The next generation of real estate agents is motivated, hungry for information, and eager to learn how to succeed. Their perspective, however, is an eye opener for those of us who are "old timers."
I recently had dinner with a friend who holds a regional training position for a major real estate franchise and who had just recently conducted a new agent training class. For the first time in many years, there were a large number of new agents in their 20s.
One of these agents asked very earnestly, "How can I sell to old people?" My friend asked, "What constitutes ‘old’? His answer: "Someone who is 40."
This agent was completely serious. He wanted to succeed and was eager to know what worked.
Another friend recounted a conversation he had with a Gen Xer. She claimed that older agents are "dinosaurs." His response, "The term dinosaur implies movement. They’re not dinosaurs, they’re fossils!"
Bridging the communication gap between the various generations is challenging. The "dinosaurs" in many cases are just as technologically savvy as many young agents. On the other hand, some are so far behind that they will never catch up.
In terms of the younger agents, they have great technological expertise, but many are poor at developing face-to-face relationships. Gen Yers also have huge issues about confrontation and criticism. You have to wonder how well they will do when a deal falls apart and everyone is screaming "Lawsuit!" at each other.
In response to the new agent’s question, here are five strategies that can help each generation achieve the best possible outcome with their clients regardless of their age.
1. Niche your business to serve people in your own age group.
If you are uncomfortable working with someone who is substantially younger or older than you, focus on building your business around those who are in your age group. Boomers still control most of the wealth in this country and are still actively engaged in buying and selling real estate.
On the other hand, with the median age of first-time buyers in the 30s, there is plenty of business to be done with Gen X and Gen Y. In fact, I’ve watched many agents begin their business when they were fresh out of college. They initially sold to their friends who were just beginning their careers as well. As their friends progressed in their careers, they moved into larger properties to accommodate their families.
2. Like attracts like.
Regardless of your age, a shared interest in a recreational activity, a charitable cause or a community issue can be an excellent way to attract potential clients. The goal is to build a personal connection with your clients. The way you do this is by asking questions and being genuinely interested in what they have to say.
I always made a point of knowing a little about a lot of different topics. For example, I had a physicist who wanted to buy a haunted house. He didn’t believe in that "mumbo jumbo." I didn’t pretend to have a grasp of the physics work he did, but asked him questions about the applications of his work.
We also had great conversations about "haunted" houses as well as houses with strange histories. Because I made a point of being interested in his personal interests, I listed and sold five properties with him.
3. Become a master of the inventory.
For new agents, the two critical things they must first master are the contracts and the inventory. Most top producers can price a property without even looking at the comparable sales. All clients want to know that their agent is technically competent. Regardless of your experience level, staying on top of the inventory is critical to success with all age groups.
4. Use a team approach.
Many older agents are teaming up either with their kids or with younger tech-savvy agents. When they work with their clients, they can offer the best of both worlds: the experience and marketing savvy of a seasoned agent plus the technological expertise of an agent who grew up working with computers and has a natural understanding about how to put technology to good use.
5. Be proactive, not reactive.
The scariest question for a new agent is, "How long have you been in the business?" To avoid having this question asked in the first place, it’s critical to be proactive.
For example, if you are on a listing appointment, put together a detailed marketing plan that includes a wealth of Web 2.0 applications such as syndication of the property information to multiple real estate portals, online video distribution, a virtual tour, etc. Also be sure to include proven strategies such as a toll-free call capture service and a single-property website (that uses the property address as the URL).
Thus, when the client raises that dreaded question about how long you have been in the business, answer by saying, "Not that long. Please compare my marketing plan and the other services I provide to the other agents you interview. Then choose the agent who you feel will do the best job of marketing your property."
When it comes down to it, real estate success comes from finding commonalities, providing exceptional service, and demonstrating business and technological expertise. This in turn creates a strong connection with your clients that motivates them to say, "I want to do business with you regardless of your age."