Elite AgentFrom the Editor

3 lessons from Masterchef for real estate agents: Samantha McLean

Masterchef and being in real estate. Kind of the same. I’ve said it before, but in case you missed it, I’m going to compare life in the industry to those fun mystery box challenges you usually see at the beginning of each week of competition. Those where George, Matt and Gary dream up this list of weird ingredients, put them in a wooden box and challenge the contestants to create a delicious dish or risk elimination. Some contestants survive and do the job well, others fall to pieces.

Why? Well, you need to make good decisions, under pressure, about what’s important and what’s not. Do you go minimal, or use as much as you can? Either way, if you dive straight in without planning, the final dish might taste OK; but your lack of preparation ends in a plating rush job that resembles the classic ‘dog’s dinner’. Or maybe you forgot to have a ‘hero’ in the dish because there was too much to choose from and in the end nobody really knew what they were supposed to be tasting.

If, as a contestant, these are the only issues you have, you might sneak ‘under the radar’ for a few episodes, but mediocre performance will eventually catch up. What might speed up your elimination are a couple of different scenarios. One is you’ve just looked sideways and noticed one of your fellow competitors has remembered a childhood summer in France and they are smashing out a ‘mille feuille’, like a professional pastry chef, while you can’t get your simple shortcrust to look like anything other than crumble. The other is that sense of ‘YOLO’ when you spot an ugly sea urchin in the box. It’s something you’ve never eaten let alone cooked with before, but the opportunity to be a hero in innovation usurps all common sense. A gooey mess on the plate at the end forces you to ask yourself why you you wanted to go all out at the very point you probably should have played safe.

As an agent, your ‘mystery box’ today is large and can be confusing. The ingredients are all the different learnings and opinions around you from coaches, speakers, commentators, participants, other agents, and all those shiny new tech tools and services that seem to come at you thick and fast. There are so many ingredients to choose from, many of them free, that one could be forgiven for thinking there are no excuses for not being a great agent.

But what it comes down to is how you use what you’ve been given, and how you are going to impress your judges (in other words, your customers). The real difference between winning and losing, I believe, comes down to listening, remembering the basics under pressure, and playing to your strengths.

The quickest way to be eliminated from Masterchef is creating a dish that’s not on brief. Never mind that the guy or girl at the bench next to you has created something that smelled so bad even Fido left the building;

if the brief is to create something savoury there is no point in baking a cake, no matter how beautiful, to present to the judges and still expect to win.

Likewise, if you can’t follow simple instructions from a customer you’re going to be eliminated. Even if you don’t get the opportunity to show off all your skills; you actually might not need to. Listen, clarify and do what’s asked. And, I’m not going to give you some well-worn statement about two ears and one mouth; it’s more than that. You have to listen with your ears, your eyes and when it comes to matters of shelter, as Roxette said, “Listen with your heart”. Trust me, it’s also a great productivity hack to get things right the first time.

Remember the basics
They give Masterchef contestants pantry ‘staples’ (salt, pepper, flour, milk, eggs) because it’s hard to create a good dish without them. In real estate that’s talking to people (call it prospecting if you want). Everyone says pick up the phone, but I’m going to argue you need to communicate to customers the way they want, not the way you want. They will tell you if you ask, you just have to act on it.

Play to your strengths
Just because you have it all in front of you doesn’t mean you have to use it all. Adding potatoes to a Japanese-inspired dish to show you are versatile is not going to make you the hero. In fact, it is more likely to go wrong than win you the listing (or the immunity pin for that matter).

One way to seek clarity is by simply asking the question, ‘What is your decision-making process in choosing an agent?’ This one question should speak volumes – what’s really important to them, how price sensitive that person is, and what you might be up against.

From there you can make a better call on what ingredients you need to use from that mystery box. If it happens to be a new piece of technology or technique, learn about it and practise with it before you head into the kitchen!

And last but not least, when you find the mystery box of real estate overwhelming and you can’t think what to cook, don’t ever forget this one thing: The customer should always be the hero of your dish.

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