In her wonderful (and mouth-watering) memoir, food writer Laura Schenone decides to learn to make ravioli the way her ancestors did. As part of the quest, she goes to Italy, to a restaurant in the Genoa area, to learn from Roberto Circella, a master pasta maker. When she walks into his restaurant, La Brinca, she writes, “I am disappointed to see the pasta dough is already made. How much flour and egg did he use? How much moisture?”
I sort of feel the same way about my business. The trend in real estate is towards disintermediation, where customers practically buy homes off the Internet and then repent at leisure later. I am fighting this head-on by trying to be one of those completely different agents, very full-service-y in a landscape where people might not even realize they need it. And I am trying to learn this artisan approach at the hands of a master, my sponsoring broker, and it comes so naturally to him after two decades that even though he’s teaching me loads about how to roll the ravioli out, sometimes the pasta’s already made.
I had one recent breakthrough, though. I have a buyer, a first-time buyer, who has seen a lot of properties and now has come to the point where he ought to make the leap and pick one. And he’s resisting, partly because of normal first-time buyer fears and partly because he’s a Wall Street guy and his job sure has been leading him a merry dance this year. One moment he’s rich, the next moment he’s sure he’s gonna be fired. It’s a volatility that would make me lose my lunch, and in the middle of all this, here I am trying to get him to take the next step and buy an apartment.
And the breakthrough I got with this client was, “Hey, this always happens to me.”
Well, not always. There was one particularly exceptional client who knew his own mind, told me what he wanted in the summer, and has his feet up on his coffee table as we speak. But in general, with first-time buyers, I find they like shopping. But it’s usually very, very hard to get them to quit shopping and start buying.
Maybe that’s my fault, a point of weakness in my sales approach. But three days ago, when I got a referral, I changed my pitch a little.
“So,” I said to potential new client, “you and I should meet for coffee and sniff each other out, and you can ask me questions. But before we even do that, let me tell you what the buying process is like. There’s a stage where we see properties, and I watch you react to them, and learn what you like and don’t like. And then there’s a next step where you have to pick one, and sometimes that’s hard. …”
I went on, describing more of the buying process, but I knew that was the point where I won him — I could hear it in his chuckle and sigh of relief. I had outlined a road, and pointed out a bump, and pointed out that we would be in this together — before we hit the bump.
That didn’t take away some of the volatility we’re sure to face, new client and I, but I think it took away some of the anxiety about it.
He knows what the filling is in the ravioli, and we’re going to roll it out together.
Now if only I understood the mysteries of the pasta.
Alison Rogers is a licensed salesperson and author of “Diary of a Real Estate Rookie.”