Posts Tagged ‘Declining the Monkey’

posted by on Random (Un)Common Sense

Did a neat little show in the SWS Virtual Studio called “Creating a Low-Drama Real Estate Business!” You can read more about it here.

As we often do during SWS Teleseminars, I asked the audience to tell me what their favorit-est tip from the show was – what they learned that made them say “Wow! That’s the most brilliant thing I’ve heard all day!” or something to that effect.

Well… I have tallied up the results and here they are:

Favorit-est Tip #1
Recreate your belief system about your business, and therefore, your reality. Write down (on an index card) what you DON’T like about your business and turn it into an affirmation of what you’d like instead. For example, if you’re frustrated that your transactions fall apart so often, you would write on one side of the card something like: “I hate it that I work so hard on my deals and then they fall apart.” Then, on the other side, write: “It’s amazing how often my transactions stay together even when problems arise. I love being able to solve the problems or even head them off before they become potential deal-breakers.” Put your affirmation in YOUR words; words that feel natural and make you feel good when you say them out loud. And watch your reality change like magic!

Favorit-est Tip #2
Change your beliefs about what your reality is and get more of what you want. But if you hold onto negative beliefs, you’ll get more of what you don’t want. “Worrying is praying for what you DON’T want!”

Favorit-est Tip #3
Watch Your Language. Stop complaining about your clients and telling dramatic stories about all the things that are going wrong. While it can be entertaining to share horror stories, it might be creating more of them to tell, which is NOT what you want!

Favorit-est Tip #4
Bask in your successes. When something good happens; when you do something right; when you’re feeling proud of yourself… take a moment to ENJOY the moment. Relish it, luxuriate in it, appreciate it. FEEL how good you’re feeling!

Favorit-est Tip #5
Don’t take overpriced listings! ‘Nuff said.

Favorit-est Tip #6
Appreciate a negative experience for the lessons learned, take steps to ensure it doesn’t happen again and move on. No need to dwell on mistakes or be traumatized by them.

Favorit-est Tip #7
When presented with a problem or dilemma, ask yourself if this is truly your problem to solve. If so, stay calm and visualize the perfect resolution and work toward it. If it is NOT (and that will often be the case), gracefully decline to take responsibility for the problem and politely hand it back to the person whose problem it IS to handle. (Related Reading: the Declining the Monkey series).

posted by on Random (Un)Common Sense

Did a show in the SWS Virtual Studio last week about setting appropriate boundaries and expectations with clients upfront – walking that fine line between being the best thing to happen to your clients and… losing your mind! It’s an imperfect balancing act, to be sure, but there ARE things you can do to minimize the likelihood of too much crazy-making!

As I explained in the first part of the show – a lot of it has more to do with YOUR attitude and expectation of what is reasonable and “normal.” Once you’ve adjusted YOUR expectations and are committed to going with the flow more often, you’ll find that your clients’ behavior isn’t nearly as frustrating and crazy-making as it used to be. Just because someone is different from you doesn’t make them unreasonable or unusually demanding; in many cases it simply means they’re DIFFERENT, but perfectly normal.

On the other hand, some people are crazy. Maybe not technically crazy, but their behavior IS outside the realm of normalcy and they are unreasonably demanding or critical. But many agents, especially new ones, don’t realize this and beat themselves up for not being able to please these crazy people, even though, looking in from the outside, it’s obvious they can’t be pleased. When dealing with a crazy person who is driving YOU crazy, you may need to make a mercenary decision as to how likely they are to lead you to a payday – and fire or not fire accordingly. I can put up with a lot of nonsense if I’m pretty sure there’s a payday for it in my future!

Anyway, at the end of the show, I asked the audience to tell me what they learned that was the most helpful to them. And here are the results!

Favoritest Tip #1: Ask, don’t tell
Instead of telling your new clients what to expect from you, ASK them what they expect from you. Once they’ve said it outloud, it becomes their expectation. And most normal people will not demand unreasonable availability and response times out loud if they’re asked. Say something like: “Bill, I’d like to talk about your expectations for me as to availability and responsiveness. For example, will you be okay if I’m with clients and can’t return your call for a few hours? Or if I’m with my family on Sunday afternoon and don’t get back to you until the evening? I just want to make sure I don’t disappoint you.”

Favoritest Tip #2: SHUT UP
If a client asks something of you that is unreasonable, respond respectfully, but briefly, and then stop talking. This is a fantastic strategy for declining monkeys.

Favortest Tip #3: Don’t change your business model for crazy people
As mentioned above, some people are just crazy. In most cases, it’s not necessary to change your business model just because a crazy person made your life hell for a few months. In other words, don’t “punish” (and risk alienating) your perfectly normal future clients by setting off-putting ground rules unnecessarily. Most people will be respectful of your time and attention without being pre-emptively scolded about it!

Favoritest Tip #4: Different does not equal Difficult
As mentioned above, just because someone processes information differently from you doesn’t make them difficult. For example, if a buyer needs more time than you think is reasonable to decide whether or not a house suits him, that’s not wrong, it’s just how his mind works (and you’re not going to change him). So, be patient, be respectful, and let him do his thing, in his own time. When dealing with someone who is frustrating you – ask if they’re truly unreasonable… or just different from you.

Other tips from the show:

  1. Ask a seller prior to listing: “What will you do if the house doesn’t sell?” (What’s your Plan B?)
  2. When things get difficult, STAY CALM. If you get antsy, your client will, too. And they’ll become nervous and demanding.
  3. Don’t apologize for not taking (or returning) after hours phone calls. Just return the call in the morning, no apologies, no defensiveness, no explanation. Many people call after hours not realizing they’re not calling an office and don’t really expect you to answer or respond.
  4. You can say NO. Just because someone asks doesn’t mean you have to say YES. In most cases, a polite, respectful NO, with an alternative will be perfectly satisfactory.
  5. Let the buyer low-ball if he wants to. If he wants your opinion on offer price, he’ll ask for it. If he doesn’t, and you try to talk him up in price, he’ll wonder if you’re truly on his side. At some point you may decide to let him go, but don’t try to persuade him to change his offer strategy.

posted by on Consulting & Compensation

Considering my recent ramblings* on Declining the Monkey, I had a timely conversation yesterday with an agent friend of mine. He has a house listed for a friend (at $449,000) and agreed to a very low commission ‘cause the friend was close to being upside down and “didn’t want to short sell.”

But fine. As a self-employed independent contractor who works at a 100% company, he can list at whatever percentage he sees fit. As it should be.argument

So, along comes Ms. Buyer Agent with an offer of $405,000. The seller counters the offer at $430,000. The buyer counters the counter at $410,000. Mr. Listing Agent tells Ms. Buyer Agent that if she can get the price to $425,000 AND kick in 1% of her commission, they have a deal (’cause, remember, the seller “doesn’t want” to short sell).

Ms. Buyer Agent (who is pretty new), balks, but doesn’t outright refuse. An argument between the agents ensues. Mr. Listing Agent says that he can’t kick in any more because he’s already at his I-don’t-get-up-in-the-morning-for-less-than fee. Ms. Buyer Agent says that after her split (which would be based off the “full” commission advertised in the MLS), she would walk away with less than $3,000 on what should be a payday of over $8,000. Mr. Listing Agent shrugs and says “Well, that’s what it’s going to take to get this deal done,” and dismisses her as short-sighted (“wouldn’t you rather have $3,000 than zero dollars?”).

Ms. Buyer Agent sulks off, but apparently decided that indeed, $3,000 is better than $0, returns to the table and agrees to the terms. Between the two of them, the commissions shared on this $425,000 sale will be around $5,000. Not EACH. Total.

So, what we have here are two agents who want the deal more than either the buyer or seller want the deal. Besides the fact that this deal has very little chance of ever closing (we all know how these marginally-motivated “successful” negotiations come out), this is a prime example of Accepting a Monkey the agent has no reason to accept.

The seller (presumably) wants to sell his house. The buyer (presumably) likes this house more than any other she’s seen. If either or both of these statements are true, the BUYER AND SELLER need to (and probably will) reach agreement with each other. If neither of these statements is true, then the deal has no business being struck. It is NOT the agents’ problem to solve, financially anyway, that the seller doesn’t want to come to the table with money and/or the buyer doesn’t want to pay the seller’s price.

*The Monkey Series

Part I – Avoiding Burnout
Part II Which Monkeys Are Yours? Which Aren’t?
Part III Declining the Monkey Part III
Part IV What to Say (or not say) to Decline the Monkey

posted by on Random (Un)Common Sense

Glad you stuck with me through the Monkey Series! You made it all the way to the punch line.

In case you just stumbled onto this series, you should probably read it from the beginning – starting here. Or not. Your call.

It’s really easy for Old Fogie types (like me) to confidently proclaim that WE don’t accept Monkeys that aren’t ours to mess with, and WE (said in a deep, gravely voice) just tell our clients the way it is and if they don’t agree; NEXT!

But it’s not that easy, especially for newer agents who really aren’t sure what their responsibilities are, and are not in the mood to NEXT anyone. So, here are some tips.

•       Don’t be an objection-buster (aka Silence is Golden). When a client throws out objections, concerns or stumbling blocks, think before you speak. Often these objections, concerns or stumbling blocks will be HIS Monkeys, not yours. Just smile, nod and make an “I hear ya” noise, and let the client continue. If he wants your input, he’ll ask for it directly, but until he does, just listen without offering solutions.

If, after your moment of golden silence, you realize that this IS your Monkey, go ahead and offer a response or solution. If you aren’t sure, just write it down or commit it to memory to ponder later. You can always accept a Monkey after the fact, but it’s much tougher to return a Monkey after you’ve accepted it prematurely.

•       Ask “What’s Your Plan B?” as if you are not guaranteeing the desired outcome… which you aren’t. I use this strategy with sellers who are being a little stubborn about pricing, accessibility or condition. I sweetly ask them what they will do if their home doesn’t sell for the price they “need” or, at all. This subtly lets them know that while I’ll do my best, I won’t take full responsibility for their home selling – that’s not a Monkey I’ll accept.

•       A la Jackie Leavenworth, the Real Estate Whisperer – if a buyer or seller looks to you to solve a problem that isn’t reasonably yours to solve (e.g. you give up some of your commission to put or hold a deal together), you can gently say something like “I’ve found that when a real estate agent wants to make a deal more than the other parties involved, it’s not the right deal to make.” (Jackie has a whole audio CD on negotiations that is superb – check it out at: If you like my stuff, you’ll love hers.

So, what IS the punch line?

If you know what Monkeys are yours to carry… and which are not… and you respect the other party enough to let him keep his own Monkeys, you’ll be a much happier, healthier and RESTED real estate agent!


The Epilogue – I have a very timely situation to share with you about two agents on opposite sides of a deal who both accepted Monkeys they shouldn’t have. Stay tuned! 

posted by on Random (Un)Common Sense

Monkey Free Zone


First, allow me to apologize for dragging this Monkey Series* on too long. I really didn’t intend to write more than one or two posts on it, but I just keep thinking of things to say! I was hoping this would be the last one, but I suspect it’s not. Hang in there with me, k? I really AM trying to get to my point.

Yesterday, I wrote about CONTROL. Specifically, which issues of a real estate transaction (i.e. Monkeys) YOU control; which ones your CLIENT controls and which ones neither of you has any say over. My point in spelling it all out wasn’t to give anyone permission to be snotty with a buyer or seller when he tries to hand off his Monkey; no, I just wanted to clarify which Monkeys are appropriate to decline. (“Declining the Monkey” means to refuse to accept responsibility for problems that are not yours to solve.)

If you didn’t read yesterday’s blog, please do so here. The rest of this won’t make much sense if you don’t – sorry. And while you’re at it, read this one, too.

Believe it or not, politely declining to take on your clients’ monkeys has a lot to do with respect. Respecting your CLIENT’S intelligence, abilities and willingness to do his part. Acknowledging that your client has a brain and a checkbook, and that he can probably find some free time. A lot of us don’t seem to give our clients the benefit of the doubt that they are willing or able to do their part, so we either offer to do it for them or walk away frustrated.Upside down monkey

Sure, an upside-down seller will be more than happy to dump his upside-down monkey on you, if you agree to take it. A frustrated buyer would be tickled to let YOU figure out where that extra 5% down is going to come from when the terms of his loan change. But you CAN gracefully hand that monkey back to the buyer or seller without his ever noticing the hand-off!

Let’s use the example from my initial blog of the seller who owes $415,000 on a house that might be worth $399,000. To come out whole, he really needs to sell around $430,000. Oh, and he DOESN’T want to come to the table with money or short sell the house.

What do you do?

Of course, you can refuse to take the listing, and indeed, that’s what you might end up doing. Or you might agree to take the listing at a too-high price, and regret it every day for the next six months. But are those the only two options?


There is another solution to this problem. One that may result in a sellable listing. What IS this magic solution?

I dunno.

It’s your seller’s solution to discover. And if you let him keep his monkey, he may very well come up with the solution on his own. Maybe he’ll decide to kiss up to Aunt Lulu and ask her for a short-term loan to cover the spread. Maybe he’ll decide a short-sale isn’t out of the question. Maybe he’ll agree to make the improvements you recommend to give him a better shot at a higher price.

Or maybe he’ll come up with something brilliant none of us thought of.

But… but… but… how DO you show your prospect or client the respect of letting him keep his own monkeys? What do you say? Or not say?

You know the drill… stay tuned


*I didn’t make up the Monkey concept – Terry Watson did. You can purchase Monkey t-shirts at his website:


posted by on Random (Un)Common Sense


Pre-vacation, I wrote a “to be continued” blog about avoiding burnout by refusing to accept responsibility for stuff that isn’t your responsibility, specifically in a real estate transaction. I promised to share some ideas for putting this philosophy into place that don’t alienate the other party, who in all likelihood isn’t trying to be difficult. And could end up being a fantastic client with a workable deal.

The first trick to respectfully declining your clients’ monkeys is to know which monkeys are appropriate to decline. And which are rightfully yours to carry.  Yes, when our clients hire us, they have a right to expect us to take on some of the burden of their real estate transaction. Entering into a real estate agent/client relationship creates responsibilities on each side. The clearer you are on whose responsibilities are whose, the easier it will be to assign them to the appropriate party.

Put another way, what factors of the transaction are within your control, which are within your client’s control and which are out of either of your control?

You control:

•         the services you are willing to provide

•         the marketing you are willing and able to do

•         the price at which you are willing to take a listing

•         whether or not you will take a short-sale listing

•         the times you are available to your buyer

•         the expertise you have in advising a seller how to prepare for market

•         the resources you have in place to help a seller prepare for market

•         your willingness to show short sales, foreclosures, FSBO’s or new construction

•         how often you will communicate with your client

•         how much you charge for your services

Your client controls:

•         the price he is willing to list and sell for

•         how much he is willing to “come to the table with” if he’s upside down in his mortgage

•         whether or not he’s willing to short-sell

•         the amount of work he is willing to do and the funds he has available to prepare for market

•         the times he is available to look at houses

•         what marketing services he will require from his agent

•         how much he is willing to offer on a home

•         whether or not to allow unrestricted showings

•         whether or not he wants to pursue short sales, foreclosures, FSBOs or new construction

•         whether or not he is happy with the inventory in his price range

•         how much he is willing to pay for real estate services

Neither of you controls:

•         changing lending requirements

•         overall market activity

•         the cost of home maintenance and repair

•         interest rates

•         closing costs

•         the underwriter

•         the agent on the other side of the deal

•         the buyer or seller on the other side of the deal

So, how are these “control” issues relevant to getting the various monkeys assigned properly? Any thoughts?

I’ll share mine next time

posted by on Random (Un)Common Sense

It's not my monkey!

The other day I had a three-way conversation with two agents who are in the middle of career crises. Both are trying to decide whether to stay or go, interestingly, for opposite reasons. AgentFriend1 has too much business and is burning out and AgentFriend2, well, doesn’t. Have too much business, that is. And she’s burning out, too.

We talked about burnout and both agents confessed that they become deeply involved in their clients’ personal situations and get sucked into the emotional drama of it all. Which isn’t uncommon in our business; after all, we ARE deeply involved in the whole mess – if our seller doesn’t have enough equity to properly price; if our buyer’s loan changes and they have to come up with an additional 5% down; if our listing doesn’t appraise and the deal crashes… yes, these events DO affect us both financially and emotionally. And frankly, if they didn’t affect us, we probably wouldn’t be effective at our jobs.

But you can draw a line and preserve your sanity. Terry Watson calls it “the Monkey.” He describes how we wrongly let others put their monkeys on our backs – even though we have our own monkeys to deal with, thank you very much! We real estate agents are really good at accepting our clients’ monkeys as our own.

And you know what? Our clients are HAPPY to give us their monkeys and then blame us when things go wrong. Further, we accept that blame – which puts us in a position where we have to apologize for our inability to solve a problem that ISN’T OURS TO SOLVE.

Here’s an example. The seller owes $415,000 on his home. The market value is no more than $395,000 and that’s pushing it. In order to break even, the seller needs to sell at $430,000 at least. The seller “doesn’t want to do a short sale,” so he looks to his agent for another solution. What solution does the agent come up with?

1.       Price at $439,900 and hope for a miracle

2.       Reduce her commission to nothing and price at $420,000 (and hope for a miracle)

Of course, there are other solutions, but we monkey-acceptors want to please, so these are the ones we propose. (And then we’re miserable because we have an unsellable product, but that’s another story).

Here’s another example. You interview for a tenant-occupied listing. The seller doesn’t want to inconvenience the tenant, so he asks for a 24-hour showing requirement; for day-time showings only; that you attend all showings, and a 60-day possession. You want to please the seller, so you agree, knowing what he’s asking will make the properly unmarketable… and you miserable.

Do too many of these deals and I think burnout IS an inevitability.

Of course, it’s easy to advise “Well, just thank the %$SOB^# very much for the opportunity and walk away!” I hear that advice all the time, and sure, that’s an option. But there’s a better way… a way to respectfully decline the monkey and move forward without alienating someone who could be a wonderful client and future referral source.

Stay tuned…(actually, you might have to wait a week for the sequel – I’m heading out for my vacation tomorrow and have been duly informed that I will NOT spend my vacation on the computer. But maybe I can sneak it in!)

The Monkey Series
Part II Which Monkeys Are Yours? Which Aren’t?
Part III Declining the Monkey Part III
Part IV What to Say (or not say) to Decline the Monkey
Part V A real world example of a Monkey Unnecessarily Accepted