James Leslie: No second prize in real estate

When James Leslie's appraisal to listing ratio dropped and three potential clients had the exact same reason for not selecting him as their agent, he knew he had to make a change. James says rather than becoming disgruntled at coming second, agents need to learn from their mistakes and embrace the opportunity to step up to the plate.

Jimmy Barnes had a hit with the song “No Second Prize”.

But, hold on, there is sometimes, isn’t there? In this new age of ribbons for participation, no matter the result, what is the actual value of winning?

And, more importantly, the value of losing?

Being classed as a ‘loser’ in real estate sales usually means you can’t convert appraisals to listings.

You do all the research, meet the client, complete a comprehensive report and pitch for the business, emphasising you’re the agent that will get them the best result.

But you fall short at the final hurdle.

Hours and hours of work go into this process, and while most agents are paid on commission, this can be a big investment for no reward.

But while the disappointment of not gaining the signature on the contract is most often looked at as a negative, why aren’t we excited about the upside?

Why don’t we take the opportunity to educate ourselves on the reasons we miss out, which improves our performance?

I think we’ve become soft.

From my experience, it’s an all too familiar story that seems to be happening a lot more today than ever before.

Especially in a fast-moving market, many agents treat their losses as complete failures.

Over the past 18 months, this attitude, a pure emotional overreaction to missing a listing, has become the worst I have encountered.

It’s almost as if a feeling of entitlement has crept in, so we need to shift that thinking fast. 

It starts with something extremely simple that might sound confusing, but stay with me.

We need to fall in love with losing. 

Now, I’m not saying that the best play here is to throw a party when a client calls to say you were unsuccessful.

That’s not how to get the best out of the situation at all, but while they are giving you the ‘bad news’, take that chance to ask why.

Use that window of time to ask questions about how you could improve and what appealed to them about the agent they did select.

Treat this as the client giving you some of the most valuable coaching you could get your hands on.

It’s a real-life example of where to find the extra few per cent to be better next time.

And the best part of this process is it’s completely free of charge.

You’re not paying a coach thousands of dollars a week to give you a magic potion for sales or reading book after book on how to sell ice to Eskimos.

I’m not saying these things don’t have their place, but the simple resources at our disposal can sometimes be all we need. 

Now, this isn’t as simple as the age-old ‘your fees were too high’ lines vendors like to throw out like they are candy.

I’ve always subscribed that if you had proved your value, these discussions would already be off the table early in the meeting.

So, simply put, you haven’t shown you are worth the difference.

It’s about more than them finding a throwaway line to give you the news and get off the phone or shut the front door behind you.

It’s all about the questions you ask and the way you listen to the response. 

I received some feedback last year that normally wouldn’t hit home as much as it did, but it wasn’t the first time I’d heard it in a short space of time, so I needed to find out what was going on.

As salespeople, when we get these golden nuggets of information, we sometimes go straight to defence and act like it’s the client that has made a mistake, and while we throw a few curse words around and move on to the next appraisal, the negativity that gets left behind is doing more damage than we know.

In four weeks, I had three different clients tell me the same thing, almost word for word.

The clients were from different demographics, price points and situations, but I ended up with the same result.

I missed the signature on the authority because of one thing – I didn’t listen. 

The potential clients felt I was structured, detailed, well researched and had all the answers before the questions were asked.

But I failed to ask them about what was important to them.

It was kind of like going to a doctor for a sore throat and having them talk about the ‘history of sore throats’ for 10 minutes before they write you a script, and you leave.

No further investigation, no extra information and no feeling of building a relationship.

I’d been great at being an active listener previously, but in the busy landscape, I’d dropped the ball and employed a ‘get in, get out’ approach.

I was ‘telling’ the client I had the best strategy and hoping they understood me in the short time I had allocated for them.

I needed to slow down, take a breath and find out how I could best help them as individuals, not try and put them in a box. 

What was the answer? I took on fewer appraisals.

And with the freedom of gaps in my diary, I was able to allocate more time for longer initial meetings, a cuppa before the presentation and even a quick game of basketball with a client’s son recently.

And with my conversion rate back to almost 85 per cent, it looks like losing was actually winning after all. 

As a very level-headed friend of mine said to me recently, “feedback is a gift”.

Don’t be scared to lose, and find the reasons to be excited for the chance to improve.

No more “it’s them and not me”.

There’s some real merit in becoming the biggest loser. 

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James Leslie

James Leslie is the director of Hudson 365, a boutique real estate agency in Devonport, Tasmania, that does things differently.