Interview with Ken Brand
Less Blah Blah More Ah Ha: How Social Savvy Real Estate Agents Become Trusted, Preferred, Referred -- and Rewarded
Reviewed by Irene Watson for Reader Views (8/11)
Today, Tyler R. Tichelaar of Reader Views is pleased to interview Ken Brand, who is here to talk about his new book, “Less Blah Blah More Ah Ha: How Social Savvy Real Estate Agents Become Trusted, Preferred, Referred—and Rewarded.”
As a leader, mentor, speaker, parent, amateur athlete, real estate sociologist, husband, and Transmedia anthropologist, Ken Brand has been involved in more than 16,700 real estate transactions since 1978 in San Diego, Austin, Aspen, and The Woodlands, Texas. When not helping, Ken’s typically floor-burning up the racquetball court or unearthing third gravitating bodies in films, books, social media, and the majesty of life’s daily spectacle.
Ken Brand is the Sales Manager of Prudential Gary Greene, Realtors’ multi-award winning Research Forest Office in The Woodlands, Texas. Ken also presents at social media events, is a guest contributor for one of the nation’s most read online real estate magazines: AgentGenius.com, and teaches sales and business development classes for Prudential Gary Greene, Realtors (Houston, Texas) and The Wizard Academy (Austin, Texas).
Tyler: Welcome, Ken, and thank you for the opportunity to interview you today. Before we start talking about your book, will you tell us a little about your background in real estate?
Ken: In 1978, I began my real estate career as a neon-green, twenty-three year old, San Diego native knucklehead. I really struggled the first year or so. Not because the market was horrible, but because I didn’t understand that to get paid in the pay-for-performance, your-raise-is-effective-as-soon-as-you-are real estate business requires hard work and dedication.
So anyway, being a late bloomer, but not stupid, and unable to stomach leaving the real estate business to become a wage slave, I became a student of the game. I watched what other successful agents were doing and I modeled their best behaviors. I read books, listened to cassette tapes (way back then that’s what we had), attended seminars, worked hard, and practiced like crazy.
Unsurprisingly, good things began happening, as they always do when you do the right things, with the right people at the right time.
Over my thirty-three year career, I’ve experienced my share of spectacular face-plant failures and some worthy wins and accomplishments as a Top Performing agent, new home salesperson, marketing director, brokerage company owner; then sales manager, writer, blogger, speaker, author, and right now, I’m an interviewee. It’s an awesome business; I can’t imagine having a normal job, Tyler. It’d kill me.
Tyler: What made you decide to write “Less Blah Blah More Ah Ha”?
Ken: You know Stephen King right? The famous author? He wrote some scary stuff; my favorite book was “The Stand,” but did you know he wrote “Shawshank Redemption”? I love that movie!
Anyway, Stephen King wrote a book on writing titled “On Writing.” In it he shares, “Writing is refined thinking.” It’s so true . I’ve always used writing as way to refine my thinking and hopefully make my sharing more attractive, relevant, and valuable.
Way back when, when I decided to become a polished professional, instead of a hopeful always-getting-ready-to-get-ready pretender, I carried around a little spiral binder and an ink pen. When people asked me zinger type questions; questions that made me sweat, stammer, hem-haw, and face plant, I’d sit down somewhere quiet, get my pen out, and write out different types of answers. I hated the feeling of embarrassment that comes with not knowing what I was talking about, and being unable to help my clients as well as they deserved.
So, that’s how my interest in writing began; I’d write their hot seat question in my spiral binder and work on multiple versions of an answer until I had what I felt was a promising and attractive response. This practice paid huge dividends over the years. Plus, being prepared made me more self-confident and choosable. I go into more detail about the career-changing importance of preparation in Chapter Ten: Are You Prepared To Reap While Sluggards Sleep?
The idea of sharing the best of what I’ve learned popped into my head after attending a Wizard Academy writing class in Austin in February of 2008. What shoved me from thinking about writing a book, to actually beginning, was learning that I could accomplish what seemed an impossible task, little by little, over time. The idea was to write a weekly blog post, and over time I’d have the DNA material for my book. Writing a Chapter a week didn’t scare the crap out of me, or feel so daunting. So I began.
Another thing that really helped is that I was asked to be guest contributor for a super widely read online real estate magazine blog called AgentGenius.com. It was a big honor, and because I had made a commitment to contribute weekly and I was accountable to someone else, I did it.
Writing weekends, evenings, and early mornings, it took two years to write the book and one year to organize, rewrite, edit, and publish. Sounds like a long time, but it’s done and here I sit with a smile on my face, talking to you. Life is funny.
Tyler: What specifically would you say the “Blah Blah” in the book’s title refers to?
Ken: Generally, I find that we’re all fed up with salespeople and lame sales pitches that bore us to the bone about how awesome and spectacularly Number One they or their products and services are. It’s beyond “yawn” these days. It’s freaking annoying. That’s where the “Blah Blah” came from.
Specifically, I wanted to share ideas with my brothers and sisters in the selling world; How Not To Be That “Blah Blah” Guy. Blah Blah is the kiss of death to a salesperson. Instead of boring or pissing people off, I wanted to share an alternative approach. A way of selling that wasn’t selfishly centered on the salesperson. Instead of shouting, bragging, chasing, capturing, closing hard and feeling like crap about it, I wanted to share some methods for earning trust and success by listening, sharing, solving, and serving others.
Tyler: Would you give us one example of how you earn trust by listening, sharing, solving, or serving others as a real estate expert/agent?
Ken: Sure. Most of us grew up learning and using the Golden Rule as a How-To Guiding Light for treating others: “Do unto others as you would have done unto you.”
What could be wrong with this sincere approach? It sounds logical, caring, trustworthy, and smart. But even though our heart is in the right place, a one-size-fits-all (how we want to be treated) approach leads to disappointment for everyone. The good people we’re serving, and hope to serve, are unique. Their preferences are personal. Their needs, desires, and challenges are as varied as their personalities. To become trusted and preferred, we need to turn our intentions and attention around. Instead of delivering what we think is best for them, because it’d be best for us, everyone wins when we laser focus on them, how they want it, when they want it.
How do we know what others they desire, want, and need? Simple, we redirect our sincerity and we ask, instead of assume. We listen more than we talk. As our Guiding-Light we use the 2.0 version of The Golden Rule, which is all about them, “Do unto others as they would have done unto themselves.”
I share the what, when, why, and how details for the 2.0 Rule in Chapter Seven.
Tyler: And how about the “Ah Ha” in the book title? What would make a prospective homebuyer or seller say “Ah Ha” about his or her real estate agent?
Ken: Geez, Tyler, that would take a twenty-four chapter, 270 page book to explain;-) Seriously, in the book I lead the reader through a progression of philosophies, ideas, behaviors, actions, and activities that cause you and me and everyone else to go, “Wow, this cat is really different!” That’s where the “Ah Ha” comes from. Also, readers of the book have shared how they felt a 1,000-Watt Ah Ha Light Bulb goes off when they see universal truths shared and organized in a fun, counter-conventional, and easy-to-read format.
Tyler: What would you say is the most frequent or common “Ah Ha” moment people have from reading the book?
Ken: Probably the biggest Ah Ha is when readers discover that they can earn success with self-respect. What I mean is, instead of feeling forlorn and stuck using traditional tactics like overt aggression annoying friends, chasing strangers, and selfish-selling, readers discover that they can attract, uncover, and discover opportunities in ways that are respected, valued, and appreciated. Who doesn’t want to feel better about himself and what he does? Who doesn’t want to be appreciated and valued, instead of shunned and devalued? It’s an Ah Ha moment when the smog of disappointment lifts and the sun shines.
Tyler: Who would you say is your intended audience? Is it real estate agents, or would prospective home buyers also benefit from reading the book?
Ken: I’m sorta surprised, Tyler. I wrote the book with real estate agents in mind, but I’m hearing from readers in and out of the real estate business, and they’re sharing that the book is totally relevant to anyone in the business of building and earning trust, listening, sharing, solving, and selling. How to connect and succeed in sales with self-respect is universal in appeal.
Tyler: Ken, will you tell us about how the book is organized?
Ken: I designed the book to lead the reader through the three stages of social savvy success. In Stage One, the reader discovers the philosophical foundations for becoming more visible, choosable, and referable. In short, how to attract, instead of chase. In Chapters One to Eight, readers learn precisely what business they are really in; The Two True Secrets to Success; and the high-impact dynamics of Top of Mind Awareness.
But as we all know, it’s not enough just to know what to do. Most fail to succeed because they get in their own way. Stage Two of the book acknowledges and addresses the self-imposed emotional and mental obstacles that stop us from moving forward. Chapters Nine through Thirteen cover how to face and consciously to conquer subconscious fears; slay self-doubt; why it’s wise to use psychographics to connect with your tribes, networks, and niches; what The Golden Rule 2.0 is all about, and why we can’t win without it. Of course, no modern book would be complete without a chapter on how to ride the social media wave; enhance character-confirmation; and become discoverable, findable, and sharable (aka, how to become omnipresent).
Once we know how and why things work and how to get out of our own way, it’s time to apply some practical, simple-to-follow ideas that will help you attract, discover, and create new opportunities. Stage Three (Chapters Fourteen to Twenty-Three) shares forty instantly implementable action events that put everything the reader has learned into play—becoming trusted, choosable, referable and rewarded.
Tyler: Ken, I like your use of the word “choosable.” Would you give us one example of how a real estate agent can become “choosable,” which I assume you mean as the reason why a potential buyer would choose one real estate agent over another?
Ken: That’s correct. We’re overwhelmed by choices these days. For example, in the real estate biz, when we get ready to buy or sell, there are dozens, maybe hundreds, or even thousands of real estate agents to choose from (depending on the size of your city). As service providers, one of the most important things we must do is create indelible Top of Mind Awareness tattoos in the minds and memories of everyone we know.
Top of Mind Awareness is the first mental recall within a particular category. My category is real estate. When someone has a need for real estate services, if my name, face, and trustworthy reputation don’t pop into their minds as their first or second choice, I’m totally screwed. Thankfully, there’s an easy to understand and simple to implement method for creating Top of Mind Awareness.
Basically, there are three ingredients, relevant, remarkable, and repetitious contact, sharing, and conversation. In Chapter Four, I go into sixteen pages of detail, revelation, example, and application. Top of Mind Awareness is like oxygen; without it, our success suffocates.
Our reviewer at Reader Views, Irene Watson, mentioned that each chapter has a cliff-hanger that makes people want to keep reading. Will you give us an example of one?
Sure. “Now that we’ve kicked self-doubt’s ass, our fear feelings are in check, and we’re racing forward, in the next chapter let’s revisit the subject of perfect practice and the power of preparation.” From Chapter Nine: Are Fear And Doubt Strangling Your Success?
Is there a workbook aspect to the book as well?
Yes. I didn’t want to share a bunch of bright ideas that would go dim due to inaction. Taking action is key, so I’ve included step-by-step what-to-do-next Action Plans, several short, but revealing, self-quiz evaluations, and most importantly, a It Takes Contact To Make Contracts—Daily Checklist. If readers use these tools like they brush their teeth daily, they can’t fail to become trusted, preferred, and referred. Another positive side effect is a feel-good feeling of pride about doing work that is appreciated and paid for.
The book’s subtitle says it will teach real estate agents how to become trusted and preferred. Will you give us one example of how that trust can be acquired?
Good question. Trust is earned by behaving in trustworthy ways—duh, right. Even though we’re good people and we mean well, in our quest for success it’s easy to slide into behaviors that are counterproductive.
One of the many examples in the book can be found in Chapter Six: Why The Future of Your Future is Psychographic. In this chapter, I explain why it’s so important to join tribes, clubs, and communities of people who have the same passions as you. One of the mistakes many agents make is joining a business organization or club like the Chamber of Commerce. It sounds like a good idea; join a club filled with business people, make friends, and chase exchange leads.
Here’s the big problem, unless you’re burning with passion about the Chamber of Commerce’s mission, those who are will perceive you as a poser taker, trolling for leads. Not a “passionate about our cause” tribe member. In this example, if our passion for the cause isn’t sincere and evident, members won’t trust our motives or us. As a result our efforts go fruitless. Members of a tribe don’t share with posers and people who troll for leads. To earn trust with fellow tribe members, you have to choose a tribe, network, or niche that shares your passion.
The reason this is critical is because people like people who like the same things they do. We open up and share more with people we like. The more we know about someone, the more we trust him or her. Given a choice, we tend to hire or recommend people we know and trust. Joining tribes with compatible interests is key to success. The good news is that understanding this allows us to join groups and do things we never thought we’d have the time for. Things like Bunco and book reading groups, yoga and exercise classes, charities close to our hearts, PTO and GNO. Instead of working hard to impress and chase leads, we can relax, enjoy ourselves, and take the focus off of business. When we do this, what happens, happens naturally; opportunities to listen, share, solve, and serve present themselves effortlessly.
Throughout the book, I guide the reader around pitfalls and brick walls, by explaining and sharing examples of natural and appreciated methods and behaviors that earn trust, deepen connection, and foster long-term success.
Ken, will you explain what you mean by “psychographic”?
Most everyone’s familiar with the term “demographics.” Demographics group people into categories based on physical and external similarities like zip code, age, income, and education.
“Psychographics” group people into categories tribes, networks, and niches based on shared psychological and personal similarities like activities, interests, and opinions. People connect more deeply with people who share a passion for the same activities, interests, and opinions as they do. Joining compatible tribes, networks, and niches is one sure way to succeed. Joining the wrong one sucks the joy and success out of your career.
Ken, did you write this book when the real estate business was suffering its heaviest around 2008-2009, and do you think the market has improved now?
I’ve experienced three real estate depressions; I think this one has been the most hateful. I think things are slowly improving, but it depends on where you live. Real estate markets are hyper-local in nature. For example, in the market I serve, The Woodlands Texas area, the market is definitely on stable footing, other markets in other cities can be dramatically or slightly better or worse. But overall, I believe things are improving, which is great for all Americans.
What we real estate agents need to keep in mind is this: No matter what the condition of our market, everyday, people buy and sell homes. Lack of success is not a function of market conditions; it’s a matter of who’s going to earn the business. Who has the brightest Top of Mind Awareness, who’s earning trust, who’s listening harder, sharing what’s relevant, solving problems and focusing on others. Doing the right things, with the right people at the right time will always lead to success. This is what my book is all about.
That’s the long answer Tyler. The short answer is yes. I wrote most of the book during this recent depression. But I didn’t write the book for that reason. What I’m sharing in the book works in any market—boom or bust. Provided readers work their butts off, putting what they’ve learned into practice. There are no silver bullets or get-rich-quick shortcuts.
Ken, you mentioned two years of writing and rewriting though, so because of the recession, did you need to do any rewriting—did you add or remove anything as a result of new things you had learned that work or don’t work because of current market conditions?
You know what Tyler, that’s a good question. The DNA of what I’m sharing is based on proven and universally attractive and valued behaviors and principles. It just so happens that because we’ve all been kicked in the teeth these last few years, trustworthy behaviors are more important and more appreciated than ever. And I do believe that the ways we go about conversing, sharing, listening, solving, and serving have radically shifted. Not because of the ongoing recession, but because of technology and how hyper-busy we all are. Today, if we want to become socially savvy, attractive, and choosable, we have splash into social media and all that it offers.
In retrospect, the answer is “No” and “Yes.” Nope, these challenging times didn’t lead me to eliminate anything; but yes, I did include something I might not have a few years ago. Chapter Fifteen is titled How to Navigate Social Media and Cyberspace Frontiers.
Ken, you have a really interesting biography, and when I introduced you, I was curious just what you meant by being a “real estate sociologist”?
Yeah, it sounds kinda different and that’s the point. According to Wikipedia, Sociology is the study of human activity. Technically, I hold a real estate license and I’m in the real estate business. But in reality, I’m in the “people business.” Or as I like to think, I’m in the “human activity business,” along with every other salesperson.
To succeed in the people business, we have to focus on the needs, desires, and preferences of others. We have to understand behaviors that build trust and attract, and which behaviors repel and piss people off. To become remembered, referred, and hired we need to be supremely social-savvy. This means we all need to be feet on the street sociologists. Reading my book will give readers a head start and a fast path for just that.
And what about when you said you were a Transmedia anthropologist? What does that mean?
Transmedia is advertising and marketing telling our stories across multiple platforms and media. Anthropology is the study of human behaviors. A Transmedia anthropologist studies how to tell attractive stories. The way we used to tell stories advertise and market doesn’t work anymore.
For example, in the past, if you wanted to kick-ass-and-take-names, you could win attention and crush your competitors if you ran the most frequent, biggest, and loudest advertisements: newspapers, magazines, cold calls, bill boards, etc. What worked was spending more money on personal promotion for ourselves than property promotion for our clients. And in those ads, we’d brag about how magnificent and awesomely Number One YOU/we were. This old school, selfish selling approach doesn’t work worth a damn in today’s modern culture. People hate the bragging, ego me-me-me centered, selfish selling behaviors and advertisings. I know I don’t like it; how about you Tyler?
Today, our culture appreciates and responds to a focus on THEM. To succeed, we need to listen more than we talk, share more than we take, solve problems, and serve. Traditional broadcast-blast marketing is dying. Formally effective print advertising is now ignored. To connect, educate, inform, and build trust, we have to behave differently. To become memorable, discoverable, and sharable, we have to learn how to navigate social media and cyber space, and we have to embrace new marketing platforms and new media.
In the book, I cover these topics and share simple to understand and implement actions that position the reader way ahead of the behind-the-times slush pile of average and ordinary.
Transmedia anthropology is where it’s at, Tyler.
Now that I understand it, I couldn’t agree more, Ken. So, what do you think is the most difficult part of being in the real estate business today, and how does “Less Blah Blah More Ah Ha” help with that difficulty?
That’s a complicated question. It’s a challenge serving people who have had their financial teeth kicked in—which includes just about everyone in America. As a result of this turmoil and seemingly endless waves of volatility, people are skittish, skeptical, and impatient.
If you’re in sales, you’re working in a don’t sell-me or bullshit-me society. To succeed in an environment of jangled-nerves and frayed-trust requires that we behave in trustworthy ways like never before. My book has trust building DNA ideas coursing through its veins. What to do, how to do it, when to do it, and who to do it with, are all at the reader’s fingertips.
Thank you, Ken, for the opportunity to interview you today about “Less Blah Blah More Ah Ha: How Social Savvy Real Estate Agents Become Trusted, Preferred, Referred—and Rewarded.” Before we go, will you tell us a little about your website and what additional information people can find there about your book?
Thanks, Tyler. Like I shared earlier, skepticism is natural, especially these days. I don’t expect people to spend their hard-earned money or valuable time reading my book if they don’t feel the payoff will be huge. If they’d like to learn more about what’s in the book and me, they can find tons of info visiting my blog at
The book is available on
in both print and eBook/Kindle format. On the amazon.com book page there are reader reviews and the “Click to Look Inside” feature has been enabled. This feature gives people a chance to preview excerpts from the book to see if the book is relevant and helpful.
And lastly, they can learn more about who I am and what I’m about by calling me at 832-797-1779, Google searching “Ken Brand” or connecting with me on Facebook, Twitter, and Linked In.
Thanks for the interview, Tyler. Cheers.
: Thank you, Ken. I don’t have to wish you much luck with your book since I know you’ll do your homework to make it a success. Thanks again for the informative interview.