By Erica Christoffer
The Weekly Book Scan talked to author Jennifer Allan about her new book, Sell With Soul, which was featured last week on the blog (read a mini review).
What does “selling with soul” mean?
ALLAN: What “sell with soul” means to me is two things. First, be yourself and trust your gut and your intuition. Create a real estate career around who you are as opposed to what someone else tells you who you need to be. The other thing “sell with soul” means to me is somewhat along the lines of the golden rule —that you’re competent at what you do and if someone hires you, you do a great job for them.
What led to you write this book?
ALLAN: Back in 2003, a girlfriend of mine just started working at a real estate company and she called me in tears. She said: “I don’t know what I’m doing. These people are teaching me to prospect, they’re teaching me to cold call, but I don’t know what to do with this business when it comes in.” And then she said, “You know, Jennifer, you should write a book about how to actually be a good real estate agent.”
I thought it sounded fun so I just sat down and started writing. I never intended it to be part of my career. I was selling real estate and making a whole bunch of money doing it. But my goal was to write a book teaching real estate agents how to be competent real estate agents, as opposed to competent prospectors.
What are the biggest mistakes you think REALTORS® make in their careers?
ALLAN: The biggest mistake I think REALTORS® make—and this is a big focus of my book— is they forget who they are. They try to implement methods and strategies that don’t ring true to them, that feel kind of icky, but their trainers and their coaches and the books they read convince them that this is what they have to do to succeed. They get up every morning dreading their job.
A lot of agents go at this part time in the beginning and I understand why they do that. But there’s an awful lot to learn when you’re new in real estate. If you can’t devote your time or if you “waste your time” on a regular basis as a new agent, you’re not going to get the practice you need, you’re not going to get the lessons you need.
The other mistake today is being underfunded, meaning going into this career without a nest egg. I train new agents at my office and if they don’t have a nest egg, within a month, they’re desperate and they’re going to quit.
Instead of jumping into real estate part time, go get another career for a year and save up that nest egg. If you’re going to work two jobs, why not make that second one that actually pays. Then save up for your dream of being a real estate agent, then you can hit it full time when you’re actually ready.
What are some mistakes in your career you’ve learned from?
ALLAN: Putting your paycheck ahead of your client. In those situations where you probably could push your clients to do something that will benefit you, it’s very tempting to do that. But what I’ve learned is pushing people to do something is not the best method.
The more you support your clients’ decisions and their intelligence and the more you respect them, the more likely they are to make the right decision. That decision might negatively affect your paycheck, but you need to realize this is a long term career and it really doesn’t do you any good to push someone to a closing if it’s not the right thing for them.
Have you needed to adjust your technique at all in this market?
ALLAN: The vast majority of my business has come in from my sphere of influence – the people I know and the people I meet. I’ve never done any traditional, formal prospecting. But there isn’t enough business right now.
What I’ve found is I need to adjust my expectations to what a successful year is going to be; it’s not the same as it was five years ago. We’re all going to have to adjust our lifestyles to get through this. We can’t manufacture buyers, we can’t help sellers create more equity; it is what it is.
Personally, I need to get into the world more often. I need to get my antenna up and speak intelligently about real estate when the opportunity arises. Agents should approach this industry less as a numbers game and more as one-on-one time. Take this time to build a pipeline of people who really think you’re great.
What are some tips you can give to help people looking to get out there with their “antennas up?”
ALLAN: The biggest thing if you’re going to do a sphere of influence model is to never ask for business and referrals. Get rid of all the “I love referrals” nonsense. I’m adamantly opposed to that practice. I think it makes you appear desperate and it puts your friends on the spot. Your friends will support your real estate business if they think you’re the best man for the job. If your friends think you’re a cheesy sales person, they’re not going to support you.
You need to be referral-worthy. The secret to a successful sphere of business model is to be a great real estate agent who loves her job and knows her market and stay in touch with the people she knows. Never ever pester them for business and referrals.
Tell me about your writing career.
ALLAN: Sell with Soul was my first book. It took me about a year to write it. I’ve written six other E-books and several of them are in the process of being turned into continuing education courses. I’m also an industry blogger. I contribute to several real estate newsletters. And, I do speaking, training and consulting.
I write very much how I speak. So this book doesn’t read like a typical how-to book. I’m not really instructing people, I’m chatting with them for 13 to 14 chapters. It’s very autobiographical. There are 60-some anecdotes in there that are very true from my career. My goal was not to tell everyone how wonderful I was and how I did everything right. It was to say, “OK, I really messed this up; here’s what I learned from that.”
What motivates you?
ALLAN: What I love about this career is what I’ve always loved about it; it’s the opportunity to creatively solve problems. I don’t get any particular thrill out of prospecting. I love the day-to-day process of selling real estate. As I’ve been doing it longer and I get better at it, the problems to solve get more difficult and more complicated, and I love the satisfaction of solving those problems and getting through that.