Agent Match has the potential to be a game changer for the industry… but perhaps not in ways that has fueled the debate to this point. And this game-change opportunity is ripe for whoever is bold and does it right (and for the right reasons) – whether that be Realtor.com, Zillow, Trulia or even a start-up like Realvolve.
There is a win-win-win in this for consumers, agents and the company that provides the best solution… and the cool-factor of this doesn't reside with proprietary past sales data – they reside with depth.
More is not better. Better is better.
There are not many areas in life where quantity equates to quality. Not in food, farming, beer, housing, friendships, wine, music, or art. Is Bud Light ‘better’ than a seasonal craft IPA from 21st Amendment in San Francisco? Is a McDonald's hamburger better than that of a Food Truck who sources local artisan ingredients, simply because they sell millions a day? (Hint: No.)
The ultimate goal of technology in real estate is not the closing of sales, but the formation and cultivation of meaningful relationships with human beings. Agent Match (or another version) is an opportunity to provide that initial spark. So while data may play a layered role in identifying a competent professional…it’s just a small slice of the big picture. If we focus solely on past 'sales' (or who pays-to-play), we miss the opportunity to elevate the industry and provide that spark of a relationship that could serve both consumer and agent for years past a single sales event.
So do we squander this opportunity to perpetuate the notion that an agent's value resides only as a conduit to facilitate a transaction....or who the highest bidder is for premium placement… or do we go deep, with an altruistic purpose and use this opportunity to spark real and meaningful relationships, to showcase the depth and value agents serve in the community.
Let me be clear - there is nothing wrong with making a profit for providing the infrastructure that architects a 'match'... but those profits would perhaps have more purity if they are for services that doesn't involve any premium (ehhh ehmmm, check this agent out) placement between an agent and consumer. It can be done better.
We say….do it, but go deep. The true value proposition in this is to spark propinquity.
In our book REAL, we examined the science behind how relationships are formed between human beings.
Establishing a new relationship with another has four key stages.
1. Initially, someone is aware of you. The person has heard your name in conversation, seen your advertisement, or has perhaps attended your conference presentation.
2. Next, the person knows you. You sat at the same table for lunch, discussed business, compared notes, and traded some personal information.
3. In the third stage of the relationship, the person likes you. You have demonstrated who you are and revealed what is important to you and you share some attributes and interests.
4. Finally, the person trusts your advice and seeks your counsel. You engage regularly with the person, share expertise and experience, and have demonstrated that you are trustworthy. THIS is the stage that sustainable real estate businesses are built.
The four stages are pictured in the image below.
In social psychology, propinquity explains that a person tends to form relationships with those whom he or she is exposed to often. Or in other words, frequency and familiarity tend to form a bond between one person and another. If you need an example, consider an office. Workplace interactions are frequent; thus, close relationships between coworkers form readily.
Real world proximity is physical propinquity. Another predictor of close relationships is psychological propinquity, or how much views and experiences are shared. Here, the notion is that repeated exchange of thoughts, ideas, values and interests also facilitate relationships. Why not allow consumers to search for those things?
The figure below pictures the sharp contrasts between someone simply knowing who you are (a name, a face) and someone getting to know who you are (your activities, values and interests). No matter the medium, the more we interact with people we know, the more we tend to like them and vice versa. Sincerity and common interests is what leads to trust and influence as well as repeat and referral business – which is the foundation and fuel for a sustainable business.
Consumers have a goal to find a competent agent they like and trust. Agents have a goal to do business with people who like and trust them (which fuels a business that lasts). So how do we create a match system based on those goals?
We spent some time creating a mock-up of the components of what AgentMatch (regardless who builds it) could (should?) look like – if, in fact, the goal is truly to provide value to both agents and consumers. Imagine consumers being able to find an agent to work with, not only based on market performance...but in shared values and interests. What if a consumer wanted to work with an agent who played guitar, plays softball, is into bowling, yoga or does CrossFit. Or what if consumers could know that we coach Little League teams, volunteer at local animal shelter or are active in raising money for the local children's hospital. Yes, some consumers only care about one dimension of past sales - but many more would rather do business with someone they like, trust and can relate to (provided they are competent).
Possible solution: Create a simple one-page landing page (about.me model) for every REALTOR and allow EVERYONE to be included in search results. Allow consumers to search for tags that matter to THEM - and then show results that paint a more clear picture of the value of the agent.
Spark a Relationship...Not Just a Transaction
The role of agent is crucial. We are more than our sales history. Let's not just talk about being ambassadors to communities...let's prove it and show it. Give us a place to let our humanity shine.
So will someone step up and put out something that is real...or are we going to do what we've always done and sell ourselves short and be sifted and sorted to the lowest common denominator of a sales-record. Transparency is good. Past Sales are relevant. But perhaps of equal or greater value (at least to some consumers) is that we put equal importance and pressure on our industry to evolve as human beings, to do cool things, to be driven to be involved in the community, to be more like a craft beer….and less like water-downed Bud Light. Cheers.