Real Estate Professionals: Are you a Sales Person or a Consultant?

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One of the forums I participate in had this question posed by one of the other members: "Do you consider yourself a real estate consultant or a real estate sales person?  Which do you think is better and why?  What is the difference in your mind?"

I thought it was a great question, and here's my answer.

From my perspective, I encourage clients to think of themselves as running a real estate consulting practice.  Whether they bill themselves that way or not depends on the regulations in their area.

Why a Consulting Mindset Works Best

1.  It reinforces that they are running a business.  To me, a salesperson mentality  too often leads an agent to feel like they have a job selling for their broker.  To be truly successful, an agent has to feel like they're running a business and act like it, too.  And, I've run into too many young people just entering the field who act as if they have a job because they have a desk in a broker's office.  To survive, they need to get into the "I'm running my own business" mindset pretty quick!

2.  The successful professionals I work with got that way using consultative selling skills.  I have great respect for people who have good consultative selling skills.  I've never met a consultant who didn't have either formal sales responsibilities (selling prospects on becoming clients) or the responsibility to "sell" clients on the best solution for their problem - or both.   That means they need to be good at defining wants and needs and finding solutions that fit.  To me, that's just how the most successful real estate professionals operate.

For example, when a listing agent is negotiating with the homeowner over the list price of the home, would we call that being a salesperson?  The agent is selling to their customer?  Seems like an odd way to look at it.  As a consultant selling the client on the best solution for them, it makes sense.

3.  A salesperson mentality can also lead an agent to feel like they're selling houses.  And, I don't think that's what they're doing.  Even as a listing agent, the most critical responsibility is to develop and implement a marketing plan to get the house sold, regardless of whether they're actually involved in the "sales" process as the buyer's agent.

To me, a salesperson represents the products of the person/company who is paying them a salary.  Real estate professionals don't have products - they have clients.  Even listing agents might not be involved in the real "sale" of the home.  If agents thought of themselves as having products (homes for sale), then there would be no way to differentiate themselves in the marketplace.  All the competitors would have the same products (homes on the MLS).  An agent/broker who has the mindset that they are providing a set of consulting services to clients find it much easier to create a strong brand in their market.

Finally, I think that back when every agent was working for the homeowner, agents probably were successful in thinking of themselves as sales people; like a manufacturer's rep where that rep is responsible for moving their manufacturers' products.  Today, with all the emphasis on transparency and explaining agency and so forth, I think the consultant mindset is the way to go.

What's Your Answer?


Comments (5)

Steve Hoffacker
Steve Hoffacker LLC - West Palm Beach, FL
Certified Aging In Place Specialist-Instructor

Kathleen, that's interesting. I am a real estate consultant who has done business coast-to-coast and internationally. I have my own business and I often am privy to the financial affairs of my clients. Yet, first and foremost I consider myself to be a salesman. I sell my services and and I teach others how to sell.

Jun 08, 2008 07:46 AM
Julianna Hind
eXp Realty - Tacoma, WA
REALTOR, 206-679-4768, Tacoma Federal Way, Auburn, Kent, WA

Hi Kathleen,

I can't imagine being an effective at the sales part of the job if I didn't take consulting seriously. Consulting is where we lay the groundwork for everything that needs to be covered, considered, negotiated, and sought after, it's how I "get" what my client is all about!

Jun 08, 2008 07:51 AM
Kathleen Allardyce
Getting It Write, Inc. - Atlanta, GA

Steve - I agree that good consultants are also good sales people.  But I agree with Julianna, too, that the consultant part needs to stay top of mind.


Jun 08, 2008 07:56 AM
Lisa Newman

So -interesting question and one I have been pondering myself lately - I am always told that I go above and beyond what others would do for their clients.....and I consider myself to be a consultant - most of the time.  When I am sitting with a potential listing client - it is absolutely consultative.  The discusion is about what is on the market - how to price the house competitively - what needs to be done in order to improve the homes salability - what their financial situation looks like and how will it impact the sale - the list goes on.


When working with a buyer - it is consultative all the way.  From helping them understand what their mortgage options are and who the best bank/lender/broker would be to getting them school info and weighing out their options on neighborhoods, towns, states - etc.Trying to sell a buyer a home doesn't even make sense to me.  Sometimes we need to be direct with them when they find "the house" about what they need to do to get it - but still, consultative.

When am I selling?  Right now!  I am in an open house for a lovely beach cottage that the owner wants a premium price for.  Should she get it?  Yup - it is in an amazing area, gorgeous beach views, steps to the ocean - one of the nicest streets in the beach community.  So when those potential buyers walk thru the door - I am smiling - pleasant - informative - and selling the amazing things this house has to offer.  If I don't tell them, who will.

So - I agree, that we have to be consultants.  We have to work for the good of the client - whatever that may be and the hat we wear changes client to client.  but we also need to showcase all the positive a home/neighborhood etc has to offer and that I think is truly sales.  L




Jun 08, 2008 08:02 AM
Kathleen Allardyce
Getting It Write, Inc. - Atlanta, GA

Lisa - I like your comment about changing hats - you can be both, just at different times!

Jun 08, 2008 10:01 AM