I led a mastermind meeting once in which several managing brokers discussed the difference between sales hunters and sales farmers (or what some people refer to as sales “zookeepers”). We discussed whether farmer/zookeeper brokers can be converted into hunters.
The group was divided. Some managing brokers argued that sales hunters are born, not made. Others claimed that naturally passive agents can grow and develop into hunters. I can honestly see both sides.
Interestingly, this discussion got me thinking about another big question in the brokerage world: What is the most important selling skill an agent must possess – Is it the ability to prospect for new clients, or is it the ability to close a deal?
Both are extremely important, and neither is terribly easy. That’s why we typically don’t put limits on the income an agent can make. We want to incentivize them to keep working hard.
Ultimately, I believe that prospecting is slightly more difficult than closing deals (at least for most agents). I find it much easier to recruit a strong closer than a good prospector. A prospector manufactures a client out of thin air. Without the prospector, there’s nobody to close.
Given the importance of prospecting, and how difficult it is to do it right, let’s look at some of the best practices top producers use to identify opportunities hidden in the abyss and drag them into the light of day.
Top-producing agents consider prospecting to be an activity driven by their annual goals and business plans. They are highly goal-oriented and monitor progress throughout the year. They always want to be ahead of the game.
Elite prospectors are obsessed with prospecting and do it every day. They are constantly wondering, “Who else is out there who could become my client?” They prospect when times are good because they know that a rainy day will eventually come. They fight through worry and discouragement and keep prospecting during economic downturns (and pandemics) because they know better days lie ahead and they want to be ready for future opportunity. They even prospect when mediocre agents would claim they are too busy to prospect.
Top producers dig deep into their professional souls and conquer the temptation to procrastinate. They know that perfectionism is the “little brother” of procrastination, so they don’t wait for things to be perfect.
You’ve probably fallen into this trap before, by the way. You keep putting off picking up the phone until you’ve accomplished “just one more thing.” Well, top producers know they will NEVER be 100 percent ready, so they jump in and just get the job done.
The best prospectors are organized in both their personal and professional lives. They have a system of good habits allowing them to keep the little things in line, freeing them up to spend their time on big things.
They are “opportunity detectives.” They listen to their clients with intention. Deep, active and fully present listening is necessary to uncover hidden business opportunities. Most people only casually listen to prospects, causing them to miss subtle cues that could lead to millions of dollars in business.
Finally, great prospectors have an “accountability mindset.” They are accountable to themselves, their clients and their colleagues.
If you have an accountability mindset, you live your life according to three words: responsibility, authority and accountability. You are responsible for your own world, and fortunately, you have the authority to carry out your responsibilities. But with that authority comes accountability for your decisions and actions.
In other words, truly successful brokers graciously take credit for their successes and accept blame for their mistakes. In practical prospecting terms, this means they don’t make excuses, such as “Nobody answers the phone these days.” They don’t waste time worrying, “What if that person doesn’t want to talk to me?” They don’t complain, “Nobody will make a decision these days!”
Omaha, Nebraska-based Jeff Beals helps CRE brokers find better prospects and close more deals. He is an award-winning author, international speaker and accomplished sales consultant. Beals is creator of the DEALMAKERS Commercial Real Estate Online Sales Training Program.