The Best Sales Lesson Ever


I have sold real estate for 35 years in the greater Seattle area. When I started in the business in 1984, interest rates for mortgages were at 15%.  Times were tough and the market in Seattle was nothing like it is today. There was no internet, no fax machines, mostly no computers and certainly no electronic signatures. If you really wanted to get docs to out of town clients, you put it in the overnight mail. When possible, real estate brokers still routinely met personally with buyers and sellers when negotiating deals.

A few years into my career, I received a referral from an out of area broker regarding a listing lead in my area. The referring broker had actually worked with the potential seller in the past at a large truck sales dealership. The client had just been transferred for business and moved three hours east to the Yakima area. The house that he needed sold was in my market area, vacant and ready to sell.

So I drove by the home, prepared my comparable sales market analysis and called the seller the next day. I introduced myself to him and expected to set up a phone appointment to discuss listing the home. He promptly informed me that he had already verbally committed the listing to another broker. I was kind of stunned. I was expecting, as with most referrals, a rather motivated client and a mostly done deal.

After an awkward beginning on the phone, I asked if I could come and present the sales data to him in person.  He declined and said there was no need.  Now I’m feeling a little desperate and my competitive juices are beginning to flow. I asked him, “but would you be home tomorrow at 10 AM if I came to see you.” He responded frankly, “no need, as I mentioned to you, I have already have a broker and you would be wasting your time.” I responded, “but IF I came to see you would you be home.” The seller responded,  “Oh I’ll be here all right but don’t drive 3 hours for nothing.”

So I left the office and promptly went home and told my wife the story and  told her that I was going to Yakima early in the morning.  She wasn’t in favor of this long shot trip and believed I would wasting a Saturday, a tank of gas and will have nothing to show for it.  Plus we had two small children and they needed to see their dad on occasion. (I worked a lot of hours in those days). I understood her concerns but…

So I left early the next morning and headed to Yakima. Growing up on the Kansas plains we used to go on long drives in the country for no other reason but to think and talk. On the trip, I had a nice time listening to music and taking in the scenery.  It was cloudy when I left Seattle but sunny in eastern Washington. So the drive wasn’t a burden and I was happy to see the sun.

When I arrived at the seller’s house he was somewhat surprised. It was a nice spring Saturday morning and he actually out mowing the lawn when I arrived.  Not expecting me, his wife was out shopping. With that said, he was cordial and he listened intently as I did my presentation. 

When I finished with my short analysis of his home and the market he said, “Okay, I’ll list with you.” I was now a little surprised but got out the paperwork and proceeded.   His wife arrived just in time for her to sign too.  Soon the executed listing paperwork was safely in my briefcase. As I prepared to leave, I asked the burning question: “Why did you list with me when you said you wouldn’t.” His answer I have never forgotten.

“Sid, I’m a sales manager and my team sells big semi trucks. You had the sales grit and hustle to drive 3 hours to see me even after you had been told you weren’t getting the business. You are my kind of salesman!  I only wish my sales people had determination and hustle like you have just demonstrated.”

The house promptly went on the market and sold, closed and I got paid. But the real payoff was what I learned that spring day.  I learned that the greatest virtue one can bring to the sales desk is hustle and service. The person who provides those characteristics will never lack a job or an income.

I would like to take a trip like that each and every week!

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