Opinion

Why real estate agents are not salespeople

With great responsibility comes accountability

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Takeaways:

  • Real estate agents carry a great responsibility, both economically and financially, in the course of their daily work.
  • We want to be professionals and regarded as such, yet most of us act like commission-earning, used car salespeople.
  • It is our duty as real estate professionals to protect the industry we serve not only because we agreed to follow the NAR Code of Ethics, but because we should want do it anyway. 

I can only think of one industry that yields the potential to earn the same salary as a neurosurgeon with the education of a high school graduate. This is partly why real estate can be such an attractive profession for those who are more focused on the money rather than the cause.

We carry a great responsibility, both economically and financially, in the course of our daily work. This point is best demonstrated by simply looking at the recent economic crisis that was started by a housing bubble — a crisis from which we are still struggling to emerge.

Thus, as real estate professionals, it is vital that we understand three very important points:

  1. We are not salespeople.
  2. With great responsibility comes accountability.
  3. If you want to be a professional, you must act like one.

We are not salespeople

“Really? But I sell homes and earn commission, so of course I am a salesperson.” If this is the thought running through your head when you read bullet point No. 1, then pay close attention — because changing your frame of mind is the next step to an amazing change in your career.

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I can tell you with the utmost confidence I am not a salesperson, at least not in relation to my own clients. Earning my income is a direct result of representing the best interests of my clients. Think about it.

We want to be professionals and regarded as such, yet most of us act like commission-earning, used-car salespeople.

This is the difference between a salesperson and a real estate professional. A salesperson is always focused on the end result; commission and their actions are driven by the result.

A real estate professional earns an income, which is a result of representing the interests of their client. Notice the difference in lingo — commission versus income. Once you understand the difference, so will your clients.

So when am I a salesperson? I am a salesperson when I am negotiating on behalf of my client or when I am convincing the listing agent to accept my client’s offer.

The only time I am a salesperson with my client is before they are my client, when I am giving the listing presentation or buyer representation presentation — but once those documents are signed, my clients have a certified professional in their corner.

With great responsibility comes accountability

Being a professional, and especially a highly compensated professional, is not something to be taken lightly.

Firstly, we are highly paid because of the responsibility we accept to assist clients with what is typically the most financially significant purchase or sale of their lives. With this accepted responsibility, we are required to be accountable for the advice and actions we take regarding any specific transaction.

Thus, it is extremely important not only that we are skilled in our profession, but also that we hold ourselves to a much higher ethical and moral standard when conducting our duties.

Why is this so important? Because the aggregate result of many individually irresponsible acts can have an astronomically negative effect.

Again, this is best demonstrated by the housing bubble, which was essentially the negative effect of many individually irresponsible acts over a long period of time.

It is our duty as real estate professionals to protect the industry we serve, not because we agreed to follow the NAR Code of Ethics but because we should want do it. If you understand what we do and why we do it, our clients will understand why they are hiring us and what they are paying us for.

If you want to be a professional, you must act like one

No, it’s not OK to wear sandals when you meet your clients — not even if they are your family.

One of the greatest things about real estate is we are independent contractors; we can do whatever we want and cannot get fired (unless you work at Re/Max Prestige).

This is also the most frightening part of the industry: the fact that many real estate professionals feel they are not accountable to anyone other than themselves.

We need to raise our standards. Think about all the stereotypes about real estate professionals:

  • Always late.
  • The only multiplication we can do is 3 percent and 6 percent.
  • Never return phone calls.
  • No communication.

I won’t keep listing examples. The point is, even if you want to be accountable to only yourself, then at least raise the standards. Take pride in the way you speak, act, write, dress and conduct your business.

The small things matter and usually it’s the small things we don’t do that upset clients the most — like not returning a phone call the same day.

In closing, it is vital we understand the responsibility we hold and that our individual actions do impact the remainder of the real estate community. The more “professionals” we have in this industry, the better we will be regarded in the eyes of the people we serve.

To make a change, you have to first change yourself. Change the way you think about what you do, and your clients will start to change the way they think about what you do for them.

So, are you a salesperson or professional?

Jay OBrien, a Realtor with Re/Max Prestige, is helping agents and consumers alike rethink their real estate reality. Connect with Jay on Facebook.

Email Jay O’Brien.