In a recent article in the Insider, a real estate agent from Silicon Valley, Shantih Moriarty, said something that I found to be very profound.

“What makes a successful agent is somebody who knows how to market themselves and get referrals,” Moriarty said. “What makes a good real-estate agent and what makes a successful real-estate agent have almost no crossover.”

How can it be that being a good real estate agent, and being a successful real estate agent are two different skills? It’s the same problem that so many businesses face in all industries. The businesses that are the most competent, the most skilled in their respective crafts are not the ones that are getting all the business. Of course being excellent at your craft is a good step in the right direction, but the path to getting business and finding clients is not the same as the path to making those clients happy.

What are the most important skills for a real estate agent to be a good agent? A great agent? Here’s a few that are important.

Pricing Property

A good real estate agent knows what a property is worth, or at least knows how to find out. They know where to find the right comparables. They know what features are the most desirable, and they know which features count the most toward the value of the home. Even new, obviously useful features don’t always add value, such as when solar panels were new in the market. Since they were new, home buyers didn’t know what to pay for them as an add-on to a home they were buying. Also, appraisers couldn’t value them without a market influence, and when they were too new, they didn’t have enough influence to measure within the market. A good real estate agent knows the feel of the buyers and sellers, and they know about where a home price will land. Keep in mind thought, that every property is unique, so any price that is given will always be a guess. Different buyers will value things differently, as well as the sellers they are buying from.

Contract Negotiation

A purchase contract can be riddled with pitfalls and problems for anyone not familiar with the home-buying process. There are issues that can come up anytime that might interfere not only with the transaction going smoothly, but can even stop the transaction outright, and not always for physical problems, but also getting emotions involved regarding missed expectations can sour a buyer on the whole process, and decide to move on to another home, and even another agent. A great real estate agent knows the process well enough that they can warn their clients about each step along the way, and they can help them understand how to respond to each new bump in the road to home ownership. They can guide the buyer to get an inspection, an appraisal, and how much to expect to pay as a down payment. They can guide the buyer to understand the timelines involved in financing, closing, and recording, to that sweet moment when the keys are finally delivered, and the house they have been negotiating for becomes a home.

Marketing the Property

As a seller’s agent, a real estate professional needs to know what details will catch a buyer’s attention. When it’s a buyer’s market, and there are more properties out there than buyers, you really need to stand out in the crowd. The easy way to do that is with the price. Setting a low price will be very attractive for any buyer. But if you want to give your seller top dollar for their home, then they need to know the tips of the trade where a small investment in time or money will give greater returns when the property sells. Many home improvement projects increase the livability of the space, but don’t increase the sales price of the home the same way. A first impression is nearly always the most important, so the surface things such as the exterior of the home, and the visible things inside, like paint, countertops, and carpets, are the most likely to increase the value the buyer is willing to pay.

But then how do you get the property seen, after you have made it desirable? Most real estate agents have access to a multiple listing service, and sometimes access to several multiple listing services. On the internet, a property can be listed in many places, but a savvy agent knows where it will be seen by the most eyes, and will concentrate their efforts on those websites and platforms. Accurate information is key, and if the buyer and seller agents are using the same platforms, then there is more likelihood that the information will be correct. Yard signs are useful, but they only reach those who drive down that street. Best would be for the buyers to be looking in the same place that the sellers are listing the property, and making it easy as possible for then to come see it in person once it has been discovered.

What Makes a Successful Agent?

We’ve listed some of the skills needed to provide value to the clients, but those are things that make a good agent. What about a successful one? I believe Moriarty from Silicon Valley was referring to an agent that closes enough transactions to make a good living, and doesn’t have to find other work on the side. A successful agent clears the bar of supporting themselves and their families as well.

But that doesn’t mean rich and famous, it just means getting enough. Enough what? Enough work. Enough clients. And where do clients come from?

Similar to the skill we talked about earlier, the successful agent needs to be good as marketing, but not marketing properties. They need to be good at marketing themselves. The theories and concepts are similar to marketing a home, but the application is very different.

Marketing Yourself as an Agent

When Moriarty said that a good real estate agent, and a successful real estate agent have almost no crossover, they were pointing out that it matters very little how good you are at pricing property, contract negotiation, or marketing property. What matters is how good you are at getting yourself in front of potential clients.

The skills that are required to be good at buying and selling property are not interesting to the average consumer. The average person will glaze over very quickly when we start going over contract language. The average consumer does not really want to know the market factors that are driving home prices day to day. The average client does not want to know the platforms that you use to market the property.

What the average person cares about is human connection.

Psychology of Sales

The same psychological tricks you can use to make friends, are the skills that will earn you clients. The way you can learn to validate a new person’s ideas and feelings are the ways that you will gain their confidence. Practicing open communication, mirroring their communication style, and repeating back to them when they say to you, to show that you are listening and understanding. Making proper eye contact, and really listening, giving them time to talk, and express what they are thinking and feeling, can really help you to earn their trust. Being a little vulnerable can also be a way to show them that you are human too, and that they can relate to your struggles the same way that they can relate to anyone.

Humans don’t refer business by default, as an agent you have to ask for referrals in a way that keeps your clients comfortable and maintains your relationship of trust. Marketing yourself is always a balance between being top of mind, and saving space for them. You need to be a person first, and a professional second. Keep you services available when they are needed, but maintaining friendship along the way.

Both Good and Successful

In order to be both a good real estate agent, and a successful one takes both of these skills. You need to be a professional, skilled at contracts, home marketing, and pricing, but also good at building relationships with people. You need to be genuine, you need to really care about your clients, and you need to earn their business by providing the highest quality service to everyone, no matter who hires you, no matter where they live, or what they want to buy. You need to study and prepare yourself for everything that the home-buying process can throw your way, and come out of the process smiling and hand in hand with your client all the way to the finish line.