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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 sales 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 sales 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.