What exactly do real estate agents sell?
The answer seems obvious, real estate agents are in the business of selling real estate – they always have been and always will be.
But as the real estate industry evolves and adjusts to changes in technology and in consumer expectations, it’s important for us to revisit what we do and how we work to see if the old approach is still relevant. Here, we can turn to Peter Drucker’s seminal Harvard Business Review article titled The Theory of Business for some inspiration.
In it Drucker challenges businesses to constantly question their assumptions on which their business was built to see if they are still relevant. Most importantly, Drucker challenges readers to question their assumptions about what they get paid for.
In a world where today’s consumer has just as much information about real estate and neighborhoods as their agent, do they really need us to sell them a house? Is that the most important thing they want in an agent?
Do they need someone who is going to convince them why the house they’re looking at is the perfect house for them? Does a seller need their agent to convince them why “the first offer is always the best offer”? I don’t believe today’s buyers and sellers want to be sold real estate and yet this is what most agents continue to focus on selling.
If agents shouldn’t sell real estate, what should they be selling?
I believe today’s real estate agents should be in the business of selling real estate advice not real estate.
This difference might seem subtle and I’m sure every real estate agent reading this is going to say to themselves “of course I offer advice, that’s what agents do”. But even here, it’s important to question how we see ourselves vs how the public sees us.
Ask a few acquaintances – preferably ones that don’t know you’re an agent – the following question:
Would you reach out to a real estate agent to get advice on whether you should buy or sell a home, or would you reach out to them only after you’ve decided to buy/sell.
The answer you’re invariably going to get is “do you honestly think a real estate agent is going to tell you not to buy or sell a house?”.
While agents like to see themselves as trusted advisors, the reality is that the public doesn’t see most agents like that – and for good reason. Because 90% of agents out there are in the business of selling real estate. They are not selling real estate advice.
For those 90% of agents, it’s always a great time to buy a house and it’s always a great time to sell a house. It doesn’t really matter what’s going on in the world, their local real estate market or their client’s personal/financial life.
For these agents, any concern about buying or selling raised by a prospective client is seen as an objection that needs to be managed. Agents manage objections by showing the prospective client why they’re wrong and why buying/selling is the right decision.
Today’s informed consumers don’t want this kind of an agent. Today’s consumers are looking for honest advice about their personal home buying or selling plans. They’re looking for someone who can help them interpret and make sense of all the information that they’ve collected. They need someone who can tell them what they don’t know about a particular house or neighborhood. Today’s consumers don’t need someone to sell them real estate, they are looking for someone who can offer them advice.
Today’s real estate agent should hit pause for a moment to reflect on what they want to be selling to their clients. Just going along with the status quo is risky because you risk becoming irrelevant as the market changes.
Deciding to build your real estate sales career on selling advice rather than just real estate requires a significant shift in mindset, in particular for those agents who have been selling for many years and have been taught old fashioned sales techniques and scripts.
For newer agents, this shift is going to be much easier and will feel more natural because it is more consistent with what we expect from the professionals we work with. We don’t want to just be pitched a product or service, we want to be educated. We want to hear the pros and cons of different approaches and we want the space to make our own decision.
Our clients want the same thing we want from the professionals we work with – honest transparent advice. If you want to remain relevant and really thrive as a real estate agent in today’s market – build your career on selling real estate advice!