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A Salesperson With No Ears

Brokerage Best Practices Business Best Practices Education Sales/Leasing

In today’s digital world, with information immediately available at the touch of our finger-tips, there’s no longer an excuse for being misinformed or under prepared. In order to make a successful sales-pitch, you first need to discover what your potential buyer needs.

Recently a salesperson with a well-known company pitched his product at our company sales meeting. He had scheduled the meeting three weeks in advance, with plenty of time to prepare.

When it came time for his presentation, he arrived, fired up his mobile projector and attached his iPad. He had all of the goodies loaded up for his presentation. For twenty minutes of his allotted half hour, he put on a razzle-dazzle show

making the iPad and his product look like the ultimate machine and software. He had wowed several of the brokers in the room and they were thinking about how much time and effort this was going to save them. He had done his preparation.

In the final ten minutes he launched into his sales pitch and trial close with, “This product will level the playing field.” He continued, “You will now be able to put together your property searches in just minutes like the big firms do with their costly research and marketing departments!” And this is where he failed. He had not done his homework.

While the presentation was well put together and awe-inspiring, he had failed to understand what our company needed; he forgot about who he was presenting to and what our interests are.

In our small-sized market, we are one of the top three firms, and without question, we are considered the masters in the market data of properties, lease comps, sale comps, and every other form of data that one could collect pertaining to real estate. It has taken us years to accumulate this data and it is the ultimate tool that sets us apart from other companies in the market. The one thing that we don’t want to do is “level the playing field” and allow the other small companies to have what we have – invaluable knowledge of the market.

For a dozen years of my life, I was a public speaking instructor, and one of my most popular courses was  a series focused on the “Sales Course.” After ten sessions of this course my students were to present their final project - a great sales pitch. There was one twist, however, to make the project a bit more challenging. I would tear a page out of the Yellow Pages and hand it to the students. The “potential buyer” would then point at something on the page and the salesperson would have to sell it to him. The point of the exercise was that the salesperson had to learn how to innerview (as in inner-view) the potential buyer. The salesperson needed to discover what the buyer was most challenged with, and then solve that problem by selling him or her the product. This involved asking the correct questions, listening to the potential buyer, and then tailoring his or her answers to develop a targeted presentation to solve that challenge.  Those that listened and discovered the true needs of the buyers found success in their sales pitch.

Back to the iPad salesperson. He had three weeks to coordinate with our marketing director—three weeks to pick up the phone and do a quick “innerview” of a few of our agents and decision makers to find out what’s most important to them—to find out what problem or problems they were currently trying to solve. He had time to listen to what they were saying and what they weren’t saying. He had time to research. Most importantly, the salesperson had the chance to identify what unique feature his product offered that would solve the problem(s) at hand.

The remainder of the meeting became somewhat confrontational. He failed to ask the right questions even during the meeting, and failed to listen to what we were and weren’t saying. In a last-ditch effort, the salesperson attempted to rescue the sale by ratcheting down the price of his product, but the sale was lost.

As  salesmen and saleswomen ourselves, I’m sure this sounds somewhat familiar. We get the invite to the ‘beauty contest’; we put together our presentation; we make the meeting – then, as we are standing up and headed toward the door, we find ourselves cutting our commission in an effort to win the business.

And to think, all of this could be avoided with a little listening and a little pre-presentation research.

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Douglas Brockhouse, SIOR, CCIM

Douglas Brockhouse, SIOR, CCIM

is a commercial broker at Bender Commercial Real Estate Services in Sioux Falls, SD. His main area of focus is the industrial market dealing in sales and leasing. Over the past couple years he has spent substantial time assisting several banks in the disposition of REO properties.