You’re sitting at your new desk in your new suit fresh out of college. You’re speechless, and not in a good way. You just got off the phone with a now-former-potential-customer, and the sales call went horribly. You feel belittled, unconfident and a little pissed off. In the midst of refraining from flipping your desk out of frustration, these thoughts pop in your head:
“Can I do this? Is this possible? Can I sell this product, service or idea? Am I capable of producing results? Is anyone?”
Don’t worry, you’re not alone.
These are all questions I asked myself from the middle of January until the middle of February, which marked the beginning of a sales role unique to any of my past experiences. Thankfully, you can rest easy knowing the single answer to all of these questions is simple: yes, you can – here’s how:
Below is the story of how I went from knowing nothing about real estate to acquiring my first property in the competitive Southern California market. This acquisition marked the accomplishment of what I once thought was impossible, and I learned three universal lessons along the way. I challenge you to apply these in your sales role to crush your competition and blow the roof off of what you think is your maximum potential.
Lesson 1: Be Human
For context, I work with a team to buy homes in San Diego. Once we buy the home, our team pours value into it via upgrades and sells it back on the open market. Sounds easy enough, right? Wrong. The San Diego buy-and-sell real estate market is a shark tank. Unethical investors often take advantage of sellers by making promises they cannot keep, ultimately forcing the seller into a detrimental position.
I’m not one of these investors, and neither are the members of our team. Unfortunately, when I first began calling on properties, I labeled myself as one of these investors from the second the conversation started (i.e.: “Hey Joe, this is Austin with Growth Partner Capital. We fix-and-flip homes!”). I was hung up on more times than I can count, or the call was awkward due to an uncooperative listing agent not wanting to talk with “another investor.” I had to change my strategy, so I decided to start acting human.
I now position myself as an eager buyer whose interested in speaking about the property to learn more about it. Funny enough, this is the truth. From the listing agent’s perspective, I’m no longer a robot with ABC Company reading from a script that sounds like every other investor call he receives. I separate myself from the other San Diego investors by being a human being named Austin whose real excited to chat about this property on 123 You’re Awesome Lane.
Regardless of if you’re calling on real estate agents, CEOs, or the end consumer, what’s the one thing every sales training program has in common?
As you can see from my experience above, building rapport is not accomplished by positioning yourself in the same way as everyone else. In Rintu Basu’s Persuasion Skills Black Book, we learn the best way for building rapport is to assume you have it already. How do we do this? Here’s an example from when I was cold calling insurance agents selling them lead generation software:
- Strategy A: “Hey Joe, this is Austin with the [Insurance Leads Store], how’s it going today?” Hangs up.
- Strategy B: “Hey Joe, how are you? Bob told me to give you a call sometime today. Have a couple minutes to chat?” Yeah, what’s this about? (In this example, Bob is Joe’s marketing manager. You can find anything on the internet, use it.)
Strategy B was more effective because I approached each call as a human being; not as a robot. People can sniff out bullshit, and nothing says bullshit more than a scripted, dull, and unoriginal opening line. Think about the last time you got one of these ineffective calls. Did you care what this person had to say? No. Would you care if you could relate to the person? Probably. How can YOU convey this? Answer: by assuming rapport already exists because this approach triggers feelings of friendliness and familiarity from the other person (see Rintu Basu’s Persuasion Skills Black Book).
Key takeaway: Separate yourself from your competitors by taking a genuinely human approach.
Lesson 2: Forget “Nice”
Every single home I submit an offer on, chances are there are upwards to five other investor offers as well. Some of these offers will be higher in price, some the same, some lower. When I stopped caring about being “nice,” price became irrelevant, and I became perceived as the best and most serious buyer. Here’s what I mean:
For this specific property, I knew the seller was going to make a decision on Wednesday morning. On Tuesday evening, I called the listing agent to ensure she had everything she needed for the seller review. I called again on Wednesday at 8am and left a voicemail. I called again at 10am and caught the agent right before the review. Again, I asked to make sure she had everything she needed from me. Redundant? Maybe. Meaningful? Yes.
Most people would argue that much follow up is overkill. However, this ridiculous amount of follow up is what pushed my offer through and helped position our company as the most serious buyer in the mix. If I had been “nice” throughout the process, I probably would have settled with only checking in on Tuesday evening and not wanting to “bother” or “pester” the listing agent on Wednesday. If I had done this, my offer would have been just “another investor offer” and would not have been accepted.
Let’s imagine a scenario in which you’re competing with your direct competitor for a new account. For the sake of example, we’ll assume your and your competitor’s offering is similar in regards to function, price, guarantees, etc. At this point, the client’s decision-making criteria are balanced and the deciding factor is now completely subjective: which person does the account want to do business with? You, or your competitor’s counterpart of you?
Now ask yourself the following question: Do I want to do business with someone who I know cares about my success, or someone who I’m not sure cares about my success? If you’re a rational human being, you’re choosing the former every time. By relentlessly following up with a potential new customer, account, client, etc. throughout the course of the pre-sale cycle, you accomplish three things:
- Demonstrate a commitment to forming a relationship with the customer.
- Build trust through reliability.
- Convey that you’re eager to work with the customer to get the deal done.
These three outcomes of relentless follow up all contribute to the bottom line of creating the perception that you care about the customer’s success. According to Grant Cardone’s 10X Rule, the key to ramping up the effectiveness of your follow up is to be unreasonable. You differentiate yourself from your competitor and win the business by following up past the point of what you believe are socially or professionally acceptable norms.
Key takeaway: Relentless follow up is how you differentiate yourself from and beat out your competitors when the deal is highly competitive.
Lesson 3: Doing Over Thinking
As I learned more about the investing game, I realized the sneaky tricks other investors used to get deals under contract. These guys will offer really high, past the point of what makes financial sense, and the seller will accept the offer. At the end of the buyer’s inspection period (which could be weeks), these unethical investors ask for reductions down to a much lower price.
This isn’t a strategy my team employs. Consequently, our offers are typically on the lower end. We’re honest in our approach and close the deal at the price we say initially offer at. This is where I have to use my sales and persuasion skills. I have to help the listing agent realize the value in doing business with me. I have to sell them on a lower offer.
Being only 21 in what seems to be an industry filled with old millennials and baby boomers, I initially developed a fear of being labeled as incompetent due to my age. At first, the thought of having these conversations literally made me shake. In the beginning, my voice trembled, my palms sweaty, my confidence low.
The only way I was able to improve my ability to do these calls was to start dialing before I had time to think about all of the ways I could screw up. I had to stop thinking. I had to just do.
You’re in a sales role. Depending on your personality and confidence level, you will need to have conversations that may make you uneasy. The best thing you can do for yourself is to become comfortable having these conversations. To help you with this, consider these two quotes:
“A person’s success in life can usually be measured by the number of uncomfortable conversations he or she is willing to have.” – Timothy Ferriss
Let this serve as reassurance. These conversations you need to have (these conversations will be different based the person’s role, but I’m willing to bet you know which ones I’m talking about) are direct stepping stones to where you want to go. Use them. Love them. Have them.
“I refuse to feed my fear with time and allow it to get stronger.” – Grant Cardone
Think about this: For every second you spend delaying taking action because you’re anxious, nervous, or fearful of the experience or outcome are more chances to think of all the different ways you could screw up. Delaying taking action is the most effective way to destroy your confidence and self-sabotage your chances of success.
Key takeaway: The uncomfortable conversations are the most important ones – learn to love them.
To recap, here are the three takeaways:
- Separate yourself from your competitors by taking a genuinely human approach.
- Relentless follow up is how you differentiate yourself from and beat out your competitors when the deal is highly competitive.
- The uncomfortable conversations are the most important ones – learn to love them.
Here are the two resources that helped me along the way:
Life is too short to not go for it. Besides, there are only two outcomes when you’re selling: you get the deal, or you don’t. Why not do everything you can to make it happen?
This article also appears on austinmdean.com and is published here with the permission of the author
Photo credit: flickr