For those of you in my generation or older, the title of this column may bring back memories of the 1960 classic western starring Yul Brynner, Steve McQueen and Charles Bronson in which a group of seven gunfighters are assembled to defend a Mexican peasant village.
However, today we are not talking about movies.
In the commercial real estate brokerage business, as in all sales businesses, the old axiom that 20 percent of the people make 80 percent of the money holds true. This is an unfortunate truth as real estate, like services businesses, is a very basic business of blocking and tackling where top sales people are not born but rather acquire skills anyone could learn.
All skills are learnable. For some, the learning is harder and takes longer. But what you need to become a successful broker can be acquired if you put your mind to it.
There are seven basic skills that successful brokers acquire over time. And remember: How good you are at your weakest link will determine how successful you’ll be in the business.
“The magnificent seven” are prospecting, establishing rapport, identifying needs accurately, presenting your services, overcoming objections, negotiating (closing the sale) and getting repeat business.
Let’s take a look at each of these critical skills.
1. Prospecting is perhaps the area that salespeople dislike the most. Making cold calls to folks you don’t know, sending tens of thousands of pieces of mail regularly and attending networking events at which, if you are relatively new to the business, you don’t know many people, can be anxiety producing.
2. Establishing rapport comes naturally to some while others have to work at it. I have always greatly admired my partner, Paul Massey, and his natural ability to meet someone for the first time and, after just a few minutes, develop a closeness with that person. “Connecting with people” is another way to describe this skill.
3. Identifying needs accurately is important, because you don’t know how best to present your services if you don’t know what the client wants. Asking the right questions and listening carefully are the keys to accurately identifying needs.
4. Presenting your services is what is generally referred to as the presentation or pitch. Being able to crisply and comprehensively convey your particular value proposition to the potential client is essential. The presentation should be specifically designed to meet each client’s particular needs and objectives.
5. During almost every presentation, there are some things that a potential client will object to or some hurdles that you have to get over. Being able to adroitly overcome these objections can make all the difference when it comes to your rate of success securing assignments. Often, a salesperson has to drill down deeply to determine exactly what the objection is.
6. Negotiating is a skill that can be constantly improved. There are numerous books that articulate various strategies for successfully negotiating with opposing parties. Your success rate in closing transactions often comes down to how good a negotiator you are. This is a skill that requires constant work and preparation as opposed to doing it on the fly.
7. Finally, obtaining repeat business from clients you have already successfully worked with is important, because it is the easiest business you can get. Low-hanging fruit like this is something that must not be overlooked.
These seven critical skills for sales people have been the same for hundreds of years. Fortunately, the topic has been studied by academics and practitioners, and a tremendous amount has been written about them and is available to be absorbed by salespeople looking to improve their performance.
As I cannot overstate, how good you are at your weakest skill will determine how successful you are in commercial real estate brokerage. A self-analysis of your strengths and weaknesses will identify which areas need improvement. And regardless of how long you have been in the business or how successful you are, improvement can always be made. Fortunately, after you identify what skills you are weakest at, there is plenty of time to work at sharpening those skills, and once you master them, there is no stopping you.