There’s always something to howl about

#1 Myth In Real Estate: Agents Don’t Know Why They’re Failing

BHB is about excellence. Excellence in service, products we need and/or use, various marketing methods, and how we conduct ourselves during what I’ll laughingly refer to as ‘business hours’. I’ve suspected Greg’s goal of reaching the million agents is gonna be a tall order, ‘cuz 80% of the agents out there would have to move up the ‘I get it’ ladder to have a clue. More simply put, they don’t come here, and probably never will. That said, I also believe there is a relatively large grouping of agents who’ve not learned yet what it takes to become a consistently successful high volume producer. They do business, but realize they could, and should be doing much more.

High volume? Look, you don’t have to close 100 escrows, ok? But an agent who wants to, can make six figures, $100-250,000 or more in nearly any market. This morning I discovered Russ also addressed this topic, but in his own way.

Agents just don’t know what they should be doing with their time.

Or so they would have you believe.

Let’s conduct a short experiment. Think of any past endeavor for which you had more than a passing interest in succeeding. Let’s take a simple one with which most of us can identify — losing weight and/or improving our overall health. How’d ya do?

If you were successful, it’s my guess you know why. Duh. Can’t we then infer if you had failed, 99% of folks would also know exactly why? Am I being too subtle here? When I was the ‘Chubby Little Blonde Guy’ (That oughta date it for you.) I knew exactly what road I’d used to arrive at Chubsville. No self discipline when it came to diet and exercise. Go ahead, write down that Black Pearl. I’ll wait for you.

It takes an IQ of at least 150-180 minimum to understand the dynamics of calories in vs. calories out, plus the added factor of consistent exercise, both aerobic, and anaerobic. Get the right math goin’ for 120 days or so, and pretty soon you’re shoppin’ for clothes that aren’t X-rated. I was never on M.I.T.’s short list for recruitment, but I figured this one out all by lonesome.

Segue to real estate agents.

As an 18 year old with a blank slate for a mind, (Many back then would phrase it ah, differently.) I was bombarded with training, most of which addressed prospecting for listings. It didn’t stop in training class. It happens I lived at the boss’s house, so at the dinner table, guess what we talked about? We (Dad and the mouse in his pocket.) talked about what it took for an agent to succeed. My only recourse was to lip sync with him, which cracked my step-mom up no end — mysteriously though, not him so much.

Fast forward to present day agents.

The most glaring common denominator connecting the agents of yesteryear and modern day warriors is their aversion to hurt feelings, and/or bruised egos — their own. Grabbing a number from the air of my experience, I’d bet good money on the contention saying 90% of agents are doomed to failure from their first appearance in a real estate office as a licensee.

The #1 Myth? Their ignorance of why they will most assuredly end up doing something else to make a living. They know exactly why they’re failing.

I remember one day I was at my desk shuffling 3 X 5 cards with property addresses/phone numbers on them. There were about 100 of them, and the plan was to call them in the pursuit of new listings or referrals. (Nothing’s new under the sun, right?)

An old guy who turned out to be one of my favorite mentors arrived unannounced, rudely banging his fist on my desk, causing my spirit to literally leave my body. Paraphrasing from terrified memory, “If all you’re gonna do is shuffle those #$%ing cards all day, get in your $&(@$# car and drive to Vegas. They always need dealers. Start #$^&^ calling now!” He went on to explain how many calls I’d make before being allowed to have lunch. He was much bigger than I, so…

I started calling.

This guy had great affection for me, and I him. He couldn’t understand my hesitation, as I had already proven myself as a FSBO demon on the phone. In fact, I’d listed a FSBO six hours into my very first day as a licensed agent — 18 years 2 months old. So why, he wondered, was I lollygagging around?

I was afraid of rejection, that’s why. And that’s the common denominator for almost every single agent who finds themselves out of the business. They spent tragic amounts of energy figuring ways to avoid being told to go away. Let’s boil it down to its simplest terms.

The method(s) chosen while full time agents included:

  • Holding open houses on other agents’ listings.
  • Answering ad calls coming to their office’s main phone line.
  • Mailing flyers hoping for calls from excited homeowners begging them to list their homes.
  • Websites & blogs — hoping against hope the leads will be self-converting.
  • All the while they know exactly what they’re doing — or rather, what they’re not doing. In fact, they become experts in the avoidance of any activity which might possibly lead to more than a couple transactions yearly. They’re no different than I was as The Chubby Blonde Guy over 30 years ago. We had one thing in common.

    We knew exactly what would lead to our success — and we knew the exact moment each day when we decided to do something else. Whom do you think you’re kiddin’? Surely not the person staring back at you in the mirror.

    Whether it’s me expanding the acreage around my waistline, or a real estate agent talking to 16 people a year, we both know exactly why we failed. Still, though I wouldn’t have dreamed of telling anyone with a straight face how I was mystified at size of my giant belly, agents will look you in the eye and try to sell you stuff which would make even Forrest Gump laugh his ass off.

    Their failure was a direct result of their inability consciously willful refusal to do what what they knew needed to be done.

    If for a minute, I thought you the reader didn’t have the reasoning power of a four year old, I’d tell you I was unaware eating a pint of premium ice cream nightly would cause significant weight and waist gain. Of course, nobody with an IQ over 80 would try to seriously convince you of that.

    So I ask the question of struggling agents: Why are looking people in the eye, people who trust you, and telling them you worked hard, doing all the right things, but the business was just too tough?

    People — the guy you remember in high school who couldn’t spell his name right three times running? If he talked to enough people a year, he’d make a good living in real estate. Does anyone have the cajones to argue that claim? I don’t mean to be politically incorrect here, but there are some people out there making a very good living, who can’t read past the sixth grade level. I’ve met them.

    The smartest farming genius out there will go broke constantly polishing his farm equipment. Yet the barely literate guy who’s out in the fields, Gumping his way through the plowing, and planting, and harvesting crops is filling his barn with crops in the fall. Go figure.

    There are so many potentially stellar agents out there who’ll be back at their old jobs next year because they were too afraid to look in the mirror and see the problem. Just as nobody spoon fed me a couple gallons of Jamocha Almond Fudge weekly, nobody forced you to waste a year or two of your life, putting your family at risk financially, ‘cuz you can’t face a little rejection.

    It’s time to take the bull by the horns, instead of spreading so much of what the bull leaves behind. Your lawn is already green, you need to work on greening up your bank account.

    Even a crappy plan executed well with consistently hard work will yield rewards. You’ll get on a learning curve and begin to add working smart to working hard. Before you know it, folks will think your a real estate agent.

    You know exactly why your failing. Either do what you know has to be done, or go back to what you were doin’ before. This isn’t rocket science. How do I know that? ‘Cuz even I can do it.


    40 Comments so far

    1. Doug Quance May 12th, 2008 11:59 am

      Unfortunately, in this market, many good agents are failing… as there simply isn’t enough work for all.

      You are, of course, correct in your assessment that the best will survive.

    2. Benn May 12th, 2008 12:53 pm

      Doug that’s kind of to easy to say, don’t you think? Jeff lays it out in black and white, less buyers in the market place means you must get in front of twice as many opportunities by doing what must be done- the hard work, risking it all, even rejection…

      Agents will fail that were doomed to fail in the first place- those that took this job because it was easy money. Back 20 even 30 years ago when agents didn’t have any of the communication tools nor the reach online at all- the best survived because they used tried and true methods to reach past the stale to the fresh pickings in the back, or we’re smart enough to peel a little deeper to make what appeared to be stale fresh again.

      Jeff, simply amazing…

    3. Doug Quance May 12th, 2008 1:18 pm

      Well, Benn, it’s only easy to say because it’s the first thing that came to my mind.


      Yes, you can work like hell to get in front of more prospects… but that doesn’t change the overall mathematics. The pie is still the same size. While one gets a bigger piece, another gets a smaller one – or none at all.

      I spoke with a seller a few days ago who said that not one – but several agents refused to take her expired listing without a drastic price reduction, as they already had too many listings that weren’t selling… and that they weren’t getting any buyer leads from.

      I have reported about the sales stats of some of the top agents in my area who have hundreds of listings… but few sales to show for it – including buyer sides.

      This market is eating good agents right along with the bad ones.

    4. Jeff Brown May 12th, 2008 2:23 pm

      Guys — Having spoken a few times with you, Doug, I have a first hand understanding of what a disaster his market really is.

      In San Diego we experienced similar circumstances while slogging through the S & L Crisis. Making things go from worst case to OMG was the loss of two of our largest employers almost overnight.

      The way the a couple buddies approached it was to have a competition based on how many listing appointments they had every week. It wasn’t difficult to talk with those needing to sell, but hellish to list anything that would sell — much like Atlanta.

      Long story short, instead of listing the normal 4-6 homes monthly, they listed 1-3 a month. Of course, by the end of that market their kids were calling them Uncle Daddy ‘cuz they rarely got home before 10. ๐Ÿ™‚

      The point? They figured a way to get belly to belly in numbers large enough to translate into checks. Those guys are retired now, happily baiting their hook for the next trout.

      Phoenix is the same kinda market. Still, there are guys like Russ who’re not only listing properties, but selling them in half the time of his competitors. His listing presentation guy must have an RV so he can fit in an extra couple presentations a day. ๐Ÿ™‚

    5. Jeff Brown May 12th, 2008 2:30 pm

      Benn — Thanks, you hit the bulls eye.

      It comes down to getting the job done. Sure, it’s nice to have a six figure month, but we’re not in Kansas these days. Look at the lion heading out with a couple of his buds for food his pride needs badly.

      Last year it took him a few hours, and the feast was on. Now? It’s 3-4 days, a bunch of fruitless chases in the searing sun, then a skinny gazelle with 30% less meat and little fat. Still — everyone eats ‘cuz he did what had to be done.

      Thanks again, Benn.

    6. Sean Purcell May 12th, 2008 2:43 pm


      I was going to pull one or two black pearls from this and comment on them, but I finally gave up the effort. Too many rewards, too much work and too big a chance someone else might laugh at me. Maybe you could just email them right to my desk instead. ๐Ÿ™‚

      This post hits you square between the eyes. No hiding and no ducking. I can just see people reading this right now… looking for a reason to turn away or go back and check email.

      Mirrors are tough no matter what they reflect. Great post.

    7. Brian Brady May 12th, 2008 4:53 pm

      18…19…20…Ahhh, I’m not pissy anymore, today.

      Nice wake up call, Jeff

    8. Chris Johnson May 12th, 2008 6:28 pm

      Thanks for this. Lots of good stuff–you know I’m 100% with you. (Both you and Xbroker were astonished when I admitted to door knocking).

      The pie is not shrinking. OK? Transactions need to get done. Instead of focusing on consumers, it might be wise to focus on REOs, and calling EVERY REO, etc…etc.

      The methodology might change, but it’s time to get behind the wheel and plow.

    9. Jeff Brown May 12th, 2008 6:28 pm

      Sean — Laughing at the fruit of your mind’s labor is a fool’s errand.

      Since I was a teenaged agent who knew absolutely everything, I’ve seen the how this topic is avoided like the plague. Agents are described as ‘struggling’, ‘under trained’, or my favorite, ‘better suited to passive lead generation’.

      Talk about what the bull left behind — that surely qualifies.

      I’ve not met many, Sean, who have your ability to look in the mirror without flinching…much. ๐Ÿ™‚ I know whenever I’ve looked, the guy looking back is one judgmental SOB.

    10. Jeff Brown May 12th, 2008 6:30 pm

      Brian — Wake you up? In my dreams. From what I’ve observed, you seem to live in front of the mirror.

    11. Jeff Brown May 12th, 2008 6:37 pm

      Chris — You said, The pie is not shrinking. OK?

      I agree in principle, but have a little different way of saying it.

      John’s slice of the apple pie may be shrinking big time. There’s all kinds of pies out there though. Don’t like rhubarb? Who does? Pick one you like, and dig in. Those who refuse to adjust will be adjusted.

    12. Tom Vanderwell May 12th, 2008 7:14 pm

      You know, this is a prime example of why I like reading BHB. There’s good honest thought provoking discussions that, when taken to heart, make everyone better for it…..

      Is it easy to fill out 50 quotes on Zillow? Nope. Is it easy to talk to 20 overpriced sellers? Nope. But the successful ones do it and make it happen.



    13. Brian Brady May 12th, 2008 7:30 pm

      “Is it easy to fill out 50 quotes on Zillow?”

      Ugh..that’s hard work if you do it properly. Tom, are you coming next week? I’ll share my thoughts with you about how to connect with the ZMM borrowers properly.

    14. Jeff Brown May 12th, 2008 7:48 pm

      Tom — What you’ve said in a nutshell, is that those who are succeeding do what others refuse to do. Plus, you’ve connected with BB. You’re havin’ a good day.

      Don’t be a stranger.

    15. Broker Bryant May 12th, 2008 7:52 pm

      Well stated Jeff. Making contact and getting in front of folks is what it’s all about. I think some in this business spend way too much time trying to come up with the perfect marketing plan when the reality is the perfect marketing plan is to “just do it”. My market is also brutal right now but I get up everyday and not only go to work but spend that time talking to potential sellers.

      I’m also changing my direction and focusing more on soliciting local banks and attorneys for REOs and estate properties that I know can be priced right. Values in my area have dropped 40% in the last 12 months so the average seller is just not able to compete. Since that part of the market has always been my expertise I’m having to change my entire biz plan. But that’s OK. It’s not the first time I’ve had to do it and I’m sure it won’t be the last.

      Just got to keep on truckin’

    16. Sean Purcell May 12th, 2008 8:29 pm

      those who are succeeding do what others refuse to do

      When I was still a young athlete, coach told me something ilke that and it has always stuck with me:
      “Everyone gets up and has a good workout when they feel good… winners get up and have a good work out even when they don’t.”

    17. Steve Trimboli May 12th, 2008 10:45 pm

      So much great stuff in one post, Jeff!

      It’s this kind of slap-in-the-face motivation that keeps me coming back to BHB.

      Thank you.

      …and now, a bit of Jamocha Almond Fudge

    18. Jeff Brown May 12th, 2008 11:22 pm

      Broker B — Good to see you. Ironically my firm had to adjust almost five years ago before we even peaked. I couldn’t in good conscience justify San Diego investment property another minute.

      Adjusting for us turned out to be Gettin’ Outa Dodge. For you it’s dealing with the REO market.

      Real estate brokerage forces us to adjust all the time. Of course, there are adjustments, then there are ADJUSTMENTS. ๐Ÿ™‚

      Consistently getting in front of people who can tell you to go to hell is how agents will come out relatively unscathed from this cleansing by fire.

      Grandma said there’d be years like this.

    19. Jeff Brown May 12th, 2008 11:28 pm

      Sean — As a former triathlete you can identify with running 10-20 miles when you’d much rather be eating worm pie. It wasn’t fun at the time, but it sure came in handy around mile 23, didn’t it?

      Training is such a solid analogy to real estate. If you’re not doing 40-70 miles weekly, marathon day is gonna be a…challenge. Yeah, that’s the ticket. If you’re not figuring a way go get yourself belly to belly with gobs of folks every week, you’ll be back at the old job before ya know it.

    20. Jeff Brown May 12th, 2008 11:32 pm

      Steve — Thanks so much. The chord my words strike in so many agents is the echo of their own consciences shouting down their daily rationalizations.

      And by the way, thanks for nothin’. Now I’ve gotta make room for a quick trip to 31 Flavors tomorrow.

    21. Mike Farmer May 13th, 2008 4:03 am

      Ditto.The psychological factor is big. I also agree there is less buiness to be had — but some are giving up completely, so it starts balancing out.

    22. Jeremiah Arn May 13th, 2008 7:37 am

      This is something I needed this morning. Now how to share it with the LO staff….

    23. Sean Purcell May 13th, 2008 9:35 am


      As a former triathlete??

      Bite your tongue brother. I am preparing for Ironman AZ even as we speak. As a life-long athlete yourself, you know just how much that long run in the rain, up hill both ways, helped. You got me thinking about our “little friend” that shows up anytime we have to do something tough. I think I will take a page out of your book (the Japan method) and write a post from your post. ๐Ÿ™‚

      and we knew the exact moment each day when we decided to do something else

      absolutely brilliant. Don’t know how I went by that the first time I read it. Being a far cry from perfect (actually a far cry from even knowing on the map which direction perfect lies) I know that moment. Damn you for turning it into “It’s a Small World After All” for me. I can never again have that moment and make the turn because this post and your voice will be in my head (a lot like a partner in the gym I suppose…) Thanks Jeff!

    24. Jeff Brown May 13th, 2008 9:56 am

      Sean — Every time the whole running thing begins to seep itself into my frontal lobes, I take a nap and think cool, relaxing thoughts. An Ironman even in AZ? Really? Dude, don’t be surprised by the intervention that may materialize at Unchained.

      Can’t wait for the post.

    25. Chris May 13th, 2008 10:49 am

      Successful men are influenced by the desire for pleasing results. Failures are influenced by the desire for pleasing methods and are inclined to be satisfied with such results as can be obtained by doing things they like to do. The common denominator of success-the secret of every man who has ever been successful-lies in the fact that he formed the habit of doing things that failures don’t like to do.

      Albert E. N. Gray

      I have this quote printed out and taped to my wall right above my printer. It sums it up perfectly for me.

    26. Jeff Brown May 13th, 2008 10:56 am

      Thanks Chris — ‘Till today I’ve not known the author of that quote.

    27. Larry Brewer May 13th, 2008 11:28 am

      This is true, every word, and I try my best to tell this to new agents in the office, and they just don’t want to believe it.
      I believe that blogs help, websites help, but in the end it’s a people business, and you have to talk to people to succeed in real estate.

    28. Heather Rankin May 13th, 2008 12:17 pm

      Glad I read this over coffee ~ never have I seen “it” put so clearly. I like people, that’s a good start. I am ok with mirrors as well. Gee…… maybe I’m getting on the right path here. Thanks for the great post!

    29. Jeff Brown May 13th, 2008 12:21 pm

      Always happy to lend a quick reflection.

    30. JTB Summit May 13th, 2008 2:45 pm

      Nice blog post, very well written.
      I think that the failure rate with REALTORS this year and last year is higher because the News Media is giving them the excuse they need to quit after not trying.

    31. Jeff Brown May 13th, 2008 2:56 pm

      JTB — Thanks.

      The media has given many a failed agent the ammo to back their excuses.

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    35. Sue May 14th, 2008 3:15 pm

      This is definitely a wake up call. Well written and much needed. Back to basics with discipline and consistency, alot of which we may not have had to do when the market was buzzing.

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    38. Portland June 3rd, 2008 4:11 pm

      The pie is shrinking in my market and many others, it’s true… but this is a great reminder that you just need to do what it takes to succeed, which means making enough contacts with enough people to eek out transactions even in a slow market.

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