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Are You An Opinion Leader?

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Management vs. Leadership

Management is telling people what to do.  Leadership is teaching them how to think.  Opinion leaders tell people what to think.

Despite various surveys indicating how low the general public ranks real estate agents, some agents are highly respected by their clients and peers.  How does that happen? 

To understand how that is accomplished, first let’s look at the concept of influencing the opinions of others.  Various studies have shown that media communication intended to change someone’s buying or voting behavior seldom works directly.  The communication may be directly received by the person it is intended for but is mediated through their social relationships.  There are individuals (depending on the subject) that others consider experts and who are looked to for advice on that particular subject.  There are some people who act as Opinion Leaders – they see themselves and are seen by others as having an influence on others.

Finding Out What To Think

In politics and fashion, for example, there are TV shows hosted by people who have very large audiences who watch the show in order to find out what to think.  Yet, Opinion Leadership is not a trait some people have and others don’t.  Every person who has an elevated interest (and thereby knowledge) in an area, can serve as an opinion leader on that subject to those around them.  It is a natural part of everyday personal relationships.

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Research suggests that, in the US, opinion leaders constitute roughly one in ten Americans, and that as a group they tend to serve as a leading indicator of popular trends, from public issues to new product adoption to social attitudes.  Many consumers today place more weight on the word-of-mouth insights of their more influential neighbors than on what they hear on TV or read in the newspaper.

Opinion leaders are people whose opinion on a subject/product is influential on the social group they belong to, although they may or may not have an acknowledged authority over them.  Opinion leaders are not necessarily traditional leaders in society, such as politicians and clergy (although they can be). Rather, they are perceived experts in particular domains – which is exactly the position occupied by a successful residential Realtor.  When it comes to correct pricing and effective marketing of homes there isn’t any substitute for a competent Realtor.  Notice I didn’t say real estate company, as it is the individual agent who is looked to (or not) as the expert.  A company may enjoy a wonderful reputation and there are many instances of an individual and his or her company seeming so inseparable that you can’t think of one without the other – but it would always be the individual that is the opinion leader.  One could join the largest, most successful real estate company in the world and this would not automatically cause them to be perceived as an expert.  Conversely, an individual broker could have a one person shop and be regarded as THE go to person in that area if you had a question concerning real estate.  Opinion Leader Realtors are trusted by their clients because the client can see that the agent has their best interests at heart. 

Scripts to Handle Commission Objections

There are many real estate instructors who teach “scripts” on how to handle commission objections.  The seller doesn’t want to pay “X” commission and they are advocating using a “technique”.  Think of someone you trust and go to for services – like a dentist or physician.  Isn’t that trust based largely on the belief that they don’t recommend a service you “need” based only on their desire for money?  (as opposed to they use “really good scripts”  to handle you).

There is a Scale of Motivation, it goes highest to lowest:

Personal Conviction
Personal Gain

For example, when one is communicating to their clients about a needed price reduction from the viewpoint of personal conviction or duty, rather than “I want the money” – that “Care Factor” on the part of the agent is visible to all but the worst off in the society.  Please don’t think I am advocating earning less or not reaching all of your financial goals, I’m not.  I believe that great agents operate and handle their clients from the level of Personal Conviction or Duty.  They tell their potential sellers the whole truth every time and don’t hold something back because they might not get a commission.  This isn’t so they can be in compliance with the Code of Ethics, but is just the way they think and operate.

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In the next year or so a great many agents will be leaving the real estate industry – but they were really on their way out before this latest crash arrived.  And they were primarily motivated by money or personal gain.  Not the highest level of motivation.  Ever.

Written By

Russell has been an Associate Broker with John Hall & Associates since 1978 and ranks in the top 1% of all agents in the U.S. Most recently The Wall Street Journal recognized the Top 200 Agents in America, awarding Russell # 25 for number of units sold. Russell has been featured in many books such as, "The Billion Dollar Agent" by Steve Kantor and "The Millionaire Real Estate Agent" by Gary Keller and has often been a featured speaker for national conventions and routinely speaks at various state and local association conventions. Visit him also at and



  1. Vicki Moore

    September 3, 2008 at 10:35 pm

    This might be a stupid question, but…what do you see as the difference between the agent who will survive a shift such as this and the one who won’t? I’m seeing many very good, hard-working agents being forced to find other occupations.

    It seems to me that good doesn’t necessarily equal longevity.

  2. Russell Shaw

    September 3, 2008 at 11:43 pm

    The very same thing that is true in any market: the ability to get and keep customers. It makes no difference if your practice is prospecting based or marketing based – it is the ability to get and keep customers. What message or offer is required for successful lead conversion is completely different than in the market we had. But the fundamentals remain the same. Agents who seem “nice” or “honest and dependable” do not always have the ability to get and keep customers. A hot – on fire – market, where even the “we do nothing for less crowd” can sell homes is not much of a test of anything.

    It does not seem like a stupid question. Gary Keller has a new book, just out, called “Shift”. I just ordered two copies so Wendy and I could read it at the same time.

    If you are reading this you probably will want to order a copy.

  3. Jim Duncan

    September 4, 2008 at 5:41 am

    Vicki –

    One component is luck. Another is adaptability and the ability to survive this shift by hunkering/buckling down and preparing for the turn – all the while keeping a positive attitude and a facade of continuing success (and not letting others know about the possible fear and desperation one might feel).

  4. Vicki Moore

    September 4, 2008 at 12:17 pm

    Russell – I started reading The Millionaire Agent on your suggestion. It’s been a slow read because I’ve really had to read and digest – read and digest. I have a habit of reading multiple books at the same time so I guess I’ll just add Shift to the stack.

    “Agents who seem “nice” or “honest and dependable” do not always have the ability to get and keep customers.” – Can you elaborate on that. It strikes me as a really interesting point.

    Jim – I completely agree with the facade point. I’ve been networking with a mortgage broker who repeatedly tells me that she can’t get a loan done – she continually tells me how difficult it is and how many deals she’s lost. It sure doesn’t make me want to refer anyone to her.

    Positive attitude is a daily practice!

  5. Russell Shaw

    September 13, 2008 at 6:21 pm

    >>”Agents who seem “nice” or “honest and dependable” do not always have the ability to get and keep customers.” – Can you elaborate on that. It strikes me as a really interesting point.<<

    Lead conversion (the ability to GET customers) is a specific skill. Handling the customer to *their* satisfaction (keeping customers) is a different skill. Being nice, honest and dependable are all good traits but really don’t even imply that a person has the ability to get or to keep customers. In a “hot” market it is common for agents who lack both skills to succeed. When the market turns those skills or the lack of them make all the difference in the world.

    It is common for a person to believe they are already highly skilled at lead conversion, for example, when they are factually completely incompetent. It is the belief that they already know how to do it (or there isn’t anything to know) that prevents them from learning a simple but quite vital skill.

    The only valid test is: can the person find, get and keep customers. This is reflected in how well they are doing – regardless of “market conditions”.

    It is probably normal – I know it is common – to think of someone as “competent” because we really like them. It is perhaps true that people who never fall into that wrong-headed thinking aren’t very nice people. But how likeable they are isn’t a very good index of how good they are ad lead conversion.

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