she took control. She produced the results necessary to achieve her positive, worthwhile, goal.
She had the skill – it was there all along. All she needed was to focus on the right goal and a change in attitude.
Falling victim to the wrong focus can be easily cured by daring to focus on something better, a worthwhile goal.
If you are ever tempted to focus on the negative, change your attitude and thinking. Other people are making great incomes in real estate sales. Why not you?
I was talking with a Diamond member of Pittard’s Winners Circle recently. The topic came around to telling sellers the truth about the likely selling prices of their properties.
This million-dollar producer said, “I tell sellers that in this market their properties will sell for $x. If they aren’t willing to price near that, I won’t take on their listing.” He hastened to add that he explains this to sellers more tactfully than that, but his point is that sellers must be told the truth about the likely selling price by their lister.
“It takes courage to tell the truth and jeopardise the listing”, I said. The top performer replied, “It’s more a matter of integrity”.
Of course, he’s right – avoid the truth, or alter the price to win the listing, and you tarnish your integrity and your reputation. So why are agents known for lying about the price, or lying by omission and avoiding price completely?
The answer is skill. It takes superior presentation ability to tell the truth in real estate and still win the business. If you intend telling the truth – and you should – you’d better be an outstanding presenter. And I mean outstanding.
But there are rewards, aside from the well-being that comes from knowing you tell the truth.
As an example, I attended an auction where the agent quoted $4.5 million to the sellers at the listing, and $3.5 million to the buyers during the open homes. He came unstuck when there was only one bidder at the auction. Now he had a $1 million gap to negotiate. Trust me when I say that he wasn’t that good a negotiator. It was passed in.
The property eventually sold for around $4 million, which was about the right money, but it could have sold months earlier had the truth been told at the beginning. And although the agent made this sale, will the sellers ever use him again? Will the buyers sell with him when the time comes? I don’t like his chances.
You see, integrity matters. You can’t be honest most of the time – it’s an all or nothing concept. Sure, it takes tact and finesse to deliver it, but the truth is an underrated sales tactic.
Why take on listings that aren’t going to sell? Why take on sellers that won’t listen to the truth, who don’t trust agents anyway, and who price so high that nobody enquires? Why take on sellers who aren’t serious, who consume your time, energy, your company’s money and your morale. When they leave to go to another agent, they don’t even sincerely thank you!
Even if you use the sellers’ money to pay for advertising, rather than your company’s money, it does your reputation no good when you take clients’ money and fail to sell the property.
Perhaps your market is so hot that properties sell anyway. But it won’t always be like this.
Agents who inflate the likely selling price with sellers in order to win the listing – who ‘buy the business’ – might get away with it during a boom market, but in a down market this horrible practice no longer works. Many agents paint themselves into a corner.
In our sales program, Winning Ways – A Smarter Sales Career, we teach real estate salespeople that when an agent quotes two figures to buyers by way of a range, the lowest price in that range becomes the de facto list price.
Say an auction property is passed in with only one bidder. The sellers’ reserve is revealed to be $4.5 million but during the inspections buyers had been quoted $3.6 to $3.8 million.
The agent that quoted $4.5 million to the sellers while quoting $3.6 to $3.8 million buyers now has a negotiation gap of $700,000 at best to $900,000 at worst.
The agent has created the self-imposed problem of The Impossible Gap.
Let’s be clear: if you are not a good enough negotiator to tell the sellers the truth at the time of listing about their likely selling price, and take on the listing on a foundation of honesty, you are not good enough to negotiate a $700,000 price gap, especially in a down market.
No doubt I’ll be howled down by those who say this practice is not widespread, just a strategy used by a few ‘bad apples’. But let’s get real. In Victoria, many high-profile cases have seen agents fined hundreds of thousands of dollars for this practice. One day NSW and QLD will follow suit, if they are serious about stamping out the practice.
But integrity aside – from a salesperson’s perspective, why would you resort to tactics that create a no-win situation for you and your clients?
The truth is a wonderful sales tactic if you know how to deliver it with tact. I cannot recommend it highly enough.
Do your results fluctuate? Are they persistently low? Have you ever found yourself blaming outside forces, such as the market or difficult clients, for a run of bad luck? The good news is that this can be fixed.
In my book, Why Winners Win, I name four Success Ingredients: Attitude, Knowledge, Skill and Competent Action.
With the right attitude, you will study. You will practise what you learn in the field. Through this practice you will develop skill and your actions will become more competent.
But you can still be competent and not do enough competent actions, so your results will still be low. This is why self-management is so important.
Some call this time management, but we really don’t manage time; we manage ourselves within the time we have available.
Many salespeople drift through their day without purpose because they don’t have a plan. Those with goals and plans get more done. They manage themselves and their time because they know where they are going, and why.
So… do you have a plan?
The key to skilful self-management is to know what needs to be done and to be willing to do it.
Winners treat their time as a valuable asset. They guard it and give it to the right people. They don’t allow the wrong people to steal their time.
- Set goals – they decide what they want
- Determine the cost of their goals – both in money and in trade-offs in other areas of their lives
- Calculate sales and listing targets
- Crunch the numbers – calculate how many people they need to speak to in order to achieve their targets
- Determine the listing sources they will work on
- Want their goals sufficiently to focus on them.
With these foundations, self-management is much simpler. No time is lost thinking about what needs to be done next – just open the plan and follow the next step. And by constantly studying and improving, little successes fuel motivation to do more. Gradually, inconsistent performance begins to turn into consistent, climbing results.
You might not be doing enough of the right actions right now, but you can fix it.
With a plan designed to lead you to goals you really want, you will find self-management easier than you first thought.
Give it a go.
“The 30–Day Rule states that the prospecting you do in this 30 day period will pay off for the next 90 days. It is a simple, yet powerful universal rule that governs sales. Ignore it at your peril. When you internalize this rule, it will drive you to never put prospecting aside for another day”
Jeb Blount – Fanatical Prospecting
Where is your next listing coming from? If you don’t know, you’re heading for a performance slump. All salespeople should have a full pipeline of prospects – warm leads that will soon germinate into listings, then into sales, then into income.
Many salespeople believe that their stock levels, and the saleability of their stock, are at the mercy of the market. This thinking leads them to believe that when the market turns down, so too will their results.
Leave market-driven thinking to your competitors. Fill your pipeline with prospects and you will have a regular flow of incoming business.
Some real estate trainers appeal to the mediocre many by saying that prospecting is dead, that prospecting in the modern age is done through social media. Be careful of listening to these gurus – they will send you broke.
Social media is a marketing tool, best left to your agency to set up and maintain. If you are a salesperson, your most effective method of self-promotion over the long term is face-to-face or voice-to-voice – that is prospect at doors or prospect by telephone.
In other words…
TALK TO PEOPLE!
Prospect – 40 potential sellers every day, or 200 per week –follow up diligently and over time you will have a source of warm leads. Whenever you sell a property, prospect harder and find a listing to replace what you sold. This is a great habit to develop and will insure you against running out of stock.
In the absence of a pipeline of prospects, generated through constant prospecting in high numbers, you will always be desperate for listings. You will always be ‘looking under rocks’ for listings.
The Winner’s Creed is:
“Whenever I make a sale, I will not congratulate myself until I replace the listing I sold”.
Make it your mantra. Talk to people. Fill your pipeline with prospects. Your reward will be a high and consistent income.
In 30 years I have interviewed countless winners, and have noticed one big difference between winners and their mediocre counterparts:
Winners do the hard tasks. Winners understand that the hard tasks pay.
In truth, the ‘hard’ tasks aren’t hard at all. Simply, salespeople don’t like doing these tasks so they avoid them. In their minds, they make these tasks seem harder than they really are. They invent excuses for not doing them. When asked by their leader, “How much prospecting have you done this week?”, they reply, “I’ve been too busy”. This is nonsense, and a fundamental cause of low results.
I doubt that there is an occupation where people love every task they are asked to do and this is certainly true of Sales. Salespeople do not like certain tasks, but like them or not, some tasks are important and must be done.
How much better would your results be if you did more of these important tasks?
- Chasing new business – good old-fashioned prospecting.Speak to 40 potential sellers every working day. This would lead to more listing appointments – an activity salespeople love to do.
- Practise your listing presentation – winners practise their listing presentation and constantly tweak their presentation materials. Listing isn’t about getting a signed authority; it’s about listing a property under the right circumstances. Market price needs to be discussed openly and honestly, with sellers set up for the need to price their property to sell.
Gone are the days when we take on sellers who say, “If I get my price, I’ll sell”. Leave those clients for desperate salespeople who don’t prospect. Choose motivated clients and give effective listing presentations. The better your listing presentation, the more saleable your listings will be.
- Coaching sellers – passing on market feedback to your sellers, discussing the current asking price and whether it’s working. Recommend repositioning the price as necessary: this would make more of your listings saleable. Overpriced stock does not sell.
- Qualifying buyers and conducting property presentations with buyers who are motivated to buy now. Qualified prospects buy. Nosey neighbours and lookers, prevalent at open homes, don’t buy. Devoting more time showing qualified buyers through properties at market price is a sure-fire way to more sales.
- Negotiating sales – salespeople love doing this activity, butto be involved in more negotiations, you must do more of the activities that lead to negotiations.
This brings us back to prospecting – talking to people – delivering good listing presentations, better seller coaching, and working with qualified buyers. One activity links to others, and all lead to more negotiations and then to more sales.
The reward for doing the actions that most salespeople avoid is that you get results that most salespeople don’t get. The hard tasks pay!
The market often gets blamed for poor results, but it’s not the market: it’s low knowledge, low skill and low action levels that cause poor results.
I can’t control the market, but I can control me. I can study and learn. I can practise and hone my skill. I can do more of the right actions – those tasks that mediocre salespeople call ‘hard’.
And so can you!
A common complaint from leaders is that their salespeople lack focus. It has a been constant theme in my 30 years as a real estate agency profit consultant.
One leader said his salespeople had the attention span of a gnat.
A short attention span is not a problem for most people. Watch people doing leisure activities – things they love to do. They have no trouble giving these activities their full attention.
When they watch a film at the cinema, they’re not fidgeting or walking in and out. If the film is interesting, it gets their full attention.
When the activity is interesting, it has no trouble garnering focus. Salespeople who aren’t focused on the job have managed to turn selling into a chore. Simply, they don’t find the work interesting.
Most salespeople love to do listing presentations and put sales together – who doesn’t? – but won’t do the more mundane tasks that increase the likelihood of them getting to the interesting tasks. Prospecting is a classic example.
Because they avoid prospecting, they do fewer listing presentations. And so they hop from task to task, working on the easier, less productive tasks.
Jeb Blount said in his excellent book, Fanatical Prospecting, that the number one reason for failure in sales is an empty pipeline, and the root cause of an empty pipeline is failure to constantly prospect.
Salespeople who have clear goals and written plans seldom lack focus. They have fun at work, and they get results.
They might find some tasks more interesting and enjoyable than others, but they do the tough tasks because they are working toward something bigger: they are working toward meaningful goals, something they WANT.
With a bigger picture to focus on, they understand that by working on the right tasks they will not only achieve their goals, but also derive huge satisfaction from the process of getting there.
Goal setters know what I am talking about.
Studies have shown that when somebody sets a goal – a goal that they have a 50/50 chance of achieving – they immediately feel happier. They are then happy to do tasks that would be otherwise judged arduous or mundane.
Short attention span? That is for goalless drifters.
Professional sales is not a lottery. It is not a matter of luck. You can control your results. You can achieve meaningful goals. And you can focus, over the long term.
Below are snippets are from surveys conducted by Roy Morgan over a 17-year period. I have been following these surveys for 25 years and note the position of our industry moves very little in the list of most trusted professions.
Most Respected Professions: Nurses, Pharmacists and Doctors
Least Respected: Car Salesmen, Journalists and Real Estate Agents.
Roy Morgan 2000
Directors of Public Companies on 25% (down 1%) and Business Executives on 18% (down 2%) are both mid-ranged in the overall result, but well ahead of Real Estate Agents who have equalled their record low rating of 7% (down 3%) and perennial cellar-dwellers Car Salesmen on 4% (unchanged).
Roy Morgan 2017
Yet over the past 30 years I have met many thoroughly decent real estate people, far more than the ‘other type’.
So why does our industry have such a poor reputation? We know the answer:
- Overquoting to sellers
- Underquoting to buyers
You can argue as much as you like about whether this happens, but a recent spate of $800,000 fines on some Victorian agents for over or underquoting should be ample evidence that this practice is alive and well. And I wouldn’t suggest it stops at the border into NSW, Queensland or South Australia.
Character issues aside, let’s think about why it happens. One reason alone:
Salespeople do not know how to handle PRICE.
Salespeople know that regardless of the market – boom or down-turning – sellers almost always expect more for their properties than they are worth. Honest agents who give honest price appraisals risk sellers’ displeasure and risk losing listings. So, the weaker and/or less ethical adopt the attitude, “If you can’t beat them, join them”, and quote high because “that’s the way it’s done”.
But now they paint themselves into a corner. They have begun the relationship on a foundation of dishonesty. By allowing sellers to believe that their unrealistic expectations are achievable, salespeople now must use techniques to persuade sellers to retreat from their high prices. Enter buyers.
Salespeople lure buyers with low price ranges – “Offers above $x” – their argument being that they will get buyers to their open inspections and, once they get offers, they “can negotiate the offers upwards”.
The fault with this thinking is that if you quote low you will get low offers. And when you negotiate from a low base, you will always get a lower price than you’d get had you started high. Any negotiation expert will tell you that.
Agents then present these low offers to sellers saying things such as, “Market feedback is lower than we expected”. It used to be called ‘Conditioning’. Now it’s called ‘Educating’. The technique is the same – deliver good news during the listing and bad news during the marketing campaign, with the hope of getting sellers to reduce.
How often have we seen buyers who have been given low price estimates pay for pest and building reports and then attend the auction, but never get an opportunity to bid because the price has galloped beyond the lower price estimate given to them by an agent?
These are disgraceful practices and agents who indulge in them should be struck off for life, not merely fined.
Foundation of Honesty
The smarter approach is to lay client relationships on a foundation of honesty. Tell sellers the truth about the likely sale price of their property. I realise that this is easier said than done: it takes skill.
I have often said, “To tell the truth in real estate and still win the business, you had better be an outstanding presenter”. There are techniques that will allow you to handle price honestly, with both buyers and sellers.
Learn these techniques and you will make sales and keep your integrity intact. You will enjoy a successful real estate career.
Don’t let anybody tell you that it cannot be done. Handling price and laying foundations of honesty make for a rewarding and prosperous career, and meaningful client relationships.
Many agents do business this way and you can too.