This past weekend I was one of 8 invited speakers at the annual conference of one of Australia's largest real estate sales companies.
The theme of the conference was gaining a sales edge in the marketplace by being better trained than the competition.
When I arrived at the lobby of the main conference room Sunday morning, all of the 200 real estate agents were congregated together waiting to enter the main hall to hear the first speaker.
As I looked around the lobby observing everyone, I had the feeling that there was an air of "establishment" among some of them -- meaning, they were successful at the way they were doing things -- and I began to wonder just how open they would be to my Unlock The Game Mindset, which means shifting the focus of the sales process away from "making the sale" to "diffusing pressure" so the sale happens naturally.
There are certain industries that are more entrenched in the old ways of selling than others, but I figured if I could make a dent in the minds of those 200 agents, I'd be making a real contribution -- not just to them, but to their prospective clients too.
Well, we soon entered the main hall to find our seats. (I was slotted in to speak after lunch as the 4th speaker.)
The first speaker, who apparently was a well-established real estate trainer, spoke about how to essentially "box" a prospect into a situation where they would have to say "yes."
In fact, he even showed video clips of himself in mock training scenarios where he sat in a couple’s kitchen and attempted to get them to agree to hire him as their listing agent.
What was interesting was that he was teaching the same tactics that all of us have been exposed to by the traditional sales gurus:
- Use a linear script
- Avoid 2-way dialogue until after you've finished your one-way
- Use every key point in the presentation to get the prospect to say
- Overcome every objection by selling them on why you’re the best
He never mentioned how the other person might be feeling during this process -- probably because traditional selling doesn't take that into account (old-school selling is only about one thing...closing the sale, no matter what).
"Painful" I thought as I listened. But all around me I could see many of the attendees nodding their heads in agreement as if to say, "Yes, that's how selling is supposed to be."
Interestingly, at one point in the video clip, the husband, sitting across the kitchen table from the agent (presenter), almost shouted in frustration, "This is b.s.! We’re not comfortable with what’s happening here."
I could feel my blood starting to boil when the speaker just dismissed that outburst in a laughing manner.
I began taking notes so I could address the major issues that he was completely missing -- like taking the pressure out of the process and treating people with respect instead of like sitting ducks.
During the lunch break, I went back up to my hotel room to think about how direct I should be with the audience during my talk.
- Would they believe there is a more humane way of selling while still
making their sales goals?
- Would they be open minded enough to accept a shift in mindset?
- Would the event coordinators who hired me be upset if I told the
I decided that I had an obligation not to hold back, because I knew that if I could get to a least a sizable group of the audience to see selling in a different way, then I would have made a signficant contribution to their long term success.
As I headed back down to the main hall and waited at the back of the room to be introduced and called to the stage, I started to feel butterflies in my stomach (I'm sure you know the feeling). But I kept reminding myself to stay focused and do what I do best, which is to help people change their current thinking so they can achieve a more balanced and successful sales life.
When I was called to the stage, I began by saying, "Today isn’t a presentation, but a conversation that should give you a different perspective on how you view selling."
I began by talking about what I call the "Trust Factor," which is the level of trust that a person has toward a certain industry. And I talked about the surveys I’ve seen here in Australia and the U.S. that say that when it comes to consumer trust, real estate agents rank almost at the bottom -- second only to used car salespeople.
Virtually everyone in the audience agreed with the negative salesperson stereotype their industry was associated with, but you could see they had absolutely no idea of how to deal with it.
So then I described the three basic principles of the Unlock The Game Mindset:
1. Diffuse pressure
2. Get to the truth
3. Be a problem solver (not a "pitch" person)
When I started offering specific languaging examples directly from the Unlock The Game Program (like instead of using the word "follow-up" which contains sales pressure, use "calling for feedback" instead) I could see I was starting to make a dent in their thinking, because people all over the room were taking furious notes.
Then I decided to turn up the heat by directly countering the first speaker and his sales scenario of trying to force prospects into saying "yes", without empathizing with how they were feeling or what they were thinking.
"Pressuring people and pulling them through a linear sales process is EXACTLY what keeps real estate sales people on the lowest rungs of the ‘Trust Factor,’" I said.
As I scanned the audience, I could see that the younger agents seemed to be getting it -- that traditional selling tactics were the real cause of the negative "salesperson" perceptions.
But some of the older managers were obviously having trouble with this idea. "What?" I could almost hear them thinking. "Not focus on the sale? Focus on building trust first?"
So I continued pointing out the logic behind the Unlock The Game approach and explained that sure, they can continue to make sales just they way they are doing it now, but they will never be able to "see" how many sales they are LOSING by not removing pressure from the sales process.
As my talk came to an end, most of the agents applauded enthusiastically but some of the old-schoolers were still shaking their heads.
As I walked towards the back of the room, many of the agents came up to me and thanked me for being the first person to tell the truth about selling --specifically how traditional sales beliefs continue to damage their industry's reputation and their ability to build trust with their prospective clients.
Looking back over the weekend, I have to say that this experience really made it crystal clear to me how damaging old-school sales thinking really is.
Unlock The Game is about learning how to build trust in a sales environment without having to default to sales tactics that can associate you with the negative salesperson stereotype.
And this past weekend made me realize that there are still a lot of people out there that need to hear the message that they can still be successful, even more successful than they are now, without having to view people as
"targets to be closed".
To your success,
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