July 23, 2014

Weekly Book Scan

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Updated: 28 min 27 sec ago

Time to Go to War on Your Mind

Fri, 07/18/2014 - 13:39

The number one reason why salespeople exit the business and seek more stability in salaried work is the fear of rejection from potential clients. Simply put: They are afraid to pick up the phone, go visit potential prospects, or ask for the business.

In Steven Pressfield’s book, War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles, he brilliantly captures the essence of what prevents people from doing what they need to do in order to be successful.

Pressfield is primarily a fiction writer, but this non-fiction business book expertly examines the roadblocks that occur between your two ears. He says that resistance can’t be seen, but it can be felt.  It is the enemy inside of ourselves that has no conscious, is always lying, and cannot be reasoned with. Yet it is a force of nature that needs to be reckoned with.

Procrastination is the easiest symptom of resistance to recognize because it becomes a habit. Anything that draws gratification can create resistance. This can include self-dramatization (making things seem bigger than they actually are), sex (better to feel loved than to do work that is hard), self medication (drinking and doing drugs to inhibit personal dissatisfaction), and victimhood (a form of passive-aggressive behavior).

Sound familiar? Well, then it’s time to create a revolution inside your head and eliminate the self-talk that can prevent you from getting in front of buyers and sellers. Try these tactics to go to war on your mind:

  • Don’t talk about doing the work; do the work.
  • Accept no excuses.
  • Do not tolerate disorder.
  • Respect resistance for what it is, then eliminate it.
  • Don’t hesitate to ask for help.
  • Do not take success, rejection, humiliation, or failure personally.
  • Do not enlist criticism.
  • Recognize your limitations.
  • Stop taking workshops if you’re not implementing anything you’ve learned.

There is a difference between a hobbyist and a professional. The hobbyist only goes to work when it is convenient, only looks forward to the fun parts of work, and doesn’t care if they are compensated or not. The professional shows up for work every day regardless of how well they feel, how much there is to do, or how much fun they are having.

So be a professional and go to work on your mind. Make a habit out of doing what you don’t like doing. Resistance may be the enemy, but the only thing that is holding you back is you.

You’re Not a Virtual Cupcake. Celebrate It.

Mon, 07/14/2014 - 12:00

This past weekend, my home city celebrated the first Chicago Independent Bookstore Day. A handful of stores hosted author talks, offered discounts and gourmet cupcakes, and each featured a limited quantity of passes to access a special promotional product that could only be obtained at the physical stores.

Basically, the event was an attempt to mimic the runaway success that many independent record stores have had over the past few years with Record Store Day. The commonality behind these two efforts is the push to rescue the purchase process from a strictly online world, and help consumers truly connect with books and music in a physical way that’s not possible on Amazon or iTunes. Participating bookstore owner Linda Bubon explained this facet of the event in a recent interview in New City:

“We have a common, clearly stated enemy in Amazon. Amazon makes it absolutely clear they will completely dominate the entire book industry. Get rid of bookstores, publishers, editors and book designers. Just Amazon and the author. If we don’t fight back, we’re just going to lose a huge, cultural richness in bookstores—places people gather, where readers meet writers, where book clubs meet.”

Sound familiar? Just like Amazon and iTunes, I think it’s safe to say that third-party real estate websites have to potential to take the real-world connections out of the real estate process. But only if we let them.

Yes, Chicago Independent Bookstore Day made me think of the efforts of real estate professionals to explain that the home search process might begin with an online search portal, but it’s an involved process that also needs to take place in the physical world. It made me wonder: How could real estate professionals organize events to bring buyers and sellers out from behind their computers? I think NAR’s new ad campaign definitely speaks to the issue. What can real estate professionals do to bring this idea “home” to their local community? I’m imagining historic house tours, talks from expert stagers and loan officers, giveaways of Not-For-Tourists guides and local business gift certificates…

Oh, and cupcakes. Plenty of cupcakes.

Perusing the Biz Section

Wed, 07/09/2014 - 09:45

It’s been awhile since we checked in with the business section of the New York Times bestsellers list, so I thought we could peruse the shelves together. The ranking below reflects sales in June 2014.

Credit: Ben Eenhoorn, 2005

  1. CAPITAL IN THE TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY, by Thomas Piketty. (Belknap/Harvard University.) A French economist’s analysis of centuries of economic history predicts worsening inequality and proposes solutions.
  2. THINK LIKE A FREAK, by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner. (Morrow/HarperCollins.) How to solve problems creatively, from the authors of “Freakonomics.”
  3. FLASH BOYS, by Michael Lewis. (Norton.) The world of high-frequency computer-driven trading, from the author of “Liar’s Poker.”
  4. OUTLIERS, by Malcolm Gladwell. (Back Bay/Little, Brown.) Why some people succeed — it has to do with luck and opportunities as well as talent.
  5. LEAN IN, by Sheryl Sandberg with Nell Scovell. (Knopf.) The chief operating officer of Facebook urges women to pursue their careers without ambivalence.
  6. #GIRLBOSS, by Sophia Amoruso. (Portfolio/Penguin.) An online fashion retailer traces her path to success.
  7. THINKING, FAST AND SLOW, by Daniel Kahneman. (Farrar, Straus & Giroux.) The winner of the Nobel in economic science discusses how we make choices in business and personal life.
  8. STRESS TEST, by Timothy F. Geithner. (Crown.) The former Treasury secretary explains the choices he and others made
 during the financial crisis.
  9. POWER OF HABIT, by Charles Duhigg. (Random House.) A Times reporter’s account of the science behind how we form, and break, habits.
  10. THRIVE, by Arianna Huffington. (Harmony.) Personal well-being as the indispensable third measure – with money and power — of success.

But like I always say, just because it’s a bestseller doesn’t mean it’s good. I’d love to hear from you about which of these books deserve a read, and which ones are a pass. Or, if you’re devouring a new book that should be reviewed at the Book Scan, that’s worth a shout-out, too.

Does HUD Belong on BuzzFeed?

Wed, 07/02/2014 - 09:46

Maybe it’s just because I’m a news nerd, but I’ve always really enjoyed media parody. Last month I added a new site to my perennial favorites of The Onion, The Daily Show/Colbert Report power hour, and Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me: ClickHole. It’s a new effort from the folks at The Onion devoted to mocking so called “click-bait” sites like BuzzFeed. Click-bait sites thrive on quizzes and headlines that tap into outrage as much as they do the faux personalization of nostalgia (see: “WTF Is In Your Favorite Fast Food?” vs. “7 Signs You Grew Up In A Boring Town”). They feature very little text, and “articles” are mostly made up of a list or slideshow of gifs and images with snarky captions.

ClickHole, on the flip side, skewers these click-bait sites magnificently, with headlines like, “How Well Do You Know This Quiz?,” “Tips For Crafting A Strong Password That Really Pops,” and “This Video Will Drastically Change The Way Pitbulls Think About You.” Now that I’ve added ClickHole to my Facebook feed, I think I’m seeing more parody on my page than real news. It sounds a little dangerous, but it does have the positive impact of making me question the validity of the often overstated click-bait headlines I do see.

But what happens when real items are posted on BuzzFeed in true earnest? You might chuckle, but that indeed happened this week when HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan posted his own top ten list of “Reasons Why Home Ownership Never Goes Out of Style.” It’s the second example I can think of where this administration went silly with a serious subject (Obama promoting healthcare changes on Between Two Ferns being the first).

On the one hand, this represents an eminently sharable way to reach out to younger consumers who might not listen to these messages if they aren’t couched in gifs and irony. On the other hand, I do feel like BuzzFeed is a little below the lofty goals of the American Dream. I mean, does a gif of Kenny Powers from Eastbound and Down saying “dolla, dolla bills, ya’ll” really convince anyone of the value of home equity? I mean, just look at Donovan’s byline! He’s been demoted from “United States Secretary of Housing and Urban Development” to “BuzzFeed user.”

But heck, I’m just a writer. I would love to hear what you guys, as real estate pros, think about whether or not it helps housing for HUD to use click-bait sites to preach the message of home ownership. Chime in below, and click safely.

I Say Sales, You Say Marketing

Fri, 06/20/2014 - 10:24

This week I chatted with John Jantsch, author of Duct Tape Marketing and The Referral Engine about his brand-new book, Duct Tape Selling: Think Like a Marketer—Sell Like a Superstar (Portfolio Hardcover: 2014). We also talked about specific sales strategies for real estate pros, the melding of marketing and sales, and how the customer experience can be improved with a few simple changes in perspective. Here’s an edited version of our conversation.

From the trailer for Duct Tape Selling.

Who is Duct Tape Selling meant for?

Originally this book was for the individual, independent salesperson. The whole subtitle of “think like a marketer—sell like a superstar,” does expand the audience, but I really started out writing for that person. I wanted to write a book that presents the more complete and personal way to market and sell. But now I’m also getting support from bigger companies and leaders in marketing and networking. I think that’s because this book really covers how to get sales and marketing departments on the same page.

How does it differ for those who have read Duct Tape Marketing?

I get this question a lot. In reality, they go together. Like sales and marketing today, there’s a lot of overlap, and that’s a good thing. These days, sales and marketing teams need to be able to work together. We really have to have that seamless, end-to-end experience between the marketing, sales, and even customer service groups.

It’s funny, because I think real estate has been a little ahead of the curve on combining sales and marketing. For example, the section of REALTOR® Magazine’s website that deals with these types of issues has been called simply “Sales & Marketing” for the longest time.

Yes. Real estate professionals are a little different because even if you are independent agent running your own brokerage, most of what you’re doing is sales, quite frankly. People talk about marketing, but it really is very sales-oriented marketing. That’s why I believe this book has a lot to offer to that individual agent. I’m talking about a very personalized way to go about the sales process.

You suggest a bunch of different ways that readers can become experts and stay up on the latest market news. Can you explain why that’s important?

One of the greatest benefits of social media is the ability it gives you to listen, to get much smarter about your industry and your customers. I talk about this a lot. In fact, chapter one is all about listening! But really, the best thing about this online-powered form of listening is not only how it can make you a real expert on the industry, but also it’s giving you access to the world’s greatest market research at your fingertips. A real estate professional could go type onto Twitter search a couple of simple terms and their location and easily find people who are talking about moving. They could even go outside their location and find people who are planning on moving to the area. And that may be somebody you might want to reach out to.

In fact, in the book I give an example of a real estate agent who relocated to a new community with his spouse’s company from another country. He started blogging and getting out there on social media, targeting people who were talking about moving into his new community. That kind of marketing meant he ended up being the number one salesperson in just three years. What he was doing was tuning in to people whom he could really help, and they were an audience nobody else was calling on.

What is a ‘talking logo’ and how can it help with branding?

People really need to think about personal branding in more than just a visual way. I came up with the term “talking logo” to illustrate a very concise and hopefully intriguing comment people can make about their work. So, let’s use the example I was just talking about, with the guy that relocated to this country. Instead of saying, “I’m a real estate agent,” he could say something like, “I take all the pain and mystery out of moving to a new community.” It becomes your go-to when people want to know about you. And much like a logo, it identifies what you stand for. It also sums up how what you do is different from others or it helps sum up the value you bring to the table.

Most people think of social media as free marketing, so I was wondering if you could explain why a person might want to invest actual money in it, as you suggest in the book.

On some of these networks, you get a lot better tools and access when you pay a little extra. So let’s say that you find that LinkedIn is a place where you’re able to connect with potential customers, and it’s already helping your business. With a paid account, you have the ability to reach out without having to be directly connected to a person. You can also conduct saved searches, so if you search for potential leads and you come back with 400-some hits, you can reach out to a few right away and then save that search to come back to later.

Most of these networks started out not even thinking about how they could make money. They’ve all gone back and said, “Now that we have 6 billion users, how can we add value and charge for it?” But that’s the key: You have to already be getting something from these networks to help your business. If you’re getting value out of engaging people via LinkedIn, it makes sense to make that extra step. Or if you are producing content that’s already doing fairly well at engaging people on Facebook, buying ads on Facebook that promotes that content makes sense for your marketing plan. Where these paid tools work is you first figure out how to get value out of the product for free. After you figure out that it works, it makes sense to invest in it.

Could you explain the “sales hourglass” that you talk about in this book?

It’s really just how you map out the customer journey. I’ve drawn out the three groups who tend to handle the customer experience [sales, marketing, and customer service], and broke the stages they go through into seven pieces. Know, Like, and Trust are traditionally marketing responsibilities, where Try and Buy are part of the sales experience. At the end, you have Repeat and Refer, which generally fall under the customer service category. For this book, I really blew up that middle piece of Try and Buy. But really, all seven of these are part of the experience, so smart salespeople are reaching out earlier in that customer journey.

Real estate agents know that house hunters don’t necessarily just drive down the street, see a sign and call up the person and say, “I want you to be my agent.” They go online, they do research and see who’s talking about the real estate professionals online. A lot of times we don’t get a chance to even make our pitch because the consumer has already created that short list of two or three people they think they want to work with before we ever get a chance. So the key is to start thinking about how you can inject yourself before they’re ready to buy. Get on their radar, build trust, share valuable information with them.

Another big part of this process is changing the way you see it. A lot of times, salespeople make the mistake of telling their clients, “The approach we’re going to take is…” when they should be letting the customer drive that. A much healthier approach is to think about it as collaborative experience, designing a solution together.

Finally, content is a huge part of what drives the stages of the hourglass. Think about content you can offer, whether that would be a free homeowner’s workshop or tips on how to winterize your house. By distributing that kind of thing, customers come to like you and trust you. The bottom line is that real estate agents have to get into producing content. I don’t think there’s any other way around it. But it’s also about being social and curating content people want access to. Instead of just thinking about getting the most followers, you need to have a very intentional strategy of creating content and engaging people around it. Those two elements —as well as building yourself as an industry expert—are the biggest things real estate professionals can do from a marketing standpoint.

The Mythical 5-Day Work Week

Fri, 06/13/2014 - 09:18

It’s Friday, so I thought I’d share the best thing about Mark Satterfield’s yet-to-be-released book The One Week Marketing Plan (BenBella Books; August 5, 2014):

Thanks to Dishevelled Chic for encapsulating this excellent Downton Abbey moment.

You get the weekend off!

Of course—knowing you guys—you’ll just use that “free” weekend to hold open houses, give home tours, or create listing presentations. Such is the life of a real estate pro. But Satterfield promises that if you follow his plan Monday through Friday, your pipeline will be full enough to keep you busy Saturdays and Sundays. And let’s be honest: That’s how you like it.

In a nutshell: The book runs you through one major task each day that, if completed correctly, is supposed to generate leads all year long. I liked many aspects of this book (not specifically for real estate pros, but he does mention the industry a lot in examples and anecdotes), though there were parts that could’ve been better. Here’s a quick walk-through of what I thought of each “day” of Satterfield’s five-day week:

Day One

The first task is finding your niche, though the author is clear that this needn’t be your only source of business. Just a focus for this particular marketing campaign. Satterfield has all kinds of good advice for choosing a niche, and surprising insights into why niches do or do not work in the long run. Once you’ve selected your niche, he suggests something so simple, yet brilliant: Google it. Find out who else is serving this market and subscribe to their newsletters.

Day Two

This is where you nail down the content you’re going to offer for free in order to build your contact list, and where Satterfield’s fill-in-the-blank templates come out to play. This DIY factor also allows the book to appeal across industries. After reading through the templates for describing one’s ideal clients and the building blocks of a great offer title, I was almost ready to jump in myself!

Day Three and Five

These chapters are somewhat technical, as they explain how to create a website and pay for online ads intelligently. He speaks in layman’s terms, offering a good primer for those who haven’t dived into this before, without being too basic for the more advanced readers.

Day Four

This is where the fill-in-the-blank thing kind of fell flat for me. Satterfield offers up seven e-mail templates readers are told to copy and customize. Reading through the suggested copy, it sounded like the type of e-mail (and contact frequency) I would either never open or would unsubscribe from immediately. Just like anyone else, there are good and bad ways to get me interested in subscribing to marketing e-mails, and you might be able to write those yourself. I just wouldn’t lean on Satterfield’s e-mail templates too heavily.

Part II

The second half of the book is presumably meant to fill up the rest of your month. Satterfield offers some insightful marketing “boosts” via social media, direct mail, publicity, and more. I was surprised by his detailed video tips, and I think everyone should read his section on how to write a press release.

Overall, this book is a good choice for a methodical rookie looking to build a client base quickly, or someone who is ready to dive into a new niche. But for now, just enjoy your “weekend.”

Selling on Your Toes

Thu, 05/29/2014 - 08:59

Today’s home buyers are smarter than they ever have been. They have access to more data online, more opinions from multiple perspectives, and more technology to make decisions about where they want to live. Home sellers too are equipped with the same information and question if it is worth selling on their own or contacting a qualified real estate professional.

The challenge for real estate professionals today is being quicker than the consumer. You must retrieve the data and explain it in a way that makes sense, in order for customers to make important decisions.

Jill Konrath’s newest book, Agile Selling (Portfolio Hardcover, 2014), provides you with a process that will help you be more flexible, more prepared, and more diligent than the competition. The book, which is being released today, is aptly titled. The word “agile” means to be able to move quickly and easily. Now, agility may not be the first asset that comes to mind in the sometimes slow process of selling a home. But let’s face it: If you are faster to help customers make wiser decisions, then future referrals and sales come much easier.

Here are a few tips Konrath recommends to help you increase your selling agility:

  • Master learning agility. This is the ability to absorb new ideas and transfer them into action.
  • Create cheat sheets. Use these tools to quickly recall the trigger points for each customer type and to remind yourself how to communicate with each personality.
  • Reverse engineer. Work backwards from what the customer wants and create your process around it.
  • Take the Gobbledygook test. Examine the way you communicate and remove abstract industry jargon and concepts that confuse customers.
  • Purge the pipeline. Be honest about the prospects who are never going to buy, and remove them from your list.

One thing is certain: You won’t want to breeze quickly through this book and put it on the shelf with the rest.  Be prepared to mark it up with a highlighter, dog-ear important pages, and take action on each concept. As a result, you will be able to sell more homes, increase your margins, and become more confident in your customer service.