Weekly Book Scan
Have you ever wondered why one month’s sales are slow, and the next is crazy busy? Or maybe you feel like you’ve hit a ceiling on income potential and you’re looking for precise ways to accelerate the growth of your business.
Well, I’ve experienced both ceilings and cycles firsthand and let me tell you this: Without a implementing a consistent, methodological, and precise sales strategy, you cannot scale your business.
But if you’re ready for a new strategy, Colleen Francis’ new book—Nonstop Sales Boom: Powerful Strategies to Drive Consistent Growth Year After Year—is one you will mark-up, dog-ear, and highlight the heck out of. Her thought leadership in professional selling today comes through so brilliantly in it that I ordered ten copies! Francis delivers practical advice in this book, but it also rivals some of the most challenging, problem-solving, and evergreen books in my collection.
The book—which is officially being released tomorrow—is loaded with assessment tools for self-analysis, visuals to stimulate thinking, and checklists to ensure every part of the process can hum like an engine. I can flip to any chapter at any time during the course of a year and ask myself the same questions, but I’ll get a different set of answers based on this carefully outlined process.
Ready to try it for yourself? I recommend you add these three vital definitions that I took away from this book to your sales vocabulary.
Sales radar: Like a sniper aims at the center of a target, a sales professional needs to know how to focus on the bull’s-eye. Each of the four areas of attraction, participation, leverage, and growth have quantifiable metrics so that can tell you how far off you are from the center, where you’ll find that elusive “nonstop sales” from the title of this book.
Sales leader classification model: Essentially, this is the idea that you should break up your time according to what type of customer you’re courting. In order to create a nonstop sales cycle, Francis suggests spending 25 percent of your time on maintenance and service accounts. The other 75 percent of your time should be spent on two types of accounts: high-potential, high-engagement key accounts or high-potential, low-engagement growth accounts.
VORTEX framework: In this case, “vortex” stands for variety, occurrence, reliability, truth, engagement, and excellence. Different sales tactics can be prioritized according to the accounts that need the most focus. Tactics include sending an electronic newsletter, scheduling peer-to-peer meetings, and offering free training.
What are you doing strategically to position your business in front of high-potential, high-engagement clients? What are some of the most productive tactics that have helped you create a system of leads and referrals?
Dallas Hancock, CEO of the Peoria Area Association of REALTORS®, only needed to see the table of contents of Game Changers—The Unfounded Fears and Future Prosperity of the Residential Real Estate Industry to know that it was something her board could really dig into. Authors Steve Murray, Lorne Wallace, and Lon Welsh (in partnership with REAL Trends) used extensive research to tackle the many issues facing the real estate industry today, from agent ratings to MLS consolidation to third-party listing portals. Hancock ordered a copy for each of the 15 directors and officers on her board, and the book became a jumping-off point for their discussions about the future of their board and real estate in general. I recently spoke with Hancock about the ongoing discussions the book has helped to foster and why real estate professionals across the country should consider cracking open their own copy.
What initially grabbed you when you looked at the topics in this book?
I looked at the table of contents and I said, “These are key issues that we need to be discussing and are discussing to some degree already.” We have been taking on one chapter each board meeting. We open each one of our board meetings with industry issues. So I ask members to read it prior to the meeting and then we considered the reading as part of that opening discussion dialogue.
Have you been following the book in chronological order?
We started with chapter eight, which is on listing portals locking up the consumer relationship. We actually had something on our agenda that month where we were considering the issue, and I figured that information could assist people in their thinking.
Now they have the book in their hands and we’re going to be encouraging them to read further ahead. We will still use a chapter in each board meeting to discuss, because that interaction and exchange of information it is very valuable. But we want them to try to read ahead because I have scheduled a webinar with Steve Murray in September to talk about the book. Again, I think the interaction and discussion is important, but I want them to hear from the author.
One of the things that intrigued me about this book is all of these topics are things that we’re talking about locally, state-wide, and nationally. But it also is not overly dramatic. Not all of these issues are five-alarm fires. Each of the chapters lists the title and then the probability of whether or not it will happen like that, as well as the potential impact on the industry.
What is one issue that resonated particularly intensely with your board?
The issue of agent ratings is one of those. We were one of the associations selected about five years ago by NAR to look at the development of an agent rating program in our area. It’s been really hard to get off the ground. And so looking at that chapter brought that issue back to the forefront. In this book, the idea of ratings and reviews entering our business strategy is listed as a high probability, with a moderate impact. A lot of the resistance was fear of the unknown. But this book is showing that many real estate professionals are scared of something that probably won’t have as big of an impact on them as they think. So hopefully this chapter is going to help push an initiative that we believe is important.
Some of this stuff is not new but it helps. You’ve got the officers and myself who are attending lots of great programs by NAR and in our states so we’re hearing a lot of these things. But for the directors who are not going to all of these meetings, they don’t hear as much. This book provides the data in black and white. It’s not just someone’s opinion. The authors did surveys and market research.
You also mentioned that some of your staff has been reading along. What kind of impact has it had on your association from a strategic mission standpoint?
It’s a good way for staff to understand where the industry that they’re working for is going. It helps them when we’re considering programs, products, and services. And it’s not just me trying to explain to them where the industry is going. It’s not just, “Dallas said this is what’s happening.” They’re reading and learning about this through these publications so they have more informed input. They can discuss it; they can debate whether or not it will affect our market. They like being a part of the process and having an opinion based on what we’re reading here.
At the very least, when something comes out of the board of directors, they are on the same page. The understand why the board wants to try this agent rating thing again, for example. One of the chapters has to do with the competition and the gross margins and it talks about brokers’ profitability. That helps staff understand why brokers might get upset if we are rolling out a program that is in some way competing with them. There’s better buy in when they understand firsthand from our discussions. Finally, it’s just a little more interesting to talk about some of these big picture things than it is to talk about what meetings are on the agenda for the week.
What do you think the average salesperson or small broker might get out of reading this book?
I think it would be a tremendous value to them. I have a couple of copies in our REALTOR® store, but I will probably do more promotions on it and encouraging broker-owners to read the book. I think it’s really important for them because it’s not an alarmist viewpoint but it does give you a lot of really good facts and there are a lot of interviews with industry leaders. Small brokers can better see what they’re needing to do to survive and what they need to be doing regarding accountability to their agents. All of these things are important whether you’re a large broker or a small broker. It’s also so affordable that they cannot afford to not at least take a look at this book.
One of the stumbling blocks right now with some of the members is fear. It’s fear of the unknown, fear of change. Nobody likes change. If the leaders of our organizations are more informed about some of these things then maybe they won’t fear the future quite so much. They will be able to embrace what’s coming. And some of it is very positive—you know, not all change is negative! It’s all about being prepared for it. Maybe some of the people who are resisting wouldn’t resist so much if they understood better what the impact of change might be.
As a card-carrying member of the Millennial Generation (those of us born sometime after the early 1980s), I can attest that my peers and I are something of a different animal when it comes to real estate. We prefer to rent, not buy, and we’re looking for places in urban areas with easy access to everything from our jobs to the movie theater. And once we find a place we like, we want our landlords to be friendly, understanding, and responsive — not sleazy!
A new e-book from Renters Warehouse identifies a few easy things that landlords can do to convince Generation Y that their property is the best option. Here are some of the best tips:
Emphasize the location. That’s not a tip that’s specific to Millennials, but it’s important to point out to potential renters that a property is close to certain amenities, like the grocery store, the bank, and public transportation. Many Millennials don’t have access to cars, and will need to walk, bike, or take the bus. No one wants to sit on the subway for an hour to get to the pharmacy!
Make a great first impression. Millennials — especially those of us who are fresh out of bad experiences with slumlords in college towns — want to feel confident about their new landlords. Make sure the property has clean floors and fresh paint, and spruce up the exterior if there’s any maintenance to be done. Outfitting the property with large windows, stainless steel appliances, and ample closet space is a plus, too. Connect potential renters with current renters who can provide stellar references for you.
Stay connected. Once you’ve found your renters, maintain a good relationship with them! Make sure you’re easily reachable via email or phone, respond quickly to maintenance requests, and follow through with any promises you may have made (I’m really feeling this one! Still waiting for the in-unit washer and dryer that was mentioned to me before I signed my lease 10 months ago).
Had any experience working with Millennials? Got any additional tips?
Have you ever been told before that “you HAVE to be on Twitter” because of how much business you will are missing out on? Well watch out, because you’re probably listening to some self-proclaimed guru that assumes this social media silver bullet will be the answer to all of your problems.
In Corey Perlman’s book, Social Media Overload: Simple Social Media Strategies for Overwhelmed and Deprived Businesses (Garnet Group Publishing, 2014), he says you don’t have to be on every social media site. In fact, he says the fewer platforms that you spend your time concentrating on, the bigger your potential return will be.
If you aren’t sure where to begin or which social media sites to prioritize, you should take a look at Perlman’s book. It’s one of the few that actually makes this complex question simpler.
Some of my main takeaways were:
- Make sure your website is solid before you invest time in social media and ensure it’s specifically designed for lead conversion.
- Even if you’re not on the Google+ as a social media user, you can still create a Google+ local business page to increase your visibility.
- Post value-added, concise content with a catchy title relevant to your audience. And don’t forget an engaging picture!
- Blogging can help you become a thought leader in your market.
- Make your message about your customers, not about your business offerings.
- Don’t aggressively sell with social media or you will lose trust.
So now that I’ve got you focused, tell me: If you could use only one social media channel to promote your business, which would you choose and why?
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.
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.
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.
- 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.
- THINK LIKE A FREAK, by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner. (Morrow/HarperCollins.) How to solve problems creatively, from the authors of “Freakonomics.”
- FLASH BOYS, by Michael Lewis. (Norton.) The world of high-frequency computer-driven trading, from the author of “Liar’s Poker.”
- OUTLIERS, by Malcolm Gladwell. (Back Bay/Little, Brown.) Why some people succeed — it has to do with luck and opportunities as well as talent.
- LEAN IN, by Sheryl Sandberg with Nell Scovell. (Knopf.) The chief operating officer of Facebook urges women to pursue their careers without ambivalence.
- #GIRLBOSS, by Sophia Amoruso. (Portfolio/Penguin.) An online fashion retailer traces her path to success.
- 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.
- STRESS TEST, by Timothy F. Geithner. (Crown.) The former Treasury secretary explains the choices he and others made during the financial crisis.
- POWER OF HABIT, by Charles Duhigg. (Random House.) A Times reporter’s account of the science behind how we form, and break, habits.
- 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.
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.
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.
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.