Moving Forward

Great brands are more than just fancy (or simple) logos, more than just vision statements, or cutting-edge marketing. The core of a great brand rests in their actions and the actions of those associated with the brand. It requires that you take the words off the page and live your creed. But to build a great brand, you have to have more than branding - you have to have character. 

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Take, for example, Uber. This is a brand that despite their one-time lofty valuation of $69 billion dollars, has had their fair share of struggles. In fact, many of my friends have fully abandoned Uber as a result and moved to other rideshare providers such as Lyft. But Uber as a brand is making an effort to come back from their setbacks through their new Moving Forward campaign. Now, taken at face value there is nothing particularly remarkable about Uber's moving forward campaign and many probably see it as a mere effort to regain the sought after appeal that they once had. Frankly, I thought that. But then I experienced what my hope is the campaign in action. 

Last Friday night, my wife and I took an Uber to dinner to see our friend play music at a local restaurant. After some glitches with the app, the driver, Vicki, called us to ensure that she was headed to us on the fastest route. This was my first inclination that we were about to have a great experience, but at the time, it didn't seem any more than good customer service. She was pleasant to talk to during the ride and very accommodating asking us standard questions such as "would you like the air adjusted?" or what type of music we preferred. I jokingly asked her if she had ever considered real estate. All in all, 5-stars! 

Now, when it was time to come home, my wife went to call another Uber to take us home. What are the chances, but it was Vicki again! We laughed to each other when she picked us up exclaiming how that never happens. We chatted with her our whole ride home and learned a lot about her story and even about her recent homebuying process. The fact that we asked about that, we'll just call an occupational hazard. Vicki dropped us off, wished us well, and went on her way. 

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Here is where things get interesting. On Sunday afternoon, our doorbell rings. I couldn't figure out who would be stopping by, and when I answered the door, it was Vicki! I was obviously surprised to see her, but she immediately held out her hand with a set of car keys explaining that she found these in her back seat and she thought they might be ours. They weren't. So, I asked her, "what are you going to do now?" She went on to explain that we were her sixth house and she had about fifteen more to go by to see if they had left the keys. Talk about living your creed of making the rider experience next level! Vicki is the example. She's living it. 

You see, Vicki probably doesn't even know about the Moving Forward campaign. I didn't until the other day either. And she probably doesn't have any personal connection to the company's leadership. Not to mention, she does this as a side hustle. But what Vicki does do is she lives the commitment the brand is making to move forward, to improve every ride, and to put people first. I can think of a long list of things that Vicki probably would've rather done on Sunday afternoon than drive around to all of her riders pick up points, but to her, it wasn't about what she preferred to do. It was about the commitment she had made to a brand, to the rider, and to herself. That's something to be proud of. 

5-stars, Vicki.  

Effective Communication Starts With You

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No matter how many transactions you do, every real estate transaction is different. They each come with their own clients, cooperating agents, inspectors, lenders, appraisers, and most of all - complications. In real estate, but mostly in life - effective communication is essential.

So often when there is a lapse in communication, we are quick to blame the other party. Yet, when things go off the rails, we often must look inward to solve the problem. Others ability to understand us and further communication with us starts with us

Here are some easy-to-implement ways to improve your communication:

Set Expectations. We hear a lot about setting expectations - with our clients, on the other side, with other agents, etc. But this goes beyond setting expectations during the transaction and boils down to the need to set expectations at every turn. 

Have Empathetic Awareness. Empathy goes a long way to effectively communicating with others. It helps you understand what they're going through and how it is impacting their position so it offers insight into how what you communicate could be interpreted and even responded to. When you take the time to understand how the other half lives and perceives you can understand how to communicate effectively with them. 

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PRAA. This one is a tough one for me. Sometimes when we're driven by passion, it is difficult to pause long enough to really absorb what someone else is saying or consider an alternate perspective. This is a huge disservice to both ourselves and our communication. Instead of charging ahead, I use this acronym to help me communicate effectively. Whenever I hear something, I try to take the time to pause and truly listen to what the other side is saying, not just hear it. From there, I reflect on what was said, why it was said, what the tone was, and how I can respond. Next, I adjust my response accordingly. Not necessarily to abandon my perspective, but to deliver my thoughts in a manner that the other side will be most receptive to. And lastly, then I act. Saving actions for last isn't always easy, but it is certainly worth the time you'll save in ineffective communications. 

Whether or not you utilize these methods, investing in your communication skills isn't just a necessary component for a successful real estate career, but a successful life. Becoming an effective communicator you will see the benefits both in your career and your personal life. I guarantee it. If you're looking for one thing that can truly set you apart from the pack, this is it. 

Are You Thinking Big?

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Last week I was talking to a good friend of mine. By almost any standard, she is one of the greats. She has achieved so much in her life, is considered a leader in her industry, and frankly - she is just an all-around awesome person. She always struck me as someone who is a big thinker, and better yet - a big executer, meaning she walks the walk just as much as she talks the talk. And just as she was preparing to get on stage at one of her industry's largest events, she said to me "Just because I think bigger than most people around me doesn't mean I'm thinking big."

In that one statement, I was entranced. Often we are prone to thinking we are thinking big when in reality, we are simply not challenging ourselves. Leadership expert, Jim Rohn says "you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with." Take a moment and look at who you surround yourself with. Are they achieving their goals? Are they growing their businesses and their lives? Are they living the way you want to live yours? The answers may surprise you.

If you choose to surround yourself with people who are happy with the status quo, you will never grow. Worse yet, if you choose to surround yourself with people who have habits that could be detrimental to achieving your goals, you risk even more. You need to consistently challenge yourself to change yourself and that starts with your surroundings.  

Making The Most of Your Downtime

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Whenever I ask real estate agents about how they spend their downtime most laugh and playfully say "what downtime?" I get it. Real estate is hardly a 9-5 and often when we escape long enough to actually have downtime we either struggle to actually unplug or we want to unplug so much that we lose all productivity. But what if I told you there was a happy medium you could reach? Because get this...there is! 

When we're overworked, over scheduled and overtired it is easy to struggle with productivity. I know, that seems like a double negative - overworked and unproductive? But here is the truth, without the right amount of time to recoup and relax - we are no where near as effective as we can be. Think about it like this...if I work out at the gym to the point of straining a muscle that is my body's way of telling me that I overworked that muscle. If I continue to work through the pain - I may risk injury, more time off, and ultimately even reverse any progress I have made. However, if I take the time to work out, rest, hydrate, and do some low impact workout that doesn't provide as much stress to my muscle - I can make huge strides when it comes to my fitness. Although this example refers to physical fitness, I believe mental fitness works the exact same way. If we work to the point of exhaustion, confusion, or even mistakes - we have overworked our bodies - even strained them. Continuing to push through has negative impacts on our health, our business, and even our clients. Your clients deserve better than that. You deserve better than that. 

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But what happens when the opposite occurs? If we completely disconnect and leave nothing to plans - we aim for calmness, but risk complacency. These are the times when we so badly need to rest and recharge, but instead end up binging on Netflix and compromising all semblance of productivity. Again...your clients lose and you lose. 

So how can you strike that balance where you can gain that much needed recharge, yet not give up your treasured productivity. Well, the best tip is to try and find anchor activities for your down time. The mistake most people make is anchoring their downtime with work activities such as email, transactional communication, or even a small window of showings. This is counterproductive because we all know it can quickly snowball out of control. Instead, anchoring your downtime with short, planned, non-work related activities. Great ideas for this are lunch dates, visits to a museum or park, exercising or hiking, etc. Having these short planned activities prevent our brains from falling into a trap of Netflix binging, yet give us the much needed relax and recharge that our bodies so deeply need. 

As a coach, I clearly believe in peak production - but a big part of that is committing to be the best version of yourself. While you need to hustle and grind, the need to recharge cannot be ignored. If it is, you will undoubtedly burnout or worse - suffer the health impacts of a non-stop schedule. This summer, it is common to have some downtime, make sure you make the most of it and anchor yourself in a productive mindset. You won't regret it. 

Trust The Process

In real estate, we talk a lot about trust. After all, trust is the foundation of any great relationship - even the agent-client relationship. But while trust is the goal, trust is not instant and it certainly cannot be taken for granted. Working with a new client isn't all that different from dating. When you first start working with someone new, there is that constant - "how much is too much?" thought that runs through your mind. And just like every real estate training teaches you, you have to earn your client's trust to really be able to deliver excellent service. But, before a client can trust you, they must like you, respect you, and feel the value you bring to their situation. How does that happen? Well, there are a few ways. 

Getting Your Clients To Like You - It seems like an easy enough idea to get your clients to like you, but this is actually slightly more complicated because it involves saying "no" more than it involves saying "yes." They key to getting people to like you is associating with clients who genuinely like the authentic version of you. The reason why so many agents struggle with this is that they are working to develop any client instead of doubling down on the clients that like their working style, understand their value, and truly want to work with them. The key to getting clients to like you is working with client you like first. The rest will fall into place. 

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Respect You - Liking someone and respecting them are two entirely different concepts. Respect, much like trust is earned through reliable, consistent actions. Sure, a certain level of basic respect is assumed; however, you need your clients to not only respect you as a person, but as a professional and that includes respecting the boundaries that you set for yourself. 

Know Your Value - There is a lot of talk about value and knowing your worth, but I am constantly amazed at the number of agents who feel entitled to defend their commission, but have no substantive reason why they are worth it. To earn your commission, you need to not only be able to articulate your value, but to prove it day in and day out. And the funny thing about value is that it looks different for every consumer, every stage of the process, and every perspective. Taking the time to understand your clients' needs beyond just bedrooms and bathrooms is essential to providing great value. 

While these three areas are an easy place to start, great service is more than establishing a good start. Great service is defined in the moments where no one is looking. Great service reflects great character because it shows your desire to do the right thing because you know it is right, not because of some reward at the end of the rainbow. 

Begin

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There is something refreshing about a beginning. So much of our lives are spent in preparation mode. We're always preparing for something - our next listing, our next step in our career, our next step in our relationship, etc. The problem with approaching life this way is that we miss so many opportunities. 

One of the biggest reasons people don't accomplish what they set out to is because they fail to ever truly begin. They spend days, months, even years of their lives preparing to begin and fail to ever take the first step. Here is the secret: you will never be fully prepared but some of the best things have come from inadequate preparation. Ask just about any parent. Most of us were probably ill-prepared to have kids, heck, most days I still feel that way. But they have been some of the great treasures of my life. When I began Compass South, there was no question that I wasn't adequately prepared. Sure, I had the value to share with clients, but I didn't have the systems in place, the lessons I have learned over time, or the experience that time has brought me. That's the thing though, had I waited and prepared, I never would've learned all that I have by starting before I felt ready. 

Your odds will never be perfect. Your journey won't be easy or hassle-free. But, the lessons that you learn along the way because you are approaching your journey with the humility of someone who doesn't have all the answers will be the key to grow beyond your wildest measure. There is no time like the present to begin.

It's your move. 

Set the Standard

One of the things I love most about being an entrepreneur is that I am able to decide who I want to work with. My clients make up a hard-working, committed group of individuals and teams who believe in doing the work. It makes my work so much more rewarding and satisfying. What if I told you that you have the same luxury? You can choose who you work with, too. And more importantly, you can decide how you are treated in this business. 

In real estate, this is admittedly easier said than done. It is difficult to resist the urge to "jump" when the client/prospect says so, or to be responsive at all hours because our livelihood is constantly at stake. The question looms in our minds of..."if we set the boundary for ourselves, will another agent be able to swoop in and capture my clients?" It is certainly a risk and I wholeheartedly acknowledge that; however, I don't believe that it is as big of a risk as we have convinced ourselves. 

Our businesses and our lives are a product of the expectations that we have set for ourselves and for others. You are responsible for teaching people how you want to be treated and they are responsible for how they choose to interact with you as a result. If you find yourself with no downtime or feeling frazzled, you have likely let people control your boundaries instead of controlling them yourself. In a business where time is at a premium, you have to have the willpower to control how you allocate it. Just remember, every time you say "no" it opens the opportunity for a whole lot of "yes."

Take Back Control

As we kick off June, it is hard to believe the year is already half over. For many, this is a time to celebrate the great success they have had during the first half of the year, while for others, it is time to readjust their focus and get serious about accomplishing some audacious goals. I like to approach June much like many people approach January - with a fresh set of eyes. I try to leave the setbacks of the previous few months in the past and focus on what I can do moving forward to set myself apart and achieve my goals. This is a great strategy to utilize if you're already on pace to crush your goals or if you need a little jolt. 

So, here are a few tips to make this your best summer ever:

  1. Control your schedule. One of the biggest reasons people don't achieve their goals is because they don't manage their time effectively. When we all have the same amount of hours in a day, the question becomes - how is it that some people are so much more successful than others? Despite what you may think, this isn't because they have been given some distinct advantage. What high performing individuals in almost any field have in common is a firm grasp on how to effectively manage their time. Moreover, this has become a true passion of mine. If you feel frazzled or like your time is not being managed effectively, I suggest tracking your time using our Time Tracker. (Here are directions for how to use this tool.) From there, make small adjustments to be more effective. Of course, if you'd like to discuss how to utilize this tool or the results with us, simply give us a shout
  2. Double-down on your lead generation. Many agents assume that summer is a bad time to drum up your leads because people are taking trips, enjoying time with their families, etc., but this is actually a great time to reconnect with cold leads or to strike with hot leads. The downtime that many people take over the summer gives them the time to consider big life decisions such as buying or selling a home. While you're sitting on the sidelines, another agent may be reaching out and converting that client. 
  3. Love on your people. In the same way that summer can be a fantastic time to drum up new leads, it is also a great time to love on your database. As we mentioned, summer is commonly downtime for many so your email isn't getting overlooked or ignored and your call is much appreciated. Summer also offers some great opportunities for a pop-by item such as sparklers/glow sticks for the 4th of July or pool toys for a mid-summer trip to the pool. 
  4. Set up your fall/winter. If you've had a banner year so far, or even if you haven't - it is easy to be distracted by the warm summer air, the waves crashing, the lake trip, or even just having kids out of school. Summer is a time when we want to all take a break, and while I certainly encourage soaking up the sun with your loved ones, one of the most common mistakes people who don't hit their goals share is that they took their foot off the gas mid-year. Make sure that you not only focus on your business now but setting yourself up for the fall and winter when people fall back into the hustle and bustle of their day-to-day. 
  5. Don't let your past define you. June offers a perfect time to reflect on your wins and your setbacks from the year. I often describe it as a built in reset button. But there is nothing worse than looking back in December and thinking "I wish I would've continued to push ahead" or "I can't believe I didn't get it together." You have the ability to reset, readjust, and recalibrate. Do what needs to be done. Don't wait and rely on time to fix the problem. It isn't going to. 
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If you're crushing 2018, good for you. Really. But now is not the time to pull back. Not if you want to crush 2019 and beyond. You are constantly building for the future and pulling back threatens that. If you've fallen off track, it is time to pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and get back to work. As Winston Churchill put it, "Success is not final, failure is not fatal. It is the courage to continue that counts. Keep in mind, 2019 is only another six months away. You have an opportunity to do great things. Don't waste it. 

What Guides You?

They say that character is defined by what you do when no one is looking. And when it comes to great service - I believe the same rule follows. It is easy to go above and beyond when you know the client/prospect is looking or to roll out the red carpet for the pat on the back, but real service is defined by the things we do when no one is looking.  

In real estate, it is easy to get attached to the outcome of a deal and align our service with the outcome. But what happens when you align your service with your values is something so much more impressive. You live each moment in the actions because you wholeheartedly believe in them. When we are constantly looking for ways to enhance the experience, we often miss out on ways that we can maintain the experience as well.

Certainly, I am not a fan of the status quo. It pretty much goes against everything I stand for, but the status quo also represents an expectation of a smooth process. Often when we're trying to go above and beyond, we unintentionally disrupt that. This is what happens when we're solely focused on outcomes. We do things with a result in mind and if we don't achieve that result, the entire process is in vain. However, when we focus on the individual actions. When we live in the moments of the transaction, we're able to surprise, delight, and deliver in a way that surpasses the client's wildest expectations. The only question is - are you in it for the outcome or are you in it for the action?

Controlling For X

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One of the most common questions I get is "what is the one thing I implement that will help me succeed?" Talk about a broad question, huh? It doesn't matter where I am or who I am talking to, it is almost a guarantee that someone will ask me the question. Some people may see it as agents looking for a quick fix or a magic solution, but I see it differently. I realize that the journey to success is long and winding and often we're just looking for signs that we're on the right path - even if that path differs from someone else's. 

You are probably wondering what my answer is, aren't you? And the funny thing about it is the answer applies universally regardless of the situation. Why? Because there is one looming reason that people fail...something I call The X Factor. This is that thing (or things) that fall outside your control, but impact your work. It is unpredictable and more likely than not, it has the ability to throw a wrench in your plans. When the X Factor rears it's ugly head, we tend to crumble and lose touch with all of the things that got us to where we are. So, what is the answer to my question? You have to control for X. 

I get it, it is much easier said than done. How do you even go about controlling for something you don't know anyway? Sometimes the X Factor is time while other times it is emotions. Still other times it is the other side of a negotiation. The thing that high achievers all share is this ability to control for X. Sure, you won't be able to predict everything, but much of what we do is highly predictable. By allowing the predictable to become regimented making it even more predictable you will generate time to deal with the unpredictable events. Controlling for X also requires that we overcome a looming fear of worst case scenario playing it out in our heads so that we can prepare for the possibilities. Chances are that this simple act of preparation very well may eliminate the worst case scenario all together allowing for a much smoother experience to begin with. 

You see, controlling for X doesn't mean eliminating X. There will always be unpredictable events that impact our success and our lives. But how you choose to respond to those actions and prepare for the possibilities is what will set you apart. 

The Devil Is In The Details

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From an early age, we are taught the importance of the details. Pick up just about any LEGO instruction booklet and you'll see 73-pages of the most detailed directions you'll ever read. Inevitably, when you miss the pebble-sized piece on Step 17, the entire structure is compromised, but of course, you don't realize that until Step 45. This is enough to drive almost anyone crazy, but as I do with most things - I see a bigger lesson here. 

Whether it is LEGOs or a real estate transaction, the devil is most certainly in the details. Details seem relatively simple in nature, often appearing to be a minor element to skip during a lengthy process. The thing about details is that at the moment, they can seem minor or relatively inconsequential, only revealing their true importance later on even sometimes when it is too late to fix the problem. 

But for some, this is a struggle. If that's you, that's okay. You're not alone. In fact, you're in good company. We're all born different with a different set of skills and strong suits.  That's okay. The key is in identifying where we struggle and putting in the extra effort to ensure we're delivering top-notch, memorable service. The lasting impression we leave is often found in the details and that simply isn't something we can afford to overlook. 

 

 

More Than Words

Did you know that only 7% of communication is ever done through spoken words? Effective communication is about more than words - it is about body language, a tone of voice, and so much more. A deep understanding of communication is essential to any successful agent's business, so here are my top 5 tips to enhance your communication skills. 

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1. Be an active observer of your environment. Many of us are taught the skill of active listening but ignore the skill of active observation writing it off as an inherent skill. While it is true that some people are inherently better observers than others, like most skills, it can be learned and improved. Just as hearing is not the same thing as listening, looking is not the same thing as observing. In order to effectively observe, you must put in the effort and intention in your mind to understand what is before you. 

2. Observing in context matters. Sure, observation helps, but without context - actions can easily be misinterpreted. For example, during a job interview, it would make sense for someone to fidget nervously at the beginning of the interview and for it to go away as the conversation goes on. But if you notice that they begin to nervously fidget again during a certain line of questioning, you likely said something that triggered that action. 

3. Try to establish baseline behaviors and get to know personal cues.  While you want to ensure that you maintain a professional relationship with your clients, it is also important to spend time getting to know them and establishing a relationship and rapport with them. Body language can easily be misinterpreted if you aren't aware of someone's baseline. For example, I frequently put my hands on my chin when I am concentrating/thinking, which can be interpreted as disinterest; however, in my case, it is when I am most interested. Anyone that knows me well knows this mannerism about me and what it cues, but had they not taken the time to get to know this about me, they may misinterpret and communicate with me ineffectively. 

4. Be mindful of your own nonverbal cues. In addition to observing others, you must be aware and mindful of your own nonverbal cues. Over time, many of us develop habits and mannerisms that we don't even realize. Find someone (a co-worker, friend, assistant, etc.) to help you be aware and hold you accountable of potentially negative nonverbal cues so you can communicate more effectively. 

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5. See the triggers. Once you have established the baseline behaviors and understanding of nonverbal cues, it is important that you are noticing exactly when in conversations and/or the chain of events that the cues occur. What is triggering the action? That is what you must address. 

Effective communication is about far more than exchanging information. It is about understanding the emotions and the intentions, not just the words. Communication renders itself ineffective when it becomes about winning or losing as opposed to coming to an agreeable solution for all parties involved. In order to communicate effectively, you must be able to both clearly convey your message as well as actively listen to the other party. 

What Do You Bring To The Table?

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Years ago I attended a conference featuring a chat between Brad Inman and Dave Liniger, co-founder of Re/Max. As most conversations with Brad Inman are, there were some hard-hitting questions that gnawed at the meat of issues we face in the real estate industry. And, from my half-tuned in ears, I heard a statement that I've carried with me ever since: "You don't want to bring a fork to a potluck. You have to bring something people want to dig into." Truth be told, I can't recall what the exact question was that prompted Mr. Liniger's response, but it was referencing the value of the agent in the transaction. 

Often times we get caught up in the idea of someone questioning our worth and proposing discounting our commission or the idea of a portal "stealing" our business (which is a topic for another day), but the reality of the situation is that whatever comes and goes in our industry, so long as we are bringing something to the table that people want to dig into, we're assuring our spot at the table. We spend so much time focused on the potential threats to our business that we're ignoring the one variable that we can control: our own value. 

One of the biggest things I work with agents on is how to articulate their value proposition, and moreover, how to deliver on that value proposition each day so that no one questions your pitch. The key to bringing value is to always ask yourself "what would help them in this moment?" Sometimes that is more properties, sometimes it is a realistic talk about expectations and commitments, while still other times, it it merely helping them navigate a stressful decision. As agents, our role isn't clearly defined - no matter who tells you otherwise. Our role is what we choose to make it. I hope you make it worth it. 

Great Expectations

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As agents, we are constantly taught that delivering great experiences breeds customer loyalty. Fundamentally, I agree with this principle; but I have always wondered who defines this concept of great experiences? I frequently interact with agents who seem to think they are who defines what makes a great experience saying things such as, "I utilize e-signature software to make my client's lives easier so they can sign from their phones!" At face value, this seems logical, but what about a client who is uncomfortable with e-signatures and lacks the tech savviness to navigate that system? Do you have something in place to make their experience equally as great? If we're focused on delivering great experiences, we must first be focused on who exactly we are delivering for: the client. 

Make no mistake, I do believe that systems designed to make our backend processes more efficient are necessary to make the client-facing processes run smoothly. But the backend is just part of the big picture. The client must define what makes their experience great, and for them - they view the experience as a whole. How do they prefer to be communicated with? What helps them feel secure and well-understood? Are they comfortable with all of your systems? Are you delivering the types of properties they're telling you they're interested in? Are you picking up on the unstated feelings they experience? All of these things matter. And the answers to these questions are what dictates whether or not you are providing truly great experiences.

Think about the transaction like a restaurant...our backend systems such as DocuSign, SkySlope, or other similar backend systems are like the prep station in the kitchen. They allow our processes to run smoother and more efficiently, but do very little to change the customer experience other than change the speed in which we can deliver things to them and sometimes the ease with which they can deliver things back to us. Sure, those things matter, but they normally don't determine whether or not a customer is going to rave about you. In fact, smooth backend processes have become the expectation, not the differentiator. The front of the house is more similar to our client interaction - the sharing of information, scheduling showings, responsiveness, etc. These are all more like the hostess/greeter station. They establish the first impression and really have a much more significant role in determining the quality of our experience. But the key is ensuring everything is working well together. The quality of the product the kitchen delivers is essentially irrelevant if the service in the front of house has been subpar and vice versa. The key is ensuring that your backend systems are enhancing the service you're delivering on the front end to provide a truly memorable experience filled with elements of surprise and delight. 

To deliver truly great experiences - you have to hit on all cylinders. Your backend systems have to run efficiently so that you can focus more of your time on the front end, all while engaging with your audience enough to create personalized experienced. You have to be flexible enough to make adjustments wherever necessary to be worth raving about and after all, isn't that what you aim for? Delivering service worth raving about? 

Slowing Down

Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.
— Ferris Bueller
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Even in 1986 when Ferris Bueller was teaching the rest of us how to play hooky, we had a general idea of how fast life moved, but the truth is - even though we know, we rarely slow down long enough to look around. I've written before about slowing down enough to maintain your health and take care of yourself, but this is probably a concept that can use the extra attention. Why? Because rarely is life all about you.

April is a pretty stacked month for me. I'm traveling almost three of the four weeks of this month with little time to slow down. I've been telling myself that this is simply what it takes to grow the business and that these are all passion projects. Both things are true by the way. But just as I was unpacking my bag from my last trip so that I could pack for my next trip - I slowed down enough to look around. I realized that the ones that loved me most - my family - needed me to stay. 

So often, we lean on those around us to fill in the gaps while we're out chasing our dreams, but sometimes we've got to slow down enough to lift them up the way they always uplift us. 

How Can I Help?

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My good friend, Zach Schabot has a saying that he uses with almost everyone he speaks with on any given day... "how can I help?" No, he isn't a barista at Starbucks and he doesn't wait tables - in fact, he works for Zillow. But this is something Zach has been saying for years, long before his time at Zillow. This sort of saying is exactly why Zach has always been someone I have trusted and looked up to. 

So, maybe you're asking yourself...why is such a simple question a business revelation? Well, because far too often, we don't ask the question. We assume that the mere fact that someone is working with us means they are satisfied or even happy. But as Scott Stratten, author of UnMarketing and countless other books talks about - just because a client is current, doesn't mean they're happy. To ensure that you're delivering happy experiences - Stratten suggests a practice called the "StartStopContinue," where you ask your clients three questions:

  1. What should I start doing?
  2. What should I stop doing?
  3. What should I continue doing?

I firmly believe that sometimes we avoid asking questions when we're afraid of the answer or not committed to putting in the work to make the change the answer may call for. You see, asking isn't just about personal gain, it is about understanding the context of how you are interacting with others. Are you consistently engaging with your clients the same way that you are engaging with your prospects? Are you valuing their business the same way that you value a prospect? Do you even know if your current customers are in fact happy or are they just so far along that it is more of a pain to switch agents than to just continue their mediocre experience? If you have to wonder, you don't know, which means you need to ask. 

Let's say that your focus is referrals. When 80% of people seek a recommendation when making any kind of buying decision and over roughly 67% of people take that recommendation - referrals are a good focus as well. The key to referrals is that you have to ask your clients to refer you! Happy customers may very well be happy, but consumers don't frequently talk about their experience (both positively and negatively) unless they are prompted to. Don't be shy, tell your clients how they can help you grow your business. They often want to help, but they don't know how to best do so. People inherently want to help those that have invested in them in a meaningful way. They want to help, they just need you to tell them how to go about doing so. 

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Now, back to Zach and his helpful saying. Well, the phrase "how can I help?" isn't anything groundbreaking, but the practice is. What makes this special is Zach never leads with this statement - instead, he invests his time and energy in you to understand what it is you're doing, what you want to achieve, and how he might be able to help. Then...he asks. Anyone who knows Zach is probably smiling as they read this because they know that he is being 100% genuine with an offer to help in any way that he can with just about whatever it is that he is learning about at that moment. It is one of those charming qualities of his. But this goes beyond charm, this is just plain good business. You see, asking has gotten a bad rep. It has been perceived as pushy and self-serving, but this ask is neither of those things. Why? Because this ask is truly selfless. It is asking to invest in you even more than he already is. That, my friends...that is special. That, my friends...that's Zach. 

 

 

Stay In Your Lane

Lately I've been thinking a lot about the effect competition, or more accurately - perceived competition. As any good business owner knows, you have to be aware of your competition, but there is a fine line between awareness and obsession. When I work with clients, we focus heavily on the things we can control and really there is only one thing in our lives that we have complete control over and that is ourselves. Not only can we not control the actions of our competition but it has an extremely negative impact on our performance when it pushes us to be reactive instead of proactive. It can shift our plans even causing our actions to misalign with our vision. And what if you're being reactive to something you merely perceive as competition and it isn't actually a blip on the radar? An obsession with your perceived competition is not only completely counterproductive, it is downright harmful to your business. When we're constantly looking at others, how can we impact ourselves?

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Going down the rabbit hole of comparing ourselves to the accomplishments of others is a losing battle. Not because we are not accomplished, but because eventually - the likelihood of you finding someone, somewhere that is more accomplished than you is pretty high. And here's the thing...there is nothing wrong with that. Further, where do you stop comparing yourself to others? Do you only compare career success or do you also begin to look at personal achievements? See? Rabbit hole. The problem with focusing on others isn't only that it is a losing battle, it is that it causes you to focus less on yourself and what differentiates you. That is your competitive superpower - focus on what differentiates you from the competition.

It is proven that high performers outpace their competition by focusing inward on refining their own skill set, developing their value, and implementing their plans to deliver that value to consumers. In a world of a lot of the same, I think we'd all be better served to spend a lot less time worrying about what we perceive as competition and more about our own goals. 

Walk a Mile in Someone Else's Shoes

A few weeks ago, my second-grade step-daughter came home with a huge smile on her face telling me about a school project where she and her classmates would stage a wax museum. The students each selected a historical figure, researched their person, wrote a small speech, and then this morning - dressed in costume and recited the speech to parents. The entire concept was pretty neat, but what really struck me was when I was asking my step-daughter about Amelia Earhart (her person), she said this: "Could you imagine flying all the way around the world all by yourself?" 

The question stopped me in my tracks because honestly, I couldn't. What would it feel like to go through that? What would I need to do to prepare for such an undertaking? It sounded lonely. Awful, actually. But what struck me wasn't about how unappealing the prospect of what Amelia Earhart did, it was what the project had prompted an eight-year-old to do that so many adults struggle with - walking a mile in someone else's shoes. 

This got me thinking...do we really know what it is like to be in our client's shoes? I moved about a year and a half ago and the entire process was extremely stressful. Yes, even with two seasoned real estate professionals leading the charge. We knew the intricacies of the process, but the outside factors impacted our stress level in the process. As agents, if we're really aiming to enhance the experience, we have to focus on those factors. The things no one can necessarily control, but that we can impact and help shoulder the burden of. That is going to be the difference-maker. And the first step is understanding what is it like to walk in someone else's shoes. 

We're All A Little Flawed

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I have a confession to make. I'm incredibly flawed. I try not to be, but I am. Try as I might, there are times that I stumble, times that I fail, and times that I let people down. It gets to me and that's when I have a choice to either let my head play out every worst case scenario, or to dust myself off and rise to the occasion. We all have these choices and how we choose makes all the difference. 

A friend once told me about a Japanese practice called "kintsugi." In this process they repair a broken object with precious metals - liquid gold, liquid silver, or lacquer dusted with powdered gold. The process not only repairs the broken object, but highlights the breaks - celebrating them as value, not flaw. I adore this practice because it makes me think of the human story. We're all a little broken and flawed, but I have always believed that it is those very flaws that make us who we are. Each flaw has a story, a lesson, and a seed of growth. 

When I work with teams and brokerages, I often suggest an activity where they openly identify not only their strengths, but their weaknesses. I encourage every member of the team to identify these qualities both in themselves and in their colleagues. Admittedly, this exercise can get a little uncomfortable, but the result is truly amazing. What comes out of this exercise is not unlike kintsugi. Individuals not only gain a deep understanding of what they do well, but what they struggle with, too. Their weaknesses are celebrated equally with their strengths. You see, only when you identify what you struggle with are you able to improve and grow those skills. Further, you're able to leverage those around you. To me, this is what true growth is all about.

Admitting the flaw can often be the hardest part. We don't want to be vulnerable so instead, we charge ahead. The beauty in admitting your flaws is that you begin to see the strengths of those around you - both in your professional and your personal life. You begin to identify who you can turn to and lean on in times of need, and that...well, that is nothing short of perfect.  

Deliver With Care

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Last night, I came home to a package on my front porch. The box was beaten up and half opened. My immediate thought was - "I wonder what happened to that thing!" My second thought, however, was, "I can't believe this was how they handled someone's package." Sure, it was a box of paper towels and nothing inside was damaged, but the nature of the delivery changed my entire feelings about what I was receiving. I went from feeling excitement and curiosity of seeing what might be inside a box to questioning everything about the box and the person that delivered it. 

Okay, I'm probably overthinking the situation, I mean, it was paper towels. But, this got me wondering - the way we deliver our thoughts and feelings matters just as much. And in real estate, we have no shortage of things we deliver - messages of excitement, tough news, hopes, dreams, and just about everything in between. What happens if we ignore our delivery and don't handle these things with the care they deserve? Someone might miss the intended message all together if delivery isn't handled properly.  This makes you think twice about how you say things, doesn't it? It did for me. I know, it is still just a box of paper towels, but follow me for a second. 

In his popular TED Talk, Julian Treasure suggests that when you approach someone with honesty, authenticity, integrity, and love - they are absolutely more likely to listen to your input. Interestingly, none of these work alone, but rather, they must work together to effectively deliver our thoughts, opinions, or even expertise. For instance, honesty alone can be rather brutal. "Mr. & Mrs. Jones, that price just doesn't make sense. Your home isn't all that nice" might very well be true, but it certainly isn't a sentiment being delivered with love or care. A simple adjustment to say "Mr. & Mrs. Jones, I would love to sell your home for that price! But, based on the comparable properties we simply cannot justify that. The upgrades you have done are beautiful and have certainly added value, but I also know that it is important to be moved in your new home before Joey starts school in August. If we price your home competitively now and market it effectively; we don't have to worry about adjusting the price later, how that may look to buyers, and we can focus on your next chapter. So, what do you say?" 

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Do you see how the tone and delivery of the second version far outweigh the first? The difference was love and care. When we take the time to deliver things with love and care, the entire message can be received differently. Take for example the company Zappos, who's entire branding is "Delivering Happiness." They are so committed to delighting their customer that they want everything about the experience of dealing with Zappos to bring happiness. And frankly, as a frequent Zappos shopper...it does. You see, delivery makes a big difference in how someone feels about whatever they are receiving whether it is words or an Amazon Prime order of paper towels. So, as you kick off this new month, think about how you will deliver happiness. How will you delight your customers?

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