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36-1/2 Rules for Client-Oriented Real Estate Agents

Starting in early 2012, Joseph Rand started writing out a series of “rules” for Client-Oriented Real Estate Agent, maxims that developed from his ten years of experience teaching the CORE philosophy. He published them on this blog over the course of about 18 months, covering everything from philosophy to lead generation to listing presentation to technology to productivity. Basically, the 36-1/2 Rules set out the bedrock CORE philosophy.

So we’ve reproduced those Rules here for those of you interested in finding out more about the CORE concept

Introduction: 36-1/2 Rules for Client-Oriented Real Estate Agents — Stop Thinking Like a Salesperson

36 (and a half)Over the next few months, I’m going to be setting out what I call the “36-1/2 Rules for Client-Oriented Real Estate Agents,” a collection of short takes on the CORE concept that I’ve developed over the years of discussing and teaching the system.  We’ll count up to the 36th rule over the next few months, and then the 1/2 rule.  You can get the full list of rules by clicking on the “36-1/2 Rules for CORE Agents” category on the blog.  


If you are a real estate agent, you’re not a salesperson.  Why?  Because you don’t sell things. I know this comes as a shock to you, because you’ve always been told that you’re a “salesperson.”  You’re probably officially licensed as a “real estate salesperson,” a designation that you likely have to put on all your advertising and business cards.  And you’ve probably taken a lot of “sales training” and gotten “sales awards” and describe yourself as being in “sales.”

But you’re not a “salesperson,” at least not how that term is commonly understood.  A “salesperson” is someone who has the very specific job of trying to sell something, and who had little or no responsibility for creating or providing the service that is being sold.  People who sell cars are salespeople – we don’t expect them to know how to make a car, or repair a car.  People who sell pharmaceuticals are salespeople – we don’t expect them to know how to create or administer a drug.   That is, most industries have a very sharply delineated role for a salesperson: someone who is responsible for generating sales, but who does not have any obligation to then service the client’s needs once the purchase is made.   It’s not that sales aren’t important, it’s that their TOO important: they require highly specialized skills that are generally not consistent with the skills needed to service accounts. Rather, most industries have service professionals who handle client needs once the sale is made.

We see that separation between sales and service throughout all types of business, and even in other aspects of the real estate industry.  Mortgage loan officers are really financing “salespeople,” even though they’re not called that.  Their job is to market their services to borrowers, but they have little responsibility to service that client’s loan once the application is made.  Rather, they hand off that responsibility  to service professionals to gather documents, clear commitment issues, and do the underwriting.  Or think about all the other players in the real estate industry: title salespeople don’t read title, home warranty salespeople don’t field service calls, insurance salespeople don’t handle claims.  Rather, there’s a strict separation between sales and service.

So that’s really the problem with calling real estate agents “salespeople” – it’s not a proper way of describing what you do every day. Indeed, the vast majority of your time isn’t spent selling, it’s spent providing services to your sellers and buyers.  You’re not a “salesperson,” you’re more like a counselor or advisor.  Indeed, you’re really more of a service professional, like a lawyer or accountant – or, if those white collar roles strike you as too self-aggrandizing, then like an interior designer or a hair stylist.  Whether they are blue-collar or white-collar, service professionals provide the same kind of “professional services” that you provide, and they all have one thing in common: they don’t have, nor are they thought of, as salespeople. Instead, they generate business without even having a sales role, just from the quality of the work that they do and the reputation they develop.  In other words, they generate business the way real estate agents SHOULD, and the way that really great real estate agents DO.

It’s not just semantics.  That fundamental misunderstanding that real estate agents are “salespeople” is at the core of everything that’s wrong with the real estate industry.  Instead of taking the higher road of becoming a trusted advisor to clients, we’ve descended to the low road of one of the least respected roles in our society.  It’s why real estate agents are held in such low esteem by a general public that is suspicious about salespeople and think that they will say anything to get a commission.  It’s why the sales training industry is largely built around teaching people manipulative and dispiriting ways to “prospect,” rather than helping them actually become good at their jobs.  It’s why most real estate agents make less money than the receptionists who answer their phones.

So stop thinking like a salesperson.  Stop spending all your time in the desperate pursuit of a “good lead.”  Stop going to sales seminars to learn tricky new closing techniques that you can use to manipulate people.  Stop annoying people by inundating them with transparent sales pitches on your Facebook page and via email.  Stop spending all your time chasing new clients, instead of taking great care of the clients you already have.

Reconsider what you really are, and what you offer to your clients.  You’re an advisor, assisting your clients who are trying to buy or sell a home.  You’re a consultant, counseling your clients to find out their needs, wants, and desires.  You’re a problem-solver, helping your clients make hard decisions about one of the most important decisions in their lives. Most importantly, you are a service professional, whose main role is to provide outstanding experiences for your clients.

That’s what the rest of the “36-12 Rules for Client-Oriented Real Estate Agents” are about: how you can evolve your whole approach to the real estate business to embrace the idea that you are a service professional, not a salesperson.  The rules are not meant to be a comprehensive blueprint of this client-oriented philosophy, but rather a set of discrete ideas that we hope will get you thinking in a new way about how to build your business, how to service your clients, and how to be more productive in your everyday life.

So let’s get started.

Rules for CORE Agents #1: Find Out What People Need, and Give it to Them

Over the next few months, I’m going to be setting out what I call the “36-1/2 Rules for Client-Oriented Real Estate Agents,” a collection of short takes on the CORE concept that I’ve developed over the years of discussing and teaching the system.  We’ll count up to the 36th rule over the next few months,…Continue Reading

Rules for CORE Agents #2: Everyone Needs a Real Estate Agent

Most people mistakenly think they only need real estate agents when they are buying or selling a home.  They’re wrong, obviously.  People need real estate agents ALL THE TIME.   They need agents when they’re thinking of putting an addition on their home, and want to know whether it’s a good investment.  They need agents when…Continue Reading

Rules for CORE Agents #5: Always Show Up With More Than a Knife and a Fork

Imagine that you were invited to someone’s home for a dinner party.  You ring the bell, the door opens, the host looks out, and sees you standing there with a smile in your face, holding nothing but a knife and a fork in your hands.  “Let’s eat!,” you say, waving your knife and fork. That’s…Continue Reading

Rules for CORE Agents #6: Stop Annoying People!

The real estate industry has become very good at annoying people.  Anytime there’s a new technology for communicating with people, agents seize on the new medium to inundate their clients, friends, and random people they don’t even know with information that those people don’t care about. Take, for example, those emails that go out to…Continue Reading

Rules for CORE Agents #7: Talk Less, Listen More

Real estate agents talk too much.  It’s sort of an occupational hazard.  The whole industry has bought into the idea, for example, of a listing “presentation” as the cornerstone of the industry. That’s why agents get sucked into doing these hourlong “presentations” where they yammer on and on about their 27 point marketing programs and…Continue Reading

Rules for CORE Agents #9: Buying a Home is Easier Than Buying a Car

Too many real estate agents don’t believe in their value. They have become brainwashed by all the attacks on our industry from people who complain that we charge too much and don’t provide a valuable service.  So they cut their commission every time a seller complains, hang their heads when they see a FSBO sign…Continue Reading

Rules for CORE Agents #10: People Love Giving Referrals, So Make Them Happy

People just love giving referrals. We love recommending restaurants to our friends.  We love posting our favorite movies on Facebook. We love telling people that we “have a guy” if they need a plumber or an electrician or whatever.  Indeed, hugely successful websites like Yelp and Angie’s List have been built around our natural impulse…Continue Reading

Rules for CORE Agents #11: People Never Complain About Getting a Call From Their Doctor

You know you’re supposed to make phone calls to help build your business. They’re essential.  A personal phone call is truly the best, sometimes the only, way to develop a contact into an active lead or cultivate a relationship with someone in your sphere.  We all know that. And yet many agents are afraid to…Continue Reading

Rules for CORE Agents #12: Whenever Possible, Get Digits

The single most important thing you can do to build your real estate business over the next ten years is simple: get digits.  When you meet people, get their mobile phone numbers, and get their email addresses. Why? Because even while we live in a world of “over-sharing” that has become increasingly open and less…Continue Reading

Rules for CORE Agents #13: Be Good at Your Job

Take a look at a list of the most successful agents in your market and try to figure out what they have in common.  How did they all become top agents? It’s not easy, because successful agents don’t conform to the superficial stereotypes that we all have of the dynamic “superstars” out of central casting. …Continue Reading

Rules for CORE Agents #14: Happy Clients Are Better Than Any Marketing Program Ever Invented

Real estate agents are always coming up with creative places to put their faces.  It used to be that you’d see real estate agent faces just in the pages of newspapers and magazines, but now you see them on park benches, billboards, shopping carts – really, anywhere there’s a flat surface and someone willing to…Continue Reading

Rules for CORE Agents #15: Great Service is in the Eye of the Beholder

Let’s say you’re shopping for a new jacket, and you pop into a clothing store.  Immediately, a salesperson comes up to assist you, asking if you need any help and what you’re looking for.  Usually, that’s a great thing, so much better than those times you go into a store and you can’t find anyone…Continue Reading

Rules for CORE Agents #16: Personal Communication Requires an Actual Person Communicating

As modern communication technology advances, it becomes increasingly hard to have actual conversations with other people. I know that seems crazy, since we have so many wonderful ways these days to get in touch: mobile phones, voicemails emails, text messages, Facebook status updates.  But we don’t actually “talk” with each other as much anymore; we’re…Continue Reading

Rules for CORE Agents #17: Never Tell Anyone You’re ALWAYS Available For Them, Because You’re Not

So you’re sitting down with a client for the first time, and you’re trying to impress upon them your dedication to a great service experience. You take them through your value presentation, answer all their questions, and you can tell that you’re thisclose to locking them in. It’s all going so well, so you decide…Continue Reading

Rules for CORE Agents #18: If You’re Not Good at Something, Get Good or Have Someone Else Do it.

It’s staggering how many things real estate agents need to know how to do.  They need to be market analysts, appraisers, negotiators, counselors, photographers, videographers, writers, lead generators, stagers, transaction specialists, communicators, marketers — everything that goes into helping people buy and sell homes. But it’s tough to be good at everything.  We all have…Continue Reading

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