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RISMEDIA, May 8, 2009-This past week I had conversations with the senior management of two medium-sized real estate companies that hammered home just how desperate some firms are getting. They each mentioned how they were thinking of training their sales associates on how to use social media (i.e. FaceBook, Twitter, etc.) which of course ‘everybody’ is doing. When asked if their sales people were even responding to the online leads they already had, the answer in both cases was an unsurprising “no.” If our sales associates can’t figure out how to make it in today’s market, let’s give them some bright shiny objects, at least it will take their mind off of the fact they’re drowning.

Social media is not some kind of silver bullet that will solve all their problems. In fact, for most of them it will substantially add to their frustration and probably hasten their exit from the business. “RDR” (Realtors Don’t Read) is common refrain. And if you believe that is true, consider the natural sequitur “RDW” (Realtors Don’t Write). Social media certainly can complement one’s marketing efforts, if one is a very good writer with some semblance of a unique and engaging “voice.”

This is just one more example of how typical real estate management responds to desperate times with desperate Hail Mary, spaghetti?on?the?wall measures, rather than leadership.

The Real Crisis in Real Estate
The imploding housing values, constricted credit markets, skittish consumers and an overall deep recessionary economy are simply part of a cycle. A nasty one for sure, but just a cycle. Barring an extinction level event, people will always buy and sell real estate. Currently, sales volumes may be lower and the methods of how we help them with the process certainly change, but business will continue.

There is indeed a crisis in the residential real estate industry, but this current cycle does not define it -it instead has revealed it. Boom times tend to mask flaws, and this market has made it very clear that there has been a lack of strategic leadership.

Having been intimately involved with residential real estate for over 33 years, it has been clear to me that this is one of the most reactionary industries there is. Strategic thinking and execution are so rare that it almost takes my breath away when I am fortunate enough to witness it. The very foundation of successful strategic thinking and its execution in this industry is sales force accountability. It doesn’t matter how brilliant your ideas or how shiny the new objects you provide your sales associates. If you don’t hold them strictly accountable to implementing your strategic vision you will fail, every time. Yet accountability is the anathema to the body?shop model of hiring and managing sales associates found in the vast majority of companies, and it is precisely these companies that find themselves in dire straits and most likely to name the economy as the source of their woes.

It was interesting that one of the brokerages I spoke to actually bragged about how they hold their salespeople accountable and explicitly denied providing “bright shiny objects.” Yet when I asked them how they expected social media training would convert to new business for their people, or how they would even measure it, they responded with “We don’t know.”

The current market cycle is an incredible, once?in?a?generation opportunity to take significant market share if only because so many are frantically reacting. To do that requires strategic thinking, superb execution and holding your salespeople accountable. They need to understand that this is a serious business, not a pastime. You can give them that perspective and the means to thrive even in the worst of today’s market. However, if you fall into the trap of providing solace through the glitter of bright shiny objects, you are merely forestalling the inevitable.

Michael J. Russer (a.k.a. Mr. Internet®) is the CEO of RUSSER Communications. He is an internationally recognized speaker, trainer, author, and strategic consultant to the real estate industry. For a free copy of his White Paper: Why Sales Associates Fail Miserably Online -And What to Do About It! just send your request to