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Pursuing Excellence: Psychology and Sales Go Hand in Hand

Casey Cunningham
Jul 03, 2012

Find someone, anyone who is not in the world of sales, and ask them to say that very word out loud. Next, invite them to conjure up a vision of exactly what a salesperson looks like. And finally, ask them to verbalize the vision created in their minds eye. In a tongue-in-cheek, paradoxical sort of way, I shudder at the thought of what those visuals might embody or represent. How about the requisite plaid jacket with sewn-on elbow patches or the blinding ray of light that reflects off a lateral incisor while said salesperson smiles and shakes hands with a would-be client, uttering phrases like “What do I need to do to put you into (whatever product) today” or “Help me help you.” Let’s be honest, while you may not have been guilty of this visual representation, you probably know someone who is. It’s no wonder we don’t like selling very much. For most of us in the game of sales (without the plaid elbowed patched jacket, big toothy smile and catch phraseology)―whether your role is that of a loan officer, real estate agent, builder or any other title carrying with it the responsibility of ‘selling something’―the name of the game is connections, relationships and ultimately, referrals. And yet sometimes (or actually quite often) we develop an aversion to cold-calling probably due to our fear of rejection or self-promotion. It’s hard for some of us to get past our own limiting beliefs that others might really view us as the salesperson described above. There’s the added snag that, like many in our industry, we’re only as good as our previous month. We close out one month’s production and look to the next, while delicately balancing the creation of new connections while continuing to cultivate those we’ve already made. With this in mind, let’s put some assurance of future success in the capable hands of science and biology. There is a part of the brain known as the Reticular Activator. Without an in-depth analysis about frontal cortexes, brain stems and quotes by Freud and Nietzsche, I will simply contend the Reticular Activator can be one of the best sales tools you will ever discover. Imagine, for a moment, the last new car you bought―say, for example, a red Volkswagen Beetle. For the first several months after buying your new car, you seem to have developed an uncanny ability to spot every single red beetle on the road. With this newfound sixth sense, you are able to spot Volkswagens out of a sea of other vehicles … in parking lots, you sense them coming around the corner before they’re even there. It’s not that all of the sudden there are a bevy of red Volkswagen Beetles on the road; it’s just that you (more specifically the Reticular Activator part of your brain) was not focusing on them before. The same is true for someone’s heightened level of awareness as it relates to real estate signs planted in the front lawn or radio advertisements about mortgage rates. If this is the case, then what better time to extract referrals from your connections than while you’re working with them? If we do our jobs―and we do them well―we can expect referrals from our clients, past clients and others in our “sphere of influence” throughout the entire year. However, at no other time will these people be as poised to refer you to their family, friends and co-workers as when they themselves are entrenched in the process and their Reticular Activator is totally engaged. Phone calls and e-mails are nice, and certainly part of the process in communicating with our clients and business partners, but there is something infinitely better―the handwritten thank you note. A handwritten thank you note, sent and received during the course of business, is a secret little weapon of intimacy, and a way to “touch base,” but on a much deeper and meaningful level. There is something else going on in the brain when someone receives a handwritten thank you note. Imagine, for a moment, someone walking to their mailbox to fetch the new Pottery Barn catalog, the Visa bill, the ever-so-personal letter from Geico addressed to “Current Resident” and a flurry of other recyclables―but there is one envelope amongst the fray that stands out as its’ size is small and its’ impact is meaningful. When this happens―when they see your handwritten envelope and tear it open to reveal a handwritten card―their brain secretes a trace amount of dopamine into their system and makes them, literally, feel good. We’re not talking about a mind-numbing rush where their body goes limp and they temporarily lose consciousness, but rather, just a small spot of dopamine to remind them, “Yeah, it feels good to receive a handwritten thank you note―especially compared to the stuff that typically litters my mailbox.” Continuing on with the psychology theme, you may want to consider an addition to the handwritten note, possibly including a business card magnet and/or a small token of appreciation; a $5 Starbucks cards, for example. The business card magnet is a concept as old as the scriptures, but if Ivan Pavlov taught us anything, it is people will―as though on autopilot―take your magnet and slap it on their fridge. Even if they don’t know you very well, even if they don’t need your services right now, they will use your contact information to secure their children’s school picture or latest artwork and when they do need you, they’ll know right where to find you. Additionally, sending a small token of appreciation in the way of a Starbucks card, or something of the like, is a nice gesture on your part. Perhaps the receipt of a gift, albeit nothing more than a cup of coffee, results in a tugging at the heart of the recipient to, somehow, even the score. A referral maybe? The coolest thing about the handwritten thank you note is they’re so easy to do. Set a personal goal to write, at a minimum, five handwritten thank you notes each day. They don’t all have to be significant, nor do they have to be to a client. There are a number of people and reasons to write a thank you note; like the escrow officer or closing attorney who went above and beyond in the 11th hour, or the buyer’s agent who covered for the listing agent at the appraisal appointment, or the CPA who provided an important document in the nick of time. There are an overwhelming number of cool techniques, strategies and approaches to sustaining success in this business. I like to think one of the primary cornerstones of your business model should be the handwritten thank you note. The brilliant simplicity of the handwritten note is captured in Maya Angelou’s famous quote, “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Write thank you notes. A lot of them … thousands in fact. Casey Cunningham is president of XINNIX, a provider of mortgage sales and leadership development programs. She may be reached by phone at (678) 325-3501 or e-mail [email protected]
Jul 03, 2012
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