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Barbara Corcoran, Pick of the Litter

The concept of creating a sense or urgency around a sale is simple, but very effective when used in the right way.

Real estate mogul and founder of The Corcoran Group, Barbara Corcoran, learnt some of the tricks of the sales trade early on from her mum, a practical mother of 10. And she obviously took note of those lessons because she sold her real estate business in 2001 for US$66 million.

One of the best lessons her mother imparted was creating demand through urgency, explained after her children saw a queue of well-to-do people waiting to buy three Jack Russell puppies from their neighbour. The owner had given each person the same appointment, creating the demand for the puppies as they waited in line.

When Barbara’s sister Ellen asked their mother how this would make everyone want to buy, her mother’s matter-of-fact answer was: “Because everybody wants what everybody wants. And when there are ten buyers and only three puppies, every dog becomes the pick of the litter,” Barbara explained in the book The Way

Fast forward almost 30 years and the real estate agent was about to close her business when a developer asked for her help to shift 88 apartments in six buildings that had not moved for three years after the 1987 share market crash.

Suddenly her mother’s lesson returned to her and Barbara took the challenge to sell the properties, pricing each studio at $49,500, one-bedroom apartment at $99,500 and two-bedroom apartments at $165,500, no matter what the condition or position. It would be first in, best dressed.

She also removed the standard objections by negotiating with a bank to provide mortgages and rolled the maintenance charges into the sale price so the new owners wouldn’t have to pay them for two years.

“We’re simply giving the buyers one less cheque to write each month and moving the high-maintenance objection out of the way,” Barbara explained to her sales manager Tresa Hall.

Barbara had eighty-eight contracts drawn up ready for the buyers to sign on the day, each stamped with the words: “Consult your attorney. You have two weeks from this date to cancel the contract and receive your full deposit back.”

Running a three week campaign with no advertising budget, Barbara built interest day-by-day by not disclosing the addresses or unit numbers, instructing her sales staff to only tell their “very best customers” and allowing just one apartment per customer.

By the day of the sale hundreds of buyers queued around the block, with the first in line staking his claim at 4am that morning. The list of apartments with addresses and maps were given to the eager crowd at 9am sharp with instructions that they had to come back to that table to sign the contract and leave their 10 per cent deposit, otherwise the apartment would still be for sale.

“Like a Macy’s One-Day Sale without the clothes, people began to run the moment the list was in their hands. In the mayhem, everyone had a strategy for charting, hunting, darting, looking, rushing, signing and buying,” Barbara explained.

“By day’s end, eighty-eight proud new owners were celebrating their good fortune, and we had eightyeight cheques to deposit and had earned over a million dollars in net commissions,” she added, proving her mother knew a thing or two about the pick of the litter.  

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Barbara Corcoran, Pick of the Litter