When I first became a real estate agent I tried and researched a number of different real estate sales training programs offered through various brokerages and through third party coaches, but found all of them to be woefully inadequate for what I was looking for.
The main problem I found with most of the training programs was that virtually all of them focused exclusively on lead generation. Consider this quote from real estate coach Brian Buffini:
“For the first time ever in 19 years of training people I’ve never actually really told people how to sell. Most of what we do at Buffini and Company is teaching people lead generation.”
This approach to training was fundamentally different from how I wanted to approach my career. I was never really worried about where I was going to find my next client, I always knew that if I was excellent at my profession I would never have a problem finding clients.
The challenge of course was; how do I become excellent at my profession? The courses required to become a real estate agent don’t really prepare you for the profession and the industry didn’t offer much training outside of lead generation.
I took the more difficult path and developed my own training program. I made a list of and read every book and academic paper that I thought would help me be excellent at helping people make smarter real estate decisions. My reading list fell into two main categories.
My readings on real estate ranged from studying what economic factors drive the real estate market, what lessons can be learned from history by researching real estate markets (stable markets, bubbles,crashes etc) across north America, how do cities and neighbourhoods change over time and what can today’s top academics teach us about the above. My approach worked pretty well – my blog posts on Toronto’s real estate market became very popular, I was invited to do a live Q&A about Toronto’s real estate market on the Globe and Mail and my new company Realosophy also began providing the Globe and Mail with data on neighbourhood price trends semi-annually. I achieved this after just two years in the business.
My readings on sales on the other hand were an uphill battle. While I knew it was important to understand what the best can teach me about a career in sales, the problem was that I never saw myself as a “sales guy”. Just the thought of reading sales books would conjure up images of sleazy sales people.
But after I opened myself up a bit and started giving these books a shot, I became completely immersed in them. I quickly learned that sales training has nothing to do with our pre-conceived image of the sleazy sales guy. Sales training is about learning how to become an excellent listener and a brilliant communicator. It’s about learning how to put yourself in someone else’s shoes, to see things from their perspective even though your perspective is very different. These are skills that make you better at everything you do; they’re not just sales skills.
Over the past few months I’ve been developing a new training program for my sales team – the training program that I wish I had when I started my career in real estate. My training program does two things differently from the training programs currently offered to agents.
Firstly, my Knowledge training sessions focus on teaching agents what it takes to be excellent at their profession. These sessions mainly focus on developing a strong understanding of all things real estate and on mastering the art of sales.
Second, my Deliberate Practice training sessions are designed to put into practice what we learned during our Knowledge session. Most real estate training programs use a traditional lecture format to train agents. With this approach the instructor stands in front of a room full of agents, she tells everyone what they need to know, agents take notes and go home and eventually try to put into use what they learned.
This approach to training is ineffective for real estate agents. The biggest challenge for agents is not learning, it’s doing. It’s putting what they just learned into action.
I believe that in order for real estate sales training to be effective we should use a training methodology that mirrors the one used by professional athletes.
Professional athletes often start their training by studying their game and by studying their opponent’s game. This usually involves watching videos to understand what they need to do to improve their odds of winning. Consider this quote from LeBron James after winning the NBA championship in 2016 – after trailing the Golden State Warriors 3 games to 1.
Once an athlete knows how they need to approach their game, once they’ve changed their blueprint, they then go out on the court and deliberately practice the specific aspect of their game that they need to change and/or improve on.
Psychologist Anders Ericsson found that what separates top performers isn’t necessarily how much they practice, but how they practice. He found that experts break down the specific skills they need to focus on and then deliberately focus their practice on improving the one specific skill they’ve targeted.
Real estate agents should take a similar approach to their training if they want to see top results. Once agents have studied the skill they are focusing on improving and have a better understanding of how to approach that particular situation in the future, they need an opportunity to put what they just learned into practice. Whether it’s practicing the common questions that might come up in a listing or buying presentation, dealing with difficult clients or tactfully addressing a client concern. Practicing what you just learned is a critical part of becoming excellent at anything you do.
Going forward I’ll be updating my website monthly with my upcoming training sessions. I’ll also aim to write a bit more about my experience with my sales team as we both embark on this new approach to real estate sales training.