Opinion

Clarify your value proposition instead of panicking about disruption

In the midst of massive industry changes, you need to define your worth

It seems that the sky is always falling in real estate. Every day, we read about a new threat to our way of doing business. And with every new threat, there are two sides debating the issues with equal amounts of fervor.

The buzz words are endless: big data, flat fees, landing pages, retargeting, growth hacking, portals, off-market listings, syndication, social agents, social currency, social proof, content curation, for sale by owner, for sale by Zillow — I could go on, but the list is truly endless.

Yes, things are changing fast with no sign of slowing down. It seems to me that we have one of three options:

  1. We can continue to freak out about every new system, product or innovation (disruption).
  2. We can ignore all the buzz and continue with business as usual.
  3. We can be informed about industry developments, think critically about how they affect us and adapt.

Disruption itself has become an overused buzzword lately. Merriam-Webster has two definitions of the word. The first is: “to throw into disorder.” The second is: “to interrupt the normal course of.” We get to choose how we respond. Will it throw us into disorder or just require a change in direction? It could easily go either way.

The point is, disruption in our market doesn’t have to mean the sky is falling and we are all doomed to have to go out and find 9-to-5 jobs in a cubicle somewhere because soon robots will be showing and selling houses.

However, if we want to stay relevant as an industry and more specifically as local service providers, we need to be crystal clear about what we offer and why someone should pay us for it. There will always be people willing to trade their money for your time and expertise. We are in the service industry, and that concept isn’t going anywhere. Consumers are savvier than ever, and their expectations are getting higher all the time, but that doesn’t necessarily mean we’re destined for extinction.

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Selling a home is not a technical skill. We use technology to disseminate information, complete tasks, create systems and organize our businesses. Technology is so pervasive in our daily lives that the novelty is wearing off.

Today’s consumer is not going to be impressed anymore when we tell them that their listing will be on 300-plus websites, and we will share it on Facebook. I imagine that is the very bare minimum that they expect of someone who is asking for 6 percent of their home’s value. And are we still claiming that putting a sign in their yard and holding open houses is a value-added proposition?

This is my personal favorite that I saw in a Facebook group recently, “Explain to your sellers that the buyer is the one who really pays the commission since they are the ones bringing money to the table.” It’s no wonder that our value is coming into question.

As salespeople, we can be a tad arrogant and condescending when we show up as the ones with all the answers. As much as we hate to admit it, there is not much that we do that the average homeowner couldn’t do themselves if they were so motivated. On one hand, we need to beware of overselling ourselves and offending potential clients. On the other hand, we have to be clear about what we offer, why it’s valuable and what it’s worth. Then we have to own it, with no apologies.

Stop selling your website, your designations and the tools you use to do your job. Those are products; you provide a service. Sellers don’t particularly care how you sell their house — they just want it done.

Yes, the bells and whistles and buzzwords and Apple watches are impressive, but what are you going to do to earn your commission? What service can you provide them for which they would be happy to compensate you? What part of selling a home is the biggest pain for your clients? What can you do that they can’t or don’t know how to do? How much time can you save them?

Can you answer those questions? That is your value proposition. That is where your value lies, not in the tools you use or the online ads you buy. It’s not tied to your brokerage, your market, your logo or any of that. The methods and tools you use to provide your service will change as technology does. There will always be people who are willing to pay for your services, and there will always be people who won’t be. If you know what you are selling and what value you provide, it is much easier to identify and convert the clients who need you.

There are a million ways to write a value proposition, but the important thing is to have one and to be able to rattle it off whenever and wherever you meet someone. I’m going to share a couple examples to get you started, but I suggest you do some research and find a model that resonates with you.

Geoff Moore shared a version of this template in his book “Crossing the Chasm.”

  • Who is your target customer?
  • What is the need you are filling or the opportunity you are offering?
  • What is the benefit your target customer will receive?

Another super easy template is this:

  • What do you have to offer?
  • How will it be beneficial to your client?

Take either one of these models and make it into a two- or three-sentence commercial. Once you have a good grasp of your value proposition, you can tweak it to make different versions for different scenarios (buyers, sellers, cold calls, etc.). Most importantly, make it your own, and be sincere.

There will always be room in our industry for real live service providers. We have all heard that real estate agents will soon be obsolete because that is what happened to the travel agents. However, there is evidence that might not be the case. Apparently people are getting tired of spending hours or days on TripAdvisor planning their big vacations. Or checking and rechecking airfare to make sure they get the lowest price.

A great example of this is the growing number of independent Disney consultants who will help you plan your trip down to the last detail. Rumor has it they will respond to your texts and emails after hours and even stay in touch during the trip to make sure everything is going the way you want. Sound familiar?

We certainly aren’t the gatekeepers anymore, but we still provide plenty of value apart from data.

Mary Borth is a licensed real estate broker with Keller Williams Realty in Bloomington Illinois. Her first love is marketing, and she is passionate about helping other Realtors determine their strengths and define their brand in order to stay relevant as the industry continues to change. You can find Mary on Twitter @maryborth and in her Luxe Homes Marketing Facebook group.

Email Mary Borth.