The lockdown diaries, day #8: We’ve always sold real estate this way!
I’ve been told plenty of times by people to keep in my lane, the last few years even more so. I question everything, it’s in my DNA. It’s expensive, as you will lose business when people feel intimidated and don’t share your views. The trade off for that expense of asking the tough questions is freedom of thought, which money can’t buy.
For example, I was grinded over moving our company to the AWS cloud 10 years ago (it’s unsafe….and who is this Jeff Bezos anyway?), then 5 years ago for going remote (how will you support your clients from home, you will look like amateurs!) and more recently about me questioning the transparency of the real estate industry (keep in your lane, you are just a tech company!).
Who owns your business?
I believe the ideas (read dreams) of many business owners are sometimes held back by a few clients. That one or two clients that dictate how you should operate and ultimately push the direction of your product development.
When that client asks you to jump, you ask “how high”?. Problem is, the rest of your clients are then left with the scraps and you with less enthusiasm for your product. If you want to scale your products, you need to ensure all clients are treated equal. Don’t let the small client end up paying for and conforming for the narrow views from a bigger client whose only aim is to protect his market share.
Don’t sell to everyone
I’ve learned that there is no point in selling to everyone. Sell to those you connect with and who believe in your views. This is why we don’t employ sales people at Entegral and we hardly spend any money on advertising. There is a big difference between people finding your product and making their own decisions for a purchase, and those where sales people force empty promises and timelines down their throats. We’ve been down that road too, and have learned the hard way.
I guess the same goes for real estate agents. Are you dealing with a buyer who wants to force your commission down so much that you are left depressed for days (and bills you cannot pay)? Maybe a seller that says their home is worth a lot more than what your professional market estimate is but you take it anyway and struggle to sell the house? Walk away. With pride.
The misconception that real estate agents are just salespeople is like that — like an original sin at the heart of our industry ~ Joe Rand
Are you owned by unrealistic clients?
Questioning the traditional ways
A crisis is often the catalyst for trends we already knew would come. Is what we are experiencing now, the Black Swan event the industry has been waiting for that will force a change in habits?
In South Africa our 3 week lock down has just been extended to the end of April. It was like a lock-down re-start was issued. It’s already putting businesses under immense pressure and tough decisions are made by owners.
At this stage we are guessing the impact on real estate, there are just too many variables at play.
Will the crisis push more people towards renting or buying? Will more people move in to or out of cities? Perhaps a focus to live closer to cities who can offer better health care facilities? Will interest rates drop further and generate more buyers? Are people realising shortcomings in their current homes and looking for alternative places now?
Will more people be open to conduct business online including viewings, making offers and using electronic signatures?
We are all so used to doing things in a certain way but now we have to rewire our brains and think: what is the safe, quicker and alternative way?
Many real estate business owners are now thinking: do we actually need physical offices? Likewise estate agents may be realising: I can save so much time doing a virtual viewing with buyers, and reach more people!. The lock-down is forcing us to think what is possibly online and think about efficiency.
Holding on to the old ways
There is a lot of bureaucracy in real estate, fuelled by big organisations that are unwilling to change or try new things out for the fear of upsetting their bottom line. When you are that big, it is all about protecting what you have, and why most innovation is driven by smaller companies.
If it works, why change it? Fixed fee agency, online agency, virtual viewings, office-less?…. that will never work! Buy mandates and control the market! Fixed salary structures for agents, no way man!
From when we start school, we are told a certain way of thinking and doing things, and keeping in our lane. We are moulded to be good citizens and conform to the rules and believes laid down by society over hundreds of years.
This same dogma caries over into running a business, and few will challenge the traditional ways, as it is mentally and physically expensive to do.
There are many unwritten laws in real estate:
- You are a real estate agency, so “focus on recruiting and training agents”
- You are an estate agent, so “focus on getting mandates and selling!”
- You are a tech company, so “focus on building management systems and websites!”
So, are the following allowed?
- A real estate company building tech products
- A tech company selling homes
The rules have changed
There are no rules. Create products and services that you believe in, love working on and that better serve your customers. If you are not pissing competitors off, you are not doing something remarkable:
The world and how we conducts business is changing at an exponential rate. Right now it is pretty much a level playing field for the real estate industry, except for a few who have already adopted the new ways.
Change in real estate will likely come from outsiders and smaller companies and individuals willing to challenge the status quo, and who come without the traditional way of thinking embedded in their DNA.
Now is the ideal time to dust off, reformulate and implement those crazy ideas you have. I know I will. The only way to build a better business is through trail and error. Are you prepared to risk it and fail fast?