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The challenge for Realtors and lenders in the future: How do you sell to consumers who don’t want to be sold?

This is my column for this week from the Arizona Republic (permanent link). The lender in the story? Brian Brady, America’s #1 Mortgage Broker.

 
The challenge for Realtors and lenders in the future: How do you sell to consumers who don’t want to be sold?

We represented a cute couple in the purchase of their first home late last year. That much is not news: First time home-buyers are the bread and butter of the real estate business. What was interesting to me was how internet-focused they were.

The husband, Michael, is an internet adept, but his wife, Danielle, is a true wizard. Her primary interface to the commercial world is the world wide web.

They found me on the internet, of course, and I referred them to a lender that I know through the nets.

Consider this: There are 30,000 Realtors in Phoenix, and at least that many lenders. All of them are advertising at a furious pace — newspapers, real estate magazines, supermarket shopping carts, bus benches, billboards, radio, TV — plus balloons, free pens and scratch pads and coffee mugs, refrigerator magnets, flower seeds, recipe cards and Halloween pumpkins.

Real estate professionals spent millions of dollars trying to get Michael and Danielle’s attention, and all of that money was wasted. They are not paying attention to advertising.

To the contrary, if Danielle cannot completely research a product or service on-line, she won’t have anything to do with it. They never once went into the home they were buying without a digital camera. I watched Danielle crane around in impossible contortions so she could read and write down the model and serial numbers from the washer and dryer so she could research them on-line.

Looking forward, nothing changes as fast as we expect it to. But looking backward, the world seems always to be changing like dreams. Danielle is immune to advertising. She recycles her junk mail unread. She doesn’t want to be pitched, she doesn’t want to be sold, she doesn’t want to be wheedled or needled or cajoled. She doesn’t want to be closed on.

All those old school gimmicks still work — on some people — and they will continue to work — for a while. But Danielle is the future of real estate marketing. Realtors and lenders are going to have to learn to sell to consumers like her.

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  • 12 comments

    12 Comments so far

    1. Brad Coy April 28th, 2008 1:48 am

      This is the challenge.

      Being of a like-minded consumer myself I have found it some what of a challenge just being in an industry so steeped in old school sales and advertising techniques like sending out magnets or interruption marketing. Now trust me, I know that there are some techniques of salesmanship that just “work”. But if they don’t work for me personally, based on my values, am I really representing myself in an honest fashion, or just being full of crap cause this is something that worked for the past two generations? I honestly feel like I am part of the future and I’m still catching up when the likes of my clients cannot even be bothered with email, but you know what? I’m starting to feel the same way.

    2. Jim Rake April 28th, 2008 4:25 am

      Spot On! The open source tsunami is only getting bigger. How do we stay “ahead of the curve” – good question. Thankfully, our consumer’s online resource is our’s to, and the collaborative efforts of bloggers allow us to benefit from that shared effort, and improve what we do, and deliver a value added service.
      Am not sure they’re “immune” to advertising. Old school adverts, maybe. But, is educating our clients, advertising in new clothes?
      At the end of the day, you’re exactly right, we’ve got to be providing substance, and not merely “fluff”.

    3. Greg Cremia April 28th, 2008 5:12 am

      I stopped selling real estate a long time ago. I help people buy real estate. I have had great success just being the source of the information or the source of the source. The internet only works if you know what to ask. I provide my clients with the information they need to ask the right questions.

      I work in a second home market where no one needs to buy a home at the beach. Consequently, this type of consumer is practically immune to push sales. They have the time to research what they are doing. They have the money to get what they want.

      I had a couple looking to retire here the other day and he used his blackberry to google the golf course subdivisions we were visiting. So, it is not just the first time home buyers on the internet.

      I love the world wide web.

    4. Geno Petro April 28th, 2008 5:28 am

      “Looking forward, nothing changes as fast as we expect it to. But looking backward, the world seems always to be changing like dreams.”

      I’m not sure truer words have ever been spoken, especially in real estate and especially now. Your couple is the prototype of the future buyer. I dare say 50% of my clients today are only slightly different versions of Danielle and Michael.

    5. Barry Bevis April 28th, 2008 5:42 am

      This reminds me of a couple I’m working with right now- they find new listings almost as soon as I do. They are even using home improvement chain web sites to estimate repair costs. What I do notice is they still need objective eyes to help them the understand the statistics. They also need help seeing past nice paint and new carpet.

      They can do a lot of work and gather a lot of information- but they don’t have the experience to interpret it…
      They see me as an adviser not a salesman, my experience makes me valuable to them.

      Question: How do you get the word out that you have the experience buyers are looking for?

    6. Barry Cunningham April 28th, 2008 6:32 am

      “I stopped selling real estate a long time ago. I help people buy real estate.”

      Love that line!

    7. Teri Lussier April 28th, 2008 6:37 am

      Exciting times!

      >She doesn’t want to be pitched, she doesn’t want to be sold, she doesn’t want to be wheedled or needled or cajoled. She doesn’t want to be closed on.

      And I don’t want to do that to anyone. OTOH, I’m proud to be a student in the Bawld Guy Old School Boot Camp. Why? Because I never really learned cold calling and door knocking in the first place and I know there is something of value there- to my clients- that I can use both on and offline.

      Here’s how I see it: I can’t become a weaker real estate agent by learning old school sales techniques, but I can become much stronger and that’s good for everyone.

      Alas, my market is not yet online for everything. My plan is to seamlessly meld old and new, but at the very least I’ll have one more effective way to reach folks. I can’t preach to the choir if they don’t come to church…

    8. Genuine Chris Johnson April 28th, 2008 6:43 am

      It’s not selling people that don’t want to be sold. It’s being in front of as many people as possible when it’s time to be sold…and being already trusted, or building trust at a breakneck pace.

    9. Dan Melson April 30th, 2008 7:22 am

      The traditional sales model is dead, but hasn’t stopped doing damage yet in the form of industry mindset and fighting battles that cannot be won. Trying to control information chokepoints is so 1950s, and the mindset of a traditional brokerage is kind of like Jimmy Carter diplomacy, except it’s only killing the industry, not people.

      I don’t think I’ve *ever* “sold” real estate in the traditional sense. Expert consultancy is the way to future success, and to be a credible expert you have got to be willing to point out the undesirable (and why it is undesirable) as well as the desirable.

    10. Greg Swann April 30th, 2008 7:36 am

      Inlookers, if you want to learn how to convey “expert consultancy” in a weblog, make a careful study of Dan Melson’s Searchlight Crusade.

    11. Dan Melson April 30th, 2008 11:49 am

      Thanks Greg

    12. Sue July 23rd, 2008 8:14 am

      Classic example of the way of the future. Its important to remember that they’re not all there yet..so its good to use some of the old school methods as well. I’ll keep sending the cards (junk mail):)