By Curtis Schroeder, MBA Candidate
How have you set yourself apart from other agents in your market? Consumers have many options to consider when selecting a real estate agent. Experience level, services offered, and reputation can all guide someone towards (or away) from a particular agent. The competitive and unpredictable nature of the real estate industry presents agents with an explicit need to differentiate themselves amongst consumers in highly competitive local markets. A simple conversation - generated by a referral, cold-call, or other circumstance - may be the best (and only) opportunity you have to turn a prospect into a client. When presented with the important opportunity to engage with a prospective client, consider, "How have you equipped yourself to make the most of your opportunity?"
Co-authors Mike Schultz and John Doerr have developed a research-based and field-tested method to help you take advantage of such opportunities. The 2011 book, Rainmaking Conversations, provides a model to help elevate your sales savvy and equip you for successful, "rainmaking" sales conversations.
THINK POINT #1: Make it RAIN - A Framework For Rainmaking Conversations
In sales organizations, rainmakers are the agents who achieve the greatest return for their organization by generating new clients and producing additional revenue. Agents in the real estate industry have the same opportunity to achieve rainmaker status by leading purposeful and successful sales conversations using the RAIN model. Schultz and Doerr offer this memorable acronym as the framework for facilitating rainmaking conversations:
- Rapport -The initial connection made with a client is of greatest importance: consumers are often influenced by and buy from people they like. Unfortunately, building rapport into sales conversations becomes a "checklist item" for many agents, and may be perceived by the client as inauthentic and superficial. Be genuine in your efforts to build rapport with your clients. The connection you make and the trust you build will lay the groundwork for a fruitful conversation.
- Aspirations & Afflictions - in the needs-discovery process of a sales conversation, agents regularly focus on the client's problems, or their afflictions. A salesperson may ask, "How has ____ affected your profit margin?" or a real estate agent may ask, "How has your newness to this city affected your ability to narrow down which neighborhoods you want to live in?" Focusing on the client's problems is only half of the discovery process. As a real estate agent, it may be important to find out about the client's family, their job, where they see themselves in five years, what kind of activities they enjoy and want to have access to - all information that reveals future-minded intentions, or aspirations. To prompt important questions and to gain valuable insights into your client's personal and professional lives, perhaps you might consider scanning his LinkedIn or Facebook page prior to an appointment. These insights will not only provide content for your conversation, but they will uncover the things that are really important to him. Focus on both aspirations and afflictions in the discovery process to uncover the most complete picture of your client's needs and wants.
- Impact - uncovering the client's most pertinent aspirations and afflictions reveals an opportunity to explain the consequences, or impact, of a decision to purchase or not purchase from you. The impact of a purchase decision can be positive or negative. Focusing on the benefits of your services would convey the positive impact of a purchase decision. Highlighting the opportunities forfeited for inaction would express a negative impact. The goal of explaining impact is to create urgency and a desire to work with you. For real estate agents, whether selling services or a particular property, revealing the true impact of a decision is an opportunity to move the client closer to action and to affirm that you have the client's best interest in mind.
- New Reality - after the client understands the impact of his decision, the agent must persuade the client to take action. Schultz and Doerr suggest that the most effective way to move someone to action is to paint a picture of the client's new reality - a vision of his specific decision outcomes. If you have truly understood the client's aspirations and afflictions, and shared the impact of a decision to work with you, then the application of your services/product to meet the client's needs should be a logical and persuasive next step towards a decision.
Within the RAIN model are two additional acronymic suggestions to help you lead effective rainmaking conversations:
- AI: Advocacy and Inquiry - balance the use of advocacy ("I have sold 26 homes so far this year") and inquiry ("How have experiences with other agents met or fallen short of your expectations?") in your sales exchanges. Advocating for your work too much can come off as aggressive, arrogant or overbearing and may turn the client off to your services. Asking too many questions can leave the client feeling interrogated, bored, and unsure of your abilities. A balance of the two techniques will reveal important truths about the client while sharing the important deal-making competencies that you offer.
- IN: Influence - as an expert in your field, your knowledge qualifies you to influence those around you. To be an influencer, though, you must intentionally accept your role and take action. Without being manipulative, you have the ability to guide a buyer down a particular path. In fact, your expertise and recommendations are part of what you are paid for! Involving the client in the decision-making process and making recommendations with her best interests in mind are responsible - and effective - uses of your influencing power.
THINK POINT #2: Can You Sell To Yourself? The Most Important Rainmaking Conversation
The RAIN model is the lifeblood of successful, rainmaking conversations. However, before employing the RAIN framework in your sales exchanges, you must conquer the greatest sales challenge: selling to yourself.
Often times, the greatest barrier to confidence and success as a salesperson is the battle faced internally. Insecurity, anxiety, negativity and other debilitating emotions can hold even the greatest salesperson back from achieving his full potential. Addressing these doubts and asking tough questions can lead to personal insights as well as a greater understanding of your clients. Schultz and Doerr suggest six key questions to ask before beginning the journey towards becoming a rainmaking salesperson:
- How strong is my desire to achieve (in sales)?
- How committed am I to doing what I need to do to succeed?
- How energetically will I pursue success?
- How's my attitude?
- Do I accept responsibility for my outcomes, or do I make excuses?
- Am I willing to face my (sales) demons?
Greater discussion of these inquiries can be found in the book Rainmaking Conversations, however the general ideas serve as a good starting point for discussion. You may also realize that this self-questioning process is a parallel process to a sales exchange - asking questions to uncover personal needs and desires, discovering ways to solve/fulfill needs and desires, understanding the impact of those outcomes (positive and negative), and envisioning a new reality once the outcomes are achieved. This practice will not only help you to understand yourself better, it will help you gather valuable insights from a consumer's prospective. Ask questions and sell to yourself - this will only strengthen your confidence as you approach future sales interactions.
THINK POINT #3: Establish A Roadmap For Success - Create And Conquer Your Goals
Setting goals for yourself will empower you to achieve desired outcomes in a tangible and measurable way. Goals also provide structure for individuals and firms with complex ideas and visions as they create and prioritize action steps. Schultz and Doerr make a strong argument for utilizing the goal-setting process in preparation for becoming a rainmaker:
The assessment results of 400,000 salespeople show that:
- The Top 5 %: 100 % have written goals.
- The Bottom 5 %: 16 % have written goals (p. 30).
There seems to be a strong relationship between successful salespeople and the application of goal-setting processes. Setting short- and long-term goals to help establish a roadmap for results is imperative for sales success. Goals provide an opportunity for the salesperson to examine his current status and dream about the successes he would like to achieve, consolidating abstract and complex ideas into tangible and measurable goal-outcomes. If you don't have a vision of where you want to go and how you plan to get there, the likelihood of fulfilling your desires is greatly suppressed. Decide where you want to go and what you want to do, set measurable goals for yourself, and commit to conquering your goals at any expense.
THINK POINT #4: Selling With Fluency - What Sets Rainmakers Apart
Two traits that differentiate a rainmaking agent from a generic salesperson are that rainmakers know the right things and know the right things fluently. Understanding the RAIN model is the first step towards becoming a rainmaker. Mastering the model and effectively weaving rainmaking techniques into everyday sales contexts, though, is what will help differentiate your abilities amongst other agents in the real estate industry.
Companies often provide training manuals and workshops to prepare their sales force, and a surplus of sales literature has been written to provide salespeople with the "right" knowledge to be successful. Unfortunately, most companies and employees focus heavily on process and skill development, and conclude training when their salespeople can successfully recite product specs or generic company tag lines. Product/service knowledge is important, but the distinct difference between those who know what to say and do and those who effectively put their knowledge to work is in the salesperson's ability to sell their product or service fluently.
Schultz and Doerr define fluency as:
Fluency = Accuracy + Speed + Breadth and Depth of Knowledge
Salespeople are accurate when they know that the product or service knowledge they have is correct. Salespeople exhibit speed when their knowledge is applied without hesitation. A breadth and depth of knowledge is achieved through experience and continuous education, filling any gaps that may exist in their knowledge. Fluent agents know the right questions to ask, they have (or know where to get) the right answers, and they sell with confidence.
Mastering rainmaking techniques and applying them in daily sales contexts to develop accuracy, speed and a breadth of knowledge requires preparation and patience - fluency can only be achieved through work and over time. Persistence and resiliency as you work will help you become fluent quicker, giving you the skills and confidence needed to set yourself apart.
In competitive real estate markets, differentiation is essential to remain (or become) a highly sought-after agent - equip yourself to make the most of every rainmaking opportunity you are presented with. Master the RAIN model, perform a self-analysis, set realistic and measurable goals, and develop fluency in your sales acumen to maximize your rainmaking potential. Take advantage of the expertise outlined in Rainmaking Conversations, and achieve your greatest return through additional client and revenue generation. Make it RAIN!
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Schultz, Mark and Doerr, John E. (2011). Rainmaking Conversations: Influence, Persuade, and Sell in Any Situation. New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
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About the Author
Curtis Schroeder, MBA Candidate
Associate Editor, Keller Center Research Report
Assistant Director, Keller Center for Research and Center for Professional Selling
Curtis Schroeder graduated from Baylor University with a Bachelor of Business Administration in Marketing in 2009. Curtis currently serves as the Associate Editor of the Keller Center Research Report and as the Assistant Director of the Keller Center for Research and the Center for Professional Selling at Baylor University. Curtis is pursuing a Masters of Business Administration from Baylor University with a focus in marketing.