Inman Connect New York 2019 left us with many lessons centered around the customer experience. From emotional intelligence and fiduciary responsibilities, to using tech in a way that enhances agent services instead of replacing them, here are six off-the-beaten-path ICNY takeaways.

Last week, I attended my first Inman Connect event in New York City — and it was an experience. All experiences (good or bad) are good in my book. And my first Inman Connect wasn’t half bad! When you put 4,000 marketing and tech experts, agents and real estate industry leaders in one hotel for more than 5 days, ideas are generated, connections are made and differences of opinion are exposed.

For me, one of the most interesting parts was hearing the innovation and various perspectives from national franchises, independent brokerages, individual agents and team leaders. It was clear that people were passionate about the brand they either created or decided to align themselves with. It was also evident that one size does not fit all and there is plenty of opportunity for us all to succeed — at least for those who are willing to adopt technology and adapt to change.

Here are six key things I learned from my first time at Inman Connect:

1. Tech is here to stay, but we can’t lose human touch

Automation and technology are here, and it’s now a consumer expectation that things are done instantaneously at the touch of a button from their mobile device. Are you able to deliver?

What technology and apps are you implementing in your business in order to streamline the homebuying, selling, building, investing and renting experience? Here’s the caveat: As much as consumers and agents are relying on technology, we can not allow apps, texting, chatbots and video to replace the human experience.

Sure, consumers are going to be checking out properties online, getting their questions answered via chat and doing their research on mortgage, insurance and repairs. But when they are ready to make a move — to check out that property, to write that offer, to get financing advice — they are going to be looking for an expert to talk to.

Will that be you?

2. The new agent is a fiduciary

Being a part of the real estate industry for over a decade, I think it is easy to forget that buying or selling a home is one of the most transformational experiences of an individual’s life, not to mention most likely the most expensive transaction they’ll ever make. Consumers want an expert by their side to advise them on the next best course of action for them, their family and their financial future.

Homeownership is a wealth determiner. We need to train ourselves and our agents to understand the financial implications in relation to our client’s overall goals. It’s not about getting the deal done today; it’s about creating a relationship for life. I guarantee when you act with integrity, even if it means losing a sale today, it will come back ten fold. Being a fiduciary is a long game.

3. Engagement and relationships are everything

It is all about the client. Engaging consumers before, during and after the transaction is the name of the game. As technology becomes the norm — dare I say, even overused — the pendulum is swinging back to a new normal.

People are craving strong connections and lasting relationships beyond the screen. Industry events like Inman Connect are happening more frequently, as are community seminars, client events, live masterminds and experiential training events. Again, this engagement goes far beyond the transaction. I’m talking about agents providing recommendations for all home-related services, staffing their team with concierges, hosting yoga nights and dinner parties and creating memorable experiences where clients come together with their friends and families.

Get creative and get engaged. Technology will continue to streamline systems and processes to allow agents to do what they do best: connect.

4. Focus on emotional intelligence

Emotional intelligence (EI) refers to someone’s ability to perceive, understand and manage their own feelings and emotions. EI is a way of understanding and choosing how we think, act and feel. It’s an important skill to have and hone in this new tech-enabled, consumer-centric world we live in.

I recently read that a skill acquired today will be obsolete in five years or less. But not EI — it is timeless and universal. By focusing on leadership, communication, collaboration and community building skills (all bolstered by emotional intelligence), agents will thrive.

5. Talent is everywhere

Between the Inman Ambassadors, CEOs, economists, Realtors, attorneys, product officers, reporters and sales professionals, the conference was packed with talented individuals who were all great at what they do. As someone who is constantly scouting for talent and building a bench, I found Inman Connect to be a gold mine.

Talented, learning-based individuals like to hang out with other talented and growth-minded people. Conferences and live events are a great place to meet people to join your organization, find the perfect product solution to a current challenge, or create future business partnerships. Opportunity is everywhere and it all starts with people.

6. There’s more than one way to succeed

When leaders get on stage and disagree, challenge each other’s thinking, question each other’s decisions and defend their respective positions, it makes for good entertainment. Controversy is great for headlines, yet if you look below the surface of the assumptive questions and sometimes contradictory answers, one thing emerges: There is no one right way to succeed in this business, or any business.

Different brokerage (and business) models work. Different technology works. Different financial structures work. Different company cultures and missions and values work. The key for agents and consumers is to choose a model that aligns with their goals and values — and then go all in.

A few themes emerged while at Inman Connect, all centered around the customer experience — from emotional intelligence and training an agent to be a fiduciary, to creating technology that enhances the agent’s ability to engage with their customers and clients, not replace them. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, it is an exciting time to be a part of the real estate industry!

Adam Hergenrother is the Founder and CEO of Adam Hergenrother Companies, which includes KW Vermont, Hergenrother Realty Group, BlackRock Construction, Adam Hergenrother Training, and Adam Hergenrother Foundation. Follow him on Instagram.

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