Analysis Paralysis

I have taught Realtors and sales forces for almost a decade now. From brand-new rookies to career agents, I know one thing that will never change… change itself! Change will constantly come at us, and no matter how much we think we know, we don’t. There is always the need for additional knowledge and training. Information and experience are vital to the decisions we make on a daily basis. With the knowledge we have, and the benefit of past lessons learned, we can better assess the risk involved with any endeavor that may require an investment of our time, money, or emotions. That being said, we will seldom have an unqualified answer to the question: “Should I stay, or should I go”?

Several years ago, I was training a new twenty-something agent on my sales force when I was with a local RE/Max franchise. One of the first skills I taught this group of “newbies” was how to find prospective clients. This particular agent was attentive, thoughtful, and took copious notes in my Tuesday morning sales meetings. Jeff was what most sales trainers dream of; a clean slate devoid of bad sales habits, someone who was “coachable”. Indeed, he asked a lot of questions every Tuesday morning, and most every other day as well. He asked a lot of good questions, but mostly just A LOT of questions. Initially I didn’t mind. After all, that was part of my job. Although, after a month or more of this, and no clients to show for it, it finally dawned on me where his head was. His lack of confidence in being able to overcome every possible objection, stopped him in his tracks.

One Tuesday morning, after the rest of the team of new agents cleared out of the training room, I said to him; “Jeff, you do realize you will never have all the answers to every challenge that may arise beforehand, don’t you? In other words, you cannot possibly absorb everything from a textbook, or class in an attempt to eliminate a problem before it reveals itself to you”. Jeff looked to the side, back at me, then widened his eyes. This was his moment of Zen. Though I do not consider myself his “guru”, a light had clicked on for him. A switch that for many of us never gets flipped. It’s the realization that in order to pursue success, we must first be willing to fail.

So many people want to keep a perfect track record. As though THAT was more important than actually doing the job itself. I have stated several times; “perfection is overrated“. More on that in a later post. But, this concept of never being willing to make a mistake is sadly permeating our society. It’s not just with the young people, either. Those changing career fields, also seem to have a certain aversion to failure. Granted, there’s nothing wrong with wanting to do a job well. That’s admirable, though it shouldn’t stifle our ability to perform at all. In the words of Marcus Lemonis, “Have no fear and be willing to fail.” Most challenges have more than one solution, but none of them will be completely perfect anyway.

Fortunately, it is NOT the job of a Realtor to know everything. It is the job of the Realtor, or sales professional to understand our client’s goals, then find the information that will be pertinent to our clients making an informed decision. Yes, we are compensated for helping others to avoid (or at least properly assess) the risks involved. That’s why we exist! We are the professionals. But, we didn’t become that by never making mistakes or by just asking a bunch of questions. So stop worrying about not knowing everything, and get to work. Your clients need you!

www.MomentumSeminars.com 

Developing the Team

Much like a corporation is considered its own entity, teams will take on a life of their own. This is a good thing when you have the right bunch of people and can lead to better productivity. Micromanaging is counterproductive in the long run and not a growing trend for leadership in the 21st century. The conundrum is how to let go of control and signal to the staff it’s alright to pick up the slack. In an organization where all plans and decisions are centralized, that transformation will not take place overnight. This is where the boss must be willing to let go of a certain amount of control and begin to encourage employees to take more initiative. But, the proper relationship between team and team leader needs to be in place.

Workers need to have a certain amount of trust before they are willing to take on greater responsibilities. A common fear is someone might make a mistake (and they will) and be blamed for a bad decision. People need to know it is alright to occasionally go out on a limb because management will offer the safety net below. This begins with a sense of belonging.

When team members know they are legitimately valued as a part of the organization, they tend to take ownership. Ownership of the department, ownership of decisions, and themselves ownership of their own mistakes. Empower people and give them access to more resources and decisions. Allow them to speak freely about concerns they may have about a specific task. This will not only lead to better morale but less stress for management.

Several articles and business text books have been written of the extreme measures the five-star hotel chain Ritz-Carlton will undergo to satisfy their guests. In fact, each employee has a budget of up to $2000, per incident, to ensure guests will come back again. If a valet or maid can fix an issue, they do so, even without managerial approval. This level of trust in turn, spurs greater loyalty from company employees. With the average patron paying a quarter-million dollars over a lifetime, it’s a wise investment.

http://MomentumSeminars.com

 

 

 

The End is Near!

What does the end of 2018 mean? It’s time to start thinking about our ambitions for 2019. (Pssst, it’s just a number). According to a recent article in Forbes Magazine, only 8% of Americans actually achieve their New Year’s resolutions each year. Yikes! Statistically speaking (92% to be exact) I will NOT achieve my 2019 goals. Now what? Well what is a “goal” any way? It’s a dream we write down on a piece of paper to make us feel like we have accomplished something, or that we’re at least on our way. In short, we get a certain short-term satisfaction for having done something positive that day. We believe we are beginning to take charge of our lives! For a little while, we feel as though we are in control. Sadly, reviewing our little wish lists, is not taking action. And what were we doing the REST of the year, anyway?

Of course, you could scrap those goals all together, and simply BECOME the person you want to be, irrespective of the number on the calendar. That’s right, simply take on the disciplines and behaviors of the top sales rep in your company, act as if you were already regional manager, or earned that coveted industry designation.  We can incorporate the aspects of a positive personality TODAY, and that will get us to where we want to be a whole lot faster than a “wish list” on a slip of paper. In order for us to redesign our lives, it’s going to take… wait for it… CHANGE. Perhaps we avoid change not only out of complacency, but more the fact that to change today is to admit we were wrong yesterday. It’s a vicious cycle, but we can break it by becoming, rather than planning.

I’m not suggesting we should not have goals or pursue worth-while accomplishments. But we mustn’t be lulled into believing the goal itself IS the accomplishment. It is not. In order to achieve something new, we must do something different. That means moving out of our comfort zones, no two ways about it.  Fortunately, that’s something we can do that any time of the year, not just January first.

http://MomentumSeminars.com/

Silence is Golden

The Holidays are here, and some of us will spend more time with our extended families than we spent in the first eleven months. Hey, it’s family, what could go wrong, right? Well, you all know the answer to that! Nonetheless, this is the time of glad tidings, and good cheer. So, why not give them the gift that may ultimately reward us in the long run; silence.

If you are in management, education, or sales, you are taught to talk, and talk a lot. Talk every chance you get. We talk to establish who we are, what we do and hopefully build a relationship. But, when grandpa starts describing his latest stomach ailment in graphic detail, or when little sis goes on nonstop about her fifth boyfriend this year, it may be time to pause, and spend some time on the OTHER half of communication; listening. You don’t have to have a degree in psychology to know there may be a greater reason for our loved ones to “dump” all their problems on us.

Perhaps they think WE are the only ones who will actually listen to them. Think about that, just remaining quiet could be very important to those we care about. This is not to say the project should be attempted without a good stiff eggnog, but it is an exercise in your own level of compassion. By remaining quiet, and hearing them out, we remove ourselves as active participants in their latest challenge, dilemma, or scheme. When we are just with them in a nonjudgmental way, we allow them to vent, and remove what they have been carrying around with them all year long. Don’t attack them, defend them, or try to “fix” the problem. Instead, just hold your tongue. They may finally move off the point of their own issues, and ask about you! Nonetheless, they will be convinced, it was one of the best “conversations” they ever had with you. So this year, give the gift that is worth its weight in gold, just be quiet, and LISTEN.

Holiday Listings

Each year, about this time, Realtors across the country hear those same three little words “…after the Holidays”. The real estate market tends to go into an economic hibernation for a couple of months as activity slows down. Our focus shifts from seeking listings and promoting sales activities to turkey and hanging out with the family.  We plan our cross-country trips, hang the lights, buy gifts for our loved ones, and make sure we are stocked up on eggnog. Mmmm, eggnog!

For our clients, it is just as stressful a time of the year as for us! Not to mention the kids. Oh yeah, they’re around! Many times, the last thing our sellers want is the added stress of selling a home. So, each year, about this time, we resign ourselves to having a slow month or two. These are all valid points, but certainly not the only points to ponder. This December could be a productive work month if you know how to position yourself.

Occasionally, I will send out a postcard to my farm area entitled “8 Reasons to List during the Holidays”.  The intent was not only to promote myself and the services I could provide, but also to create a shift in the mind of the seller who had already decided to put off listing until the New Year. I would also send the little card to my current listings who I knew might expire during this period. I will share a few of those ideas with you.

First, the listed home is already looking pretty! No need to “tidy up” before a showing or make the place look festive, or bake wonderful smelling cookies in the oven to make it all seem like home. It already does. The owners did your staging for you!  There’s also no need to cut the grass just before a showing appointment.

For sale in snowAnother good consideration is the Holiday schedule itself. Many times, manufacturing plants and other businesses will completely shut down for a couple of weeks.  This means those “by confirmed appointment” sellers are now much more flexible, and easier to reach by phone. The brokers appointment system can simply block out important family days and sub-Holidays like New Years Eve. Buyers are in the same boat with extended vacation and many want to take advantage of the free time.

Another key factor, and perhaps the most important, is a smaller market! Remember, a lot of sellers are thinking “…after the Holidays”, and the inventory actually shrinks. Real estate is already competitive, so why not take advantage while the competition is on hiatus. Not to mention, come January, all those new and “new again” listings will twinkle in our MLS system like lights on a tree.

Plenty of people, people just don’t want to get out in the cold. However, if someone is willing to bundle up, schedule an appointment, and take a meeting with a Realtor in the dead of Winter, they’re serious! It’s a good opportunity to eliminate the “Looky Loos” who are less than serious and think of house hunting as a hobby. Buyers are also stressed out and otherwise involved, yet if they take the time to see a home with your sign in the yard, they may just be willing to put ink on paper. You couldn’t give your sellers a better gift!

These are all great considerations when it comes to working for your clients, but there are distinct advantages for the professional as well. Not only is the overall market better for our clients, but it’s better for YOU! For years, I have made myself available to anyone and everyone who want to buy or sell. Without fail, I always pick up new clients at this time because everyone else had their phones turned off. Consistently, I heard stories of how people must have called a dozen agents, but no one picked up or returned their call. Well, I do, and I get new clients out of it, too. Some of them will be people relocating to the area in a few weeks or months, and had this time to look for properties. I don’t mind the delayed gratitude if I know the buyers are serious.

Yes, there are a lot of points to consider during the Holiday season, but your mental default should not be that of “Nobody wants to buy or sell during the Holidays”.  By working smart and being available, you just might be able to put a nice little bow on the end of your business year.

 

There is No Leadership Without a Sense of Vision

As a corporate trainer, I often open my seminars stating; “The single most important skill of a good leader is that of communication”. A manger or executive with an industrial expertise may point to another attribute such as accounting or engineering. However, when it comes to the task of actually LEADING others on the team, one would be hard pressed to disagree with me. Otherwise, just ask anyone who had a great idea and could not bring it to fruition because others did not share in the vision. 

Unfortunately, there are a lot of professionals who perhaps due to their technical skills, gained a position of influence and yet do not truly appreciate the need for them to be “visionary”. He or she has the degree, certifications, experience and skill sets to accomplish the tasks at hand. Yet, business professionals many times fail to understand the moment they take on the responsibility of a staff, team, department or even a single intern, they automatically become a LEADER… like it or not. I say that because there are a lot of business people who detest the responsibility of dealing with others and seeing to it staff members contribute their individual portion to the team. The attractiveness of title, prestige and more money clouds the reality that there will be a huge shift in their personal responsibilities. It is no longer the emphasis on individually doing, but instead relating what needs to be done by the team and WHY. 

Recently, I was presenting to the executive staff of a large energy company. The organization had recently undergone several growth spurts and weren’t done. They understood the importance of creating a strategic plan relating the direction they were moving to their more than 1000 employees. Out of this, came the need to develop core values, as well as mission and vision statements. The company was undergoing such change they wanted to ensure all the workers were aware of the new direction they were going. Otherwise, employees would not see the need to be flexible in their understanding of what the individual job was. Where thee is confusion in the ranks, you have a loss in productivity, effectiveness and profitability. There could even be safety concerns for any entity that changes course and does not bring its members along.  

Followers WANT to be led! The good ones show up to work and fully expect to receive that day’s marching orders or to be informed if the daily routine has been altered. Without a sense of direction, employees lose confidence in the organization, their leaders, even themselves and their abilities. To fill the void, they will many times create their own set of priorities, process policies and deadlines. However, these will all be different from one worker to the next and more than likely not be up to company standards. In time, the company will be swallowed up by inefficiency, lose their customer base, and eventually fold. The frustration an executive may feel is often one of the signs something is wrong and it may present itself too late.  

As a business leader, it’s not enough to be proficient in your position, you must also bring the team along for the ride. That means telling members of the team where the ride is going… and why. In short, creating a vision. Key concepts, such as a vision statement is not the only way to do that, but it’s a really good start. It may also require additional training and frequent updates. By opening good lines of communication to allow for questions, ideas and feedback, a leader can be assured that the team understands his or her direction. But if that leader simply assumes everyone knows priorities and what to do without follow through, that professional stands a good chance of not being in the position for long.   

Blaine Little

http://MomentumSeminars.com/

BlaineSpeak@gmail.com

 

So, Just ASK Already!

Do not underestimate the power of asking for that which you desire. In business, it is generally expected that after the “pitch”, comes the “ask”. It must be in that order, too. Why would a buyer or potential client do business with someone else, without knowing all the facts first? As Realtors, we rehearse our presentation and practice eliminating objections, but we give little consideration to actually getting the ink on paper. Too often, business people sit back after we have shown all the graphs, answered all the questions, and simply STARE at the prospect. The prospect finds this really creepy, by the way. Without asking for the order, the default answer is always “No”. Perhaps worse than not actually asking for the contract, we may give the feckless “so, what do you think”?

Asking also plays a big role in charities, recreation, and civic organizations as well. Years ago, I was curious as to why there wasn’t more participation in the annual Chili cook-off in my real estate office. The Managing Broker of the company told me, “Some times, people just want to be asked”. That really struck me as odd. This was something we did every year in the Fall, and everyone always partook and had fun. So, it’s not like people didn’t know to enter the contest, especially since it was posted, mentioned in a meeting, and followed up in email. After all, if an opportunity was available, or a position open, such as “Snack Chairman” for the high school volleyball team, wouldn’t people just raise their own hand, and say; “yes, I would relish the opportunity to be the Snack Chair this year”. I followed her guidance, and sure enough, we were able to double the participants, and everyone enjoyed the party.

Some time later, that same real estate broker needed to fill an Office Manager position at the firm. She must have had over a dozen applicants. She selected three or four potential hires for an interview. After the process, she confided in me, her decision came down to the one interviewee who actually ASKED for the job. I was under the assumption being grilled for twenty minutes on what animal you would be if you lived in a forest, WAS asking for the job. Apparently, not. The lady stated how much she really needed the job, and actually vocalized the words; “Will you hire me?”. Turned out, she was a really good fit for the office, and she never for a second indicated she took the position for granted.

Seeking a favor puts us at a disadvantaged position. When negotiating, we want to come from a position of power and strength, but in asking, we admit the ball is in the other person’s court. Many times, the ball IS NOT in our own court, and coming to that realization puts a knot in our stomach. Nonetheless, formally requesting the business is where the rubber meets the road. Even being denied your request is certainly a better position to come from than; making your presentation, dodging objections and being grilled for half an hour, only to toss out “So, what do you think” in the end. My advice; swallow your pride, and just ask!

The Price of Higher Education

I have long stated I learned just as much in college from the people I met, extra-curricular activities and debating with my professors. As a free thinker, that turned out to be fairly often. I took full advantage of what the university had to offer. Even though it would take me almost 150 semester hours to earn a business degree. If you’re doing the math, that’s FIVE years allotted for a four-year bachelor’s degree. I should have been awarded a master’s degree, but it was all about money for the institution.

I t appeared to me then what a racket the school was running in the name of higher education. Turns out, that was pretty much par for the course with most institutions of higher learning in America. But it didn’t stop at tuition, there were all sorts of little administrative fees. In my sophomore year, there was a push for students to give consent for the State to build a new recreational building. The marketing group hit the club circuit collecting signatures. “You want a new facility, don’t you?” Abject outrage is how I would describe the student body’s attitude two years later, when the gym was built and we all saw an additional $75 a semester to pay for it in our tuition bills. But, there was a shiny new building on campus that was plastered on the front of all the marketing brochures. Again, it was about money.

Ideally, private institutions, many which are older than our nation, would confer degrees as a matter of prestige. State colleges would create graduates to increase the overall expertise within the region by turning out quality workers who0902181247[1] would later be taxed. Now, college IS the tax!

The perception of a college degree is losing its prestige. Increasingly, high school graduates are doing what the university has been suggesting for years: Look at the return on investment (ROI).   There are thousands of millionaires, primarily in technology who made there money and never finished… or even started college. Vo-techs and other institutions which were once considered less of an education, are now looking pretty good. Electricians for instance, make about $55,000 a year and it is a well respected occupation. They also don’t have near the debt as a college grad once they earn their certificate. Tuition for a 4 year institution has TRIPLED over the past 2 decades. So the colleges have definitely figured out their own ROI.

Universities have themselves to blame. Only when they abandon the notions of being the biggest, having the most enrolled, newest buildings, or best sports programs (yeah, I went there) can they ever get back to what is most important: turning out quality young professionals. But I don’t think that will happen any time soon. In the meantime, all I can recommend is for America’s young people to take off the Guy Fox masks, stop complaining about their feelings and get their butts to a legitimate class. Otherwise, they are accomplishing NOTHING other than building debt.

 

 

 

SHOW Them You Mean Business!

Sales can be a fickle thing. Fickle because professional salesperson has to deal with other human beings. With that, comes all the thoughts, feelings, miscommunication and paranoia of those prospective clients. Throw a new home in the mix and you have a recipe for disaster!

In any industry, the onus to explain the process of how a customer can take advantage of a product or service falls to the sales professional. Ethically, this should include all the caveats of finalizing the agreement and disclosures any unforeseen liabilities. In real estate, this is a part of an agent’s fiduciary (financial) responsibility. A Realtor may market well and give sound advice when an offer comes in, but what about the period in between?

This is the time where clients, especially sellers, have the most anxiety and need a little bit of hand-holding. Yes, dealing with someone else’s emotions and frustrations is part of the job.  If one becomes a real estate agent because he loves beautiful homes, but dislikes dealing with people and their problems, then he is in exactly the WRONG industry. At the risk of sounding cliche, it really IS a people business. The best way take the temperature of your client and avoid a potential melt down is with good communication. That means preparing them from the very beginning.

People want to be led through the real estate process. They want to know what to expect. There are hundreds of things that may go wrong, and many of them are out of the Realtor’s control. What is in the control of the pro is how hard he or she will work on behalf of their clients. Over a decade ago, I developed a marketing plan detailing what I will do in the first 30 days I have a home listed. It was a way of actually showing what I would do. This is a small part of what I share in my Improved Communications for Real Estate Professionals” seminars. However, it is an important one. If I am going head-to-head against another professional for a client’s business yet they do not have a marketing plan, who do you think the prospect will choose?

Marketing Plan

Note, this 30 Day New Listing Marketing Plan does NOT guarantee I will SELL their home in 30 days. It simply reiterates what I am doing to get the home sold while I have it listed. Part of which, is good communication.  Having a frank conversation about what you will… or will not do to represent the client is not only sound business, but it will prevent miscommunication down the road. There is nothing new here. In truth, this is a culmination of several ideas I gathered along the way. A Realtor… or any other industry professional should have an explanation of serviced they can readily share with their prospects.

Keep watching for my latest “Improved Communications for Sales” workshop.

http://MomentumSeminars.com

May I Offer a Little Friendly Advice?

There is an old saying: “Free advice is only worth what you paid for it”. Well, hold on! Not everything that is free is completely worthless. Consider the air we breathe. Yes, there are times when advice can be good and beneficial to its receiver. There is another adage: “The best things in life are… FREE”. Perhaps more than the actual advice, we should better scrutinize the source. WHO is the one imparting the sage wisdom? Are they actually a sage? In other words, is it someone who actually has experience in that field?

When I was in business school, we had the occasional adjunct professor teach some of the upper class courses. An “adjunct” was someone who was not on regular staff, but still worked in the industry of which they were teaching. That being the case, they were usually night classes. I always had this feeling that the regular faculty didn’t like adjuncts. Nonetheless, THEY are the ones from whom I learned the most. If I saw an instructors name in the course catalog I didn’t recognize, I knew it was probably a business owner or CEO. It would be someone I could ask real-world questions and get a straight answer. An answer based on experience and not what was already written in the textbook. In other words, I valued their advice.

In real estate, it is estimated over half of all agents nationally quit after the first year in the industry.   One major reason for the high turnover is rookies feel they are not adequately trained in the BUSINESS of real estate. Over a decade ago, I was a real estate trainer for one of the largest RE/Max franchises in the country. It was a job I enjoyed and held that position for about five years. The program I put in place for new agents was hugely successful as evidenced by the stint of their careers. The training was said to be so good that veteran agents of other companies would recommend their friends who wanted to get into real estate to come see me! The managing broker loved me.

Given the acclaim from within as well as externally, you would think all the newbies would always hang on to every word I said in our training meetings, right? Nope! A new agent would knock on my office door and ask “Do you have a minute”? I always made the time. Once they asked a question or told me of a challenge they were having, I would tell them the best course of action or even offer a couple of suggestions. USUALLY, it was based on an experience I actually had throughout the course of my own career. I was puzzled the times they would not heed my words and go it their own way, sometimes re-inventing the wheel.

On one particular incident, one of my agents asked if she could simply use the old house photos from an online listing that had expired with another company. Though I had never heard of such, I told her it was best she take her own listing photos and “start fresh”. Simple enough, right? It may have been laziness on her part, but it certainly was not by accident she posted the old agents pictures online. Three days later the broker of the expired listing’s company called my broker and words were exchanged. I believe the topic was intellectual property rights. Once my young agent caught wind of the conversation, she called the old agent and further exacerbated the situation. Feelings were hurt and there was now bad blood between the two firms, which in real estate is NOT good. Not good at all. All she had to do was take my advice… and her own damned photos.

What I realized was there are people who seek validation rather than unbiased advice. They have an idea and go to the expert. IF the expert agrees… YAY! But if the veteran dissents, they simply do what it is they really wanted to do all along. I use to be extremely annoyed by this, as I considered my time was wasted. Now I see it is part of being human. To varying degrees we all do this. We get it in our head what we want to do, but ask opinions of others to cover ourselves. This is why it is vitally important to suspend making final decisions on important issues until enough workable information is in. Granted, it’s hard to separate our emotions from a logical decision. That’s the human part I was talking about. Consider all the down on their luck gamblers in Las Vegas; a prime example of not separating ideas from emotion.

Real estate is a tough career, but so is public speaking. I’m not even talking about being on stage. That is only 10% of it, the tip of the iceberg. As a public speaker and corporate trainer, I have about ten people a year ask me how to get started as a motivational speaker. I always stop what I am doing and take time to talk to them and answer any question they have. Why? Because a lot of successful speakers along the way stopped to talk to ME. They gave me advice and I took it. I always let novice speakers know the one most IMPORTANT bit of advice I can spare for someone just getting in the business; join Toastmasters International. Toastmasters is a public speaking club where one can learn the skills. The cost is only about $100 annually and generally, members are warm and welcoming. So, how many would-be Tony Robbins took me up on my advice? None! Not a single person I ran into again or called a month later actually joined Toastmasters. My guess is their dream is more attractive than the actual work of bringing it into reality.

My advice to you: the next time you seek someone’s opinion and their idea is contrary to what you initially thought, do further fact finding. However, they may be able to spare you some heartaches and stress. Has this person actually done what it is you want to do? If not, then WHY are you asking them?  Find someone qualified with real-world experience. If something isn’t as easy as you originally thought it was, you’re probably on the right track.

http://MomentumSeminars.com

MomentumSemianrs@gmail.com