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How to Tell (and Sell) the Story of You/Users/adamp/Desktop/Oct_Mag_pics/realtor_advantage

Here’s how one sales associate used her unique life story to sell her real estate expertise to customers. You can do it too!

Real estate isn’t for the tenderhearted. Sometimes you get the listing, and sometimes your competitor does. There’s plenty of rejection, and it’s easy to let it get you down. But imagine how liberating it would be if you were able to let go of your fear of rejection and treat every negative response as a learning experience.

I treat them as such because I learned to through my experience in show business. As a Broadway and opera performer, I used to go out on audition after audition after audition. Although I did get many exciting roles on stage, there were many opportunities that I wanted but didn’t get. Gradually, by enduring this often-harsh reality, I learned to steel myself against it by not taking things personally, by learning from the rejection and by moving on.

The same tools I learned in my show business career have helped me succeed in real estate. Every sales associate’s business is so different that it’s unrealistic to apply a quantifiable formula that says, “If you do this, this and this,” you too are guaranteed to become a top lister. Here’s what works for me:

1. Distinguish Yourself
In this challenging market you need that “something extra” to sell people on your services. I play on my singing experience.
My husband and I went to a karaoke bar with some friends, and I took the microphone and sang Julie Andrews’ version of “I Could Have Danced All Night” from “My Fair Lady.” The crowd loved it, and my husband said, “From now on, you’re going to be known as the ‘Singing Realtor®.’” So, last May, I came up with a nightclub act and made my debut at the Blue Lagoon in Englewood. I’d never done an act where I talked about myself onstage, but I geared my performance around my real estate career and my past career as a Broadway performer. That night I performed 19 songs in two acts and, as I wrapped up, I said, “I wish you all a wonderful weekend. And remember, when you’re in need of real estate guidance think of me, Deborah Miller, The Singing Realtor!” Now I get to enjoy my very first love (singing) with my newfound love (real estate). The audience gets a big kick out of it, especially when I tell them I used to sing at the Metropolitan Opera, tour in Broadway shows across the country and work on cruise ships. A lot of my customers were in the audience when I made my debut at the nightclub, and they loved the novelty of my being multifaceted.

I also bought space on a gigantic billboard, which prominently features my name and photograph, company name and logo, with the headline, “Buying or Selling,” and my slogan, “Working Harder for You!” In the mornings, commuters see it with the eastern sun shining directly on it, and in the evenings, it’s lit up until about 1 a.m. I pay more than $1,000 per month for the billboard, but I feel that it’s an invaluable form of branding because even strangers recognize me.

2. Stay Sane Under Pressure
Sales associates have to do a tremendous amount of handholding and talking customers through tough times—especially in this market.

Last winter, for example, I had a difficult transaction with a seller who was upside-down on his mortgage and facing bankruptcy. The buyer was in the driver’s seat and wasn’t about to raise his offer. But, after 15 days of difficult negotiations, the buyer finally agreed to pay more—on one condition: He wanted us to draw up an advanced-occupancy agreement so he could move in six weeks before closing. The seller wasn’t pleased but he couldn’t turn down the buyer’s offer of $50,000 in upfront nonrefundable cash, to be placed in escrow. (If the deal fell through, the seller would keep the money.) Fortunately, we closed on time and everyone was happy. My broker at the time was so surprised because he felt most sales associates would’ve walked away. But, somehow, through all the challenges and negative remarks that were hurled back and forth, I stood my ground.

I had another customer who didn’t want to lower his asking price. By the time he took my advice, it was too little too late, and the buyers had moved on. He ended up lowering the price even further to finally get it sold, and after the closing he awkwardly admitted, “I could’ve gotten more money if I’d listened to you.”

3. Always Be Accessible
Happy customers typically lead to more happy customers. So I do everything I can to make sure things go smoothly when sellers enlist me to sell their home. For starters, I make myself personally available to them from 8:30 a.m. until 9 p.m. (I like to think of myself as a real estate doctor because I work seven days a week and I’m always on call.) 

One time I was asked to put a deal together in 72 hours to sell four for-sale-by-owner (FSBO) waterfront properties. The seller had previously worked with more than 20 different sales associates. I put a deal together in 70 hours and netted him what he needed to close on another transaction that he had going on out of state. This seller told me I was the only sales associate in the state who had sold any of his properties in 2006.

4. Never Stop Learning
Education has helped catapult me to where I am today. When I first got my license, I was in class three days a week. And I’ve taken the “ERA Top Gun” course (an advanced realty training program) twice. Normally the only people who repeat a course like that are those who didn’t earn enough targets to graduate with honors to receive their “wings.” Being proactive, I took the course again, as real estate was experiencing a buyers’ market and I wanted to learn new techniques for the challenging climate. When the instructor asked why I was back since I had earned my wings the year before, I joked that I wanted to be punished some more. Of course, I earned my second pair of wings in 2006.

My mentor in music turned 90 years old last year. What did she do for her birthday? She gave a concert! I can’t say that I’m going to be in real estate until I’m 90, but I know that as long as I’m in this business, I’ll never stop learning and doing.  

Deborah Miller is a sales associate with RE/MAX Palm Realty in Port Charlotte. A former opera singer and Broadway musical star, she has performed at New York’s Metropolitan Opera House and other famous venues throughout the United States and worldwide.