10 Common mistakes made by real estate agents


You clicked on the link to read this post. But you were afraid that you might see your own behavior on this list… right? It’s okay. We all make mistakes — every single one of us (I mean, just look at the photo for this post if you want to feel better). But, the leaders in any industry try to find those mistakes, learn how they made them, and stop making them in the future.

After a decade of working with real estate agents, I think I have seen it all. But several behaviors have stopped many agents from gaining new clients, keeping old clients, and improving their businesses. Here are some very common mistakes:

  1. Speaking before listening – Many agents are very proud of their accomplishments and have a scripted presentation. They begin presenting from the first moment they are meeting potential clients. “This is what I have done.” But, this agent is missing a critical piece. They are not building a rapport. The old adage is “Seek first to understand. THEN to be understood.” This is known to be true in a disagreement. But, it is also critical in building a business relationship. Listen to what the clients have to say, repeat it back to them to be sure you understand, then find a way to help them find success. This brings us to the next mistake…
  2. Not asking enough questions – Every client has a goal and that goal is not just to sell their home or find a new home. Think about it: A young couple might be looking for a great school system and a yard for their children or an older couple may be trying to begin the next phase of their life — living for themselves and not their children, for a change. Neither of these goals are directly related to the concrete, wood and paint in a home and neither goal was probably initially stated by the client. Both of these are about personal lifestyle changes. By asking them about their goals, you will hear about what they want from you and how you can meet their expectations. They will tell you how you can add value for them. They will tell you how to begin a fruitful client-salesperson relationship.
  3. Not staying in touch with clients AFTER the transaction – This is a BIG one. After you have helped someone closed on a home, the transaction is complete. Right? WRONG. You are not in the product business. You are in the relationship business. Don’t believe me? In the beginning, 100% of your business comes from new leads. After ten years, 70%-90% your business comes from referrals. Why did people refer clients to you? Because they have a relationship with you. This is how you can grow a strong client base and build value from your efforts. Your Sphere of Influence (past and current clients, friends, family, colleagues) becomes a very valuable asset, one from which you can make a very good living.
  4. Not asking for feedback from clients – Is there a part of your clients’ experience that you could improve? That is an important question for which you will have no answer until you ask. Part of how you can make a stronger business is by seeing it from the other side; from the client side. The smartest way to do that is by asking questions. “What could I have done better? Is there something that would have improved your experience? What did you not know in the beginning that would have made this easier for you?” Then, take the answers and do it better next time. The other added bonus is that people like to be heard. That is why they flock to Yelp and other consumer review sites. They want to tell businesses what they could do better. Give them a way to do that and they will reward you with future business. They might even avoid airing out their dissatisfaction on Yelp.
  5. Not offering free advice – Some agents don’t want to assist people who have not already agreed to be their clients. That is a big mistake. Here is an example: Homeowners decide they want to sell their house themselves. It could be because they can’t afford the commission. It could be because they don’t see the value that a real estate agent brings. Regardless, 9 out of 10 FSBOs (For Sale By Owners) end up using a real estate agent. One way to win them as a client in the future is by showing your value and earning their trust now. Look at the FSBO listing online — is there anything that could be improved? Better text, better photos? Then make suggestions. Perhaps you could create a sheet of tips on “preparing your home for sale.” Try being helpful to them now. Build and foster a relationship. After all, once they decide they DO need an agent, who do you think they will pick?
  6. Denigrating the competition – I think that the first time in marketing history that a company named a competitor (by name) in their marketing was in the McDonald’s vs Burger King competition. Apparently, in selling burgers, they felt it was okay to poo-poo their competition. In the real estate world, you are being hired (in part) for your ethics. The client wants to be able to trust you and to feel like you are well liked in the community. If you are saying negative things about the competition in your appointments or advertising, you are not portraying yourself in a positive light. Instead, talk about what makes you different. Talk about what elements of your service are important to your clients.
  7. Not taking additional classes and seminars – One of the best ways to generate activity and energy for your business is by learning. It is also really good for your health. I have noticed that natural curiosity and the pursuit of knowledge makes people seem ageless. In business, when you learn new things you tend to want to put them into practice and therefore you take on new tasks in your work life. Taking seminars or classes also shows your clients a desire for professional growth. Who would you rather hire: a person who has decided they know enough or someone who wants to constantly improve and grow?
  8. Avoiding using technology – I see this one a lot. I have even heard of some broker/owners saying that they couldn’t wait for this “internet thing to pass.” It made me snicker with laughter and then it made me sad. People who have fear about new things often try to avoid them or they denigrate them. Technology is no different. It is important to adapt by adopting new technology. Your clients are there – there are 800 million Facebook users and only seven billion people worldwide. Don’t kid yourself by thinking your clients aren’t using social media. And don’t you dare say that it is too complicated to learn — children use it. I have a 60-something year old client who uses it. There is no reason that you cannot.
  9. Accepting credit for success, but placing blame for failures – One thing that I have repeatedly heard is that an agent feels his/her success is due to his/her efforts and abilities. But, their failures are the company’s fault. This also makes me sad. In addition to being unrealistic, this agent is also not accepting responsibility or taking the power to make the necessary changes. If they acknowledge and accept that they could do something better, they will have an opportunity to improve. If they play the “blame game” then nothing will change and they will not grow their business.
  10. Resisting market changes – There are some agents who used to concentrate on one neighborhood or, in the city, one building. With increased competition, slower turnover, and clients moving farther away than they would have in the past, successful agents need to get out of their comfort zones. After all, the new mantra is “Have MLS. Have GPS. Will travel.” It is time to take control and open your limits. Or you can stick to that one neighborhood and make two sales per year… it’s up to you.
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