I wanted to buy my first house in 1984. I had absolutely no clue about how to go about the process, so I started by going to open houses. I met lots of real estate agents, but sadly, none that I trusted enough to want to “hire”.
So, I started taking real estate courses at night at Santa Rosa Junior College. I started with Principles, the following semester I took Practices, followed by Appraisal 1, then Appraisal 2, then Finance, then Law…pretty soon I had taken all the courses that SRJC had to offer and had earned a Certificate in real estate! (Along the way, I did buy that house)
I finally took my salespersons license exam (and passed it) in 1985. In June of 1986 I enrolled in Merrill Lynch Realty’s 3 week new agent training class and I went to work as a Realtor® July 1st, 1986.
Back in those days we had a saying “you have to circulate to percolate” which was our way of saying that you had to be actively engaged in meeting and interacting with people in order to do business. The social media of that time was going to social events, being involved in the community, meeting people any way you could, chasing leads, making phone calls, holding open houses, knocking on doors, sending newsletters, flyers and postcards and generally letting people know that you were a Realtor® and then following up with them and nurturing relationships until a transaction occurred. Then we switched in to the facilitator mode to get the deal to close, at which time we switched back to the nurturing role to keep the relationship alive. Well, we were supposed to do that part but very few of us were good at it, preferring to chase after new contacts.
Now, let’s fast forward some 23 years to today’s real estate agent only to find that very little has changed … we still have to find people with whom to have a relationship, nurture those relationships, facilitate transactions, and then switch back to nurturing the relationship after the closing.
Some of the same techniques we used then still work very well today. But in today’s real estate world (it truly is world wide today) your next client could find you online from their home in Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Latin or South America. You may be well into the relationship building and nurturing process before you ever meet them face to face. You can become fast friends with people that you have never physically met or even talked to on the phone.
Or, they could be 1 block away.
We started getting into the realm of technology with voice mail in the mid eighties. The MLS book went away around then as well. We got Fax machines and cell phones in the late 80s and early 90s. And by the mid nineties we started getting web sites. Our early websites tended to be what came to be known as “brochure ware” being little more than online copies of our print brochures.
Soon we added the ability to search for homes via IDX. We added “fish-eye’ virtual tours and later different types of virtual tours. We did all of this in hopes of realizing the promise of “if you build it they will come”. And for some, that was true. But for most of us we had the experience of having a bill board in the middle of nowhere.
So, if you accept the fact that our core business is meeting people, nurturing the relationship, facilitating a transaction, and then continuing to nurture a relationship after the transaction you can see that those things haven’t changed since I got into the business.
What has changed is the consumer that we are looking to serve. The tools that we used to entice consumers in the past have changed. We used to be the only source available for information on what was for sale or what had sold. Today’s consumer has a galaxy of choices to find that information. This of course is not new news as we have heard this for years.
So, new tools have evolved to enable us to serve this new consumer. You’ve heard the names: blog, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and so on. Now we need to bring our voice and our faces to these new platforms so we can be found, and communicate, and nurture, and facilitate, and nurture again. Most of these tools are free of dollar cost, costing only your time.
It’s not about technology. It’s about communication. Two way communication. Give and take. Proper use of these new tools will give you the ability to do two things very well. The first is the mass approach to prospecting for new business and the second, and maybe more important, is the ability to give great customer service on an individual basis in near instantaneous time.
You need to learn to blog, tweet and link with your past, present and future client. They are learning to expect it from you because they are getting it from other areas of their lives. The political arena was forever changed by the Obama campaign, the recent unrest in China and the Iran elections. Pop culture changed because of the entry of Oprah and exit of Michael Jackson. News reporting has changed because of things like Mumbai and Capt. Sullivan’s heroic landing in the Hudson…all reported in social media far in advance of traditional media.
We are being conditioned to this level of communication and service in all aspects of our lives. The time is now upon us for real estate agents and real estate companies to give up struggling against the change and to embrace it fully.
After all, we have always been users of social media, haven’t we?