It seems as though many buyers and sellers are fed up with the stereotypical ‘hard-sell’ agents and are now looking for those with ‘softer’ skills, which is great news for many women in the industry – the results from a recent survey indicate that female agents consistently rate higher with clients than their male counterparts. Kylie Davis analyses the strengths and weaknesses of agent behaviours as seen through the eyes of buyers.
The typical stereotype of a real estate agent is a loud self-promoter who will do anything to seal a deal. But a new analysis of agent behaviours by the Real Estate Results Network (RERN) identifies there are in fact six different types of agents: a Hunter, who is a killer negotiator, and a Billboarder, who excels at self-promotion, are just two in the mix, most likely the least popular with consumers.
The new behavioural types identified include Farmers, who are great at nurturing their patch and place high value on relationships, and Specialists, who are experts at finding and building a niche for a client or type of property. There are also Networkers, who think tribally and always find it easy to meet new people, and finally Hyperlocals, who live and breathe their local area and are great at building relationships with their communities.
RERN originally conceived the behaviours as part of understanding how real estate teams come together and achieve excellence in performance. Their hypothesis is that teams whose skills complement each other are likely to be better and more consistent performers than teams made up of people with the same behavioural set. But the insights are an important step forward for gender equality in real estate, too. The more comfortable we all become with the idea of different types of agents and agent behaviours capable of sales excellence, the more acceptable diversity in all its forms will be. And the timing couldn’t be better.
CONSUMERS ARE FED UP
New research identifies that buyers and sellers – the consumers of real estate services – are thoroughly fed up with the old stereotype of agents and are crying out for a new level of customer care.
CoreLogic conducted the first Perceptions of Real Estate Agents survey last year, asking vendors about their experience with agents and the areas where they felt agents did well, or did poorly. We are now about to launch the results of the Buyer Perceptions of Real Estate Agents. The results are telling.
New research identifies that buyers and sellers are thoroughly fed up with the old stereotype of agents and are crying out for a new level of customer care.
In the Vendor Perceptions report, 31 per cent of vendors said their experience of selling their property was excellent, while a further 35 per cent said it was good. In the Buyer Perceptions report, however, only 13 per cent rated their experience of buying as excellent, but 46 per cent said it was good. In both surveys, at least a third of the market said their experience with agents was average to poor.
Across both sellers and buyers, the desirable behaviours from agents are:
- Empathy – understanding the stress that buyers and sellers are going through, and acting as a guide for them through their property journey.
- Honesty – being upfront about price expectations and being trustworthy in communications.
- Transparency – explaining their sales processes in advance and being clear on how offers are handled.
- Helpfulness – providing information that is useful and relevant, based on data and experience, not opinion.
- Good communication – returning calls and emails promptly, providing reports and contracts quickly, knowing the answers to property FAQs.
- Follow through – delivering an end-to-end service that goes through to moving day, not just signing the contract. Not dumping clients halfway through the buying or selling process.
The comments within the Buyer Perceptions survey were particularly telling. “Quit with the hard-sell crap,” wrote one buyer. “If agents came across as more approachable and less pushy then they might build a better rapport with home buyers and sellers.” “More honesty and communication is what is needed,” wrote another. “The rest will fall into place.”
The Vendor Perception report identified the important insight that open for inspections are auditions at which buyers – even tyre-kickers from down the street – are judging agents and deciding whether they will get a call when it comes their time to sell.
Open for inspections are auditions at which buyers – even tyre-kickers from down the street – are judging agents and deciding whether they will get a call when it comes their time to sell.
This was summed up by one respondent: “Remember, the buyer is a future client – don’t fall out with them before the relationship has even begun.”
The new report highlights some key differences in the way buyers experience agents’ skills and behaviours compared to vendors.
In the Vendor Perception report, 28 per cent of those surveyed said their agent had excellent negotiation skills and 35 per cent had excellent customer service/quick response time skills. But buyers had a very different experience. Only 13 per cent said their general experience of agents’ customer service skills was excellent, and 15 per cent said their general experience of agents’ negotiation skills was excellent.
They did, however, report significantly higher results for the agent that they finally purchased from, with 25 per cent of buyers identifying excellent negotiation skills and 36 per cent praising excellent follow-up skills, which shows just how important it is to stand out from the crowd.
WOMEN HAVE THE ‘SOFTER’ SKILLS SOUGHT BY CUSTOMERS
The Vendor Perceptions report identified quite conclusively that these new skills being demanded by clients are more prevalent in female agents, despite their minority in the sales space.
While we’ve yet to crunch the numbers for buyers, the vendor data showed women were perceived as more helpful by clients, with 66 per cent of vendors with female agents feeling their agent prepared them well before the sales process, compared to 56 per cent of vendors with a male agent.
Female agents significantly outperformed their male counterparts in the skills of handling open for inspections (41 per cent women agents rated as excellent compared to 33 per cent men), providing regular feedback (45 per cent of female agents, 31 per cent of male agents), following up potential buyers and leads (43 per cent of female agents, just 29 per cent of males) and negotiation skills (38 per cent of females, 28 per cent of males). Female agents were also overwhelmingly more likely to be identified as excellent at managing the sales process – 42 per cent for female agents compared to just 28 per cent for male agents.
Both reports highlighted the importance of a good client experience. In the Buyer Perception, 59 per cent of buyers said they would recommend their agent to friends or family, while a huge 68 per cent of vendors said they would recommend their agent.
So, is the hard sell dead? The research certainly shows it is overdue to take a back seat to the emerging skills of nurturing, farming, networking and niching. And that’s excellent news for female agents who don’t want to play the game the way the boys do, but be successful in their own way.