You Want Me to Sell What?! Lessons in Rising to a Challenge
No matter what your beginnings, where you grew up or your journey to where you are now, there have been lessons you’ve internalized along the way. Unconscious lessons that, when drawn upon, can be a bit of a surprise.
In the beginning of my Real Estate career seven years ago, I never thought I’d be in a position to sell a property I didn’t know anything about. Sales 101 tells us, “Know your subject,” and for the most part, I’d say that’s true, except for when someone from your past emerges into your life and asks you to sell something so foreign you immediately think, “there’s no way.”
Here’s the story and lessons from a Facebook encounter.
You never know who’s watching you on social media.
The great and terrible thing about Facebook is people can find you. On this occasion, a childhood friend from 50 years ago in rural central Florida sent me a friend request. It was thrilling to see her on my page; and, as I fondly remembered her from our idyllic “Mayberry RFD” days, I immediately accepted her friend request. Over about six months, Melody “liked” every post but never commented, so I hardly noticed her in the background. One day I got a private message from her saying she needed my help.
Let me digress a minute and tell you a little of the backstory. Her dad was the most well-regarded minister in our small town. Growing up there, everyone knew everyone else and therefore no sins went undetected by the ever-watchful village of parents. Melody’s father had a great influence on his church, community and me, as we learned love, peace, and acceptance during the tumultuous 1960’s de-segregation in the south. I tell you this by way of understanding my heart when, one terrible day, my dad arrived home to tell us that Melody’s father had died of a heart attack on the golf course. The whole town mourned. I must have been 13 or 14. A couple of years later Melody and her family moved, and I lost touch with my friend for almost 50 years.
So, when I got a private message from Melody asking for my help, it didn’t matter what it was, I was going to try my best to help her. And then she said, “I need your help selling our family poultry farm. My husband has become unable to care for the family’s 25-acre breeder farm.” Think fast, Sarah was my first thought. The second was, how can I help repay Melody for the influence she and her family had on my life? My third consideration was, who did I know who could help her because I knew zero about selling farm land and even less about selling a poultry farm.
Honesty is and always will be the best policy.
My response to her was, “I am so honored that you would think of me, however, I wouldn’t be of service to you because I don’t know how to sell a poultry farm. I’m a city girl. Let me refer you to someone in north Georgia who would know more.” She replied, “Sarah, I’ve been watching you on Facebook for the last six months and I don’t know how you’re going to sell this land, however, I know you can and will, because you know a lot of people. I have faith. There is no one else with whom I want to work. And by the way, we don’t want a sign in the yard because we don’t want our neighbors knowing our business.”
So, selling property I know nothing about and without a sign—what else would tie my hands on this deal? The adage, “No good deed goes unpunished” came to mind, however, I really wanted to help her as a way to repay her family. I agreed to consider it.
The next thing I needed to do was to drive to north Georgia and visit the farm! When I got there, it was great to see my friend again and to meet her skeptical husband, Harold, who took me on a tour of the farm. He was a man of few words, a farmer his whole life, who wasn’t convinced a city girl like me could sell his family’s farm.
We signed a six-month, non-exclusive listing agreement only because he trusted his wife’s instincts. He said he was willing to try something different because some of his surrounding neighbors with farmland for sale had signs in their yards for months using the local agent expert to no avail.
Use your network to help you, or ask for help from strangers.
Now, where do I begin? Searching my contact list, I remembered a friend in town, Jane, whose family owned the largest poultry farm in Georgia. When I called Jane, she laughed and said she didn’t know how to help me and that I should call Bill, the operations manager of their poultry farm. Bill questioned me about how or why I would ever try to sell a poultry farm and again I explained that I just wanted to help my friend. I asked him to please help me so I could help them. He heard the sincerity in my voice, I guess, and so gave me the name of a poultry land broker, Jim.
Jim and I had the same conversation that I had had with Harold and Bill. “Young lady,” he said, “poultry farms are sold by word of mouth. But because you were referred by Bill, I’m not only going to help you, I’m going to teach you a whole lot about the poultry business.” He gave me a tutorial over the phone on several occasions so that I would have the basic concepts and lingo of the poultry world. Several weeks later, he called to tell me an agent he’d heard about in the area was looking for land for her client. BINGO!
If your intentions are good and you are seeking to serve first, then all will work out.
Next thing I knew, after connecting with that agent, both agents and buyer were traveling to north Georgia to see the farm. We were all surprised when the agent called later to say it was just what they wanted. The negotiations ensued and the long and short was they wanted to pay cash, close in a month and hire Harold for a year as a consultant. So, a city girl can sell a poultry farm! You can’t make this stuff up.
Closing day came and I cried all the way home, incredibly grateful that I was in the right place at the right time in order to be of service to someone else. I was able to pay it forward. It was a humbling and exhilarating experience.
The big takeaways I hope you heard were:
- Never underestimate yourself.
- Always take a personal inventory to see if your intentions are pure.
- Trust yourself and your knowledge to lead you like a blood hound on the unknown path in service to others.
- It’s not always about what you know but who you know.
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