Author’s note: Reader Warning: This column contains information and suggestions that might make some uncomfortable. It is highly suggestive on whether the "think outside the box" mentality is just an excuse for not doing what should be done inside the box.

This simple mindset test will help you decide if you need to or should read further.

Answer "True" or "False" to the below statements. (If you answer "True" to even one statement, this column applies to you.)

  • You think or have even said that ‘buyers are liars." True False
  • You are always busy, but seldom productive. True False
  • You believe as you are reminded every day that you need to think "outside the box." True False

1. Are buyers liars, or could it be that you, God forbid, are not a good qualifier?

Be honest. Do you have any idea how much it has cost you in the past because you did a poor job of qualifying the buyer?

True story: A retired couple tells Agent A they want to retire in a three-bedroom home on a golf course. The husband, a retiring postman from Syracuse, is an "avid" golfer and has had two heart attacks. Their children and grandchildren will visit in the summers.

At first blush, what would you show this couple?

Did you say, "A three-bedroom home on the golf course?" No. Although that is a common answer, it reflects paying little or no attention to what the prospects said.

The agent listened to them with her heart, not just her ears. She heard that the wife might lose the husband and end up in a new location alone (two heart attacks). She also heard that the husband was an avid golfer and asked if he liked to play different courses. When he said, "Yes," she asked him if he knew that there were at least five golf courses within 30 minutes of her office. He had no idea.

She hastened to add that while it made no difference to her where they lived, the grandchildren visiting in the summer might enjoy a larger home — at a comparable cost — not adjacent to the golf course. But it was up to them. She ended up selling this couple an attached villa, not on the golf course, for less money.

Why a villa instead of a detached, single-family home? "

Because, the agent said, "The wife could be living alone soon (the two heart attack thing), and although she never mentioned it, I know she is thinking that it would be nice to lock and go (with no worries about maintenance and security), if something happened to him and she had to move back to Syracuse with her family."

Had she not listened then questioned, she may not have sold them a home. Instead, she might be reminding her fellow agents at the next sales meeting that "all buyers are liars."

Listen and qualify.

2. You are always busy, but seldom productive.

We have all been here, for sure.

Ever had this conversation?

YOU: Hi Mary, how’s it going?

MARY: I am busy, busy, busy. There just is not enough time in the day!

YOU: You sound busy. What are you working on?

MARY: One thing and another. Seems like there is always something.

YOU: How are sales?

MARY: I haven’t had a sale in weeks. This market is terrible!

The next time someone tells you she is busy, say this:

"I know you are busy, Mary, but are you productive?" Seriously, watch the expression on Mary’s blank face. You could be doing her a favor. Sometimes we need someone to help us quit kidding ourselves. Right? And who hasn’t needed help setting priorities?

It will not be long before all the "busy" people will quit complaining to you, because they know you will ask them the "productive" question.

Come to think of it, it is a good question for us to ask ourselves.

Here is a reminder you can put on your desktop.

"Is what I am doing or about to do getting me closer to my objectives?" If the answer is no, then you may be a busy person. But productive? No.

3. You are convinced that you need to think "outside the box."

Maybe you don’t.

Have there ever been such a popular catch phrase and so little implementation in your lifetime?

So much conversation. So little action.

You can probably count on a closed fist how many agents you know who are doing something that is "outside the box" (whatever that means).

Which of these would you say is out-of-the-box thinking?

  • Thinking about taking a technology training class.
  • Thinking about learning two new scripts a week.
  • Thinking about asking for referrals on a regular basis.

Not one! They may be out of your box, because you never placed them in yours, but these are basics.

Maybe you should put some of these inside your box, and then actually perform these tasks.

Here are some of the things that fuel your desire to think outside the box:

  • Habits.
  • Your comfort zone.
  • Lazy.
  • No system.
  • No accountability.

The list is not complete, but let us starts with "No accountability."

Do you seriously want to be more productive?

If so, find someone (not your spouse or friend) to hold you accountable for a short period, say four weeks. Once a week you want them to review the tasks you performed — the only two that will generate commissions: prospecting and face-to-face selling. You may need to pay a coach, but try it with someone in your office. Someone who is going to see you face to face on a regular basis.

  • Would you say these are "in" or "out" of the box?
  • Write down the number of prospects you will talk to this week.
  • Set appointment goals.
  • Meet once a week for four weeks, and then decide if you want to continue.

Are these suggestions "out of the box?" No. Principles always work because they are true.

The question really is this: Do we need to think outside the box or do we need to learn to apply ourselves to principles already in the box?

Note: If an agent in your office is more productive today because he or she did something out of the box, let me know.

David Fletcher has been a licensed Florida real estate broker for more than 30 years. He has served as broker of record, marketing consultant or adviser for more than 60 communities. He specializes in fractured condo sales.

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