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The Agents are the Heroes

How many remember the movie Back to the Future?  I always liked the play on words in that title and I am liking it even more lately.  Why?  Because as agents that is exactly what we are doing:  going back to the future.  I believe the marketing theme for 2009 is going to be “old school.”  Going back to the “old school” ways of marketing… done with the tools of the future:  back to the future.  (Caveat: the future for me has a very Mr. Magoo aspect to it.  I appreciate the high-tech agents among us keeping the laughter down to a mild snicker.)  Chris Johnson understands “old school”, he was bleeding it here and here.  Jeff Brown understands old school – actually, Jeff probably learned this stuff when it was just “school”…

  • Touching your sphere of influence on a consistent basis is “old school” – using emails, webinars and blogging to do it is the future.
  • Tracking your marketing, your prospecting and your ROI from both is “old school” – using powerful software to do so is the future.
  • Picking up the phone and calling past clients or mailing something personal every day is “old school” – knowing there is no substitute for getting belly-to-belly is the future.

And WE are the future.  Those of us still here.  Our profession lost a lot of people last year.  Our profession needed to…  Many of us suffered just to make it this far and some of us are suffering still  (although some flourished… think about that).  But the point is, we are here.  We stuck it out because this “real estate thing” isn’t something we do on the side or because it’s easy money.  We are her because this is our profession.  We now reap all the opportunities of 2009… AND the responsibilities.  It is our charge to bring integrity and passion to everything we do.  You, all of you, are the heroes and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.  You help people find their way, now more so than ever before, through a giant minefield of potentially devastating mistakes on their way to buying or selling what is probably the largest financial investment of their lives.  Pretty heady stuff.

I say Congratulations to each and every one of you.  When you lay your head down at the end of the day, remember this: you are the walking, talking, living proof of this truth: “Tough times don’t last, tough people do.”

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  • 32 comments

    32 Comments so far

    1. Martin Bouma January 23rd, 2009 7:42 am

      Thank you Sean. 1) for your blog title as the current market leaves you feeling beat up at the end of the day and it’s the little things, positive comments from others in the battlefield or a client that takes the time to let you know you are appreciated that help you to soldier on. 2) for pointing out that ‘old school’ still rules. We get most of our business from our past clients and referrals from them because we never lose sight of the personal touches. It’s easy to forget those points in a world of Real Estate 2.0. Finding the right balance is definitely the key to real estate success in 2009!

    2. Thomas Johnson January 23rd, 2009 7:43 am

      “Oh Magoo, You’ve done it again!”

    3. Aaron Catt | Boise Realestate Soup January 23rd, 2009 9:19 am

      I was just having this conversation with a client the other day. We discussed how in all of the difficulty and anguish that the hope of “getting back to the way things were” was alive.

      I was raised in this business to believe that personal care and contact was the ONLY way to do business. But now that I look back, I’ve learned that handwritten cards and phone calls to check in, are essential, maybe not the ONLY things that need to be done, but without the community and personal care, you might as well close your doors.

      Good article.

    4. Matthew Hardy January 23rd, 2009 11:42 am

      > Tracking your marketing, your prospecting…

      Can’t tell you the number of times someone contacted us and and commented on the fact that we were able to refer to communications (marketing, phone calls, etc) that we had with them months or even years ago. It was not lost on them that we cared enough to document our communication and, as such, were in a better position to serve them. This “old school” care for the *history* of a relationship performed with high-end CRM is the professional combination.

    5. Austin Smith - Goomzee.com January 23rd, 2009 12:00 pm

      Good stuff! Sean is showing how innovative technology can serve as a compliment to older networking methods. A hurdle we in the tech industry have to overcome are the agents who commit to being either ‘online’ or ‘offline’, and not a happy medium of both. The truth is that this sort of viewpoint will not serve to amplify your business, but only hinder it; consumers are moving towards as much innovative technology they can get their hands on, real estate or otherwise, and in order for agents to be effective they must keep up with their clients in terms of technology integration.
      Great post, Sean, keep em comin.

    6. J Boyer Morristown NJ January 23rd, 2009 1:01 pm

      I say congrats to the Realtors who made it thought 2008, and good luck to those who intend to slug it out in 2009. So far 09 is looking to be yet another tuff year for many real estate agents. I go to the gym every morning, and this morning I over heard a conversation that I almost wish I had not heard. The person it turns out was and is a real estate agents and he was telling someone about a new job he took because after all, “it is not worth it to continue to market in real estate” I am thinking that if 09 continues on like 08 did, there will be a mass of real estate agents heading for the doors, and not just low producers, but lots of normally high producers who happen to be close to retiring anyway.

      On the subject of the blog post, I am continuing on my path of back to the future with a mix of old school and new school and hopefully it will all work out.

    7. Sean Purcell January 24th, 2009 8:42 am

      > Martin – we never lose sight of the personal touches is “old school” defined. Thanks for being one of the pros that’s weathering the storm.

      > Mr. Johnson, you’re killin’ me… :)

      > Aaron – I’ve learned that handwritten cards and phone calls to check in, are essential. Amen. A successful agent may not have to do both, but you’d better pick one… Thanks for commenting.

      > Mathew – …care for the *history* of a relationship… you said the magic word: RELATIONSHIP. Dead on.

      > Austin – you said technology integration and that’s the key isn’t it. Integrating future technology with “old school” purpose. Thank you Austin.

      >J Boyer – The person who said “it is not worth it to continue to market in real estate” is someone who does not understand what marketing is. The worth we bring to real estate IS our marketing. An “old school” understanding of building a relationship is the core of good marketing. I’m glad that person at the gym is leaving and excited that you are staying.

    8. Linda Davis January 24th, 2009 4:59 pm

      The “old timers” who refuse to embrace technology and the “tech tots” who think email is the only way to communicate are in for a bumpy ride in 2009. The rest of us who follow the Platinum Rule in Real Estate and treat our customers how they want to be treated, will share the business that does exist.

    9. Jennifer K Giraldi January 24th, 2009 5:43 pm

      Excellent article Sean, I too believe that in order to succeed into the future of our industry one must incorporate “new schoo” ideas off of a “old school” foundation. Web 2.0 means nothing if you cannot handle the basics.

    10. Robert Kerr January 24th, 2009 5:53 pm

      The Agents are the Heroes

      And WE are the future. Those of us still here. … Many of us suffered just to make it this far and some of us are suffering still (although some flourished… think about that). But the point is, we are here. We stuck it out because this “real estate thing” isn’t something we do on the side or because it’s easy money. We are her because this is our profession. We now reap all the opportunities of 2009… AND the responsibilities. It is our charge to bring integrity and passion to everything we do.

      You, all of you, are the heroes and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. You help people find their way, now more so than ever before, through a giant minefield of potentially devastating mistakes on their way to buying or selling what is probably the largest financial investment of their lives. Pretty heady stuff.

      I say Congratulations to each and every one of you. When you lay your head down at the end of the day, remember this: you are the walking, talking, living proof of this truth: “Tough times don’t last, tough people do.”

      This is a serious question, and there’s no easy way to ask it, so I’ll just be blunt: Is there any other profession so completely self-absorbed, self-consumed and self-deluded about its own importance as real estate agents are?

    11. Tom Vanderwell January 24th, 2009 7:19 pm

      “Is there any other profession so completely self-absorbed, self-consumed and self-deluded about its own importance as real estate agents are?”

      Uh…Mortgage lending and bond traders?

    12. Tom Vanderwell January 24th, 2009 8:09 pm

      Jillayne,

      Thank you. It’s a question that I’ve wrestled with for many years and I’ve come back to what Eddie said to James Taggert in “Atlas Shrugged.” “Do the right thing, no matter what.”

      There are times when the right thing is to disagree with my boss about how to structure a deal because he wants to set it up so we can “churn” another refi in 6 months if rates drop .5 pts and I want to set the client up so that if rates never go down, they are as good as they can be, given that they plan on staying there until their 10 year old graduates from college.

      The right thing can sometimes be to pass on the name of a friend who works at Bank of America’s name because the Realtor in question needs B of A’s Medical Resident program, rather than trying to “sell” a program that doesn’t fit as well.

      We, the people who hang out here and elsewhere, need to raise the bar so high that our clients really understand that we are professionals and not just sales people. The process isn’t easy and it isn’t all based on rate. It’s never been more important to understand and communicate what’s going on in the market than it is right now. I’ve never had to spend as much time as I do now reading and talking to people about the markets just so when someone says, “what’s happening in the market? Should I…..” I can give them solid professional advice.

      And now I’ve got to call it a night and a week. Thank you all for some very thought provoking, insightful, challenging and worthwhile conversations.

      Tom

    13. Sean Purcell January 24th, 2009 8:29 pm

      Robert,

      Is there any other profession so completely self-absorbed, self-consumed and self-deluded about its own importance as real estate agents are?

      How much time you got?

      • Medical Doctors
      • Attorneys
      • Professional Athletes
      • Movie Stars
      • Rock Stars
      • Rappers
      • Television Talking Heads
      • Newspaper Editors
      • Critics

      and most especially those cold and timid souls who sit smugly on the sideline, criticizing & belittling those who do.

      The question should be: is there any other profession with such impact on the average person’s financial health which has done more to injure its own professional standards and reputation?

      It’s always a pleasure when you pop-in Robert. I’ll leave you with Teddy Roosevelt:

      The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena; whose face is marred by sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotion, spends himself in a worthy cause; who at best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement; and who at worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who have never tasted victory or defeat.

    14. Tom Vanderwell January 24th, 2009 8:43 pm

      Dang, I need to go to bed. I put that comment on the wrong post!

      LOL – Greg – how can I move that to Brian’s post immediately before this one?

    15. Robert Kerr January 24th, 2009 11:07 pm

      The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena; whose face is marred by sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotion, spends himself in a worthy cause; who at best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement; and who at worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who have never tasted victory or defeat.

      Thank you for answering my earlier question so completely and unambiguously.

    16. Sean Purcell January 25th, 2009 12:19 am

      Robert,

      Thank you for answering my earlier question so completely and unambiguously.

      Hard to tell for sure, but this appears to be sarcasm (I apologize if you were sincere in appreciating my explanation of why the agents still around are heroes).

      Take another look at the Roosevelt quote you so flippantly use to indict real estate agents as self-absorbed, self-consumed and self-deluded about (their) own importance. It doesn’t say that the heroes are those attempting only life-saving activities, or world changing activities or even activities deemed worthy by Robert Kerr. It says that the honor belongs to those men and women who strive valiantly in a worthy cause. It tells us that enthusiasm and devotion merit respect. I find those accolades to be descriptive of an agent (or anyone) who is willing to step out there each day, joining the class of entrepreneurs who by their existence both reflect and create an important aspect of what makes this such a great country. It says that the honor goes to those who have failed while attempting greatly (and what is greater than the exaltation of one’s family, one’s talent and one’s future)? It tells us that one who gets up and tries again, bloodied but not bowed by the worst year in real estate history, is the man or woman we should hold high.

      I will not attempt to ascribe a purpose behind your interest in tearing down those with whom you share a profession. I will, however, honor you if you are still standing and still running a business based on helping others, while facing a debilitating recession, business strangling regulations and punitive taxation.

      Come down into the arena Robert. I promise you: the taste of victory is sweet and even that of failure far surpasses the bitter taste of a cold and timid soul.

    17. Laura Evans January 25th, 2009 11:50 am

      If you will allow a frequent reader (I am friends with Sean) who has absolutely no business in your business (I work in Major League Baseball) to offer her 2 cents…well, Sean knows me well enough to know I find it hard to keep my mouth shut – so here it goes.

      First to Sean – A tip of the hat to the DSC reference. Sometimes I think you should have been in the entertainment business. Sometimes I think YOU think that too. :)
      Sean and I share our struggles (and triumphs) in our separate industries. One major part of my job is to renew our Season Ticket Holders. This year has been a struggle. We lost 99 games in 2008 and experienced our first losing season since we opened our new ballpark. Our ownership in going through a divorce, we need to reduce player payroll and operating costs, we did not resign a key future Hall of Famer and fan favorite, and our team is up for sale. Throw in a recession (are we using that word yet?) and who NEEDS baseball tickets?
      How is it in any way relatable to you? CRM. Sales as a relationship-driven concept (aka Service). The difference is the real estate I am selling is a seat location 81 times.

      Put simply, I think Sales is like walking into a bar and seeing a hot chick and telling your buddy, “I’m gonna hit that.”
      Service is like walking into a bar and seeing the girl of your dreams and knowing, “That’s the girl I want to marry.” The approach is fundamentally different in the two scenarios. With the marrying kind, you remember important dates, likes vs. dislikes…the details. You make an EFFORT (Sean, is this what you mean by belly to belly?) and you get organized. If you were to treat your customers as if you wanted to build a lifetime together with them, it would be very hard for them to say goodbye.

      There’s a lot of combat-speak out their right now. We are in the trenches going to battle every day. My personality likes it (I love 300 and Lord of the Rings battle scenes). But, the battle will drain you. Unless you get off on war, I suggest changing your mindset to the tough times ahead. I had a staff meeting on Friday to explain how I approach the tough times, the tough calls, the OBJECTIONS. I think of Vegas. Vegas, where you know the odds favor the house and still get excited when you win one. In times like these, you have Vegas odds. Celebrate your wins (your sales) and do all the great things your peers suggest in their comments above. Good luck!

    18. Jeff Brown January 25th, 2009 12:30 pm

      Sean — “…when it was just “school”…” Watch yer back. :)

      I’ve been through more than my share of these down cycles. My favorite three mentors, plus Grandma, all passed on the same advice — which sounded much like this post.

      The foundation, the cornerstone of everything ‘old school’ is integrity, expertise, work ethic, and most of all RESULTS.

      They also warned me to ignore my failures, but only after I’ve gleaned the lesson(s) to be learned from them.

      All of my favorite mentors were 1-2 generations senior to me. They all said to passionately ignore the angry, bitter outlook, as it leads to the vitriolic poison that would eat me alive. I’ve studiously applied that advice, without exception.

      Dad used to quote the same Teddy Roosevelt passage almost weekly at the end of our office meetings. He occasionally added his own corollary. I heard it at least a thousand times. I’ll do my best to accurately paraphrase his words.

      “Those who are or have been in the arena, whether in victory or defeat, honor themselves and those who come after them by their kindness of spirit, willingness to mentor, and ability to transform past defeats into future victories — for themselves as well as others. The arena leaves no gladiator unchanged. Some emerge as purified and stronger, some as bent, broken, and often toxic — slag.

      Slag is, in my experience, best used as fertilizer. It has no known use in the arena. We all come forth from the arena’s heat as steel or slag. The difference for you is that you have a choice. You can choose to become steel — or fertilizer”

      Thanks for the great memory, Sean. Superb post.

    19. Sean Purcell January 25th, 2009 1:28 pm

      Linda – share the business that does exist. I love this sentiment. There IS enough business that we can all share what we know and help one another be better.

      Jennifer – Web 2.0 means nothing if you cannot handle the basics. In a nutshell. :)

      Tom – Go to bed!

      Jeff – As long as I keep 500 ft. from your office and any Starbucks… I feel pretty safe. :)

      As usual, I love your dad’s stuff. Reminds me of a coach who used to say: “Competition does NOT build character. It reveals it.” A little character plus a lot of failure (or maybe that’s the other way around) and eventually you have pure, hard steel that can build anything.

    20. Robert Kerr January 25th, 2009 1:58 pm

      Take another look at the Roosevelt quote you so flippantly use to indict real estate agents as self-absorbed, self-consumed and self-deluded about (their) own importance.

      I’m not indicting real estate agents! My brother-in-law is one … but he’s not egotistical enough to assume that he’s some kind of hero or see himself in that Roosevelt quote.

      Come on, Sean. Step back with an objective eye and look at the way you describe yourself – and other agents – with over-the-top, theatrical, melodramatic exaggerations.

      How on Earth have you become so full of yourself to even entertain the idea that you’re some kind of hero?

      And for what heroic acts? For filling out forms?

    21. Sean Purcell January 25th, 2009 2:46 pm

      Robert,

      I’m not indicting real estate agents! So, you are only indicting me… for the crime of trying to provide inspiration and motivation to the agents that stop by BHB. I plead guilty.

      over-the-top, theatrical, melodramatic exaggerations. To what words do you refer Robert?

      • Was it when I said a lot of agents suffered this past year just to make it to this point? (Did all the agents you know have it easy in ’08, or do you not believe absolute panic regarding paying the bills and keeping your business alive is “suffering?”)
      • Was it when I applauded the agents still in business for being professionals rather than part-timers? (Are you in favor of part-time, unprofessional agents? I guess if your perception of the profession is a bunch of people who just fill out forms you might reach that uninformed opinion.)
      • Was it when I charged agents to bring passion and integrity back to their activities? (Passionless you might be, but opoposed to integrity I find very doubtful based on previous comments of yours.)
      • Was it when I described part of an agent’s job as advising clients on the biggest investment of their lives and the potential for financially devestating consequences, which are all too common right now? (Because I could have went much further and mentioned the agent’s need to be an expert in marketing, negotiations, schools, neighborhoods, valuation and of course: contract law!)
      • Was it when I called them tough for lasting through the worst real estate cycle we may have ever seen? (Good God Robert, what IS your definition of tough?)
      • Or maybe it was when I called them heroes. Is that the word you object to – is that the only word that bothers you?

      How on Earth have you become so full of yourself to even entertain the idea that you’re some kind of hero? That’s two questions really. I became full of myself slowly, over time. I have a tremendous amount of self-confidence and I HIGHLY recommend it. Helps me to get back up after one of my many, humbling mistakes. As for heroism, let me help: an heroic act is going out there every morning and slaying dragons as a small business owner. An heroic act is leaving the false comfort of a W2 job, looking your children in the face and saying “I am going out on my own. I promise I will work tirelessly and I will feed and clothe you, but I will do so while creating something bigger than me. I am an entrepreneur.” There are few higher callings in this nation of capitalism than that of small business owner.

      Robert, my post was intended to inspire. If in doing so I offended you, please feel free to remain uninspired and pass it by altogether.

    22. Sean Purcell January 25th, 2009 4:16 pm

      Laura!

      Don’t know how I missed your comment. Nice to hear from you on BHB (you and Toto are a long way from Kansas). Also nice to know someone local got the DSC reference. (For everyone else, DSC is a highly rated morning radio show in San Diego. The host often says, tongue planted firmly in cheek, that “the dj’s are the heroes.” I, on the other hand, was not being tongue-in-cheek at all. Simply taking a little literary license. If you’ve read the comments though, you will see why I am a little touchy on the subject :) )

      It’s always interesting to get the perspective of someone not directly involved in real estate on a post. Your analogy is a good one (although my purpose in getting belly to belly is proably quite a bit different than either of the example gentlemen in your story…).

      You are dead-on when it comes to how we interact with our clients. The “lifetime relationship” approach is definitely old school. You reminded me of some very wise advice I was once given: most businessmen look for customers in order to record a sale. Really successful businessmen look for sales in order to gain customers…

    23. Jeff Brown January 25th, 2009 6:02 pm

      NOW I know why that phrase kept comin’ back to me. It’s from DSC!

    24. Brian Brady January 25th, 2009 7:02 pm

      “This year has been a struggle.”

      …but we got a new owner, Laura. Call me a cock-eyed optimist but I think you found a helluva reason to get excited.

      PS: Don’t comment as the deal isn’t inked just yet.

    25. Kevin Sandridge January 25th, 2009 8:35 pm

      Referrals for life… they come from customers who are customers for life! Sean – you’ve touched on a subject that resonated with me during Unchained Orlando – namely, social networking and tech tools get you to the point where you meet folks face to face.

      Thanks for keeping this out in front of us.

    26. Jose Lopez January 25th, 2009 8:37 pm

      HI Sean, you speak the truth.

      I am in a constant strugle to find the right mix of old school and new technology. I do not take anything away from the old school guys. These people are doing great no matter what the market. However, the new techies are putting them to shame in many ways. I have just gotten myself introduced to blogging and started to catch on. My website has been completely revamped and is on the first page of Google for several keywords. But I want to take it all the way. I will be installing a blog soon, and video will follow. I think this is the wave of the future and anyone not doing it will be left to make cold calls and do door knocking.

    27. Sean Purcell January 25th, 2009 10:01 pm

      You can tell it’s a Sunday… Jeff Brown is commenting on social media (sort of) and Brian Brady is making baseball references!

      Kevin – Thanks for keeping this out in front of us. You’re welcome. Will I be seeing you at Unchained Phoenix? It promises to be three days of drinking from the fire hydrant…

      Jose – a constant strugle to find the right mix of old school and new technology. That is the question now isn’t it? Getting that mix right for your individual talents. BTW, don’t knock old school cold calls and door knocking. Blogging and webinars are great, but there really is nothing like the thrill of getting out there and meeting people you’ve never met before!

    28. Ryan Martin January 26th, 2009 8:35 am

      Great post Sean. I dig the Back to the Future lead in. I also completely agree with what you are saying. I believe that everyone in the business is going to be keeping a very close eye on their ROI for many years to come. It was probably needed. I know an agent that has been in business for 25 years that survives by picking up the phone and simply calling his past clients to see how they are doing. If they are still in town, he invites them over to dinner. It is the small things that can make a big difference.

    29. Stella Frize - Long Beach CA. Real Estate January 26th, 2009 9:36 am

      Thank you so much for putting my thoughts down in words so eloquently.

      We really are heroes.

    30. Jeff Brown January 26th, 2009 10:02 am

      Jose — Sean does have it right. You said:

      I will be installing a blog soon, and video will follow. I think this is the wave of the future and anyone not doing it will be left to make cold calls and do door knocking.

      The wave of the future hasn’t hit the present quite yet, at least not full force. For every agent makin’ $50-100,000 a year from high tech, there are 50 agents doing 2-10 times that — ‘old school’. Will that change soon? My crystal ball is still cracked, big time.

      Still, keep rollin’ our your high tech, but if you ain’t prospecting 1.0, the guy down the street who is, is making far more than the techie workin’ down the hall.

    31. Todd Covington January 26th, 2009 12:23 pm

      A true mix of old school and new school is exactly what it will take in today’s market. I live in Beaufort, SC, which is a small town with a good ole’ boys network in place. I’m a hit with the newcomers to town but breaking into the old boys fraternity is a slow process. I have the new school down but that’s no home run as it’s only part of the equation. Once I get to know the neighbor down the street better I should be fine in this or any type market. A mix of getting to know people and technology equals a winner for you and your clients.

    32. Sean Purcell January 27th, 2009 10:40 am

      Ryan – Wow, he invites them over for dinner? Now that is really going the extra mile. I think I might give that a try… I wonder how many of my clients would enjoy a Grilled Cheese Fine Dining Experience? :)

      Stella – Thank you.

      Todd – Once I get to know the neighbor down the street better I should be fine in this or any type market. That’s the big secret isn’t it. Just get to know the neighbor down the street and you’ll be fine. I think I’d like that as a sign in my office…