Dream holidays and dream clients, and how to find both.

Let me take you on a little journey. You wake up in the morning in a soft bed with fluffy sheets. It’s quiet and peaceful, with just the sound of the birds singing in the distance. You roll up the blinds (on the outside of the windows, on tracks) and the sunlight floods in. You then head upstairs – for the bedroom is downstairs, as it doesn’t need the view as badly – to the lounge, with its shiny parquet floor. From there, you head to the kitchen and make yourself a cup of rich, heady coffee. You then take it, and yourself, to the balcony, where you sit and contemplate nature. Spread out before you is a rolling lawn lovingly tended, with shrubs strategically placed here and there. At the end of the lawn, somebody has already climbed to the top of the boathouse, where they’re sharing the view you’re just easing yourself into. And what a view. A lake as still as a mirror, occasionally rippled by a passing boats, sculled by oarsmen in perfect unison. They glide by, and calm returns. You savour the coffee and the view, and life feels good. And yet, all of this is just 30 minutes from the hustle and bustle of Berlin city centre. Through the distant trees, you can see the occasional red blur of an S-Bahn train heading city-wards, with a reassuring clackety-clack. Sounds tempting, doesn’t it? Almost too good to be true. And yet it is true – I know, because I stayed there in April, and I’d recommend the holiday apartment without a moment’s hesitation. And now you’re tempted, aren’t you? Of course you are. We all want to find that secret hideaway, especially in a vibrant city. The perfect marriage of urban and rural, an oasis of calm that’s still within reach of one of the great capitals of Europe. You see how powerful a recommendation is? And when the description is laden with lots of sensory input (fluffy sheets, rich coffee, rattling trains) it feels even more real, and you begin to imagine yourself living it. You too can experience this peaceful idyll first-hand. But there’s just one hitch – and that’s where the inspired idea comes in.

Low-hanging fruit

Let’s say you owned the holiday home. Let’s say that in the beginning you really enjoyed it, but now work commitments mean you’ve got less time to spend there. So you rent the place out, and it’s a nice little earner. As long as you go through a reputable rental site, get a decent security deposit, and spell out the terms and conditions (in a warm, fuzzy way) things go swimmingly. And one day, you realise you’re not spending enough time there to justify keeping it on. So you decide to sell it, and list the property with an estate agent. Do you stop there? Of course you don’t – because you have the ultimate list of qualified prospects. We all know the power of the try-before-you-buy experience. From tonking with iPads in the Apple store to taking a shiny new hatchback for a spin round the block, we realise just how powerful it is to touch it, feel it, taste it, hear it and see it up close. And the qualified list is, of course, the people you’ve rented the apartment out to. They’ve all woken up in the bed, brewed the coffee, sat on the terrace and watched the scullers. They’ve enjoyed the rus in urbe (country in the city, a Latin expression that I’ve been wanting to slip into a blog post for years now) of the apartment that has it all. So unlike potential purchasers, who look at the estate agent’s details and take a quick tour around the property, they’ve actually experienced what it’s like to live there. It’s a no-brainer, isn’t it? And that’s exactly what the owner thought, when he emailed me last week, along with everybody else who’d stayed there (BCC’d, of course). Now here’s the clever bit, to add to the lateral thinking: instead of doing a crude sales pitch (You liked it so much, why don’t you buy it?) he simply wrote to say that after eight wonderful years, it was time to move on. He thanked everybody who’d stayed there, and let them know that the apartment would no longer be listed on the holiday site. And that was that. Except, of course, for the attached PDF, with all the details of the property, together with lots of lovely photos and the price. I was so tempted. But then I remembered that (a) 2014 is the year of downsizing and (b) I don’t speak German, though I’d like to and (c) I don’t want a mortgage and (d) I don’t have that sort of cash (€385,000) lying around. But maybe you do. In which case, be my guest.

Home sweet home

So there you have it. One story, three lessons. Recommendations are powerful, and sell better than any salesperson. All it takes is some satisfied clients, and a little encouragement. Language is even more powerful, especially when used to create a multi-sensory perception that conjures up the feeling (or in marketing speak, the benefits) of a decision well made. And the next sale is often much closer than you think. In fact, you already know where to find it. You just have to shake the trees a little, and it’ll fall into your lap. So what are you waiting for? Get shaking, and be sure to ask for referrals. Use language cleverly, and always think laterally. And start dreaming of Berlin and that piping-hot coffee.
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