Mike Ferry, the father of real estate coaching and one of the industry’s most iconic educators and trainers, set my head spinning with his August 2014 report to his LinkedIn group. In the report, Ferry argues that new agents should declare whether they want to work with buyers or sellers, since most agents lack the total package of skills to adequately represent both.

When I first read Ferry’s August report, I initially took exception to it. I’ve seen thousands of agents over the years who are as adept at handling sellers as they are at handling buyers. As I read the report a second time, however, the accuracy of his observations really hit home.

“I believe the skill set of an agent who works with buyers is completely different than the skill set of an agent who works on listings. Yes, they both have fundamental skills that all salespeople need … the ability to manage your time, the ability to follow up on leads, the ability to prequalify, the ability to present, etc.”

Ferry went on to state:

“… The skill set of a listing agent and buyer’s agent are different from that point forward, meaning the ability to present in a fashion that causes a buyer or seller to sign a contract. … I (have thought) for years that when an agent gets their license they should have to actually declare, ‘I want to work with buyers’ or ‘I want to work with sellers.’ The majority of agents do not have the total package of skill sets to do both and, in most cases, aren’t willing to learn them because they are so vast and … if they chose one and learned it well and practiced it … they could, then, possibly in the future learn the other one.”

Sadly, the majority of agents lack the skills to do either job well. Every year hundreds of thousands of licensees fail to close a single deal. In some areas up to 80 percent of new agents fail to renew their license on their first renewal date. In fact, as early as 2001 the National Association of Realtors was reporting that 7 percent of the agents were conducting 93 percent of the business. Even today, the best estimates indicate that 10 percent of the agents are still conducting about 90 percent of the business.

The team approach confirms the differences

The most successful agent teams have buyer and listing specialists. The two job descriptions below support Ferry’s contention that the listing agent and buyer skill sets are very different:

The following posting for a “listing specialist” describes the job like this:

“This position is responsible from the initial contact with client when listing a property. This person will follow the listing until it is sold. The listing specialist/coordinator will: prepare listing packages; complete the listing contract; arrange photographs of property; put information in the MLS; arrange showings; and initiate the closing process. Position is responsible for marketing plan, pricing strategy, and educating the seller about the process, protecting and negotiate for the sellers interest. (It also requires) strong selling, presenting and negotiating skills, as well as good prospecting and lead follow-up.”

Here’s the description for the buyer specialist:

“This position is responsible for following up with the leads they receive and prospecting for buyers. A buyer specialist must research properties on the MLS systems, preview properties, show properties to qualified clients, and help them evaluate and compare homes. This person is also responsible for writing up, presenting and negotiating offers. (This position also requires) high rapport building and communication skills, being a great listener, and being interactively adaptable,” as well as “proven consistent follow-up and follow-through.”

When you compare the two descriptions, there is virtually no overlap with the exception of having strong negotiating skills and conducting regular lead follow-up.

Shared behavioral traits and values

Target Training International’s DISC assessment research shows that top-producing salespeople share two behavioral traits, as well as one core value. The two behavioral patterns are high scores on the Dominance and Influencing factors on the DISC assessment coupled with high scores on the Utilitarian factor on the Values portion of that assessment.

Translated into English, a high “D,” or dominance, score means that the agent has a very high drive that results in getting things done. People with high “D” scores also normally handle rejection well. A high score on the “I,” or Influencing, factor indicates strong people skills. Individuals with high utilitarian scores are both practical and bottom line-oriented. Less than 5 percent of the population has this combination, but you will find it in close to 80-90 percent of all top-producing Realtors.

Rainmaker vs. technician

Michael Gerber’s book, “The E-Myth Revisited,” explains the difference between entrepreneurs (rainmakers) and technicians who are good at delivering services, but not at generating new business.

The successful listing agent is almost always a rainmaker. These agents actively prospect for new listings, their people skills allow them to meet new people easily, and they bounce back from setbacks quickly.

In contrast, less successful agents lack this drive and often lack the emotional resilience necessary to produce at top levels. They may provide great service when they receive a listing or buyer referral, but ultimately they are technicians rather than rainmakers.

Given the facts above, wouldn’t it be wiser to assess each agent’s strengths, train that agent to capitalize on those strengths, and encourage each agent to specialize where he or she would have the greatest likelihood of success?

Bernice Ross, CEO of RealEstateCoach.com, is a national speaker, author and trainer with over 1,000 published articles and two best-selling real estate books. Discover why leading Realtor associations and companies have chosen Bernice’s new and experienced real estate sales training for their agents at www.RealEstateCoach.com/AgentTraining and www.RealEstateCoach.com/newagent.

Show Comments Hide Comments


Sign up for Inman’s Morning Headlines
What you need to know to start your day with all the latest industry developments
By submitting your email address, you agree to receive marketing emails from Inman.
Thank you for subscribing to Morning Headlines.
Back to top
Only 3 days left to register for Inman Connect Las Vegas before prices go up! Don't miss the premier event for real estate pros.Register Now ×
Limited Time Offer: Get 1 year of Inman Select for $199SUBSCRIBE×
Log in
If you created your account with Google or Facebook
Don't have an account?
Forgot your password?
No Problem

Simply enter the email address you used to create your account and click "Reset Password". You will receive additional instructions via email.

Forgot your username? If so please contact customer support at (510) 658-9252

Password Reset Confirmation

Password Reset Instructions have been sent to

Subscribe to The Weekender
Get the week's leading headlines delivered straight to your inbox.
Top headlines from around the real estate industry. Breaking news as it happens.
15 stories covering tech, special reports, video and opinion.
Unique features from hacker profiles to portal watch and video interviews.
Unique features from hacker profiles to portal watch and video interviews.
It looks like you’re already a Select Member!
To subscribe to exclusive newsletters, visit your email preferences in the account settings.
Up-to-the-minute news and interviews in your inbox, ticket discounts for Inman events and more
1-Step CheckoutPay with a credit card
By continuing, you agree to Inman’s Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.

You will be charged . Your subscription will automatically renew for on . For more details on our payment terms and how to cancel, click here.

Interested in a group subscription?
Finish setting up your subscription