Here’s a suggested marketing program for those commission-based real estate agents who save time by skipping the "needs" step in the sales process:

  • Buy two cans of paint: one yellow, one black.
  • Paint a wide yellow stripe down each side of your car.
  • In big letters with black paint, stencil "FREE TAXI."
  • Buy a chauffeur’s cap.

That’s it. You are branded!

While homebuyers may not be loyal, unqualified buyers are loyal to a fault. They will ask for you by name every time they need an airport pickup or drop off. They are willing to look at everything you show them, and aren’t that picky about location.

But smart you, you know you are building a strong referral base, because they remind you that they are going to send all of their friends to you. Some will mention that you are not pushy or a high-pressure salesperson "like the rest of them."

The super loyal will take the time to call your broker to share what an awesome agent you are. The broker may even mention this call in a sales meeting.

So, for all you sales trainers and experienced commission-based salespeople out there, don’t tell me there is no upside to skipping the qualifying phase of the sales process.

But, for all the wonderful "no rejection" benefits, failing to assess a prospect’s needs can result in frustration. Negative thinking creeps in, especially during the frequent but quiet moments you spend at the gas pump, on the way to pick them up again for the day’s showings.

You may start to think that these people are taking advantage of you. This is a pivotal moment in the relationship.

Over the past 30 years, I learned to ward off this feeling by singing the following ditty to the tune of "Farmer in the Dell": "My prospects really like me. My prospects really like me, hi-ho, here I go, because my prospects really like me."

After you pick them up you might want to try a group sing just to build more rapport and to help you get refocused on how much they like you.

Unfortunately, there is this one downside. They are not going to buy real estate from you.

You will eventually get the call: "Thank you, you are wonderful. We will send you referrals." The three most common reasons are: "We decided to wait," "We bought from another broker," "We decided to buy a new home." None of which is acceptable to you.

After you move through the denial and anger stages, reality will sink in. You are not a taxi service. You are a salesperson who is selling real estate for a living, and you don’t know how.

The training program was heavy on administrative and Internet marketing, and very light on actual sales training. Telling is not selling. Telling is education, but it is not training.

You can learn how to find prospects. That’s the easy part, even in today’s market. But if you don’t know what to do to determine their needs and interest, how can you possibly show a home to a prospective client in terms of these two crucial factors?

The sooner you clearly understand the fact that you are a salesperson working on a commission — meaning you do not get paid if you do not financially close a sale — the better. You will start accepting this fact when you realize that what you do is up to you, not anybody else.

If you have not been trained to qualify buyers, it is time to start. You cannot be trained by reading this column, or watching video presentations, or listening to lectures on "how to sell."

One of the biggest mistakes agents make is to assume they have a prospect who is financially qualified to buy.

Being financially qualified to purchase means they are "able," but it does not mean they are ready or willing. Unless you have a ready, willing and able buyer, you have a suspect, not a prospect.

Remember: You may be doing the driving, but unless you have a ready, willing and able buyer in your car, that prospective buyer may be taking you for a ride.

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