By Debbie Hanlon

In my last column we talked about habits – what they are, how we develop them and the impact they have on our lives. I explained that a sales rep who I coach was the impetus for me to learn all I could about habits and I shared those findings with you. The most important thing I learned was that a habit is made of three distinct parts: a cue, a routine and a reward.

How could I possibly put my new-found knowledge to work to help the sales rep I was coaching change the bad habits she had developed over a fairly successful career? Great question, glad you asked.



Let’s start with discussing the worst habit she had developed and then we’ll look at ways she could change that habit. It’s important to remember from the get-go that this sales rep was doing pretty well, she was active, had regular sales and attracted new clients. It’s even more important to remember that no matter how well you’re doing, you can do better. Always keep that in mind as a driving force in your career so you don’t become complacent and lose your edge against the growing competition. That’s pretty much what my sales rep was experiencing.

After discussing this with her I realized that the one habit we would have to change to get her career to the next level was one she had developed following a sale. Like most salespeople in this ultra-competitive industry, she only looked as far as the sale she was working on. Once the deal closed and she had her cheque, she would simply enjoy the fruits of her labour and go in search of her next deal. She had done dozens of deals and treated each one pretty much as a process involving getting the listing, working to sell it and then closing the deal.

So let’s look at that process as a habit. The cue is the need for a new listing, the routine is to sell it and the reward is the money she made by doing so. So which of these can we change so that she develops a healthier habit that makes her even more successful?

The cue is pretty standard – we all need listings no matter how many we have. Can’t really change that. Same for the routine, we work very hard to sell inventory. Can’t really change that either. So that leaves us with the reward. How could we change the reward from money to something else and what else could it possibly be?

Well, the reward is pretty much always money. We’re in this industry and we work very hard to make a living. Now, what if we could put another reward in place that not only saved us from the habit of treating each deal as a separate thing with a clearly defined beginning, middle and end, but also made us more money? A lot more money.

After I had explained to the sales rep that by making one simple change she could open up the possibility of a lot more success, a lot more rewards, she agreed to give it a try. The new reward, I explained, would be growing her business as opposed to simply getting a cheque and then looking for the next cheque. With this new habit the cheques would come looking for her.

From now on, instead of thinking of a closed deal as closed, the sale would become a step in a longer routine with a new reward. A whole new habit.

After a sale closed she would put the client’s contact info into a VIP folder in her database. Those clients would be sent birthday cards, small Christmas gifts and a little something on the anniversary of the closing. The new reward would be watching her database grow and the new business it would bring. When someone asked one of her clients who their real estate agent was, she wouldn’t be just a name, she’d be that OMG agent who still kept in touch and still sent small gifts.

There’s no such thing as a past client, I told her, just clients who will pass our names on to others. That kind of advertising is priceless. It’s also very economical. You really should get in the habit of using it.

Debbie Hanlon is the owner broker and Realtor at Debbie Hanlon Real Estate, a new boutique brokerage in St. John’s, Nfld. She is also a motivational speaker, real estate coach, author, former city councillor and children’s entertainer. She lives in St. John’s with her husband, Oral Mews and her dog Fisher.

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