There is a lot of discussion, both online and offline, about raising the bar for Realtors. I did some research in an attempt to figure out just what raising the bar is about. Education seems to be a big part of it.

There are many who believe that requiring more education to get and to keep a real estate license would make us all more professional.

The only common theme I can find when I read about professionalism is answering the phone. Apparently, that is what professionals are supposed to do and what consumers complain about: our lack of phone-answering skills. The talk about returning phone calls and answering the phone makes me smile.

There is a lot of discussion, both online and offline, about raising the bar for Realtors. I did some research in an attempt to figure out just what raising the bar is about. Education seems to be a big part of it.

There are many who believe that requiring more education to get and to keep a real estate license would make us all more professional.

The only common theme I can find when I read about professionalism is answering the phone. Apparently, that is what professionals are supposed to do and what consumers complain about: our lack of phone-answering skills. The talk about returning phone calls and answering the phone makes me smile.

I question why any consumer would do business with someone who can’t return a call. Instead of complaining, they should just move on.

Yet they complain about unprofessional real estate agents who don’t answer the phone or return calls. There are a zillion of us — they just called the wrong agent and need to move on.

Answering the phone is a very low bar, but there are many in all industries who have not yet achieved that level of professionalism and who can’t provide that level of customer service.

I know that when people call me they are surprised that I answer the phone. It is very easy to do, and I have noticed that it gives me a leg up on the competition.

Sometimes I get business just because I answered the phone, and I am not always the first agent to be called.

There is a simple secret to my ability to answer the phone. I have only one number, and one phone, which is a cell phone with two batteries. Why two batteries? My business runs on batteries and I believe that I am only as good as my weakest battery.

I don’t understand why people still have more than one phone number. I hate to give my secrets away to the competition, but answering the phone is very powerful and gives me an unfair, killer competitive advantage. …CONTINUED

If I were to give a new agent one piece of advice, it would be to answer the phone. It seems like a simple idea, but I am going to expand on it a bit. Have one phone number and put that phone number on everything.

My phone number is right on the Google search page and comes up under several searches related to my name and my real estate business. There is only one number, which means fewer choices.

If you drive by my listings, the for-sale sign has a rider on it with my phone number on it. My marketing materials and business cards all have that same number on them, as do my Web sites, blogs and numerous social network profiles.

Just one phone number. I don’t expect people to hunt me down or work very hard to contact me. After you read this paragraph try to find your own phone number on the Internet. If you can find it, you are on your way to being a professional.

It makes me crazy but the people who read my blog often contact me by phone, and usually while I am in my car. I have to spell out my e-mail address over the phone so that I can get them the information they are asking for, which usually has to do with real estate.

E-mail is more efficient than the phone, but I don’t get to decide how people contact me. I have to answer the phone so I can use e-mail to work with people who find me on the Internet.

My e-mail address is also very easy to find. Maybe people find the human voice comforting. Education is important for Realtors, but I suspect that if higher education was a licensing requirement we would have more educated Realtors who don’t answer the phone.

What we say when we answer the phone is important, but if we have not mastered the phone-answering skill we may not be able to communicate all that knowledge and professionalism to the consumers who persist in calling us.

Teresa Boardman is a broker in St. Paul, Minn., and founder of the St. Paul Real Estate blog.

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