Last week I had the good fortune to spend some time in Orlando for the 2012 Realtors Conference & Expo. While most of my time was spent talking to agents and brokers, and manning my employer’s trade show booth, I did manage to walk around the trade show floor for a couple of hours.

Like other NAR trade shows, the amount of new products, technology and tools available to the real estate professional bordered on the overwhelming. CRMs, websites, apps, software — the list is almost endless. I think one could walk around the NAR Expo for days and not be able to absorb it all.

As I strolled the crowded aisles, a thought came to me: "I bet every single agent on this floor already owns the most powerful piece of technology ever invented for real estate. I wonder, though, how many really use it to its fullest capability?"

It’s not a website. It’s not a customer relationship management system. It’s not an app, or a suite of apps. It is not the latest and greatest shiny new object to come forth from some developer’s desktop.

Actually, this most powerful real estate technology tool has been around in some shape or fashion since 1876.

1876? How can a piece of technology that is more than 135 years old possibly be considered "the greatest technology ever created for real estate"? What in the world could this archaic technology possibly bring to starving real estate agents everywhere?

What if I told you that there was a technology available that would allow you to reach out to current and potential clients in a very personal and efficient manner? What if I told you that there was a technology available that could literally fit in your pocket, and be available at a moment’s notice to connect you with not just clients, but every person involved in a real estate transaction (title reps, attorneys, lenders, appraisers, inspectors and more)? What if this technology could connect you all with just a couple of keystrokes and allow you to get together in a "virtual space" and communicate with each other — and resolve all of the transactional issues you are facing in real time?

There is such a technology. It’s cheap, has a small monthly recurring cost, and is super easy to use. You don’t need to understand HTML or CSS, or anything even remotely elevated on the geek scale. You don’t even have to turn on a computer to enable this amazing technology.

It’s called the telephone.

That’s right, the telephone. But I’m not making a case for iPhone vs. Droid. While there are apps available for your smartphone that can undoubtedly make your life simpler (or suck away giant amounts of free time), I’m referring to what appears to be the most underused feature of the phone.

That being the screen where you dial a phone number and speak into the phone when someone answers.

Phone image via Shutterstock.

Guess what happens when you do that? Someone speaks back to you! You can have a "conversation" — real-time, synchronous communication with someone next door, or half way around the planet.

It is pretty amazing technology if you think about it. Pull a small device from your purse or pocket, tap a few numbers and presto! You are now engaged in a conversation with someone just like you were sitting across from them at a coffee shop.

How can a real estate professional best utilize this incredible 135-year-old technology?

First and most importantly, use the telephone. The dialing/speaking part. Forget the seemingly daily arguments surrounding which is better, the iPhone 5 or the Galaxy S III. Forget the app store and the latest and greatest app. Use the phone for TALKING to someone.

Call someone, every day. Call 10 people a day. Call past clients, current clients, new prospects, small-business owners, peers and competitors. Got a new contact from your website or prospect generation source? Pick up the phone and call them. If someone leaves their phone number on a Web form, that’s like an engraved invitation to call them.

So call them.

It is amazing to me how many real estate agents are reluctant to pick up the telephone and use it for its primary purpose. When I ran a real estate brokerage, we had agents who converted 10 percent of company-supplied leads and agents who converted zero percent. Same lead pool, same number of contacts. The difference between the agents who converted and those who didn’t was directly correlated to picking up the phone and dialing.

Believe me, I get the fear of rejection, the "Oh, I don’t want to be THAT GUY and bother someone who probably doesn’t want to talk to a real estate agent anyway" mentality. You need to get over it, though, and speak to people. Real estate is still (and always will be, in my opinion) a face-to-face, belly-to-belly relationship business.

And the best piece of technology, hands down, for building those professional relationships is the telephone.

Talk, listen, be available, return calls swiftly. All using the incredible power that you most likely already own and is sitting right there next to you.

Pick up the phone and call someone.


Jay Thompson is the director of industry outreach and social media for real estate marketplace Zillow. He also has eight years of experience as a real estate broker, and has written extensively about the role of technology in real estate.

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