Re/Max agent and well-known real estate speaker Leigh Brown likes to ask rooms full of real estate agents this question: “Do you think of yourself as a salesperson?” She said perhaps two people will raise their hands in any given group of 300. They prefer to put “advisor” or “consultant” on their business cards.

  • Being yourself is a better sales tactic than trying to shoehorn yourself into someone else's vision of real estate. Define your personal authenticity and be true to it.
  • Join a team if you appreciate the culture -- don't do it just because.
  • Don't shy away from discussing "controversial" topics. Having an opinion opens conversations.

Re/Max agent and well-known real estate speaker Leigh Brown likes to ask rooms full of real estate agents this question: “Do you think of yourself as a salesperson?”

She said perhaps two people will raise their hands in any given group of 300. They prefer to put “advisor” or “consultant” on their business cards.

“Maybe because being a salesperson does not require external education or training,” she said. “It’s just going out there and doing it.

You are your best sales weapon

In her new self-published book, the North Carolina agent talks about the reluctance to own up to the sales side of real estate.

“I call the other 298 people ‘secret agents,'” said Brown. “They’re out there hiding behind their fancy job titles. They simply will not admit to being who they are.”

Brown’s book, Outrageous Authenticity: You are Your Best Sales Weapon, is 88 pages long and takes about 45 minutes to read or listen to. Its target audience is real estate salespeople — salespeople from all industries. Those who can admit to themselves that they are in sales, that is.

As she puts it in the book, “Selling doesn’t have to be icky, but because so many people perceive that it is, we get stuck in the mindset of thinking what we do is something to be embarrassed by.”

Brown does allow that people might be embarrassed by selling if they are putting forward a false persona — someone who’s not really them.

“There’s a misery in being in sales when trying to be somebody else’s vision of what they think they should be,” she said.

“Realtors can be put into a box at times,” said Brown. They might feel like they should try to be a “public” Realtor, like Phil Dunphy in Modern Family or Annette Bening’s dementedly sunny Carolyn Burnham in the film American Beauty, and they might think: “Maybe that’s what I’m supposed to be like.”

Every time she speaks to a group about this subject, Realtors come up to her and say: “Thank you for giving me permission that it’s going to be OK to be myself,” said Brown.

Being what you are not can lead to you feeling pretty lonely, she said. “If you put on a fake front a lot of the time, you can feel alone.”

And if you work in a brokerage “body shop” full of people, you can feel lost in the brokerage, she added.

Teams and selling

How can teams approach selling?

“They have to operate in a shared culture, coming together on what are they are wanting to accomplish with the consumer, how to support each other, how to act as one body,” said Brown, who leads a team herself.

“With a lot of teams, it’s about how many houses can you sell, not a shared culture. If your whole goal is to be No. 1, to be best, at the top, you don’t have time to be human.”

She added: “People are joining teams because they feel they should. If you don’t understand why, then all you are doing is putting together a small body shop within a body shop.”

Brown, who has a Re/Max lifetime achievement award and has been listed in the top 200 of The Wall Street Journal/Real Trends‘ list of most productive agents in real estate, shares a number of personal stories in Outrageous Authenticity — like how she responded to the Great Recession as an agent and became adept at short sales.

Define your personal authenticity

She writes: “Every time new sellers came into my office, I had three things waiting on my conference room table: a bottle of Pepto, a bottle of wine, and a box of Kleenex.

“’Pick your poison,’ I told them when they sat down, ‘because we’re going to talk about this, and it’s not going to be pretty. But we’re going to find a solution.’”

Her business grew in the recession, and she become known as the “no-bullshit” agent as she helped homeowners through some hard times.

She has made sure that her reputation aligns with what her clients can expect. Consistency of brand is crucial, she said in the book.

“Creating a consistent brand means that if somebody finds you on LinkedIn, it’s the same you they’ll find on Facebook — but also the same you they’ll find when they see you at the gas station, the PTA meeting, or the dry cleaner. There are no surprises in store when they see you, because they know how you behave, how you respond, and what you look like.”

Brown encourages her readers to define their personal authenticity, have an opinion and embrace criticism.

Appropriate behavior on social media

She devotes a chapter to social media and how to behave on various channels.

Her advice: “If you use the old style of push marketing on social media with today’s consumers, you’ll come off as being pushy and annoying. Then you run a high risk of the people in your network simply tuning you out.”

Brown compares Facebook to a dinner party where you can have a good conversation — Twitter is more like a cocktail party, YouTube an intimate lunch, LinkedIn an interview, with actionable items and successes, and Pinterest a craft fair. Instagram is like your vacation, with lots of visuals and hashtags, she writes.

Although Brown says being active on social media as a must, she sees some major flaws, railing against the prevailing environment of appeasement.

On a platform like Facebook, she said: “It’s about carrying on a conversation, not just dangling something out there. When agents, in their quest not to be confrontational, don’t say anything substantial, just platitudes, there’s no depth to it at all.”

Social media has become all about “safe spaces” rather than differing viewpoints, she said.

“If you only listen to things you agree with, you are missing out on the depth,” she added.

And when disagreement does happen, it tends not to be dealt with in an adult way, said Brown.

“It’s learning about how to have an adult conversation where you might disagree with somebody without blowing up,” she said.

“The political season is really exposing that. Friends who hate a candidate will scream at you online,” she added.

“Tell me, why we have lost the ability for dialogue? What social media was designed for was for us to get to know each other. Now, people unfriend someone on Facebook if they disagree on something.”

Agent should talk about politics and religion if it is part of their identity

Brown, who has run for public office before, thinks agents should talk about politics and religion on social media if that is a part of who they are.

“I’d be doing a disservice to myself and the industry not to talk about them,” she said.

“As Realtors, we have to be politically engaged. If you disengage, you let in a few bad people. The only reason you have extremes is the rational people throw up their hands. But you don’t want to put the crazy people in control.”

Brown is also open about her Christian beliefs. “But I don’t beat you over the head with it,” she said.

“It’s about not being hateful about what you believe in, ” she added.

Having an opinion leads to conversations

Brown, who gives tips about having an opinion and embracing criticism in Outrageous Authenticity, writes: “Having an opinion leads to conversations, and conversations lead to sales. And those you’ve inspired to speak up are going to be so excited to do business with you, the outrageously authentic person who made them feel more brave than they did before.”

She encourages good salespeople to always be prepared to continue learning and to know their product well.

“If ever I’ve seen salespeople in every industry make the same gigantic mistake, it’s thinking they’ve learned ‘enough.’ These are the folks who educated themselves for a couple of months when they first got into whatever product they represent. And after that, they thought, ‘Yep. I’m done with that now.’

“What customers want and need to know is an ever-moving target. The market is always evolving, and with that, the needs of customers are forever being re-shaped.”

The most important point of the book, added Brown, is the fact that “this blueprint of outrageous authenticity should not be ‘outrageous’ at all.

“That happens only in a society that taught us to sit down and shut up,” she said.

Email Gill South.

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