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.
Photo Credit: marcoverch Flickr via Compfight cc
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.
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.
Make a Plan: At the start of the year, most firms require you to complete an annual business plan.
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.
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.
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.Photo Credit: Alan O'Rourke Flickr via Compfight cc
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:
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.Photo Credit: griseldangelo1 Flickr via Compfight cc
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.Photo Credit: aronbaker2 Flickr via Compfight cc
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!
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.Photo Credit: franchiseopportunitiesphotos Flickr via Compfight cc
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?
Hans Hansson | May 16, 2017
Watching the Golden State Warriors is a true testament to greatness. This team not only has individual star players, but an outstanding team overall with selflessness to share responsibilities on the court and ensure the team sustains their objective to win.
To achieve greatness in any competitive sport, you must perfect your skills, learn to work with others, concentrate on your goals and dig deep when things get tough so that you can find a way to get back on the winning track.
Sports championships are a lot like running a marathon. When the season starts, you and your team must learn how to pace yourself for the grueling games ahead, knowing that each game counts towards your eventual placement in the standings. It's important to remain consistent and challenge yourself every game to be as great as you can be.
In longer sport seasons, compliancy does set in at all levels from youth to professional sports. The ability to play lots of games with the same focus and energy throughout a season is extremely tough. Things happen. Athletes get tired, emotionally distraught from personal matters, or injured– which can take away the ability to remain "great."
Last year, Stephen Curry fell into the stands in an early playoff game and seemed to disappear as a factor throughout the remaining playoffs. News was that Stephen was fine, however his results were no longer there. Even the greatest fall from grace due to things often out of their control.
A successful sales career is also much like a long-distance marathon. The ultimate prize may not be a trophy, but it involves an everyday commitment to excellence to win their personal "brass ring." The sales people who have achieved success can easily fall victim to being too comfortable. They may allow age, exhaustion, or emotion to gradually drop their production level. To be a top salesman, time over time, year after year, requires a long view of addressing the tools and skillsets that not only you need to develop and maintain, but do so throughout one's career.
Great salespeople share all the characteristics of great sports figures. Champions of sales know that they are only as good as the last deal they closed. In basketball, players are only as good as their last basket. No one knows for sure when either will occur again. One accident or a missed step could end their careers quickly.
I had a chance to speak to Vida Blue former Oakland A and San Francisco Giant's great. I asked him if he saw parallels in his career as a pitcher with Tim Lincecum's career, who at the time was facing his last year with the Giants. Both had amazing fast balls that disappeared. Vida could learn how to pitch instead of just learning to throw and continued to succeed at a high level. Lincecum lost his fast ball lost in command and his baseball career ended.
Vida explained that his era was much different than Lincecum's. Vida was always one pitch away from an injury that could end his career, one young pitcher away from stealing his position as a starter. Also, salaries did not protect players who started to fade. If you were out, you were on the street usually with little financial resources. In Lincecum's era, the big paydays protected him from the exit door, at least for a while. Each team held hope for a recovery long after it was possible because they had such a financial investment in him. Lincecum's career lasted at least three years longer than it would have during Vida's time simply because of the costs to admit that Lincecum's career was over.
Sales Champions face the same struggles. Recently we interviewed one of the top salesperson in the country during the 80's and 90's. Now, very late in his career, things happened in his life that requires him to come up to "bat" one more time. His skillsets are still there, but severely reduced from his top-level clip. His worst performance now would still be better than most salespeople in his field, but he is no longer a sales champion.
He ran his long-distance marathon in sales and finished first. Now, he wants to start a new race but will be faced with many challenges that will make it hard for him to win again.
If all salespeople remember to pace themselves, monitor their results regularly, and continue to push themselves every day, they too can win their long-distance race.
Hans Hansson | April 11, 2017
"Time is money" sums up the concept of opportunity cost – because time is money. It means time is a valuable resource (because our time in this world is finite), therefore it's better to do things efficiently. Alternatively, spend time and effort on things that get the results you are looking for.
Starboard TCN recently moved offices across the street from the building we worked in for over 12 years. The buildings are very similar, yet still different in key ways. In the new building, I no longer need to cross the busy traffic on Market Street. Instead, I can walk from the underground exit to the building entrance. In our old office, I would typically stop to talk to the building security guard for and discuss the latest sports news. Now, I just enter my building and take a sharp left straight to the elevator.
My old elevator stopped virtually on every floor before I made it to my office on the fourteenth floor. My new elevator now has "express control" so I rarely share the elevator and I zip straight up to the sixteenth floor, without any stops. When I leave the building, instead of going around the block to enter the underground train station, I now have a direct path from the new building to the entrance. As a commercial real estate broker, I typically use the underground at least four times a day, so this new location is very convenient.
If you add up all the time I'm now saving just by moving to a new office location, it's about an hour a day. That's five hours a week, 20 hours a month, and over 260 hours in one year.
As a salesperson, particularly if you work on commission, it's crucial to figure out how much money you will need to make in an hour in order to hit your financial annual goal. Assuming you want to make $200,000 and you work 40 hours a week, you would have to earn $96.00 an hour in order to achieve that goal.
Before the office move, I was losing five hours a week, which means at the time I was really only working 35 hours a week. Using the same $200,000 annual goal, instead of needing to earn $96.00, I now need to earn $109.00 an hour to achieve my goal. However, if you continue to work towards $96.00 an hour, you would earn $175,000 instead of $200,000 – a loss of $25,000 in annual income.
What's really interesting to me is that it was not my intent to move our office in order to save time. But what if I studied the effect of time savings or loss of time to determine our move? As one person saving that amount of time in a firm of 20, what is the potential gain for the company if each of our agents were expected to make $200,000 annually and they each saved five hours a week?
If you study your daily routine, like my daily chat with the security guard, making personal calls, or checking social media during the day, you will likely find the precious time needed that could be added back in your work day, increasing efficiency and overall productivity. All of us, whether we are successful or not, should take note that one of the easiest ways to improve your production is to study your daily habits.
Write down all of the activities and note an average time for each. Then study these numbers and see what you can eliminate or change to become more efficient. You might just find a spare $25,000 at the end of the year.