Every Agent for Themselves
[Realtor Battle Cry]
I was at a Real Estate conference recently and the speaker was talking about his wife, who is a Realtor, about how aggressive she is with her business.
He was giving the audience examples of what she has done to be one of the top-producing agents in just a few years in her marketplace.
Cool, I thought, maybe he’ll share some ideas I can pass on to my office. I began taking notes.
The speaker elaborated on how competitive the market was for agents, (no surprise there, there are well over a million Realtors), but then he said something that left me completely taken aback.
He said his wife is so aggressive, she’ll “Step on the throats of every agent in the way of her getting a listing.”
WHAT? Come again?
I stopped taking notes.
Is that what our industry is evolving into?
There are so many of us that it’s turned into a scene right out of Gangs of New York. It’s every agent for themselves.
Is the new Realtor tagline, “We’ll stab you in the back to win the next listing”?
I wouldn’t be making such a fuss about this if I hadn’t the very next day met with an agent who asked for a meeting to learn more about FSB.
I asked him why he was looking to make a change in brokerages.
He went on for the next 20 minutes with story after story of agents in his firm stabbing him the back. Telling him bald-faced lies. His broker making promises to him that were never kept.
In his own words he said, “I take full responsibility. I was naïve. I should have known, it was ‘every agent for themselves.’ I shouldn’t have been so trusting.”
Wow. Was is it really that bad out there?
I don’t need to mention what Brokerage it was, because it doesn’t matter.
This “Every agent for themselves” mentality is spreading like a disease.
To be clear, I’m all for being competitive. For outsmarting competitors. For winning market share by offering customers better solutions. That is all fair game in the world of business and sales.
It’s the cutthroat business practices to stay afloat that have me worried.
I understand if Agents feel threatened by other agents who appear to be moving into their territory or talking with their builder client.
I wrote recently about what often happens when Agents are in “survival mode.” It’s not pretty and certainly doesn’t bring the best out of people.
This is why the Realtor® organization has a Code of Ethics. Luckily some of the leadership in the Realtor organization see this same brewing problem and have taken action, which is why they ramped up how often you are required to take an ethics class. (Agents need reminding what ethics are).
But we can’t really expect the Realtor organization to “fix” this problem. It’s too big.
The Responsibility Lies with Brokers.
A broker is in the unique position of having direct responsibility for all the agents in their firm. But when the new trend in our industry is Brokerage firms that have hundreds of agents under their responsibility, it turns into a breeding ground for unethical behavior, as in “stepping on the throats of other agents” to get ahead.
At Front Street, we’ve taken purposeful action to make sure we get in front of this spreading virus. There is little we can do outside of our brokerage, but inside there are many ways to eradicate the issue.
For example, Debbi and I, (Debbi Myers is our managing broker), take great pains to make sure we don’t bring on an agent who will spread a virus into our already established culture. Meaning we make it “crystal clear” how we operate at FSB, how we have zero tolerance for unethical behavior. How we have a collaborative culture versus a stab you in the back culture with the agents in our office.
But the best thing we’ve done to maintain our culture and reputation as we’ve grown is to implement a simple test with every agent in our firm.
We ask ourselves:
“If our very best client was in town and needed help all day, but we were not available, would we feel completely comfortable with the agent in question stepping in to help out?”
If the answer is something other than, “yes, absolutely,” then it’s time to slow down and figure out why that is.
Is it because of how they go about doing their business, as in they are too pushy with clients to get the sale?
Or indifferent, where they don’t really care enough about the client to make sure they have a positive outcome?
Or maybe there is some worry that the agent will try to steal clients, because of their “every agent for themselves” business practices?
These are all signs that this is not the right agent for our firm, no matter how much business they do. We don’t want them in our firm, because we don’t want a virus to spread that will impact our culture.
If our hesitation is just because the agent still has a lot to learn about the business before we’d hand them over to our best client, well that is something we can help them with.
We are more concerned with how an agent is wired. What their true business principles are. If they are not aligned with ours, then we don’t care how amazing their real estate sales skills are. We don’t want them. No need to apply. Go elsewhere.
I am sure there are agents who are thinking that they have to operate their businesses as “every agent for themselves” based on the office culture they’ve been surrounded by their entire real estate careers.
If this is you, then I’m sorry.
I’m sorry you had the misfortune to learn this business from that type of culture. There are drastically different options out there.
You can be extremely successful in this business WITHOUT having to result to “every agent for themselves” tactics.
There are collaborative and supportive office environments that can help you build and grow a solid business by leveraging the knowledge and experience of others. Where you can avoid making significant and fundamental mistakes with your business. Where you can implement new ideas faster and explore new opportunities.
It does exist.
But only if you are willing to make a change.
And change can be scary.
Change can also be exhilarating and empowering if it’s towards something that “feels” right, because it’s also moving away from something that was in conflict with your inner identity.
The status quo doesn’t have to be, “Every agent for themselves.”
There is another way. A better way.
You simply have to choose it and lead by example.