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Build relationships instead of investing in gimmicks

Key Takeaways

  • “Shiny penny” opportunities are tempting because they promise to fill your pipeline with potential leads.
  • Most shiny penny systems are based on the same old lead-chasers: cold-calling, door-knocking, contacting FSBOs and expired listings.
  • A better long-term strategy is to establish authentic relationships that make clients excited to bring you business and referrals.


As soon as you’re licensed — and throughout your real estate career — you’ll be bombarded by “exciting new opportunities” that promise to “set your business on fire” and “take your sales to the next level.”

Every time you open your email, there will be a pitch for the next webinar that will teach you how to get 30 listings in a month. Or a for-sale-by-owner dominance package that promises to triple your listings. Or a phone call from Zillow or Trulia with new zip codes and a story about agents who made tens of thousands of dollars using their platform.

You’ll get offers from gurus insisting you need to invest in social media campaigns, done-for-you newsletters, improved websites and search engine optimization, and on and on.

I call these offers “shiny pennies.” Some of us are more attracted to them than others. Some agents find themselves jumping from one shiny penny to the next.

The reason shiny pennies continue to exist is because agents have proven themselves easy targets. We sign up for this stuff — we can’t help ourselves! We’re always looking down the pipeline and trying to figure out where our next paycheck is going to come from.

When the future seems uncertain (the market speeds up or slows down, referrals come in at irregular intervals, etc.), we’re attracted to the promises of these shiny pennies.

So, what’s the problem?

The problem with shiny pennies is that most of them don’t make you any money, and they distract you from what you should be doing in order to build an authentic business.

Shiny pennies are clever in the way they entrap you to sign up. Maybe you’ve been to a real estate conference where the presenter is selling a service or product, and by the end of the conference, he has agents signing up in droves. He’s artfully led them down a path and leveraged the “social proof” of others signing up for his product as evidence that you should follow their lead.

I don’t fault agents for falling into this trap. I’ve fallen for it numerous times. Even when I know it’s a trap, I’ll investigate it anyway because I want to know what other agents or gurus are talking about and what new systems they’re using. Sometimes I’ll investigate and find a small nugget that’s useful.

The problem, I’ve found, is that the vast majority of these shiny penny opportunities are really C-level ideas, not A- or even B-level ideas. These gurus break sales down to a simple process that must be followed exactly to achieve success, but most of these ideas are rooted in chasing leads: door knocking and cold calling, harassing expired or for-sale-by-owner leads, or annoying friends and family by constantly asking for their business or referrals.

I was always hoping they had developed a system that attracted relationships to my business, not leads, where people wanted to be associated with me or my company — not because of a gimmick, but because of the way we do business and how we help people. Something unique. Something awesome.

But that is not what you’ll find when you chase these opportunities, because a done-for-you system (which is what many of these shiny pennies are) is almost never authentic to you, which is why they generate leads and not relationships.