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Scott’s Thoughts: Good Habits Come from Bad Times

August 22, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

We learn to sharpen our skills when the market is down.

“Smooth seas do not make skillful sailors.”
–Ancient Proverb

A boat on rough seas. In a booming seller’s market, it takes almost no effort at all to make your way in real estate. Indeed, in the last (and some would say: reckless) “gold rush” market, it seemed that anyone with a real estate license tacked to the wall could make a good living without the slightest bit of sales and marketing skill.

Of course, when the market tanked, who were the first to see their ships sink?

A common saying in sales is “bad habits come from good times.” When the money is easy, little effort is made to invest in education, training, prospecting, or technology upgrades. People cultivate poor client relationship management habits and frequently fall out of touch.

In a tough market, the converse is true: We develop our best habits when times are hard.

What you learn and practice during these times will serve you well when the market turns. Now is the time to double down on your client relationship skills, improving personal productivity, and learning new technology. This way, when the gold rush mentality returns, you’ll have the good habits and hard-won knowledge to outperform the masses.

Take today’s rough seas as the best lesson you could possibly have in sailing through to prosperous times. On days when it seems that nothing works and times are lean, remember that today’s adversity is teaching you what a boom market can never teach. Invest in yourself and form good habits now.

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Scott’s Thoughts: On Acceptance

August 8, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Cultivate the power to accept what you cannot change.

“Of course there is not formula for success except, perhaps, an unconditional acceptance of life and what it brings.”
–Arthur Rubinstein, pianist (1887 — 1982)

Road beneath blue skies. There are limits to how much you can control in your life. We run into some of our greatest stress, however, when we fail to recognize what we can control and what is simply beyond our grasp.

It’s a grim future for the person who believes through sheer force of will they can change all situations. At times, acceptance is our only course of action. Acceptance is, in fact, a skill worth developing. It is not defeat or weakness to understand when a situation is out of our control. It is wisdom.

When you have the ability to accurately perceive what you can and cannot influence, you have options. You may conserve your energy, change your focus, and work to extinguish feelings of fear, helplessness, or despair.

The practice of acceptance is useful not only when it comes to the external world, but it can also be a valuable tool for finding contentment in your own life. Leo Babauta of Zen Habits touches on this concept in his article “You’re Already Perfect.” If you’ve been dealing with negative talk and an unhealthy sense of dissatisfaction, spend a few minutes to read his article here:

Finally, don’t confuse these thoughts on acceptance with the notion that one should give up hope or resign themselves to a bleak outlook. The art of knowing what we can and cannot change is a powerful tool for helping us dedicate our energies to those things we can impact. With that knowledge comes empowerment and a sense that things can (and will) get better.

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Client Survey: Remember to Evaluate Partners

August 7, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

What’s your network’s satisfaction score?

Balance scale. When was the last time you asked past clients about their satisfaction with all of the partners involved in their transaction?

While it’s a great idea to ask clients how satisfied they were with you during their transaction, it’s an even better idea to make sure they felt the same way about all other parties involved in the deal. Consider the full range: Movers, stagers, title offices, mortgage officers, insurance agents, etc.

Why? Research shows that clients often rate their satisfaction with an agent based on the transaction as a whole. So if the home inspector or title agency left a bad taste in their mouth, the odds are the experience will negatively impact you as the agent.

Though you can’t control the behavior or service of those you work with, you can definitely make decisions about who you choose to work with over the long haul.

Don’t take the quality of your vendor/partners for granted; ask clients how they would rate those you work with. It just might make the difference between a future referral… and silence.

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Escape From “Shouldistan”

July 27, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

“Don’t should on yourself.”
–Albert Ellis, psychologist

Have you heard of the most dangerous state in the world? It’s called “Shouldistan” (pronounced: SHOULD-IH-STAN). It’s a legendary war zone, and more than a few ambitious professionals have seen their goals and dreams die there.

Bordered by “Could-istan” and “Would-istan,” you may recognize those who have spent too much time within its borders– they’re bitter, exhausted, and reek of standing around the coffee maker and complaining. All day they say things like:

  • “They SHOULD have listened to me when I told them their house was overpriced.”
  • “The banks SHOULD realize that my short sale package is perfect.”
  • “I SHOULD get my listing presentation in shape.”
  • “I SHOULD have done something this week to stay in better touch with my clients.”

If you find yourself on the mean mental streets of Shouldistan, you must escape at all costs.

Here’s a practical field guide to getting out alive:

First and foremost, accept that if there are conditions you cannot change, you must learn to change yourself in order to rise to the challenge. You can’t help that your market is flooded with inventory, but you can make it your business to know your local inventory inside and out. Get wise to what’s in your hands and what’s not.

Second, recognize that a step in the direction of your goals today, no matter how small, is still a step in the right direction. If thinking about “how it should be” kills your motivation and causes you to procrastinate, it’s imperative you take action. Action will give you a greater sense of control. Even if you choose small actions to start, they will add up over the days and weeks. Before you know it, you might just find out that it doesn’t matter “how it should be” because you’re on a new, more productive path.

Finally, don’t dwell on setbacks. There’s a German proverb that says, “He who spends time counting every thorn on every bush never gets out of the woods.” When you face resistance or “failure,” take a good look at what you can learn from it and move on. Remember: There is no failure… only feedback.

Everyone gets dragged into a tour of Shouldistan now and again… just don’t become a casualty!

[You know you SHOULD keep in touch with clients. Learn how My Real Helper can ensure you do!]

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Understanding Self-Efficacy

July 21, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Build your momentum with self-efficacy.

Bruna Martinuzzi, President of Clarion Enterprises, Ltd., recently wrote this excellent article on the concept of “self-efficacy” for American Express OPEN Forum. Though it is not specifically targeted to real estate, it really could not be more applicable to the challenges real estate professionals face in reaching their goals.

Individuals with high self-efficacy, as defined by Albert Bandura, Professor Emeritus of Social Psychology at Stanford University, “are more likely to put a greater effort in achieving specific outcomes. They also attribute any failure to things that are within their control, rather than blaming others or the conditions surrounding them. Most importantly, they are able to recover quicker from setbacks and are, therefore, more likely to succeed in realizing their goals.”

From the article:

According to Bandura’s findings, there are four influences that can help us develop our self-efficacy:

* Mastery experiences: successful experiences through repeated effort; in other words, not easy successes, but successes that involve overcoming obstacles through persistence.

* Vicarious experiences: watching other people, similar to us, succeed through perseverance leads us to increasing our belief, that we, too, could improve our performance in comparable activities.

* Verbal persuasion: others convincing us that we have what it takes to successfully master given activities.

* Physiological and emotional states: lowering stress and tension and managing our emotional states as they can influence how we view ourselves; being anxious, for example, can lower our self-efficacy.

Be sure to read the article to discover six tips to help you boost your self-efficacy:

[Learn about a system that helps you master self-efficacy with client follow-up!]

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Do You Have a “To-Don’t” List?

April 30, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

What you don’t do may be as important as what you do.

A TO-DON'T LIST Some ideas are so good we wish we could take the credit for them. Unfortunately, we can’t call this one original, so our hats go off to Tom Peters for first introducing this concept this way and Daniel Pink for introducing us to Tom.

A “to don’t” list is “an inventory of behaviors that sap energy, divert attention, and ought to be avoided. You know, those things which keep you from executing your best ideas. The little things (or even big things) that block your from following up on your best intentions. Daniel Pink reports he keeps a list of these activities tacked above his desk.

What keeps you from focusing on your best ideas? Is it too much time on Facebook? Tracking a fantasy sports team online? Reading trashy magazines? Sometimes pursuing “too many good ideas” is something that deserves to be on a to-don’t list. Pick the best and stick to them… don’t chase every shiny new idea you come up with.

Make a to-don’t list. Write them down. Keep them handy. They’ll help you focus on the to-dos in your life.

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How to Begin Great Meetings

April 26, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

4 Great Ways to Open a Meeting

Engage people immediately with these techniques

4 meeting starters How many office meetings have you been to that left you feeling energized, inspired, and fully engaged in thought? You can probably count the number on one hand. Meetings are notoriously abused because they create the impression that work is being done. Seth Godin has spoken extensively on this topic, and has a great article titled “Getting serious about your meeting problem” which you should definitely read if you want to improve your meetings.

If you do have to hold a meeting, you should do your best to engage your participants right away. Rather than a ho-hum review of an agenda, why not kick it off with one of these attention grabbing methods?

1. Cite a shocking statistic relevant to the meeting topic. Odds are you’re addressing a problem or facing a group challenge in your meeting. Is there a statistic you can find which will focus attention? If you can find one that gets a “Wow” out of your participants, you’re on the right track.

2. Create a picture in their mind. Beginning a meeting with a strong, visual description can engage your participants. “Picture this…” is one way to begin the conversation. Place them in a scene at the center of a situation. Engage the senses with brief, effective description– sight, smell, hearing, touch, etc.

3. Share a great quote. This is one we use all the time in the Tuesday Tactics newsletter and it also works well in meetings. A bit of wisdom, well said, is great for drawing people into the meeting. The catch, though? It must be relevant to the topic of the meeting. Otherwise, you’re just wasting precious minutes.

4. Ask a question. Questions get debate going, they get discussion flowing. Even if they’re rhetorical questions which have obvious answers, they can move people’s minds into the topic at hand.

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Improving Client Loyalty

April 13, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Scott’s Thoughts: Client Loyalty
Can you improve client loyalty?

“I’ll take fifty percent efficiency to get one hundred percent loyalty.” –Samuel Goldwyn, film producer

Are your clients loyal to you?

With Oakley Signs & Graphics, I find that a large percentage of our customers are highly loyal, and I prize that loyalty greatly.

But it’s harder to say in real estate transactions. After all, how do you measure loyalty when the average repeat transaction may be once every 5 to 7 years (or longer)?

Well, what about referrals? Aren’t they a sign of loyalty? It seems natural to assume so. But one of the tricky things about referrals in real estate is this: You never know how many referrals you didn’t receive.

Think about it: If someone doesn’t send you referrals, you might assume that they simply haven’t had the opportunity. But what if you’re wrong? What if, the last time they were asked, they said, “Well, I used an agent last year, but I don’t know if I’d recommend him.”

Your mind immediately begins to race: Why? What went wrong? I thought things went smoothly? I assumed the client was happy.

That assumption is the costly one. Sometimes you may overlook or trivialize an aspect of your relationship with the client that was actually a deciding factor in that client’s willingness to work with you again or refer others.

There is some good news here, though: TARP, a research firm that specializes in customer satisfaction, found that in some cases a customer who had a complaint resolved successfully was more loyal than a customer that never had a problem.

Consider: How many times have you recommended a company to someone because when something went wrong, “they took care of me”? We expect things to go right, but we really value it when we know the company has a reputation for taking care of people.

Here’s the take-away: There’s a good chance that if you discover and discuss any problems a client may have had with you during a transaction that they have a higher likelihood of referring business your way.

The key is to have the right conversation. In order to make sure there’s no “quiet disappointment” lurking, you might need to probe a little to get an honest response.

Try contacting your client within a week or two of the transaction and communicate the following:

  • As far as you could tell, the transaction went well, but in the in the interest of self-improvement and client satisfaction you want to ask them some questions
  • Ask them to reflect on any aspect, no matter how small, that could have improved the experience as far as your service/professionalism was concerned.
  • Stress that their honesty is important to you; if there’s any reason they wouldn’t recommend you to someone, you’d rather know now than wonder later.
  • Listen.
  • Regardless of how you view their comments, do not judge their perceptions or go on the defensive; if you made mistakes, simply admit them. In any case, thank them for their honesty.

Yes, it may be hard for clients to be honest with you. No, you may not be able to resolve every issue that clients will air over time. But you will have made an extraordinary effort. Just imagine: If it generates even one more referral or deal per year, isn’t an effort to cultivate client loyalty worth your time?

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5 Fatal Career Flaws to Avoid

March 28, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

These flaws put your potential prosperity at severe risk!

In Jack Zenger and Joe Folkman’s book, “The Extraordinary Leader: Turning good managers into great leaders,” researchers identified five “fatal flaws” which were effectively “success killers.”

In contrast to areas where professionals had “allowable weaknesses” (i.e. deficiencies in skills which could be avoided or overshadowed by other strengths), these five weaknesses were considered absolutely toxic to a successful career.

The flaws included:

1. Lack of initiative
2. Lack of accountability
3. Lack of openness to new or different ideas
4. Lack of core interpersonal skills or competencies
5. Inability to learn from mistakes

Are you guilty of any of these? It’s interesting to note that these five flaws are generally organized around inactivity as a result of FEAR. For example:

1. Lack of initiative = fear of making a wrong decision (fear of mistakes)
2. Lack of accountability = fear we’ll have to face our own laziness or inactivity
3. Lack of openness to new ideas = fear we won’t be able to adapt, or we’re being “left behind”
4. Lack of core interpersonal skills = fear of social interaction, fear of low self-esteem
5. Inability to learn from mistakes = fear of change

To overcome these fears, we have to transform them into hope. Understanding that growth comes from adversity, it helps to frame our fears as undernourished hope for change and prosperity. “Maybe I’ll get it wrong,” needs to become “What happens if I get it right?”

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Learning from “No”

March 21, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

How to go about learning from missed shots.

“Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning.”
–Bill Gates

It’s hard for us to hear what we don’t want to hear. Sometimes our selective hearing is a defense mechanism that keeps us positive and keeps us moving forward. Busted listing presentation? Failed open house? Deal falls apart? Keep your head up and don’t look back, right? Sure.

And that works well… until it doesn’t. As uncomfortable as it can be to drop our defense mechanisms and really probe our failures, it is by far one of the most effective methods of self-improvement. It’s too easy to shake your head and say, “Well, they don’t know what they’re missing out on,” when someone chooses not to list with you. If you want to turn that “no” into a valuable learning experience (and after all, what do you have to lose?), consider this:

The next time something goes wrong with a prospect or a client, follow-up and find out why. A short email or letter is a great way to find out what “went wrong.” What you want to make sure you do in the letter is the following:

1. Acknowledge that you respect their decision not to choose you.
2. Thank them for the opportunity to serve them.
3. “In the spirit of self-improvement and honest feedback” ask them the main reason they opted not to use your services.
4. Impress on them the need not to “sugar coat it” and that you value their frankness
5. Regardless of how you feel about their feedback, thank them for taking the time to tell you
6. Most importantly: RESIST ALL URGES TO ARGUE

Not only does this present you as a true professional, but you’ll get straight-between-the-eyes feedback you would have missed out on otherwise.

When you take this path, those “failures” aren’t failures at all. They were steps along the way to greater success.

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