At a gathering of the KWU International Master Faculty last year, improv comedian Les McGehee told us about an icebreaker where three people volunteer to share a story about their lives. But there was a twist: Two were instructed to lie. The attendees then had to decide who was the truth-teller. Here’s the strange thing: Audiences almost always picked a bogus story. Why? Because when we share facts, we tend to believe the facts will speak for themselves. We don’t put any energy into the presentation.
This got me thinking about our buyer and seller presentations. Even though we may have a firm grasp on the market, a cold recitation the facts will probably not be enough to empower our clients to make the best decisions. Don’t get me wrong. This isn’t a license to mislead. On the contrary, we need to power up our presentations and here’s five proven ways:
1. Make it Real
Chip and Dan Heath, in Made to Stick, tell us about Art Silverman of the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) and how he communicated the evils of movie popcorn. You see, back then popcorn was cooked with coconut oil, and a medium bag had a whopping 37 grams of saturated fat (almost a two-day supply in one serving!). “The challenge, Silverman realized, was that few people know what “37 grams of saturated fat” means…And even if we have an intuition that it’s bad, we’d wonder if it was “bad bad” (like cigarettes) or “normal bad” (like a cookie or a milk shake).” So Art called a press conference and shared that ‘A medium-sized ‘butter’ popcorn at a typical neighborhood movie theater contains more artery-clogging fat than a bacon-and-eggs breakfast, a Big Mac and fries for lunch, and a steak dinner with all the trimmings—combined!” He even laid out all the food to drive his point home. Fatty popcorn became a national story, moviegoers stopped eating it and theaters were forced to offer a healthier product!
So instead of telling your buyers and sellers that home prices are down 11.4 percent, say that the average home price has dropped $32,000. That’s a number they can feel, viscerally. Buyers might just get off the fence and sellers may think twice about shooting for the moon.
2. Avoid Jargon
Jargon is not real. Many people make the mistake of employing industry jargon and acronyms to appear more knowledgeable, but most jargon tends to be unintelligible to anyone outside the industry. At my first and only corporate job, they talked about “CTB forms” which left my head spinning until I finally had to the courage to ask what they were talking about. It stood for “Call to Bob.” No lie.
So avoid jumping into discussions of absorption rates (how quickly homes sell) or cap rates (a fancy measure of cash flow) and take a moment to make sure your client will understand you. Simply put, never use a fifty-cent word when a five-cent word will do.
3. Use Visuals
You may have noticed that the books and course we write are chock full of tables, graphs, and diagrams. At heart, Gary has always been a teacher. Give him a flip chart or a white board and he can make just about anything clear. Research shows that as many as six out of ten adults are visual learners—seeing, after all, is believing.
So, instead of telling your buyers and sellers about how overpricing can lead to chasing the market down, pull out SHIFT and walk them through the graphic on page 146 or use the dialogue and images on pages 150 to 153 which can easily be drawn on a napkin.
4. Ask Questions
As sales professionals, we know the importance of asking questions and then really listening to the answer. Questions have the power to open minds, change the direction of a conversation, and provoke thought. If you are presenting market trends on a graph, ask the seller, “So when you look at this trend, what does it tell you about how we should price your house?” When we ask questions, our buyers and sellers get a chance at self-discovery.
How much more powerful would your presentations be if your sellers and markets really understood how the market works?
5. Tell a Story
So we come full circle to stories. Not the fabricated kind, but rather true stories that help us make better decisions. In The Upside of the Downturn, Geoff Colvin talks about firefighters. Researchers showed both groups pictures of a fire and then asked each to describe what they saw. The novices noted the facts anyone would notice: where the fire was burning, the color of the flames, the amount of smoke. The veterans told a story about where the fire had started, what it was doing at the time of the photo and where it was likely going to spread. Colvin’s point was this: veteran firefighters instinctively placed the facts in the context of a story. They did it to save lives because we make better, faster decisions when we base our actions on stories (which mirror our real life experiences) than we do on a collection of facts.
This is why we role-play. This is why we trumpet our success stories. This is why the best agents weave past buyer and seller experiences into their presentations.
So for your next buyer or seller appointment, try using one of these tried-and-true techniques when making an important point. It may just put some extra punch in your presentation and help your client make the right choice.