Salesmanship is NOT a dirty word!

 Posted by at 6:43 am
Nov 282011

For a long time now I’ve been “preaching” to those who will listen–“It’s high time for those of us in the real estate industry to realize we are not in the business of selling houses; we are in the business of helping people make intelligent decisions regarding real estate.” I would call your attention to the fact that I said “selling houses.” I didn’t say “We are not in the business of selling.”

Some years ago I wrote a short booklet called Salesmanship Is Not a Dirty Word. I can assure you that I’m not “anti-sales.” I happen to think that selling is an important skill–even if we have to call it something else to make it palatable. 

So this morning I read an article on RIS called Warning: Your Sales Techniques May be Under Fire. It’s actually a pretty good piece. The author notes that while brokers have traditionally been “selling information” (because of the historical emphasis on the multiple listing system) things have changed. Buyers now have all that information available to them thanks to the Internet. (I wonder how that information gets there… hmmm.)

Therefore, he somewhat rightly concludes, buyers of real estate are looking for someone to “assist and consult.” But, like all good ideas, when you push this to the extreme it doesn’t work. “No dialog, technique, or pitch needed,” he goes on to say.  That’s where the author lost me.

 This is the age-old debate–it’s not a new one based on some new paradigm. Every industry has always had salespeople who put their personal gain before their customer’s. Real estate is no different. Well, except for one thing, maybe.

If you hire me (or somebody else) to “assist and consult” with you… wait. How are you going to decide to hire me? Will you draw my name out of a hat? Should we develop software that is a random broker generator to pick your broker for you? (Banks are doing that with appraisers these days–interesting back story there.)  No, I think we’re probably going to have some dialog and while we may not like calling it that, I’m going to “sell” you on the value of hiring me.

Let’s assume, however, that somehow you do manage to hire me without any influence on my part. So if we assume I’m not supposed to use sales techniques, let’s consider what that means. If you’re a buyer and you decide to make an offer on a home I’ll just submit the offer and we’ll see where the chips fall? Or maybe you are about to make a truly “bad” decision… you don’t want me to try to talk you out of it, right?

See, when we write articles like this we can afford to be conceptual and puristic. When we’re out in the trenches we have to deal with reality.

If you’re entering the real estate market as either a buyer or a seller I think you absolutely need a broker who knows how to sell and is pretty darn good at it. Remember, it’s about perspective. He or she is supposed to be using that skill on your behalf–not on you for his or her own gain.

Unfortunately, the information aspect of this business makes it very easy to end up working with a broker without much thought. You call a number on a sign because the house looks interesting. You don’t think about selecting your broker. You’re leaving that to chance. Wouldn’t it make sense to find out what that broker’s perspective is?

I often tell students that they’ll make their biggest mistakes in the business when they are broke. Why? Because it’s about perspective. It becomes very easy to put the transaction (sale) ahead of the client when you can’t make your mortgage payment.  Just like in dating; desperation isn’t pretty. Don’t hire a desperate broker.

Customers and clients really do need a sensitivity to this–is your broker truly working in your best interest? Extreme cases are relatively easy to spot because you feel “pressured.” 

There are two questions you should be asking yourself constantly:

  1. Do I feel like I am making my own decisions with all the information and options available to me?
  2. Do I feel like my broker is my partner-working with me?

If the answer to either question is not a resounding “yes,” it’s time to reassess your relationship.


Nov 222011

I can write headlines with the best of them! I admit I thought about making this headline Piscataquis County Real Estate Sales ACTUALLY Increase. Regular readers will know that I rarely let a statistical headline go unchallenged–including my own.

The latest press release from the Maine Association of Realtors tells us that for the month of October, unit sales are up 6.78% over last year. That’s good news. That ever-so-spongy number called “median price” is down for the same period, but not much (.90% from $166,500 to $165,000). That’s also good news. While one month does not a trend make, it would appear that prices MIGHT be stabilizing a bit.

In my “home” market of Piscataquis County the news for the “rolling” quarter (August, September, and October) is good. Unit sales are up 14%. However the media price continues to be down–dropping 6.1% to $77,000.  Remember, that median selling price means half of the homes sold for less that $77,000 and half sold for more than $77,000.

Since I’m capable of creative statistics, I will usually take the number of units sold times the median sales price–admittedly an interesting but not statistically valid approach. Doing so, suggests that dollar sales in Piscataquis County also increased approximately 7%.

My non-scientific sense is that things have, in fact, “picked up” a little. But I wouldn’t get too excited.


Source of data: Maine Real Estate Information System, Inc. Note: MREIS, a subsidiary of the Maine Association of REALTORS, is a statewide Multiple Listing Service with over 4,600 licensees inputting active and sold property listing data. Statistics reflect properties reported as sold in the System within the time periods indicated.