Carmen Morris, who was born in the Dominican Republic and moved with her family to New York at age eight, was exposed to sales from a young age.
For 30 years her parents owned a family business, an Exxon gas station in Brooklyn. Her mother helped in the station but also exported clothing and hair products to the Dominican Republic.
Her grandmother had a grocery store. “I remember going with my grandma to the market to buy when I was three or four years old,” says Morris.
Morris stumbled on her first business at age 19. At that time a high school pregnancy automatically meant marriage, and her high school friend, who was pregnant, needed a wedding dress. Not able to afford the majority of the wedding offerings, the two young women happened on a store at 1385 Broadway in New York’s garment district that sold plain, no-frills wedding dresses for $60. They purchased a dress and then went across the street to buy the appliques, pearls, and other notions that would transform the simple dress into a fashion sensation.
At her friend’s wedding, one of the guests, a bridal shop owner, asked who had made the bride’s dress and soon found her way to Morris.
The woman, who thought Morris had made the entire dress rather than just adding the decorations, asked her how much she sold the dress for. Somewhat to her own surprise, Morris heard “$400” come out of her mouth.
The woman ordered two, leaving Morris a $305 profit. “That’s where I got my first taste of money,” she says. Still in her first year at Berkeley College in Manhattan, she switched her major to fashion marketing and found herself selling sometimes as many as five dresses a week.
After graduating from college, she worked for Ralph Lauren for six months and then had her own private label, staying in the fashion industry for 16 years. But in the late 1990s, when designers started to come out with secondary, less-expensive lines and manufacturers would show up at trade shows with cheap garments from places like India and Bangladesh, Morris’s business began to languish, and she had to find other work that would bring in the same kind of money.
She decided on real estate, and after six months working for someone else, she purchased a Re/Max franchise in Parlin. She also kept her export-import business with her own private label and owned a radio station in the Dominican Republic.
Morris will speak on “The Art of Closing the Sale,” Tuesday, May 15, at 6:45 p.m. at the Princeton Public Library for Greater Princeton Area SCORE. For information contact firstname.lastname@example.org or 609-393-0505.
Morris shares the processes she has used in the fashion and real estate industries to successfully make sales:
Listen to a client’s needs to create a sense of trust. When Morris meets a new client, her first goal is to make the person feel comfortable in her presence — by asking questions that encourage her clients to talk about themselves.
If she meets someone, for example, who is interested in starting an export business, she might ask: What are your goals? What are you planning to do? What ideas do you have that you are planning to develop? “From that conversation you create a sense of trust,” she says, adding, “You have to be sincere in what you’re saying, because people will always know if you’re not sincere.”
Keep the client’s needs, not your own, at the forefront. Morris notes that, especially in the real estate industry, she has walked away from many potential sales that she deems not to be in the buyer’s interest. She recalls that at one time she had a number of clients in Perth Amboy who were falling in with the trend to refinance their houses to take money out for other needs.
“I was completely against that because their mortgage payments would be increased,” she says. “You have to go to clients and let them know where you stand and what boundaries you do not cross.”
Her honesty paid off, and when the market got bad and some of the people she had advised against refinancing faced foreclosure, they often came back to her for help. By focusing on her clients’ needs rather than her own, she had created a sense of community that brought them back when they needed someone they could trust to help them make a decision.
“When you keep yourself honest the sale, even if it goes somewhere else, will come back to you,’” says Morris.
Provide information. A central role of a salesperson is to educate a potential client about a product or service. “If you don’t know your product, you can’t sell it,” says Morris. “Your job is to convince that person that your product is the best.”
Often in a competitive environment like the real estate industry, she says, sellers may tell an agent that they need to interview another agent. Or they may raise the fact that another agent has agreed to list their house at a higher price.
What Morris does in such cases is to encourage the seller to meet with other agents and to ask them to provide a pricing and a timing analysis, both of which may be critical to the seller’s decision-making process.
A timing analysis estimates exactly how long it will take to sell a house, and a pricing analysis estimates what it would cost a person to sell at a particular price versus keeping the house for a longer period of time to get a higher price.
Morris promises sellers that, if they take her on as an agent, she will provide these analyses, aimed at helping the seller make a decision that is based on information rather than simply a gut need to sell the house for as much as possible.
For sellers who need to get out of a house quickly, she says, it is often cheaper to price a house lower, which will tend to attract more buyers, making the house sell more quickly. By selling faster, the sellers will forego the often very significant costs of holding the house.
For her private label accounts in Dubai, she also uses customer education as part of her selling process. A client of hers in the beauty product industry was set to purchase a hair product from another company for a much lower price than Morris was offering for her product.
After Morris let her customer, who was very concerned about quality, know that the product being considered from the other seller had about half the amino acids as her product, she was able to win the account.
Ask for the sale. The number one thing that most business owners do not do, says Morris, is to ask for the sale, due mostly to fear of rejection and lack of confidence. To reduce this fear, Morris focuses on the pain that businesspeople will suffer if they walk away from a sale. “If it takes you five sales to pay the rent, and it is the 28th of the month and you haven’t made five sales, how much pain are you going to be in if you walk out and don’t ask for the sale?” asks Morris.
At the end of the sales process, Morris always asks for the sale, saying to her customers: “Can we go ahead and do this?” “Are we ready to do this?” or “I’ve prepared the package, here is where we sign.” To include the customer, she always uses the pronoun “we,” rather than “you.”
This use of “we” at the end of the sales process is almost a metaphor for the sense of trust that Morris works so hard to establish with her clients and that makes her so successful, closing at least 98 percent of all the listings she has gone after during her 15 years in the real estate industry.