INTERVIEW by DAILY BR!NK TEAM & READERS |PHOTOGRAPHY courtesy of KEN BRAND
Today’s BR!NKer has been a real estate agent for more than thirty years, and he knows exactly what words come to mind when you think of people in his profession: “rude” and “loud” might be some of the more polite ones. Now, Ken Brand is on a mission to stimulate and educate a new generation of sales agents to gain the respect of their customers that will lead to success in the twenty-first century. With the average age of a real estate agent now at fifty-four years old, the San Diego native involved in more than 16,700 real estate transactions strongly believes in the integration of cyber culture and a genuine appreciation for the craft of real estate as a way toward financial and personal fulfillment. His new book, Less Blah Blah — More Ah-Ha, is geared toward individuals from all industries who are trying to maximize the rewards of their work by encouraging them to constantly maintain a high level of curiosity. In order to showcase Ken’s talents as a real estate agent as well as nationally-recognized leader and mentor, we asked a variety of individuals (team members, readers…) to submit specific questions, from his view on the evolution of the market to his superhero name.
You’ve said that the way real estates agents are taught how to sell is “lame, rude, and unsmart in today’s culture.” Could you elaborate on that?
Although I never owned one, there was a time when dudes wore forest green leisure suits with white piping. And it was no big deal if you smoked Marlboroughs while pregnant or passengering inflight. Today the first is lame, the other reprehensible. Cultural perceptions, expectations, and behaviors are always changing, including how we market, sell, and buy things and services.
Likewise, in the old school sales world, if you wanted to kick-ass-and-take-names, what worked was shouting louder and more obnoxiously than everyone else about How Awesome, Mega Number One and The Greatest of All Time you were. You always answered a question with a question of your own. You talked fast and stayed on script — every sales pitch was the same for everyone. You overcame objections, tied-down commitment, and closed-the-sale hard as hell.
So, once upon a time these selfish-selling behaviors were as acceptable and common as a polyester leisure suit. Today we despise manipulative sales scripts, we’re annoyed by egomaniacal self-aggrandizing. Cheezy smarm and insincerity makes us throw up in our mouths a little.
These unsmart selling behaviors are common for two reasons. The first is that most sales training is created by trainers or leaders who once-upon-a-time experienced success using these now out-of-touch strategies. The second is, when sales people don’t have proper role models, they make it up as they go. Which means they naturally gravitate to what they’ve experienced from other out-of-touch sales people. These two factors create a self-perpetuating cycle of sales sucktatude.
It all sounds pretty dire, but it doesn’t have to be. Breaking the cycle is a simple matter of awareness.
As a real estate agent, what is the best way to tell a client they are priced too high and need to reduce it?
The best strategy is to submerge yourself in an over-abundance of up-to-date information and make an unshakeable personal commitment to share the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth — even when it stings like hell and people flip out in anger. You must know the building blocks to understanding competitive market conditions: price, condition, location, motivation, sale terms, and days on market for competing active listings, sales pending, and recent closing.
My best advice is know everything about the local market. Show what you know, demonstrate and share with confidence and compassion. In some cases it’s helpful to physically take the seller on a tour of competing properties so that they can experience the competitive landscape from the eyes of a buyer.
What would your ultimate advice for new agents in this market be, especially at such a particular moment in time?
First, I would share that you better be damn passionate about what you’re doing. People compare you and what you’re about to their mediocre masses baseline. Are you one of those blah blah people, or do you make people think, “ah ha! this cat is unique and better for me and mine”? You can’t become trusted, preferred, or referred unless you stand way way out. Next, if you have the passion, then you have the fuel you need to take things to the next level. All the individual actions, activities, and interactions you take and make to stand out fall beneath the flood light of the Two True Secrets To Success: Knowing what other people don’t, and Doing what other people won’t. This means you have to know about human behavior, your product, communication, problem solving, the market, social media, marketing, presentation, and every other little and big detail. You have to become a perpetual student of your game. And you have to out-hustle, engage, and initiate your competitors.
And last but not least, the focus of your efforts has to center on others, not yourself. It’s not so much selling as it is listening, sharing, solving, and serving.
You’re incredibly savvy when it comes to your social media, with a lot of activity on Facebook and Twitter. What does this have to do with the real estate world?
That’s a good question. Today it’s doesn’t matter who you know. What matters is who knows and trusts you. To become trusted, chosen (hired), and referred, people have to know us before they trust us. Social media communities allow us the opportunity to share who we are and what we’re about, with people we know.
Plus, there’s another shiny benefit. If we’re smart, we’re able to listen closely. When appropriate and relevant, we can make ourselves useful, valuable, or appreciated by sharing and solving other people’s problems, which leads to getting hired or referred.
From a client perspective, what should I expect out of my real estate agent today? How do I establish a relationship of trust with him or her?
This is a hard question to answer because expectations from person-to-person may vary. Here’s five things to look for:
1. A Communicator: Someone who listens more than they talk. And when they do talk, it’s mostly to ask questions. Communication, updates, and followups should happen with frequency.
2. A Market Data Savant: The agent should know or be able to find out everything there is to know about your market and understand what it means to you.
3. A Merchandising Maven: If you’re a seller, your agent should be knowledgable and offer consultation on merchandising and staging strategies that position the property competitively and enhance the perceived value in the eyes of the buyer and showing agents.
4. A Marketing Tornado: The quality and number of property photos, the copywriting, print and internet broadcast promotion all have tangible impact on how the property is received in the market place.
5. A Cool Cat: It really helps if your real estate agent is a cool cucumber under pressure. Which means they know how to negotiate, communicate, relate, and solve problems when other people are freaking out. All transactions have flare-ups and unexpected surprises, and having a responsive, thoughtful, responsible, and proactive agent managing the transaction is a wonderful thing.
It seems like you’re on a mission to help people. Is that partly because Ken Brand sounds like the name of a superhero?
Ha, good one. I’ll let you in on a little family-semi-secret. The name on my birth certificate isn’t Ken Brand, it’s Manuel Frias. When I was about three, my mom remarried and they changed my name to Ken Brand. So the superhero name was a serendipitous windfall.
As for being on a mission. Yeah, I’d say so. I’ve had my teeth kicked in a ton of times and I’d like to save people from experiencing all the stupid and avoidable mistakes I’ve made and witnessed over the years. I wrote the book to share the best of what I’ve learned over thirty-three years in the real estate business and as an everyday citizen.
How can Daily BR!NK readers contribute to your success?
The most appreciated way to contribute to my success would be for your readers to forward-share anything and everything that they believe is helpful. If they like some of what I’ve shared here, there’s a whole book full of it here.