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From November’s issue of Real Estate magazine, RISMedia columnist Barbara Pronin interviews Michael Pruitt, President of Pruitt Real Estate about meeting consumer’s needs, effectively equipping his sales force and keeping up with technology.

Barbara Pronin: Since Pruitt Real Estate began with your father in 1954, was your career path destined from the start?
Michael Pruitt: No, actually. I majored in marketing and pre-law, and my first position after college was as a business development representative for the Florida Department of Commerce. One day, while working with a client to bring a business into town, I learned that the real estate agent’s commission was going to be double my state salary. Shortly thereafter, I obtained my real estate license, joined my father’s office and started learning the real estate business. That was in 1974.

The following year, we became an ERA company. We stayed with ERA for 25 years, but I always wanted to be independent, and one day in 1998, I made the leap of faith and did it. We are currently associated with 133 dedicated agents serving Brevard County, Florida, our relocation and commercial business is stronger than ever, and I feel like we are poised for growth.

BP: What would you point to as your competitive difference?
MP: We have a reputation for doing things right, being easy to work with and providing great follow-through. We have experienced agents with a long history of providing excellent customer service. We’re large enough to keep up with all the cutting-edge technology, but small enough to retain the personal touch—and to adapt quickly to changing needs and markets. In addition, Pruitt Real Estate is an integral part of this community and has been since its earliest days.

BP: What’s on the minds of today’s buyers and sellers?
MP: Buyers are concerned with paying too much. They want to be sure they are getting the rock-bottom price. And sellers are recovering from the culture shock of lower prices. But home prices here are not dropping anymore, except perhaps in the very high end. There are still plenty of short sales and foreclosures—although those are only 30% of our business today as opposed to 45% last year. So we are seeing a positive difference.

BP: How are your sales associates meeting today’s consumer needs?
MP: By providing the best and most current market information so that people can make more informed decisions. We recently launched enhancements to our real estate information capabilities that are taking those services to the next level. From our website, customers now have access to the industry’s most up-to-date market news, action bulletins, videos and critical consumer data through RISMedia’s Real Estate Information Network® (RREIN) to help them make the best decisions when it comes to buying or selling.

BP: How are you keeping your sales force equipped to succeed?
MP: As we launched RREIN, we were able to arrange customized training sessions right here in our offices to get our agents up to speed on how to use all the new information connections we’ve acquired. Also, our relationship with Leading Real Estate Companies provides us with additional online training through INSTITUTE 2.0, which offers all aspects of agent training, from the needs of the new agent to the demands of highly experienced agents.

BP: How has your technology evolved to meet the demands of agents and consumers?
MP: Our membership in RREIN is as high tech as it gets because we, and our customers, are connected on a real-time basis to the most timely and critical market content. Our offices are all digitally networked and our integrated Web solutions and backoffice support include listings management and drip email capabilities, a daily blog and much more. Our customers can customize their online home searches in Melbourne or anywhere in Brevard County with state-of-the-art maps and virtual tours, and they are notified when new or competing listings come on the market.

BP: What do today’s agents need to focus on in order to succeed?
MP: In a world where information sometimes runs rampant, I think agents need to focus on being a trusted and reliable source of information for their clients. They need to hunker down and make what I call “warm calls” rather than “cold calls.” That is, they need to work within their sphere of influence, networking with everyone they know. Also, in this unstable economy, agents need to get face-to-face with people—hold their hands, in a sense—during the stressful times that occur in every transaction. Some brokers call this kind of focus “getting back to basics.” But, in fact, we’ve never quit the basics. It’s our superior customer service that always has and always will set us apart.

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