What does it take to work effectively with the next generation of buyers, sellers and agents? The first step is adjusting your lens to see the world their way.
At my recent Awesome Females in Real Estate conference, Cary Sylvester, executive director of technology for Keller Williams (a Gen Xer), and Michelle Holt, director of marketing for TheRedX.com (a Gen Yer), tackled the topic of how to work effectively with Gen X and Gen Y clients and agents. Here are eight key insights.
1. It’s not about the money
Holt is an excellent example of the Gen Y mindset. She left a high-powered job at USB working with high-net-worth individuals (mostly CEOs of oil companies) and moved to TheRedX.com because she wanted a job that gave her more freedom to express her creativity.
Holt says that Gen X and Gen Y expect their workplace to be fun and engaging. They also expect a meritocracy based upon their performance. Because their income is tied directly to their actions, a real estate career can be very appealing.
Strategy: First, if you have Gen X and/or Gen Y agents, do your best to create a fun work environment. They expect to have a say in what happens at work, so be willing to ask their opinions and to listen to what they say.
If you’re showing them property, make the process as fun as possible. Ask plenty of questions and write down what they tell you. This sends the nonverbal message that what they say matters to you.
2. Research, research, research
Before Gen X and Gen Y go to work for a company, hire an agent or buy almost any product, they research it thoroughly online.
Strategy: Managing your online reputation is critical. Begin by Googling yourself and your company to see what others are saying about you online. You can also use StepRep.com and Google Alerts to keep up-to-date on others’ posts about you or that mention you.
3. Never talk down to them
As Holt put it, "I don’t want to buy a house from my parent." Nothing will turn off a Gen X or Gen Y client faster than an agent who talks down to them by saying, "Oh honey, you don’t want to do that!" They want the truth, even if they don’t like it.
Strategy: Instead of advising a Gen Xer or Gen Yer on what to do, a better approach is to say, "Here are the pros and cons as I see it. What’s your opinion?" or "I’ve been noticing that you seem to like large dining rooms. Is that an important criterion to add to the features that you would like in your next home?"
4. Lifestyle matters more than the property
Many Gen X and Gen Y buyers are willing to accept a lesser property in order to have access to their preferred type of lifestyle.
Strategy: When you market your listings, make sure there is plenty of information about the lifestyle in the area, including videos, reviews of local restaurants, nearby recreational activities, and whatever else makes living in that location special.
5. Just because they do Facebook doesn’t mean they’re good at being face-to-face
According to Holt, because many Gen Yers rely heavily on texting, they may have poor telephone and face-to-face skills. Furthermore, they may not react well to face-to-face confrontations.
Strategy: As an agent who represents Gen Y clients, adjust your communication style to be like that of your clients rather than expecting them to adjust to your style. Also, be prepared to help them navigate through transaction-related problems. Always keep in mind that it’s their house and it’s their decision.
6. I have nothing to hide
Many members of Gen X and Gen Y aren’t particularly concerned about privacy. Their attitude is, "I have nothing to hide." Sadly, many younger people fail to realize not everyone shares this point of view.
Strategy: Authenticity and transparency are critical when you work with Gen X and Gen Y. If you are working with Gen X and Gen Y agents, educate them about your expectations regarding what constitutes appropriate behavior.
If you’re working with Gen X and Gen Y clients, your online persona must match who you are in person. Consistency matters. Don’t expect them to keep what happens in the transaction private. They share almost everything with their peer group.
7. They lack the ability to focus
The challenge with buying or selling real estate is the incredible amount of paperwork and details that must be managed on your client’s behalf. It’s hard for many younger clients to stay focused on everything that must be done.
Strategy: Break the transaction process into simple steps rather than overwhelming them with everything at once. The key phrase to keep in mind is "baby steps."
8. Show me the value
Gen X and Gen Y love discounts. If they are going to pay retail, they must be convinced that what they’re purchasing is really worth it. A key phrase they use is, "I want my money’s worth."
You must have a value proposition that clearly demonstrates how you are worth the fees that you charge. Your goal is to make sure they perceive they are getting what they pay for.
As Holt put it, "My generation has a different filter. Listen for the differences and be aware of how your filter differs from ours."