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How HELPING Sets You Apart from the Competition

Several weeks back I talked about how the secret to social media success was CARING. Today, I want to share a story that illustrates this point. It comes from a successful entrepreneur who used it in the offline world, and it’s all so simple that it’s genius…

Dan BlankTodd Smith was recently interviewed on Mixergy.com, explaining his career. One story that really stuck out was how he succeeded in selling real estate.

Todd was a licensed realtor working at a well-established real estate agency. He was young, and needed to find houses to sell. To get listings, he focused his efforts on people who were determined to sell their own homes. These are called “For Sale By Owner” or FSBO homes.

Now, many realtors target FSBOs, cold calling again and again, trying to convince the owners to list their home with a realtor, instead of going off on their own.

But Todd did something different.

On the first day a homeowner listed their own house for sale without a realtor, Todd would give them a call. But instead of pounding them with a sales pitch, he offered to help. He would tell them that he wants to help them with their goal of selling their house without a realtor.

He offered them a thick ‘sales kit,’ which included a ton of information on how a homeowner can sell their own home. There were marketing tips, negotiation tips, sample contracts, etc.

But that wasn’t all. He told them that if they did receive an offer, he would gladly come over and write up the contract for free. To top it off – he would even give them “for sale by owner” signs to put out in their yard.

So what was in it for Todd? Three things:

  1. He was competing with other realtors to woo homeowners to list their houses with an agency. By helping homeowners with their goals, he stood out from the crowd.
  2. He didn’t pitch homeowners to list their houses with him, he instead asked for a referral if anyone they knew ever wanted to list their house with a realtor.
  3. Many homeowners fail at seller their own homes, and when they consider listing with a realtor – Todd would be their first choice since he was so familiar and so helpful.

You can listen to Todd tell this story in his own words at around minute 21:45 of this interview. What was the result of his efforts? He was voted into RE/MAX’s Hall of Fame at age 28.

So what can we learn from Todd’s experience? A few things:

  • He was different because he helped.
  • He put the needs and desires of others first.
  • He offered to help before anyone else, uncovering opportunity.
  • He built trust that might not pay off until much later, if ever.

Most people are not willing to do what it takes to be successful. They take the quickest line to their goal, and disregard anyone who doesn’t serve THEIR needs at the moment they want them to.

Todd took a different route. One that helped.

Let me know if I can help YOU: @DanBlank, 973-981-8882 or dan@danblank.com.



  • giulio

    for me, what we should first highlight from Todd's experience is what comes before your conclusions:

    – he didn't focus on how to get the customer
    – he focused on how to overcome competition

    the rest was obvious… give out for free 🙂

  • Hi Dan,

    Thanks for highlighting my story.

    My story does have universal relevance. In today's world doing business this way will make anyone stand out from the crowd.



  • That was definitely a gem from that interview. Todd's strategy is wonderful. After hearing it I would definitely want him to sell my home and I'd for sure tell people about him.

    In regards to applying a similar strategy, at first I would be worried to be so generous but clearly it results in more sales and better business. I'm glad there are people like Todd to set an example like that.

    • Michael – indeed! Have a great day.

  • larrystewart

    This is a killer example, and an idea that's so incredibly applicable to online media today. Time and again, content ideas get shot down because they don't deliver revenue right now, or sooner. I've seen scores of ideas scrapped because there wasn't any revenue assigned to the projects BEFORE THE COMPANY HAD EVEN PRODUCED ANYTHING. How many great products would we be without if entrepreneurs insisted on having a revenue stream before they did any work on their ideas?

    The process of media success is two simple steps: 1) Identify information that a significant audience believes is valuable and difficult to find; and 2) Deliver it. In other words, help somebody. Help them live a more satisfying life or help them do a job more effectively.

    Media executives who can't imagine a way to capitalize on the reader/user affinity that develops around a helpful source of information will drive this industry to extinction.

    • Larry – great insights – thanks!

  • What a fantastic way to gain new customers. There's a lot to be said for giving away your best work for free.

    • Tom – absolutely! Thanks.

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