A Conversation with Joseph Rand on His New Book "How to be a Great Real Estate Agent"

Mary Prenon | May 2019

Joseph Rand, the chief creative officer for Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate | Rand Realty, has just published his latest book, “How to be a Great Real Estate Agent.” In it, he discusses how agents can build their business by becoming better at their actual jobs.

REID: One of the main points in your book is that agents need to think more expansively about what clients need. What do you mean by that?

Rand: Let me give you an example. Right now, we’re in the middle of the very short tax grievance season, and we all have clients who really need to grieve their taxes and could use our help: a CMA to determine their market value, links to the forms they need, advice about the process, a referral to an attorney if they want to use one. That’s thinking expansively about what clients need, and then creatively about how to give it to them. Even though you don’t get paid for that kind of work, you build the kind of long-term relationship that naturally generates referrals and, eventually, repeat business. If you open your mind to think expansively about what your clients need, you’ll find lots of relationship-building opportunities like that.

REID: You argue in the book that agents are being taught the wrong way to give listing presentations. What do you mean by that?

Rand: Traditionally, we teach agents to do listing presentations like they are a performance, a show. Think about it. We give them scripts to memorize, we tell them to rehearse their lines, we teach them to think of the seller as a passive audience member. It’s all about the agent, and your ability to sell yourself. But, listing presentations should actually be about the client, not the agent. They should be consultations, open and engaging discussions with sellers about what their needs are. Like, how do you know what sellers need if you launch into your 23-point marketing plan without actually asking them about their concerns, fears, wants, needs, all that? That’s what all other service professionals do when they meet with clients, right? Doctors don’t talk about their education, they start by asking you what you need. Same with lawyers, plumbers, accountants, everyone. No one else feels like they need to sell themselves when they meet with a client for the first time. They just start servicing their needs by asking questions and listening to the answers.

REID: Lots of agents are concerned these days about new business models like I-buyers and discount companies. What does your book say about those threats?

Rand: As an industry, we’ve opened the door to these types of competitors by not modernizing our value proposition. For example, too many agents still define their value as “I get your listing out in the market and advertise it all over the Internet.” And that might have been a valuable service 10 years ago, when you needed a certain technical know-how to syndicate a listing. But today, when the MLS puts everyone’s listings on all the websites for free, it’s not a differentiator. Discounters live off our inability to express our value, because if all we do is put a sign in the yard and a listing on the MLS, we’re not really worth what we’re charging. That’s why we need to talk about the higher-level work we do in staging, creating marketing content, evaluating pricing, managing transactions, negotiating—all the important stuff. Every real estate agent is a professional stager, even if they don’t realize it. If we do great work for our clients, if we give them the kind of value they deserve, then we have nothing to worry about from disruptors and discounters.

REID: Can anyone become a “great agent,” or do you need a certain type of personality or skill set?

Rand: I’ve been doing this almost 20 years, and I can’t find any particular personality type that corresponds to being a great agent. It’s not just about how charismatic you are, or how gregarious. For example, right now, I’m coaching a really great agent who is a classic introvert—you would never meet her and think that she’s in a sales industry. But, she’s amazing at the technical work of helping her clients buy and sell houses. They love her, and she gets tons of referrals from past clients because of how good she is at her job. So, she’ll sell dozens of homes this year. Anyone can be a great agent. You just need to have the desire to be great. You have to be committed to doing great work: develop your skills to generating clients and servicing their needs, and then discipline yourself to grinding it out every single day.

REID: What’s the biggest mistake agents make when they start their career?

Rand: The biggest mistake I see is that they start too fast, they work with clients before they’ve been properly trained. You don’t learn anything about the job of being a real estate agent from your licensing class. Even after you get your license, you still need to learn the actual day-to-day job of representing clients well. So, you need to work with a broker who has a robust training program not just in lead generation but in client management. And that’s on the brokers—we need to do more to train our agents about the actual job of representing buyers and sellers, not just how to prospect a FSBO or whatever.

REID: What do you think the biggest challenge agents have to building a successful career?

Rand: The biggest challenge most agents have is maintaining the discipline to do the little things that lead to long-term success. It’s easy to get sucked in to focusing entirely on the short term, especially when you’ve got bills to pay this month. But it’s hard work building a foundation for the long-term. It’s hard to maintain the discipline to stick with lead generation campaigns that will fail 95 times out of 100. It’s hard to build relationships with the people in your sphere by reaching out to them month after month after month in the hopes of generating a referral. It’s hard (and expensive) to cultivate a farm with mailing after mailing. And it’s hard to commit to continuing your education to build your skills and knowledge. But, those are the kinds of things you need to do if you want to build a dependable long-term base of business that doesn’t require you to live from paycheck to paycheck.

Rand’s new book, “How to be a Great Real Estate Agent,” is a follow-up to his “Disruptors, Discounters, and Doubters” about how the industry can overcome the challenges posed by disruption by raising the bar on client experiences. Rand has spoken at many industry conferences, including Inman Connect, REALTOR Triple Play, and the RIS Media CEO Summit. Last year, he was honored by RIS Media with one of the inaugural industry Newsmaker Awards, and was recognized by Inman News in 2017 as one of the Top 100 Real Estate Influencers.

Mary Prenon
HGAR, Director of Communications