Seth Godin has been described as America’s Great Marketer. He’s the author of 13 books, mostly about the post-industrial revolution, the spreading of ideas, marketing, leadership and change. His blog is the most popular ever produced by an individual. I met up with Seth at the Canadian Association of Accredited Mortgage Professionals conference in Toronto in November and was given 20 minutes to conduct an interview.
In the Accredited Senior Agent program we promote that the students read Tribes and Linchpin, two books of great importance for Realtors. Here’s our interview.
Barry Lebow: Seth, what should the public be able to find out about a Realtor?
Seth Godin: First, you have to have a Google presence, a webpage for sure, but one with content. Go out and do things in the community and get noticed. If you do not have a presence, your competitor does. You have to stop waiting for clients to pick you – you must pick yourself. You must make yourself identifiable, you must give away information and you must make yourself someone to follow.
What about the “I” that seems to dominate real estate? Like pictures on a business card?
You are standing right in front of me. Why do I need to see your photo?
So many Realtors today take every class, Are too many people focussed on being technically flawless while forgetting how to actually do their business?
Most people want a map, a set of instructions, and a Dummies guide. We have been inoculated. If they fail and they followed the instructions, then they can blame it on the procedure, not on themselves. If you follow a map and reach a dead end, it is the map’s fault, not our fault. The hard part is going out alone, not working with a map, accepting responsibility for the outcome. Everyone has that problem to a degree.
The real estate industry is notorious for stats such as 50 per cent of all agents drop out during the first two years. The largest complaint from the public is that agents take their listings and then disappear unless some action happens. The old 80-20 rule seems to have disappeared. Many cities report that five per cent of top producers now control 95 per cent of their local markets. There seem to be a lot of problems in the real estate industry.
Lots of industries have problems and the question really is what should an individual do about it? You alone cannot fix the industry’s problems. The National Association of Realtors reported that 77 per cent of people listed their home with the first Realtor who actually returned their phone call. What the public remembers about Realtors is that they never contacted them after the deal, that they never followed up on promises.
Does a Realtor need to focus on a niche?
We have to be careful because we can translate niche into meaning “small.” Apple Inc., the most valuable company in the world – is it a niche or just better at it than any other company in the world? If you want to be the best-known Canadian real estate broker, go for it, but you probably are going to be known for being the best at, say, selling same-sex partners condo apartments in Toronto’s core.
Branding – we all know the loyalty of Apple customers but what about Realtors, can they brand, can they achieve strong local success?
A brand is just a shortcut to have people remember a bunch of expectations or stories about someone or something. Look, the class clown has a brand. We all remember the class clown. You should have a brand but if you do you have to live it, have to adhere to it and you should think it out in advance. It is how people will remember you.
About two million people sell real estate in North America and yet we note only a small percentage of names that dominate local markets.
You have to accept the facts: that there are too many real estate agents, that the Internet is destabilizing the industry. Accept the fact that things are in flux. You have to accept the world as it is but there are huge opportunities.
The old disciplines are gone. Brokers no longer have control. Agents do not have to attend meetings or work from offices. How important is training today?
The difference between training and apprenticeship is that real mastery comes from apprenticeship. Real estate agent needs to find someone to apprentice with and choose their path. They have to learn instead of just sitting and listening to boring training lectures.
You are not ashamed of your mistakes and failures. Is that always a good thing? Should we sweep our failures under a carpet or should we celebrate them?
Yes, I am proud of them. If you decide that failure is not an option, then you have also wiped out success as they are two sides of the same coin. My goal is to fail more than others as I get more chances to play. The Internet today has made it much easier to fail and to play. As we are talking, Barbara Corcoran (http://barbaracorcoran.com) is on the podium and speaking about her series of failures, which led to her huge success.
Some well-known publications are writing that we are in an era of the end of salespeople. Is there a future in sales?
Yes, of course. Sales are about transfers of emotion. I was on a machine in the gym this morning and there is a button for a computer trainer. I noted that no one has pushed it. A human trainer will make you work hard, a computer cannot. You have to be focussed though on working with the consumer. They know when you are in it for yourself, when it is all about your commission. It should not be about your deal. It has to be about them.
What about rejection? Despite being a salesperson, isn’t rejection one of the hardest things to overcome and eventually can’t constant rejection wear one down? I met with Mark Victor Hansen a few years ago. He explained that over 140 rejections were given by the publishing industry for the first Chicken Soup of the Soul. That is a lot of rejection. What about salespeople?
People who can’t get past rejection just quit. Face it, the public is rejecting your transfer of emotion, they are rejecting your skills and approach. It is not personal, they just don’t know you.
The public today seems bombarded with offerings, information and spam. Many are posting but many readers are not responding.
If they are not responding you are not being interesting. If they are not responding you have to change what you are posting and publishing.
Is Facebook a time waster for Realtors?
Fans in your own industry do not bring you money. Why would anyone befriend a Realtor in the first place? Why on earth would a citizen want to befriend a Realtor? If a real estate agent was going to town meetings and reporting on the events, interviewing the fire chief, etc. I may be inclined to follow them as they are giving me information about what I am interested in. A Realtor must make it about me, about what I want.
How can a Realtor benefit from your site, Squidoo?
To date, we have more than three million pages. Build a page and tell us about your interests. Let me know about your favourite football team. Let me know about you. Let me want to pick you when I am ready to make a real estate decision.
Passion – the word plays a major theme in your books. What happens when someone is good at what they do but their passion wanes or just gives out? For Realtors, when it stops being enjoyable, should they move on?
Why did they lose their passion? They are telling themselves a story, they are saying “the goal is not worth the effort.” You have to either change your goal or your perception of the outcome.
What is your latest book?
We Are All Weird is my latest book. In the past marketers sold to the average consumer. Today, there are more weird people and averages or the masses do not work. The tendency to cater to the normal is obsolete.
Last question, as an American, what is your favourite city to travel to, since you are on the road so much?
I hate to travel. My favourite place to visit is the place of my youth, Algonquin Park. (Godin is from Buffalo, and went to a well-known summer camp in Algonquin Park in Ontario for many years).
Barry Lebow is a long time columnist for REM. Barry started as a Realtor in 1968. He is an appraiser, arbitrator, Realtor and educator. Today he specializes in being an expert witness in stigma and agency matters, having testified in more than 500 trials. He is the founder of the Accredited Senior Agent professional designation program for Canadian Realtors. 416-784-9806; Email email@example.com. You are invited to connect with him on Facebook at Barry Lebow Professional Practice.