Too often, when people are engaged in conversation with someone, they’re scanning the room for someone more important. I see this behavior all the time, specifically among salespeople, and even more specifically within real estate. What’s worse is when someone treats people in the service industry as if they’re below them. Trust me when I tell you that when you only focus your attention and efforts on those you feel can deliver you value or make you money, it will not go unnoticed. The old saying, “Don’t judge a book by its cover,” is absolutely true. Just because someone isn’t wearing fancy clothing or driving an expensive car, that doesn’t mean they’re insignificant. You never know whom you’re going to meet in any given circumstance, and making incorrect assumptions based on outward appearance is a major mistake.
As a salesperson, it’s critical to make everyone feel like a VIP. When you do this, the same level of respect will be granted in return, and it will help you in the long run. Of course, you can’t do it for that reason alone. It’s just the universe’s way of maintaining balance. It’s the same concept as being philanthropic. When you assume a social responsibility to give back to those less fortunate, that sends good karma in your direction. If you stop giving, you stop receiving.
There was one sale in particular that I made because a valet parker introduced me to a buyer out of the goodness of his heart. I gave that parker a $12,000 referral fee. He wasn’t expecting it, and he didn’t make the introduction for that reason, but—because of his generosity—he benefited. Further, he would never have known I was a real estate agent if I hadn’t talked to him and gotten to know him. That’s just who I am, and it has been an enormous advantage to me throughout my career. I find people interesting, and I treat everyone I encounter with the utmost respect, no matter who they are or how much money they have. I want to hear their stories and ask them questions.
I treat everyone with the utmost repsect, no matter who they are. I want to hear their stories and ask them questions.
When I was in Amsterdam opening the first international branch of The Agency, I had a wonderful man to drive me around. I started talking to him and inquiring about various things and all of a sudden he was telling me stories about how he works for all the five-star hotels in Amsterdam and drives around a number of celebrities and local billionaires. Immediately, I was like, Holy shit, this might be my guy here, which proves that you can never predict who “your guy” is going to be. As it turned out, he was the owner of the company. I took his phone number and entered him into my database as a VIP, because he may very well be someone I call on in the future.
On the flip side, there was an instance a couple of years ago when my wife and I were eating at a restaurant and tennis legend Pete Sampras was dining at one of the tables next to us. I’m a big fan of his, so I wanted to go over and say hello, with no ulterior motive aside from making the connection. Kyle was a little embarrassed by my brazenness and didn’t want me to bother him, so she asked me not to approach him, and I listened. When we got home, I really regretted not meeting him in person.
I said to Kyle, “Honey, please don’t try to change me. And please respect that I’m someone who likes to go up to people and make conversation, without any agenda. It’s who I am, and owning that confidence is part of my character.”
Getting to know people—no matter who they are or who you think they are—is the best way to expand your personal and professional networks. And you should never stifle that impulse.
Mauricio Umansky is a real estate developer and philanthropist. He is the CEO and founder of The Agency, a billion-dollar international real estate brokerage, and a board member for Giveback Homes. This is an extract from his book, The Dealmaker, available in April.