Melissa Dittmann Tracey is a contributing editor for REALTOR® Magazine. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sales Skills You Need to Rise Above Status Quo
Becoming an “agile” salesperson requires rejecting old routines as “the way you must always do things.”
August 8, 2017
“Agility” isn’t a term applicable only to athletes. The ability to react quickly and change directions on a dime also aids real estate professionals in winning over more clients and staying ahead of industry trends. But to embrace this mindset, you can’t be afraid to go off script or challenge traditional sales performance goals. An agile salesperson has the flexibility to react to what’s in front of him or her at the moment.
Sales coach Jill Konrath, author of Agile Selling (Penguin, 2014), defines agility in the sales sense as the ability to get up to speed and adapt to changing conditions rapidly. For busy practitioners, this seems like a natural fit; in many ways, you already are agile. But many put their focus on the end goal of a sale rather than the skills that lead to a sale, Konrath says. “It’s important to stop accepting old routines as the way you must always do things. Challenge yourself: Could I do better in my prospecting? Or how could I better my networking? How else can I assure that clients choose me? It’s all about opening yourself up to new ideas and a fresh way of thinking.”
One way to achieve sales agility is to use real-time digital communications, leveraging social media and the web to increase your responsiveness, says David Meerman Scott, an online marketing strategist and author of The New Rules of Sales and Service (Wiley, 2014). In many ways, it’s about changing your mindset, but there are some actionable steps you can take to improve your sales agility.
- Find a mentor. Choose someone who exemplifies what is in your ability to achieve. “Look at someone who is a little better than you to help you learn,” Konrath says.
- Earn a real estate designation. The National Association of REALTORS® has many curriculum options to learn a new skill, or you can take a course through REALTOR® University.
- Attend industry conferences and seminars. It’s an opportunity to discover a topic you’re interested in and network with like-minded professionals.
1. Always be in learning mode. Konrath says the ability to process and adapt to new information is the backbone to an agile selling mindset. Real estate pros are bombarded with change, from home buyers’ rapidly shifting preferences to new technology and products claiming to be the next industry game-changer. Every individual transaction poses new challenges, too. All of that can make you feel overwhelmed. How will you ever get ahead?
The key is to educate yourself one focus area at a time, Konrath says. In real estate, you might choose to focus on learning more about your area’s green home market or new-home construction, developing your knowledge of a niche market. Alternatively, you could focus on lead generation and finding a new contact management system to respond more quickly to leads. Look at every step of your sales process and find a key area of growth for yourself.
- Customize your messaging. “Ask better questions, challenge brush-offs, and build a case for change,” Konrath says.
- Don’t shrug off tough questions. If you don’t know the answer, find out the client’s motivation for asking.
- Follow up post-transaction. Send a survey, make a phone call, or request a meeting to elicit more feedback about your performance.
2. Listen to your clients more closely. Each client may require a slightly different approach to customer service. During your initial consultation, have a conversation with customers that will yield knowledge about their motivations for buying or selling. Then you can determine which items are most actionable for the client, which will help you steer the conversation to a more productive place.
“Be careful not to use it as an interrogation,” Konrath says. “Get a more in-depth understanding of your buyers—how they think and what factors go into their decision-making process. This gives you greater insight into how you can deal with and serve them better by focusing on what matters most to them.”
- Try “newsjacking.” Share a newsworthy real estate story and add your spin to it, Scott says. For example, add your own commentary to a report on mortgage rates, explaining how they impact affordability in your market. “This approach says I’m an expert in this particular field and can provide context for my local area,” Scott says.
- Communicate the way your clients prefer. Respond using the medium your clients use, whether it’s via text or Facebook Messenger. Ensure your email signature and business card notes multiple ways to reach out to you.
- Showcase more content on the web. Help clients find you when they start an online home search. Generate YouTube videos, Instagram photos, and blog content on topics they’re looking for. Include a call to action.
3. Operate in real time. Instant responses and messaging are important for achieving sales agility. Consumers are holding off longer before contacting you while doing more independent research online. They don’t need your help to narrow their real estate options. (Fifty-six percent of home buyers ages 36 and younger and 50 percent ages 37 to 51 say they found their home through the internet, according to NAR’s 2017 Home Buyer and Seller Generational Trends report.) But they still turn to you for help in completing the transaction. (The same NAR study found that working with a real estate agent remains consumers’ most used method for purchasing a home.)
Nevertheless, buyers are now in charge, Scott says. They decide when to reach out, and they expect instant responses from you. “Because of the tools that we have available today, we can find out what’s going on right now and be able to communicate instantly,” Scott adds. For example, if you know that a client has downloaded a home staging white paper on your website, you can frame the conversation around that topic. Consumer behavior on your site can inform further interactions that meet their needs.
- Set self-improvement goals. “If you’re driven by performance-based goals are your primary drivers, your self-worth will be tied up in achieving them,” Konrath says. Instead, self-improvement goals focus on acquiring new skills.
- Take action after failure. If prospects aren’t responding to an email, experiment with different subject lines to see if that changes the open rates. To get solutions, you have to proactively ask for advice, Konrath says. “That’s the only way you can solve problems.”
4. Think differently about challenges. ”Failure is your route to success,” Konrath says. It’s also another cornerstone to agile selling. “Any time you’re in a sales environment, you’re going to have failures, and people can quickly get discouraged. But instead of being bogged down in that failure, consider what you can do differently. What input can you gather to get better? Use it as a learning experience.”
It’s better for your overall mental health, too. Konrath points to neuroscience research that shows when you make a mental shift to view obstacles as opportunities, your brain suddenly feels re-energized. You’ll be more apt to scan your environment, looking for insights that might be useful.