Competence ... or Compassion? Likeable ...or Knowledgeable?

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Education & Training with Sell with Soul

Competent

A few weeks ago, I posted a blog called "Nine Attributes of an Exceptional Real Estate Agent" in which I listed nine competence-related skills and services I'd want my real estate agent to bring to the table if I were in need of real estate assistance.

None of the nine attributes had anything to do with being nice, friendly, likeable or compassionate; they were all related to taking exceptionally good care of me and my real estate transaction.

Several of the 120+ commenters called me out on that - they felt strongly that I should have included what they called "people skills" and what I call "compassion factors" (e.g. being a good listener) in my list of attributes.

I disagreed. NOT because I think real estate agents should strive to be a$$holes with atrocious bedside manners, but rather because what we do, if we do it right and especially in today's excruciatingly difficult market, requires a fairly high level of competence, expertise and good old fashioned hard WORK to properly serve the clients who have honored us with their business.

Being nice, likeable, friendly and empathetic isn't enough. It's just not. Yes, maybe having great people skills gets you in the door, but if you don't have the knowledge and expertise to get the job done that you were hired to do, all the people skills in the world aren't going to change the fact that 1) your client is going to be disappointed and may very well share that disappointment with anyone who will listen; and 2) if you're paid on a contingent commission basis and can't get the job done, no payday cometh for you.

No one wins... not your client, not you, not your struggling real estate market that could really use some exceptionally competent real estate agents out there getting the job DONE!

What dismays me the most about this discussion is the heavy emphasis in our industry on personality being the key factor in success. Who cares about market knowledge, contract mastery or negotiating skills? As long as you're likeable, you'll be just fine! And we wonder why the failure rate in our industry is so freakin' high?

It takes more than a mega-watt smile, a firm handshake and a sympathetic ear to properly serve your clients. If you don't believe that, then I'll go out on a limb and say that your clients aren't being properly served, and I promise you, they notice. Oh, they may still like you personally, but inside, they're wishing they'd hired that other guy or gal who (as my biggest client ever used to say about me) "...isn't the friendliest person in the world, but she gets the job done."

So, my friends, let's go forth... and be Exceptional ... and Get the Job DONE!

(If you'd like to read more of my thoughts on the matter, read my comment #39 on the blog referenced above).

 

 

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Rainmaker
507,331
Ken Tracy
Keller Williams Realty Infinity - Naperville, IL
Helping clients buy and sell since 2005

Hi Jennifer.  I have a problem believing someone who has a picture like this wouldn't know the value of a good smile...

Jah-sws

Also, you write a book titled "Sell w/ Soul" and you question the value of personality?  Of empathy?  Come on...

Maybe if you were still selling real estate, you might see things differently...

Thanks for writing,

Ken

 

 

Jan 06, 2012 10:27 AM #11
Rainmaker
507,331
Ken Tracy
Keller Williams Realty Infinity - Naperville, IL
Helping clients buy and sell since 2005

p.s.  I have never heard anyone say, "Who cares about market knowledge, contract mastery or negotiating skills? As long as you're likeable, you'll be just fine!"  Or anything like it...

Ken

Jan 06, 2012 10:39 AM #12
Rainmaker
507,331
Ken Tracy
Keller Williams Realty Infinity - Naperville, IL
Helping clients buy and sell since 2005

p.p.s.  The reason the failure rate in our industry is so high is the business is fairly easy to enter, and nobody realizes how difficult it is...

Ken

Jan 06, 2012 10:41 AM #13
Anonymous
Larry Fogelquist

At the risk of disagreeing with all you experienced real estate professionals, I really think I understand what Jennifer is driving at here and I'm with her 100%.  For the sake of illustration, let's compare the situation  of a being a client  of a real estate agent to that of being served by a waitress/er  at a restaurant… Of course it's nice if that waitress/er is pleasant, smiles, and laughs at my lame jokes… but if he or she messes up dinner by not being competent then I'm not gonna be inclined to see the whole experience as a positive one.  And furthermore, I'm really gonna wish that we had been served by that grouchy guy in the section next to us, especially if this was one of those evenings when I was wanting to impress my wife with a wonderful dinner.  Of course what would be awesome would be being served WELL by someone who is pleasant, smiles and laughs at all my lame jokes.  But I think of that as frosting on the cake… Just sayin'... 

Jan 06, 2012 01:38 PM #14
Ambassador
424,555
Rich Cederberg
eXp Realty - Albuquerque, NM
eXp Realty Agent Albuquerque

You are absolutely right.  Someone with a great personality can be horrible at being an agent and vice versa.  If we can't serve our clients needs (to buy or sell a home) then what good are we to them?

Jan 06, 2012 02:40 PM #15
Rainmaker
482,632
Jennifer Allan-Hagedorn
Sell with Soul - Pensacola Beach, FL
Author of Sell with Soul

It always cracks me up to participate in these sorts of discussions - what other industry takes pride in the fact that it's better to be likeable and have a great personality than to be competent?? YES, of course, having decent people skills is better than NOT having decent people skills (as long as those "people skills" aren't just superficial smiles, firm handshakes and an annoying phony friendliness) and I agree with Gail 100% that the traits she listed are part of being an exceptional agent... BUT... as Larry described... being friendly, even being compassionate isn't enough and shouldn't be preached as being enough.

I'll never compare us to doctors and lawyers and accountants, etc., but for this discussion, what we do (if we do it well) DOES require a level of expertise and knowledge just like those higher-educated professions do, and would any of those professions claim that it's okay to be incompetent (or even average) as long as your clients like you?

My mission in 2012 is to create a community of exceptional real estate PROFESSIONALS who take their careers seriously and want to be the best thing to ever happen to their clients - BECAUSE they are competent, knowledgeable and willing to work damn hard to get the job done. And if we aren't the friendliest people in the world, I can live with that.

Jan 06, 2012 10:55 PM #16
Rainmaker
120,555
Glenn S. Phillips
Lake Homes Realty - Birmingham, AL
CEO, Lake Homes Realty / LakeHomes.com

The need to be liked so much strikes to some self-esteem issues in many people. While it is true that people do business with people they like, I find many agents need to be LOVED. Not the same thing.

Empathy is important. Rapport is important. But these are pointless if you are not competent.

I know plenty of salespeople I really like. Most of them I would never buy a thing from them. They are likeable but they are horrible salespeople, to the point I think less of their company and product/service because of them. But they can be fun to hang out with sometimes. And most of them are starving for business and think the economy is to blame, not their incompetence. 

Take Care, Talk Soon! G

Jan 07, 2012 01:39 AM #17
Rainmaker
186,589
Tanya Nouwens
RE/MAX ROYAL (JORDAN) INC. / Tanya Nouwens Inc. www.readysetsold.ca - Montreal West Island, QC
Montreal Real Estate Broker & Stager
Interesting that there is even a debate here. Surely we can agree that it is important to have people skills: to be able to read people and situations, be the calming force in a room, feel empathy and show compassion. Taken a step further into the realm of our business, we also ultimately need to be the voice of reason and to guide our clients toward their goals. People skills come naturally for the most part, I believe. Professional competence takes hard work, and continuing hard work - but that's why we get hired and get paid. If my clients simply wanted a friend or a good listener, I'm sure they have other people in their life for that. But to earn their business and my compensation, I need to work really hard, on a continual basis. I really can't believe any of us is arguing an either/or situation though. Are we? Really?
Jan 07, 2012 03:28 AM #18
Rainmaker
482,632
Jennifer Allan-Hagedorn
Sell with Soul - Pensacola Beach, FL
Author of Sell with Soul

My point, exactly, Tanya. But the "people skills" you describe aren't what you (usually) hear proclaimed in real estate circles to be "most important." It's all about being outgoing and friendly and likeable. I listened to a (dreadful) webinar yesterday about "how to sell lots and lots of houses" and much of the material centered around little tricks and tips to build rapport and "make" the prospect like you. Ugh. On another thread, I read how you can use NLP to hurry up the process of building trust and rapport. Again, ugh.

And you also nailed something I mentioned in the earlier blog - that true "people skills" come naturally (or not) for the most part, so if someone has them... great! If not, well, pooh - they probably aren't going to "learn" them. But competence? Knowledge? Expertise? THAT's what really matters... at least, if I'm going to hire someone and be satisfied with my decision!

Perhaps there's a follow-up blog in here about the difference between "people skills" and "likeable?" ARE they the same thing??

Jan 07, 2012 03:43 AM #19
Ambassador
1,394,800
Erica Ramus
Erica Ramus - Ramus Realty Group - Pottsville, PA - Pottsville, PA
MRE, Schuylkill County PA Real Estate

I get that and I am with you. I also think that being buddy buddy with other agents is not a quality that must be on the list for an exceptional agent. I work well with MOST agents, but I also have a reputation for being a tough negotiator -- not  a best friend of agents. I am representing my client's best interests, not my best friend the other agent. 

Jan 07, 2012 10:57 AM #20
Rainer
66,457
Valarie Swanson
CENTURY 21 Award - San Diego, CA
San Diego Real Estate

Initial raport or "chemistry" is necessary, but like in a marriage, there must be something of substance to keep the relationship together longterm and that's where the competence comes in. To become an exceptional real estate agent, as you've described doesn't happen overnight. It will take study, experience and on-going effort. Doug's comment (#1) was right on, though. My clients have shown their appreciation for my calm under pressure and my empathy for their difficulties. When given a choice I believe clients want both qualities in their agent.

Jan 07, 2012 04:57 PM #21
Rainmaker
120,555
Glenn S. Phillips
Lake Homes Realty - Birmingham, AL
CEO, Lake Homes Realty / LakeHomes.com

...  "people skills" and "likeable?" ARE they the same thing??

Nope. Related and intertwined though.

Jan 08, 2012 01:50 AM #22
Rainmaker
482,632
Jennifer Allan-Hagedorn
Sell with Soul - Pensacola Beach, FL
Author of Sell with Soul

Erica - excellent observation! It's a bit of a fine-line, of course, but I took an ethics course once where the instructor advised us to always "be nice" to the other agent because you never know when you'll run into them again. Okay, fair enough, but the context was giving the agent who presented the first offer priority in a multiple offer situation - um - not exactly best serving your client!

Valarie - I agree that compassion and empathy play a role in the big picture... but if that's all you bring to the table... it ain't enough! (which is what you're saying).

Glenn - It could be interpreted to be simple semantics, but in the context I keep hearing it, it's NOT. So many agents seem to interpret "people skills" as an outgoing personality and a big smile, not listening skills, empathy and compassion.

Jan 08, 2012 02:41 AM #23
Rainmaker
120,555
Glenn S. Phillips
Lake Homes Realty - Birmingham, AL
CEO, Lake Homes Realty / LakeHomes.com

Jennifer, I agree. "If I'm really nice, people will buy from me," is way too common in this industry. It's a shortcut mentality I see in other industries too. We are working to hire a salesperson and most with so-called "sales experience" are horrible at value-based, knowledgable sales BUT still want a big salary like they used to have.

Seth Godin had a GREAT short blog post on Tuesday, "Trading in our pain," that really hits the heart of this short-cut mentality. So many people are trying to avoid "the pain" of work, training and effort. It doesn't often really work out that way though, they just think it is a shortcut.

At the same time, there are some brilliant people in this industry that have put in the work and effort and are making money selling something so many real estate agents really want... tips, short classess and webinars that endorse their concept of "just be liked better and you'll make money." Those people know how to recognize and profit from the market! G

Jan 08, 2012 03:19 AM #24
Rainmaker
482,632
Jennifer Allan-Hagedorn
Sell with Soul - Pensacola Beach, FL
Author of Sell with Soul

Glenn - I don't know if you realized it, but you NAILED the essence of the debate.

"If I'm really nice, people will BUY from me."

BUT

Our job is not to sell anyone anything and we aren't PAID to sell anyone anything. We are paid to (and WHEN we) competently manage a complicated process with many moving pieces and parts, which takes much more than a nice smile and friendly disposition.

So, yes, if your job is to SELL stuff to people, walk away, then go sell some more stuff to some more people; lather, rinse, repeat, then being friendly and likeable MAY be enough. But that's not what we do...

Jan 08, 2012 03:36 AM #25
Rainmaker
120,555
Glenn S. Phillips
Lake Homes Realty - Birmingham, AL
CEO, Lake Homes Realty / LakeHomes.com

I would add that most people repeat what worked on them, and that many real estate agents didn't get into real estate with a business person mentality. They go into it because they liked someone that was in the industry, willing to take their money to help them get a license and then take their money for a each deal they finish. They got sold by someone that was good at a number of aspects of sales, and now they still think that person was just being nice and helping them. Great discussion! G

Jan 08, 2012 03:53 AM #26
Rainmaker
257,154
Steve Davis
Davis Coastal Properties - Carlsbad, CA
Carlsbad CA

Likeability and competence go hand in hand. in 35 years of real estate I have known likeable agents who had business but were totally incompetent, hurting their clients. I have also known competent agents who had few clients but lots of book knowledge - which in turn hurt their income. Balance of both and the skill to market themselves makes for a good career in real estate.

Jan 08, 2012 04:32 AM #27
Rainmaker
912,367
Susan Haughton
Long and Foster REALTORS (703) 470-4545 - Alexandria, VA
Susan & Mindy Team...Honesty. Integrity. Results.

Ironically, comment #14 from Larry, was the one that resonated with me the most...and was written by someone outside he industry.  Interesting, huh? 

Jan 08, 2012 12:27 PM #28
Rainer
118,512
Karen Salmon
Royal LePage Benchmark - Okotoks, AB
Okotoks Real Estate Agent

Skills and personality are intertwined for sure. We've all met agents that are SO nice but not very skillful and those that know their stuff but can't communicate, and lets not even get started on those that are unfriendly and not very skillful but have HUGE advertising budgets and their past clients say no they would NEVER use them again but they still close deals.

Jan 09, 2012 01:01 AM #29
Rainmaker
482,632
Jennifer Allan-Hagedorn
Sell with Soul - Pensacola Beach, FL
Author of Sell with Soul

Susan - actually Larry is in real estate, he's just in his first year, so when he referred to us as "experienced real estate professionals" he was excluding himself from that description! But he's definitely one of us!

Jan 09, 2012 01:17 AM #30
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