By Christopher M. Leporini, REALTOR® Magazine
How is your top salesperson like a five-ton killer whale? It might sound like a setup for a cruel punch line, but the answer has serious implications for the way you manage your office, according to Ken Blanchard, Thad Lacinak, Chuck Tompkins, and Jim Ballard, authors of Whale Done! The Power of Positive Relationships (The Free Press, 2002; $19.95). They argue that embracing the same principles that Sea World trainers employ to keep killer whales motivated and productive can make you a better manager. The book teaches you how to stir up your salespeople or assistants, without acting like a shark.
The book reunites Ken Blanchard (author of The One Minute Manager) with frequent collaborator Ballard. They’re joined as authors by Lacinak and Tompkins, who hold over twenty-five years experience apiece working with killer whales. It traces the journey of fictional manager Wes Kingsley, who discovers a killer management style during a fateful visit to Sea World. Orcas are among the ocean’s most fearsome predators, capable of dining on almost anything that they see. Wes wonders how the trainers convince these leviathans to perform. He finds the answer isn’t only simple, it applies to people as well. It all comes down to establishing trust and building relationships.
Both people and whales perform better when you create a positive work environment, the authors say. This idea forms the backbone of the Whale Done! approach, which concentrates on accentuating the positive, rather than the common “GOTcha” management tactic of trying to catch people in mistakes and then punishing them. For killer whales, a punishment-centered approach carries obvious dangers. (Would you want to get in the water with Shamu, if you knew he was carrying a grudge?) But it’s no less counterproductive in the workplace, breeding fear and resentment.
Instead, the book advocates two primary methods to motivate employees. The first is to employ positive reinforcement—using the carrot (or the fish) rather than the stick—to drive workers. Don’t try to catch people screwing up, try to catch them doing things right and then give them a hearty “Whale Done!” This involves more than tossing them a few insincere, generic pats on the back. “If you’re insincere with a whale, the animal will know,” the book says. “You can’t fool a killer whale.” People aren’t much different. A full-blown Whale Done response includes:
- Praising people immediately.
- Including specifics about what they did right, or almost right.
- Sharing your positive feelings about what they did.
- Encouraging them to keep up the good work.
But what about when a salesperson makes a mistake that costs you a listing? After all, you can hardly ignore poor performance or negative behavior. The book advises a technique called redirection—taking the energy from negative behavior and refocusing it in a positive way. The idea is to get the employee on track, without being destructively critical. This involves these basic steps:
- Describing the error or problem as soon as possible, clearly, and without assigning blame.
- Showing the error’s negative impact.
- If appropriate, taking the blame. In other words, if the mistake resulted from you not giving them enough information, don’t take it out on them.
- Going over the task in detail.
- Expressing trust that the salesperson can accomplish the task.
These methods might sound simplistic, but Sea World trainers have successfully used them to establish relationships with killer whales.
Whale Done! communicates its core ideas simply and effectively, and the natural appeal of its hook is obvious. Some readers might find themselves scared off by its relatively high price for a low page count–$19.95 for 128 pages. But ask yourself how much one good idea is worth–the book’s novel look at how to establish positive relationships might justify the cost for you. After all, if these methods work on Shamu, why not make them work for you?
By Christopher M. Leporini, REALTOR® Magazine
Commercial real estate can produce a profitable second income source for residential salespeople or constitute a lucrative specialty in its own right. But whether you’re extending your business to include a commercial division or starting out in the commercial market as a rookie salesperson, there aren’t any shortcuts in selling commercial real estate. Unlike many real estate titles, How to Succeed in Commercial Real Estate, by John L. Bowman (iUniverse, 2002; $26.95) doesn’t trade in empty promises of effortless profits—the author freely admits that his book won’t reveal how to make millions in real estate without lifting a finger. Bowman, a 30-year commercial veteran, calls real estate “one of the last bastions of free enterprise in American business,” where your profits are tied directly to your talents and hard work. The book does offer an overview of the tools you’ll need to compete in the commercial sector.
The book offers insight into both the technical and practical aspects of the market, employing a conversational style to lighten up material that might otherwise be dry reading. “Chapter 1: Where to Start” offers advice for beginning salespeople on how to evaluate whether commercial real estate is the right career for them and how to choose a brokerage. Additionally, it provides summaries of commercial specialty areas including office, retail, industrial, and investments. Particularly in larger markets, Bowman says, generalists are a dying breed.
The author’s colorful descriptions read like advice from a friendly uncle on the family business. When he notes that industrial real estate “historically has been where the ‘real men’ go” and sums up investment brokers as “the computer hackers of the commercial real estate business, you get a feel for the business, beyond a generic job description.
Later, the book addresses more nuts and bolts aspects of the business. “Chapter 3: Contracts” and “Chapter 4: Technical Knowledge.” are required reading, whether you are expanding your present business or just starting out in real estate. The former explores forms with which novice commercial salesperson should familiarize themselves, such as earnest money agreements, offers to lease, leases, and counteroffers. The latter chapter explains legal and industry terminology, mathematical calculations required for commercial real estate transactions, as well as issues that might affect your business, such as zoning and environmental restrictions.
The book’s second half might not offer as much new information for experienced residential salespeople—these sections deal with universal issues such as time management, negotiation, and professionalism. Commercial novices with no previous real estate experience will probably benefit most from them. If you’re moving into commercial real estate from another career path, the tips offered in “Chapter 5: Salesmanship”—such as never showing anger, consistently keeping a positive attitude, and always remembering to be yourself—will prove more beneficial than if you have years of sales experience to fall back on. Experienced salespeople might want to browse through these sections as a refresher course. For instance, if you have a chronic procrastination problem, you might want to check out “Chapter Six: Organization” for time management tips.
Readers looking for easy answers will walk away from How to Succeed in Commercial Real Estate disappointed. However, those interested in an accessible, basic introduction to the subject will find it useful. Often real estate titles will try to tell you that it’s easy to succeed in the business without really trying. This book offers a more honest appraisal—it takes hard work and knowledge to get to the top in commercial real estate—as it does in residential.