The Real Estate Agent of the Future

This news article came into my email today, about the “Real Estate Agent of the Future”. Like a lot of the drivel fed to Realtors, this story is a jargon-filled write-up of nothingness, but it did get me thinking about how much things actually do stay the same, with regard to relationships, no matter the technology.

via Realtor Newsletter

The Real Estate Agent of the Future
Asked what skills future realty agents will need to compete, Saul Klein–president and CEO of InternetCrusade and CEO of Point2Technologies–cites product knowledge, sales competency, access to customers, and service with integrity.

More specifically, he says an agent working in 2015 will need the ability to communicate effectively across generational spans as the different age groups move up and out.

Uh, that sounds like the Realtor of 1908, 2009 and all years in between. But I wonder what sort of class we need to take to learn how to “communicate effectively across generational spans”. Communication skills for an agent depend more on recognizing which of the four main personality types a person possesses than how old they are.

This generational stuff sounds good, but in practice, one’s generation tells us less about what makes them tick than does their personality type. We work with slow, plodding, careful detail oriented people in the same patient and detail oriented way whether they are 28 years old or 68 years old. Those buyers really are the same, trust me. And the excitable, exuberant buyers who love everything they see and can’t decide which home is the right one for them?… they come in all generations too, including married grandmas and young single dudes with earrings.

An agent who can listen to you, understand your motivations and “get” what makes you tick will be of far greater value in helping you than one who makes trendy assumptions based on nothing more than your age.

Another key skill of the future, he says, will be the ability to negotiate successfully. To increase access to clients, the Realtor of the future will need to be technology-oriented.

Prospecting and marketing will have become automated, says Klein, and client management and online transaction management software will become more important.

Negotiation skills have always been important, and always will. No news there. Being technology oriented? I won’t argue with that, but many non-techie agents do well by simply surrounding themselves with knowledgeable help. I know one that doesn’t even check his own email but instead delegates it to his assistant. He’s a top producer and I bet he can’t burn a CD or send a text message. For some agents, knowing how to leverage the talents of others is the only technology they need. That way, they can spend their time building and maintaining relationships with past, current and future clients instead of trying to figure out how to set up a new printer.

As far as “automating marketing and prospecting”, it depends on what we call “automated”. Prospecting and marketing by successful agents has always been automated, even if it’s manual automation. Last week, when Gary Keller taught a class here at our office, he talked about his automation system back in the 1970s, which was a box of index cards filed by month and another batch of current leads held together with a rubber band. Each month he’d pull out his clients and prospects for that month and call them. That’s exactly what Sylvia still does with our box of past clients, though we are trying to move that into a software system.

That level of automation has yet to be mastered by 95% of Realtors, and I don’t think any kind of technology will change that. Nothing can or will ever replace the effectiveness of blocking out time on a calender to call past clients to say hello and ask for referrals.

As far as transaction management software, it causes more problems than it solves. Deals still need to be managed by human beings because there are too many variables to allow for complete automation. There is no way we would drop a deal into some sort of automated system and trust that things would be done properly. It takes active following of the deal by the agent or assistant to an agent.

Additionally, as more and more business-client relationships bud online in the coming years, property agents will need to be able to communicate effectively through the written word as they log on to social networking sites to mine for prospective customers and old referrals.

I don’t disagree that written communication is important, but I’ve yet to see an example of effective written communication on any social networking sites. Blogs, yes. There are many good Realtor blogs. But on Twitter, Facebook, MySpace? No. Mostly jibberish.

My take on the Realtor of 2015? The successful ones will be doing the same basic things that have always brought success. The tools will continue to change, but the basics will remain the same. It’s about relationships and staying in touch with people who might refer new customers or become repeat customers. Do most Realtors know this and therefore stay in touch with past clients? No, they don’t.

A recent survey of real estate buyers and sellers said that 94% never heard from their Realtor again after the closing. Can you believe that? That probably won’t change much by 2015, no matter what type of technology comes along.

7 thoughts on “The Real Estate Agent of the Future”

  1. Social networking sites are mostly jibberish? Perhaps you just don’t know how to utilize them.

    I can go to LinkedIn, click on Service Providers, then Realtors, and set my location to Austin. Sorting by # or recommendations, I see a list of 8 realtors who have 10 or more recommendations. I can read the recommendations, and I can see how closely connected I am to those making the recommendations. For example, the most highly recommended realtor is not someone I know, but is connected to someone I am connected to. I would feel pretty comfortable using my connections to get further information on this person. I would also feel pretty good hiring someone with a number of thoughtfully written recommendations.

    I think social networking websites are even changing the way some home sellers find buyers. Where 10 years ago I found out about friends/family selling houses through word of mouth, letters or directly from that person, these days I learn instantly when someone in my network is selling their house, and often am presented links to photos.

  2. I find Julia’s comment very interesting. I suspect that people will embrace social networking technology by assuming that it plays by the same rules as traditional social networking, as in you trust someone whom you know trusts. What this approach fails to realize is that social networking technology is set up to be easily manipulated.

    As soon as you attach value to relationships, and this is where Facebook, LinkedIn, and the other sites are going to make the most money in the long run, you will have others developing techniques to exploit that value. Individuals with better/more connections might get better deals or better service, since they are effectively serving as advertising.

    Not that I’m trying to trash social networking, but in its current incarnation it is exploitable and fallible just like any other medium is. I agree with Steve that in 2015, very little will have changed.

  3. Hi Julie,

    Thanks for your comment. It motivated me to set up my Linkedin account which has heretofore remained dormant and unused, and I had 5 “connections”.

    I sent out connection requests last night to my friends and clients and now I have 154 “connections”, and already one of my past clients wrote a “recommendation” for me, unsolicited. Neat.

    That said, time will tell if it brings any business or not. I’m still a skeptic. The problem with these social networking efforts is twofold:

    1) The anecdotal evidence about the effectiveness of these tools is all over the charts. Some people swear it’s useful, such as your comment, and others claim to have invested time with no results. It can’t all be blamed on “not doing it right”.

    2) Time spend in these efforts takes away from time that can be spent on proven methods, such as calling past clients on the phone and talking to them, or direct mail, or prospecting.

    Personally, I swear that blogging works. I’m even teaching a “lunch and learn” blogging class this Monday at our Keller Williams office. We receive most of our new business from the website and blog, so I don’t understand when agents tell me it doesn’t work for them.

    I’ve heard from other agents that tried blogging for a year, wrote a lot of good stuff, posted stats, funny stories, etc. and received zero to little comments, and no new leads. For them, it doesn’t work but it’s not apparent why. I can’t say they are doing anything wrong.

    So, does blogging work as a business generating effort? “Maybe” is the best we can say, in a general sense. Same with these other tools, I believe.

    When I wrote a blog a while back about the uselessness of Facebook and Twitter, I received similar comments as yours, basically saying “you just don’t know how to do it right”. So I committed to try harder and have since then Twittered regularly, posted updates to Facebook, links to our listings and blog articles, etc.

    The results?…,the best I can say is that it has increased our web traffic just enough to keep me from quitting, but no direct business has resulted.

    Meanwhile, Sylvia does lead generation every morning, calling from our index cards, calling FSBOs, expired and withdrawn listings. That works consistently over time, always has and always will. She leaves most of the blogging and website work to me, so we luckily are able to divide our duties.

    So my main point is, some of this new age stuff just seems hit or miss. You can’t always know that people “just don’t know how to utilize” the tools when you see the same efforts bringing different results, depending on who it is.

    So I remain a skeptic, but willing to keep trying new things out of fear of being left behind in case I might be missing out on something that does start gaining traction for us.

  4. Well done on that LinkedIn profile! It looks great.

    Yes, I see how some of the new technologies and applications can be hit or miss. Over time, they change quite a bit as well. Myspace used to be the big hotspot, but now it’s quickly switched to facebook. LinkedIn still remains great for professional work.

    I would be of the opinion that so much of your business relies on networking that using those networking sites could only strengthen your connections with others. I know that there are a lot of professionals and companies that I will hire based on friends recommendations, so it’s good to stay right in front in the mind of your connections!

    Looks like we are connected at a 3rd level. Nine of my connections have links to one or more people who are connected to you. Nice! 🙂

  5. Hi Steve,

    I actually found you through your blog more than a year ago but remained a lurker until today. Had we not met the realtor whom we worked with (yes I’m one of the 70% who hire the first realtor I interview), I would have loved you guys to represent us. Nevertheless, your blog has been very helpful and I have actually sent friends to your site.

    Anyhow, re the blogs of the other realtor bloggers having no comments. I hope you taught them that it is more than just posting an article… The typical reason for no/low comments is no/low visitors. (I hope they know how to find out their traffic numbers and other visitor “demographics”) .

    The next level of reason to no/low visitors are typically
    1) (assuming they have let the main search engines know about their sites already) their sites do not appear in page 1 of the search results. If this is the case, it further suggests that they are not SEO-optimized. That probably is the missing piece that they can learn to do or get someone to do for them to improve their search rankings.

    2) (assuming the quality of their articles is not the problem), they have to go to other related blogs and leave a comment to foster others leaving a comment back to their blog. (Yes they still need to build a “relationship”)

    3) (assuming their their business cards already reflect their site’s URL) the site must be compelling enough to make them click on the blog. If the main site where they landed is blah or unhelpful or too busy/confusing, people would not be enticed to click further.

    My 2 cents…

  6. hi, Steve:
    I was really hoping for a Cyborg, or Terminator like robot, under in this topic [Arnold: I’ll be back… with a contract…]… Anyways…

    Despite my juvenile fantasies, I do have an interesting comparison: Every benefit and liability mentioned above about Online Social Networking was argued for/against Web Sites ten years ago.

    Websites are 100% necessary. Most people will not argue that… Will they earn you business? Maybe. Most people visiting websites are shopping, not necessarily buying.

    You state that Blogging has earned business for you, but that it has not for others, and you don’t know why. Which leads me to the reason I opted out of business school: Teachers/Experts like to paint absolute pictures. You must market this way, you must advertise this way… It all just seems way too subjective to say, “This works… This doesn’t…” Makes me wonder how many marketing/advertising companies were just Lucky.

    As business owners, we need to find what works for our company and ourselves. I have found that consistency works best, no matter which approach. The old saying, “Every No is one step closer to a Yes,” is right on.

    Michael @ The Stage Coach

  7. I agree with Michael, it´s well known that websites are necessary. In my opinion quality employees are the key; you can get the client but if you dont know how to sell there will be no marketing or advertise that will help you..

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