Thanks for the heads up

Your business and your personality SHOULDN’T be two separate entities, no matter what profession you’re in. I’m the idea guy. How can you tell? There’s a light bulb (literally) suspended above my head when you come into my office; anytime I get a new project, I’m usually trying to come up with the biggest baddest way to get it done; and I jump at the chance to brainstorm.

REALTORS® aren’t any different. The small decisions you make (whether on a website, business card, or blog) illustrate to consumers and colleagues the type of professional you are and instead of business people trying to waterdown their personalities, some consumers and professionals need to learn how to take a hint.

Missy Caulk wrote a great post on NOT VOMITING a.k.a. how to improve prospecting calls (check it out, I think anyone who’s phone prospecting needs to give it a read). In the comments she was criticized for requiring a phone number on her site and a debate erupted about how client phone numbers are used and FTC law. The question at the core of the debate: is the fact that Missy requires a phone number to view her listings vomit?

Vomit? No. A sign? Yes.

The required phone number field is a sign to colleagues, consumers, and web-surfers that Missy’s the kind of professional that believes there’s value in person-to-person connections. If you want a REALTOR® with no people skills, she’s not the one for you and I take issue with the critic who couldn’t take a hint.

The REALTORS® I know personally work hard to build and preserve their business. I don’t think it’s outrageous to require consumers to make a little commitment on a website before viewing listings. Actually I think, it’s down right smart.

If a prospect doesn’t want a REALTOR® they can talk to, Missy’s not the right one for them and she’s communicated that on her site.

Reading the whole debate reminded of a conversation I sat in on between two VAR members back at convention who were like night and day. They’re both successful business people with drastically different personalities, morals, and business practices. While clashing in comical conversation, one member told the other, “I wouldn’t refer a client to you.” The retort I can’t remember exactly, but it was something to the tune of “That’s fine and I appreciate that.”

The bottom line in the conversation: They do business differently. They find clients in different places, make different decisions in their online presence, and both are bloggers, but they even go at that differently.

There’s nothing wrong with having an identity.

As a consumer, I appreciate it. It’s my sign and I’d rather REALTORS® and business people be themselves (even online) and not try to fool me into doing business with them.

Thanks to Missy and all the other REALTORS® out there who are actually themselves online (and everywhere else) and don’t cave in to critics trying to strip them of their personalities and pretend there is some generic, one-size-fits-all way to do business.

P.S. Kudos to Matt Rathbun (and his new Blackberry) for his comments.

About Andrew Kantor

Andrew is VAR's editor and information manager, and -- lessee now -- a former reporter for the Roanoke Times, former technology columnist for USA Today, and a former magazine editor for a bunch of places. He hails from New York with stops in Connecticut, New Jersey, Cincinnati, Columbus, and Roanoke.
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10 Responses to Thanks for the heads up

  1. I LOVE my blackberry. I also like a good debate.

    No one agent fits all clients. Agents just need to be aware of the cause and effect issues of their plans.

  2. Greg says:

    I have to disagree slightly with your opinion that requiring a phone # to view listings is a reasonable request. The nature of the internet is, hopefully, anonymity. If you want to put your listings online, you have invited the casual shopper to then come see the listings. Requiring them to leave a piece of information that then identifies them to the owner of that site is going to prevent some potential clients from viewing and possibly contacting the agent.

    In this age of privacy concerns, and not knowing if the person behind the site is legit, leaving a phone # can be enough for me to move on. Is the ISP reputable? Is your database secure? What lengths have you gone to to protect my information? How much are you going to hassle me? I am sure that the agent in question is fine…can you say that about ALL agents? How do I know who the “good ones” are. These are all things that I think of when asked to leave my contact info…why are you asking so soon in the process?

    Not wanting to provide any identifiable information on first contact is not always a sign that I do not value person to person interaction, perhaps its a sign that I want to be in control of my privacy? Perhaps I would like to contact the agent if they have any listings that interest me, and not have them call me?

    Walmart does not ask me my phone number to go look at their product. Why should you?

    maybe that says something too?


  3. Valerie says:

    Love Varbuzz. I’m in Texas – someone referred me to your site and I’ve become a faithful, loyal follower. Love the post “Thanks for the Heads Up”. Thanks Jovan!

  4. Greg,

    Personally I didn’t ask for the consumers phone number from my webpage. I actually preferred to work with e-mail initially.

    However, I still don’t think there is anything wrong with an agent asking for the phone number.

    The only way that the privacy issue makes sense is if you have an unlisted number. Otherwise I can get a phone number from any phone directory, or any number of resources.

    If the consumer is that concerned they can put any old number in there and still get the information. It’s probably a good idea for agents who want registration to listen to the consumers and make the phone number optional. Use e-mail to gain permission to get he phone number…

    Your question about why agents are asking so soon in the process is that consumers typically work with the first agent they find. Lots of money and effort go into the websites and you want to try and make that effort count for something.

    It’s a hard call and many agents struggle with whether or not someone should be required to count. Thanks for giving us your thoughts, so that agents can weigh the effect of the registration process.

  5. Greg says:

    While it is ultimately up to the individual agent, I think they would get more business if they allowed at least limited access without giving up a number. Your point about unlisted numbers is not correct. If I visit your site, and don’t leave an identifiable trace, how does 411 help you get my number? It doesn’t, as you don’t know who came and visited. My privacy, in regards to my relation to you, remains intact.

    Your point is well taken about the time and effort that is put into the sites, but why bypass a potential customer just because they want to browse? Since all agents have access to a MLS, I can probably find the information elsewhere. In this type of environment, the difference between site A and site B is what value does the site add to the information that is publicly available, that another does not. If you have scared me away on my first visit, you have no chance of showing me the wares. You have already put up a barrier, and that’s not something that any business can afford to do.

    Just seems counter intuitive.

    I agree that an email address is a very good first approach. I maintain a couple just for purposes like this.


  6. Pingback: The Continued March Toward Single Agency… | national real estate opinion column -

  7. I agree with Missy on this one, and find that a few of the comments on her blog were likely REALTOR hatters (yes there are people out there who do everything they can to make life difficult for REALTORS). I do not require phone numbers on my registration fields, but I get more than a few, and I let the people know that I will follow up with them by phone if they so desire. Now back to selling real estate.

  8. The comments just illustrate how different people differing views about things. But, as Jovan said, that’s ok.

    Just cause my way works for me, it doesn’t mean it’ll work for you and vice versa. If you don’t like the way I do things, then don’t do them the same way.

    Don’t get me wrong…I’m all about receiving constructive criticism. But don’t try and tell me how to do something or “teach me” by shoving your views down my throat. Then you’re just being rude and I won’t want to listen to a thing you say.

  9. This topic will always lead to great discussion. we used to have folks register before being able to get info. even with just an email, folks are wary of registering. good or bad, we made the decision to allow our visitors access hoping they will come back again and again until they are ready for us to help them. Our number of “leads” have decreased but I think the quality of those who do finally register is much better than before.

  10. After reading the article, I just feel that I really need more information on the topic. Could you share some more resources please?

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