A recent report by the National Association of Realtors and the Canadian Real Estate Association titled Danger Report highlights the top issues threatening the real estate agent profession.
Of the ten dangers highlighted in the report, the ones I found most important were the ones that centered around the agent client relationship. Specifically:
- Masses of marginal agents destroying reputation
- Commissions spiral downward
- The decline in the relevancy of agents
- The agent is removed from the transaction
While at first glance the risks above seem independent, I believe that they’re actually symptoms of a bigger problem in our industry. That real estate agents today are not adjusting fast enough to a world where:
- Our clients have as much data as us
- Buying and selling their home on their own is easier than it has ever been
- The expectations consumers have of a real estate agent are very different than they were 20 years ago.
It is our industry’s inability to adjust to this changing market that hurts our reputation, puts downward pressure on commissions and makes agents less relevant.
Twenty years ago, home buyers and sellers had no access to any real estate or neighborhood information. We lived in a world where data and information where asymmetric – the realtor had all the information and the consumer knew very little. Fast forward twenty years and many of the value-added benefits that a realtor used to offer have been replaced by websites that enable our clients to do on their own what real estate agents used to do for them.
The challenge for many agents is that real estate sales training has not evolved in that time. Most brokerages and coaches are teaching the same old sales techniques and scripts they’ve been teaching for the past 30 years. Techniques that may have worked well in the 1980’s but are no longer effective with today’s more informed consumer.
The way forward for our profession is much harder than it was in the past. It was far easier to make a living when agents were the gatekeepers to real estate information. It’s far more difficult to succeed when your clients are just as informed as you are. But I’m excited by these changes in our industry because I know what they mean for our profession – we have to be better at what we do.
To survive these changes, today’s agent has to double their efforts on developing their real estate sales skills. They have to unlearn the aggressive sales focused scripts they learned in the past in favour of an approach that resonates with today’s empowered consumer. Today’s agent has to be excellent at interpreting and analyzing data for their clients. They have to be able to help their clients work through the numbers behind their real estate purchase or sale.
Today’s agent must develop the soft skills that are needed to become the consummate salesperson. To clarify, the consummate salesperson is not the one most people think of – the aggressive and unscrupulous salesperson who lives by the motto Always Be Closing. That is yesterday’s salesperson. Today’s salesperson is an excellent listener, she empathizes with her clients fears and concerns, she communicates clearly and succinctly in a way that resonates with her clients and she always acts professionally – even in stressful situations.
In a time where real estate agents are more focused on embracing the latest technological tools with the hope of remaining relevant, I actually think the skills we need to develop to remain relevant have very little to do with technology.
The real estate agent who dedicates her time to becoming a great interpreter of information, an effective problem solver and a brilliant communicator will never become irrelevant.