Stay in the Game to Succeed

Baseball season is finally here! Our family loves to watch baseball. Both of our boys, who are proud members of Generation Z, love to play the game too. They know as we do that you must stay in the game to succeed.

Even if you are not a fan of baseball, you can’t ignore the many life lessons that are displayed daily on the diamond. Pay close attention and you will see them all play out right in front of your eyes. Obviously, not all players are born with the gift of a large stature or natural baseball acumen. Some must fight to be noticed and work harder than others if they want to make it to the top. Unfortunately, this requisite ongoing effort can cause many to give up too early.

The same is true for leasing apartments. It is definitely not a career for the faint of heart – in fact, no sales job is.  Some people come by it naturally. They have a unique ability to connect with customers and engage them in the experience while others have to work harder at it. No matter where someone falls on the leasing ability charts, it is easy to become discouraged in sales because things can change quickly. A promising start to a week can begin to spiral downhill with the word “cancellation”. It is equally as important to not claim victory on Monday when the leases start pouring in as it is to not give in to defeat when they aren’t.  Just like in the game of baseball, a great start to an inning can lead to absolutely nothing, and a bad start to an inning can lead to a great victory!

What’s most important is to teach your leasing professionals to stay in the game to succeed.

A great leasing professional is “all in” every day and at every moment, although eight hours in the leasing office can be mentally, physically, and emotionally taxing. I can recall many days when I would leave the leasing office, go home, and collapse on the couch. The last thing I wanted to do was answer the phone or talk to anyone. Yet, after spending 29 years in this industry, my greatest memories and most enjoyable moments were at the leasing desk. By far, my role as a leasing professional was my most favorite position.

So how do you help your leasing professionals stay in the game? We could brainstorm a long list of ideas, but here are three quick reminders that you can share with your leasing team today.

1. You Don’t Have to Be the ‘Home Run’ Hero

This idea goes back to the fundamentals of a team. If you do your job, your team will have a greater chance of achieving success. Let’s return to the game of baseball. Advancing a runner on base or hitting a ball deep enough in the corner to score a runner will give your team a better chance of winning the game. If you step up to the plate and swing with no real purpose other than to glorify yourself, you are doomed for failure. The reality is that you are not always going to be the leasing superstar. If this is your only goal, it will be a long, lonely, and exhausting journey. In fact, the biggest heroes in the leasing office are usually the people who consistently do their job to the best of their ability regardless of what is required of them. Even if they desire more, they are always doing their job which makes them invaluable. By comparison, the person who fails to consistently do their job might not have one. In MLB baseball, they ship you back to the minor leagues or to the unemployment line.

Your customers aren’t looking for a hero. What they need is someone who is consistent and trustworthy. How important is consistency to the customer? Research shows that employees who perform at their “consistent level” may be what satisfies customers most.

  • Consistency allows for measurement against your competition. When a customer is deciding between your community and the one down the road, consistency can be the final determining factor. Are you always available to help them? Do you treat them the same on their third visit as you did on their first one? Are you as excited to see them on week three as you were on week one? It is difficult for your customer to measure effectiveness if what they are measuring is not performed consistently.
  • Consistency establishes your reputation. Progress requires a track record of success. If you are consistently shifting gears or setting new goals without meeting the finish line, it will be difficult to achieve success. Too often, employees don’t stay the course to achieve their objectives. They are too anxious to take on the next challenge or promotion.
  • Consistency sets your message. Customers pay as much attention to what you do as to what you say. If you convey excitement on the phone with your customer but ignore them when they walk in the door, you will damage their trust because they won’t believe your message.

According to research by McKinsey, “Since 2009, customers are valuing an “average” experience less and have even less patience for variability in delivery. In addition, companies that experience inconsistency challenges often expend unnecessary resources without actually improving the customer journey. Making additional investments to improve the customer experience without tightening the consistency of experience is just throwing good money after bad.”

2. Striking Out is Inevitable

Sometimes you just strike out.  Even when you prepare and do everything right, it is no guarantee of success. That is life and this is baseball.  In baseball, you can prepare, be positive, look for your opportunities, be a good teammate, work hard and do everything right, and still when the opportunity presents itself, you fail.  What baseball teaches us is that you can’t let one failure, no matter how large, stop you from pushing forward and searching for your next plate appearance. Make your adjustments because there will be a new game, with new chances for greatness coming tomorrow. Like life, winning in baseball is not guaranteed.  What is guaranteed is that if you quit and stop trying you will never experience those great moments of success. Being ready at the plate can help reduce your strike out percentage. In 2018, the top three MLB power hitters, Giancarlo Stanton, Bryce Harper, and Aaron Judge showed an average 32% strike out percentage. But they are still playing the game because they understand that failure is a part of it and they must stay in the game to succeed.

A strike out can be difficult to accept, but it is part of the game. Learn from it and get ready for the next customer walking though your door. “You never know what’s around the corner. It could be everything. Or it could be nothing. You keep putting one foot in front of the other, and then one day you look back and you’ve climbed a mountain.”  – Tom Hiddleston

3. Sweep the Plate

How many leasing professionals have you known who gave up too soon? They didn’t achieve enough success at the leasing desk and they felt like they didn’t have anything to contribute to the team. It says a lot about character when a leasing professional can push through those bad weeks when they are tired and beat down. While it is easy to give up, baseball makes you push even when you are feeling tired and defeated. The same can be said for a day in the leasing office.

My son’s pitching coach always tells him when the pitch doesn’t end up where you want it to sweep the plate. Put your yesterdays behind you – good or bad they won’t help you perform today.  Every day is a new chance to win a game. Learn from your failures and allow them to fuel your future or you will be standing in place for years, wondering what might have been and missing out on great opportunities for growth.

Michael Jordan once said, “I’ve failed over and over again in my life and this is why I succeed.” We’ve all heard stories of the overnight leasing star. They haven’t even completed their sales training and they are an instant success, but it doesn’t usually last. Let’s consider the best of the best leasing professionals. The ones who make it look so easy year after year. The truth is that what looks like an instant or overnight success is almost always preceded by years of struggle and work. There’s a long, hard road to success, but when success hits, we only see the last mile or so. While it makes for a great story line, we often ignore the miles and miles of difficulty and perseverance required to get to the top. Failure leads to success if we don’t give up too soon.

Consider the week when you toured 30 customers and no one leased. You went home feeling sorry for yourself. You walked in the next day still embracing that defeat. We are given an invaluable gift of being able to learn from our past. That past may be the very thing that gives you the future you want. Don’t quit. Don’t be defeated. Sweep the plate and keep on going.

Finally, don’t give up on your customers too soon, even the ones who say “No”.  A study from Dartnell Corp. investigated the number of times a customer was called before a salesperson waved the proverbial white flag.

  • 48 percent quit after the first contact
  • 72 percent stop after the second contact
  • 84 percent give up on a prospect after the third contact
  • 90 percent wave the white flag after the fourth contact

As Thomas A. Edison once said, “Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.” I get it. Sometimes you feel like you have nothing left to give at the end of a difficult day at the leasing desk. No matter how hard you try, you keep striking out with your customers. But, if you can be consistent, accept the strike out, and sweep the plate, you can overcome any obstacle and start fresh tomorrow. The simple fact is that we aren’t perfect, and success isn’t rewarding if it is easy. Stay in the game to succeed!

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Maria Lawson
Vice President of Training and Development
Edge2Learn / Ellis Partners in Management Solutions