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There’s always something to howl about

My take on real estate bar camps: If you want to learn how to sell, you’ll learn nothing by “studying” with enthusiastic amateurs.

Jeff Brown wants to know if real estate bar camps are a waste of his time. My view is that they probably are, at least in terms of making maximum productive use of time taken away from money-making work. Jeff is a chatty guy, so I expect he can have a good time with any random group of real estate practitioners, but in terms of epiphanies major and minor — or even just an a-ha! or two to cover the cost of the gasoline — there’s just not that much there there.

First a caveat — thus to give you a chance to dismiss me if your mind runs easily to thoughts of thoughtlessness: I’ve only been to one real estate bar camp. Brian Brady and I did a half-day BloodhoundBlog Unchained event at Zillow.com’s headquarters in Seattle, and the first (I think) Seattle REBC was held the next day. Brian and I did a session that day with Ardell Dellaloggia, then I used Al Lorenz’ Windows laptop to do a session on Scenius — with the latter being of benefit to no one, I think. I spent much of the day in a conference room, conferring with anyone who would dare to talk to me, and that was reasonably productive. I taught much more than I learned, but I got to spend quite a bit of time with Al, and that man knows a lot of interesting stuff.

But: The event was opened by a vendor, and the vendorslut influence was an oozing slime everywhere. It was obvious to me that the ordinary punters were completely lost, and it was equally obvious that the vendors were “befriending” folks who had learned nothing — except that they were scared and clueless — picking them off like drunken sorority pledges at a fraternity mixer.

I’ve not done anything with the bar camps that have been held in Phoenix, second because the wired Realtors in town seem to want to have nothing to do with me, but first because the wired Realtors in town don’t seem to know very much that I’m interested in learning. If I want to hear from Seth Godin and Brian Clark, I know where to find them — and they’re better in the original in any case.

I’m very tight with my time — my job is selling real estate, not schmoozing — and I don’t think it’s any accident that the first real estate bar camp was held in a bar. I almost never drink alcohol — ceremony, solemnization, and, sometimes, sex — and I never, ever spend time drinking in bars. There’s a hard limit to how much shit I’m willing to shoot, and there is no topic of small talk large enough to excite my interest. I just want to work, and my steady conviction is that Realtors only talk to each other to give themselves the camouflage of pretending to work, thus to rationalize goofing off. In this regard, Twitter, Facebook and real estate bar camps all become the same one thing: A huge waste of time.

There’s more, though: As I’ve said, I think the whole TwitBook real estate culture is closing on the wrong objectives. You don’t need a phalanx of fair-weather friends and you don’t need filled-out contact forms in toilet-paper quantities. What you need are closed transactions — paychecks. If you’re not closing on paychecks, you are not only wasting your efforts, you are busily working your way toward bankruptcy and starvation.

Now isn’t it a happy coincidence that so much of that TwitBook culture is driven by vendors? How could it be that the people who are telling you to develop your imaginary sphere of tenuous influence are precisely the same people who want to sell you the alleged solution to the problem they helped you create: No paychecks.

That TwitBook culture is what drives the REBC movement, ultimately. Not everyone is a vendor — far from it. Most of the REBC folks are nice people who have gotten fairly good at closing on the wrong objectives and are now ready to help you achieve astounding results at making pretend-friends and collecting pretend-leads. And, as with my experience at Seattle, the vendorsluts slither through the throngs looking for signs of Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt, the mask of confusion that marks you as their mark, their natural prey.

I’m told that the Twitbook nonsense has metastasized, in Brad Inman’s Agent REBoot events, into an outright anti-sales message. Everything that matters consists of fake bonhomie among fake friends, and even thinking about making money at work is evil. If we all just make enough “friends” on-line, we’ll all be fine. Meanwhile, buy, buy, buy from the vendorsluts who are the entire roster of speakers at all Inman events. Don’t be a dirty salesperson — heaven forfend! No, let us bring the leads to you, all for only a huge chunk of your gross commission income — if you have any.

This is not good. I’m a geek, big time. By now, I’m doing things I can’t even teach, things I can barely describe intelligibly. I’m a do-it-myself geek, too, which Jeff hates, but this is why I can do things I can’t describe to other people, because I invent every wheel I roll on. But: I am much better at marketing than I am at selling, and this is why I devote so much of my time and thought and effort to getting better at selling. Marketing will bring the buyers and sellers to me, but it’s selling that will get us all to the closing table — which is where the paychecks are distributed.

The unconferencing idea is not a bad one, but it wants real experts — people who know something that should be learned and are capable of teaching it. A convocation of enthusiastic amateurs can be fun, but no one is going to learn anything useful. Worse, many people are going to learn, in detail, how to close on all the wrong objectives. And still worse, the vendorsluts are going to have themselves a jovial, jocular field day feasting on the fearfully befuddled.

I’m not selling anything to you — and I don’t love it that I have to defend myself, so often, from people who cannot see anything larger their their own stunted souls — and I’m pretty sure I’m wasting my time even raising these points. The bar camps will continue, not alone because they’re easy and cheap to set up — and fun to attend, in a time-wasting kind of way.

But: If you really want to learn something practical, spend your time and money studying with real experts — and then go home and actually apply what you’ve learned. By listening to Jeff Brown — and then doing what he said to do — Scott Cowan is going to make a lot more money than you will ever make by forging another couple hundred dozen cotton-candy “friendships.”

And if you or anyone wants to tell me that selling is unseemly, you might as well introduce me to your clients right now. They’re going to be my clients, eventually, anyway. I work for my living, and you’re just wasting time until you get a day job.

But: In the end: If your objective is to waste your time while pretending to work, a real estate bar camp will offer you a much better illusion of productivity than merely dicking around on-line. So go on and have yourself some fun. If you don’t want to learn how to become a great salesperson, I’m pretty sure someone will teach you how to become a great fry cook or cashier or barrista. I won’t see you at the bar camp, but it could be I’ll be seeing you at Starbucks someday soon — and that green apron looks good on almost everyone.

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  • 5 comments

    5 Comments so far

    1. Jeff Brown September 26th, 2010 1:07 pm

      Classic – “And if you or anyone wants to tell me that selling is unseemly, you might as well introduce me to your clients tight now. They’re going to be my clients, eventually, anyway. I work for my living, and you’re just wasting time until you get a day job.

      But: In the end: If your objective is to waste your time while pretending to work, a real estate bar camp will offer you a much better illusion of productivity than merely dicking around on-line. So go on and have yourself some fun. If you don’t want to learn how to become a great salesperson, I’m pretty sure someone will teach you how to become a great fry cook or cashier or barrista. I won’t see you at the bar camp, but it could be I’ll be seeing you at Starbucks someday soon — and that green apron looks good on almost everyone.”

      The sales concept I’ve employed with much success the last 20+ years or so, is what I’d teach anyone who’d listen. The whole ‘relationship’ thing has it backasswards — IMHO. Whatever your business, the public comes to you — or doesn’t — due to their perception of you as a pro who gets results — or not.

    2. Jim Whatley September 26th, 2010 4:37 pm

      I have an old Broker retired, I talk to to and ask advice. He always ask me “how is that going to help you sell Real Estate?”

    3. Rhonda Porter September 26th, 2010 8:16 pm

      I think the vendor influence is an issue–I’d like to see that leave REBC. It needs sponsors they should be more like “donors” or “donations” rather than “I sponsored and I expect my slime-time in the spot-light”.

    4. Al Lorenz September 27th, 2010 10:16 am

      The bar camp with Greg and Brian Brady was the first I ever went to. It was incredible for me in that I found there were real living, thinking people in the industry and hearing Greg and Brian was like trying to sip from a fire hose.

      I only attended it because I saw on BHB that Greg and Brian would be there. I attended the next Unchained event, and got a few more drops from that firehose.

      Since the first one was a good experience, I went to another in Seattle. I left early because it was a waste of time.

      I would only say that a bar camp might be worthwhile, if the right folks are there and you have access to them!

    5. Brad Coy September 28th, 2010 8:23 pm

      You’re on point with a lot of what you share here. For that I’m in your debt.

      My involvement in RE Barcamp has always been solely driven by the idea that we can do this for ourselves. I’m far more interested in what works in Real Estate from other practitioners than vendors or pro-speakers that don’t exactly practice RE sales.

      When I became a Real Estate professional, the only options were crappy fairs, lead by vendors and associations. RE BarCamp gave me and others the opportunity to take control of the show, break down concepts of the speaker/audience relationship and give a platform for me to manifest my own agenda for a day.

      Imagine that. A blank slate. A day, a room, some peers, and the opportunity to share whatever you want – do whatever you want.

      If I’m involved in organizing a BarCamp I offer you this: Contact the smartest people you know in the business and let them know were/what you want to brainstorm on … meet them there and I will provide the space, coffee, and lunch. What do you have to lose? You could do it yourself. AND that’s the whole point.

      > I don’t think it’s any accident that the first real estate bar camp was held in a bar

      Not true. We booked the first RE BarCamp at the Swedish American Hall in SF http://www.swedishamericanhall.com/ host to other BarCamps prior to ours.

      We were aware of the potential use of the music venue, Cafe Du Nord, downstairs as an option for Beer For Bloggers after the event. This was fully taken advantage of, I think we had it booked for an hour. Hardly enough time for any real debauchery :)

      FWIW people drink all the time at these events. I recall walking right into the bar at Phoenix Unchained. It was the only place to find the participants and organizers.

      I don’t speak in defense of all RE BarCamps. In fact I would encourage people to do their own research before heading to one in finding out who is organizing the event and perhaps what interest they have in doing so. From the very beginning we talked about what our individual agenda were in volunteering for such an effort. Well…. above you have mine.