What Are You Really Selling?

Mark Roesler hopped in his car on a Saturday morning in the 1980s and drove to the quaint Indiana town where family members of the late film icon James Dean lived. An intellectual property rights attorney, Roesler sat down with Dean’s aunt and cousin on their farm to explain to them that they deserved rights to Dean’s image and authority over how it was used commercially. Roesler made no fuss — he didn’t make a show of being a glitzy, high-powered lawyer. He simply earned the family’s trust, which opened the door for him to represent them in a multimillion-dollar landmark case that changed the entertainment industry and made it so that corporations no longer owned sole rights to the images of celebrities they made famous.

Photo credit: Yoel/Morguefile.com

Photo credit: Yoel/Morguefile.com

Before matchmaker Janis Spindel introduced her client to the love of his life, she went on a date with him herself. Over dinner, she made small talk with her client, getting to know him and what he was looking for in a woman. Naturally, he wanted someone beautiful. “Men are very visual and can be extremely superficial and shallow. It’s part of their DNA,” Spindel told her client. It didn’t exactly sound like a good pitch for her services. “Don’t worry, I will find somebody that you will be attracted to. But then, there is the rest of the package.” Her honesty won her client’s heart. She introduced him to a schoolteacher — and by the end of the year, they were married.

When Phillip Styrlund, now head of consulting and sales training firm The Summit Group, landed his first sales job, he had no experience. He had been working in IT for a telecommunications company, but when the firm was about to lose one of its biggest clients, Styrlund’s boss told him he would be in charge of mending the client relationship. He’d never done anything like that before. So on the first day of his new role, he decided to be as transparent with the customer as possible. “I’m brand-new,” Styrlund said. “I’ve never been in sales. Guys, tell me what to do. How should we go about mending this relationship? What needs to happen?” His admission could have put the client off. But instead, it encouraged them to truly alongside him to repair the relationship. In two months, Styrlund and his client checked off a laundry list of grievances that had been resolved, and the customer was happy to stay.

No matter who you are or what you’re selling, everyone uses this main tactic to close a deal: make the customer believe in you — and then they can believe in your product. That’s the overarching theme in a collection of personal short stories from entrepreneurs of all business types captured in Success Secrets of Sales Superstars: The Moves and Mayhem Behind Selling Your Way to the Top as Told by 34 Industry Leaders. Authors Robert L. Shook and Barry Farber tapped leaders in a wide array of industries — including real estate — to talk about some of the most challenging and memorable moments of landing a tough sale.

Farber has written for REALTOR® Magazine before on the “4 Ways to a More Honest Sales Relationship.” Chief among his tips is to focus on connecting to something that’s important to your client instead of trying to make the client connect to what you’re selling. If you can win their loyalty by connecting with them on a personal level, clients will buy into your sales pitch. In Success Secrets of Sales Stars, it’s clear that’s a near-universal philosophy, as sports agents, financial advisors, CEOs, auto salespeople, and real estate professionals alike write about how this practice helped them win the sales that made their careers.

We all need a little inspiration from outside our own circles to learn how we can do what we do even better. If you want to see how the successes of salespeople in completely different industries can apply to your real estate business, this book is a good place to start.

Graham Wood

Graham Wood is a senior editor for REALTOR® Magazine. He can be reached at gwood@realtors.org.

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  1. We learn a lot, too from our clients, if we are just ready to listen and understand.