Real Estate Agents - Salespeople or Consultants? Depends on the Agent...

Education & Training with Sell with Soul

I was sitting in my Tucson hotel room over the weekend, reading through the complimentary Tucson Lifestyle Magazine generously provided by my hosts at the Tucson Festival of Books where I spoke on Saturday. An ad catches my eye. Oh, there's nothing special about the ad, but it got me thinking (doncha' love that?). It's an advertisement for a local financial planner who promises help me manage my wealth using her "effective strategy for helping create peace of mind through a focused personal and business investing structure."salesperson

So, I'm wondering... if I were to stumble into her office, present my portfolio and ask for her advice, what do you think the chances are that she'd try to sell me something? I'm guessing it's about a 100%. And that's fine, as long as I know that's what she's up to. That I know she's a salesperson first and foremost with a product to sell, and not someone committed to looking out for my best interests.

Reminds me of an experience I had more than 20 years ago at a health club in Springfield, Missouri. I was in my senior year of college. I wandered into a local health club and inquired about getting a membership for the remaining months prior to my graduation. The "Sales Consultant" I was assigned to proceeded to push me toward a 3-year membership, even though I made it quite clear I was LEAVING the AREA in May. "No problem," she said, "You can use the membership at other clubs around the country!" Did I know where I was moving after graduation so we could determine if there was a club nearby? Nope. But she pushed and pushed and darned if I didn't buy a 3-year membership!

Was this health club sales-babe acting as a salesperson or a consultant? Obviously, she was a salesperson. And she did her job as such.

So, this brings me to our industry. Are we salespeople? Or consultants?

Well, that depends!

  • You're a consultant if you help your buyer decide if now is the right time, for him, to buy a home.
  • You're a salesperson if you search for strategies to push him off the fence.


  • You're a consultant if you help your seller determine if selling makes sense, for him, right now, in today's market and given his personal situation.
  • You're a salesperson if you use memorized closing scripts to get him to sign on the line that is dotted.


  • You're a consultant if you commit to finding your buyer the right house, in the right location, at the right price (even if it takes awhile).
  • You're a salesperson if you focus on strategies to get him to buy as quickly as possible.


  • You're a consultant if your listing interview with an expired listing prospect includes an in-depth exploration of why his house didn't sell the first time.
  • You're a salesperson if your listing presentation simply describes your 32-point marketing plan.

Not saying there's anything wrong with being a salesperson (okay, well, I guess I sorta am). Just don't claim to be a consultant if your primary goal is get the sale!


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Re-Blogged 1 time:

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  1. Lisa Lambert/PMN/AHWD/SRES 03/19/2010 02:21 PM
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Doug Anderson
Tucker Associates Real Estate Services - Danville, CA
Bay Area Real Estate Views

Jennifer - While we have to do a lot of sales I think that we should strive to be the best consultant we can be.  If we truly care about the well being of the client, and our actions are perceived as such by them, you technically do not need to "sell".  Just do your job to the best of your ability and everything will fall into place. ~ Doug

Mar 16, 2010 02:43 AM #1
Robert Rauf
HomeBridge Financial Services (NJ) - Toms River, NJ

There is another level to this: Do we consider RE to be our Career or just a job.  If it is just a job, then most would be just sales people.  But if it is your Career, WE have to make it about our client and what is right for THEM, not for us. If people dont get to closing feeling good at the end of the day then I am not a happy camper. I want to be paid, and I want a happy client at the end of the day.

Mar 16, 2010 03:24 AM #2
Jill Schmidt
Aurora, CO

I act as a consultant.  I do see people respond to the idea of a real estate agent as if they expect hard-sell tactics.

Mar 16, 2010 03:31 AM #3
Kevin J. May
Florida Supreme Realty - Hobe Sound, FL
Serving the Treasure & Paradise Coasts of Florida

JA, Here's how I define the two.  When I am paid prior to performing a service, I'm a consultant.  When paid at the conclusion of a service I have become a salesperson.  Thanks!   

Mar 16, 2010 03:38 AM #4
Dena Stevens Coriz
Rocky Mountain Realty - Canon City, CO
Putting The Real Into Realtor Since 2004

OK Jennifer, I got it. Sales people are pushy. But aren't consultants doormats? Seems to me that consultants are usually pumped for information and freebies, potiential clients get their info and walk away. What say you?

Mar 16, 2010 05:15 AM #5
Christopher Watters
Watters International Realty - Austin, TX
Austin Realtor (512-829-8000)

Jenn - I would have to say I'm a consultant. In the past month, three owners I've met with, I've told to lease their home out or hold on to for another year or two since moving was not a necessity and they were upside down on it. I think Dena is correct to a certain extent. You don't want to give out propritary information freely, but you want to help guide clients/prospects in the right direction. I think ulimately you just have to ensure the poeple you consult with are not trying to pull freebie information out of you. Which is where asking good pre-qualifiying questions comes in handy.

Mar 16, 2010 07:23 AM #6
Charlie Ragonesi - Big Canoe, GA
Homes - Big Canoe, Jasper, North Georgia Pros

This post is a good mental check for each of us to determine where we are. I guess I am a consultant. I do have some sales tendencies however. Thanks Jennifer for this. I know I am a consultant because today a desperate seller called wanted me to do a short sale. After a little while on the phone I determined that he had been in the house for a long time and was getting on in years. We are now looking at them doing a reverse mortgage. So I talked myself out of a short sale listing and potentially helped someone stay ion their family home. I'm a consultant I guess

Mar 16, 2010 09:05 AM #7
Tom Bailey
Margaret Rudd & Associates Inc. - Oak Island, NC

JA, I was in the Mack Truck sales and service business for 30+ years before I got into RE. I have sold somewhere between 2500 and 3000 Mack Trucks. I never really thought of myself as a salesman. I always considered myself a sales consultant. I always felt my job was to solve customers problems. I have always put my customers needs and wants ahead of my own desire to sell something. This attitude has always served me well.


Mar 16, 2010 02:55 PM #8
Sally Lawrence
Advantage Real Estate - Tehachapi, CA
Broker, CHS, e-Pro, SFR, REALTOR®

Jennifer, if I spend 15 minutes trying to talk a client out of putting in an offer on a house that is at the top of his price range (but that I didn't think was the best thing for him at the time), does that make me a consultant?  When he asked me why it seemed like I was discouraging him from buying, I explained my thoughts, we discussed it , he provided me with more information than he had originally and we went forward with the offer.  Turned out well in the end!

Mar 17, 2010 04:40 AM #9
Ruthmarie Hicks
Keller Williams NY Realty - 120 Bloomingdale Road #101, White Plains NY 10605 - White Plains, NY

Hi Jennifer,
I think it all comes down to being honest with the client.  If I think something is a really BAD idea - I say so! 

I just lost a prospect over that this week.  This person was in la la land about what she could afford - her "must haves" were way, way, way out of whack with her wallet.  She didn't want to listen.   Now, I could have probably sold her something like that  - she seemed to have the money, but was it a good  She would have been hemmed in  (and quite possibly harmed)  by the cost of living.   I asked her to keep an "open mind" and to start looking at what made sense realistically.  She was also bent on taking her car to the train.  Um....not happening.  It can take up to 3 years to get the pass to park at the train stations in the area. If you commute, its walking, taxi, jitney or bus for quite some time. Most people "get it" and are willing to buy less house/condo to have easy access to the train.  But she kept insisting she could drive. Rather then set her up for a major disappointment, I told her the truth and she was gone.  I all likelihood this wasn't a serious buyer -   someone that unrealistic generally isn't, but I wasn't about to push  something that made no sense at all.

Mar 17, 2010 07:23 AM #10
Cari Anderson
Danville, CA

Jennifer: I've always admitted to being a terrible salesperson. I realize now that this doesn't mean you cannot be successful in this industry. In fact, I'm proud that I don't "sell." I believe that I am a consultant. I find the best loan program for my clients' needs by taking the time to find out all I can about them and their situation. And then I make sure that I deliver on my promises. None of that takes any salesmanship I believe and I'm okay with that. ;-)

Mar 17, 2010 09:49 AM #11
Cara Pearlman
Frankly Real Estate, Inc - Bethesda, MD
Realtor - ABR, SFR

I switched my title on my card and marketing a few years ago to reflect that I was a consultant. There is no way to push a house on someone that they don't want. We aren't there for that purpose - we are there to share our knowledge and guide our clients through the process.

Mar 17, 2010 12:19 PM #12
Alan Brown
Coldwell Banker Montrose Colorado - Montrose, CO
29 Years of Real Estate Experience .

I think you are absolutely right. Once in awhile you need to be sales person, I choose to be a consultant most of the time. Sometimes I see it as the right move for the buyers and or sellers but they don't always see it that way.

Mar 18, 2010 11:33 AM #13
Christine Pappas - REALTOR®
eXp Realty - Willoughby, OH
eXp Realty - Because Experience Matters

Good thoughts Jennifer!  As I have heard you say many times, this business is all about the people - it is not a numbers game, it is a people business.  So, if in your RE business, you as the agent are caring more about the person than your paycheck, than you can remove the labels - sales person - consultant  and just be the best professional to help that individual person.  Personally, that is what I strive for each and every time I meet someone who wants to buy or sell a home.

Mar 19, 2010 12:02 AM #14
Jennifer Allan-Hagedorn
Sell with Soul - Pensacola Beach, FL
Author of Sell with Soul

Christine - It never fails to amaze me that anyone can call this business a Numbers Game. At least, in the traditional sense of throwing enough doo-doo up against the wall and hoping a little bit sticks. Surely we're better than that??

Alan - I think we use some sales skills in our job, but doesn't everybody? It doesn't make you a salesperson, especially when it comes to building a relationship with someone who we're asking to trust us with a huge financial decision.

Cara - Indeed we are! And if that's your mindset, then you definitely have the heart of a consultant (which is a good thing).


Ruthmarie - too bad you probably won't ever know what happens with her.

Sally - Yes! That's what a consultant would do! Actually LOOK at the situation with an expert eye and advise accordingly. And if the situation changes... gee whiz... the consultant has the brainpower to look at it again and re-evaluate!

Tom - I know it has...

Charlie - That's right! You took the time to look at the situation, analyze it, and give your honest opinion instead of pushing for a signature on The Line that is Dotted.

Mar 19, 2010 02:39 AM #15
Margret Nyfors
One Percent Realty Ltd - Vancouver, BC

I love this....I don't have anything brilliant to add, just thank you for posting it Jennifer.  And I am definitely a consultant!  Margret

Mar 19, 2010 05:27 PM #16
Lauren Briles
The Briles Company - Greenville, SC

really enjoyed reading your comparisons and i defintely agree!  thanks for sharing!

Mar 21, 2010 01:47 PM #17
Ashley Sharum
972.978.3109 - Dallas, TX
Ebby Halliday Realtors

I love this, Jennifer. So true and right on the dot about the differences between the two professionals.  This is a relationship business. 

Mar 21, 2010 04:45 PM #18
Mark Oden


I've been a salesperson all my life. As a result, I'm tired and burned out. Thats why I'm here. To be taught a different, better way to talk with people and make money and be happy. I am looking forward to this new chapter in my life. Thanks!

Jun 13, 2011 04:41 AM #19
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