As a licensed real estate instructor and educator, I strongly encourage agents to stay current with industry trends and advancements in technology, and I’m an advocate of technology designed to help with business efficiency; work smarter, not harder, as the mantra states.
While I agree that technology is essential to our success, it’s time to get back to basics.
The state of society’s social skills
Despite the countless tools we have at our disposal, there seems to be something inherently missing from our industry these days: great people skills.
We have created an entirely new language consisting of emojis and hashtags; texting and private messaging has become the expected mode of communication, and people rarely seem to actually answer phone calls.
People become oddly bold behind the safety of their keyboard, and they hide behind avatars and caricatures. We’ve all read inappropriate and disrespectful posts and comments on social media that incite anger and hurt feelings, often created by people who would not dare verbalize those same words to the recipient’s face.
Common courtesy and excellent customer service seem to be virtues of the past, and the speed with which one can post a negative review on social media, Yelp! or Google should be a new category in the Guinness Book of World Records.
Sadly, people aren’t as quick to write a positive review or give props to a fellow colleague for doing more than the expected.
Being in the people business
We may market and sell one of the biggest products available, but a listing is worthless without buyers. Without practicing proper etiquette and communication with these buyers, we fail.
Without buyers, we are simply out of business.
As a real estate professional, you must have the mindset of a small business owner. Twenty percent of small business owners fail within the first year, and 50 percent fail within the first five years; this is usually due to lack of focus, lack of passion and poor marketing.
What you really need to know is that 19 percent failed because they were out-competed, and 14 percent failed because they ignored their customers.
In an industry that currently boasts over two million professionals, the competition is strong. According to the most recent NAR member profile report, 20 percent of members had less than one year of experience in 2016; 22 percent of members with less than two years of experience earned a gross income of less than $10,000 in 2015 and 26 percent of those were under the age of 30.
In fact, gross member income in 2015 was only $39,200, regardless of age.
How to set yourself apart and promote career longevity
If you want to stay away from becoming another underwhelming statistic, I propose that you incorporate the following key ingredients into your business model:
1. Common courtesy. While I should not have to spell out what this entails, it bears mentioning. If you are going to be late to an appointment, text or call the person waiting; if you are not going to show a listing that was scheduled, call the listing agent to cancel.
The homeowner may have had to leave with her toddler and the dog after spending two hours preparing for your tour, or maybe the sellers are an elderly couple with health issues. The point is that you must return all calls, texts and emails in a timely fashion.
If you are going to be unavailable for an extended period of time, utilize your outgoing voicemail and autoresponders to let folks know when they can expect to hear from you.
Communicate using correct grammar and punctuation, do not send texts or emails in haste or anger and — most importantly — always be kind.
Remember that everyone you encounter is a potential client.
2. Send thank you notes. Handwritten notes are a lost art, and folks barely know what their own handwriting looks like these days.
Send a thank you note to your customers after the listing or buyer agreement is signed; hand one to the other agent at the closing table; send one to every person that sends you a referral, whether or not it results in business for you.
Did the contractor do some extra work? Did a colleague cover for you while you were sick? Those people went the extra mile for you, so send them a card and follow up with a thankful shout out on social media.
Thank you notes should definitely be part of your daily prospecting.
3. Listen more than you speak. This a common mistake made by those who are new to the business; eager to prove their worth and knowledge, they chatter endlessly. Instead, they should ask a question and patiently wait for the answer.
What is the client’s true goal and motivation? Additional questions can help peel back layers and get necessary answers.
Taking notes and making eye contact are also important.
4. Be authentic. Only relate in personal ways if you’ve found a common thread; be empathetic only if you can truly share in their emotions.
Be honest and admit when you do not know an answer. Assure your customer that you will research their concern and follow up with an answer.
No matter how amazing the latest technology is, old-fashioned courtesy and communication is what will get you ahead in this business.
Longevity in this industry is derived from a healthy blend of technological tools, punctuality, honesty and excellent interpersonal communication skills.
Christine Williams, CRS, is a real estate instructor and coach with Accredited Real Estate Institute. Connect with her on LinkedIn.