Recently  I attended my first Inman News-sponsored Agent Reboot technology event. Surprisingly, the speakers were not as charisma-challenged as I had expected.

The big difference between the old days and these days is that you do not remember how funny the speakers were, because it is not about the speaker. It is about the technology.

To a person, the speakers were interesting, relative, and at times entertaining. For perspective, let me say that the fact that I have gray hair and carry a yellow pad instead of an iPad doesn’t make me a technological Neanderthal.

Modestly, I am the reason man got to the moon and back. OK, maybe not the reason.

Honeywell snatched me from the jaws of a fun career as a young newspaper staff writer for the Lakeland Ledger during the space race and hired me as a tech writer to "help nontechnical people in Washington, D.C., understand what our guidance systems engineers were proposing."

At the time, I was 25 years old, with a bachelor’s degree in economics, and four years’ experience as an electronic countermeasures operator on the world’s largest bomber, the B-36.

Honeywell provided all the technology needed: typewriters; carbon paper; 12 graphic artists working at large cut-and-paste stations; a pool of about 30 typists; proofreading teams; a real photo shop; and printing presses that spewed proposals 24 hours a day.

You cannot imagine our excitement the day an electric self-correcting typewriter showed up. We could not help but wonder: "What are they going to think of next?"

So for me, the Reboot  event was truly a rebooting experience. For a full day, I had the opportunity to listen and learn from real technology world leaders and ask general real estate agents what they thought about what they were hearing. Then write about it.

Their response depended partly on their age and partly where they were with technology. To those agents young enough not to know what a typewriter was, Reboot was a taste of heaven. To the technologically challenged, Reboot is a great way for the unconsciously incompetent to become consciously incompetent in just one day.

I asked my standard question, "Are you familiar with the statement ’20 percent sell 80 percent?’" All but one had heard it. Then I asked if they thought technology was changing that percentage and, if so, by how much?

One Century 21 agent said he didn’t know, because he had lost the job he held for 24 years and did not know much about sales or technology. He added that he had only been in real estate two months and had only one closing under his belt. "But I know I need to learn it, so that is why I am here," he said. I didn’t quite know how to encourage him.

Tracey Strube, CEO and Team Leader for Keller Williams Realty in Tampa, Fla., said, "The percentage is still 20 percent, but it’s a different 20 percent." I got that and moved on.

I found myself listening for what the speakers believed to be true, before I got interested in their products. See if you agree with what they said:

  • "There is no piece of software that will make you a better Realtor."
  • "Agents must get real. You must focus on getting into the mind space of your target market."
  • "Technology is not an expense. It is an investment in your business. You must invest in ‘you.’"
  • "Agents must embrace, not resist change."
  • "You need to focus on what makes you money (prospecting and selling)."
  • "Hire others to do your administrative work."
  • "It is not enough to have a website. You must have a strategy."
  • "Keep it simple. If you can keep it simple, you can save time."
  • "If you cannot measure what you are doing, you are wasting your time and money."

The technology is here to do whatever you want to do, but you do not need to be the expert.

You can blog, video, broadcast your own radio show, reach the masses, track your sales, build budgets, send newsletters, list  homes and find agents. You can follow up, track, merge, read, write, record, store, retrieve, backup, find discounts, set appointments, get directions and prepare slides. You can close a sale, make a deposit and transfer funds — all from your desktop, iPhone, BlackBerry, Bluetooth or GPS.

You can make and cancel appointments, play games or text. Find a consultant, coach, mentor or trainer. Find out where your neighbor works, and where your co-workers live.

But you should not be the one to do it. If not you, who? This question must be answered if you want to make technology work for you, according to several speakers. There doesn’t seem to be an easy answer for this.

One agent said her solution was to hand her phone to her 14-year-old daughter and tell her, "Do something with it."

"I am too busy — trying to get listings and sell something — to fool with it," this agent said. "I pay her, by the way."

On the surface, this is humorous. But on another, it makes a lot of sense. She is delegating "it" to someone who knows what she is doing, whom she trusts.

It seems to me that a technology marketing service, on the order of a transaction management service, would meet a critical need, especially if it was offered for a small fee plus a larger fee to be paid out of closing proceeds.

I just ran into 300 aggressive, progressive real estate agents who are destined to be the leading-edge real estate agents in their market. Especially if, like the new agent who closed his first deal in his first 60 days, they focus on talking to prospects, not tech-support staffs.

What do you think?

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