Matthew Ferrara, Philosopher

Who’s Raising the Bar for REALTORS? You’d Be Surprised!

Dianne with her laptop, iPad, calculator and laser measurer.

All over the web, there are lots of discussions about “raising the bar” for real estate professionals. Funny thing is, the bar is already moving up fast, and you wouldn’t believe who’s responsible for it!

Who’s raising the bar in real estate? Companies like California Closets, that’s who. Yes, that’s right: A closet organization company is raising the bar for real estate professionals, and lots of other industries, actually. I’ll explain in a moment, but first, let’s take a step back. Regular readers of our column know our story about the basement refinishing company who came to our house and did a presentation using their iPad featuring a movie with Bob Vila in it. It was the most effective 3 minutes we’d seen in a presentation in a decade, moving the bar from the “brought my laptop, let’s look at PowerPoint slides” level to new heights.

That was over a year ago, and since then, the bar keeps rising. A few months ago, we had a sump-pump salesman visit to discuss how he might replace our aging sump pumps with newer, more reliable models. His presentation featured a video, too, explaining how newer systems worked. No slides either; very informative in very few minutes. The bar got a little higher that day, too.

But after last week, the bar for salespeople coming to our home in the future went sky high. That’s because Diane from California Closets came for a visit last Saturday, and you might have thought Batwoman had shown up with her bat-belt of techno-goodies. And oh, yes, we were quite impressed!

Diane made quite an impression. First, we explained our desires: We wanted to transform a spare bedroom into a walk-in closet. Much like a real estate agent, she visited the room, discussed possibilities, then went to work. First, she sized up the room, pulling her laser measurer and zapping away. Back in the kitchen, Diane wanted to customize a solution for us. This required two more pieces of technology – a laptop for her, and an iPad for us. While she punched calculations into her laptop, we flipped through photo albums on her iPad, which she conveniently setup with a stand and a stylus. As we explored different layouts, colors, materials and before-and-after pictures, Dianne was listening and watching for what made us gasp or groan.

It was a fantastic presentation, on many levels. First, it was informative, for the prospective clients, and the sales person watching our reactions. Second, it was engaging: We become engrossed in exploring how California Closets’ products could transform our lives. Diane went from sales person to dream maker. Third, it was imaginative: Diane hardly once spoke about things like wood, grommets, parts or pieces. Instead, she answered questions with stories about her other clients who transformed their lives using her products. We began to imagine what our lives would be like, too, with her help.

Most of all, it was effective. By the time we looked up from the iPad, Dianne had a beautiful 3-D CAD display of our clothing storage solution on her screen. It was literally our room, with her organizational solution, fitted neatly in it. We pointed out a few changes, and she quickly edited the design. The price updated as we worked together to design the right solution in our budget. Dianne had no need to overcome any objections because we were working together the whole time.

We cut her a check for half, right then.

We didn’t need to compare with anybody else. We didn’t need to research further. We had already done a few weeks of previewing, searching online, asking people we trusted for recommendations, even visiting home improvement stores. By the time we’d called California Closets into our home, we were ready. All that needed to happen was a presentation that wowed us. Which it did, exactly.

It was invigorating to see someone combine all the elements of great sales together: people skills (asking questions, listening, discussing) with technology tools (measuring, configuring, demonstrating) to the point where we literally closed the sale on ourselves. Everybody was happy and satisfied. We were going to finally have our dream dressing room; Dianne completed a Saturday morning sale.

Dianne reminds us that the bar for salespeople in any industry keeps getting higher. Real estate agents aren’t just competing against other real estate agents: They are competing against the basement refinishing guy, the sump pump salesman, and Dianne from California Closets.

There are Dianne’s everywhere, raising the bar for what consumers expect from sales professionals. When ordinary products are sold with exciting techniques, it’s further proof that the bar is being raised from outside the industry, as much as it is from inside of it.

The best way to sum it up is with a photo of Dianne after her presentation.

If you want your next appointment to end up like this, take a lesson from Dianne and bring more than your pen and paper to every sales presentation.

  • There is so much we can learn by looking outside of our industry.  Great reminder Matthew of the power of this.

  • Thanks, Michelle!

  • Hi Matthew, 

    It’s Melissa from the California Closets corporate headquarters here. We’re so glad that you were pleased and impressed by your design consultation with Dianne. 

    The experience you had – the cutting edge technology, the design creativity, the collaborative work process – is what we strive to deliver in every customer interaction. It’s always so gratifying to hear from a happy client and it was a bonus to get your analysis of the sales process.

    We’d love to hear how the installation process goes, so feel free to connect with us on Twitter (/caclosets) or Facebook (/CaliforniaClosets).

    Happy organizing!

  • Hello Melissa:

    Thanks for your comment on the blog. We thoroughly loved the experience and I’m glad to hear that Dianne’s approach is something you strive to deliver across your entire company. That’s the formula for success today, and in the future!
    — Matthew

  • Using technology as ways to engage and share the experience makes it much more personal than simply telling people things. By involving them with the product or visuals they’re sold before they realize it. They’ve become a natural part of the process.  I considered selling my iPad 1 but think simply on the basis of this discussion I will keep it to share with clients so they too can become involved with the product and info I am sharing through visual touch.  Thanks for a great share Matthew!

  • That’s great news! So glad we’ve helped you keep your iPad and get better use out of it. You’re on the right path – engage people in your products and services and they’ll virtually sell themselves!
    – MF

  • Those people who are willing to look beyond the walls of real estate will always be able to raise game just like you did with Dianne and California Closets.

    Does your waiter or waitress share the daily special with enthusiasm and competence so it makes you change you mind from the steak to the freshly flown in Alaskan salmon? Does the bagger at the grocery store say please and thank you? Do you feel the passion of the priest or pastor as he shares a sermon? How often does the doctor or teacher use your name and make you feel like they are talking directly to you. Does the store clerk speak in terms of features only or does she help explain “what this means to you is…”

    You are so right Matthew when you say we’re not just competing with other Realtors. We’re compteting with other experiences.

  • Sean,
    Great comments! It’s a challenge we have struggled with in real estate for years. We were allowed, until the last decade or so, to be essentially a “Middle Kingdom” where the rules seemed separate and insular. Today, There are no sectors that are islands. Apple raises the expectations for Marriott. School teachers and doctors are measured against the outcomes of online learning experiences. It’s a whole new landscape of competition.

  • Mayor of Hardware

    Hi Matthew!

    I supply the closet industry with a lot of their hardware and California Closets continually raises the bar.

    It’s funny that now they are raising the bar for all sales people!

    Enjoy your new walk-in closet – I’m sure that you will love it!!