Help-U-Sell and Performance Improvement

The International Society for Performance Improvement (ISPI) San Diego Chapter has asked me to speak to their members next month on how we’re using Coaching to drive the new Help-U-Sell University, Pro-Coach U.  It’s a very prestigious group full of big names from the fields of Instructional Design, Educational Technology, Performance Improvement and Organizational Development.  What we’re doing is a little cutting edge and there is lots of interest in how our point-of-view might make similar programs in other industries more effective.

What is that point-of-view, you ask?  Well, it’s simply this:  When we train adults in a business setting what we’re usually trying to accomplish is a change in behavior.  We want them to act differently then they normally have in the past.  It’s applicable to all kinds of training, but think for a moment about sales skills.  If you’re like most people, you came to real estate sales thinking you couldn’t sell anything  to anybody.  You went through a learning period where you discovered that you actually DID have sales skills and you worked to polish them.  You began to behave differently than you did before you jumped into the selling pool.  If you’ve ever trained to be a manager of salespeople, you studied and practiced until you became adept at asking the right questions at the right time (rather than impressing your team by telling them everything you know).  These are new behaviors that you learn by first recognizing their importance and effectiveness, then by seeing someone else do it correctly, then by practicing in a safe environment and getting feedback from a knowledgeable Coach.  That’s what we do in Pro-Coach U.

Most sales and management training occurs in a classroom in a compressed period of time with usually just a head nod toward role playing or any kind of meaningful practice.  Even worse are the purely online programs that merely dump the information out of the screen an onto your desk where it rarely gets put into action and is quickly forgotten. With Pro-Coach U, we use the Internet to deliver information.  That’s where the book learning takes place.  It comes in the form of brief video Lessons where the hard core information we are working with is presented in a compelling fashion.  The new Information is then explored in a series of real world Exercises and Activities, supervised by the Coach.  As the participant practices, the Coach provides feedback.  The Coach watches and listens and decides when the new Broker is ready for the next infusion of Information.

Here’s a little secret about training adults:  it’s a selling situation.  The job is to convince people that what you want them to do is going to make them happier, more productive, richer, better looking, healthier, and wiser than they currently are.  If you can accomplish that, the actual learning and behavior change is easy.   It’s awfully hard to do that kind of benefits selling over the phone or over the Internet or even in a classroom.  It usually takes the trusted guidance of someone who’s been there, done that and understands the benefits from a personal standpoint:  a Coach.  And that’s why Pro-Coach U is, from beginning to end, a Coaching driven experience.

Jeanne Strayer and I started working on Coaching back in 1987 when we developed a Coaching driven in-office training program for Century21, the Sales Performance System(SPS).  It was a magnificent program that came with almost three hours of video – used to role model the new behaviors – comprehensive Participant and Coaching Guides.  The Agent went away, did their work and exercises, then came back to see the Coach, who only had to turn to the appropriate page in the guide to know what to ask, what to inspect, and what came next.  The big surprise came to me in 2003 when, new to Help-U-Sell, I came across Science to Sales:  Don Taylor’s way of training high performing Buyers Agents.  It was created several years before SPS and followed the same basic coaching methodology.  I maintain to this day that Science to Sales is the best agent development training program I’ve ever seen – even better than SPS, which was left in the dust as Century 21 was sold and sold again.

Jeanne and I went on to weave Coaching into most every project we touched after Century 21 and even brought it to bear in the last iteration of Help-U-Sell (the pre-2006 version).  Now, in the new Millennium, technology has finally caught up with us and we’re creating Pro-Coach U as a blended learning solution, involving video, the internet, audio, print and Coaching to produce solid Help-U-Sell Citizens.  It makes perfect sense to us . . . but the rest of the world sees it as cutting edge.  That’s ok:  we Help-U-Sell folks always like being first anyway.

How To Do It: Step 4 – Ace The Buyer Inquiry

(This is an elaboration ofAnd HERE)

This is the arena.  It’s where all of your marketing dollars and hours of business building activity come together to produce either a potential client or a lost opportunity.  It is the pivot point on which your entire business turns.  And yet it gets little more than a passing thought from most brokers.

I’ve sat in lots of real estate offices and listened to many agents handle an incoming call and have generally been sickened, saddened and disgusted by the experience.

‘Brand X Realty,’ says the duty agent, ‘How may I help you?’

‘Of course, just a moment . . . let me look it up.’

‘That home is priced at $189,500 . . . would you like to go see it?’

‘Well there are others a little less expensive I could show you.’

This is the point at which the ‘agent’ holds the receiver out and stares at it for a moment, shakes his or her head and hangs it up — just like the caller did, a moment earlier.

Listen: I know of no better skill to polish than those required to handle a buyer inquiry if your goal is to improve your bottom line.  And if that’s not your goal, you need to get busy getting publicity for your firm because you’ll be the world’s first official non-profit real estate company!  Step 5!E.   And HERE.

This is a pivotal point in your quest to Rule the (real estate) World, too.  You’ve used your wonderful consumer offering to get more than your share of listings and now the listings are creating inquiries.  You have to capture those inquiries and convert them into leads and then into clients to move to the next steps:  staffing, accountability and closed sides.  You’re not ready for the next step – staffing – until you do this because you have nothing to offer a new recruit unless you have a buyer pool book and you get that by effectively handling inquiries.

There is a set of simple telephone techniques that work together to produce favorable results with incoming buyer calls.  Mastery of the techniques — using an ‘interrupt’ to gain control of the call; never answering a question without asking one to keep the conversation going and earn you more information about the caller; taking advantage of opportunities to demonstrate the value you bring to the transaction, and so on — is very important.  But what’s just as important is attitude.

Funny.  I have a really good friend who will turn 78 in a few weeks.  You’d never guess his age because he looks a lot younger and acts even younger than he looks.  I’ve been thinking of buying an ocean Kayak and a few weeks ago, he agreed to rent one with me — a tandem — to see how it performed.  We put it in the bay and had a great time paddling about, playing with the sea lions.  What I didn’t know until later is that he’s terrified of water.  He never learned to swim.  When I heard this, I suggested maybe he ought to go down to the Y and learn . . . and the other day he had his first lesson with his coach.  I think buried in that verbiage is one of the secrets to staying young, but that’s not the point.  The point is what the coach told him.

He said that, while technique and breathing are very important in swimming, what’s most important is your attitude about water.

That’s true with the buyer inquiry, too.  You have to know, without ever having to think about it, that the person on the other end of the line needs you.  They may have amassed an artificial barricade between you and the need, but it’s there.  You also have to believe right down to your marrow that And HERE.  Honestly, that’s what makes you good on the phone.  It makes you purr with confidence and competence.  You become an irresistible force and you own the call.

So, how do you get to that glorious state?  You have to know your stuff.  You can’t fake it.  You have to know what’s on the market — which means previewing regularly.  You have to know all the ways to buy a home today — which means learning about financing and contracts and keeping up on what’s new.  You need to be comfortable getting down to that caller’s wants, needs and financial capabilities and mixing that information with what you know to produce . . . the dream house.

I know of no better way to build this knowledge and confidence than by doing (really doing) the training exercise our great founder, Don Taylor, created, Step 5!.  It is absolutely what a new agent should begin on day one.  If they do they will have tangible business  in 30 days.  But it’s also what you old dogs should do if you’re running out of steam and fire.  Science to Sales is activity based and if you do the activities you can’t help but create new business.  Plus, no matter how much you already know, you will uncover some real gems while working through the program.

Finally, role playing the buyer inquiry should be like brushing your teeth.  You do it so often that you don’t even think about it.  There is no discomfort, no hesitation, no embarrassment.  You create an office culture of constant improvement through the three P’s:  Practice, Practice, Practice.

So set a goal today:  You want to get contact information and earn the right to continue the relationship with 5 out of every 10 buyer inquiries you receive (of course, this means you’re going to have to fastidiously log and track incoming inquiries!).  Then get busy studying and practicing.

On to Step 5!

Science to Sales

Fresh out of college, I became a teacher.  I worked with emotionally disturbed adolescents in a psychiatric hospital.  Needless to say, it was an easy transition when I started a traditional real estate company and took to recruiting agents!  My teaching skills became important again after I sold that office and went to work for Century 21 Corporate.  I started as a business consultant but soon was in the classroom, first teaching management courses and then, sales programs.  A few years later I found myself at headquarters as VP of Training, responsible for creating every bit of training the  company produced and developing a team of trainers spread across the country.

I say all of this to make a point:  I know training.  I know how to discover the need for it, how to design it for maximum effectiveness, how to coach trainers  and how to improve performance with it.  That’s why I was floored in 2003 when I encountered Science to Sales.  It is the best buyer agent training program I’ve ever seen.

Science-to-SalesScience to Sales was created in the early ’90s by Help-U-Sell founder, Don Taylor.    It is an activity driven, spaced learning program designed to be coached, not taught.   It gets new agents busy immediately and productive quickly, while preserving the broker/trainer’s most precious commodity:  time.

Consider this:  the first chapter of Science to Sales has the agent writing 18 sample offers to purchase.  18!  By the end of their first week in the business, a Science to Sales trained agent has more experience writing offers than most ordinary agents have in a couple of years! 

There is a misconception about Science to Sales.  Some think it is a video training program.  It’s not.  There is a video component, but it was added several years after the original workbook-driven program was created.  The six, hour-long videos were created as content for the Help-U-Sell television network and became a valued addition to Science to Sales.  Today, the agent meets with their coach at the beginning of the module, then watches the video, completes the activities outlined in the manual, and then meets with the coach again to debrief and prepare for the next module. 

In 2004, the program was revamped.  Actually, we considered recreating it from the bottom up — and I was given the task of exploring that idea.  I struggled.  How do you improve on something that’s already this good?  I decided that a few minor content tweaks were necessary (the business had changed a little), and that could be easily accomplished in the manuals.  But then there were the videos.  Oh, they sounded fine.  But the clothes and the hairstyles went out of don taylorstyle a decade ago.  I stewed.  Would these clunky old videos be an embarrassment?  Would the dated look trivialize the program and cause brokers and agents to disregard it?  After talking with a dozen great Help-U-Sell brokers I decided to leave them alone.  It was clear these guys adored the program just the way it was and considered the opportunity to hear Don Taylor himself on tape to be priceless.

Here’s the Good News:

Yesterday, Robert Stevens and I finished uploading the entire program to the Help-U-Sell Download Library.  The videos have been digitized and are available for streaming over the internet.  The six student chapters have been PDF’d and can be downloaded and printed.  Even the coaches guide is there.  And it’s all free. 

As usual, I see this as an opportunity.  Here is your chance to go out this week and recruit an absolute green bean, someone who’s just gotten his or her license and hasn’t got a clue what to do.  Then, put them into Science to Sales and see how quickly they become confident, competent and productive!  I’d love to hear the results.

(You know how to get to the Download Library, don’t you?  Go to, scroll to the bottom of the page and select ‘Help-U-Sell OMS’.  If you don’t remember your Log-in and Password, send an email to  Go to ‘Marketing and Content’ and you’ll see the Download Library in the drop-down.  Expand the item, ‘Help-U-Sell Real Estate,’ and find ‘Science to Sales’ in the list of folders.  By the way, you don’t have to stream the videos over the internet.  If you’d prefer, they can be downloaded and stored on your computer.  Just right click on the individual video link and select ‘Save Target As’.  You can use the same procedure to download and save the student and instructor guides. )

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