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Learn to Talk the Talk of Consumers

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By Scott Einbinder

RISMEDIA, Feb. 5, 2008–I don’t know about you, but the silence is deafening. The fever pitch of new models, new services, blogs, social networking, vertical marketing, streaming video, maps, search engines, and all of those other sophisticated terms that describe a “new” opportunity seem to now have the traction of freshly waxed snow skis on the slopes of Aspen.

Can it be because all of this innovation continues to focus predominantly on companies and not consumers? Are we focused on window dressing rather than what’s in the store? Are we obsessed with the wrapping of our services rather than what’s in the box? I continue to make the argument, YES. The advancement of technology has indeed narrowed the gap of information between the industry and the consumer. However, what has grown wider is the gap between consumer need and our professional – and valuable -delivery of results.

I see so many brokers struggling to spend so much money to cultivate a lead, yet spend little-to-zero resources on how to convert it and make a difference to the consumer. I meet seasoned veterans who attend in-house training and I ask them, “Do you know how to calculate the ROI for your seller to determine the right price offer?” or “Share with me your consumer risk mitigation protocol, your buyer quality assessment protocol, staged contract negotiation strategy, or automated transaction management platform.” I, too, often get a blank stare. This is the language of the consumer! The training agents receive always seemed to focus on things like lead generation or benefits that steer right back into the direction of the agent and company, leaving the consumer left with needs unfulfilled. What is more frightening, is that so many brokers and agents seem to be hypnotized to not even be able to distinguish the difference between agent and consumer benefit.

What intensifies this concern, is that we are the only industry who trains our agents, yet institutes zero accountability to insure that the training is being implemented. Can you imagine doctors and lawyers who complete school, obtain their license, then go out and make their own rules or adhere to the policies when they want to? When I ask brokers, why they do not enforce the training they provide, I know the answer in advance is, “What can I do? They do business?” or “It’s hard to get and keep agents.”

I recently read that one national real estate firm has just completed their “reinvention” of their customer service platform. The pinnacle of their reinvention was to send a survey after closing to allow the consumer to rate their experience. The second component of their new platform was to better automate the way leads are distributed to the agents. And there we go again, reinventing a customer platform with benefits that steer to the group that we seem to think only matter: ourselves. And of course, the inventors of this new platform have taken a picture of themselves, smiling, shaking hands, and holding a copy of the survey to be an online and print marketing piece.

And now we head into a market that will continue to bring out the best and worst in our industry. Like I am sure many of you, we like markets like this where highly skilled agents and companies will thrive, and the “grunge” of the business will fall away. This market presents such a golden opportunity to those who “get it” to elevate their production to levels they could never have achieved in a hot market.

But the absence of the grunge is not enough to succeed. You must truly reinvent not your business model but your thought process. The thought process of what we really do for people and where your value really is. How your value can be assessed by the consumer and how you take a level of accountability higher than ever before. Accountability is not a tag line but a way of living. Accountability means nothing to the consumer if there is no penalty as a result of your “lack of performance.” If you work for a company that has a service guarantee, that means nothing or the seller needs to jump though hoops to get out of the listing, than stop fooling yourself to think you are accountable. You are just window dressing.

Consumerism and real estate has been like oil and water. I sometimes feel that many of those old relics who run our industry “curse” the fact that the consumer knows too much already. These relics still set the tone for our industry and change will only happen when the masses demand it. Consumerism is all about “authenticity” and “reality” not perception.

Are you frustrated with industries that have on their home page, “Why the Code of Ethics Means Success!” Are we still standing in front of a Code of Ethics as if it provides the answer for the consumer? I direct you to just one section of the ‘sacred Code’:

Article 2
REALTORS® shall avoid exaggeration, misrepresentation, or concealment of pertinent facts relating to the property or the transaction. REALTORS® shall not, however, be obligated to discover latent defects in the property, to advise on matters outside the scope of their real estate license, or to disclose facts which are confidential under the scope of agency or non-agency relationships as defined by state law. (Amended 1/00)

Article 2 states that Realtors shall avoid “exaggeration, misrepresentation or concealment.” Has anyone read a real estate advertisement lately of a property where the agent describes the home as “wonderful” when it’s not wonderful, or “cute” when it is small, or “lovely” when it’s anything but. This industry is loaded with exaggeration. It also states that Realtors shall not be obligated to discover latent defects or to advise on matters outside the scope of their real estate license.” However, agents do this every day when they advise on mortgage matters, inspection issues and the endless amount of things that happen in a transaction.

Can you see it? There exists the Code of Ethics, yet the very practice each day of 1.2 million people runs in contrast to what agents actually do. This may be a ‘Code,’ but it is not the foundation of consumerism. It is hypocrisy and confusion. We need to look deeper.

I challenge you to learn the language of the consumer. The best agents in our system have learned this language and apply it. Stop justifying your value on open houses, slick print ads, outdated marketing gimmicks and quite frankly a code. The consumer expects the code of honesty, integrity and full disclosure. The consumer code is that simple. Invest resources to fulfill your clients’ needs. Deliver on their needs first and yours second. Be honest with yourself that if you don’t know how to speak this language seek out people who do and who will share it with you. Don’t be silent! Demand your broker invest in your knowledge and demand they teach you how to articulate and execute in a consumer oriented manner. If they do not know how, you must find it! Don’t focus on making deals, focus on making a difference and your needs and desire for a higher income will follow right behind.

Scott Einbinder is a national speaker and motivational strategist specifically to the real estate industry. He can be reach at scott@scotteinbinder.com.

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