The factors that won your first listing are the same ones that will be integral in winning over buyers, writes TowerHill Realty CEO Patrick Kilner.

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Many agents and brokers are lamenting the present and dreading the future thanks to the recent National Association of Realtors (NAR) and other major franchise lawsuit settlements. The discouragement is real, especially in a challenging market with high-interest rates and low affordability.

Last week, one of the best agents I know — a 20-year veteran — got very real with me. “I think we are screwed. Buyer agency is going away. I just don’t see a path to getting paid on the buy side,” he said.  

I admired his honesty and vulnerability, and in principle, I don’t disagree with what he shared. The road ahead looks pretty grim if we don’t reshape our approach with buyer clients. The same old way we’ve been doing business just won’t cut it.

But the good news is: If you’ve grown a real estate business, you have what it takes to make the change. You just may need a reminder of what “it” is. 

In this article I’m going to share some encouragement and remind you of how far you have come. This pep talk will get your gears turning forward and leave your worries in the dust.

3 immutable laws

Here are three immutable laws about listing and selling that can’t be beaten.

1. People don’t buy what you do — they buy how you think

There’s a lot of noise inundating your consumers. The din hits them from every angle: competing agents, daily news streams, and their neighbors. To break through the noise, you need to tell a new story that they can hear.

When you won that first listing, you told a new story. It resonated because it solved a problem for your clients in a new way. It showed them an angle they hadn’t seen until they heard your story. How you thought differently was on full display, breaking through the noise.

Today’s buyers are no different. If anything, the volume level is even louder. But they still need to hear a new story. It has to be a story that solves their most pressing problem. What story are you uniquely qualified to tell? 

To be clear, the story can’t be a commodity solution. “I’ll work really hard,” “I’m available 24/7” or “I’ve got a 50-point plan.” That’s not new and certainly not unique to you. 

Instead, tell them about the market in an entirely new way. Tell a story about how you’ll uncover deals for them. Bring them into your confidence and how you think differently about the process of crafting a winning offer.

2. People bet on systems over personality or charisma

One of the best ways to concretize your value to consumers is to share your system. My team has won thousands of listings because of three systems we use:

  • Our unique system for negotiation in which we share our step-by-step process for bending the negotiation to our client’s favor
  • Our unique marketing system in which we create demand they wouldn’t otherwise benefit from
  • Our unique data system that gives clients deep insights before going live and while they are on the market

In about seven minutes of sharing these systems, we want our future clients to realize that we have forgotten more about this process than they will ever know.

They begin to calculate the cost of not having each system working for them. It’s not uncommon for them to relax, lean back in their chair, and say a magical phrase: “Wow. I had no idea real estate could be done this way.” 

Just like the more experienced agents you beat out on your first listing, our industry as a whole has become lackadaisical in sharing the real value we can bring to buyers. There’s no reason you shouldn’t share your system for building off-market lists for your clients, your system for building rapport with listing agents, or your system for leveraging great lenders. 

These systems should solidify for the consumer the opportunity cost of not using you. In competitive situations, systems are refreshing to the ears of consumers who are tired of hearing about how many homes an agent has sold or the number of awards an agent has. That’s because systems are not about you but about what’s in it for them. 

3. People trust fiduciaries, not salespeople

No one likes to feel they are being sold to, especially when one of life’s most significant transactions is at stake. 

If you successfully share the unique value that you make concrete in the new story you tell and the systems you provide, you’ll never have to sell. You’ll simply be trusted to care for your client’s well-being.

Today, agents are in a battle to reestablish trust. Like it or not, buyers and sellers — even the ones who have given you 5-star reviews and multiple referrals — have been reading the headlines.

During that first listing appointment, you were competing against other agents to establish more trust with your prospects. Today, you are also battling against public sentiment. 

On the listing side, this can be done by what my business partner calls “giving away your work product.” For him, this takes the form of handing over his comparative market analysis (CMA), complete with notes and the ability to manipulate his spreadsheet.

Giving away real value is what other trusted fiduciaries — attorneys, financial advisers, and doctors — often do. It separates you from the order-takers because you hold nothing back.

On the buy side, how could we give away our valuable insight? It’s not expertise to just show up to open doors faster; otherwise, agents offering free buyer’s guides would own the world. But your market analysis is. So is connecting them to superb local contractors. How about a follow-up personalized video to answer their questions from the open house? 

The cost-benefit analysis of buyer’s agents giving away their acumen is a no-brainer. 

What buyers will pay for

When you tell a compelling story in a new way, allow folks to bet on your systems, and instill fiduciary-level trust, your fee is not an issue. It’s something buyers will be more than willing to absorb, knowing they are getting the best assistance possible. 

My colleague was right: The mechanics of getting paid on the buyer side are in flux. We all have to become more adept at explaining this. But buyers won’t be interested in understanding how they will pay you until they are convinced of why you are the best value available to them. And the value you bring to the deal is rooted in the same three immutable laws that got you your first listing.

You have the secret sauce 

Do you remember competing for your first listing? 

I’m not talking about the listing that was handed to you because you were friends with the seller. I’m talking about the first “real” listing where you didn’t know the owner.

The one who told you they were interviewing five agents, and you had 30 minutes before the local farmer showed up for their appointment. The one who asked you about your fee as you walked in the door. 

You were green. You didn’t have a track record of thousands of homes sold. You didn’t discount your fee. Still, somehow, you won their business.

How did you pull it off? If I had to wager, those clients chose you because of a combination of three immutable laws. They are laws that the more seasoned agents you were up against that day likely forgot.

Instead of faithfully following them, they tried to “buy the listing,” leaning on their perceived reputation or pointing to a dizzying list of services the seller should be glad to pay for.

These laws that won you the listing back then are the same ones that will be integral to winning over buyers in the new paradigm we suddenly find ourselves in. 

Patrick Kilner is the founder and CEO of TowerHill Realty. You can follow him on LinkedIn.

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