Why is Real Estate So Unique?
In this series, Warren Dow compares the tech side of the industry with the brokerage side for some interesting insights.
Over the last month, eight separate vendors have contacted me in an attempt to pitch new technology and services for my brokerage and agents. Some have reached out only once, while others have emailed and called multiple times throughout the month. Some have asked me to join webinars, while others have asked for a call to understand how we currently operate. Some provide services that can supplement our current tech stack; others are offering solutions that would replace our current infrastructure. Throughout these interactions, it’s become clear that some of these sales models fit the real estate industry better than others.
As more companies break into the real estate industry and as more executives from other industries step into leadership roles, we’ll continue to see sales techniques evolve or we’ll see those same vendors fall flat on their face. There is tremendous value in having a fresh perspective that other industries can provide, however, being flexible in those perspectives is critical to success in our industry.
My career started out in consulting, leading managed service companies providing software to a variety of industries including automotive, manufacturing, high finance, healthcare, government, and real estate. When it comes to B2B (business-to-business) sales, the more businesses in an industry, the better the odds of success. Looking at pure numbers, the real estate industry is a paradise because every agent is their own business in addition to the 70,000+ brokerages across the country. However, those same techniques of reaching and engaging businesses don’t work the same in real estate.
My theory on why real estate is so unique comes down to two main factors:
- We are an industry of sales professionals
- We have a never-ending and always growing list of things to do
As an industry of sales professionals, we value the art of the sale because we live it day in and day out. We can appreciate a good sales pitch and a respectful cadence in communication. At the same time, we can be highly critical when someone calls too often, or not enough, when they stumble with what would appear to be an easy question, or when they just keep driving you to a webinar instead of wanting to engage one on one. It can also be quite frustrating when you feel bounced around once you’ve expressed interest in a particular product – commonly bounced from the Business Development Rep (BDR) to the Sales team.
What you may not know is that the BDR’s may sit in a Marketing department and not in Sales. Their job is opening the door and qualifying you as a buyer, not to actually sell to you. This doesn’t make sense to a lot of real estate professionals because we do it all. We open and close the deals and we continue to stay in touch after the transaction closes, sometimes for decades, so we’ll be top of mind the next time our client is ready to buy or sell.
The life of a lead is never over. It requires regular contact and maintenance to keep the relationship. With most software companies, there is a division of labor. One team sets up the opportunities, one team closes them, one team trains and on boards, and another continues to market and upsell. Real Estate professionals maintain those relationships personally because the majority of our industry is doing it all themselves.
The second reason real estate stands apart is that we are always busy and on the go. We all have to-do lists that could keep us busy for months, as many professionals do. The difference is we aren’t working from our desk every day. We’re in the car, we’re meeting clients, jumping from one showing to the next, going to a listing appointment, to the office, or to a networking event. We could get 20 calls from the same vendor and never pick up, while another vendor calls or emails just once and we pick up the first time. We don’t know when we’re going to have free time, so more touch points should be expected.
Some sales experts suggest that you need to touch a prospective client at least 8 times (calls, emails, etc.) before you can determine whether they’re interested in buying or selling. Others have that number as high as 15. What I can tell you is that if a real estate professional hasn’t responded the only fact you can take away from the lack of response is that they’re busy, not that they aren’t interested.
Develop a respectful cadence in communication – I would say that an email every week might be too much, while only one email per month may not be enough and mix in phone calls along with emails. Find your balance and be consistent – it’s all about the follow-up. And when you ask “is now a good time” you create an instant level of rapport!
The real estate industry requires time, patience, and the ability to build and maintain strong relationships. It also requires a strong understanding of how the agent and company operate. When you’re focused on selling to an industry filled will sales professionals, expect to be held to a higher standard. The same turnkey process to sell in other industries will require more work, more follow-ups, more hand-holding, and more time.
The sky is the limit for those companies that find the right balance. Remember, the real estate companies you are trying to sell to are in the business of helping their clients achieve their dreams; they got there by building a strong relationship, and you must do the same.
About Warren Dow
Warren Dow is the VP of Business Development at Peabody & Smith Realty based in New Hampshire. Warren has over a decade of leadership experience in real estate software and services. With a degree in behavioral neuroscience and a background in technology, consumer engagement, and marketing strategy, Warren offers a unique perspective in brokerage efficiencies with a client-first mentality.