Use Generational Studies for Better Recruiting, Marketing

Use Generational Studies for Better Recruiting, Marketing

January 1, 2002

The median age for brokers and salespeople in 2000 was 54 years, according to the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS' 2001 Member Profile, indicating that the industry is a haven for baby boomers. But real estate professionals are finding that there is no rest for the weary; they face an onslaught of change--new technologies, fee pressures, competition from banks and other new business models, agency and other liability issues, and shifting markets--all exacerbated by a boom in Generation X buyers who question the ways things have always been done.

The real estate industry is clearly at a boiling point.

That's why more organizations outside the industry are beginning to take an interest in real estate professionals. These organizations can provide timely, relevant information to help salespeople weather changes in their marketplaces.

Robert Wendover, managing director for The Center For Generational Studies believes that his organization's research can be vital to salespeople interested in learning about the generational differences that can impact today’s real estate sales and recruitment.

Wendover first got the idea for generational studies while working as a consultant in recruitment and employee retention for clients such as IBM, Sears, Taco Bell, International Dairy Queen, Kinko's, State Farm Insurance, AllTel, Hampton Inns, and AT&T. As he began to hear questions like, "What do I do with the kid with green hair?" he realized he was on to a unique factor that may affect communication, productivity, and a business’s bottom line.

"We were getting concerns from employers that their newer employees think differently," says Wendover. "'They want to be president tomorrow and they don't have the same work ethics,’ the executives would complain."

"Then the lightbulb went off," he explains. "I spent a lot of time researching and realized that a lot of what people were experiencing in the workplace and as consumers was rooted in generational differences."

The Center For Generational Studies was founded to conduct research and share the results with clients via seminars and publications.

"We conduct our research two ways," explains Wendover. "We look at what everybody else is studying, Gallup, the newspapers, and more, and we look for patterns (secondary research.) We also do primary research such as phone surveys, the person on the street, and we continue to look for patterns."

The Center For Generational Studies has become a virtual host of the national conversation on generational issues, with customers ranging from the healthcare industry, to retail, to restaurants, franchises, and more.

"The question is how does a 50-year-old broker manage a 20-something salesperson?" says Wendover. "As management, you might say 'We don't do business that way,' and the younger worker says, 'Why not?'"

The Center's job is to help employers and marketers breach the gap between the generations, so that they can work together more effectively. "We want to prevent erroneous assumptions," says Wendover. "We do marketing on two levels--we work with clients to teach them to create marketing campaigns on the values of those generations, and the second thing is direct sales, person to person. If I'm 50, I build a relationship differently than a 23-year-old."

How does the Center plan to help the real estate industry? Wendover plans to look at the demographics of brokers and owners, as well as that of buyers and sellers to come up with relationship skills that can be adopted by salespeople for better relationships between employees, co-workers and clients of all ages.

"The Xers are beginning to buy houses because every generation goes through buying cycles," explains Wendover. "The boomers have purchased their maximum houses, and they will be replaced by younger buyers who have different attitudes about the real estate transaction or what they want in a house. The Xers have different expectations about financing and negotiations, and they are more skeptical of institutions, so this is very relevant because salespeople won't be able to do business the same way."

"While there is a lot to be said for experience, there is a depth and wisdom that comes with that, and up to this point younger generations didn't challenge that. This generation is different. The Xers do challenge and they don't like conventions because the institutions they were taught to believe in betrayed them. They might say, 'You sell me the house, and I'll find my own mortgage broker.’ This buyer might get a loan at 11:00 at night on the Web."

The bottom line is that Xers don't rely on institutions of knowledge such as the real estate industry any more. They rely on each other. "My marketing guy is an Xer and we took some pieces that we did, and I asked him what his friends think. He e-mailed the pieces to 50 friends. We expected responses but those 50 people that we e-mailed also started e-mailing it to another 5000 people! We are getting e-mails back from people we have never met, but they are adding insights. This generation can do the same thing with social issues, products, movies, and with the real estate industry.

The point is not to be afraid of change but to embrace it with knowledge.

"Adversity creates opportunity," says Wendover.

(c) Copyright 2001 Realty Times. Reprinted with permission.

Blanche Evans is a writer/editor and CEO of evansEmedia. Formerly, she was a senior editor with Realty Times, where she was named by REALTOR® Magazine as one of the most influential people in the real estate industry.

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