Tracy Cousineau: “Follow-up and nurturing are huge”

I would say the beginning stages are what I am best at. I love meeting people. All of my clients become family and friends. I am open enough to have conversation and build rapport while still being my authentic self. If you are genuine and passionate about what you do, then all of these cycles […]

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I would say the beginning stages are what I am best at. I love meeting people. All of my clients become family and friends. I am open enough to have conversation and build rapport while still being my authentic self. If you are genuine and passionate about what you do, then all of these cycles are pretty easy. There’s no real secret sauce other than just being yourself. If you have a hard time in sales, it may be that it is not your true passion or the way you approach it might not be comfortable for you. If you try to push products on people and lack genuine care for the customer, people can feel that.

As a part of my series about how to be great at closing sales without seeming pushy, obnoxious, or salesy, I had the pleasure of interviewing Tracy Cousineau.

Tracy Cousineau is a powerhouse real estate entrepreneur and business coach. She is co-founder of the #1 real estate team in the Atlanta metro area, ranked as the #12 fastest growing company in Georgia by INC Magazine and a coach of real estate agents across the country. Tracy has been in real estate since 1999, selling residential properties. Based on her over 20 years’ experience in building multi-million-dollar businesses in real estate, fashion, call centers and non-profit, Tracy knows and shares the right way to hire and staff a winning organization and create a compelling brand with which customers want to do business.

Thank you for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us the “backstory” about what brought you to this career path?

I got into real estate because I was in property management. I went through a situation at that community that led my mind to question the next steps. At the time, I thought that real estate would be the next thing for my career path, not yet realizing that it was my passion. I was pushed to go to the next level. I thought that if I could lease apartments then surely I could sell houses. So, I went for it. It wasn’t that I woke up and one day knew I wanted to get into real estate, but that I had a situation going on in my life that prompted me to look in new directions. I would drive home every day and I would pass a community college that offered real estate classes. I realized I should look further into these courses. It was being young, but it was also the next career move. Looking back, I realized that I loved to look at houses without realizing that I even loved looking at houses. It is truly my passion and the more that I can help others in the industry is just so fulfilling.

Can you share with our readers the most interesting or amusing story that occurred to you in your career so far? Can you share the lesson or take away you took out of that story?

We go through a process in our staging where we get the homes prepared to make the best impression and we enhance their image. A seller recently thought that we would be filming an adult movie in their house because we asked them to clear out a lot of things and asked them to put clean linens on everything. Their mind started to race to make a connection here. I learned that clarity is everything. If we were not clear on the message and it took years for someone to raise this question, then maybe we weren’t clear on why we wanted it like that. If you help walk them through the things you’re saying and have more conversations, then there will be more clarity. It is important not to think that people already know what you know. Because we do this on a daily basis, we quit giving out more communication because we feel like if we know it then everyone else should know it. This comes in every job that anyone does. There is a lot that people don’t know and making sure you communicate is a great way to avoid these misunderstandings.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

Yes! I’m launching my new book that aims to help people dissect and get out of a rut to advance their personal and business life. My focus is to get my book completed and to hit the ground running with it.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

Financially, nobody helped me to achieve success. Mindset-wise, Tony Robbins definitely repositioned my mind and made me look at a lot of things differently. He gave me a lot of Aha moments and nuggets of wisdom that really helped me to digest everything I had learned through Business Mastery, Unleash the Power Within and Leadership Mastery. We can all go listen to speakers, but if you don’t really listen and implement then nothing changes.

For the benefit of our readers, can you tell us a bit why you are an authority on the topic of sales?

Repetition, experience, the amount of sales, what I’ve learned and how I’ve grown has positioned me to be an authority on the topic of sales. They don’t teach you everything you need to know when it comes to sales, they just teach you the things you need to know to write a contract. Learning things on your own and being hands-on is such a necessary step up the growth process. You have to go through failure to learn and never do it again. Not knowing what I didn’t know and being so young when I first got into the industry, I definitely learned a lot. Now when I’m coaching with new agents, it is cool to see how we have saved them 21 years of failure. They’ll make their own, but they will learn from it and you’ll see them light up when they learn from it. You are able to open it up further and dissect for them. I always say, there’s an A and a Z and it is what happens between the A and Z that impacts how you get to Z.

Let’s shift a bit to what is happening today in the broader world. Many people have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. The fears related to the COVID-19 pandemic have understandably heightened a sense of uncertainty and loneliness. From your experience, what are a few ideas that we can use to effectively offer support to our families and loved ones who are feeling anxious? Can you explain?

I remember the beginning stages of COVID and immediately went back to the great recession. I knew that I was not going to relive the great recession. I remember where I was at that time, the mindset that I was in, and the group I would hang around with. How would I not revert back to this? It was finding solutions and knowing that I needed to serve others. If I am in the real estate industry, then I needed to show up for the real estate industry. It was helping people get to their goals regardless of the situation, finding a solution for them and helping them get through it. I remember during this time when I would go to the office, everything was so negative, and business was awful. Then you start to say, “business is awful” and you start living “business is awful.” Everyone you hang around, you bring that energy into your world. Stay away from this sort of mentality.

At the beginning of it all, I listened to the news. Then, I just shut it off and made my own news. I am going to show up with my own news and make my own news. I’m not going to listen to all of the chatter. It depends on what channel you listen to on how bad it really is. I would keep up with things here and there, but I wasn’t going to spend my time consumed by it. This really helped. Also, it helped to not be around people that were fearful and for the ones that were fearful to help them not be fearful.

Ok. Thanks for all that. Let’s now jump to the main core of our interview. As you know, nearly any business a person will enter, will involve some form of sales. At the same time, most people have never received any formal education about how to be effective at selling. Why do you think our education system teaches nearly every other arcane subject, but sales, one of the most useful and versatile topics, is totally ignored?

This brings me back to why they took a lot of economics out of schools. At school you should learn that kind of subject. Not everyone is born understanding sales. It’s not easy, but why don’t we educate on things that aren’t easy? We show up and coach because we know it is needed. I was just filling out something for a board of realtors and it said something like “if you were in this position in this board of realtors what would be one of the first things that you would do?” For me, it’s education, coaching and training to today’s topics.

A lot of the courses are so dated. At the beginning of COVID I went through mortgage courses and I asked myself “why am I learning old news 5–10 years ago?” I think we lack this entry level instruction and proper guidance across the board, not just in real estate. The issue is that not everyone wants to share their knowledge. I remember having to learn it on my own because no one wanted to share their ideas. Many people like to hoard their ideas for themselves. There is a need to be a part of the education aspect. I still go to appointments because how can I coach and train people in the industry if I am not a part of it. Sales is different. We are seeing a lot of big companies shut down. We have a small women’s boutique and our sales are up. Again, it is how do you pivot and position your sales at a time like this. We are 3x the amount we were making this time last year. We have learned different techniques and learn different ways to sell.

This discussion, entitled, “How To Be Great At Sales Without Seeming Salesy”, is making an assumption that seeming salesy or pushy is something to be avoided. Do you agree with this assumption? Whether yes, or no, can you articulate why you feel the way you do?

I don’t like to be sold. When you said the title of this discussion it brought me to the experience you have being at a used cars sales lot or furniture store. You watch salespeople rotate as each customer walks in such a systematic way that you feel caged in. I think this is very tacky and salesy. We don’t want to be treated like that. It is the way that you build rapport in your business that brings you your sales. I now drive through car dealerships with my doors and windows locked until I find what I’m looking for. Then, I’m going to get out and I’m going to look at it. I even approach it this way in retail stores. A lot of salespeople need to make the sale to get paid and pay their bills, but if I feel that I am being used only for my sale and people don’t care about who I am then I will move on to someone that does treat me nicer and remember me for the client experience. I know I can go back to them in the future and buy something else.

The seven stages of a sales cycle are usually broken down to versions of Prospecting, Preparation, Approach, Presentation, Handling objections, Closing, and Follow-up. Which stage do you feel that you are best at? What is your unique approach, your “secret sauce”, to that particular skill? Can you explain or give a story?

I would say the beginning stages are what I am best at. I love meeting people. All of my clients become family and friends. I am open enough to have conversation and build rapport while still being my authentic self. If you are genuine and passionate about what you do, then all of these cycles are pretty easy. There’s no real secret sauce other than just being yourself. If you have a hard time in sales, it may be that it is not your true passion or the way you approach it might not be comfortable for you. If you try to push products on people and lack genuine care for the customer, people can feel that.

Lead generation, or prospecting, is one of the basic steps of the sales cycle. Obviously, every industry will be different, but can you share some of the fundamental strategies you use to generate good, qualified leads?

I think you have to put yourself in the shoes of the client that you are looking for. Generating good, qualified leads comes from understanding the client’s needs and wants. When you can speak at their level then it will be easy for leads to come in. I pass a lot of billboards and I see a lot of sales ads that are missing their wording. There needs to be a call to action because you need to understand who you are speaking to. You need to know who you are talking to and who your ideal client is.

In my experience, I think the final stages of Handling Objections, Closing, and Follow-up, are the most difficult parts for many people. Why do you think ‘Handling Objections’ is so hard for people? What would you recommend for one to do, to be better at ‘Handling Objections’?

I am pretty quick on my feet for objections. I see a lot of people stumble with this, especially when I am coaching. If you don’t know something, don’t make up something. You have to be open and say, “that’s a great question, let me get back to you.” A lot of times objections are not easy and can be confrontational. It makes it easier to be bold and not “cushion” things. Doing research, listening, networking and looking at the obstacles of others can really help to grow in this area. Many times, you have to be placed in a certain situation to then grow and learn from it.

‘Closing’ is of course the proverbial Holy Grail. Can you suggest 5 things one can do to successfully close a sale without being perceived as pushy? If you can, please share a story or example, ideally from your experience, for each.

If you don’t push the client from the beginning, then you should never push them at the end. When you are showing up because you are really passionate about what you do then you won’t come off as pushy. When it comes to closing that is more of a celebration. A way of asking for a referral in business from someone that you are closing a transaction with is by saying you want to work with people that you are sitting at the closing table with. This would be the like-minded people of that current client. Having that conversation is saying “I loved this journey with you, and I know that your friends and family are similar to you, by the way are any of them looking to buy or sell or invest in real estate. Is there anyone we can connect with? We only like to work with people like you.”

Finally, what are your thoughts about ‘Follow up’? Many businesses get leads who might be interested but things never seem to close. What are some good tips for a business leader to successfully follow up and bring things to a conclusion, without appearing overly pushy or overeager?

Follow-up and nurturing are huge. I found that I failed at this for a long time until I found the solution. We have team members that love to do follow-up and nurture. It’s about putting people in the right position and understanding that you can’t do everything. It is crucial to have the process in place to follow-up in a genuine way. This is one of the biggest things that is lagged across the board. There are many times that you will want to go buy something or you’re waiting for an answer back from someone and you don’t get it because they forgot about you. It is important to make sure you have a process of contact throughout so that we don’t forget about them.

As you know there are so many modes of communication today. For example, In-person, phone calls, video calls, emails, and text messages. In your opinion, which of these communication methods should be avoided when attempting to close a sale or follow up? Which are the best ones? Can you explain or give a story?

First, identify who you are talking to and what is their best way of contacting and second best way. Face to face is typically best, along with video. Tonality is also huge. I don’t think that closing with someone should be by text because not all texts are taken the way that you mean them. I would avoid texts as a form of communication at these stages. A phone call is much better because you are speaking the words to them and they will more likely interpret that the way that you mean. There is a story everyday through text. I get a text, or I send a text and people might take it differently than it was meant. We can all relate to this and sometimes picking up the phone is easier to avoid these misunderstandings.

Ok, we are nearly done. Here is our final “meaty” question. You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the greatest amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Dissect and understand that you are worthy. Many people don’t understand how worthy they really are and what value they could bring to so many other people. Maybe somebody told them this or maybe they are insecure. I think that if more people really understood how worthy and how much knowledge they really have this would really help lots of people.

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