A Salesman’s Thoughts

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By Shawn Kaplan

As a student of habits, I often think about what differentiates a good salesman from a great one. There are hundreds of articles and books about the subject, but two of them, in my opinion, get to the heart of the issue. Both an article by RAIN Group, and the book “The Challenger Sale,” key in on the fact that exceptional salespeople sell differently. What was once enough to just build rapport, to understand the client’s needs, and to fill that need, is now just the barrier of entry.

I believe that the vast majority of salespeople are so afraid of losing the sale that they become order takers. Whether it is laziness or a lack of skill or knowledge, salespeople rely heavily on charm and rapport building or price alone, and hope that the client stays with them not for what the salesman brings to the table, but more, because the client does not have the knowledge or time to shop.

As an example, if a lender is asked for a conventional, 20 percent down loan with no points, most loan officers will simply answer the question. Some loan officers will attempt to build rapport, and then answer the question. Very few will take the most important step. They ask why they want to put down 20 percent, to not only understand the client’s needs, but also their goals, and more importantly, to give professional advice! This is the crux of the issue.

How often, when chatting with a busy professional, who does not have time to get sick, does he or she go into detail about having a doctor friend whom they go to. They self-diagnose and tell the doctor that they are sick, have an infection, and need to be prescribed a Z-PAC. They are proud that their doctor wastes no time in giving them exactly what they want. This should frighten you! I would want no part of dealing with that doctor! The reason why I go to professionals, and pay hefty fees, is for professional advice. If there is no added value, then they are reduced to a commodity, and price will be the basis of my choosing of professionals.

On the flip side, I have, and have used the same financial planner for the last 10 years. He is expensive and I do not want to think about how much I have paid him in commissions since I started working with him. He gives me professional guidance. He challenges my way of thinking. He occasionally talks me out of doing things that would have paid him a large commission, but were not in my best interest. He also tells me when I need to trust his judgment and invest. As a result, he has made me wealthy and as such, I do not care how much I pay him in commissions.

If understanding the buyer’s needs, listening to the client, and building rapport are the bare minimums to a sale, what is missing in my opinion is two-fold. First, a salesman must prove to the buyer that he/she and the organization that they call home are the best option. Use of statistics, past client surveys, Yelp reviews, or awards can be an easy solution. The buyer, after a conversation, should clearly understand what is unique about the salesman and company. This proposition, should both identify the client’s need (often something that the buyer was not aware of), and why the salesperson is best suited for the job at hand.

Second, the salesperson must present and offer, a different point of view than what the client already has. If the salesperson distinguishes themselves as an expert in their craft, but simply answers questions as opposed to pointing out things to question, then the buyer’s decision will remain on price and charm. The salesperson who offers multiple perspectives, points out potential pit falls and solutions to those pitfalls, and aligns themselves alongside the client as being part of the same team trying to achieve the client’s same goals, separates themselves from the competition. Below, I list out key points in a sale.

• Build rapport.

• Perform needs analysis.

• Review goals.

• Provide new perspective.

• Align yourself alongside the client.

• Seek agreement about the real needs of the client.

• Provide professional advice.

• Point out pitfalls.

• Use social proof to prove to client that you and your company are best suited for the job.

• Ask for the business!

Put simply, the above listed bullet points must be accomplished in full, to become a valued adviser and consultant. Leaving out any of the bullet points will often result in day-to-day price wars and frustration. The good news is, that sales is a learned skill. Use this formula in your future customer meetings and you, and your clients will be much happier moving forward.


Shawn Kaplan has been a licensed mortgage banker for over 16 years. He has personally funded in excess of $500 million in residential real estate with a clientele base of over 5,000 families.