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Give the gift of contribution

Maybe I have this all wrong…

Recently, I spoke on a panel about blogging for business at the National Association of Realtors convention.  At the end of the session, I was approached by an attendee who asked:

But when do I sell?

I paused, gathered my breathe, and said, “you don’t.”   We looked at each other for a moment, and I could see that he was struggling with the concept.   It was written all over his face, “but I am a salesperson.” 

“Sir,” I said, “provide information.  Be a resource.  You don’t need to sell.”  (Benn Rosales may disagree with me on that, but I love him anyway)

By believing we have to sell something on our blog, I think we are limiting our potential for success.  Selling requires a specific, definitive outcome.    They want something, I sell it, they move on.  My goal through blogging and social media is to develop relationships.  If the result later is a sale, that is fabulous, but my ultimate goal is to develop (and sustain) as many relationships as possible.   A relationship can create an unlimited number of sales, while a sale most likely creates A sale.  One sale. 

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If the goal is “A SALE”…aren’t we limiting ourselves?  By focusing on THE sale, I think we are putting boundaries on our potential success. 

Creating unlimited boundaries

So how do we create a relationship with people we meet online?  It starts with the gift of contribution.  The old principal that you get what you give is true.  The more you give, the more you get.  Don’t focus on getting, focus on giving.  The beauty of blogging is that your potential to give is unlimited. 

What knowledge or expertise do you possess that others want or need?  Where is your passion?  Demonstrate and share that passion with others.  Sometimes this leads us away from our initial focus.  I recently starting blogging for a non-profit.  I guarantee that blog will generate far more relationships that result in sales than any post on my hyper local real estate blog ever will.

A new direction can be ok.  I have been asking myself- what is my contribution?  The more I analyze it, the more I find that my contribution may be something other than I had originally planned.  Instead of focusing on “the sale”, I am allowing myself to adapt and maximize my contribution.  Creating unlimited boundaries?  At the very least, creating new relationships. 

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We will see if I am getting this right..

Written By

Ginger Wilcox is a Broker Associate at Alain Pinel in Marin County, California in the San Francisco Bay Area. She is an accomplished speaker, writer and trainer on the real estate industry, online marketing and social media strategy. Ginger is the publisher of the Marin Real Estate Guide -"Blog by the Bay," a highly regarded Bay Area real estate web site. For more information about Ginger, visit



  1. cindy*staged4more

    November 19, 2008 at 7:44 pm

    I think consumers today are pretty savvy and know a sales pitch when they see one. They are tired of marketing and sales messages. I truly believe that this is why relationship marketing is all the rage right now. Ultimately we want to do business with people we like and we are familiar with, not someone whose agenda is ultimately a selfish one.

    Any relationships take time, online or offline. Web 2.0 culture is all about sharing and giving, without the motive of receiving something back (oh may be this is the California hippie part of me talking). Open source is a very clear example of that. Like iPhone, all the open source apps make the phone itself a better functioning machine, and becomes more appealing to new customers.

    Great blog!


  2. Chuck G

    November 19, 2008 at 8:13 pm

    Congrats Ginger. You clearly get what blogging is supposed to be about. Thanks for being the voice of reason (not the hard-sell!)


  3. Benn Rosales

    November 19, 2008 at 8:45 pm

    Ginger, we don’t disagree, I only make the point that the art of actually selling is not desperation, it’s a style that either will or will not be rejected by the buyer or seller. I also make the point that writing a blog and sitting back in a chair waiting for a phone to ring is not enough. Engaging an audience whatever farm it is, and understanding that audience, is truly a 1.5 agent.

    Everything you’ve said here is spot on. 🙂

  4. Morgan

    November 19, 2008 at 10:48 pm

    This is so right on the money. The number one reason I stopped reading real estate blogs is that the majority of them were trying to sell me something. I get plenty of real estate promotional mail in my mailbox folks, and it ends up in my recycle bin – I don’t need to spend my time reading them online.

    As a consumer, as a person involved in the real estate market, I choose the folks I work with on the relationships that I build with them. Via blogs, via Twitter, via face-to-face conversation, it’s the relationship that wins – not the marketing.

    My advice (FWIW). Stop writing online versions of your farm mailings and start building relationships.

  5. Todd Carpenter

    November 20, 2008 at 12:34 am

    I disagree. Not completely. Blogs should not be all about selling. They should be all about relationships. I agree.

    But there’s nothing wrong with asking for the sale. You’ve earned it. Every bit of information is volunteered. You’ve proved you are an expert, a good person, that people like you. Now ask for what you deserve, a sale.

    It could just be a simple call to action at the end of every post, or select posts. But I think “never” asking for the sale leaves a lot of business at the table. Many people are just waiting for someone to ask. Practically begging you to ask. The first lesson I ever learned in sales is that you don’t earn business unless you ask for it.

  6. Todd Carpenter

    November 20, 2008 at 12:54 am

    Morgan said >>”The number one reason I stopped reading real estate blogs is that the majority of them were trying to sell me something.”

    Morgan, who cares? I mean that that with the utmost respect. Who cares if you read (or I) read local real estate blogs? Unless it’s a blogger in your market that you’d be likely to enlist as an agent, your presence on their blog isn’t really relevant.

    Sorry, but this is a subject that always sticks in my craw. Web2.0 works best when a little sales101 is thrown in.

  7. sheilabragg

    November 20, 2008 at 1:59 am

    Give the gift of contribution: Get out of your feed reader and comment on this post- we PROMISE that ..

  8. Ginger Wilcox

    November 20, 2008 at 1:19 am

    Cindy- I think you are right, must be the California hippie thing. I must have a little hippie in me too. Peace, love and relationships.

    Chuck- not everyone agrees…

    Benn- Agree, you can’t write a blog and wait for the phone to ring. It is one piece of a larger puzzle that needs to be put together.

    Morgan- I don’t care if it is a real estate or another blog, or even in person. I am totally turned off when people try to sell me. I don’t want to be sold, I am a smart girl. Give me information and let me make my own decision. If you provide enough value, I will come back for more.

    Todd- I disagree, I don’t think by posting a blog, I have earned the right to sell my audience. I don’t think I have proven I am the expert. One blog post does not create a relationship, that takes time and if you do too much of a sell, you might lose out on the opportunity for that person to come back, read some more, get comfortable on the blog. The point for ME is to create trust. I don’t have to EVER sell myself, because it naturally happens over time. Most contacts I get from my blog occur months after the person first started reading. Just like meeting someone face to face, rarely do you develop a high level trust from a brief meeting at a party. Face to face relationships take time, just as online relationships do.

    As for your comment to Morgan, the point is that someone like Morgan is at some point going to need a local agent (or someone he knows). He may want to read local real estate blogs to keep up to date on the market. When his friend/coworker/cousin/brother is considering selling, he may direct them to my local real estate blog because he finds it informative, interesting information. Information he trusts, and therefore has a level of trust in me- the writer/agent.
    I care if Morgan or someone like him is reading my blog because, if he is reading it, he is interested in real estate. His presence is TOTALLY relevant. He knows people who are interested in real estate. He knows people who might buy real estate. Again, it comes back to developing a relationship- not looking for one sale, but creating a “fan” who goes out and sells me. I received an email from someone yesterday who said “I love your blog. I tell everyone I know about it.” This person is not going to move. I won’t be their agent. But it doesn’t matter. That type of “sell”, done my someone else, is priceless, and it happens because I provide great content that is interesting to them.
    For me, web 2.0 works because I follow the same principles as I do when networking anywhere else- be interesting, informative, provide value, the rest of the process takes care of itself.

  9. Ginger Wilcox

    November 20, 2008 at 1:29 am

    Todd- some people are good at the hard sell. I am not, because I don’t like to be sold that way. It is a style thing. I treat my clients the way I would want to be treated. Because of that, I get/earn clients who often think/act similarly to me. I love it- this means my clients are typically smart, sweet and thoughtful. 🙂 If a client wants the hard sell, they probably aren’t a good fit for me anyway.

  10. Todd Carpenter

    November 20, 2008 at 1:38 am

    Sure Ginger. Nobody likes the hard sale. I agree with you. My point of disagreement is that you originally said to “never” sell.

    Has a salesperson in a department store ever asked you, “would you like me to check to see if we have it in stock?” They know it’s in stock. It’s just a comfortable way of asking for a sale. A friendly nudge. Nobody ever walks out of a store thinking they were just hard sold in such a situation, but LOTS of people are moved to buy because of it.

    Linking to a page of your listings at the end of a post is not a hard sell. Encouraging them to check the value of their home, or visit your IDX. I don’t see the downside if it’s done in strategically, and in moderation.

  11. Ginger Wilcox

    November 20, 2008 at 1:50 am

    Todd- I don’t believe I said you should NEVER sell. I believe I said “You don’t have to sell” and that “By focusing on THE sale, I think we are putting boundaries on our potential success.”
    Encouraging someone to check the value of their home or to visit my home search engine is actually providing information & value- I don’t consider that a sell. So maybe we don’t disagree after all…

  12. Morgan

    November 20, 2008 at 1:53 am


    I may not be relevant in Denver, but I’m sure as hell relevant wherever I live. I’m a homeowner, I’m relocating, I’ve got great credit. I’m certainly in the target audience.

    Frankly I think if you’re blogging just for SEO and to generate Web leads than you’re leaving something else on the table – relationships.

    And I think in the long run relationships will pay off more than the folks who fill out your web form to get your local listings.

    I have no problem with people making money off their blogs – shoot, I make a pretty nice sum off of mine – what I am saying though is that it’s called conversational marketing and social marketing for a reason. Talk to me and build a relationship with me – don’t nudge me for a sale the first time I come to your site or in every article.

    When someone comes up to me in a store or a car lot and tries to be “helpful” when really I know they’re just looking for a commission it makes me look at them as a suspect – not as a friend, not as even someone to trust or respect. I basically put my guard up. I think bloggers that go too far with the sales risk that alienation.

    I think the sales angle can also lead to content that is, shall we say, less than authentic. I want someone who will give it to me straight and answer the WIIFM (what’s in it for me) not push the WIIFT (what’s in it for them). Kill the spin, shoot me straight, give me some information that is relevant, useful and beneficial and maybe I’ll give you my respect and trust – and if you’re lucky my business.

    If you’re just worried about you – guess what? That makes two of us, and you lose.

  13. Todd Carpenter

    November 20, 2008 at 2:21 am

    “Frankly I think if you’re blogging just for SEO and to generate Web leads than you’re leaving something else on the table – relationships.”

    …and if you’re just blogging for relationships, you’re leaving even more on the table. Real business. I never said you shouldn’t build relationships. Or said that the blog should be all about sales. Or that a blogger should just be worried about themselves. Not sure how you got there man. You should do ALL of it.

    Real estate bloggers admit to me all the time that they don’t read lenderama. I say, “why would you?” I would rather they didn’t. I want loan originators to read it. They are my clients. I don’t really care what real estate agents think about it. Just like real estate agents shouldn’t really care what other real estate professionals think of their blog. The people they need to focus on are potential clients. There’s one hundred fold more potential in gaining clients by appealing to them directly than there is in hoping another real estate professional will one day refer a client because they like your blogging style.

  14. Todd Carpenter

    November 20, 2008 at 2:27 am

    Ginger, I apparently read your post in a way you did not intend.

    You said an attendee asked you when to sell, and you said “you don’t”. This is what I was disagreeing with. I agree that you don’t have to sell. I agree that you can sell to much. But I disagree with “you don’t”.

    But like I said in the beginning, I agree with you for the most part.

  15. Bill Lublin

    November 20, 2008 at 4:03 am

    Ginger – It pains me to disagree with you –
    So I won’t – But I will point out that building relationships is actually part of the sales process. For some reason we (all of us) take some negative connotation from the the concept of selling, when that activity, as practiced on a higher level, really is not negative at all.
    I think that we respond to the word selling as if it means manipulation or coercion. My definition of selling is “helping someone to do something in their best interest which they would not have done if I were not present”. With that definition, even relationship building as you suggest is selling.

    But your point, which I think is most valid, might be paraphrased as saying that Blogging is about building trust so that when the opportunity to sell arises, you are the person chosen by the consumer.

    I do feel compelled to point out that a bonus to reading your posts and comments is seeing your avatar 😉

  16. Deborah Madey

    November 20, 2008 at 7:26 am

    When a seller hires us to represent them to, they expect us to be salespeople and promote their property. They want to know about our past successes before they hire us. One of the most common complaints about real estate agents is the lack of follow up and follow through. Isn’t follow up part of the sales process?

    When a reader first comes to a blog, they are looking for information, or at times, recreation. Call to actions, engaging the reader, and offers for additional information are all forms of a soft sell, and part of the selling process. Building relationships and trust is part of the selling process.

    Perception of the word “selling” can draw negative views of an attempt at hard sell manipulation. Today’s consumers are too savvy for that and have revolted against it. It seems that all of us are in agreement that recognize that servicing a client’s needs and focusing on them is paramount, and hard sell manipulation is unacceptable. I taught Xerox PSS sales training course years ago, and WHIFT and a consultative approach was the foundation. I understand that “selling” can often be construed as a nasty word, but consider that a shame. Professional sales approaches are about the client, not manipulation.

    Our success is measured in terms of transactions completed and GCI (Gross Commission Income). Unless we have a money tree or some other form of income to support ourselves, we must ultimately be concerned with allocating our time in a way that generates revenue. A balanced plan includes providing information, building relationships, consulting, advising, and even having fun in the process.

  17. Ginger Wilcox

    November 20, 2008 at 12:43 pm

    Bill- as much I as enjoy disagreeing with you, I don’t think we are really disagreeing. 🙂 Building relationships is the first step in the sales process.

    Deborah- Sellers do expect us to promote their property, but I don’t believe my blog is the place for that. I have a comprehensive marketing plan for my sellers that provides them maximum exposure in the places in the places I think best fit their needs.

    I want to be very clear. I am a salesperson, and quite a good one I would say. I believe the reason why is because I believe there is a time and place to “sell.” I don’t believe that is on my blog, I believe that my blog is about building relationships, trust and providing information.

    I think that the story and intention behind this blog has been misunderstood.

    If I have someone in my car, looking for a home, showing them property, how I deal with them will be very different than someone I first meet – be it on my blog, at a volunteer event, a cocktail party or even an open house. There is a time to close the deal, but in general, I don’t believe that is upon the first meeting.

    I think we have to be very aware of WHERE we are at and WHO we are interacting with. While ultimately, my success is measured in the commissions I earn, I don’t believe in ever focusing on “a commission.” In my opinion, a focus on commissions can lead to decision making that is less than fair to the client. I prefer to focus on serving my clients and potential clients in the manner that best suits their needs.

    Shocker- I often talk my clients out of buying properties or listing them. If it doesn’t make sense for the client, I believe my job is to advise them accordingly.

    While this may mean I lose out on some inital deals, I believe this is precisely why I receive a lot of referrals. One of my best and constant referrals sources if from someone I have never done a transaction with. I actually talked them out of buying a very expensive property that would have resulted in a (VERY)large commission check to me. In the end, I can guarantee that the commissions I receive off their referrals far exceed what I would have earned on that one check because I did the right thing.

    I believe consumers can smell agents who are focused on their commission and that is not really desirable to most.

    Again, it is probably a style thing. Building relationships is part of the sales process, but I don’t believe in starting out with the hard sell or the close before the relationship has even begun.

  18. Deborah Madey

    November 20, 2008 at 12:51 pm

    You are an asset to this profession and I wish there were more like you around! I think everyone on this thread really is in agreement…..we believe in doing what is right for the client, and that relations matter. Thanks for a lively post, and shining so brightly.

  19. Chuck G

    November 20, 2008 at 2:29 pm


    After reading all of these comments, I still agree with your approach. I subscribe to your blog and I appreciate how you write and what you write about. It’s a very similar approach that I use, and it works for me.

    Blogging is NOT selling. Blogging builds you a relationship which then brings you face to face with a “warm” client. Only THEN do you sell. But if you’ve done your work correctly, they’re 90% sold when you meet them for the first time. That’s the whole point of doing it.

    I was just competing for a buyer who originally found me through my site. They interviewed me and 4 other agents, and in the end I won. Why? Because “we felt you knew the most about the area we want to live in.” Their words, not mine.

    I think we all agree that you’re not going to succeed by sitting in a dark office and blogging all day. I think the divergence in these comments is where agents choose to ask for the order. I prefer to do it in person, when I have the highest probability of success.

    Ginger — keep up the great work!


  20. Danilo Bogdanovic

    November 20, 2008 at 3:06 pm

    You make great points about “not selling” someone. But by saying “not selling someone”, do you mean “not hard-selling” or “obviously selling”.

    If you’re creating a relationship with someone that fosters trust in you as a professional (in any industry), you are “selling” yourself and them on that fact.

    Either way, your point is very well made and right on target. Perhaps we’re all just word-smithing at this point…

  21. Teresa Boardman

    November 20, 2008 at 3:37 pm

    Nice post Ginger. You bring up some great points about meeting people.

  22. Jeff Turner

    November 20, 2008 at 4:17 pm

    Ginger, I’m on the same page as Bill Lublin. His definition of selling is, “helping someone to do something in their best interest which they would not have done if I were not present.” That happens as a result of trust. Trust only comes after having established a relationship. We can talk about hard sell or soft sell, but we can’t stop talking about selling. In the end, when everything is said and done, if you don’ sell something, you’ve failed. The hard sell places the cart before the horse, in my opinion. It tries to do what Bill is suggesting without the relationship, without the trust.

    The object being sold by the hard sale may indeed be something in my best interest, but I flinch at the hard sell every time. Why, because I don’t trust the salesman. But if you have a relationship with me, and you understand my need, and you know what is best for me, then I want YOU to sell me. I’m asking you to sell me.

  23. Paula Henry

    November 20, 2008 at 8:00 pm

    GInger – It is very difficult for me to be hard sell. I tend to be more like you. One thing I have learned is, once we have gained the trust of a client, they almost depend on us to sell them what they want.

    It’s almost like they want us to have the charachteristics of a sales person so they feel like they are represented by someone who will fight for them.

  24. Jonathan Bunn

    November 24, 2008 at 4:05 pm

    I have a hard time believing that all of the great real estate blogging out there would be done to simply to provide good info…

    I love providing information for people even if they decide to use Joe Realtor down the street. However, I have no problem asking for the business in some way in all of my post.

    I think there is a clear difference between a poor post and a strong sale and a informative post with and a invitation for action.

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