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Dolly Lenz: Secrets of Selling to the Rich and Famous

Off the Cuff

She says she’s sold more than $8.5 billion in real estate during her career– more than any other broker based in the U.S. She makes a reported $8 million a year in commissions. Sometimes she has three Blackberries, sometimes 10. She sleeps an average of four hours a night; hasn’t taken a vacation in more than 20 years; and runs 10 miles every day. That’s Dolly Lenz, by the numbers.

Lenz is the larger-than-life vice chairman of Prudential Douglas Elliman, the U.S. real estate company. Her clients range from some of the biggest names in show business such as Barbra Streisand, Sean Coombs, Billy Joel and Mariah Carey. Then there are the leaders in business and finance, and an international clientele with deep pockets.

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Lenz, told Off The Cuff she’s happiest when she’s working. And as for vacation… “Likely I’d want to go to Shanghai, Beijing, Hong Kong, Singapore, and work… I don’t like the concept of vacation, I want to be busy, I want to be busy all the time, and I always worry that if I get to a point where if I’m not working I’ll forget how to work… it’s like this weird fear. So I want to continue just working so I remember how to work.”

Lenz has said that being successful in real estate comes down to listening to the client, knowing when to make a hard sell and plying the tricks of the trade. That can include the perfect plump of a pillow, the champagne glass placed casually on a coffee table and a winning photo of the property. As she told CNBC’s “Secrets of the Super Rich: Mega Homes:“ “ In this business, a photo is worth everything. It could be worth $30 million, it could be worth $50 million. A photo, to the owner, gets the property sold. So the photo is it.”

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But sometimes even Lenz, who’s been called 'Jaws' for her aggressive tactics, can’t get the deal done. As she told CNBC: “One of my most challenging days was the day I had to take Mariah Carey for her board interview for the potential purchase of Barbra Streisand’s apartment. It took seven months to get her a board interview. “ Lenz said she advised the singer to dress soberly for her meeting, as if “for a funeral.” “So she comes out of the stretch limousine, and she’s dressed in a mini-skirt and little black top. There was exposed skin,” Lenz recalled. “I said: ‘You’re dressed for a funeral?’ And she said, ‘Yeah, this is how I dress for a funeral.’”

Carey’s interview with the apartment board didn’t go as planned. She was asked about the American rapper and hip hop artist known as Notorious B.I.G. , with whom she’d collaborated musically. The rapper allegedly was a drug dealer before he found fame in the music industry. Lenz said that the board was “really grilling her. They say, ‘Will Notorious B.I.G be visiting you often? And she responded ‘Well, that would be difficult since he’s dead.’ ” The rapper had been murdered two years earlier. Lenz said the board thought Carey was “being flippant,” and rejected her.

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But Lenz told Off The Cuff she takes her disappointments in stride. “The piece of advice that I try to keep in the back of my mind when I’m having a really rough day is… it’s not that bad, no matter what it is, it’s not that bad. I mean look, I’ve had cancer twice, been cured twice thank God, been through chemo, gone through radiation, gone through every horrible thing you can imagine, so what can be that bad?”

When she’s not working – which is rare – or running, Lenz spends time with her husband and two children. “I would describe my balance as very good, my children would describe my balance as very poor. They feel very competitive with my Blackberrys. They think every time it rings it’s a competition with them that I’m not paying attention to them. They want absolute, undivided attention, it’s actually very cute.”

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