One Saturday morning a few years ago, in the stockroom of a family shoe store in Orlando, Fla., Clarence McKee presented the shortest, most effective sales training/motivational speech in the history of the world. I was a high school junior starting my first day as a shoe clerk. He was the manager.

"You are a commission salesman. You have the opportunity to make a lot more money than your buddies sacking groceries. But if you don’t sell, you don’t get paid. Your goal is to ‘get their money.’

"If you cannot find the shoes they want, call me over. If you don’t, you will be fired. You are not here to show shoes. You are here to sell shoes. Is this clear?"

OK. The "get their money" part sounds a little harsh, but that’s what he said. The message was way beyond quite clear. The fact is, it was true then and it is true today.

He said if I really believed this, that I would be eager to learn the inventory, how to keep my sales records, and all the rest.

I came to believe it, and to respect Mr. McKee, because he was always showing me how to increase my income by "up selling" shoe polish, socks, and women’s handbags. His focus on production kept me focused — that’s for sure.

It was the 2 1/2 years in St. Petersburg, Fla., spent selling safety high chairs and cribs door-to-door to first-time expectant mothers, when I became aware of the most important factors in the selling process: selling to a trusting, qualified buyer, in terms of need and ability to pay.

Through the years, I came to focus on one unwavering principle when it comes to showing and selling residential real estate: If agents do not know enough about a prospect’s lifestyle needs and wants, it will be impossible to show them homes in terms of their interest.

If the homes are not shown in terms of the prospect’s interest, they are being shown in terms of the agent’s interest, and that is telegraphed to the prospect in many subtle ways, as we know. When the agent is left with no sale, who is responsible?

"Buyers are liars" makes me cringe when I hear it, because I believe a ready, willing, and able buyer will tell the truth if they trust the agent.

If they don’t trust the agent, they may give the agent the time of day but they are not going to get much deeper than "we want a 3-bedroom, 2-bath" for no more than $200,000, for example.

Maybe some buyers are liars, but in my business, the commission sales business, I better understand that I am either going to make excuses or money. I cannot make both.

For my money, the best advice I can give to any commission sales person is this: Qualify buyers for their ability to pay, and make sure you qualify for needs — both real and perceived — before you make your presentation.

Just because they are financially qualified does not mean you understand their emotional and other needs well enough to show homes according to their lifestyle requirements and comfort factors.

If you do not qualify them in this way, you will be trying to sell your services in terms of your interest, not theirs, and that is not saleable.

Your thoughts?

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