Early real estate agents were the town know-it-alls. They just knew what everyone was doing, who owned what, what kind of financial condition they were in and which way the political currents were flowing.
How did they acquire this knowledge? They liked getting around, meeting people and kept their ears open. They have what I call “Rolodex brains.” They remembered everything.
According to psychologists, this is a unique characteristic – a strength – that not everyone has. Sometimes referred to as “input”, it’s an intense curiosity in people or things. Every piece of information is stored away for future reference.
As it turns out, Harvard Business Review’s research revealed that curiosity is a hallmark of great salespeople. But curiosity on its own is not enough. It’s one of several other qualities that the best salespeople usually possess. According to HBR they are:
- Modesty (they don’t need to be the center of attention)
- Conscientiousness (reliability – they call you back)
- Achievement Orientation (use goals to manage process and assess performance)
- Curiosity (ask a lot of questions because they want to know the answers)
- Lack of Gregariousness (they prefer to listen/don’t feel the need to talk or socialize all the time)
- Lack of Discouragement (resilient – not put off my doors slamming in their face)
- Lack of Self-Consciousness (not easily embarrassed – they can make a cold call)
The picture this paints isn’t at all like the outgoing, talkative and maybe a little shady person most people associate with salespeople – including salespeople themselves. Since the majority of salespeople aren’t great, that’s probably what has colored public perception. And are there maybe 10% that don’t totally fit these 7 traits? Sure. But from what I’ve seen, the best salespeople I know – in their twenties, seventies and in between – have these traits.
Some of the CRE industry’s angst about recruiting comes from, in my opinion, a misunderstanding of the sales personality and an unwillingness for management to adapt to the fact that great salespeople are hard to find.
Recruiters or sales managers also have a tendency to base hiring on superficial characteristics. For sales, they’ll choose candidates that are extroverted, “presentable” or enthusiastic. Asking them how they deal with failure, rejection or how organized they are may be a better way to screen salespeople.
Once someone is hired, sales managers have a role, too. They should be able to identify strengths and weaknesses then create teams that have all the functional strengths needed to perform. For CRE that translates to “finder”, “grinder” and “minder” roles – the lead generator, deal maker and account manager. Yes, that means 3 people to do the job one great salesperson could do. So most businesses will settle for one good (or less) salesperson and expect training to pick up the slack.
Can training really make a difference? According to strength’s based career theorists, it can only do so much. They suggest that while you can strengthen weaker behaviors you’ll be happiest and more successful if you choose careers that cater to your strengths. Maybe you can become more conscientious, more goal oriented or welcome the challenge of a door slammed in your face. But you’ll never relish it as much as a person for which this way of work comes naturally.
If there’s a dearth of great CRE agents it’s because they’re hard to find. Training, technology or understanding generational differences are all helpful for making good/average agents better but you’ll never fit a square peg into a round hole. That’s why the future of sales is being shaped by less reliance on a single individual. It’s a necessary adaptation to the scarcity of really great salespeople.