You might say that I’m a veteran in the real estate industry. A half a century in the business probably earns me that title. Much has changed since my uncle Russel Wilkinson and partner Robert Snowden founded Wilkinson & Snowden in 1946, the predecessor company to today’s Colliers International office in Memphis. In fact, Russel and Bob were the first to develop industrial real estate of any consequence here. Today there are more than 220 million square feet of industrial space in the Memphis metropolitan market.
Communication has certainly changed over the years. Back in the day there were no computers, no cell phones, no laptops, no email marketing, no websites, no apps. Social media when I started in the business might have been a party line. Google it if you don’t know what that is! (Or use the dictionary if you want to find out the old-fashioned way.)
As an industry veteran, I can say that technology has, in most ways, truly upped our game in the real estate business, allowing us to communicate more efficiently and service customers in a way we wouldn’t have dreamed of only 20 years ago. So in giving advice to someone starting in this business – or any other sales business – I’d say that embracing technology and everything it has to offer is critical. But there are several timeless communication tools this veteran dog has to offer today’s generation when it comes to making a sales call:
1. Be on time. Being punctual, while it should be a given, can be a competitive advantage.
2. Know the names of the people you’re dealing with. Use their first name frequently. Look them directly in the eyes. All of this makes your visit much more memorable.
3. If you have an interesting hobby (maybe you are a scratch golfer, photographer, extreme biker, musician, etc.) work it into the conversation. If you’ve created something of note, give it to your client – like a book you’ve written, or in my case, a CD of my latest band recording. This gives you and your client the chance to talk about something besides real estate during a long day of touring. You’ll learn a lot more about the person you’re dealing with, and may be able to address his real needs more effectively.
4. Don’t be afraid to dress a little differently or better than your competition. Dress up a bit more or wear something different like a bow tie (not everyone can pull this off, but some do it well!).
5. Turn your cell phone off or put it on vibrate while in a client’s office, making a cold call, doing a tour or having a lunch or dinner with a client. Texting, emailing or talking with someone other than the person you’re working with suggests they aren’t important enough to merit your undivided attention.
There’s an effective way to blend the tried and true with the new. Face-to-face communication is still a big part of our business and the ability to do it well is as important today as it was 50 years ago.
Dan Wilkinson is chairman of Colliers International in Memphis and has been involved in over $1 billion in real estate sales in Memphis and North Mississippi in the 50 years he has held his real estate license.