By Jake Poinier
Motivational humorist Darryl Davis has been making real estate audiences laugh, think and improve their listing and sales skills for more than a decade. In this exclusive interview with Real Estate magazine, he shares his thoughts on how brokers and agents can minimize stress and take their game to the next level in 2012.
Jake Poinier: What is the biggest challenge brokers and agents are facing in today’s market?
Darryl Davis: I would say the high level of stress everyone is feeling. And I think a big part of the stress is caused by the steady drumbeat of negative news over the past few years—foreclosures, short sales, the unemployment rate, etc. It’s taken a considerable toll on everyone.
The problem with this is that it clearly impacts an agent’s level of production. They just don’t feel motivated to take action. They feel like, “What’s the point?” In other words, they’ve lost hope. Even if you show an agent how to make $100,000 a year, if they’ve got a $20,000-a-year attitude, that’s all they’re ever going to make. If broker/owners don’t convey a message of hope and prosperity for 2012, all the how-to stuff isn’t going to make an impact because the agents won’t use it.
JP: So, how do you turn that around?
DD: To impact a salesperson’s production, they have to do different things, like prospect. But they will only do things based on how they feel. Therefore, if we want to impact production, we have to impact their attitude about themselves, the market and the future.
Here’s an analogy I use in my sessions: If you’re building a house, and you put the nicest amenities in—the best-quality windows, doors, decorations, granite countertops, appliances, etc.—but the foundation is cracked, weak, or otherwise messed up, you’ve got a disaster on your hands. Success absolutely depends on making sure the foundation—how agents see themselves and the market—is 100% solid.
JP: You talk in your seminars about real estate agents reaching the next level. Give us the quick version of what you mean.
DD: Stress is an unavoidable fact of life for agents, and the first step toward decreasing it is to clearly define what your next level is and channel your energy toward that versus the thing that may be causing the stress. You can’t define that as something you attain, but something you are. You’re never the same after you get married or have a baby. Those events alter who you are as a human being. People who are clear about their next level and are passionate about it will create miracles. If you don’t have that, you’re stuck in survival mode. Really, that’s not even just agents, but anyone. What’s your life purpose? If you wake up to the next level, not the alarm clock, that’s what you’re chasing after.
Next, you need a support structure. Getting to your next level is going to be uncomfortable—if it isn’t, it’s not a next level. It’s going to stretch who you are and challenge you, which is almost impossible to do on your own. Left to our own devices, we tend to wimp out and do what we’d rather do.
The final step is understanding the No. 1 secret to being an awesome salesperson.
JP: OK, you’ve got our attention. What’s the secret?
DD: I can’t tell you exactly what it is because it’s a secret, but it’s the same technique top speakers, such as Les Brown and Zig Ziglar, use—it doesn’t involve a script, and it has to do with storytelling. It’s an incredibly effective tool for getting a homeowner or buyer to eat right out of your hand.
JP: As we head into the holidays, everyone dreads the annual cycle of making and breaking New Year’s resolutions. What can broker/owners do to make the message stick in the coming year?
DD: It’s critical that agents hit the ground running strong and see the possibilities as they head into 2012. We’ve been in a scarcity mindset for the past few years. It’s important for agents to be the driver of their results, and not be a victim of the market and bad news. There are agents who are having their best year when others are crying about it. When you get down to it, the problem isn’t the problem but, rather, how you deal with it—and that’s an attitude mindset.
So, I guess I’m saying a broker/owner should give their agents a motivational session loaded with concrete strategies to make more money. January/February is the perfect time to kick off this type of event. Real estate is like a marriage—you don’t say, “I do,” and think that it’s going to work out swell for the next 50 to 75 years by itself. You need to wake up every morning and work at it. Recommit to it. Agents need to do the same thing: recommit to their career. Their marriage to real estate may have seen some rocky times these past few years, so they need to walk down the aisle, stand up, and say, “I do”…and “I will…make this my breakthrough year!” So that’s what a broker should do—kick off the New Year with a strong event.
JP: In your seminars, you mention how you’ve completed a marathon. How does that compare to the process of building a real estate business?
DD: They have more in common than you realize from a mental perspective. I’ve run four marathons and I’d say the first takeaway is how important it is to have people cheering you on. It’s the same thing with a company—how they can get you recommitted and excited, rooting for you like you’re in a race.
The second aspect goes back to my earlier point about a support structure. It’s essential to partner with people who are committed to your success—it gives you energy. There’s a back story here: I was in Atlantic City doing a real estate seminar, and I was getting pains in my back and sweating profusely. At the hospital, they did tests and an EKG, and found nothing. In fact, my heart was really strong—but my stress was through the roof from all the money I left behind in Atlantic City.
Anyway, while I was in the waiting room, I picked up a brochure for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Team in Training, which provides you with a marathon training program as well as the opportunity to raise money for a great cause. So I signed up, thinking I’m going to help save kids’ lives. What I quickly learned is that the tough part isn’t the marathon, it’s the training. You have to log dozens of miles every week with the group, and get up at ridiculous hours, even when your inner voice says, “I don’t feel like it,” and you want to smack the snooze button. So, the thing that kept me going was saving children’s lives. You’ll sacrifice when you’re committed to something bigger than yourself. And with a support structure, you can make it happen.
JP: In a tough real estate market, where do you find the humor?
DD: Medication. Just kidding. That’s why I use a lot of humor in my sessions, because agents need to laugh. I remember a person at one of my seminars yelling out, “Is there a two-drink minimum for this seminar?,” which, as you can imagine, I took as the highest form of praise. Laughter makes the medicine go down and, in a funny way, you can still be deep and transformational.
Now, keep in mind, I don’t advise agents to do standup routines or even be humorous. But they do need to lighten up, which is why I use the acronym S.T.R.E.S.S. for “Stop Taking Real Estate So Seriously.” The reality is that agents are part salespersons and part therapists because of the emotional rollercoaster everyone goes through—buyers, sellers and agents themselves. Handling that requires life skills and communication skills. It doesn’t matter if you can’t tell a knock-knock joke without messing it up.
JP: Any final words of wisdom?
DD: First, a major part of being a leader is having a vision that the whole company can get in line behind, a crystal-clear image of what you’re committed to for 2012. And second, agents need to become committed and motivated to that vision. That’s where it can help to have an outsider validate the leadership.
Every real estate company should have a formal, motivational kickoff in the first two months of the year, regardless of how big or small your firm is. And once things heat up in March and April, you’ll be all set to explode going into the second and third quarters.
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