Listen to Your Gut Feeling

How Tapping Your Intuition Can Make You a Better Salesperson

June 1, 1997

For the last 10 years Laura Day has been giving her private seminar, "Practical Intuition," which teaches people how to better use their instincts to get the information they need to succeed in business and in life. Her students have ranged from Nobel laureate scientist James Watson to movie celebrity Demi Moore. Recently, she spoke with Walt Albro, associate editor of Today’s REALTOR®, about ways real estate salespeople can work more effectively by using practical intuition.

Does everyone possess intuitive ability?

Yes, it's a natural faculty like your sense of smell. We use our intuition every day in making choices and decisions, but often we’re not aware of it. One exercise I do in my workshop is to ask people to think of a recent complex decision they made. I ask them to break down the factors that went into that decision and analyze whether it was based on empirical data or intuition. To a surprising degree, many complex decisions are based on gut feelings--intuition.

Everyone has intuition, but you need to train yourself how to use it effectively.

Should we base decisions solely on intuition?

No. Intuition can help you identify some of the issues and questions you have to investigate logically before you can find the answer to a problem. But decisions should be based on intuition and logic.

Let's say you're a developer considering a new project. The zoning is supposed to be OK, but you have an intuitive sense that the project doesn't seem to fit with the zoning. You check out your intuition against reality. You review the zoning laws to make sure there isn't some little thing that might create a problem for your project. If your intuition is out of sync with the apparent reality, keep looking. There's some kind of problem.

How can practical intuition help real estate practitioners?

Intuition is very helpful to salespeople because they need a lot of accurate information to make a sale. They need to know the seller's needs and how they can be fulfilled. They also need to know the seller's bottom line.

With buyers, salespeople need to know such things as what they're looking for, how they feel about the property, and what their top price is.

Salespeople also need accurate information about the property itself. What are the property's subtle strengths and weaknesses?

We're all receiving intuitive information all the time, but most of us don't know how to organize and apply it.

Intuition should be used to give you clues about what kinds of questions to ask to solicit accurate information. Let's say your intuition tells you one thing, but the sellers tell you something else. That's a clue that you need to question the sellers more thoroughly on that issue.

Are there exercises you can do to learn how to better organize intuitive information?

Try writing down what your instinct tells you about a prospective buyer or seller before you actually meet that person. Let's say that someone hands you a telephone message from a John Doe who's looking for information about a house. You've never met John Doe.

Before calling him back, ask yourself some questions about him and write down your answers. While doing that, be aware of everything you're feeling and sensing. What's this person looking for? What are his needs? What's the upper limit on what he's willing to spend? What does he want to avoid? What do I need to be for this person?

Then check your intuitive answers against the answers he gives when you call him.

What if the answers don't match?

Trust your instinct. Look at the answers that don't match. They're clues about the areas you need to question this person about more carefully.

How can you know anything about a person you've never met?

Intuition isn't based on any specific empirical information. It's intangible, in the same way a good salesperson can "feel" the heartbeat of the market. It's a way of sensing the patterns of the environment around us.

How can we differentiate between intuitive and emotional impressions?

Many people confuse emotion with intuition. Emotion isn't intuition; it's the enemy of intuition. An example would be a single woman who meets a single man and says, "I knew right away he was the perfect man for me." Is that intuition? Not necessarily. It's probably just hormonal!

If you're having a bad day, it's going to cloud your intuitive impressions. That's why you have to stay in touch with your state of mind to read your intuitive feelings accurately. Feeling too positive is as bad as feeling too negative. The best time to be in touch with intuitive thoughts is when you're in a neutral, relaxed, or what I call a natural organic state.

Laura Day, who lives in New York City, is the author of Practical Intuition: How to Harness the Power of Your Instinct and Make It Work for You, Villard Books, 1996, 191 pages, $20.

Quotables in the News

Motivational speaker Les Brown on what he's learned from life:

Born in a shack in a Miami ghetto, he had far less going for him than most of us. Yet he has achieved far more than most even dream of simply by believing in himself and his dreams when others didn't.

He learned that it's OK to fail but that it's not OK to quit.

According to Brown, when you fail, you have two choices: "Get better or get bitter." You can learn from failure. You learn nothing by quitting.—The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer

Stephen Covey, chairman of the Covey Leadership Center and author of The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, on leadership:

"The first role of the leader is to be a model of principle-centered leadership. It's that kind of modeling, that kind of character, competence, and action that produces trust among people, causing them to identify with the modeling and be influenced by it."

Covey's key words for leaders are pathfinding, aligning, and empowering. That means you figure out where you and your work need to go, you make sure the structure of your workplace is set up to work toward those goals, and you get others to contribute creatively.—The Kansas City Star

Psychotherapist Dr. Daneen Skube on taking effective action:

"Start by ceasing to reach for the stars. By reaching for the backyard, you'll experience more success. People who achieve results do so by breaking down difficult goals into bite-size steps. Succeeding at small tasks builds confidence."—The Seattle Times

Walt Albro is a former senior editor for REALTOR® Magazine.

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