Fair Weather Friends and Bell Bottoms… Real Estate Lessons from the Economic Crisis

bell bottoms

Editorial Note:  This blog post was first published in 2009 at a time when the real estate industry was facing the worst market that most current practioners had ever witnessed.  Looking back at the sentiments expressed in this blog post brings to mind some of the important lessons that period of challenge created.


I remember the early 70’s when bell bottom pants were all the rage.  The bigger the flare the better.   Everything was just a tad ‘puffed’ up and that included ‘big hair’ like the Afro. Sometimes, it was difficult to have a sense of how tall a person really was.  Several young men I knew used the cover of bell bottoms to add several inches of height with platform shoes!

Bell bottom pants were also handy for ‘sweeping streets’ clean.  Many kids wore their bell bottoms so long, that the bottoms actually frayed from dragging across the street. But this was deemed better than revealing that you had spindly legs and a short torso. But really…who were you fooling?

Today, that excess almost seems nostalgic.  In fact, bell bottoms are considered vintage wear in some circles. And as for the mile high Afro…well, that was OK until it rained.  If you were unlucky enough to not have a head covering, your Afro disappeared like a poof of smoke!  Now, come to think of it, both bell bottoms and the Afro relied on the cover of ‘fair weather’ conditions.

But like all things in life, change happens.  In the late 70’s and early 80’s, the shift to skin tight stove pipe jeans created unforgiving revelations for everyone apart from those who had almost perfect figures.  It was as though, we had entered into fashions’ version of a period of reckoning.

You see, fair weather has a way of making many things seem alright. Over the past decade, the real estate industry has enjoyed a good deal of it. During the fair weather period, just about anyone was able to get a license and sell at least a couple homes a year… During the fair weather period, real estate brokers and associations welcomed everyone in with open arms; it didn’t matter if you could sell as long as you paid your fees on time. During the fair weather period, just about anyone with breath could get a loan…

But like all things which depend on the unpredictability of fair weather, the day of reckoning has arrived. Short Sales have now replaced the Sure Sale.  A lack of training has revealed an industry that is significantly short on training and follow-through at a time when the market is dictating increased scrutiny and consumers want to look to see what’s underneath your bell bottoms in a manner of speaking.  

And in truth, Bell Bottoms never really covered anything. It was all just temporary.  In the end when you took off your pants and platform shoes, you returned to the real you. Even if that was just at bedtime.

This is the sort of re-adjustment which I think is taking place in the real estate industry today.  We’re being forced to look at ourselves and take stock of our strengths and weaknesses. Stormy conditions are forcing us to take a good hard look at who we’re connected to. Have you found yourself surrounded by fair weather friends? Folks who are all too happy to enjoy the good times with you but are unwilling to buckle down to support the load?  

Or, has your experience been more about the bell bottom covering up stuff that really needs to be dealt with? Things like the fact that you’re not meeting your goals and don’t have a plan in place to make them happen.  This is an opportunity to take stock of what’s really going on professionally and to assess what skills we need to become competent to meet today’s challenges.  Without this sort of honest assessment, all the marketing in the world is doomed for eventual failure in this new era of transparency.

You know, times of challenge are kinda like stove pipe pants that have a way of revealing things that were less noticeable during a more forgiving period.  It’s up to each of us to get in shape!

Good Salespersons ~ They’re Not Always Easy to Find!

Real Estate Logic CaptureHave you ever been in a class where the instructor asked the real estate agents to name what the public thinks of real estate agents?  Inevitably, someone will raise their hands and say…they think we’re like used car salespersons?  The tone & subsequent commentary indicate that this is NOT a good thing…

In a recent class setting, the instructor went further and asked everyone to raise their hands IF they LIKED salespeople.  Only a few brave souls dared to raise their hands.  We all felt it…it was not cool to ‘like’ salepersons.  One brave soul actually said he enjoyed a purchase when it was assisted by a good salesperson.  Which got me to thinking…so do I! Although these examples reference real estate professionals in particular, I think the conversation is actually a broader one.

Even though I often enter a store and respond to an initial inquiry for assistance with the proverbial, ‘No thanks, I’m just looking,’ when I want to make my selection, I’m always grateful when a salesperson shows up, particularly when they are a GOOD Salesperson.

So what’s the difference between a good Salesperson and a lousy one?  Well, one could write a book about that and since this is a short blog post, I’ll just highlight a few key points which make a huge difference for me.

1.  Good Salespersons LISTEN with two ears & TALK with one mouth

While, this may seem to be the nature of creation, I’m often amazed by how much talking a poor Salesperson does.  I guess it’s called ‘Selling’ me a product.  Problem is, I don’t need to be SOLD something, I’m already indicating I’d like to buy.  I simply need assistance in making the right selection.  To help me with that, you’ve got to listen more and talk less.

2.  Good Salespersons NOTICE stuff.

A couple of years ago I bought a new car.  I really wanted to purchase a particular brand of car, but when I walked into the showroom and started to look around, no one noticed.  That’s not to say, there were not sales agents there.  They seemed occupied, talking to each other, walking around…in fact doing anything other than noticing that there was a NEW customer in the showroom who might be interested in buying a car.  Well, after about 10 – 15 minutes, I walked out.  Fortunately, the competing dealer down the street had Salespersons who noticed.  Needless to say, I’ve been happy with my purchase.

3.  Good Salespersons don’t tell LIES

Sometimes, the truth can be a tricky thing.  So what do you say when someone asks you if they look good in something and you really think they look awful? Not an easy situation, I know.  Yet, integrity in sales is the cornerstone foundation of good business in my opinion.  When people trust you, they feel comfortable with the fact that you are making a recommendation for their good, not simply to line your pockets.  Sometimes the truth is hard to swallow.  Like, ‘Mr & Mrs Seller, your home has lost 30% of its value OR, you are not in the position to purchase a home right now.  But, it’s better to tell the truth, albeit with politeness, than to lead someone down a false trail.

We’re ALL in Sales…

Yes, we are.  Everyday, all of us are selling something.  Many of us are not aware of this fact and consequently do a very poor job at it.  If you’re a parent, you’re in the daily business of training a child to do the right thing and in a sense convincing them that doing so will be beneficial.  We sell when we present ourselves to the world every morning.

We’re selling even when we don’t think people are watching.  We’re selling every time we convince or ask someone to do something.  When selling is done from good intentions and motivations, it has the capacity to influence lives in a very compelling way.  People want to know what is best and how to make quality decisions.  They want to have the knowledge required to prevent mistakes.  They want to know that you care about THEM, not just the product you’re selling.  When I meet a salesperson like that, irregardless of whether they’re a REALTOR®,teacher or a clerk in a retail store, I for one, appreciate the service!