Starboard Commercial Real Estate

Hans Hansson | July 5, 2018

If you are a golfer, you understand that golf is 90 percent mental and 10 percent skill.  My theory is that the power of your mind is what controls your ability to hit a good or bad shot. I’ve been playing golf for over 40 years now, yet at best, I am considered an “average” player. My goal when playing the game is to win, but I let my mind get bogged down by my low score rather than concentrating on making my next shot better.  

 

Recently, I tested out my theory by purposely thinking about negative thoughts before I took my shot. As I suspected, this led to a terrible hit. Following this embarrassing shot, I cleared my mind of everything and only concentrated on the ball, my swing, the weight of the club, and the direction I was going to hit. With a centered focused, I was able to produce an outstanding hit!  

 

I think about this analogy and how it can also be applied to sales.  We have the same issue– we constantly need to enforce positivity into each action– from the way we answer phone calls, to drafting emails, to showcasing a new space, etc. If we go negative, we get negative in return. 

 

I recently attended a real estate conference where the guest speaker introduced a new motivational sales training program called Ninja Selling. It was written by a residential real estate broker who entered the field with zero sales experience and a number of personal challenges that would not promote a long-term real estate career. 

 

With these setbacks, he was able to build a residential real estate company in Fort Collins, Colorado that currently has over 300 brokers and is now considered one of the most successful real estate companies in the U.S.(based on deals closed per agent).  On average, his agents close 27 deals each per year. The average deal closing across the country per agent is less than 4 per year. 

 

He has trained all of his managers and agents in the art of “Ninja Selling”– which is a lot like a religion. His program offers discipline, hope, and understanding of what a salesperson needs in order to be great. The program emphasizes commitment to serve your clients while also creating a reinforcement mechanism that keeps you focused on your business and personal successes. 

 

Every day, you are asked to start your day with a recommitment to the following: 

 

  1. Ask yourself, what are you grateful for today? Think about what makes you happy and appreciate that.
  2. Avoid negative thought and introduce some positive action to your day. For me, this was turning off the morning news and instead listening to a TED talk or reading an inspirational book on my way into work.
  3. Restate your business and the personal goals you’ve established for yourself. Rather than stating goals as if it’s a list of things you’d like to accomplish, you state your goals as if you have already accomplished them. For example, I say to myself “I weigh 175 pounds, I shot on average 85 in golf, I make 500k a year.” In order for these goals to actualize, you need to state them every day for 30 days straight. You cannot miss a day– period.
  4. Focus on helping two people in need each day.  It could be as simple of offering a positive thought to someone whose personal life is in turmoil that day. Or, it could be helping someone complete a project.  This recommitment focuses on giving back to others. 

The above will create a balanced approach to your sales career while also grounding you in life with an understanding that success comes with commitment, which also comes from serving others. The power of Ninja Selling can be found in all of us.

 

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Hans Hansson | June 13, 2018

Every new salesperson initially struggles to build their book of business. If they can create a solid base of clients, then they can begin to count on renewal business in addition to referrals.

 

I start off every year with approximately 40 percent of my business revenue coming from past business and/or referrals. I know that an additional 25 percent of my business will be lost for a variety of reasons– including companies get acquired, companies expand and now have national contracts with larger service providers, or companies are simply no longer in business. Ironically, 25 percent of all businesses that sign a lease for five years do not complete their lease term.

 

There’s still that 35 percent of my business lost in which I’m not sure what happened. Perhaps I have lost touch with these folks, or they chose to do business with someone else.  This is the 35 percent that I should be working on improving my ability to stay in touch with through better follow-up.

 

It’s a lot easier to secure past business then it is to start from scratch and secure new business with no prior connection.  Follow-up can be simple as long as you create a plan of action and stick to it. Here are some of some things to keep in mind for staying in touch with past happy clients:

 

Know and Be Known

In the earlier part of my career, it was common for the “decision maker” at a company to be there for the next transaction. Since the Dot.Com boom and bust of 2000, that’s changed. Today, the same decision maker I may work with at the beginning of a deal, 99 percent of the time, isn’t around at the conclusion of a typical five-year lease.

 

If you aren’t known because a firm changed management and the new hires have no clue who you are—that’s on you. You have failed to follow-up and monitor staff changes, which will hurt your chances of keeping them as a client.  You may have done a good job, but if you fail to be known by new folks or remembered by past employees, you miss out on future opportunities with repeat clients.

 

Add a Personal Touch

Upon the close of any deal, try to remember to send a thank you note and a small gift. That gift should be something can be branded back to you.  In addition, I’d also recommend setting up an automatic anniversary email. We do this at Starboard so that each of the agents get a notice to check in with past clients and make sure that everything is working out for them, and also to learn if there are any opportunities in the near future.  

 

No Time Like Face Time

It’s critical to pay past clients an in-person visit and see how things are going. But most importantly, keep your face in front of your past decision makers, as well as get in front of any new decision makers. I have learned the hard way that I could have worked miracles for a client, but if the decision maker has been replaced, a new decision maker won’t have a clue as to the great work done to secure their current office space.

 

Most real estate salespeople fail at follow-up for an understandable reason. They need to do deals today.  Once a residential agent sells a house to a family, there is no immediate future business with that family until they outgrow that house or have to relocate. In commercial, if you secure a lease, a binding lease locks that tenant into their obligation for an extended time. What we fail to realize is that changes are occurring much faster today than ever before.  Firms are reacting to changes in their business which requires immediate changes to their workplaces.

 

So, begin the process of improving your follow-up. Remember, it’s a lot easier to open the door to this kind of business then to open the door with a firm you do not know at all.

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Hans Hansson | May 10, 2018

“Never Stop Investing in Yourself or Retirement” – Jill Furtado, Berkshire Hathaway

 

As salespeople, we can get busy very fast.  If our business is going well, we go with the flow and close as many deals as we can and as often as we can.  If business is not so good, great salespeople find new ways to make deals and get those deals done. Unfortunately, what most salespeople don’t understand is the need to stay on top your game at all times– which means you need to constantly educate yourself on the changing industry trends and latest tools and technology that can be used give you the competitive edge.  You also have to make sure you stay in tune with what is going on in the market you are selling in.   Your sales could be doing very well for a while, but when you don’t pay attention to changes in the market, your sudden dip in sales will dramatically affect your business. It’s important to stay “in the know” and to be proactive. 

 

1. Never Stop Learning.

Top salespeople attend motivational classes to improve their personal and organizational skills. They listen to podcasts and constantly read self-improvement books. If you don’t stay on top of your game, someone else will be there right behind you.  

 

2. Don’t live beyond your means. 

Next, great salespeople have to realize that there will be a time when their top production will begin to fall.  If they are living a lifestyle that requires their top production results and those results start declining, it’s easy for anyone to get into financial trouble quickly.  Great salespeople find other avenues of income so that if decline in their main sales production goes down, they have other sources to protect their needed base of income.  That could mean investing in real estate or another business, invest in stocks, etc.–but if you don’t prepare for the eventual downturn of your business, you could put yourself in a bad economic position with little ability of time as well as effort to “steer your ship”. 

 

3. Plan for retirement while you’re young. 

Young salespeople don’t think about retirement, for obvious reasons. It’s “too far down the road” to worry about now. Yet, the most successful salespeople start a strategy to invest right away.  For instance, a great real estate model is to find a way to buy one house every year for the ten years.  If you start at the age of 30, by the time you are 60 under a conventional 30-year mortgage, you will have your first house paid off completely by the office with one house paid off each year until you are 70. Then you will have ten houses owned free and clear and ten houses paying you rent.  

 

The beauty of this strategy is that you can buy a house anyway.  The houses don’t have to appreciate.  All they have to do is remain revenue neutral and you will create high net worth and long-term rental income. Most salespeople will ask how I can afford the down payment.  The first couple of houses will be tricky.  You will need help in terms of partners or you will need to borrow the down payment, but if you believe in the system you will find a way.  Educate yourself constantly. Invest constantly. And you will succeed constantly. 

 

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Hans Hansson | April 3, 2018

It used to be that most employees would simply punch a card when they got to work and punched a card when they left work.  There were set days off for vacation and sick leave–with a full work week representing 40 hours. As salespeople, if we were employees, we too worked 40 hours as independent contractors, but the good ones would work a lot longer.

In order for us to learn if we were productive, we would take what we expected to earn in income and divide that number by the number of hours we were working and estimate what we needed to earn in order to make that intended income. For example, if we wanted to make 200,000 average/annually, we’d have 52 weeks minus three weeks for vacation which means we need to do $4,000.00 per week or based on a 40-hour work week $102.00 an hour in net production.

This became the formula taught at most sales seminars to gauge production results.

Today, it’s very difficult to quantify one’s performance. Cell phones have now moved offices from stationary to mobile, extending work hours and extending periods that someone can also not be working. 

Social media and networking to secure new business has also changed the dynamics of qualifying one’s efforts.  Today, all salespeople need a way to create a 24/7 marketplace for themselves when business can be generated anytime, any day.

In real estate, sales is extremely important because there are no “hours of operation” for when people are looking for real estate. You could easily get a lead midday or at midnight.

The problem for an individual salesperson, particularly an independent contractor, is that you cannot simply divide your working hours by the amount you want to make to gauge results. You really need to spend more time monitoring your daily activities and gauge results per specific effort. 

This is why a business plan becomes such an effective tool.  If you break down your business plan to include set pillars (or tactics) in which you are going to create business, you can quantify how many calls, networking connections, or emails you need to make and then track for success in each area. For instance, if posting a Craigslist ad is part of your business plan, you can count how many calls and connections you make as a result of your postings. You can then figure out how many of these connections lead to a deal as a percentage of how many connections are made.  For instance, if you plan to post 10 Craigslist ads and you receive an average of 10 responses per week, which lead to one deal – then you can quantify a dollar amount against that deal.

You can apply this formula to cold calling, too. If you plan to make 100 calls in one week, you should expect two prospects to turn into one deal. You could quantify how much one deal would produce, and then measure that against your overall goal.

In the past, you would have a business plan tied to the number of hours you planned to work, but today, the business plan also stands on its own.  If you track your results by monitoring each pillar, you can translate that into deal flow, average deal income, and then yearly income.

Yes, it’s still important to monitor your true working hours, but it is no longer the standard you should use. Instead, focus on the pillars of your business that you need to monitor the most and measure whether you are successful in implementing your business plan.  If you are not, then you will need to change your plan to get your ultimate goal back on course. 

 

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Hans Hansson | March 18, 2018

In most sales roles, your company assigns you a quota that you need to meet.  However, in real estate, where agents can be independent contractors, sales quotas are actually rarely used. Instead, firms divide their expenses by the number of agents they have and add a profit to that number to achieve the performance goal that is required by each agent in order to keep the doors open.  

 

It is much harder to create a monthly sales quota because deal flow is completely uncertain, and the amount of commissions earned cannot be gauged since each fee is different depending on the size of the transaction.

 

Most real estate firms do not have a sales quota. They will have tracking reports to gauge your monthly production against deals that are pending and if you do not produce at least desk cost you may be asked to leave. Therefore, as independent sales contractors, it’s up to you to create your own benchmarks and monitor results regularly. 

 

  1. Make a Plan: At the start of the year, most firms require you to complete an annual business plan.

 

  1. Track Your Results: As a start to benchmarking results, you should be reviewing your plan each week and determine if the plan you created is being executed upon and if the results are putting you on the trajectory of success. If not, you should course correct accordingly.

 

  1. Year-Over-Year: Next you need to keep a record of your prior years’ performance by month, then compare those results with what you are doing in the present. This will show you if your business is growing and by what rate.  

 

  1. Course-Correct: If your sales are down, then this is a real sign that you need to re-evaluate your business model and figure out how and where you can improve. This is where most sales agents fail the most. They continue to do business the way they always have and not evaluate their past performance. 

 

Real estate is a business when truly you’re only as good as your last deal. Because we are in a business that is not consistent, it’s also harder to gauge. Yet, patterns are noticeable if you track at your results over a longer period of time. 

 

One of the worst things you can become is a sales agent who is satisfied to do the occasional deal. We are in a business where you can find deals quickly. Everyone has a real estate need at some point, so we have a large pool to “fish” in.  

 

However, if you don’t have a plan on how you conduct your business and monitor that plan, nor establish benchmarks to visualize your standing now and over a longer period of time– then you will become the agent that does the occasional deal. You can still make it, but your chances of growing your business year-to-year will be difficult to achieve.

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Hans Hansson | December 7, 2017

How do I do better in sales next year? The standard answer to this question has been “cold-call, cold-call, cold-call. Pick up the phone and talk to someone.” Today it’s not that simple.  With voicemails taking the place of live calls and no gatekeeper to get around at the front desk, salespeople need to have a number of “pillars of business” in order to succeed.

 

So, here are my new rules to succeed in 2018:

 

  1. Stop casting a wide net. Instead of calling more people every day, try connecting with one real decision maker every day. Rather than “dialing for dollars” and calling between 50 to 100 people a day, try researching your potential candidates.  Find out what is going on in their business, if they are growing or shrinking, and who is the real decision maker there. Find out information through networking, public knowledge found online, or send a direct email to inquire more.

 

  1. Create a compelling reason for the that decision maker to want to deal with you. What is going to create a reason for he or she to take time out of their day to return your call?  What is your call-to-action?

 

  1. Customize outreach. Make your emails personal and resist sending mass blasts. Tailor your message to the decision maker with something that is unique to their particular needs.

 

  1. Be Inquisitive. Instead of telling your clients what you’re going to do for them, ask a lot of questions instead. Try to keep the conversation going as long as you can because the more you find out, the more helpful you can be. Also, the client will recognize your questions as taking care and showing interest in their needs.

 

  1. Don’t give up. The old rule of thumb still exists that you need seven attempts to get one real lead. Vary your approach so that the client will see you trying to connect with them in different ways. This shows not only persistency, but also that you are strategic. This will win points in the mind of your potential client.

 

  1. Become an expert. Avoid making mistakes by investigating thoroughly before making a connection with a potential client. The last thing you want to do is to misspeak– it may end up costing you your credibility in the long-run.

 

  1. Connect with the lead directly. Networking is great, but can oftentimes be overrated. Yes, you may know someone who knows someone, who can connect you– but will they really vouch for you and your services? The only person who can do this for sure is you.

 

  1. Schedule everything. Calendar your cold-calling activities, strategy planning, even your personal activities every day.  If you put it in your calendar, you're more likely to actually do that activity – partly because you're less likely to have to make an active decision whether or not you should do it.  Remember that cold-calling is not just part of your business; it’s your only business. Without a new business pipeline, you are through in sales no matter what you have closed in the past.

  2. Find a good CRM platform and dedicate yourself to using it.  Without a proper CRM system to manage your contacts, there is no way of running an effective campaign to secure new business.

 

  1. Respect – Show it, give it, and earn it.

 

 

Follow these steps, and you’ll look back knowing you started 2018 in the best possible way. 

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Hans Hansson | October 3, 2017

If you are a seasoned sales professional, you probably have reached what I call your “comfort zone.” You’ve established a way of doing your business right or wrong that works for you…or does it?

 

There is an old rule in sales– 80 percent of the fish are caught by 20 percent of the fisherman. The question is: are you in the 20 percent that catch or the 80 percent that go home empty-handed?

 

By Staying Comfortable, You’re Settling.

Being comfortable breeds mediocrity. A state of comfort will not motivate you to make changes. You may not be happy in your current financial situation, but you are comfortable enough to complain and do nothing about it. You know you need to make a change, but unless your situation gets dramatically worse– you won’t. And that’s settling for less than average.

 

Without Challenges, You Won’t Grow.

Your comfort zone does not work in the world of pain; it works in the world of pleasure.  You feel comfortable even if you question whether you can be better because the comfort zone is the safe zone. If we aren’t challenging ourselves, we will stay complacent and plateau in our skillset as we watch our peers surpass us.

 

Don’t Wait for Outside Pressure

The best salesperson I have ever worked with was when I was in the foodservice industry. This salesman could sell like no other I had ever met then, or now. However, he clearly had personal issues that created a very odd way of selling.  Matt would secure sale after sale and then go dark. When I mean dark, I mean that he would disappear off the grid. This was before cell phones, so his landline was all we had to communicate.  

 

I would worry that something had happened to him so I would often stop by his house and ring his bell, only to find him in his pajamas in the middle of the day. His famous line was, “I put my bed sheets over my head again.” The only time he would remove that bed sheet was when he started to run out of money and was running behind on bills. At which point, it was like a fire under him to go out selling again. Pain caused need, which caused desire, and he became a selling machine. He was confident, organized, service-oriented, and he was the best salesperson for that brief moment in time when he found himself under serious pressure and pain.

 

Your Potential Outweighs the Risk

At Starboard, I make it a priority to train our agents and help them find ways to be organized, more focused, and improve their sales results. I’ve seen a lot of positive feedback, but only to see little or no change.

 

Harness your fear of the unknown and set out for change. Yes, things could go wrong– but you can always go back to what you know. Take a chance – because you haven’t reached your full potential.  

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Hans Hansson | September 11, 2017

For the sales professionals who established goals at the beginning of the year, we now have just four months remaining to meet our original goals. In sales, September is the best month to close deals, particularly in commercial real estate when businesses are looking to move offices before the end of the year.

 

If you work for a larger corporate firm, you are certainly on a sales goal plan. If you are an independent salesperson, you either created a plan or you didn’t. Either way, all salespeople have a number in mind at the beginning of the year that they are expecting to hit.  

 

Review Your Plan

This month, you need to look at your business plan and analyze where you are at. Are you at, above, or below your goal? If you have not met your goal, do you have enough in the business pipeline until the end the year to hit your goal? If you are below your goal, how far below are you and what will it take in the next four months for you to make or exceed your goals?

 

When It’s Time to Reevaluate  

If you are behind your goal by a fair amount, a full review of your business plan is in order. You will need to review what has worked thus far and what hasn’t.  If certain pillars of your business have worked, then what can you do to expand those efforts? Then, you need to review what hasn’t worked. It’s important to understand why production hasn’t occurred and then ask yourself how you can improve your activity in these pillars to generate deals. You may find that it’s best to concentrate on the pillars of business that are working or perhaps look into new avenues to develop business.

 

If the decision is to look at new ways to do business, the best next step is to study other salespeople that work those new pillars to see how they make it successful.  

 

Room for Improvement

Finally, you need to access your daily time management activities. Are you properly organized each day? Are you organizing your day the night before? If not, you should start.  Planning the night before will give you a solid start to a new day. Plan who you are going to cold call and how you are going to secure new business that day or week.

 

Next, schedule in the time it will take each day for you to work on new business development. It’s very easy to work on existing business that could eat up most of your day, but it’s crucial to set aside time for new business for long term success.

 

Adequate salespeople like to work on existing business, but great salespeople know they must keep the pipeline filled at all times. Closing deals without a pipeline for future business is like starting all over again each time a deal is done. If you are not meeting your goals, you still have time to turn it around, but the clock is ticking!

 

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Hans Hansson | August 22, 2017

Lead generation through social media has become the new “norm.” Data analytics now enables customers to be notified of products and services they should consider while shopping in stores. If you walked into a car dealership, another dealership may advertise to you when you leave the premises across almost every medium available– Facebook, LinkedIn, banner ads, app push notifications, etc. Restaurant where you recently dined will advertise to you shortly after on visiting websites.

 

Sales has also been automated at almost every turn. But what does this mean for salespeople? Will technology completely replace the job of a salesperson? Sadly, I believe in some industries, this may be the case. Salespeople will be replaced not only by technology, but also by customer service personnel who can be paid far less than talented salespeople.

 

Yet, I still wonder– can an online ad really lead the end-user to the finish line of a sale without a human closer?  Salespeople need to adapt to survive the advances in technology. They must understand today more than ever where their strengths lie as human beings and where robots fall short. Becoming a client’s trusted advisor will keep salespeople in the game. This is how we will maximize earnings potential.  No matter what type of sales you may be in, applying your expertise and providing outstanding counsel to your client will outplay anything else.

 

The Power of Face Time

Taking time to meet with your clients in-person or at the least speaking to them consistently on the phone will also help achieve not only far better results short-term, but maintain strong relationships that you can count on for future deals. Although communication via email, text messages, and networking suffice, nothing beats having a conversation with your client face-to-face, or hearing the tone of their voice via phone.

 

When I first got started in the business, it was a requirement for us to make at least 50 connections a day in order to attract new business. Some required their salespeople to come back each day with at least 50 business cards. Others demanded that salespeople make at least 100 calls per day.  

 

I recently hired two new sales agents who we are beginning to train. In the first week, I had them making phone calls to get comfortable with cold-calling. They both averaged about 35 calls a day with some success. Although calls are fewer, they are higher quality. Instead of “dialing for dollars,” each agent today takes time to study each person and their business before dialing out to a potential customer. They educate themselves on what their potential needs may be so that they can offer relevant services from the start.

 

In their second week of training, I selected specific streets in San Francisco and asked them to cold call each building tenant. I asked them to first study the building they were in, then study the current space and learn if the space is being properly utilized. Then I asked them to go in-person and present themselves to the tenants. The results of this training were amazing! Twenty percent of the time, the agents were not only able to speak to the office managers, but also the decision makers of the company. They were also able to learn more in-person about whether or not the company would need move soon, what their company size was, and their biggest needs in office space. The first day, they came back with two solid leads and the second day came back with four.  

 

In another case, I had an agent that was texting back and forth to his client. His client was considering taking an offer he had just received ahead of getting the listing on his property.  The offer was strong and my agent was asked for his opinion, even though he was not a part of the transaction deal she was considering.  I had advised him strongly to go by and see her in-person instead of texting her. When he saw her in person, he was able to convince his client that it would be best to offer the property to the open market and see if they can secure a stronger offer, before accepting the first offer presented.  

 

Personal conduct will beat social media. Maybe not all the time, but most of the time.  Yes, it is important to utilize the technology and tools of today to improve our results. But it’s also important to note that sometimes “old school” techniques still work.

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Hans Hansson | July 10, 2017

Several years ago, I experienced my first case of age discrimination. My son and colleague invited me to assist him in a large sales presentation. This tech firm was looking to move about 100 people into new offices.  As we sat waiting to make the presentation, a young woman came in by herself to start the meeting.  My first question I asked her was, “Who will be the decision maker managing this move?”. She responded that she would be.  My next question was about how long she had been with the firm, and she responded, “Three weeks.” I then asked her if she had ever moved an office before. She said, “No.”

 

At this stage, I knew I had to be very careful on how we delivered our presentation. I did not want to appear as though I was lecturing her on the market, much like a father would. Rather, I wanted to be perceived as her partner in the process and provide her with strategic direction based on our expertise. She indicated that she was looking for 10,000 square feet in total space at a price that was at least 20 percent below market. She also wanted an office in the most competitive blocks of San Francisco.

 

I tried to carefully explain to her the guidelines of how much space she would need for the number of employees they have and plan to have, as well as set expectations on the rent they should expect to pay. It did not take long before she began to ignore me and turned the whole conversation to my son (who was in his twenties at the time) to answer.

 

By the end of the meeting, we knew we didn’t win the business. My son looked at me as we were walking out and said, “Dad, you really blew that one.”

 

The prospect ended up hiring a rookie agent with no experience who took the amount of square footage I had recommended at a rent that was at-market rate in an area very different than what she was originally wanting.  

 

As a “Baby Boomer” and much like any generation, we feel we know more than the previous generation and certainly question their way of doing things.

 

However, when we were younger, we also knew and respected that experience mattered. We looked up to people in the business, particularly in our own line of work who had achieved great success over their careers. We wanted to become just like them. There was respect and also trust in our older colleagues.  We felt we could introduce things to improve the status quo.

 

In my eyes, I see today’s generation wanting to be disrupters, and blow up what we’ve been doing to start with an entirely new concept.

 

Starting out in my career, I was always trying to improve the situation and educate a potential client. Instead, this particular prospect was not looking to be educated. She was looking for someone to find exactly what she requested.

 

I’m sure the agent she had hired showed her spaces she was looking for, and his or her superiors at the firm decided to look into alternatives that better suited her needs.

 

In the end, I was wrong in not properly handling the situation. I should have realized my audience and showed her the spaces she was looking for, let her come to the conclusion that perhaps it wasn’t the best fit, and then direct her to alterative properties.

 

The challenge for salespeople today is that with all the data, product, and service information available at anyone’s finger tips––what are we going to do to continue to exist and be of value?

 

We as salespeople need to become the “trusted advisors.” We cannot rely strictly on information anymore. We need to take the information we have and create a strategy to survive. This is something, at least for now, that technology can’t do quite as well yet. The real question/challenge is––will the Millennial generation allow Baby Boomers to advise? Or will they just ignore us?

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