By Sam DeBord
We love to give advice as real estate professionals, and often that advice is to our professional associates. Over time, we accumulate catchy sayings that are supposed to sum up and answer other agents’ questions in short fashion.
Like in any industry, the advice can be good or bad. There are a lot of great coaches and advisors in the industry. Most new agents will benefit greatly by being trained by a serious, thoughtful mentor.
Unfortunately, there are also plenty of ego-driven personalities giving bad advice. The amount of misinformation new agents get from gurus, speakers, and “thought leaders” is staggering. Many are so caught up in having a great tagline that they’re willing to sacrifice good, thorough advice to the folks who are listening to them.
We spend a lot of time with our team pushing back against counterproductive one-liners that our agents hear so often. These are just a few of the clichés that new agents should avoid if they’re hoping to learn the business quickly, and get a head start on where it’s going:
“If they won’t sign a buyer agency agreement, they’re not worth my time.”
There’s a time and a place for buyer agency agreements. Relocation and referrals are often that place. Your first interaction with a potential client who contacted you via the Internet is not the place.
Many traditional agents will protest, but as a new agent, you need to learn to deliver some value to clients before you ask them to sign a contract for you. Asking Internet leads to sit down in your office and sign an agency agreement might make you feel like you’re only working with serious buyers, but in reality you’re only working with a tiny minority of the buyers who you could’ve been selling homes to.
This isn’t to say you should run out and show a property to an unknown person. Meet them at an office or a public place and verify their identity. Talk about the real estate process and how you get paid. Just don’t balk at showing them a few homes and letting them see the kind of service you can provide for them. Your job is to earn their business, not expect it. Self-righteousness won’t fill up your bank account.
“If they don’t want to work with me, I don’t want to work with them.”
This classic cliché plays on the ego of the agent. It’s a perfect way of doing business for a seasoned agent who has a full book of business and wants to maintain a work/life balance.
For a new agent, it’s an excuse to avoid the more difficult parts of the job. It’s also often a misreading of the clients, a mistake that can be financially costly.
Anyone who has been in the business for a while has had some difficult clients. Even those who start out a transaction in good spirits can turn adversarial in the wrong circumstances. Of course, if a client is abusive or threatening there’s reason to end the relationship. Most of the time, though, working through a difficult transaction with clients who may not be your best friends is a learning experience that you’ll benefit from—and undoubtedly repeat later in your career.
You’ll be surprised at how many of today’s Internet-educated buyers and sellers start out in a standoffish manner, but become your friend by the end of the transaction. By giving them so much information online, we’ve trained them to think they know almost everything already. They often think, “I don’t really need an agent. I just need the door opened.”
Don’t blame them for that pervasive mindset. Get comfortable with that being a common misconception, and learn to work through it. It’s not that they don’t want to work with you, they just don’t know that they need you yet.
Show them what you know, and what you do, that no website can replace. Understand that your job is to provide the experience that changes their minds.
The Internet know-it-all is only going to become more prevalent in the future. Learning to work with these clients is essential to being prepared for a long-term career.
“I’m just going to be myself.”
This is a job. It can be a great, flexible career with plenty of room for individuality and differentiation. It’s still a job. Your ability to freely express yourself exists within the confines of acting and looking like the professional that the public expects. Outside that box, you “being yourself” equals smaller paychecks.
You don’t have to wear a suit and tie if that’s not appropriate for your market. You don’t have to stodgily rattle off statistical reports about your market if that’s not what your clients prefer. But if you’re not dressing up to the appropriate level, preparing yourself with research, speaking as if you’ve been trained for this job, and getting to your appointments on time, you’re just being lazy.
Dress up if you’re unsure. It doesn’t matter what you’re most comfortable in, it’s what your clients think that matters. If you’re in a denim shirt and pickup truck market, then don’t show up in your t-shirt just because you’re in a rush. If your clients work in a white collar office, show up in a jacket, suit, or something similar. You are your own boss, and you should hold yourself to some professional standards.
Your clients may say they don’t care what you wear, but subconsciously peoples’ perceptions of you are based on image. No one is going to fire you for being overdressed. If you look young, dressing professionally is a tremendous asset, especially on a first meeting (don’t give it up just because you got a 2nd meeting). It’s a minor inconvenience for a career that allows you unlimited upward financial opportunities and independence. Any client who hires you and closes a transaction is paying you well, so act accordingly.
Don’t just recite, think it over.
Listen to the advice of the experienced brokers and agents in your sphere. Take in what the latest real estate speaker has to say about the industry and your job. Just take it with a grain of salt. If someone is getting paid to give advice, they’re helping their listeners make more money, and/or saying things that are quotable enough to propel their future speaking business. They’re not always doing both.
Approach your real estate career knowing that not all of the advice you receive is sound. You’ll allow yourself to gain more broad experience and get past some of the unnecessary hurdles of starting out as a real estate agent.
Sam DeBord is managing broker of Seattle Homes Group with Coldwell Banker Danforth, director for Seattle King County REALTORS®, and state director for Washington REALTORS®. You can find his team in Seattle and Bellevue.