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smackdown What does it take to be a great salesperson in the 21st century? Watch the video of the debate and then decide if you can resist using social media in your strategy for the future.

This week, I had the opportunity to “debate” one of the real estate industry’s longest-standing coaches, Mike Ferry, as part of Coldwell Banker’s GenBlue Convention. It was staged as a “Smackdown” here in Las Vegas, home of many wrestling matches over the years. Part real debate, part over-the-top stage act, the goal was to let two different strategies for selling go head to head for the audience:

Relationship selling versus transactional selling.

The bootleg audience video, courtesy of our friend Chris Smith, is here for you to watch (hi res version to be released by CB later). In this post, it’s not my goal to “get in the last shot” or “win” but to challenge you to think about the issues. Plenty of other bloggers have done a good job taking Mike Ferry to task on this, such as Chris Nichols’ “Has Mike Ferry Lost his Mind?” and the comments on Chris Smith’s page. You can also search Twitter for #GenBlue and #Smackdown to see what the buzz has been.


I’ve waited until the end of the week to post anything, actually, for two reasons: I wanted to personally step back from the event and look at it purely as a learning experience, to help you sort out the issues; and because the rest of the social nets have been doing an awesome job of talking about this for me, anyway. Our Facebook Fans have soared by 200 alone this week, and Twitter followers up 25%. So I didn’t need to post this to make the story “more about me” rather than try to find the lessons.

Here is what I think they are:

  1. The essential question of the debate is: Who’s matters: You or the customer? Now, I firmly believe that if you work hard you deserve your success. But it’s the way you work with clients that matters as much. My presentation tried to be “about” the audience – something that left “them” smarter, happier, better, not me the “winner.” Mike’s presentation was about him. The same can be said about our approaches to selling.
  2. Does reputation matter? You could argue, as Mike did repeatedly, that some people “don’t have any time left” to work with indecisive buyers or hesitant sellers, and that they needed to find deals “now.” But at what cost? The first time you “dismiss” a customer who isn’t ready to buy “today” you become as “friendly” as the customer-service phone reps of big conglomerates we have all come to hate. And word gets around in the Twitter-age.
  3. Which approach accounts for the world that is emerging all around us? At one point, I truly felt like I was arguing with someone who still believed the earth was flat. My “FUTURE” argument tried to look at reality as it is, and incorporate it into our careers. If people are using the phone less, we need to find another way to connect with them. If they have become afraid to answer their doors to strangers, it seems strange to be the person knocking. If the research shows that over 65% of business comes from referrals, why would we burn through 100 cold calls a day to perfect strangers? It doesn’t mean we don’t need effective methods to qualify customers and manage our limited resources, like time. But I think it does mean we need to keep up with the times.

After a week of reflection, two ironies still strike me: First, if you stripped away Mike’s style, he has some sensible techniques that, if combined with modern technology, might make his clients truly unstoppable. Second, the “Smackdown” debate continues to rage online – it never stopped from the opening bell – on Twitter, blogs, Facebook and email. Yet the only person who isn’t in the discussion is Mike. Some of his clients have weighed in on these discussion; so, his clients are using social media to come to his defense. That should really say it all.

For twenty years, my mission has been to help clients see the world as it is, and adapt those changes into winning sales strategies. I have never done a workshop where there hasn’t been a lot of skeptics in the room. That’s the rule with change: people find it hard, will resist it, will even run back to safety of the past. But at some point, we all encounter the Future.

And as I frequently point out in my workshop, the next generation of consumers is likely to say to us: Resistance is Futile.