• Our clients are trying to tell us what they want, and sometimes, it's not what we think.
  • Real estate isn't changing because of technology. It's changing because the consumer is evolving.
  • Most consumers are well-informed and know what they are looking for in an agent or process.

I was reading “The 10X Rule” by Grant Cardone this morning, and something struck me.

There is a fantastic excerpt in the book about Starbucks and how the company managed to thrive in the economic bubble bust in the late 2000s. It talks about how company CEO, Howard Schultz, would fly all across the country just to talk to patrons in his shops.

He wasn’t interested in telling them what was best for them. He wasn’t looking to make excuses or give lame one-liners for why they should keep paying for his coffee.

He just wanted to listen. He wanted to know, from the source, how his customer base felt and see firsthand how it had evolved during the downturn.

What happens when budgets dry up

See, Schultz realized that he had a product and service that was a luxury, not a necessity. Consumers could stay at home and make their own coffee or go to a fast food chain and get a hot drink for much cheaper.

People have options, and Schultz not only saw this as a hurdle for his company, but felt strongly enough that he needed to take action to keep his company going — and going strong.

So he hopped on planes and traveled, stopping at his stores to listen. He asked his customers what was important to them, instead of telling them how important Starbucks was.

He asked them what mattered, instead of telling them what should matter.

More competitors, same consumers

For the past several years, real estate, as an industry, has taken on a major shift.

Influxes of for sale by owners (FSBOs), flat-fee companies and “discount brokerages” have quickened the heart rates of many real estate agents, who are worried if their livelihood has a deadline.

Competition is no longer just between agents. It’s now between agents, apps, startup companies and entrepreneurs who are looking for their piece of the real estate pie.

Ultimately, we are competing for the highest value proposition in the eyes of the consumer.

So, much like Starbucks, we have reached a point where real estate agents and brokers are no longer a necessity. We are a luxury.

Our services can, in some form or another, be done by virtually anyone that has the know-how and the capabilities to do so. And also much like Starbucks, the real estate industry needs to make a decision on how to respond to this new era.

Step back and listen

So what do we do? How do we do this?

We stop talking at the consumer. We stop telling them how important we are. We stop saying how necessary we think we are. And then, we just listen.

Let them tell us what they are looking for. Figure out what they want and what they need, and create your value proposition around that.

After all, it’s the consumer that gets to decide what’s of value and what isn’t. It’s not the company or industry. It’s the people, and it will always be the people.

We can keep talking until we are blue in the face about why we think we are valuable, but in the end, we have no say.

Don’t believe me? Ask Blockbuster, Myspace or any taxi cab driver.

Robert Wagener is a real estate agent with Coldwell Banker in Edwardsville, Illinois. Follow him on Facebook or Instagram.

Email Robert Wagener.

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