How to Beat the Listing Portals

If you want to win buyers’ business, you need to be more than just a glorified search engine. Train your agents to become advisers rather than just vendors.

October 15, 2015

Think of the difference between the service you get at a five-star restaurant downtown and the fast-food place down the street. Servers at the former are trained in the extras that surprise and delight. They might make thoughtful off-menu recommendations or tell you what to avoid based on your particular tastes. In contrast, cashiers at the fast-food joint are not interested in fostering expressions of your individuality. They’re coached to be efficient, plugging in your order and moving you through the line and out the door.

This, in a nutshell, is the distinction between an adviser and a vendor. While advisers are perceived as trusted partners, vendors receive and follow orders. The difference in value to potential buyers cannot be overstated. With a team made up of advisers, your agency will have an unbeatable reputation. With a team of vendors, you’ll be seen as little more than a human Google search. Plus, the virtual option has an edge because clients can do it themselves in their pajamas.

Hire agents who listen carefully to what clients are saying and feel out what’s just under the surface. These are natural advisers. They’re adept at leading potential buyers where they already want to go and inviting them to dream a bit. Sometimes, when someone seems dead set on something, it may be because they haven’t thought of an alternative that could be even better.

Train agents to think outside the box to earn the kind of trust with buyers that gets them endless gratitude and referrals from clients. Buyers’ must-have list may include a pool along with the best school district, but if they don’t quite have the budget for it, ask if they are willing to consider a home with a recreation center down the street. By contrast, a vendor would just plug their “gotta have” list in and come up with something pretty similar to what buyers can get on their own. It takes an adviser to give a well-timed nudge that helps them to compromise or think bigger.

You can win more business and earn trust by training agents to become advisers, but it’s not an easy transition. Earning adviser status requires a delicate balance. Training agents to challenge buyers is one thing, but heavy-handed recommendations that don’t include clients in the discussion are counterproductive. Never settle for a team full of vendors. Advisers challenge — assertively, but with a healthy dose of sensitivity — potential buyers’ perspectives to create change, and this translates to more sales and increased trust with clients.

If you can teach your team members to be more than just human Google searches, you’ll earn a reputation as the place to go when prospective buyers are looking to improve their lives through home ownership. 

Jason Forrest is a sales trainer, management coach, member of the National Speakers Association’s Million Dollar Speakers Group, and author of three books, including his latest, Leadership Sales Coaching. Learn more at