I was approached by a Realtor friend of mine a few weeks ago and got a typical complaint from her: "It is so frustrating! Too often I work with a client for weeks showing them property after property and then I lose the client to another agent when the client is ready to submit an offer."

This is no different than the complaint I have heard for ages from B2B sales reps in many industries: "I spend all the pre-sales time and effort with the customer, educating them, answering all their questions, going through permutations and combinations of configurations and helping them develop the specification only to have them just send the bid out for the lowest price. Inevitably, I lose the deal to someone who had spent none of the effort--in fact, since their cost of sales is super low so they can afford to bid lower than I can."

These two situations are symptoms of the same disease: You have a company "value add" problem. You are either not impressing your prospects and clients of your company's value add or your company's value add is not in alignment with the key leverage points of the buyer's buying process.

In the case of the Realtor, the client sees the Realtor as a commodity that is easily replaced. If the Realtor doesn't call the client back in 15 minutes, the client takes out the next Realtor's business card from the pile and calls a new Realtor. The client doesn't see the value add of a particular Realtor and believes that they are interchangeable. As a practical matter and as a very unpopular thing to say is that in most cases the client is correct--all Realtors have the same access to the same databases and can show the same properties. Every Realtor says they are experts in every neighborhood how can a client discern who really knows and whether that really matters? In the case of the B2B sales rep, his value add of providing excellent pre-sales support isn't in alignment with the buyer's buying process. The buyer may see the pre-sales effort as valueless in his buying decision or he may realize that the pre-sales is very valuable, but he is bound by his company's buying policies to go out for competitive bid and use the lowest cost bidder regardless of the pre-sale service.

What to do? For the Realtor, find a value proposition that is not about looking through MLS listing for clients and it is not that you are so "personable" or "reliable" (distinctions impossible to prove and are the same thing everyone else says). Create a perceived value and exclusivity that is distinct. For example, I recently met a Realtor in Ft. Lauderdale Florida not long ago whose sole focus waterfront property in the Ft. Lauderdale area. He only wanted to represent those home and handle clients who wanted those homes. He has distinction. He also can say that he has real expertise in the nuances of that market for both buyers and sellers and since he would turn down other clients not interested in waterfront property (or at least say he did) he was believable. He also didn't take listings that weren't waterfront. His message was clear and his website is in alignment: I know more about buying waterfront property in Ft. Lauderdale than anyone since that is all I represent--come with me and tap into my knowledge. His website, business cards and everything in his marketing supported this message. He turns away business outside his geography and brags about it (He may even have someone in his office that handles those deals, who knows?). Not many Realtors have the guts to do that but it all works out for him in the end.

Another strategy for Realtors is to be the Realtor that is actually stealing the deals rather than the one who has the deals stolen from them! Let someone else do all the work dragging around the clients from property to property! Have a focus that is more about "seen dozens of properties but still haven't found the right one, maybe you are working with the wrong Realtor…" which is a strategy that focuses on the frustrations of the clients. Likewise, a strategy that focuses on the transaction could be very successful such as "our firm is the firm to use when it comes time to work with the bank on a short sale. We have more experience than anyone getting banks to come around." This is creating the sales value at the point of transaction which, when done well, will keep clients or drive clients to you at the transaction.

For the B2B sales rep, stop being the nail, and start being the hammer. At a certain point in time, you need to have that honest yet uncomfortable meeting with the customer and explain to them that you can't work with them in the same high cost of sales format using your high cost and high value resources and then lose the business to a competitor with a low cost of sales just having an assistant generate a quote. Let someone else do the pre-sales and then you can be the one who is just do the bidding or better yet, sell the pre-sales service as a professional service that can be applied to the proposal amount. If the buyer can't correctly specify the RFQ without your pre-sales services, they will realize that they need professional services to buy the right thing and you will be positioned to get that work.