“The poseur, as we know him, is the man whom we have outwitted in his attempt to outwit us.”
- Oliver Forbes, The Century Magazine, 1912
People can sense when you’re not being sincere. Even if you have innocent intentions (perhaps you hide the fact that you’re a small brokerage so it doesn’t overshadow your talent), when you put on a facade, you’re creating distance between you and the people you need to be connecting with.
Authenticity is such an important quality for real estate professionals. Why? Because it is key to building trusting relationships. Plastering on a fake smile and spewing jargon at your clients isn’t going to make them trust you with one of the biggest transactions of their lives, and it won’t compel them to tell their friends about you (or, at least, they won’t have anything good to say).
Before I go into how to be more authentic, let’s talk a little more about what “authenticity” actually means.
What does “authenticity” mean?
The word “authentic” has always felt a little vague to me. So after finally doing some deeper exploring into this topic, I’ve come to the conclusion that it really boils down to two concepts: honesty and consistency. It’s about being honest with yourself and your clients. And it’s about making sure your actions are consistent with your words—that you’re delivering on your promises.
But the most important thing of all is this: if you aren’t in it for love, you’ll never be able to be truly authentic as a real estate professional. You’ll either be faking enthusiasm, or you’ll be authentically unhappy...neither of which will add up to long-term success.
Make sure you’re doing something you love, and authenticity will naturally follow.
How to be more authentic
Assuming you do love the real estate business (because why else would you be reading this blog?), here are some ways to be more intentional about being authentic.
Be honest about yourself.
Share your personality with people. They’ll see that you’re not just a cardboard cutout of a real estate agent...you’re Cindy, the agent with two kids and a dog named Skywalker and you love hiking and waking up early on Sundays to do the crossword. Or you're John, the agent who just got married in May and loves the color purple and collects wristwatches.
Whoever you are, own it, and share it with your clients. Don’t try to appear perfect, because no one is, and it’s an obvious sham. People want to work with a fellow human being, not a robot.
At the same time, you can’t go to work wearing faded band t-shirts, even if that is your style. As Laura Vanderkam puts it, in an article for Fast Company: “Authenticity is not about behaving in the exact same way, regardless of context.” If you’re meeting with a client, you should still dress appropriately—but that doesn’t mean you can’t let your casual personality come through in the way you carry the conversation.
Be honest about your opinions.
There are instances when it’s okay to lie to your clients (“No, I think getting bangs was a great idea!”), but most of the time, just tell the truth. If you think the house has crappy flooring, tell them. If you think their listing price is too low, tell them. Even if the truth is inconvenient for you, it’s the right thing to do, and they’ll appreciate your honesty. Those are the things people remember when their friends ask them to recommend a real estate agent.
Be honest about your commitments.
We all know someone like this—they say they’d love to have dinner, but cancel at the last minute. They call again a month later, invite you out, and bail again. It happens so often that every time they say, “We should get together soon,” you roll your eyes and know they have no intention of following through.
Don’t flake on your commitments. Don’t be the agent who promises to be there at 5:30 but always gets there at 6. Your clients will begin to question if anything you say is sincere.
And that leads to the final piece of advice…
Practice what you preach
In an article for Inc.com, entrepreneur Kevin Daum discusses the importance of “practicing what you preach” when it comes to authenticity. He believes “the best way to demonstrate your integrity is to simply be your word.”
If your actions aren’t consistent with your words, your clients won’t trust you. But it goes beyond showing up thirty minutes later than you said you would. Everything you do must be consistent with the way you’ve branded your real estate business (this should be fairly easy to do if you are the one who developed the brand in the first place).
For example, if you’ve branded yourself as a real estate company with a strong commitment to giving back to the community, make sure you’re acting on it—launch a fundraising campaign for a local charity, or pledge to donate a percentage of your yearly earnings. And if your current brand is inconsistent with the way you’d actually like to run your business, rebrand!
Whatever you do, make sure you practice what you preach.
For a relationship to work, there has to be trust. And you can earn that trust by allowing yourself to be human (admitting that you have some quirks and flaws, and sharing pieces of your personal life) always telling the truth, always keeping your word, and living up to the brand you’ve established for yourself.