Agents: Here’s How to Justify Your Pay So Tech Doesn’t Eat Your Lunch

We’ve All Heard It: Overpaid and Under Performing

“All agents do is push paperwork while I find the listings and then collect their 3%” — anonymous

Sound familiar? You’re not alone. Real estate agents are facing more challenges now than ever. Consumers are driving their home search with freely accessible listings, technology companies are trying to use Artificial Intelligence to automate away the agent, and MLS’s and incumbents are stuck offering antiquated tools.

For new agents, who typically build a business by attracting home buyingclients, proving value is more challenging when clients are using Zillow and Redfin and agents are using the MLS. Clients in one place, agents in another. Add to this swapping emails, texts, voicemails, tweets, and snaps, it’s not difficult to understand why agents can feel stressed managing clients and clients feel frustrated working with agents.

Furthermore, boutique firms that focus on client service, hyper-local knowledge, and niche expertise are threatened by high-powered tech brokerages coming to eat their lunch.

Or are they?

What separates the best agents from the rest? How much of a role does technology play in this equation? How can boutiques level the playing field and beat anyone coming their way? Why do we, as a tech company, care?

Here’s Why 10% of Agents Earn 90% of Commissions

Do the Minimum = Earn the Minimum

Simply put, agents who do the minimum earn the minimum. Any agent can gather listings, respond to emails, coordinate open houses, schedule appointments, and submit offers. The very best agents go well beyond that.

The problem is the mundane tasks that require 80% of an agents time provide 20% of the overall value to their clients. How can agents reverse that to get back to adding value for their clients, earning referrals and repeat clients, and ultimately grow their own business?

 Agents who do the minimum earn the minimum. Tech will replace the mundane.

Agents who do the minimum earn the minimum. Tech will replace the mundane.

Brokers who intelligently employ technology that automates the mundane tasks and allows their agents to focus on their clients will ultimately be the most successful. Extending this further, agents who only do the minimum will be replaced by technology.

Lots of agents get by with Excel spreadsheets and hundreds of email threads among their clients. What experience is that, however, for the clients? The role of the agent has significantly changed over the last decade. Listings are a commodity, but knowledge is not. Clients need education, and look to agents for guidance. It’s impossible to deliver on that if agents are stuck on tasks that are of no value-add to their clients.

How To Stop Doing The Minimum

Understand Where You’re Positioned

To help assess how prepared you are for success, think about where you are positioned on the below chart. The X-axis represents the level of value-add (client service, knowledge, dedication, and expertise offered) and the Y-axis is the degree to which you use technology.

 Client focused, hyper-local boutiques can beat anyone with a level playing field of technology

Client focused, hyper-local boutiques can beat anyone with a level playing field of technology

The average boutique differentiates themselves based on intimate market knowledge, high-touch client service, and niche area of expertise, but often times do not have the budget or the resources to match high-tech powered firms like Compass. Redfin, on the other hand, is a high-tech powered company that operates a substantially different business model, calling into question the incentives and quality of services offered. Boutiques that can adopt technology intelligently can level the playing field and beat any competitor.

Not convinced your clients want you to use technology? Survey results differ!

Habits of Top Performing Agents

There is no ‘typical’ day in the life of a real estate agent, but here’s what the most productive agents (and generally people) do on a daily basis to form high-achieving habits:

  1. Schedule Your Days with Goals

My mole-skin notebook goes everywhere with me. In it contains breakdowns for each day of what I need to accomplish. Whatever medium you prefer, starting your day by writing down and organizing what needs to get done will boost your productivity.

2. Prioritize Your Tasks

The below grid can be applied to an agent’s daily or weekly tasks. Grouping tasks based on their degree of urgency and importance helps prioritize which tasks to tackle first and which to skip all together.

 The Eisenhower Grid (credit:  https://bit.ly/2HFPrNp )

The Eisenhower Grid (credit: https://bit.ly/2HFPrNp)

Within the high important-urgent group can be return calls to clients and prospects and submitting contracts with immediate deadlines. On the opposite extreme, tasks are less important and not urgent include lots of things that can be done through technology (copy and paste email responses to prospects, organizing Zillow links from clients, etc.).

Top performing agents focus on three areas: lead generation, client follow up activities, and compliance related issues, according to WFG National Title Insurance Company.

3. Remove Distractions

To remove distractions, literally schedule time on your calendar to do nothing but focus on value-add tasks. Once you’ve got your daily goals written down and prioritized, set aside dedicated time to accomplish those tasks.

Block thirty minutes to read and respond to urgent emails. An hour to lead generation. Another thirty minutes to completing outstanding contracts. You get the point.

Time blocking takes discipline and practice. A good pair of headphones are a necessity for me!

Why Tech Can’t Eat Your Lunch…or at Least Not All of It

The Limit *Does* Exist

Of course, technology alone can’t create an awesome real estate agent. There exists a natural limit to what tech can supplement. Buying and selling a home is an emotional process and agents who have emotional intelligence, or have set aside time to study it, can meaningfully add to their clients experience. Likewise, having better knowledge of developments in any neighborhood of interest, and a thorough understanding of how to spot deficiencies in property exteriors are all ways the best agents differentiate themselves.

As an industry parallel, every CPA can file your taxes. The best, however, can optimize your investment losses to offset your capital gains, evaluate your debt options, handle audits, and in general just do all the stuff for which you as a client are more than happy to pay extra.

 Technology can’t do it all. Agents are needed more than ever, but it’s not easy being awesome.

Technology can’t do it all. Agents are needed more than ever, but it’s not easy being awesome.

Not every broker, and especially boutiques, has the budget to spend on technology. We recommend every managing broker review and audit the tools their agents are using. Which ones work best? Where are the areas of need? Where are areas of duplication?

If you’re still hesitant about bringing on technology, then if not for you, then do it for your client.