Monday, June 02, 2008

by Phlegmmy

One reason I think I'm excellent at sales is that I'm not a salesperson.

Yes, I know the product I'm offering and when prospective residents come to the property and I highlight what I think are the best features of the community and of the available spaces, but only up to a point. My strong inclination is that an intelligent prospect will of course recognize the inherent benefits of my property versus other possibilities on the market. If what is on offer is a thing of quality and as advertised, my feeling is no manipulation need be part of the process. Since I first happened into this business, I've had many people tell me I was the pivotal factor in their decision making process--that they felt my property was well and conscientiously managed, and I take this as a challenge and strive to excel that expectation. On that score, I think I do a damned good job. In fact, the higher standard to me is that I try to run my property the way I try to live my life: as it should be.

There is a lot of competition in the marketplace, and this is definitely a buyer's market. However, my community is small and there is only one like it, and my turnover is small and such limited availability is a very model of supply-and-demand economics.

Working in this industry has been a crash course in human behaviour. Some people are chatty and telegraph what they are thinking or simply blurt. Others still are more reticent and soak in the information, playing their thoughts close to their vest. Occasionally, I sense the instant a person decides my property is not what they are looking for. I always am cordial and politely yet efficiently wrap up the encounter, offering my best wishes in their search, and thanking them for considering my community.

Obviously, every person who happens to look at my property is not necessarily someone with whom I would want to deal with on a regular basis. One of the most vile people I know gave great lip service to "Customer for Life," a book by a much-ballyhooed luxury car sales magnate. I admit I own this book, and I disagree with some fundamental aspects of their sales philosophy. They seem to believe that one should make every sale at any cost and exhaust all resources to meet the most exacting demands of a client. I, however, believe that a sale which compromises my staff, the property owners and/or my other residents is not a sale worth making. No one says this publicly, but the fact is there are some folks so supremely unpleasant and inherently dishonest that you actually want them to take their business elsewhere. Life is too short to brook the foolishness of someone whose cap is bent on irrational demands and all taking and no giving.

I've had a space on the market for a bit, and it's really an adorable space. There's been a lot of buzz about this space, and several people seemed very interested. Last week a man came by and I could tell he knew this was the right space for him. He sized the rooms up, and mentally arranged his furniture. He asked politely about availability and if my make-ready schedule would work with his. He asked if anyone else had expressed interest, and I said honestly that I had two more appointments to show it later in the day. A person intent on sales at any cost would have chosen that moment to say "if you give me a check for your deposit, I'll hold this for you until you make up your mind." Instead, I said warmly "I think this is a great apartment and I hope you will keep us in mind as you make your final decision." He left and I was certain he'd be back, that he'd found his next home. I knew instinctively he would be a good resident, an asset to any community he chose, and I looked forward to seeing him again.

A full week passed and one morning I heard an eager, fresh voice on the phone of someone I'd shown the apartment to the day before. They excitedly stated they'd submitted their application online, had I reviewed it yet and did I require further information. I pulled the credit report immediately, processed their app fee and contacted their references. Everything went smoothly and this person was a shoo-in with impeccable credit and excellent rental history. I thought wistfully for a brief moment of the earlier guy who seemed perfect, and assumed I'd misread his interest, or that he'd decided not to move. There are thousands of reasons a person's prospects might change, so I dismissed him from my mind. About an hour after I called to congratulate the new tenant, the earlier guy called and announced that he'd finally made up his mind, that he would take the space-- he knew it was perfect for him and that he'd take it as soon as I could have it ready. I then had the odious task of telling him that his ideal, perfect space was no longer available, that he was mere hours too late.

Of course, I could have told him this when we first spoke. I could have said "this space may be available for two more months, or someone could rent it in five minutes." We are dealing with the unknown quantities of may, might and can. However, I know with absolute certainty that sooner or later, the space will rent, and it's important to me that the renter knows he made up his own mind, and that he was not pushed to make a hasty decision. If I managed a community with hundreds of cookie-cutter apartments rather than scores of unique units, then my approach might be different. My property, however, is singular - there is no other like it to be had.

I wonder about people who opt to live with forever salving the sting of missed opportunities. I believe in a marketplace rife with a dazzling array of artifice and shabbiness, one shouldn't have to trumpet the blindingly obvious. I believe if you offer something of quality and rarity, you shouldn't have to make a hard sell, and I simply refuse play such games. If this property is right for someone, it's right. If it's not, we can all be grownups and walk on. Telling people what’s best for them is not my job in life. Far be it from me to club a man over the head and drag him back to his own cave.


Buck said...

Your last paragraph should be required reading for ALL sales-folks, Phlegmmy.

I lurve the way you think.

Anonymous said...

You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink. Oh well, such is life.

I love the way you put it in prospect.

HollyB said...

Your sales philosophy is an apt analogy for so MANY interpersonal relationships. Thanks for this post. We all have bring a uniqueness of one sort or another to some of the tables at which we sit, don't we?
I needed to hear this as did some other of your readers, no doubt.

Christina RN LMT said...

Excellent post, Phlegm.

I could work at either of two high-end, ritzy spas owned by the same company that owns my former massage school, but they rely on product sales and therapists meeting sales quotas and THAT'S NOT FOR ME.

I'm a massage therapist, not a salesman. I can sell massage, no problem. MY product speaks for itself, through my hands.