There is a lot of talk about real estate agents being in customer service. Certainly those talking don’t mean this to be news. We get paid to provide very important and very difficult services.

I am a commission salesperson and have been for 35 years. Should I apologize for this?

I think of transaction management companies and title companies being in customer service, because they build their business on relationships with third-party referrals (from real estate agents, for example).

Real estate sellers and buyers need a solution, not a towel. We don’t provide real estate services for tips based on guests’ whims.

I will believe I am in the customer service business when I get paid a fee or hourly rate for services rendered to a real estate homebuyer or seller.

We are dealing with large purchases on behalf of families and individuals who need our help. My guess: This is one reason they don’t Google "customer service" when they want to buy or sell real estate.

Prospects expect me to find, qualify, show, and reassure them that they are making the right decision on homes that meet their needs both financially and emotionally.

Sellers expect me to know how to show their homes in their best light, to negotiate on their behalf, and to do so with as little inconvenience to them as possible. In my mind, knowing how to list homes at the right price is a service, but knowing how to negotiate and resolve sales-related issues is sales.

Allow me present a couple of scenarios, because positioning is so important to any business. What you don’t want to do, of course, is confuse the market — or even worse, yourself — in today’s real estate market as to whether you are in real estate sales or customer service.

Which of these sample ads would best fit your services?

1. "Looking for a service-oriented real estate agent to help you purchase your next home? Look no further. I am a Realtor. I will answer all of your questions by phone, text or e-mail seven days a week. Think of me as your concierge/chauffeur. If you don’t like my services because I was of no real help (you don’t buy), don’t pay me."

2. "Home shopping can be fun when you give me the great honor of providing more than 100 services to you at no charge. We laugh. We have lunch. We look at as many homes as you wish. You will absolutely love my service, and as always, I work for nothing and pay my own expenses.

"Gas prices got you concerned? Not to worry. My car is my office. Let me show you the home of your dreams. I am a no-pressure customer service professional. I am not a door-to-door salesman, but I do provide door-to-door service."

Seriously, try writing an ad describing the services you provide and how you work. You will be flabbergasted.

In 2005, I wrote what I call "The Real Estate Agent’s Creed" for our team and have shared it in training sessions. Call real estate sales professionals what you wish. The fact is, we are service-driven commission sales agents.

Here is the creed:

I am a real estate agent

"I am a real estate agent. I sell homes and help buyers purchase them for a living. I understand that most of my buyers and sellers will meet me with a high level of sales resistance. It is my job to help them lower that resistance to zero before I can expect them to move from resistance to acceptance.

"When meeting prospective buyers I have four — and only four — critical services I must complete successfully in proper sequence. I must remember that until sales resistance is eliminated, the prospect will not give me permission to sell him/her.

"My first task is to establish trust. To build trust I must first establish rapport, find common ground, speak and dress with propriety, be competent and professional.

"I dress conservatively. I don’t flirt, tell off-color jokes, or say things that can be misconstrued.

"For until I establish trust, I cannot expect the prospect to be open at a level deep enough to successfully complete my second task: establish needs.

"I must learn to ask relative questions and listen. I must learn to learn to listen between the lines and establish agreement that I completely understand the prospect’s needs and wants. When I reach this point, I will confirm my understanding that I completely understand his or her needs. Then and only then will I rightly assume a prospect is giving me permission to sell to him or her.

"If I do not do this, it follows that I will not be able to meet objective No. 3: Make a professional presentation in terms of the prospect’s needs. I will always remember that unless I am talking in terms of the prospect’s interests and needs, I will be talking in terms of my own, and this will always increase resistance.

"I must always show only those homes that meet the buyer’s requirements because I understand that the buyer will not want to see homes a second time that the buyer did not, during the initial visit, picture himself or herself living in.

"Both the prospect and I have the right to expect me to meet my fourth objective: establish urgency, which enables the prospect to purchase one of the homes I show them within the time previously agreed upon.

"Therefore, it is up to me and only me to develop the prospecting, questioning, showing and selling skills I need to become successful working with buyers.

"I can do this.

"I will become proficient at establishing trust.

"I will learn to ask good questions and probe to make sure I understand them

"I will show only those homes that I know will meet the needs of my buyers.

"I will become an expert at anticipating and resolving concerns that might defer a buying decision, unless it is in the buyer’s best interest not to purchase.

"I help families make big, important decisions about where they live. It is both a privilege and responsibility.

"I sell homes for a living. I am proud of my profession. I am a real estate agent."

In closing, let me say that I understand completely about service, because I have taught for years that referrals do not come from satisfied customers — they come from enthusiastic ones.

We are in the service business, for sure. But we have known that for years.

What we have not known, perhaps, is how to sell ourselves on how important our professional services are to many who use them.

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