Are you still marketing your business with personal brochures, glamour shots of yourself taken more than a decade ago, and other agent-centric approaches? If so, it’s time to shift gears to fit the demands of the next generation of buyers and sellers.

Real estate has evolved over the last several decades from being broker-centric to being agent centric, and then to being client-centric. In the client-centric model, the agent was seen as a "trusted adviser" who guided clients through the buying or selling process. The question is: What model is best suited for today’s clients?

The "Trusted Adviser Model" (as well as the agent-centric "me-me-me" models) is still common in real estate. If you’re still marketing using the "we’re No. 1 approach" or plastering your face all over postcards, bus benches and billboards, your money and time are better spent making your materials more client-centric.

Different generations require different approaches

Today, agents must modify their marketing and negotiation strategies to adapt to four different generations. For those born before 1965 (boomers and their ilk), the trusted adviser model is still important since they value expertise.

They expect their Realtor to know more than they do. This includes having a strong knowledge of the inventory, strong negotiation skills, and a mastery of the best technology.

In contrast, those in Gen X and Gen Y (born after 1964), don’t value expertise in the same way. A major source of friction between older agents and younger clients has to do with how older agents approach this important issue.

The older agents understand the value of their knowledge and how it can help younger clients achieve their real estate goals, and it can be particularly frustrating for them when younger clients seem to ignore what they have to say.

The model for 2011: The Trusted Resource Model

The new model for 2011 is what I call "The Trusted Resource Model." Most agents would agree that the deals that go the most smoothly are those in which everyone works together. This team approach creates a win-win environment for virtually everyone involved. This model is neither agent-centric nor client-centric.

In the more traditional Trusted Adviser Model, the agent often tells the client what to do. The challenge is that most people want to be in charge of their own decision-making.

The Trusted Resource Model establishes the agent as a conduit of information. The agent’s role is to provide the best information possible so that the buyer or seller can make the best decision possible.

To illustrate, it’s common for agents to recommend list prices on a listing appointment. The strongest agents will also outline a 90-day marketing plan that they will use to sell the property. This approach falls into the The rusted adviser model.

In the Trusted Resource Model, the agent outlines a 90-day marketing plan and then asks the seller for input about which services the seller would like to use in marketing the property. The agent also provides the comparable sales information. The key point of differentiation here, however, is how this is handled.

In the Trusted Resource Model, instead of telling the seller, "You should list your property at $244,500," the agent would say the following: "As you can see from comparable sales, the properties in this area are selling from $120 to $150 per square foot. The properties that have sold for $140 to $150 per square foot were all built in the last five years.

"Properties with amenities similar to yours that were built in the 1960s, are well-maintained, and have not been updated, have been selling for $120 to $135 per square foot. Based upon these numbers, where would you like to position your house in the marketplace?"

The power of this trusted resource approach is that it works with all generations. While the boomers may appreciate the fact that an agent has searched out and compiled the information they need, Gen Xers may appreciate being directed to where they can find the information. Those from Gen Y may prefer to do their own research, but they tend to check with their friends rather than searching exclusively on their own.

The Trusted Resource Model puts the agent in the position to provide access to the information and knowledge needed to close the deal. The client determines what and how to use that information.

In fact, the most important thing for real estate agents to keep in mind in almost any aspect of the real estate transaction is: "It’s not your house, it’s not your mortgage, and it’s not your decision."

The script that illustrates this and that is a great way to end almost any close is this:

"It’s your house. It’s your decision. What would you like to do?"

If you’re looking for a way to work with all generations that really works, make yourself into your clients’ most trusted resource.

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