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Drop The Motive! Step Away From The Consumer!

Sabotage Cop

Hello, I’ve been watching you.

I was sitting across from a couple enjoying their food and to my left sat an older woman quietly enjoying her lunchtime. I’m a people watcher, been one all my life, so I noticed the woman seemed to be looking at the couple a little more than one might do ordinarily. As my plate of lo mein arrived, the woman was just finishing up her meal and putting on her coat. As she thanked the waitress, I saw her edging toward the couple’s table. My people watching voyeuristic skill took control and I stopped shoveling food into my mouth for a few seconds.

“You have a beautiful face,” the old woman said to the roughly 20-something girl, “I just had to tell you.” The young girl, slightly embarrassed, smiled at the woman and thanked her and they chatted about the weather for a few moments. Not exactly something I expected to hear the woman say I thought to myself as I went back to my noodles. As I continued with the shoveling, my mind wandered to how funny it would be if I had walked up and said those same words.

I imagine there would have been a few simple responses. The man getting up and smacking me upside the head. The woman thinking I was creepy. Everyone looking at me in an awkward silence. The thoughts would have been all the same…what’s this guy’s motive?

I’m a Realtor®, it’s okay.

We talk to people all the time…friends, clients, strangers. We walk up to people without a second thought about whether we know them or not. We’re Realtors®, it’s ok. All we want is a chance to tell the world how we can maximize their sales price or about this charming one-story we think they’ll love. We want to share our love of real estate with the world, right?

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Motivation is a strong thing. Everyday, we are motivated to talk to people, engage with people, and build relationships with people. Our motivation? You can look at it a couple of ways, but it really boils down to the basics – we want business, business makes us money. Sure, we all do it because we love to help people and truly enjoy what we do for a living (at least I hope we all do), but if this career isn’t paying the bills (or at least has potential to pay the bills), it certainly makes it seem like a dumb idea to be doing it day in and day out.

So let’s admit, we always have a motive, it’s not outlandish to say that we want others to be our clients. I have no trouble with that. But what if we dropped the motive and entered into conversation? What if we listened to what others had to say without thinking, “when should I hand them my business card?” What if we didn’t ask if a consumer was interested in buying or selling, but instead got to know them for who they are – not what property they do or don’t own? Yes, the motive can exist without being at the forefront of everything we do. The motive is not going away. Nothing is going to change the fact that we will always be interested in a person’s real estate situations. What can change is how we present the motive.

Drop the motive.

Next time you’re meeting a consumer, think of them as a person first. Think of them as someone you’d like to get to know. Think of them as someone who has dreams, hopes, and problems outside of the real estate world. Find that person and connect with them. Find that person and be the person they want to talk to. Be the person they trust. Be the person they know is a Realtor®, but doesn’t need to tell them every five seconds how many houses they sold last week.

This is the Realtor® I would work with. This is the Realtor® I want to be.

Before we all chime in “Hooray for Consumers” in the comments and pat each other on the back for being so consumer-centric, seriously take a moment to think about it. Where do you keep your motives? What’s the vibe you put off when meeting strangers or prospective clients? Perhaps it’s time to step away from the consumer and consider just what it is you do. We all want to be great Realtors® and it’s easy to write about being a great Realtor®; but are we capable of stepping back, looking in, and being objective with ourselves? It’s not easy and I know I have room for improvement, but it’s necessary if we are going to move forward as agents and as an industry.

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photo courtesy of Roomic Cube

Written By

Matt is a former PA-based rockstar turned real estate agent with RE/MAX Access in San Antonio, TX. He was asked to join AgentGenius to provide a look at the successes and trials of being a newer agent. His consumer-based outlook on the real estate business has helped him see things from both sides. He is married to a wonderful woman from England who makes him use the word "rubbish."



  1. Janie Coffey

    February 24, 2010 at 11:13 am

    here here Matt, I am all about having motives that are positive and beneficial and not selfish. We certainly need to rid ourselves of our “used car salesman” mindset that we tend to carry with us. When we work hard for others and keep their perspective in mind, it’s a win-win.

    • Matt Stigliano

      February 25, 2010 at 6:13 am

      The hardest part is stepping outside one’s self and asking, “What do I project?” I know there have been plenty of times where despite all my best intentions, I came across desperate and pushy. I wasn’t trying to be, but perception is strong than intention.

  2. Amber Davis

    February 24, 2010 at 11:20 am

    Excellent post! Dropping the motives and focusing on the person you’re speaking to has an extra benefit: you’ll learn more about them. And the more you learn about them, the easier it will be to know what they need. And once you know what they need, then you’ll be able to present a sales solution that will truly be tailored to them. That sales message will be 15x more effective than the number of houses you sold last week.

    Paying REAL attention is not only more personally rewarding, but actually a better tactic to help sell your service!

    • Matt Stigliano

      February 25, 2010 at 6:15 am

      Amber – I find that the more I know about the client, the more we can relax and talk open and honestly about their issues related to real estate. Shoving a card in the consumers hand just says “you’re a number in my database, call me.” Shaking a hand and asking how they are? Much different story.

  3. Kristin LaVanway

    February 24, 2010 at 11:33 am

    This message is especially timely with agents jumping on the short sale bandwagon in droves. Although you may have convinced yourself that you are “helping people in their time of need” are you really just jamming a pen in their hand to sign that short sale listing?

    • Matt Stigliano

      February 25, 2010 at 6:44 am

      Kristin – I’m going to go off topic a bit here and probably should make this a blog post, but it’s 5:22AM and I’d rather post it here.

      **Warning, what you are about to read are my personal thoughts and may prove to be rather unpopular. I mean no harm to the agents I will be speaking of, but I instead hope to encourage some honest thought on the topic. You’re been warned.**

      Short sale agents need to come down off their high horse. Now before you fly off the handle and get angry with me, listen to why I dare say this.

      Real estate is not a simulatable experience. We don’t spend hours in a transaction-simulator like a pilot does in a flight-simulator. Sure, we write practice contracts in training classes, but seriously, we all know they don’t really prepare you for the real thing. We study theory and test cases and although they are valuable, nothing prepares you like looking a client in the eye as they sign a contract.

      With short sales, the cry lately has been, “everyone’s messing up the short sales because they don’t know what they’re doing.” That’s not an incorrect statement. I take no pride in knowing that there are agents out there right now screwing up someone’s life because they don’t know what they’re doing. Problem is, short sales are not the only cause. A bad agent is a bad agent, no matter what type of sale it is.

      Yes, short sales are definitely a specialized field that take more know how than the base real estate knowledge. Yes, there are some classes and designations out there that can help you improve upon those skills. (Has anyone noticed that the new SFR designation could be read as “suffer” – for some reason that really bothers me.) I do not deny that a little education goes a long way. However, as I learned in my real estate classes from watching others, not everyone’s really paying attention. A designation doesn’t make you an expert (hotly debated topic on its own).

      How does one become an expert? By doing. I know quite a bit about short sales from reading and listening, but haven’t done one. Do I know I could successfully? Yes. Why? Because I have the power to ask questions of my peers. Peers who have done them. Peers who could do them in their sleep. Peers who would be willing to help me understand some of the more complex issues that I might not think of right away. If the opportunity presented itself to me, I would be in Kristin’s office (she works with me) in a heartbeat, quizzing her about what I need to know.

      What irks me the most is the attitude of “if you haven’t done one, don’t.” What does that say about the person saying it? To me, it says that they had to suspend their own beliefs and ethics at one point in their career. No one goes from zero short sales to a hundred without doing their first one. I wonder, did that agent on their first short sale tell the clients, “you shouldn’t do this with me, I have no experience and no idea what I’m doing.” No one gets to be an expert without doing.

      Now of course, I am also a realist and know that some agents have blown it for their clients on short sales. I have spoken to consumers and heard the stories. I’ve seen banks and owners throw monkey wrenches into the process too. Short sales aren’t easy, even the experts seem to agree on that. Should that stop someone from learning? In some markets short sales account for a large percentage of sales – should those that haven’t trained for them step out of the way of the big boys? Instead, why don’t the big boys help the new guys (new to short sales, not new to real estate) and answer their questions, help guide them, and work to make the average Realtor® a better functioning machine – short sale or not.

      **Thought over. Please return to your regularly scheduled comments.**

  4. Sean Hall

    February 24, 2010 at 11:57 am

    Truly great post with a lot of truth in it. I came across a quote that stuck in my mind that I think says a lot, especially in this industry: “People don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.” .

    • Duke Long

      February 24, 2010 at 4:42 pm

      Sean.. there it is..thanks!

    • Matt Stigliano

      February 25, 2010 at 6:48 am

      Sean – My first broker loved that quote. He pounded that one in my head daily. I think the problem is that the consumer should expect us to know and we don’t always live up to that standard.

      If you read my previous comment, you should note that to me “knowing” doesn’t necessarily mean to have direct knowledge. Best thing I learned from my step-mother was that school wasn’t about knowledge, it was about how to find knowledge when you didn’t have the answer.

    • Kathy Jerzak

      February 25, 2010 at 1:44 pm

      I love that quote too!

  5. Tim Cahill

    February 24, 2010 at 12:06 pm

    This is also very much the gist of using social media as well. You’ve got to interact with others as people first, then begin building trust. Along the way they’ll surely realize you’re a Realtor, but they’ll probably appreciate even more the fact that you didn’t rub it in their face the moment they met you.

    I’m sure we’ve all heard the analogy that social media is like a cocktail party and you have to be nice and meet people on a one-to-one basis first, as opposed to entering the room and announcing to everyone, “Hey! Realtor Here! Who wants to buy or sell a house?” Which person would you want to talk to?

    • Nashville Grant

      February 24, 2010 at 4:21 pm

      Seriously, I am getting so tire of Realtors on Twitter who can do nothing, but tweet about “[city] real estate” or “[city] sell your house”. When did social media become all about shameless self promotion anyway?

    • Matt Stigliano

      February 25, 2010 at 6:55 am

      Tim – My first ever Twitter client never spoke to me about real estate until they picked up the phone and called me. We talked about hockey once in awhile, that was it. Being a Realtor® is tricky business, because you obviously want the world to know what you do, but doing it without being obnoxious can be the hardest part, especially since we all define obnoxious different ways.

      Nashville Grant – What’s that you say? You need to sell your house in Nashville? Don’t worry, I’m from Texas, but I can put you in touch with a great Realtor® out there. whispers… Any agents in Nashville pay 50% referral fee? I have a hot lead.

      (I’ve seen that happen all to often – spend 10 minutes watching agents on Trulia fishing for referral fees and you’ll see what I mean.)

  6. Houstonblogger

    February 24, 2010 at 6:55 pm

    Dear God, this is my 3rd and final attempt to post this response. Hate. My. Internet. /rant This is such a great article! Thank you so much for posting this. Although the majority of my clientele come from meeting people at open houses, I sometimes feel like I must look like a lion pouncing on pounds of raw flesh coming through the door as soon as a potential customer comes in. I get super annoyed at sales people. All the time. Why wouldn’t a consumer be annoyed with me? Why? Because I’m awesome and I love me, that’s why. However, potential clients don’t get to see that side of me during my “why I’m the best Realtor” regurgitation. Again, great article. Gives me much food for thought!

    • Matt Stigliano

      February 25, 2010 at 7:09 am

      Danelle – Open houses are a great example of my “drop the motive” theory. The people that come through that door know you want to sell them the house. More than likely they know you’d love to sell them any house. I just got a friend request on Facebook from someone I met at an open house around October of last year. The couple visited several times thinking about buying the house, but in the end they decided to stay in the house they were in. Do I think that are relationship will result in business? Most certainly. We only talked business when we were in that mode. Outside of business, I know a lot about the couple and the friend request was more of a “here’s what we’ve been doing” friendly letter than a “oh, you’re that Realtor® guy, so we figured we ought to friend you just in case we ever need your help.”

  7. Andrew Mckay

    February 26, 2010 at 11:18 am

    Nicely put Matt. I posted on my blog yesterday “Please Hit Me If I Turn Into “That Guy” In Wasaga Beach” as defined by Chris Brogan and Julien Smith in “Trust Agents.” You’ve much more eloquently expanded on these thoughts. I saw Mike Staver at our Kick Off last week and that ties in very well, ” what can you do FOR the client not TO the client” should be a mantra. Check out his Real Estate video:

  8. Ken Montville

    February 27, 2010 at 8:25 am

    When I come late to the party, like now, I usually don’t read all the comments so I apologize for the redundancy, if there is any….

    Ahhh… be idealistic, again. How wonderful to just go up to people willy nilly and try to engage with them in the hopes of starting a friendship for no other reason than they might have a nice face.

    Yes, Matt, if you did the same thing that old woman did, the woman with the beautiful face would scream or get out the pepper spray. Peace, love, kumbaya and cheap, abundant marijuana ended with the 70s. Realtors need to understand they’re not pro bono social workers.

    Maybe I’m just jaded.

  9. Joe Loomer

    February 27, 2010 at 10:04 am

    Matt, you could slightly re-word this post and make it about “how not to throw up on your Facebook.”

    Too many agents think being social AND Social Media is a billboard to ply their wares, so they do it wrong. It’s called “social” for the same reason as your coffee shop analogy. Agents reap much more reward from just being genuine and posting relevant stuff about themselves and their habits and hobbies. They get zero return from posting listings and shouting “hey check out my great three bedroom I just listed.” Blocked, done, gone. Amazing to me how many are still doing this, shouting out “look at me, look at me” ala don-key in Shrek – instead of doing a needs analysis of their target audience (and platform).

    Navy Chief, Navy Pride

  10. Mark Brian

    February 27, 2010 at 12:50 pm

    Excellent article. In a way this touches upon what is an important philosophy to me: I have never dealt with a lead! However, I have developed many relationships. There is a difference to me.

  11. Brandie Young

    February 28, 2010 at 2:30 pm

    Hey Matt,

    Interesting topic. My thoughts from my side of the fence (the non agent side).

    I’m a pretty straight-forward person (in the event you didn’t know that by now – smile). I get paid for what I do, and am not ashamed nor shy about that fact. I may or may not be a fit for some companies, and they may or may not be a fit for me. My motive is to enter into a mutually beneficial client engagement.

    It seems like it should be the same for agents, no? Agents want to help a buyer/seller accomplish what they want/need. In turn they get paid for it.

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