So when I know that Jeff is going to be on stage sharing his wisdom on anything at all, and i’m on the northern side of the equator, you can bet i’ll be in the front row listening to what the bald skinny guy has to say.
At the Inman Connect conference in New York City today, Jeff, (not speaking on the topic of his latest venture), challenged the long held belief that ‘Agent Search’ on portals is critical to an Agent being found and chosen.
I’ve transcribed Jeff’s presentation verbatim. Enjoy!
So I remember very clearly sitting in the audience at T3 in 2015 when Stefan Swanepoel was interviewing Spencer Rascoff. Great interview, really smart guy, two really smart guys sitting on the stage. And out of the blue, Spencer said something that made me put out what is unusual for me, which was a very caustic tweet.
He said this:
“the best place to find a realtor is on Zillow”.
Well, I find that a little bit difficult to believe. And I hope that all of you sitting in the audience find that a little bit difficult to believe too. And I’ve been hearing this for years now. For the last five or six years at some conference somewhere some social media guru is standing up on stage and is saying something very similar to this: the first thing consumers do when trying to find an agent is go and look at online reviews.
Well my friends, this is what we like to call in today’s environment “fake news”. It’s simply not true. And every single one of you who’s been a realtor for any length of time at all knows that that is not true. It is not how consumers behave. And yet here we are, standing at another real estate conference, talking about agent reviews as if they were some second coming.
Well I’m not sure what Brad thought he was getting when he asked me to speak on this topic, but I want to give you what I think are facts. Things that intuitively I believe you’re going to relate to and understand, and be able to take back your business in a meaningful way.
First thing I want you to understand is some data. Now I went to my friends at Realsatisfied and said, “take a look back at the last 50 thousand survey responses that have come in on the buyer side, and the last 50 thousand survey responses that have come in on the seller side. I want you to tell me, how are people finding their agents? How are they saying they’re finding their agents?”
Now, this is the seller’s side, shouldn’t surprise you, 69% of people said they found their agents via referral from a friend or family member, or having had previously done business with that brokerage. Here’s what might surprise you, more people found their selling agents via yard signs than from the internet. So my question to you is, why isn’t more [inaudible 00:02:36] money going into signs?
I’ve got my friend Peter Brewers sitting down here in the front yard. Signs are different in Australia, aren’t they? Big, huge massive signs sitting out. You go for a walk on Manly beach in Australia and you’ll have a billboard in front of a house that lets you take a look inside that house and see what’s going on. We do signs very poorly here, and yet, signs still outperform, not just sellers, but buyers too. These numbers are very similar, and they haven’t changed in five years. And my bet is, they’re not going not change. Unless you make some mistakes.
What are we talking about here? I pulled Brian aside out in the hallway about two hours ago and I said “listen, I’ve got a slide that I’m using, I’m quoting you from 2015 and based upon the tweets that I saw from your session yesterday, I think you still believe this. Do you still believe this?” I showed him the slide. “Yes, I still believe this.” Why?
Because the other side of this that’s true is this: every lead is a client some agent lost. Every single one. And so we’ve got realtors running around nonstop spending money on things that if they were to divert that money into something slightly different, you might get a better result. You want to kill the portals? Maybe you don’t, maybe you love them. You’d better post-close marketing, because this is something that I believe to my core. Agent search simply doesn’t exist.
Yes, can you go onto Zillow and can you go and search for an agent? Sure. How many people do that? Seriously. Answer the question for yourself honest, how many people go onto Zillow, or Realtor.com, or any other portal and go “man I really need to find an agent I think the best way for me to do that is just randomly go and look for an agent.” It’s not the way it works.
I did a little test, I did this a couple days ago. I lived in zip code 91390. If you go search – feel free to do it for yourself and validate what I’m saying – if you go search 91390 and just go and say “show me all the agents in 91390” in Zillow, there are 25 pages, 10 agents per page, 250 agents just in my zip code. How many pages of agents do you think I have to go through before I find an agent with something less than a five-star rating? 19. 19 pages. And guess what I get to when I get to the nineteenth page for the agent that doesn’t have a five-star rating? They have no rating. If I’m searching for an agent, does this help me? Do you know why agent search doesn’t exist? Because if it did, the consumer would be absolutely incapable of discerning one realtor from another.
And so what’s the other truth here? I have the luxury of following a data scientist from realtor.com once at a conference where I was speaking and he gave out a number that was innocuous to the crowd but meant something to me, and that’s that 70% of agent search is organic. What does that mean? It means that they’re going into Google an they’re typing your name and typically with your brand they’re typing in your name, specifically, and your brand. Which means that agent search isn’t search at all. It’s an act of identification. All they’re doing is trying to identify, is this the person that somebody told me about? This is about validation.
What happens? What really happens? I go to my friend and I say “I’m thinking about selling my house, do you know a good real estate agent?” And what do they do? They go “yeah, I used this person” or “you might want to try this”. So what’s the next thing that I do? I go to make certain my friend’s not an idiot. And here’s the thing, Pew Research came out last year and said 70% of consumers who seek out a recommendation from a friend will use that recommendation even if what they find online counters what their friend said.
Think about this for a second. They’re not searching for pizza. But even pizza, I’m going to take my recommendation, or a recommendation of a friend, for someone else. If I’m just hungry, I can walk out to 46th street right now and I can head a half-block in either direction and I can get a slice of pizza, right? If I’m like “I just need to eat something quick, I don’t even care”, or I can go to Yelp and I can say “what’s the best, closest pizza?” But I’m just hungry. But if I want to say “hey, I’ve got 15 minutes. Peter-” I’m going to pick on Peter all day because he’s sitting right there in front of me, “-where’s a good slice of pizza five minutes from here” and if he gives me something off the top of his head like that, what am I going to do? I am going to go get that pizza. If I’m in another city and I just want to eat, maybe I’ll use Yelp. But if I’m in another city and I want to have an experience, I’m taking clients out to dinner, I’m going to call someone in that city, I need to make certain I have a great dinner, that’s what I’m going to do.
And if I’ll do that for a restaurant, I’m certainly going to do that for a real estate agent. Because it is, without question, the most complex, most important transaction most people are ever going to do in their life. Why in the world would I trust that to agent search? I’m not. I don’t. The numbers don’t support it. The truth of the matter is we still turn to our friends and family members when we’re trying to find an agent. And that’s why when they’re saying only 10% of leads come, every lead is a customer another agent lost, that’s where this comes from. Those facts. And I believe it’s true.
What’s the goal here? What are we really trying to do? What’s the whole point of all of these reviews? If reviews are an act of validation, and I believe that they are, then what you really need to be asking are these questions.
I heard Ken Schmidt speak at Better Homes and Gardens real estate conference a couple years ago. He’s the guy who turned Harley Davidson around, and he did it by asking these three questions.
“What do people say about you?” The first thing you have to understand before you can get a grip on what you need to be doing for agent reviews is to understand what people currently say about you. You need to understand how they really feel because if you’re just doing this based upon simple 5-star reviews you’re finding somewhere online, you have nothing. You have no data, You have no information about how you actually performed inside of those transactions. Cause it’s way too easy to encourage somebody “please go give me-” … It’s like being at a car dealer and you just get done with their service and the person behind the counter goes, mister you’re going to get a survey. It impacts my salary, I really hope you give me a 5-star review. What am I going to do? Impact this person’s salary? Of course I’m going to give them a five-star review. Unless they really, really messed up.
So what do we have? We have a culture that’s like this: five-star, two-star. That’s it. There’s no in-between. So you have to understand how they really feel about you before you can take the next step.
Now that I understand that, what do I want them to say about me? And last is, what are you willing to do to make that happen? What changes are you willing to make to make that happen?
And so, what your goal should be is fans, not customers. Another thing that came out of yesterday’s session that I saw moving through the tweet-stream was that the brokerage that bridges the loyalty gap is going to win. I believe customer loyalty is the key to success in real estate. Always has been, always will be. People who are winning at that game are winning, period. And so, what is it, what does it take, any buyer and seller survey every year, comes back with good data. Every year these same traits end up popping up. What are the things consumers are looking for most? Is it tech skills? It would be nice. What are they really looking for? Honesty and integrity. Things that lead to trust. Those are the things that matter. So in the end, your goal, your job, what you should be thinking about is how do I identify your evangelists and then own those relationships. That’s why reviews matter. But not the review itself, what matters is the process you use to get there.
Steps are simple. One: start focusing on the customer first. You know what drives me nuts? We know this data. So Kobo bank just released a survey last week actually. And this relates to my current company. Eighty-four percent of consumers say they desire to see a VR tour before they step foot in a house in person. 70% of agents according to Data AR say that they know that’s true. Okay? So the consumer wants it, realtors say it’s true, and less than 3% of listings actually have them. There is so much room for improvement in putting the customer first.
Second: Control the process, or at a minimum, have a process. Most of you don’t. And that should involve surveying every single person. Even if you think you sucked in that transaction, even if it was a short sale and there was nothing you could do to convince them, you need to understand what it is and how you performed so you can own that customer relationship and fix the things that were broken.
And then the last thing, for God’s sakes, stop just pushing this content out of the portals. Get creative with your- … You know, if you own this content, if you own this customer and you know that this customer loves you and you’ve got this great testimonial, why in the world would you only want that sitting on a portal? Put it on a sign for god’s sakes! If your signs are getting more leads than the internet, why aren’t you putting more testimonials on signs? That’s a serious question.
I want to give you an example. I use this example a lot, because I feel like this agent is absolutely nailing it. From doing what he needs to do to provide the validation that he’s the agent the clients want to work with. When you get a chance go to Burlingameproperties.com and I want you to just take a look at how he’s organised his content and what he’s done to put the customer first. This is one of the best real estate websites I’ve ever seen. If you take away anything from what I’ve just said, what I want you take away is go look at what he’s done to make certain that these reviews, that these testimonials, and that the stories about the client’s he’s worked with are front and centre. It works. There is no such thing as agent search.
Why are you interested in reviews? Because it helps you understand how you did, it helps you understand how to identify your fans, and it creates validation for the thing that’s really happening, and that’s people referring you.