Out of The Chaos A New Generation of Sales Experts Has Been Born

busy_cityAs I sit down to write this article, I find myself struggling to control the massive amounts of information that is flowing through my head.  Let’s face it…..the world of business that I knew so well no longer exists.  I wish that I could lay all of the blame on the fact that technology has become a necessity instead of the luxury it once was.  But I can not.  I personally made the decision to pull back from the 80 hour a week work schedule….. that took me to that farthest corners of this great country of ours.  I decided that I could have it all.  A wonderful husband, a career to be envied, the home and lifestyle of my dreams and a family that would end up defining me more than any other aspect of my life.  But how would this balance be achieved?

I realized sometime ago that almost every single thing I learned about business and marketing in college is practically useless.  Fortunately I have always been extremely passionate about whatever I happen to be doing at the time.  Passion, Ethics, Integrity and a Straight Forward Attitude have served me well. When combined with an insatiable appetite for knowledge I found that what most folk thought of as trends, I could use to help clients build unbelievably strong brands.

They are called TRENDS for a reason. People tend to flock to the latest and greatest like moths to a flame. It helps them feel special. Those that have the gift of foresight are able to use that to their advantage and capitalize on the latest trends. And when those trends become the norm, then said trend spotters become part of the founding fathers club….. timely experts in their field that none can gainsay.

For the first few years of the Web 2.0 Revolution it seemed like we were beating a dead horse. Brokers, Agents, Affiliates  and other professional groups failed to realize and trust our judgment as industry leaders. I mean come on, you don’t get asked to Key Note or lead sessions at your industry’s largest conferences unless you have made it to the upper echelon on leadership. You don’t get asked to provide quotes for top journalists.  You also don’t reach the Executive Level with out proving your capability. And to ignore those of us that actually have crossed industry lines to lead in multiple industry’s is even more insane. But I digress, while we saw little acceptance of any new tools, due to the fact that too much was changing to fast, we did see trends move into the realm of common practice.

There were two factors that seemed to collide and merge and give industry leaders the leg up for a change. First of all we saw trends becoming common practice as they did not change or evaporate like trends tend to do. Secondly, REALTORS and other Sales Professionals saw themselves losing business because they were ignoring the wants of the consumer.

I can honestly say that we have the cell phone providers to thank for the second factor coming into play. Because if they hadn’t ceased to offer basic phones as a choice when customers needed a replacement phone, we would still be fighting what was once thought of as traditional forms of communication. For example, I was in a Sprint store the other day and every phone offered was a Smart Phone. I was looking for a basic phone for my eldest daughter that specifically wouldn’t let her do anything other than text or dial. She’s only nine years old and I wanted her to have one for emergency calls only.  She has a desktop computer and new iPad that gives her access to the latest technologies and tools.

With social media, press releases, blogs and app technology now the norm for sales professionals and consumers alike, the time has come for REALTORSs and all professionals to take things to the next level.  Did you know that 91% of all adults use cell phones now?  And they aren’t just using them for phone calls.  They are reading the news, watching TV and videos and sharing anything and everything they come across with friends, family and even perfect strangers.  Being a publicist is no longer a specialty, but a common place skill.

For the rest of this article I will use Facebook as my core example…just an FYI.  Facebook celebrates it’s 10 year anniversary this year and while it took professional communications and marketing experts a couple of years to determine and facilitate optimal social media engagement techniques, we are now beyond the simple posting / management on a regular basis.  Or even that it should be at least 15 minutes a day for management at a 90/10 rate of general information appropriate to target audience versus sales and promotional posting.

10 Things REALTORs And Sales Professionals Use In Order To Stay On Top:

  1. Follow back those that follow you.  But there are always exceptions.  Check out their profile and what they post.  If it could be damaging to you then block them instead of following back. Don’t rely on automated tools for this.  Take the time to do it yourself.  It also helps you to learn a bit about your new followers.
  2. Pay attention to posts in your timelines.. If it doesn’t benefit or relate to your target audience then favorite it instead of re-posting or re-tweeting.  Pay attention to blog comments and respond instead of delete.  By responding to a negative post you strengthen your level of expertise.
  3. Spend at least 25% of your marketing efforts and budget on social management.
  4. Call people by their first name and make sure to include something that lets them know you care about them on a personal level.  (While Doctors in particular have always insisted that they be called by their title, it doesn’t make them any less important in society than you.  You are an expert in your field as well.) Ask about their kids, acknowledge milestones in their lives.  Show concern when appropriate.
  5. When asking for referrals, be sure to thank the referrer and alert the new connection to whom referred them and why.  Then proceed to mention something personal to indicate that you have actually looked at.
  6. REALTORs should not simply showcase a new listing, but tell a short story about the listing.
  7. Share original content on each of your social networks.  Only exception is when you have a new blog post.  That should be shared across the board.  Remember that each network is used in different ways and tends to have differing audiences.  Example, LinkedIn is more professionals, Google+ supports organic SEO and Twitter is for conversations.
  8. Images, videos and back links are a must not an option.  With so much information coming at consumers today, we have become a very visual society.  So mind what you are showing your audience and the message they may read into it.  Images are easier to choose.  With videos, I always suggest loading them into YouTube first and not directly to Facebook.  That way you can choose the still shot that is seen before playing.  Facebook only shows the beginning image and it may not be as captivating.
  9. Try to not let a day go by with out sharing on some level.  Gone are the days of a minimum of 3 times per week.  Now it is expected to share and engage at least 5 if not 7 days a week.  Understandable that people get sick or schedules don’t’ allow and that is why I do encourage social managers to use auto posting services for a portion of their content.  But be sure that you use 3 different posting platforms so that you are putting out different content to each.  My favorite chooses are:
    1. Paper.li
    2. IFTTT App
    3. Klout.com or App
  10. Engage your audience on the playing field of THEIR CHOICE.  Each person has their own method of communication that they feel comfortible with.  That is why it is crucial to be an expert in each are.
    1. Social Media
    2. Email
    3. Phone Calls
    4. Face to Face
    5. Video Calls ie: Face Time or Skype
    6.  Texting (when texting is the chosen medium of comminque, refrain from LEET Speak and use proper grammar and spelling.  While it is faster and commonly understood these days, it is not very professional and the image of expertise and professionalism must be maintained at all costs.  Even if it means a few more seconds to compose a message.

Sales professionals that use these 10 tips as a starting point to managing and curating content and engagement will have a huge leg up on the competition.  But creativity, recognizing trends and thinking outside the box must also come into play if you want to stay ahead of the pack.

Michael Harris – Arzon

The Simplistic Professional, @SimplisticPro

President, Ardynn Media Group

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As a trend spotting Public Relations expert, I have spent the past decade educating professionals on everything from “How To Write A Press Release”, “Social PR” and “Basic Reach Management” and beyond.

The swiftly changing communications landscape has made it an exciting time for professionals in many ways and for many different reasons.

When I first started writing articles for the Real Estate Industry, they tended to cover basic communication techniques that used technology as the most effective delivery vehicle for a particular message.  As my confidence grew and my contact database expanded I started getting requests for quotes as a Social PR expert in various industry magazines and online news mediums.

This was an extremely exciting time for me as it gave me a level of confidence in myself that I had never experienced.  Granted, a lot of the self doubt I had was my was my way of protecting myself against criticism and discrimination. Remember, I had always been led to believe that my being gay would keep certain doors closed to me as I worked tirelessly to advance my career.  Boy was that WRONG!  I reached a point where I no longer cared what people thought of me and I found myself coming out of the closet for the second time in my life.

After the first profile was written about me by REAL Trends (whom at the time was the 3rd most influential media firm for the Real Estate Industry) I started getting phone calls from other industry professionals, even those working at competing firms.  While thrilled that I was being sought out as a contact and peer, it was at this point that I realized I should pay attention to whom I associate myself.  A bit snooty I’ll admit, but it would prove to be one of the best decisions I ever made….. professionally that is.  I say decision, yet I can’t recall putting much thought into it.  It simply seemed instinctive.

Shortly after my profile by REAL Trends, I was attending the yearly management conference for Dominion Homes Media (formerly known as Harmon Media Group) as Director of Trade Shows, Events and Promotions.  During the 4 day conference a number of very exciting things happened to me that showcased the relationships I had made professionally and the impact those relationships had on our entire industry.  For those of you that aren’t too familiar with base structuring of large marketing departments, my team was responsible for not only bringing attention to all of our individual products and brands (357 magazine titles, technology and advertising products etc.) but also showcasing the 14 Divisional Brands that represented the various companies, Harmon Homes, Homes.com, Advanced Access, Distinctive Homes etc., owned by Dominion Homes Media under a single umbrella brand…..DOMINION HOMES MEDIA.  This was no easy task and I relied on all of my contacts, team members and sales associates to make this happen.

The first exciting thing to happen was that during the Conference Key Note, the guest speaker, that whom I can’t recall his name now (which should be etched in my memory for life instead of the compliment he was about to deliver), stopped in the middle of his speech about brand recognition and asked whom was responsible for the new umbrella branding being represented across the country at industry conferences.  I was stunned at first and slowly raised my hand at this unprecedented call of attention to myself.  I mean, let’s face it, my job was to bring attention to and strengthen our companies brands.  It certainly wasn’t to be making a name for myself.  As I raised my hand I looked around the room at my peers, boss and upper management and every head was turned in my direction.  Obviously, even those in the company I didn’t really know were aware of who I was and what my role in the company was.  The speaker followed the gazes of those in the room until he reached me and proceeded to tell the group

“In my 20+ years of experience in this industry, I have never seen a more seamless and understandable branding campaign executed to the extent that you have accomplished.  You have set a new bar for excellence that all real estate brands should be striving to meet.”

The second thrilling occurrence at that conference was that during the Opening Night Reception, I was called over to a large group of company executives by Ernie Blood, the President of Dominion Homes Media at the time.  Now Ernie and I had been working together on basic brand strategy for a few months at this point, which irked my big boss Dave Mangold to no end.  I think Dave felt threatened by the direct access that Ernie had granted me.  But anyway, back to my point.  I was congratulated and had so many hands shoved at me that it became a whirl wind of “Way To Go’s”.  And in the midst of this someone asked “How have you made the high level media contacts that you have?” I simply replied, “by picking up the phone and calling them.”  Every single person in that group fell silent and became at a loss for words. What’s important here is that we had just entered the era of Web 2.0 and most people had yet to see the potential for access it granted.  Suddenly there were ways around the gate keepers that granted direct access to a multitude of professionals.

My point for telling you all of this is that whether you like it or not, people judge you by the company you keep.  This has always been the case in business for executives.  Now we are seeing this to be true for any level of professional.  I think every major media outlet has run a story in the past year or two about the information being compiled by social media sites and Apps.  In the beginning the general thought was that this information was be used for Advertising Targeting.  But it goes much further than that.

Since the debut of Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+ I have cautioned clients and friends about whom they follow or befriend on social media sites.  At first it was because you want to be sure that nothing will appear on your wall, timeline or news feed from another person that could end up being detrimental to you, your career or reputation.  Now an unexpected peruser of social media profiles has emerged….the Human Resources Rep.  Not only are they looking at what you post and how you may be representing past or current employers, but whom you have allowed yourself to be associated with.  Apparently, larger companies with bigger budgets can (or soon will be able to) even purchase profile breakdowns directly from Facebook and other social media sites.

Tip:  If you DO NOT want that information to be made available for purchase, YOU MUST have a private account on Facebook.  That is the only way you will be able to protect your right to privacy. 

All of a sudden the tables are turned and are again in the favor of the potential employer.  For years now HR Departments and potential new bosses have only been able to ask certain things.  They have also had their hands tied when it comes to talking about a past employee’s performance and character.  But with most professionals opening the doors to their social profiles to the public, it only takes a few minutes or scanning to determine a number of important factors:

  • Are they the type to bash their employer or talk about the bad day they had?
  • Do they speak with respect or is it all cursing and negativity?
  • Do they share relevant news stories to their position or industry?
  • What type of people do they associate with?
  • Do they post inappropriate photos?

and the list goes on, but you get the idea.  So for all of you professionals out there, pay extremely close attention to how you represent yourself, whom you engage with and whether you would hire someone with a similar profile to yours.

Michael Harris – Arzon

The Simplistic Professional

@SimplisticPro