When it comes down to it, real estate agents aren’t really in the real estate business – just as restaurant owners aren’t really in the food service business and roofers aren’t in the roofing business.

Sure, houses, land, apartments and storefronts are the commodities you help people buy and sell – but you’re still not in the real estate business. You’re in the people business. And, assuming you make a reasonable effort at mastering the real estate trade and the basics of managing your practice, if you are excellent at connecting with people, you cannot fail.

So, what are the secrets of the masters when it comes to connecting with people? A thousand books could not hold them all, but here are some great ones.

1. Do Not Forget Anybody

Some years back, I had an insurance agent named Larry Mervis. Larry was a WWII veteran – a captain and military intelligence officer who landed on Normandy Beach and served in the U.S. Army across Europe, all the way to Germany. Prior to D-Day, he actually met then-General Dwight D. Eisenhower, who was deep in the planning phases of the Normandy invasion. Ike asked about Larry’s family, and Larry told Ike he was worried about his father, a doctor in Chicago who was in ill health.

They didn’t meet again for over a year and a half. Then in Germany, shortly before the end of the war, their paths crossed again. “Larry! Larry Mervis!” exclaimed Eisenhower. “Good to see you! You told me back in England that your dad was falling ill. How’s he doing?”

Eisenhower was at the vortex of one of the most seminal events in history – with the fate of millions under his responsibility – and he still remembered a lowly captain by name, and his sick father back home. Larry was a loyal and devoted Eisenhower supporter for the rest of his life. Eisenhower was an ace at connecting with people – of all ranks.

2. Reach Out During Crises

In Rudy Giuliani’s excellent book, “Leadership,” the former Mayor of New York City writes at length about the importance of being present at funerals. He wrote that as mayor, of course he couldn’t attend every wedding or graduation he was invited to, but he worked very hard never to miss a police officer, firefighter or other city employee’s funeral. People remember who was there for them when the chips were down. They remember who made the effort. If someone you know is going through a crisis, be the one to pick up the phone. Make the effort.

3. Catch People Doing a Good Job

As a young army officer on a very cold day in Fort Knox, Kentucky, I went to the wash rack where my platoon was knocking mud and grime off the tanks after a field exercise. It was cold and miserable, and even though it was work typically conducted by enlisted men and non-commissioned officers, I wanted to be where things were happening.

Someone was underneath the tank in near freezing weather, going the extra mile with a pressure hose while getting soaking wet, cold and miserable in the process. I wriggled on my back under the tank to see who it was, I told him I saw what he was doing and appreciated the hard work, and in the process, I got as cold and miserable as he was.

That action came back to me a year later, when I learned from some of the non-commissioned officers and soldiers who were there, that that day made me as a leader. When I crawled under that tank, crawled out wet and freezing, and stayed out there with them, I made the transition from being the platoon leader to being their platoon leader.

4. Build Strong Teams

For starters, you should have an assistant. Maybe two. There’s a team right there. But as a real estate agent, you also represent your brokerage. You’re the link between the client, the lister or buyer and his or her agent, the title company, the underwriters, an attorney or two, and the many other people who pitch in to make transactions happen.

Take the initiative to make this team more effective – but be consistent with your experience level and expertise. A brand new rookie agent may not be able to do this as much with veteran colleagues. But you absolutely can and should be building up your own assistant, and helping them learn and grow.

Occasionally they may outgrow you, and leave. This is part of life. Take pride in your team members, never stop teaching them, and make them stronger. Even ones who leave will be your brand ambassadors and evangelizers for many years to come.

5. Put Your Cell Phone Down!

When you’re talking to someone, keep your cell phone face down on the table. Don’t even look at it. If it rings, there’s an opportunity for you to look someone in the eye and say, “It can wait. You’re the most important thing in my world right now.”

6. Learn Another Language

You don’t have to be fluent in it. Just make an effort, and seek out opportunities to speak it with native speakers whenever possible. Nothing but good will come of it.

I have an uncle who is fluent in Spanish and Portuguese as well as English, and who spent many years in South America directing sales efforts for a major American financial services company. He has two doctorates and is an expert on international finance. But he’s at his most impressive when chatting up a waitress or maintenance worker from Cuba, Columbia or Guatemala – because even though he can dial up his language and interaction skills to the C-suite level, he got there precisely because he has a knack for making the person in front of him feel appreciated and important.

And no – I never once saw him read messages on a cell phone when talking to someone in person – ever.

7. Send “Thank You” Notes

Every day. A small pack of “Thank You” cards will generate more ROI than any other investment you will ever make. Always handwrite them, and handwrite the address.

They don’t have to be fancy. I’ve gotten callbacks from plain old 3-by-5 inch index cards. I’d travel with a pack of cards and a book of stamps, and I’d mail a handwritten thank you to everyone who spoke with me that day. That was my discipline before I went home – get a cup of coffee and get my cards out, that day. The phone will ring.

Naturally, there are many, many other techniques and principles like these that you can utilize. It’s up to you to adapt them to your practice, your personality and your environment.

Readers: Think back through your own experiences. What have been the most memorable and effective things you’ve seen great leaders or great salespeople do? Sound off in the comments!