I have a listing where the contract has been out, for various reasons, for weeks instead of days. All the parties involved want this deal to happen, so every day I wake up and tend to the deal, which feels excruciatingly like moving down a football field one yard at a time.

In the meantime, I need something else to do. In some ways, I can’t flog the listing I have — since the contract is out we are not showing it, and I certainly think it’s early days to do a direct mail drop touting my success on getting to the 40-yard-line. So I have been doing some writing, to keep the roof overhead, and I have just been relaxing and hanging out.

In the course of this week I ended up making two contacts that were sort of undercover listing presentations. Since I have a little time on my hands, I decided to run a self-check: to grade myself on how I did. I decided my ‘grading manual’ would be fellow Inman News columnist Bernice Ross’ tapes ‘List and Sell Real Estate Like Crazy!’ which frankly have sat on the shelf too long and in my computer too little. So what follows will be a two-parter: This week, I’ll let you know how I did on my ‘non-sales’ sales pitch, and next week, I’ll let you know how I did on my ‘it’s just a rental’ sales pitch.

The ‘non-sales’ contact came from a friend from college — I’ll call her Lily — who I had not seen for 15 years and then ran into at a friend’s baby-naming. Sixteen months later, she called me up and said, we’re thinking of selling our apartment — we can’t give you the listing because we have two family friends who are Realtors, but can I ask you a couple of questions about how to pick?

So of course, I was off the hook, and I sell best when I’m off the hook. I immediately turned into a fountain of good advice, telling her she was ‘on the friends and family plan’ (which she was) and that I would be happy to walk her through the process because she was uptown, but maybe if I impressed her she might refer a friend who was looking downtown (where I sell) my way. I went up to have dinner with her and her husband, who I’d never met, let’s call him Bruce, and to hang out and talk about the apartment.

I had dinner with them, met their kids, talked to them about various questions they should ask Realtors, and showed them some computer databases and records that I had access to and talked about how that information could help them. I did tell them about Realtors ‘buying listings’ and that they should invite different Realtors, even the family friends, to pitch them, but that they should distrust the one who priced their apartment the highest. We were frankly having such a good time hanging out that we saved the property tour till last, so I actually never got to see the kids’ bedrooms.

What Bernice Ross’s tapes say I did right: In a world where connection is paramount, I made the connection the most important thing: I put the kids ahead of the property and I put the seller’s needs above my own. There is a rule on ‘List and Sell Real Estate Like Crazy’ that goes ‘don’t be attached to the outcome’ and I truly wasn’t, since I assumed that it was a foregone conclusion that I wasn’t pitching this listing. I truly put the sellers’ needs ahead of my own, and taught them about their market, gave them specific questions to ask different brokers who were pitching their listings, and pointed out that if they had a political problem because they had two family friends, they could use one to sell and one to buy. I also demonstrated one of my strengths, which is that I’m a research fiend, and I showed them some of my spadework and how it could help them.

What Bernice Ross’ tapes say I did wrong: I violated the ‘shut up and sell’ rule that you should never interrupt your clients especially when you disagree (you could argue that I didn’t know what I was selling, but honestly, isn’t the point to make selling such second nature that you’re always selling?). I didn’t invite the clients to rhapsodize — which is my word for her practice of asking clients what they have liked about the property, especially things that might not be apparent to others at first glance. I made a connection by admiring their flesh-and-blood kids, but I didn’t spend enough time telling them how beautiful their other baby — their property — was.

What I learned that I’ll take into my next, hopefully actual, listing presentation: I am so comfortable with using technology to research that it is worth mentioning and demonstrating, because it is one of my differentiating strengths. My low-key approach is me, and it’s fine, but I could play into that — and play into good selling technique — by blending it with questions for customers about their property. That way I’ll come across as thoughtful and empathetic, rather than arrogant and enervated at the same time.

Alison Rogers is a licensed salesperson and author of "Diary of a Real Estate Rookie."


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