Savvy young realtors “tweet” with the best

Pinterest was launched in 2010 as a cloud-based space to store and share users’ favorite photos. But it had barely been birthed before clever realtors figured out that they could use its search-engine capabilities to sell homes.

“People who are on Pinterest are pinning things that interest them. If people follow you or you follow them and find out about their dream home, it’s a great way to find clients,” says Heidi Margolis, team leader with Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage (formerly Keller Williams). “You can search by houses, mountain properties, rustic homes; that’s the newest phenomenon when it comes to technology.”

Pinterest is just one of the new technologies that is changing the way real estate firms do business in Northern Colorado. Today, few agents will head out to meet a client without their GPS-empowered smart phone, connected to the multiple listing service, at the ready. This allows their clients to see all the comps and homes for sale in the neighborhood they’re looking in.

But the degree to which agents deploy social media and technology to identify prospects and close deals does, in general, depend upon the age of the agent, sources agree. Young, savvy realtors entering the business use Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Instagram and other sites to prospect, connect with good clients and announce successful transactions.

Larry Kendall, co-founder and chairman emeritus of The Group and author of Ninja Selling, teaches real estate sales techniques at his Ninja Selling workshops. He acknowledges that technology has transformed pieces of the business. Deals are now closed remotely via electronic signatures imprinted on electronic documents. Even laptop computers have been replaced by lighter, more versatile iPads. Yes, the new sales person is much more mobile and able to quickly share information with clients that once took hours or even days to gather.

Still, with a few exceptions, technology cannot turn a mediocre sales agent into the office leader.

“To be a master of this business, you need to know a lot of things, and technology is just one of them,” Kendall said. “There’s the whole financing side. The whole legal side. The housing design side. The environmental side. And you need to be a bit of a psychologist, too. But the main ingredient for success is this: You’ve gotta wanna do it.”

In the era of social media, where trust is paramount, the realtor-client relationship has become more important than ever. This is why Kendall counsels his students to use such platforms as Facebook and Twitter to nurture relationships, but not to rely upon them to close deals. “We notice that the most successful sales people use technology properly. You can get leads and ideas from Facebook, but we tell them not to spend more than two or three hours a week on Facebook. They should be connecting more personally with clients rather than staring at a computer screen,” he says.

One typical “Ninja” recommendation: Watch for significant life events on someone’s Faceboook account–say, a birthday, promotion at work, divorce–but instead of responding to the person through Facebook, call them on the phone or send a personal email or written note.

“That deeper level of connection often leads to a business transaction,” Kendall said.

Maegan Duggar was The Group’s “Rookie of the Year” in 2012, her first full sales season. She closed 19 transactions; the national average is about six per realtor per year. For Duggar, social media is “mostly for clients to get to know me on a personal level. I don’t get on my Facebook or Instagram accounts and blast out stuff about real estate. My clients are on there but it’s personal information, not business. I use it to be able to connect more deeply on a relationship basis. That’s where my business comes from: keeping in touch with people, staying connected.”

Duggar gets involved community service activities and makes sure she’s out and about, meeting people, building relationships that some day may lead to a sale. For her social media is just another opportunity to build on a relationship.

While social media skills are an asset to a job candidate, the basic qualities real estate company managers look for in the “new breed” aren’t much different from what they sought in the past. Kendall and Margolis both want to see a history of hard work, follow-through and good work habits. They want people with a long-term commitment to the industry. They’re looking for integrity and character, a person “who you can give the keys to your home to and tell them, ‘Go ahead and look around,’” Kendall said.

Margolis says the “new breed” entering the business is serious about real estate as a career and pays close attention to the business side. They have no fear of technology; the only downside may be to overestimate technology’s role in selling property.

“We tell our agents that you have to be fulltime and lead generate every day,” she says. “The breed coming in know they have to work hard to make a living and they are willing to make that commitment. Our job is teaching them the right skills. I ask my agents, ‘How many calls are you going to make this week and how many leads will you generate?’ It’s really all about lead generation, however you want to generate those leads.” Kendall says the housing meltdown was a wake-up call to newcomers to the industry who thought a real estate license was a license to print money.

“It looks like an easy business, especially now that rates are low, inventory is low and demand for homes is high,” Kendall says. “But I say it’s a very hard easy business. What you need to learn to do is pretty easy; we can teach it in our workshops. The hard part is waking up every day knowing that you are unemployed, and going out and trying to sell a home.”