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Real Estate Brokerage

How predators trick even the most intelligent agents

(BROKERAGE) Predators use the same sales methods as you do, both effectively luring you in through a funnel system of questions. Fascinating.

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realtor safety against predators

Getting people to say “yes” is the ultimate goal for any salesperson. Many sales trainers will recommend that you ask for a little “yes,” then build on that by getting more little “yeses.”

You could begin with a simple request, perhaps completing a simple questionnaire. By getting people to make a simple decision, or perform a small action, you can fairly easily establish a new psychological “commitment.”

Implementing the “foot-in-the-door method”

Once you have that initial commitment, no matter how small, building on that foundation and making ever increasing requests get surprisingly easy. This is called the “foot-in-the-door method,” an approach based on trust and consistency, and it’s effective.

To prove the point, a group of researchers back in the 1960s, called on a group of housewives, asking if they could answer a couple of simple questions about household products. Then, a couple of days later calling again, asking if they could send five employees to survey the contents of their kitchen cupboards. The research revealed that that twice as many answered “yes” if they had answered those simple questions in the first call.

We also find it much easier to say yes to those we have good feelings about and seem similar to us. In other words, we like them! This is why refusing to buy Tupperware from a friend or relative is almost impossible!

Guess what? Predators use these same tactics

Predators and sexual offenders in particular, work very hard to be likable and use the very same “foot in the door” techniques to troll for their next victim.

Just like sales professionals, the predator seek those little yeses, but this time for testing and probing, seeking clues as to your willingness to be directed and controlled.

“The man in the underground parking lot who approaches a woman as she puts groceries in the trunk of her car and offers assistance, may be a gentleman or he may be conducting an interview,” suggests Gavin De Becker, in his book The Gift of Fear. “The woman whose shoulders tense slightly, who looks intimidated and shyly says, ‘No, thanks, I think I’ve got it’ may be his victim.”

De Becker then suggests, “Conversely, the woman who turns toward him, raises her hands to The Stop position, and says directly, ‘I don’t want your help,’ is less likely to be his victim.”

You may not be able to spot their deception

Offenders are also professional liars, truly skillful at what they do because they have had plenty of practice over the years. They’ve lied to themselves and everyone else in their lives. According to most experts who work with sexual offenders, not only is their lying hard to detect, but it is often very convincing.

“Even the guilty liar probably won’t avert his gaze much, since liars know that everyone expects to be able to detect deception in this way,” observed Paul Ekman, an American psychologist who is a pioneer in the study of emotions. “Amazingly, people continue to be misled by liars skillful enough to not avert their gaze.”

“’Declining to hear no’ is a signal that someone is either seeking control or refusing to relinquish it. With strangers, even those with the best intentions; never, ever relent on the issue of no, because it sets the stage for more efforts to control,” said De Becker “If you let someone talk you out of the word no, you might as well wear a sign that reads: You are in charge.”

Using this be aware of potential problems:

Predators meaning you harm will seek to control the narrative. They will make some positive statements and seek small yeses to gain what they eventually want – to get you to a place where they feel safe enough to assault or rob you.

Obviously not every conversation is going to occur just like this following example, but that said, let’s look at this scenario:

Potential predator calls you from a cell phone and the conversation goes something like this:

  • From the street I like the house at 123 Main Street. Are you familiar with the neighborhood?
  • Are you available to show me this home?
  • I’m preapproved with XYZ bank. Will you bring the paperwork, as I might want to make an offer.
  • Then, the final question: I’m actually here in the neighborhood. Can we meet right now?

If you got this far and found yourself answering with a string of small yeses, you’d better be ready to redirect and assume control or the outcome may not be pretty.

The agent responds in kind:

  • Sure, I’d love to show you the home, but I need to swing by my office first to grab the keys, OK?
  • Would you please bring your pre-approval letter along?
  • I’d like to meet at the office first so we can review your pre-approval, OK?
  • Then, the final question: Before we can meet, please send me a copy of your photo ID – management likes to know just who we are with and where we will be, for the safety of everyone involved, should there be a problem.

A prospect’s reaction to this request is important. If the final question is met with lots of bluster and indignation, this could be a big red flag.

Take measures to protect yourself in the field

The “foot in the door” is a well known and effective sales tool, unless it’s misdirected by someone who means you harm. Never ever allow a strange prospect to take control. Be mindful that most predators are accomplished and very convincing liars.

Always take precautions. Don’t meet strange prospects at the property. Always meet at your office or a neutral location such as Starbucks.

Always ask for and verify the photo ID of strange prospects, preferably before you meet – that way you have a chance to review pertinent information.

You should bear in mind that several of those arrested and charged this year for assaulting real estate agents were convicted sex offenders who managed to insert themselves into the lives of real estate agents.

All the measures we have discussed here are preventative, so take appropriate precautions when you actually meet with strange prospects. Here are some suggestions.

Does your Broker have a safety policy for its agents? If not, why not? Visit the NAR site for more information on safety courses and keeping safe.

Disclosure: the author is founder of Verify Photo ID, an app that verifies prospects ID’s and checks against a national sex offender database.

Peter Toner is a third generation real estate agent who has been practicing for nearly two decades. He is the Founder of Verify Photo ID - a safety app that verifies the identity of strange prospects before you meet - in three simple steps; it includes a Safety Monitor with panic alerts.

Real Estate Brokerage

How you can stick with your habits and actually achieve your goals

(BROKERAGE) Sticking to new habits can be tough, but there are ways to train your brain. We’ve got the deets on the best way to beat fatigue.

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Person typing on computer representing habits in our workday.

Just about every Sunday night I say to myself, “This week, I am going to eat better.” And, just about every Monday afternoon, I find myself cooking the same frozen pizza I always eat. Why is it so difficult for us to stick to our guns and really follow through on developing better habits? Well, if you’re anything like me, it’s mostly because doing what you’re used to is so much easier.

Trick of the trade

Each year I find myself being notorious for skipping out on my New Year’s resolutions, my fitness goals, and my attempts at reading one book per month. Right when I was beginning to feel completely fed up with myself, I found a trick that has helped me form habits and maintain behavior to accomplish my goals.

And, this trick is quite simple: accountability.

This can be found in the form of a friend or in the form of a planner or calendar.

Creating accountable ideas

I have thousands of ideas per day, many of which are fleeting. However, some ideas are about self-improvement.

For example, I often have the idea of beginning a workout routine. While I know that I should be doing daily exercise to increase my overall health, it can be a difficult task to stick with.

By developing this idea into something that I am accountable for, it makes me much more likely to stick with this habit. Let me explain…

Accountable for others

The two aforementioned methods of accountability, a friend or planner, can be used for the given workout example.

If you find a friend who can daylight as your workout buddy, you have someone that will motivate you and that you can motivate.

Now that you’ve made this friend your workout buddy, you have someone to hold you accountable if you miss a day. Gone would be the days where you could skip a workout and have no one to answer to.

Accountable for yourself

But, if you are a solo exerciser like myself, it can be difficult to find a method of accountability. What I have found works for me is taking my thought of, “I should workout,” and putting my goals down on paper.

By writing down a workout plan and the attached goals, it fosters a sense of tangibility.

I then create a calendar where I write down what exercise I want to do on what day, and, after I complete my goal, I am able to check it out.

For the accountability aspect, I like to put this calendar somewhere in everyday eyesight, so that I can’t ignore it. And, sure, I could easily throw it away and pretend it never existed in the first place, but I promise the act of writing out your goals will motivate completion.

In the end…

While sticking to habits can be a tricky business and different methods work for different people, developing an environment in which you hold accountability helps to inspire motivation.

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Real Estate Brokerage

Sales Exercise: Can you sell water as well as you can sell a house?

(BROKERAGE) Spice up your office life! Create a friendly office competition and see if the sales prowess is limited to just homes.

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sales competition negotiating

Here’s a fun way to shake up the daily grind at your brokerage and give your team a chance to practice their skills: a one-day sales challenge.

Choose a random day of the week to cancel all other plans and have the competition. It will be even more fun if you don’t warn your team – just spring it on them. Before you do, make sure no one is working up to any pressing deadlines.

How to play

Divide your staff into teams and give them the challenge of selling a tangible product. One group in Chicago sold bottles of water. Have the teams decide how much inventory they would like, with the rule that they can’t buy more later. It’s up to the teams to decide how much to charge for each unit.

This will challenge the teams to estimate how much inventory they think they can move

Overconfident teams may end up with too much inventory, while others will sell out quickly and may wish they had sold at a higher price, or had bought more to start with.

If you’d like, you can let teams that sell out quickly negotiate to buy extra inventory from teams that overbought.

Send your teams out to the streets and see how much they can sell in one day. Celebrate with a happy hour at the end of the day where you compare remaining inventories and net profits, congratulate the winners, and discuss lessons learned.

The benefits

This is a great challenge for encouraging teamwork. Teams have to communicate, make decisions, and make sales cooperatively. The competition and the time limit put the pressure on, but since it’s just a game, it’s also low stakes and there is no real risk.

Teams have to rely on their own skills, rather than the pre-existing systems of your business.

A sales challenge is obviously a great way to practice sales. Many Realtors are great at marketing or negotiation, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they can nail it when it comes to sales. The challenge can also help identify star salespeople, even in departments where you might not expect.

What’s to lose?

Bonus points for blogging about the challenge. Show your customers some of the personalities behind your company and celebrate the unsung sales heroes of your team.

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Real Estate Brokerage

3 important things to consider before you pivot your business model

(BROKERAGE) Many businesses have had to pivot during the global pandemic but maybe yours isn’t one of them. Consider these questions first!

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Team discussing the pivot of a business model.

When Ross asked Rachel and Chandler (Friends TV show 1994-2004) to move a couch, many of us will never forget his voice inflection and how many times he yelled “PIVOT”! It’s actually a really funny scene and if you’ve never seen it, it might be worth 3.5 minutes of your time. Ross had the best of intentions by starting with a sketch and enlisting help from friends but even that ends up in hilarity as getting his couch into his apartment doesn’t work and he ends up being offered $4 when he tries to return it (stay for the end of the clip).

The best plans and intentions for your business are often met with what the market and customers demand, where technology grows, and where your ROI is the best. You often know that your original plans will grow and evolve, even in the uncertainty and now… a global pandemic.

Many entrepreneurs and small businesses have had to lean on technology to add virtual services (or expand their offerings) to meet our current norm where people are just not out and about like they used to be. Some have seen this work well and others have had to completely re-design their offerings to maintain safe and socially distanced considerations.

The thing is, businesses that have pivoted are being highlighted. But it is also worth looking at what has worked for some businesses that didn’t have to completely shift their strategies in 2020. It is likely that they had to adapt but maybe not a ridiculous Ross-type “pivot” that resulted in a complete failure of the mission.

Harvard Business Review (HBR) shared an incredible article, “You Don’t Have to Pivot in a Crisis” with great insights about what to consider if you think you need to make changes or if you want reassurance you are still on the right track.

HBR shares a powerful thought:

“The lesson here is that when a crisis hits, it pays to resist knee-jerk reactions on how to handle external shocks and ask what is going to work best for your company, based on the particular realities of its business. Ignoring the playbook of rapid cuts plus strategic pivoting can be the smart move… However, staying the course doesn’t mean inaction.”

Here are three thought-starters you may want to consider for your business:

  1. What product line or service is best serving your customers right now? Is that one of your strongest and/or could it use some attention?
  2. What product line or service is not quite meeting your needs or customer demands at the moment that had seemingly always worked (not forever! Just right now)? For example, in-person gatherings and promotions like events, conferences, trade shows.
  3. Is there something you’ve always wanted to explore? And could now be a great time since people want things more virtually? Examples: Selling branded swag, workbooks, content subscriptions, educational webinars.

These are three simple things but could help point you in the right direction of where to focus your time and energy – at least for now. You may not need a complete re-design or to take a new road, it might be some tweaks and adjustments to hang on to what you’ve worked so hard to build.

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