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How to win more business and influence people around you

Winning in life and in business

Most people have this notion that being able to recite a fact is the way to win business and influence people. An agent saying “I closed 70 transactions last year” sounds impressive, right? Is it still an impressive fact that those 70 sides were mostly four land deals that (after closing with that agent) were subdivided and they’re counting them as seventy lots, thus transactions, despite only four simple settlement statements with their name on them? Or is it more impressive if an agent’s seventy transactions were luxury home listings handled primarily by the lone agent rather than completely handed off after a signed listing agreement, and that 55 of those listings were repeat clients?

The other problem with “facts” is that they often do not appeal to emotion. “I am number one” is far less effective than saying “I have been inside every single home in this neighborhood, can tell you about previous homeowners, and although my sign is in more yards here than any other agent, I am most proud that I have lived here and practiced real estate here since before the S&L crisis in the 80s that we survived.” Both are facts, but one is a story and takes much more intelligence and mental fortitude to communicate.

In the words of Seth Godin:
Politicians, non-profits and most of all, amateur marketers believe that all they need to do to win the day is to recite a fact. You’re playing Monopoly and you say, “I’ll trade you Illinois for Connecticut.” The other person refuses, which is absurd. I mean, Illinois costs WAY more than Connecticut. It’s a fact. There’s no room for discussion here. You are right and they are wrong.

But they still have the property you want, and you lose. Because all you had was a fact.

On the other hand, the story wins the day every time. When the youngest son, losing the game, offers to trade his mom Baltic for Boardwalk, she says yes in a heartbeat. Because it feels right, not because it is right.

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Your position on just about everything, including, yes, your salary, your stock options, your credit card debt and your mortgage are almost certainly based on the story you tell yourself, not some universal fact from the universal fact database.

Not just you, everyone. Work with that.

Telling your story

How are you telling your story? Or are you stuck on facts?

Are you negotiating by telling the buyer’s agent that they’ll get what they get and their client should be less picky, or are you telling them that the stone pathway in the back yard will not be removed because the homeowner watched her terminally ill husband place each step by hand for her even though he was sick, and that she doesn’t have the heart to destroy the memory even though she knows a future homeowner may decide to remove the steps?

On your website about page, are you touting the cliché moniker “number one agent” everywhere and bullet pointing where you have worked as if sharing a stagnant resume with certifications that consumers could care less about? Wouldn’t it be better to tell a story? Two designers stand out for their about pages, Gummisig and Andrew Reifman both who say more than “I do design stuff and have had these clients, the end.” I feel connected to their story, I relate to their background and interests, and I feel an obligation to refer to them because they are so much more than designers, they are people.

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Realtors can capture this too, without pictures of puppies and Glamour Shots but about themselves minus dry bragging.

  • Being number one pales in comparison to telling people you once met a client, listed their home, sold their home, and closed in 72 hours.
  • Being the top agent (of some arbitrary mark) is inferior to the fact that your entire real estate practice is done on an iPad and not because you’re a geeky Jobs fanboy but because your 1983 Mac lasted until 1997 and you trust the Apple brand like people trust your service.
  • Having integrity is a tagline overused and is far less impressive than sharing that you take the entire month of June off to work in the orphanage your wife founded in Kenya and you pay air fare for any of your clients that want to join you to volunteer and build schools and water wells in the mountains.
  • Saying “we mean business” is meaningless, why not share that you and your team pledge to return all calls that go to voicemail within 30 minutes, no matter what time they call? Why not note that your team alone comprises of 44% of the entire city’s transactions in a year?
  • Citing the fact that you run an eco-brokerage, why not tell the story of the house in Houston you visited that was made entirely of recycled/collected materials that were so well put together you had no idea it wasn’t standard building materials and you were so inspired you read every book and news article you could on the topic and ten years later have devoted your life to helping people reduce their footprint in ways that don’t make them feel like they live in cold, stark boxes.

Facts are good support for stories and stories are great support for facts, but facts alone do not appeal to most, and business clichés can actually work against you rather than for you. Win business and influence people around you by appealing to their emotion, their logic, or their humanity, but above all, tell a story which invokes emotion because emotions are far more memorable than a passing statistic. Storytelling is the oldest art, but is achievable by anyone- we all have a story to tell.

How are you telling your story on your website, when you meet people, and when you negotiate?

Lani is the COO and News Director at The American Genius, has co-authored a book, co-founded BASHH, Austin Digital Jobs, Remote Digital Jobs, and is a seasoned business writer and editorialist with a penchant for the irreverent.



  1. Jeff Brown

    August 28, 2011 at 2:32 am

    Well said. In my experience, laying out the facts/figures in story format, even if it's only a weak analogy has proven far more effective. One of my most productive mentors once taught me that facts 'n figures are what we all hang our hats on, the hooks, so to speak. But the glue holding the hooks on the wall is the story. Told me that over four decades ago and I still think of it often.

    Good stuff.

  2. Frankly

    August 28, 2011 at 12:51 pm

    I was the self proclaimed #1 agent under 30 in the US. But having good stories in my blog was more effective.

    Loved the well thought out post


  3. Facts tell Stories Sell…
    I find it simply astonishing how mortgage and realtors in general miss that point. They rather drone on and on about this home or new mortgage product or even how much business bites. All the while all they need to do is reach out and tell a story that will relate. What is that old saying "walk a mile…"

  4. adam shamus

    August 28, 2011 at 11:02 pm

    This is all really interesting – it gives me a lot to think about. You've brought up some really great points about how to relate. Thanks!

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