Jerry Maguire had it all. He had a booming business, gorgeous girlfriend, a trendy home and everyone wanting to either work with him, sleep with him or be him.
But Jerry wanted more.

Jerry Maguire had it all. He had a booming business, gorgeous girlfriend, a trendy home and everyone wanting to either work with him, sleep with him or be him.

But Jerry wanted more.

He wanted to do his job better. As a sports agent, he wanted to have deeper relationships with fewer clients. He wanted to cut the dishonesty and corruption out of the business that was running roughshod over the fields of professional sports.

So he writes this all down one day in a beautifully worded mission statement and presents it at work. Maguire’s boss thinks he has lost his mind and his unsympathetic coworkers thought he was having some sort of mid-life crisis. Maguire proceeded to lose his job, the girlfriend and all of his clients, except one.

via GIPHY

Yes, it’s a movie and has a predictably sappy ending, but there are enough similarities to what’s going on in our industry that make one really think about where the future of real estate sales is headed.

The real estate world is changing very quickly. Coming soon are new brokerage business models that will pay sellers to list their homes with a particular company.

We’ve already seen the rise of the discount brokerage and countless websites ready to let house hunters search to their hearts’ delight. With new advances in technology, buyers and sellers are going to have increasing availability to do more themselves and need us less.

Is it just a matter of time before technology takes over and the traditional role of the real estate agent becomes obsolete? In a word, yes.

The death of the sales agent

Tom Ferry was the keynote speaker at this year’s Century 21 Redwood sales rally, and as expected, he gave listeners 45 minutes of food for thought worthy of a few weeks of rumination.

Well-known as one of the top sales coaches on the planet, Ferry didn’t speak of mass marketing plans, quick fixes or generic lists of the top 10 things to get your business growing. He spoke about the relationships we make and the value that we give as individuals, as professionals and as people who honestly care that our clients are properly and individually serviced.

If you want to survive the technological changes that may someday make submitting an offer as simple as putting your thumbprint on a iPad, we are going to need to give our clients something that they can’t get from an intelligent piece of technology. You need to give them of yourself.

“Real estate has become the new American pastime,” Cara Whitley, the CMO of Century 21, said at the same event. With the ever-growing popularity of HGTV, Whitley said more people are homeshopping online, with more than half of those perusing Zillow and Trulia just searching for a little voyeuristic house fun and having no intention of moving, at all.

With the ability to look at houses from the comfort of your own home and budding technology that will let you scope out homes in virtual reality, agents will soon no longer be necessary to be the physical presence to unlock doors and give tours.

The days where agents controlled the access to the available market are over. Our line of work as a salesperson has been forever changed to that of a service industry.

To survive the upcoming technological advances, we are going to have to adapt how we go about our business, how we interact with our clients and how we market ourselves as a service-oriented field.

A service industry

Our professional value comes from our extensive knowledge that enables a client to either sell or purchase a home. According to Whitley, there are approximately 180 separate steps between contract and closing, and this is where our professional value as a service provider lies.

Many of the most loyal real estate clients are those who have had a rough time getting to settlement and their agent was there to hold their hands and guide them through the process.

Until technology comes up with a way to offer that, agents still have a very necessary and important job to do. The average homebuyer doesn’t know what they don’t know, which can get them in quite the proverbial pickle before, during and after closing.

Sure, when you go on a listing presentation, you do try to sell yourself as the consummate expert who will get the home sold for top dollar in the shortest amount of time. When you think a little deeper about this, it’s the knowledge you possess and the service you provide that will enable you to determine how much to list a home for or what improvements to a property will make it sell more quickly.

A listing appointment should be less of a one-sided sales presentation and more of a dialogue between you and the sellers. Ask questions of your potential clients and really listen to their answers.

Ferry said we should try to determine what their personality type is, and mold our communications to suit a client’s specific needs. You are probably going to ask different questions and need to supply different information to an analytical client versus one who is more emotional.

For example, a millennial client may want to communicate solely through text, whereas many elderly clients prefer the personal touch of a phone call.

Building trust and relationships

Ferry brought up that trust is what many clients expect from their real estate professional.

As Bernice Ross pointed out in her story, “Why relationships in real estate still edge out technology and data,” your clients are looking for honesty, integrity and trust in their agent.

According to the 2017 NAR Profile of Buyers and Sellers, “for sellers, the reputation of the agent (34 percent) is the most important factor in choosing a real estate agent to sell a home, followed by the ‘agent is honest and trustworthy’ (18 percent).

“For buyers, ‘agent is honest and trustworthy,’ (19 percent), the agent’s experience and agent’s reputation (17 percent each) come in at no. 1 and a tie for no. 2.”

Our clients want to trust us, yet past experiences, poor media portrayals and general low opinions have led the public to believe that we are lower that the algae that feeds on pond scum.

Whitley mentioned this is why about 40 percent of the population would rather have a root canal than have to deal with a real estate professional. Focusing on giving excellent service is the best way to gain a client’s trust, and adopting a motto of service will never serve you wrong.

A new service mission

The nuns of the Ursuline sisterhood have a motto: Serviam: I will serve. As an order predominately focused on the education of children, these sisters instill a strong foundation of the need to serve others in their students from through both scholastic and religious teachings.

As a student in one of their schools, you are required to complete a minimum of 40 unpaid service hours before receiving your high school diploma.

You don’t have to be a nun or even religious to live a life dictated by the tenets of service. Living a life or working in a career of service starts simply with determining what is important to others and choosing to serve their needs accordingly.

At Inman Disconnect, attendees spent days framing the principles that we should strive to use as a guide in our industry called the Parker Principles. It’s no surprise that serving and giving back made the cut.

Parker Principle 11 reads: Selflessly give back to the world through service.

“We must recognize the importance of building service into our companies, organizations and our brand to authentically give back to the world beyond our own community.”

It can be as simple as making sure you contact your client through their preferred means of communication or packing snacks and water in a cooler for a long day of showings. It’s considering the feelings of others, their needs and their lives throughout the transaction and continuing well after the sale is over.

As most agents do a fair amount of advertising and are highly visible members of a community, being active in local activities, volunteering or contributing to a charity is important to many clients.

Spending your valuable time helping out at an animal shelter, a soup kitchen or through a particular religious organization are wonderful ways to give back to your community.

Maybe you decide to give a percentage of each closing to a charity that is important to that specific client or donate an amount to a charity of your choice in their name. Many companies have their own specific causes.

Century 21 Redwood, for example, is building 3-D printed homes for the homeless in Haiti, and other companies give to The Children’s Miracle Network or St. Jude’s. Here’s a story about a host of other givers in the industry as well. Maybe they will spark a few ideas for you.

We all need a personal mission statement to give our lives structure and meaning.

Every fall, Ferry said we need to be setting business goals for the next year, or when you get to Jan. 1, you are already behind. At that time, also think about what you can do to offer the best possible service to your clients.

Sit down in a quiet place, and really think about your desires for the future, both business and personal. Instead of just thinking of how much money you want to make or how many transactions you want to do, think about what you can do to make a positive contribution to your community.

What is a cause that is important to you, and what can you do to help that cause? Maybe make a monthly goal of spending X number of hours volunteering at a nursing home or walking homeless dogs at the local animal shelter.

Remember that there are no small service contributions — every minute or every dollar you give to benefit someone else means the world to that person.

By focusing on service and educating our clients, we can start working to change the image of the real estate agent, one person at a time.

Jerry Maguire started with one client. He worked with that client day and night, formed a strong relationship and eventually an amazing friendship with him and his family. He focused on the spirit of his mission statement, and soon, other clients came because they wanted a personal relationship with an agent who cares about them.

Shouldn’t we all be doing the same?

Maria Dampman is the owner and manager of Smiling Cat Farm and a Virginia State licensed Realtor and ABR with Century 21 Redwood in Leesburg, Virginia. Visit her on Facebook or LinkedIn.

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