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What Went Around Is Coming Around Again

Jul 20, 2011

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

Crises come and crises go, of course, and usually leave in their wake the bleached bones of those who couldn’t (or simply wouldn’t) cope with conditions as they found them -- always a regrettable situation.


Amid the current sleet storm of “slowdown” talk throughout the land, this veteran of a half-century-plus in residential real estate cannot help but recall similar hand-wringing and hear echoes of the doom-shouting of the past.

When I started selling homes in 1949, VA mortgages were readily available at 4%. As those rates “soared” (as reported in the media) over the 6% mark, the crepe-hanging pundits sang a funereal dirge about the immediate future of real estate brokerage.

As a predictable result, a pall of pessimism spread over buyers, sellers and practitioners alike. Subsequently, over the years, our business survived repeated plagues of inflation, overbuilding, disintermediation, credit crunches, recession jitters, and a variety of local problems, each in its own way serving to undermine consumer confidence and demoralize the troops on the front lines of home marketing. In every instance, the calamity at hand inspired legions of salespeople and brokers to seek safe haven in other lines of work, rather than settling for the slim pickings of a down-market.

Return to Basics

Those who remained, however, not only endured but prospered by simply returning to the basic precepts of salesmanship, which most of them learned in the first days of their real estate education. These boilerplate procedures are not altered by economic conditions, either local or national; they are the stuff of which success is made in both good times and bad.

Basic techniques and sound attitudes are usually the earliest victims of the bad habits that seem to follow automatically after one’s first flashes of success, and during periods of so-called boom. Often characterized as slumps and/or blamed on market conditions, these damaging practices are proof of the old adage that, as we approach success or encounter misfortune, we tend to stop doing the very same things that made us successful in the first place.

Those basics include, but are not limited to, the following four precepts:

1.) Always sell your time to the highest bidder.

Recognize that a professional’s time is most valuable when he/she is rendering direct service to his/her clientele, preferably face-to-face. As much as possible, all other activities should be dodged, deferred or delegated to the lowest-paid, competent help available.

2.) Separate the wheat from the chaff.

Real sellers are people who really want to sell, are willing to accept the best price obtainable in the current market and, ideally, have something to lose if they don’t act in a timely manner. Real buyers are people who have the motivation, wherewithal and a willingness to pay a reasonable price to get what they want. “Prospects” who do not fit into either category are wasters of time -- both yours and their own. They should be avoided like poison ivy and negative colleagues.

3.) Tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but.

Full disclosure of the realities of the market, warts and all (but without whining or “awfulizing”), not only makes for good customer relations, but encourages qualified buyers both to act in the present and to become future sources of referral business. Real buyers and sellers ought to know, need to know and want to know exactly what’s going on at the moment and what they might expect in the future. It is the true professional’s obligation to supply this knowledge.

4.) Give it all you’ve got, and then some.

Find the best way of doing everything your job (and each new challenge) requires and do everything the very best way you know how. Even for seasoned veterans with sterling track records, this means examining and re-examining every thought, word and deed during business hours to make sure that all of them are serving the needs and desires of what might be -- in reality -- a smaller number of available prospects. Look harder for those real buyers and sellers, and look better to them when they appear. Work harder than your strong competitors and smarter than your weak ones.

Be mindful that you can do little or nothing to increase the number of prospects who will enter the market in the near future, but you certainly can, by doing the right things and doing things right, enjoy a bigger slice of what might be a smaller pie -- thereby not only surviving tough times if they happen, but benefitting from them.

Remember, too, that the best-selling book of all time frequently uses the phrase, “it came to pass.” Never do I recall reading therein the words, “it came to stay.”

As Ralph Waldo Emerson put it, “These times, like all times, are very good ones, if we but knew what to do with them.”