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Do you operate as a professional or as a public servant?

People often go into real estate because they are people persons (does that work, grammatically speaking?)  They like people, they have the gift of gab and are all around good people.  What they often don’t realize is that being a real estate agent, and making a good living from it, is a business.  A real estate agent is a professional, defined by Webster’s as “characterized by or conforming to the technical or ethical standards of a profession (2) : exhibiting a courteous, conscientious, and generally businesslike manner in the workplace”.

Businesslike” is where we sometimes go astray.  Since we want to please, we often forget we are business people and act more in the guise of a public servant.  We make ourselves available 24/7.  We give out our home phone.  We accept any payment people are willing to offer.  We don’t set limits.  We don’t qualify our clients.  We don’t want to be rude or hurt anyone’s feelings.  I, just as much as the next person, am guilty of some or all of these actions from time to time.

It’s time to stop looking at ourselves as servants to the consumer first and business professionals second (if at all).

It IS OK to:

  • Set hours when you are available, answer the phone and show properties (my outgoing voice mail states clearly that I don’t work Sundays or answer the phone after 7 PM. Guess what? People respect and deal with that.  I’ve lost ONE listing in the three years since I implemented that outgoing message and that listing has still not sold, three agents later.)
  • Determine what fee you are willing to work for and be firm about it
  • Say no to unrealistic and unqualified clients (take your time and money to clients who DO intend to buyer or sell, not just “look” or “see”).

Look at other professionals such lawyers, accountants and consultants and observe how they operate their business.  They do it from a business perspective, not that of a public servant.  I am not saying that you can not have a servant’s heart when dealing with clients, of course you can.  But you should have a businessman’s heart when making decisions, setting limits and policies.  Don’t change the person you are, but do be a businessperson.

Take a good hard look at how you operate your real estate business.  Are there things you could tweak to have a more sound business practice?  If so, put them in place and see if your bottom line doesn’t thank you.

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Written By

Janie has been in the development, construction and real estate industries for over 20 years. She began her career in commerical construction and has slowly worked into all of the related industries and added residential properties to her resume 7 years ago. She is currently the co-owner of sister companies, Papillon Real Estate and Papillon ReDevelopment (a construction and project management firm). Janie blogs for The Coral Gables Story. In her "free" time, she is a graduate student of Atlantic History with a focus on the history of business and technology. She is a lover of geo-anything. She loves the story.

35 Comments

35 Comments

  1. Sheila Rasak

    September 22, 2010 at 9:28 am

    My hat is off to the author of this excellent article! I can easily lean toward the public servant category when it comes to my commitment to foreclosure prevention. I have often clearly stated to my clients that I am available from 7-7, however have not used that on my outgoing message and am now rethinking it. Boundary setting is important to our industry as we can get burned out pretty fast keeping the hours we keep. The reference to other professionals has helped me balance my business in the past and is an excellent reminder for the future.

    • Janie Coffey

      September 22, 2010 at 9:52 am

      Thank you Sheila. I am 110% devoted to my clients as well, but I do set boundaries and it works just fine. IF they know in advance. I will show on a Sunday, when the need arises (ie out of town clients, etc.) but by clearly stating that, it becomes my decision not an expectation. When a client called me at 4:30 AM one day until I picked up, I changed how I look how I project myself to my clients. I get more, not less respect, because of it. But I still backslide from time to time 🙂

  2. Joe Manausa

    September 22, 2010 at 9:30 am

    Hey Janie, great article. I’m always amazed at the people who market “you can reach me 24/7 on my cell phone…” and I always wondered who answered the phone when they were asleep :).

    I don’t think my attorney would take a call at 10:00 p.m…..

    • Janie Coffey

      September 22, 2010 at 9:53 am

      I don’t see it here in Miami, but I do see home phone numbers still on agent’s business cards. Who in the world wants to be called at home at 8:30 when you are doing homework with your kids, relaxing or whatever else it is you do on your own private time? EVERYONE needs time off, agents included.

  3. Fred Romano

    September 22, 2010 at 10:18 am

    Excellent post Janie! I have been running my business this way and my clients have no problems. The best part is that when I am available, I respond quickly, and I have gotten some amazing client feedback.

    • Janie Coffey

      September 22, 2010 at 10:27 am

      Setting parameters in the front end is the way to go. If not, you are open season to anyone’s whim. The thing is, many consumers look for real estate when they are not working (ie nights and weekends) and it’s natural for them to want to call you when they see something or have time to talk. I’m not saying not to make yourself available when necessary on nights and weekends, but you can craft how you present yourself in the beginning so you aren’t just an 7-11 store.

  4. Ken Brand

    September 22, 2010 at 10:53 am

    Amen Janie. What makes setting your Professional Standards easier is actually delivering what you promise. To me, as you’ve shared, I feel that many people promise 24/7 access in the same way they will charge less than everyone else.

    If a person is unwilling to raise the level of what they are actually providing, and cant compete on knowledge, expertise, etc., then it seems they feel the need to compete by lowing their prices, and offering the “I never sleep, I’m your slave” carrot.

    Plus, if an agent doesn’t put in the hard work to generate a healthy flow of opportunities, then when all they have to work with are the prospects who are takers, and disrespecters, they’re boxed in. It’s good for the soul, and your business when you can safely release the losers to work with people like themselves.

    Cheers.

    • Janie Coffey

      September 22, 2010 at 10:56 am

      AMEN Ken! “if an agent doesn’t put in the hard work to generate a healthy flow of opportunities, then when all they have to work with are the prospects who are takers, and disrespecters” You Said it, Brother!

  5. Ken Montville

    September 22, 2010 at 2:32 pm

    “people persons” gets the point across better than “people people”. 🙂

    Seriously, it took me years to be able to convince myself to set the types of boundaries you write about. But, as Ken B. points out, this is really more of a lead gen business which, truth be told, is my least favorite part. I like working with nice people who respect my experience and expertise. I like the smile on people’s faces when they attend a good settlement that happens on time.

    But you have to kiss a lot of frogs, it seems, to find the princes or princesses.

    The boundaries are certainly good ones, though.

    • Janie Coffey

      September 22, 2010 at 4:12 pm

      Ken, I am TOTALLY the same way! I love working with great clients and 50% of my business comes from SOI and referrals so I think that means they like working with me to. What I realized is that the ones who work out to be great clients get, understand and appreciates those boundaries and have no problem with them. They see me as a professional and appreciate my expertise. Those who do not often are the ones who will call at 9 PM or 5 AM or expect to call at 6 PM on Sat to see a house at 10 AM Sunday so you are basically killing two birds with one stone. I agree however, it is hard. We want to save the world and sometimes saying no to some will result in being able to work with those great ones we would have missed out on otherwise.

  6. Terence Richardson

    September 22, 2010 at 4:31 pm

    I think this is one of the things that separates the better agents from the masses out there, especially when it comes to enjoying a good work/life balance and a better quality of life. As I build my business, I plan to cut out weekends entirely and let my team handle that. I think there’s plenty of good business to be earned out there without making yourself a 24/7 access slave to people who don’t value your time. Good post.

    • Janie Coffey

      September 23, 2010 at 6:08 am

      As Jeff Brown, aka @Bawldguy, keeps telling me, I have to take a lower % of clients so that I am taking the cream of the crop, the serious, real buyers and sellers. Not wishful thinkers and tire kickers. That is the biggest step we can take toward a better work/life balance.

  7. Mike Pedersen

    September 22, 2010 at 5:43 pm

    Janie,

    This is a great article. I’ve personally experienced both sides of the coin with real estate transactions, and that’s okay. People are people, and they will run their business they way they choose, but as you say “it is a business”, so you’ve got to treat it like one.

    I’ve always felt the good ones will be in business even during this horrible time, and they are. Which is good to see. They deserve it!

    Regards,
    Mike

    P.S. Follow me on Twitter if you’d like (@mikepedersen), as I have a site specifically for Real Estate Marketing. Thanks!

    • Janie Coffey

      September 23, 2010 at 6:10 am

      I am sure there are agents who do really really well without the boundaries, and more businesslike parameters, but it seems like to me it would be more of an uphill battle. I don’t mean to say at all not to be friendly and helpful, just do it in a business perspective, not a volunteer perspective.

  8. Paula Henry

    September 23, 2010 at 6:44 am

    Janie – This is truly what separates the great agents from the mediocre. Valuing our time, expertise and knowledge is the first step to creating better opportunities for ourselves.

    When we respect our time, we tend to attract clients who also do.

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