I am often asked what attributes one needs to be a good real estate agent. The ability to be personable? Great negotiating skills? The patience to empathically listen to clients’ concerns? An acute eye for design? While all of those qualities are important, along with a whole host of other skills, in my opinion, the skill that most crucially differentiates a great real estate agent from a good real estate agent is the ability to handle rejection and handle it well. There is a saying in football: “Football is a simple game—in the end, it is about blocking and tackling.” I view real estate sales in the same vein. At its core, our business is about prospecting and referrals, and there is no way to properly access both those channels without the ability to accept rejection well.
We all have dealt with rejection in our lives and probably in our professional lives as well, but the ability to accept it well and regularly is truly crucial to a successful real estate practice. What I mean by that is this: real estate agents who prospect a lot know that whether a client wants to sell their home or not, or wants to buy a home with you has very little to do with you and a lot to do with what is going on with the client. Maybe they like you, but there is another agent at their kid’s school they feel obligated to use, or their friend or relative is an agent, or someone at their place of worship. Regardless, you cannot worry about any of those factors. To truly succeed, an agent must have a consistent mechanism to acquire prospects that can hopefully be turned into clients. Without the ability to understand and metabolize that all leads and prospects may not work out, and that this probably has nothing to do with you, an agent will not be able to successfully build a reliable pipeline of business. My first office manager used to say, “Anyone can have a good year, but only great agents can have a good career,” and she was right.
I often see young agents wondering what they did wrong when a prospective buyer stops responding to emails or texts. To me, it is clear the search is on hold, and the reason why it is on hold is irrelevant. They need to put their efforts elsewhere and check in with that prospect in 30 or 60 days. Every bit of effort spent wondering what went wrong is effort that is not spent obtaining one’s next client.
Many of us get our business from our circle of friends, and unless one shows they are gracious about people in your circle not working with them, others may feel hard-pressed to discuss their real estate needs with you due to the feeling of obligation. The core of prospecting is being of service, of helping the client with their needs, and none of that can happen if the client is worried that you will make them feel awkward down the line, when they see you at soccer practice or the school bake sale. If your friends and acquaintances aren’t comfortable talking with you about possible scenarios, it will have a chilling effect on people asking your advice and counsel on the various scenarios in their lives. Those preliminary conversations often result in transactions down the line. You can’t position yourself as a resource or a sounding board if people are worried about bad feelings or animosity if they do not end up working with you.
One of the main reasons that agents take rejection so poorly is that they only have one two clients at a time, so if one fizzles, there goes half their prospective business. Again, by prospecting regularly and creating a habit for yourself, you will create more opportunities to create success. It is easy to not get upset about one listing not materializing if you have nine more in the pipeline. However, if you only have one listing and it fizzles, you have literally lost your entire pipeline in one shot.
The key points I always emphasize to younger agents are:
Prospect, prospect, prospect—it fixes all woes.
Understand that is not about you, and don’t make things personal when they don’t need to be. A real estate transaction usually accompanies a major life event (death, divorce, wedding, kid, second kid), and there are lots of moving parts that you may not be privy to.
Always do your best, and always be gracious. There will always be business opportunities down the line and people enjoying working with agents that put them at ease.
Finally, always see how you can help the client with their needs. At the end of the day, it is about them, not you!
Thomas Hilal is an agent with Nourmand & Associates, a second generation, family-owned-and-operated luxury real estate boutique with offices in Beverly Hills, Brentwood and Hollywood. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (310) 300-3362.