“Put down your phone. Stand up. Introduce yourself to someone near you that you don’t know. Look them in the eye. Tell them something about yourself that has nothing to do with business.”
This is exactly what I said on January 27,th 2015 at the beginning of my keynote session at the Inman Connect Agent Reboot real estate conference in New York City.
At first, the audience of around 250 real estate professionals seemed uncomfortable. It wasn’t like I asked them to do something incredibly difficult. I just asked them to put down their electronic devices and actually talk to one another.
Within just a few minutes, people followed my instruction and started walking around looking for someone new to meet. I could tell that many of them were actually struggling to have a face to face conversation with someone that they have never met before. But from the stage, I could hear introductions being made, new friendships being formed, and internal personal walls being brought down.
Considering that this was at real estate technology conference, it’s to be expected that there are several hundred in that crowd that make their maximum impact through a keyboard and a computer screen. I’m sure I took quite a few of these audience members out of their comfort zone. “Can’t I just text them?” joked an audience member.
And that’s what I found so interesting. Why were brilliant real estate professionals from throughout the country having such trouble communicating in person?
In 2002, I took my California real estate license test. Let me shed some light on this brilliant exam. It’s 150 questions long. It requires the examinee to answer 105 of the 150 questions correctly. All of the questions are multiple choice. No problem solving skills. No essay answers.
That’s right. You too can have a California real estate license with what would be considered a C- passing grade on an exam!
I studied hard to pass the test. It required me to “learn” the answers to important questions such as:
– How many acres are in a hectare?
– What is functional obsolescence?
– What is sill?
Yes. I actually learned and studied those questions and hundreds more in order to pass my real estate license course.
So why am I telling you this? In my 13 years in real estate, I have never used any of these answers in my career. Before writing this article, I asked 15 other real estate agents if they ever used answers that they learned from their real estate exam. All 15 said no.
Author and international speaker, Seth Godin, suggests that with the age of technology, knowing facts and figures off the top of the head could be useful – but not mandatory. With a simple Google search, we can get an answer to about any question we could ever ask.
In a recent podcast, Godin said, “The entire school system is about passing a test instead of learning how to solve a problem. Trust is an entire form of currency. Without the ability to problem solve for your customer, it’ll be much more difficult to earn trust with them.”
So, real estate professionals…. What is a “homestead”? How is an easement used between multiple properties? In what year was Equal Housing Opportunity implemented? All of these questions can be answered with a simple Internet search. What can’t be “Googled” is having one’s ability to problem solve. I would challenge anyone who owns or runs a real estate business to encourage your agents to learn skills that aren’t on a written exam.
Have agents work on their conversational skills. Encourage them to craft a unique value proposition as to why they are the absolute best agent to secure the listing agreement. Ask that they participate in a local speaking club like Toastmasters International. Invite them to practice their listing presentation in an encouraging group setting at your office.
As I walked to another session at the conference, I had someone come up and stop me in the hallway.
“I’m really happy that you asked us to meet the people sitting next to us,” the young woman said. “After a few minutes of talking to another agent sitting next to me, she gave me a listing referral. I have an appointment on Monday when I get back home.”
It’s amazing what can happen when you put down the technology designed to communicate with thousands of potential business contacts. Sometimes the connection that is needed most is right in front of you.