RAISING THE BAR: A MATTER OF TRUST...THAT GOES BOTH WAYS!
OK, another post on "Raising the Bar" for real estate agents looks a little over-done! But I get really irked by the constant pointing out of the importance of education to this profession....as if the classroom is the place to correct under-handed, bad behavior. I don't think those who exhibit poor judgment in business can or will ever change! In spite of all the classes taken and the titles earned, a bad agent is still a bad agent and they make more of an impact on the public than great agents do simply because that's what the public hears about.....
I think there is an entirely different approach that can and should be taken by large real estate companies; and it has to do with the investment they have already made: The investment in their agents!
The premise is that the agents who are out there doing great deals, doing good work for the public through charity work and volunteer work, are the pulse of this profession--these agents can be identified and followed by many and they are! Word-of-mouth promotion is the way these agents get their following. This is the truth about the successful professionals who make up the real estate industry but they are NEVER featured by the company they work for!
As a result, the reputation of this industry is built upon all the bad deals and the terrible treatment experienced at the hands of the bad agents. Those are the "stories" that get told and re-told until our profession appears to be one of a collection of bad actors!!
I just read a great post by Sharon Lewis and it spurred me on to write this post since it is one of my favorite subject matters: Raising the bar in the Real Estate Profession
In her important post, Sharon brings to light the heavy emphasis that large real estate companies are currently putting on education within their company to "raise the bar" on the quality and ethics of their agents. In her post Sharon puts much emphasis on the whole idea of "education" being the impetus to create a better agent. While I totally agree that education is crucial, it is not the only thing that is effective in building the character and ethical conduct of it's agents.
I have another opinion which is why I am writing this post....I would like your opinions as well, since it has never really been a topic here before to my knowledge.
There needs to be a "Sea Change" in the attitude of the behemoths who control the real estate profession. Currently, there is a push for education--more and more of it to improve the quality of our agents.
I know that Sharon and I share the idea of what the "Big Box" realtors have to offer and how education can be the difference between a superb agent and a mediocre one. I work for a "big" one too so I can see what they offer and how liberal they are with the money spent on these trainings.
It is a great thing to have an "inter-office University" but I think a portion of the money spent on that sort of thing would be better spent on bringing a point of light and attention on the agents who do great things within their company and their communities...Big business and new revenue can come from this untapped source.
WE HAVE AN OPPORTUNITY THAT IS NOT RECOGNIZED BY "BIG BOX" COMPANIES:
I think that the "Big" ones fore-go "pushing" their best agents to the detriment of the whole real estate profession! Wouldn't it be better to take a share of the dollars spent on "education" (that can be gotten though other venues) and Corporate "Branding" campaigns and spend that money on advertising the attributes of their best agents?...An institutional ad pointing out a charity run by so-and-so agent from such and such company; or making an issue of a major contribution of time and money on a favorite museum or playground?
There are numerous ways to tell the tale of a successful agent to the public....PR can work wonders with an agent who has aimed higher than the average one. Social contributions are rarely pointed out when they are made by the real estate community and yet that is where much of the good deeds and charitable work comes from in many communities!
"Big Box" real estate firms continue to focus their marketing efforts on the "Branding" mechanisms they say need to be in place to make more deals happen. These branding efforts are aimed at the conceptual idea, or institutional advertising of a company--getting the name out there and giving the public a look at how they achieve the level of strength and success in the real estate world. Although I see this as one important approach, Institutional Marketing focuses WAY too much on the inanimate part of real estate and leaves the real human aspect to find it's own way, at the expense of the agents themselves.
IT IS A QUESTION OF TRUST AND THAT GOES BOTH WAYS:
Buyers and Sellers need to TRUST the person with whom they will be spending so much time and money. They need to feel that their priorities matter more than anything else and that those priorities will be recognized and met with enthusiasm by the professional they use to buy or sell a home. The agent, too is very concerned that they are not wasting time with a "lookie-Lou" who takes up days, even weeks of their time with no intention to buy or sell a home. How does one find this sort of agent? Not from the ads they run! A great agent is not the sort to brag about themselves--nor should they be! The type of agent who gets his bragging rights out there on his website or in his ads is usually the exact agent you want to avoid!
The best working relationships do not come through connecting with a company; nor do they come easily when an agent is called by a buyer or seller from a blurb on a company website. Good working relationships are generally gained through word-of -mouth promotion from people with whom the agent has worked with in the past..There is nothing mysterious about the way these relationships develop and build over the years. They come through good, honest and successful dealings with others---others who talk up an agent because they were so impressed with the way they were treated!
This goes both ways and these all-important relationships come from the connection made between agent and buyer or agent and seller. Referral business is booming and the reason is almost always attributed to the need to know whom each party is working with in a more informed way.
ALL AGENTS ARE NOT CREATED EQUAL:
I personally believe that, just as the valid statement "all real estate is local" is a basic mantra for this business, so is the "All agents are not created equal" mantra when it comes to determining the quality of a company's agents. Buyers and sellers today NEED TO TRUST the agent they use, more than ever before. Hidden within the companies walls many times are the not so well-known problematic agents who stay with a company long after they have worn out their welcome---they stay because the company may view them as valuable for what ever amount of business they bring in. Replacing a producing agent is "verboten" in most large real estate corporations; if the agent is producing they have a desk for as long as they want one. It matters not that said agent may have just unethically rented a home to a customer after they just signed a contract of sale on the same house with someone else; or that an agent who has had issues with drinking has been arrested and served jail time for the infarction, never revealing that to his company...
It is NOT the real estate company who is making the connections and putting deals together or ethically handling a tough situation between agents and their clients. The agents that excel in this profession are also very modest about what they have accomplished---self promotion is something the less ethical agent is known for! Therefore the good news about our industry and the good people who fill the ranks and do good deeds are quietly kept secret by the very people who keep a problematic agent in their ranks just to fill a desk!
It is the buyer and the seller who determine with whom they are going to trust with their personal information and with whom they will choose to spend hours and hours working!!!
Because the Big Box companies (in most cases) DO NOT PAY for all the advertising that is done at a local level, they have very big expectations of the local agents to pay out of their own pockets if they want to get their name out there!
GREAT AGENTS ARE THE "LIFE BLOOD" OF OUR INDUSTRY:
Would it not benefit everyone in this profession if the focus was put on the high quality and the good deeds of the agents who actually do the deals? A major marketing effort that draws the public attention to the level of professionalism that can be found in the company's agents would put a very different light on the whole profession....and it would give much needed guidance to the homeowner/seller and the home buyer as they try to pick the best from the rest in this new age of home ownership.
NOW IS THE TIME TO BUILD THE REPUTATION OF A COMPANY THROUGH THE "LIFE BLOOD" OF THEIR BUSINESSES; REAL ESTATE AGENTS ARE THAT "LIFE BLOOD" AND CAN MAKE OR BREAK A COMPANY'S STANDING....and even as the importance of the educational part of the profession continues to demand attention, so does the individual who will be the force behind the real estate deal: The real estate agent!
HERE'S TO THE BAR-RAISING OF ALL REAL ESTATE PROFESSIONALS! ...and your opinion is more than welcome too!
Please leave a comment!
**ALL INFORMATION AND CONTENT IN THIS BLOG IS ORIGINAL TO PAULA I. HATHAWAY
Paula I. Hathaway, Senior Vice President, Douglas Elliman Real Estate
Southamtpon Village Real Estate Specialist since 1995; Also Specializes in North Sea, Noyac, Water Mill and Bridgehampton, New York
Diamond , Gold and Chairman's Circle Awards; Top Producer since 2005
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