The real estate industry is unique in many ways. One of them is that we are the only sales force, in any industry, that actually requires our competitor’s assistance to create success. In our industry, we need each other’s buyers to maximize our seller’s sales price.
So why do we trash each other on Facebook and other social media? I regularly see agents, in an attempt to recruit to their company, put down other brokerages. It hurts our industry because it damages the perception that the public has of us. When we put down our competitors, the public sees this as negative comments about the industry as a whole. It brings us all down.
If I am being honest, I have to admit that up until this last year, I was guilty of this as well. But we are not each other’s enemies. In fact, in this environment, we need to rally together, because we all know there are entities looking to take over our business. Firms with deep pockets and access to big data and the deep wells of money available in the capital markets want us to go the way of travel agents. Putting down each other only serves to raise the fortunes of those who see Realtors as part of the business they want to eradicate.
It is in our control to stop the them. Different brokerages are working very hard to compete. This is necessary and admirable, as technology is obviously playing a huge role in our industry. But it is going to take more, and it is going to take every agent in the country to dig deep.
You see, our current Achilles’ Heel can also be turned around to be our biggest defense. At this moment, we are not giving our clients enough value.
Fifteen years ago, value was easy. We had control of the data. We were a necessary link in the chain. But as data became more public, we needed to create more value than we had in the past.
Luckily, the sale of homes is a complicated process for the novice — you can’t buy a home like you can buy shoes online. It requires good counsel and guidance for a successful transaction.
In order to increase the value we offer, each and every agent needs to become better at their craft. If at the end of every transaction, every client was able to say that their agent was amazing and helpful, and that they made the entire transaction so easy and smooth, the forces aligned with Big Data and Wall Street can’t touch us.
If we were all great at our craft, clients would call us back, and send us their family and friends before they even begin the process. If the public sees the value in Realtors, which can only stem from their past experience with us, why would they trust the random assignment of a realtor from a national portal — when they have no idea whether the agent is good or not? The portal only knows whether the agent pays them or not.
The client will call their trusted agent first, and then use the portal for the information it provides. However, if at the end of the transaction, the clients decide that the agent didn’t really contribute much value, the next time they need an agent, getting a random Realtor from the information portal that they rely on to find their home will seem like the right thing to do.
The public wants to know they are in good hands. As an example, I am not a big fan of going to the dentist. And my dentist is more expensive than other dentists. I go to him because when I am in his chair, I am surrounded by competence. I am therefore happy to pay more for his services. We need to surround our clients with competence.
Here are just a few of the areas where we all have room to improve.
- We have to becoming better at buyer consultations. We have to set proper expectations.
- We have to have great listing presentations that use the best technology available to sell clients’ homes.
- We have to hone our communications skills. That means finding out from your client from the get-go about how they like to communicate.
- How often do they want to hear from you?
- Do they prefer to communicate via email, text, Skype or voice calls?
- Do they mind if they sometimes deal with assistants?
- And of course, the single biggest area in which we need to improve is our negotiation skills.
I am always surprised when agents don’t even try to negotiate. If you don’t even try, you are simply the door-opener and a scribe. There is no value in that.
If we make full use of the new technologies that many of our brokerages are creating, along with focusing on creating more value to each and every client, Realtors will be around for a long time.
Michael Zinicols is the co-team leader of the EZ Sales Team with Keller Williams Citywide in Westlake, Ohio.