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Trust Me, Osmosis Is Not A Training Tool!

Aug 6, 2010

Posted by

Joe Klock, Sr.

Joe Klock, Sr., CRB, CRS, engaged in real estate sales, management and training since 1949, is the retired Dean of Coldwell Banker University. He presently produces educational material, bot Read more

If, as some believe, experience is the best teacher, it should also be conceded by them that "trial and error" can pile up some frightening tuition bills. It’s one of the oldest and un-funniest jokes in the real estate business; it’s also very true and it goes like this: “Here’s your desk, here’s your phone, lots of luck, you’re on your own!” Thus can be summarized the totality of too many “training programs” in our industry, covering what is often the first benefit offered to new recruits and the last one delivered.

A supplemental promise added to the above basic curriculum is sometimes something like, “If you have any questions or need any help, don’t hesitate to call on me. My door is always open.”

Masquerading as advanced guidance might be the common presence of instructional manuals, reference books, audio-visual materials and a plethora of electronic gadgetry covering a spectrum of subject matter ranging from hand-shaking techniques to the development of regional shopping centers.

Selling Is a Contact Sport

None of these approaches, mind you, are entirely without value, but when they stand alone as a game plan for the entry-level practitioner, they ignore one critical principle: Just as selling is a contact sport, so is the training of people who sell.

A certain amount of expertise can be acquired by exposure to a marketing environment, observation of successful practitioners and self-generated access to a competent mentor, but these approaches are somewhat analogous to learning how to spell by sitting on a dictionary.

In the daunting trek from raw recruit to polished performer, nothing is more important than a well-defined training system, closely supervised and executed by a competent (and caring) mentor.

“Catch me if you can” is a poor substitute for the trainer who first instructs, then demonstrates, then drills, then assigns tasks, then debriefs, then troubleshoots, then restarts the cycle as many steps back as are necessary to keep the trainee on track toward success.

Reminder: The teacher has succeeded when the student knows how; the trainer has succeeded only after the student knows how and has done!

Guiding Hand Needed

No “one size fits all” program can adequately fill the needs of both the instant phenomenon -- the future 500-pound gorilla -- and the more timid types who must be  spoon-fed and hand-led through the early hours, days and even weeks in what they may perceive to be a mine field of opportunities to fail. (Some readers, as well as this writer, have lingering mental pictures of the latter scenario.)

Too little challenge for one hard-charging newcomer can be just as counterproductive as too much for another; and left on their own, both types will stumble on the proper path and pace only by accident.

The rising stars are likely to advance too quickly to areas of activity demanding high levels of knowledge and experience, setting themselves up for malpractice, eventual disappointment or both.

Late bloomers, on the other hand, might tend to avoid the calculated risks and innovative experiments necessary for their departure from the safety of the sidelines toward the field of play.

Again, the supervision of a knowledgeable guide can be the difference between success and failure, either in the short or the long term. Only close observation of the trainees’ activities enables their leaders to measure progress, identify individual needs, nip bad habits in the bud and steer them away from detours and pitfalls.

Absent a steady hand to point the proper route, new recruits will tend to gravitate toward the activities and techniques which appear most attractive and least uncomfortable to them.

They will also be vulnerable to the freely dispensed advice of questionably qualified “experts,” who may be fairly defined as anyone in the business who has an opinion -- winners and losers alike.

It is axiomatic that people in general and salespeople in particular can’t possibly do better than they know how; and what they “know” is the accumulation of what they have learned -- that is to say everything they have absorbed from every source they have encountered.

Management’s Responsibility

There can be only one “best” way for them to do each thing required of them in the field, and it is clearly unreasonable to expect that they will be able to identify those things on their own.

It is, therefore, management’s inescapable responsibility to ensure that the input of learning experienced by new members of the team is of a quality and consistency that will result in the most effective output possible when they are on the firing line.

Both the “good stuff” and the “bad stuff” to which they are exposed will rub off on them, combining to shape their future performance.

It is not a process that can safely be left to chance ... or random osmosis.