• Agents are routinely being asked to reduce their commissions.
  • Technology is meant to make our jobs easier, but perhaps it creates a barrier to clients.
  • Let's make this the year that people see the value in working with agents -- let's be irreplaceable.

I see it so often in Inman: an article or comment about how agents are being asked to lower their commissions — despite experience. I like to joke that if you haven’t been asked to lower your commission, you haven’t done enough deals.

It’s not so much a sign of tough times, in my belief. It speaks to a diminishing trend in the real estate market: the concept of putting yourself completely into the experience of servicing and selling versus concentrating on the tools and gadgets that are supposed to merely help us do the job of servicing and selling.

Shiny new gadgets

Hadrian / Shutterstock.com

Hadrian / Shutterstock.com

Real estate news and trade journals entice agents with the latest and greatest technology paraphernalia. These handy little gadgets have one thing in common: they make it easier for the agent to remove themselves from human, one-on-one contact.

I bet over 80 percent of homes on the market are on a lock box, and we use third-party services to make our appointments. Sellers know this because the communication comes directly from these appointment-setting services.

Auto-generated CMA reports are spit out instantly from cloud-based websites and emailed to the seller from the comfort of our offices. DocuSign software and closing services handle the rest of the job.

It’s no wonder consumers feel they’re getting very little agent face time, that touchy-feely, visceral experience that makes the seller feel they’re dealing with their agent in the flesh, rather than being filtered through digital technology and third parties.

Is it a surprise more and more clients are negotiating commissions?

Technology: helpful or hurtful?

Effective selling is authentic communicating, not processing a client like just one more widget on the real estate assembly line. If you look at where most agents get their business, it’s not from lead generation — but from real relationships and referrals.

Automation creates two dissociative results: it distances the agent from the transaction, and it reduces the time the agent actually devotes to his or her client.

It’s difficult to justify a 6 percent commission when there’s more technology than personal communication.

Let’s not let technology turn our business relationships into superficial experiences. We’re selling someone’s home, not a big screen TV at a big box store. Homeowners crave a real-world experience, not a virtual one.

Clients aren’t blind to what’s happening. They get it. When you whip out your fancy CMA with its color-coded charts and graphs, the seller knows how much of that slick report is based on your personal expertise and how much is produced by software programming.

You input my address, a couple of numbers and bam, this slick report gets generated, popping up like a piece of toast. Am I supposed to be impressed with you?

That’s what your client is thinking. Or maybe they’re actually asking you out loud — probably by phone.

Don’t get me wrong. Fancy document designs with cascading stylesheets are a great organized look for a client report. It’s just that our communications should be more personal.

Are we imitating our children who talk on their phones at the dinner table instead of having real interaction with our families? If that drives us crazy, think of the effect our business devices are having on our clients.

How would a prospective client feel if we meet them outfitted with smartphone and tablet in hand, and we’re talking into our Bluetooth earpiece as we shake their hand?

What message are we communicating before even one word comes out of our mouth? That message is, “I want your listing, but don’t expect me to treat you as anything more than another sale.”

The irreplaceable agent

A few years back, I had the pleasure of visiting with Tony Hsieh, CEO of the successful Zappos stores. He sent me a copy of the “Culture Handbook” and on the first page, his company motto (in the spirit of Maya Angelou): “People may forget what you said or what you did but not how you made them feel.”

We are still at the beginning of 2016, so let’s make a resolution — at least those of us who want to earn full commissions. Let’s do business in a way that our clients feel like they are getting the full agent representation experience and less in-your-face technology that only reveals convenience on our part.

Let’s be the agent whose clients say, “I cannot believe how hard my agent works” — because there is no app for that.

Sissy Lappin is owner of Lappin Properties and co-founder of ListingDoor; you can follow her on LinkedIn or Facebook.

Email Sissy Lappin.

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