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By Robert D. Leslie, CPYB – Northrop & Johnson Massachusetts

Robert LeslieOver the past 40 years I have constantly tried to preach to all of my brokers that we are not salesman. The only product we have to sell is ourselves. That said, we have to use all of our energy and talent to convince the buyer that they should be dealing with us exclusively. This requires developing a relationship where the buyer trusts their broker. Trust comes when the buyer believes you working in their best interest and not trying to sell them on any particular boat. It should be obvious that a broker does not need to sell any particular boat as long as the buyer buys the boat from him or her. Sadly this is lost on many brokers who go on and on about the virtues of the particular boat they are showing trying to sell the buyer on that particular boat. Following are some easy ways to gain the trust of your client.

First and most importantly listen to him or her. Ask them what they like or do not like about the particular boat you are showing them. Amplify the points they like and just agree with them on the points they do not like. Don’t try to talk them out of their objections unless they totally misunderstand a particular point.  It is better to build up their trust and show them another boat.

If there is a partner present always, always ask what they think. This is particularly true for husband and wife teams. For some reason brokers often forget they are a team. Listen to her and keep her in the conversation. Don’t just address the man.

When you show a boat the best thing you can do is just stand to the side and keep quiet. Let the buyer walk around and carefully observe their emotions and expressions. The most annoying thing many brokers do is start rattling off inane comments like this is the Main Salon, this is the galley, and now we are in the master stateroom… etc. Just keep quiet and let the buyer, get used to the boat. After a few minutes start asking what they think of this feature or that feature. Soon you will get to know what they like or do not like and then you can zero in on a boat that will work for them. It is quite possible that after a few minutes on board the buyer will like the boat you are showing more and more. In the mean time you will be building a trust relationship with the buyer. If the client likes the boat ask them if they want to make an offer before they leave the boat. The best time to ask is when the buyer is most emotionally involved in the boat; not later when they get home and the boat is just a distant memory.

If the buyer does not like the boat it won’t hurt to point out a few flaws or problems with the boat as well as a few positives about the boat. This will all add to your credibility. It is good to point out a few flaws on any boat you show even if they like the boat. It builds your credibility and if they like the boat they will just accept it as part of the compromise they need to make on any boat they find.

You, as the broker, must bring added value to your clients in order to gain their trust and to distinguish yourself from all the other brokers. Added value is information that other brokers either don’t know or don’t work hard enough to get. You need to study the entire market niche that your client is interested in. You need to know all the comps out there: their prices, their history, recent sales, motive for selling to name a few. The more information you have the more valuable you are to your client. You get information by networking with the brokerage community, going to open houses, asking brokers about boats other than their own listings. Most brokers will know something about the boats that are comps to their listings and usually love to tell you everything that is wrong with them.

Remember that a good broker is constantly asking questions, listening to the clients and observing the clients reactions. If you do your job right you will have a client for life and many, many referrals in the future. You will have clients who insist that their friends buy their boats from you.

Robert Leslie, CPYB  is the Retired Managing Director of Northrop and Johnson – Massachusetts. Under his management this office has grown to be one of the largest yacht brokerages in the Northeast. Robert served as president of The Yacht Architects and Brokers Association (now YBAA) from 1990 –1992. He is an active member of the Corinthian Yacht Club in Marblehead, Massachusetts.

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Paul McKenna   on Friday 12/20/2013 at 12:57 PM

Great stuff Bob......and well said. It's always a good reminder to keep to the basics; listen & learn is the best way to gain the respect and trust of your clients.
Thanks for contributing your experience.

James Weir   on Friday 12/20/2013 at 04:08 PM

Robert... this is some great information and well written. Thanks.. James Weir

Alan Hamerstrom   on Friday 12/20/2013 at 06:43 PM


Your philosophy is almost identical to what made me successful. You do not need commentary from me, but perhaps it will be useful to someone anyway.

First, let me say that I think you write beautifully and think very strategically. Kudos to you!

We are both retired now and in a somewhat reflective mood about our careers. I would guess that we share a little urge to give a little back to an industry that was so good to us.

You emphasized “trust.” I agree but articulated it as building “mutually-justified loyalty.” I was very open about wanting that kind of relationship. It was a turn of phrase that appealed to people.

You emphasized hanging back so that the customers never felt they were fighting any sales pressure. I took it a step further. I consciously tried to create an environment in which customers took the initiative. I wanted them to ask for my opinion. I wanted to create no obstacles to achieving that situation. It is an art.

You said you would ask the customers if they would like to make an offer while they were on the boat. I would do the same, but I would ask, “Would you like to make an offer of whatever this boat is worth to you?” If they did and many such offers got turned down, it cemented trust in my handling of offers; and it set a pattern that they did not want to repeat endlessly. They really wanted an offer to be accepted, so the sooner they learned to offer what a boat is worth, the better.

My compliments to you, my friend. You certainly deserve the success you have had - which is worthy of great respect.


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