Changing the Real Estate Industry's Hard Sell Ethos

Real estate professionals, like all local business providers serving a community constituency, are challenged by a massive, all-inclusive marketing effort to their potential client base. The inclination to shower any and all with a direct "call to action" sales pitch, like dogs peeing on hydrants, becomes fodder for ridicule:

(h/t to Jeff Turner's Skitch site)

Aggressive real estate agent tactics have become part of the unseemly folklore and perception for the profession.
Here's a typical gripe about aggressive real estate brokers from Yelp:

dakini c. says:

Hi Everybody,

I have a question regarding overly aggressive real estate brokers.  My lease terminates in September but since March I have been contacted by an infinite amount of real estate brokers who want to show my apartment.  At first I was very accommodating but the situation has now spiraled out of control.   I have a HUGE notice up on my door stating that I do not want people coming into my apartment with less than 24 notice (my landlord has also agreed to this) and threatening various causes of legal action but they still knock while ignoring my notice with their clients in tow.

(Continue reading the long, detailed complaint about obnoxious agents and the instructive comment stream that follows)

Hard sell is entrenched in real estate marketing

Blogging is currently touted as real estate marketing's magic bullet, but many new real estate bloggers don't realize that the impact of blogging lies in its ability to build a social and informative relationship with its readers. Simply put, the consumer wants a social relationship with no tit-for-tat, not a business relationship in which the agent shares their expertise in exchange for the implicit obligation that the consumer owes them. This is one major difference between soft sell and hard sell... the hard sell obligation seeds the "call for action", and  consumers cringe from this arm-twisting implication.

The brand new real estate blogger, knowing nothing about blogging culture, often uses the blog construct as a kind of daily loudspeaker trumpeting their business prowess. Every article is another opportunity to present various aspects of their business (see these two example blogs ) - foreclosure help, requesting referrals from other agents, their property listings, success stories - and are peppered with links to call and email them at the end of every single article. Almost all of the blogs I see that do this only last a few months if that long, and then these bloggers complain that blogging doesn't work. Of course not, their blogs reinforce everything the consumer doesn't want to see - a self aggrandizing sales person intent on bugging them as a component of their "contact database".

How to change the Ethos?

Hard sell marketing and aggressive tactics taint the industry.  It won't change, because real estate agents still believe, at its most innocuous, it's a necessary evil to get their name out there. The brokerage training and real estate coaching programs continue to train agents with new ways to cold call, maintain some sort of superficial contact, and drip email market potential clients. They don't realize the new consumer psychology won't tolerate these intrusions much longer.

The ethos can change by showing and proving that the new real estate marketing paradigm of delivering data and information in a non-obligatory, hands-off, even selfless way is the best way to reach the consumer. It's a complete thought sea change. Ten years ago, the real estate agent could hard sell their capabilities because they were hubs of real estate expertise. Now, the Internet has placed the consumer at the hub of data collection, and really needs the agent to interpret the data. The agents that openly provide and syndicate the data interpretation (through blogs, Trulia Voices or other Web 2.0 means) become accessible to consumers and win their vote of confidence. And best of all, the enlightened blogging agent doesn't need to rely upon all those resource intensive, intrusive consumer reach out tactics to win business, he/she becomes the recipient of the "out of the blue" phone call when one of their blog readers decides to explore becoming a client.

Using blogging's law of attraction is a profoundly more efficient way to build a business. And it still eludes the understanding of 99% of the industry's practitioners, despite the fact they are all watching the Secret.


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  • 3/23/2008 6:47 PM Kermit Johnson wrote:
    I see the opposite problem in my market. REALTORS think that over-informing the prospect about a property is good sales technique. This includes email bombardment and a mountain of neighborhood stats. It also includes an overabundance of photos, including pictures of dressers or the toilet. Also, simply asking someone if they want to buy the house (after establishing value, rapport, etc) is mistakenly perceived as a hardball tactic. Is it hardball to ask a question? Is it hardball to see if someone wants some help with relocating to a particular area?

    Good salesmanship blends empathy, listening skills, questioning skills, consultative skills, and also includes the ability to incite curiosity.
    Reply to this
    1. 3/23/2008 9:32 PM Pat Kitano wrote:
      What you've described is consistent with what I've been discussing, not the opposite. Over-informing prospects with information when that information is unsolicited is not good sales technique, it can be construed as pushy. Weekly drip email bombardment can be construed as pushy - can you imagine receiving a weekly email from your chiropractor? Asking someone if they want to buy a house is fine when a rapport is established. Consumers have become jaded and suspicious to Realtor outreach because they either 1) have had a pushy experience (yes, I receive many unsolicited weekly email drips from Realtors that go to my junk mailbox) or 2) have heard that Realtors can be pushy.

      Like you say, Realtors just need to be aware of the sensitivity of the consumer in developing a deeper relationship... it's certainly a lot like dating because the high dollar real estate relationship involves more quid pro quo commitment than casual business relationships with, say, your hairstylist or dentist.

      Hard sell and hard ball are different... hard sell is the act of doing too much to attract the attention of the prospect, and it makes consumers shy from them. Realtors seem to think that the constant bombardment is perceived as a good will service, like "I'm just thinking of you". The best way to explain to the Realtor what consumers feels is to ask them how they feel about the constant attention given to them by title reps and mortgage brokers who want to "think of them" for business. Hardball is pushing to the point of conflict.

      That's why blogs are simple marketing vehicles to attract consumers. Consumers receive the data and information from bloggers on their own terms, and they decide whether to develop a relationship with the blogger. It's far more efficient to cater information distribution to hundreds or thousands of receptive prospects than to try to nail one of the very few who actually enjoy being bombarded with marketing.

      Reply to this

  • 3/23/2008 6:55 PM Mitch Argon wrote:
    Pat - I couldn't agree more. In my practice, I used to require registration to search listings (with details). I am now an "open book" for basic listing information - a lot less "bogus" email contact forms and more candid phone calls from people who are using my site as a valuable resource. Ditto!
    Reply to this
    1. 3/23/2008 9:54 PM Pat Kitano wrote:
      You get it Mitch... again, I'm surprised more haven't figured this out...

      Reply to this

  • 3/24/2008 6:38 AM Bryan wrote:
    Hi, I'm an SEO specialist and I noticed your site could use some help....just kidding. This is a wonderful article. I've worked with quite a few real estate agents and I think I'm going to make this mandatory reading before doing Internet marketing.
    Reply to this

  • 3/24/2008 11:54 AM Kristal Kraft wrote:
    Being accessible and providing value are the two best ways to get business. No body likes a pushy salesperson, no matter what industry they are in!
    Reply to this

  • 3/25/2008 1:10 PM Charles Woodall wrote:
    I have tried to sum up my reasons for saying that blogging will never be mainstream in the real estate profession. You nailed it in two sentences.

    "Blogging is currently touted as real estate marketing’s magic bullet, but almost every new real estate blogger doesn’t realize that the impact of blogging lies in its ability to build a social and informative relationship with its readers.

    The brand new real estate blogger, knowing nothing about blogging culture, often uses the blog construct as a kind of daily loudspeaker trumpeting their business prowess."
    Reply to this

  • 3/25/2008 3:40 PM Mitch Argon wrote:
    Charles - excellent point! The effective blog is not the same as the billboard, shopping cart ad, or neighborhood post cards (at least by most). While I don't think there is a silver bullet in anything (at least for long), the insight into the approach AND ability to execute on it may become the primary (effective) barrier to entry into this arena. Fine with me.
    Reply to this

  • 3/30/2008 12:33 PM Landflip wrote:
    Hopefully volatility of the stock market will lead people to invest in real estate. The market will eventually turn.

    I think agents should use the internet more. There are a lot of agents do not know how to use the computer.
    Reply to this

  • 5/18/2008 1:02 AM Susie Blackmon wrote:
    You have put my beliefs into words, not that I'm insinuating that I am so smart; I merely agree that in this day and time, it is better to draw people to you than bombard them with reminders to think of you/call you/etc. It continues to amaze me that the big, successful franchises still encourage us (train us) to use antiquated and ineffective methods to farm for clients/business. I want to EARN business and trust.
    Reply to this

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