“If your head is on fire, and your feet are in a bucket of ice, it does not even out to a comfortable body temperature!”
This was a valuable lesson taught to me by one of my early career mentors and a metaphor I often used to kick off a large bid back in the corporate world, pre- my Elite Agent days.
It would often get an outrageous amount of laughter and it was a great icebreaker (pardon the pun!)
My point to each bid team I addressed during that time was that there was no point in having the best sales strategy, or the best document, or the best negotiation session in the world if the engineering team didn’t get along with their opposite geeks, or the service team couldn’t present with a can-do attitude.
The same thing applies – perhaps on a smaller scale – to you and your team, and your business.
Your sales funnel is a chain-link system and your potential to win will always be limited by your weakest link.
When I say sales funnel, I mean the process of taking someone you have never met through the various stages of marketing and relationship-building to the point where they are happy to sign off on the agency or management agreement and then loyally refer you to their friends because you’ve done such a great job.
A good example of a chain link system is a military convoy which can only ever travel at the speed of its slowest vehicle.
There is no point in improving the speed of the other vehicles in the convoy if there is a slow one holding up traffic (as cutely demonstrated by the corgi’s below!)
With all the information we have about how to be an ace at cold calling or how to be a gun on social media, it was a podcast interview with Jimmy Mackin and similar interview with top agent Ben Collier that caused me to stop and remember my old training and think more about this concept of chain-linking and how it applies to real estate.
And what the success factors really are.
LEVEL UP YOUR RESULTS
Sales or marketing success comes down to a combination of skill and personal attributes.
If you’ve achieved moderate success, then getting to the next level is going to be limited by your weakest chain link.
You can continue to improve one aspect of your system continuously but it won’t improve your success if it doesn’t address your own personal limiting factor.
For example: If you are great at generating appointments on Facebook, but things don’t work out at the listing presentation because, let’s say, you are weak at objection handling… well, that is the weak link that will limit your success until you do something about it.
There is absolutely no point at listening to a social media guru telling you to throw more money at Facebook when the listing presentation is the slowest vehicle in your convoy.
Or when you don’t have the systems to follow up.
Over January this year, we ran a 30-day kick start (now ‘Evolution) where I questioned the notion of ‘just making more calls’ with participants.
Some breathed a sigh of relief when I challenged that age-old notion.
If you’re great at making calls and it really works for you, by all means, go for it.
But if you’re not great at making calls, you really need to get better at making them before you scale and make more of them!
AND THE TOP PERFORMERS?
From what I have gathered from interviewing some of the top salespeople, leaders and property managers in our industry, they don’t appear to be dramatically better at any single skill than the average person.
The magic comes from being a few points better than their competition in every area of the chain-link system that matters.
In fact, they are a tiny bit better in every area that drives success, rather than 10 times better in any single area.
Now, read those last two sentences again.
IS THAT THE SECRET?
For top performers in real estate, or telco, consulting or any other world I’ve been in, I would say the secret is their ‘chain-link system’ fires on all cylinders and isn’t held back by a weak link.
This being a ‘tiny bit better’ in every area is similar to the habit-compounding formula James Clear talks about in Atomic Habits, where small (one per cent) changes or improvement in habits add up to major compound improvements.
So the good news: Being 10 per cent better than your peers in each area of your sales process does not make you 10 per cent better overall.
It makes you something like 70 per cent better, because those small differences across each area compound, which will make you an order of magnitude better than your competition.
Small improvements in all areas can compound to an extraordinary result.
HE OR SHE WHO ASKS THE QUESTIONS HOLDS THE POWER
Other than understanding and working on your weakest chain link I can also offer the following:
1. Top performers listen more than good performers. I pick this up when I’m asking questions of someone – they ask me questions back and are almost more interested in me than giving information about themselves.
I interviewed Ben Collier for the current issue cover story and I actually think he ended up asking me more questions than I asked him during the time we had together. I can see why his loyal customers pick up the phone every time they see his name on the display.
2. Top performers respond to objections with questions more often.
This is usually to clarify where the objection is coming from (average performers jump straight to answers more often).
3. The ability to use point 1. (listening) to improve on point 2. (questioning) is one of the compounding factors I urge you to consider when reviewing how to optimise your sales chain.
Think like a reporter: if you had to write a news story on your prospect, would you come away with something great, or would you still not know what to write?
4. Top performers spend more time scheduling next steps with their vendors and buyers (tenants and landlords).
They take a leadership position, make recommendations and spend time mapping out the individual actions for that person (something the machines can’t do!).
5. Top performers foreshadow point 4. in their marketing (by problem-solving and focusing on the customer at the marketing stage) so that when it comes to the conversation in the living room, marketing has done the somewhat difficult job of assisting with closing. The messages from marketing to service need to be consistent.
So here’s my conclusion: What makes a top performer is actually a really hard question to answer because of the chain-link system which makes success factors harder to see when you are on the outside looking in.
Top performers have an increased (even if only slightly) marginal strength in every area of their sales/marketing process – lead generation, discovery, presentations, value proposition, objection handling, negotiation, after-sales service and mindset, to name a few.
Fortunately, you can see your own prospecting funnel up close from the inside.
It is never a bad time to audit your sales process and look at where your head may be on fire and your feet may be in a bucket of ice.
And work on bringing that ice bucket up to temperature!