where is all this Technology taking us?
predict it will have a bigger impact on our internal policies and
philosophies than our marketing efforts.
Technology was supposed to help us to be more productive, to save
costs and reduce the number of people required to do mundane jobs.
Yet I bet you feel like me. Each time you buy a new computer youve
got to employ someone else to run the thing.
To date our businesses have been influenced by the progressive introduction
over the last 20 years of systems that started with organizing our
listings databases. This was quickly followed with Trust Accounting,
Payroll and Property Management Systems and basic Client databases.
The initial systems contained Buyer/Client screens with property/client
matching programmes. Most were little used at the time because sales
people were reluctant to provide client details into a central system
because of internal distrust with their colleagues. These are
Then came the marketing add-ons and all the flash stuff that made
the material we produced take a quantum leap in quality. Colour printers,
colour brochures, digital photography and the ability to load directly
to internet databases that the pubic can filter through. Next came
intranet systems that stored all the data in a central file server
which saved individual branches storing their own data, and allowing
cross referencing to occur. But the client cross-referencing isnt
happening as the offices seem unable or unprepared to demand the contacts
all get loaded. These databases now allow for greater interaction,
between our current/future clients and the information we control.
When I started in Real Estate in 1981 we controlled everything.
You had to visit an agent to find out what was for sale. Not any more,
weve passed that over.
You needed to visit an agent to find out how to buy and how to finance
it. Thats been passed over too. No need to visit us any longer
to find out those answers. How many of us waited 90 days for Housing
Corporation and then Post Office Savings bank to process the 2 mortgages
commonly obtained at that time?
Now all we control is the experience! And looking at recent media
articles, thats going to come increasingly under the spotlight
too. In some instances that is well overdue as internal systems and
processes are often maintained to protect the interests of the salespeople
(Who were so hard to recruit in the first place) to the detriment
of their clients.
Every week that goes by the public get more and more access to our
material and listings database. You only have to cruise the major
real estate search engines and the corporate sites to see the wealth
of advice freely available along with their ability to filter through
the listings database without talking to a salesperson. You can do
it all, except feel and smell the house. All that is missing is a
button that says BUY NOW.
It is in my opinion, right here that technology will have the greatest
impact on the current real estate industry. Already we have active
systems where buyers can leave their details, to be advised of any
future listings that match their criteria. These are communicated
directly to them without a salesperson necessarily being in contact
with them. And it seems to be working.
But it is internally, in how we operate that there needs to be some
adjustments made if they havent already occurred.
I wrote a few months ago about database Marketing and reflected only
briefly on the issued of contact ownership. Many people have long
been grappling with the question of whether the database should be
owned and operated by the sales person, or whether it should be run
by the office, but protected for the individual salesperson, and placed
in an open system that provided a marketing edge.
Perhaps it is time to start the debate about some of the issues that
predicate this position now that technology is forcing us to take
notice of some practices that are just plan counter-productive today.
Real estate is a fiercely competitive business and recruiting the
right people has been the number 1 strategy for many operators. Others
have already taken the quality path with strong internal rules and
processes that put the clients first, with strong, quality marketing
and high skills demands.
However the majority of the industry is still faced with recruiting,
then retaining enough people to be viable or maintain enough market
share to be credible with clients. The ability of top performing salespeople
to move from office to office and thus be lost to their current manager
means that these salespeople are able to place some demands upon their
managers for special treatment and preferential pay structures. (Funny
isnt it how managers who tell salespeople they are not allowed
to negotiate the fee, are quick to give some of the office share away
when recruiting a top sales performer.) This I believe impacts on
some offices ability to make full use of the technology tools available
Commission based salespeople in any industry seek to protect their
patch and take the approach that he/she is my client.
And once a client is being managed by a salesperson guess who decides
which houses that client sees? You got it!
I would comment too that I recently saw a classic example of sales
people protecting their interests in a direct conflict with the marketing
assertions of their brand. The brand urges clients to list with them
Exclusively because their sales team and network of offices all share
the listings and target all known buyers in their database. I guess
thats a pretty standard approach.
What the seller doesnt know it that each individual salesperson
makes a decision as to whether their buyers get to hear about the
property or its left until the advertising does its job. They
also dont know that that the salesperson gets paid more to sell
a General listing in some companies than an Exclusive, if its
listed by a colleague. So recently I saw an example where on the very
day an Exclusive went General after 90 days on an Exclusive listing,
3 offers arrived from other branches of the same company. I thought
that arrangement went out at least 10 years ago.
Then there are those sales people who actively discourage their colleagues
from showing buyers through their listings, and its supported
by their management. I wonder if the sellers were told that was company
policy in the presentation? Its a different call if the listing
agent has access to all the buyer databases and the vendor knows they
will be the only person showing the property, but still there are
offices where Senior salespeople, actively deny their
colleagues access to show their listings.
I guess thats why the next challenge of using the power of technology
to drive the next part of your business growth is scary for some.
I might lose some sales people.
Once the clients understand that most databases are not integrated,
and indeed some sales people have theirs at home and not integrated
with the office system, and that they have practices that protect
the interests of the sales people ahead of the client, then the easier
those clients will be attracted away by those businesses that have
So, how is that working already in some businesses that have transformed
their businesses by taking a more open approach?
Firstly they have one database open and viewable by their entire
sales and marketing team. You mean there must be some client protection.
Absolutely! Yes, you cant complete a transaction with somebody
elses client without their agreement. This gets all the contacts
and clients into one database, and I mean them ALL, along with their
known and potential requirements. Then we can create some real target
marketing as promised in the listing presentation.
All appraised properties, known future listings, unlisted listings
and other companies listings, especially if you appraised them and
missed out, are all entered into the database. These are called pending
listings and then we can eliminate the term Sleevies from
Now this database can start to be useful as a sales generator, if
we use it. But firstly we need all the contacts.
I was in Australia recently and visited an office that was having
a Sales Meeting at 1pm on a Saturday afternoon. The meeting table
was covered with a brochure on every listing. Each salesperson had
a computer printout of all known buyers in the system, regardless
of which salesperson had put them in the system. Sure there were only
6 salespeople but within 30 minutes they had made 12 appointments
with buyers to show them properties they should have already seen,
and 11 appointments to visit vendors and provide them with some market
education. They understood the risk of leaving the decision of which
homes their buyers would see to the individual salesperson who was
making a subjective decision for their own buyers. That way we ceased
hearing the complaint; Nobody else is taking their buyers through
So we are now seeing offices that generate a Prospective buyer list
for every new listing that comes in. These buyers are rung on day
1 of the Listing as part of the office programme, despite who has
the buyer. With carefully prepared scripts they qualify the buyer
for each new listing and then make appointments for the appropriate
salesperson to show the property. And their business is prospering!
Others prepare a catalogue each week of all their new listings and
the coming weekends open homes and distribute it to all active
buyers. And their business is booming. With technology today
you can automatically produce a flyer or e-mail for each new listing
and send it to all qualified buyers in your computer match, and have
it appear it came from the salesperson handling that buyer. Thats
simple to do, but in some cases the listing agent actively discourages
that until they have had their buyer s through. Hardly using the capacity
of technology to attract the best price by giving preferential treatment
to their own buyers is it?
So what is the next step and where is this technology taking us?
Look at what I saw demonstrated yesterday. A software package that
allows you to download listings and sales data onto your WAP or CDMA
phone or Palm device. As you sit in your car with clients you can
now scroll through the office listings database to check for new listings
etc, search sales statistics and send e-mails with details requesting
a contract gets typed up before you get back to the office.
To be truly effective it needs to move beyond your office your
database needs to be at least national, and eventually international
- capturing people
once and keeping them for a chain of transactions. As the costs of
storing such large amounts of data reduces, and the ability and costs
of shifting large amounts of data quickly improves you will see this
aspect grow much faster than you imagined.
If some operators are not careful they will suffer as customers start
to gain access to more information than their consultant is providing.
This is the fastest way to make sure technology eliminates you from
the transaction. In some cases it is well overdue that the internal
practices and habits of some in the industry are modified in an environment
of trust and client focus, rather than protecting the interests of
some sales people .
And the upside for the salesperson? You will have a system that is
managed for you, that assists you in maintaining a strong marketing
presence in your personal and geographic network. You will be part
of a team that works together knowing whose clients are who. That
way the need to move offices so often may not be necessary. That way
too you will be able to deliver buyers and sellers a service that
is more automated and so create time for you to do what really matters
talk with people and list and sell property.
For the Manager it means you know who is really talking with whom
and whether they are doing anything with the contacts they have. That
way you will really be able to help them focus on the key tasks of
listing and selling more property. Not a bad objective.
In the meantime there are technology developer actively designing
products that will give your clients greater access to property information
and services. The clients will be able to make decisions without those
agencies that dont adapt.
And the window of opportunity is not as long as some would have us