There’s been a lot of talk in the industry about disruption. From low-fee brokers entering the market to technology-powered brokerages that are wooing clients with fresh content and data. There’s an undercurrent of change occurring, which in a very hot market like Toronto, is sometimes easy to ignore.
The Federal competition bureau ruled earlier this summer that TREB open up MLS sales data, which opens the door to consumers, but also entrepreneurs who will move fast to capitalize on this goldmine of sold data and historical sales archives. While it may be months until the details are flushed out and data is opened up for consumption, it signals that disruption to the real estate industry is no longer a matter of “if”, but more so a matter of “when”.
Don’t believe me? Just have a peek down south and see how Zillow took the industry by storm and has become a staple for consumers and agents alike. Why is the wide-spread availability of data, such as sold prices and archived historical pricing considered disruption?
At its core, sales is about communicating and exchanging information to influence a decision or outcome. When information is widely available, the dynamic between a salesperson and clients change and the value of a salesperson is challenged.
It ain’t happening here!
Disruption is not an overnight thing. It comes as an evolution. It’s been over a decade since Amazon has gained huge popularity among consumers. Why are people choosing to buy their books, movies and other stuff online? Because the value (knowledge, advice, opinions) that was once provided by the bookstore owner has been replaced by reliable online reviews and readily available product information. Couple that with the convenience of not having to drive to the store and it’s almost a no-brainer.
What about more complex sales, like electronics or even cars? People used to walk into an electronics store or a car dealership to get educated and ask questions about products before buying. Sales reps would ask about their needs and help them navigate through their choices – that’s how sales were made. Today’s consumer can research pretty much anything, in seconds. Looking for a new TV? You can compare models, prices, read reviews and have it shipped to your door the next day. How about cars? Tesla sells tens of thousands of them – online.
Will someone ever buy a home online? Quite possibly. Will the value of an agent be challenged when a client has lots of data and comparables at their fingertips? No doubt.
It’s very clear – the free flow and availability of information challenges the value of a salesperson. We can resist, fight and protest (much like car drivers are about Uber), however, there’s no better way than to shift mindsets and ask ourselves these two questions:
- Am I prepared for when things change? and;
- What am I doing TODAY to prepare myself for tomorrow?
If you’re finding the answers aren’t as clear as you’d like them to be, that’s perfectly fine. What might help is a simple exercise. Put yourself in your client’s shoes and think through what things you can be doing to make things better for the consumer. After all, disruption or not, they’re the ones who are making the choice and voting with their wallets.
Despite what we may think, clients don’t care if you make double the commission by selling their home yourself. Clients don’t care if our smiling face isn’t right next to their listing on every single website. Clients don’t even care if you are the number one sales rep in the office, or city, or country.
What they do care about is service and how you help them navigate through the complexities of buying or selling a home. A services business is generally very subjective, however, there are basic principles that have been around for many years that still ring true today and will help you evaluate how you can prepare for the future.
Did you know that a scary 48% of buyer inquiries are never responded to by an agent? Imagine much money is left on the table by agents who don’t respond to emails, voicemails or texts. These phone calls you may be ignoring are real live humans that you probably spend hundreds and thousands of dollars to get in front of.
Get in the habit by setting aside time each day for call-backs. You’ll be surprised by the results.
Provide an incredible experience
Our entire economy is shifting to an experience-based one. What does this mean? A taxi, coffee or meal is ordered with a single tap of a button. The lineups at Starbucks and the Apple store are always insane. Why? People are choosing experiences, not products and services. They want to know they’ll be in good hands and that you’ll be there for them when they need you the most.
Most parts of the home buying process has not evolved in decades. Paper offers, long mortgage applications, thick inspection reports, faxes, faxes, and more faxes (and the list goes on). None of these makes it easy for your clients and drains their time. What are you doing to remove friction and make your client’s home buying experience a memorable one?
Grow your knowledge
Technology is moving fast, but not everything is based on facts and data. Buying or selling a home is emotional. The deeper your knowledge of your clients, neighbourhood or niche, the better off you’ll be. Go beyond just knowing about homes by learning about the community. What are the best cafes? Where is a great park to walk the dog? Knowledge adds value and this is what clients crave.
Give before getting
I recently met an agent that described how a stranger called him out of the blue, asking if he can share his template for a lease. He thought about it and decided to send it along. After a year, that stranger was now a client and closed multiple transactions with this agent. All because he was helpful and didn’t expect anything in return. There’s no shortage of people out there looking to take up your time and want something for free. The tough part is to choose those who you can genuinely help.
Building relationships is a long-term game and the seeds you plant today may not benefit you for months or even years. Adding value and being genuine go a long way in establishing trust and growing your sphere of influence.