The dumbing down of real estate agents through “educational classes” leads to the rise of sleazy salespeople

I spent my first two years in real estate at a big education based brokerage, Keller Williams, and my experience as an industry outsider who is also trained in teaching gave me a unique perspective on the development of the sleazy real estate agent. It seems that people get into real estate because they are either born into it, or they see how much some idiot made in commission and think “hold on a second, if that fool is making a living doing this, then I could make a fortune!” I fall into the second category.

The idea of making thousands of dollars for just showing some people some houses was just too appealing. I was a firefighter at the time, and I got transferred, unwillingly, to an extremely slow station. At the same time we bought a house, and I watched this lady make more than I made all month, and I could not figure out what she did. My wife found the house and the comps for that matter. She even got in to see the house while some workers were there. All the agent did was write a contract and collect a check. We even had problems with the transaction, but she still got paid. After witnessing this I got my license.

The first thing that I learned when I got into real estate was that I knew nothing, but I was determined to learn. I came in with two degrees from the University of Georgia. Surely I could tackle this new career. I signed up for every class that I could, and that is how I got sucked into the real estate guru trap. Real estate has an entire industry within itself. There are for profit gurus who prey on desperate agents as well as large brokerages with education models. They are at best insufficient and at worst a scam.

“What I learned, slowly, was that it was less about education, and more about indoctrination.”

My experience was with the big brokerage education model. Keller Williams offers a plethora of programs, but the big two are called Ignite and BOLD. I signed up for Ignite. It is free in much the same way that your corner drug dealer offers the first hit for free. I showed up with notebook in hand ready to learn some real estate. What I learned, slowly, was that it was less about education, and more about indoctrination. The techniques were so miserable and degrading that most normal people would recoil at the thought of lowering themselves to such actions. If these techinques failed then it was your fault for not commiting fully enough. You simply needed more classes or brainwashing until you finally became a ruthless enough beggar.

Now I went to school to be a teacher so I tried not to be too hard on the instructors, but the bottom line was that they were simply trying to mold low skilled workers. Ignite was less of a class and more of a support group and motivational seminar. Unfortunately the motivation was simply to cold call, door knock, and the biggest one of all harass your friends and family. I remember the day that they forced everybody in the class to call a friend of family member right then, out of the blue, and beg for a referral. It was pathetic, and I refused. It was easier for me to maintain my morals when this was not yet my primary source of income, and I was also the only one in the class who already had something under contract.

For several hundred dollars you can go on and pay for Keller William’s BOLD class. I did not take it, but many of my ignite friends did. I later saw on Facebook as a classmate shared a picture of herself rolling on the floor as other classmates dropped dollar bills on her and she screamed “I’m a money magnet!” These are grown adults rolling on the floor. For a visual just see BOLD Money Magnet or these “professionals.”

This same person then posted another photo of a fellow BOLD student knocking on windows of cars stuck in an interstate traffic jam. Many likes and comments followed. Are you serious? In the day and age of the internet, and this is a serious lead generation technique? If it were not for the multiple listing services sending listings out to other agents I wonder how any of these people would ever sell a house. They cannot even get a listing without harassing captive commuters.

My partner and I always joke about a personality unique to real estate agent. There is a certain fake smile, overdone laugh, and false optimism that some agents develop. I used to wonder if it was something that they could turn on and off. Then I met a KW broker out of Atlanta who was trying to convince me that I should have given BOLD a try. He gave me some of his “scripts.” These are prepared responses to clients’ questions or objections, since apparently speaking honestly and openly is a bad thing. I laughed at them, and he said that he once did as well. However he promised me that once you say it enough times then it becomes second nature. It may not be the way that I talk now, but if I take BOLD enough then I will start talking that way. That’s the point though! I do not want to be a sleazy salesperson! I wanted to learn about real estate, and not how to con people into hiring me.

“At the end of the day he had an overpriced listing with a hostile client, and he sounded like a sleazy salesperson. I’m out on that.”

This same broker then tried to convince me that I should sell my soul for my family, but my family is exactly why I refuse to become one of those types of agents. He went on and on about how he had talked the owner of the open house in which I met him into listing with him. The client apparently hated real estate agents, and the broker knew that it was overpriced, but he had managed to get the listing. Good job. At the end of the day he had an overpriced listing with a hostile client, and he sounded like a sleazy salesperson. I’m out on that. I want my family and friends to respect me and know that I am confident enough in my marketing abilities that I don’t have to hustle anyone into working with me.

This beggar model is now the industry norm. Gary Keller wrote an entire book about it, The Millionaire Real Estate Agent. I got this book immediately, but it’s entire premise is based on the idea that if you harass enough people and “touch” them and “drip” on them then you will eventually get some closed transactions. What these classes do not teach you are the fundamentals and certainly not the larger theory of real estate. There is no instruction on marketing. There is not even any real instruction on determining value or negotiation. The more I developed my own education the more I learned that these education models and classes are simply a method of creating mindless workers who will possibly succeed if they give up on life and accept their role as lead generating robots. It never teaches agents how to market a house (it really doesn’t even teach them how to market themselves). It does not teach agents how to find, show, and negotiate for a buyer. This begs the question. If you have to beg for clients, then how on earth do you expect to sell a house?

The problem is that this creates a used car salesman culture millions strong. There is a reason that real estate agents rank so low on polls of trustworthiness. Hordes of desperate prospectors churn through all of their friends, family, and even strangers in desperate hope of striking in rich or at least providing enough food to keep going. My new brokerage is starting to implement some of these same policies. I see them creep in as more coaching programs and classes show up on the calendar. I am sure that it makes since up at the top if you can increase the entire brokerage’s production by say one transaction then that will trickle up to a lot of money, but it does little for the individual agents.

Agents need to develop their own education, and take charge of their own future. A few high producing agents can make more money than a bunch of desperate beggar agents, but creating high production agents, is a lot more complicated. That is why I am taking education into my own hands. In the same way that Mr. Levi made his money by selling blue jeans, and Donald Trump’s grandfather operated a hotel for gold miners, one big way to strike it rich in real estate is to sell to the fools prospecting for leads. I refused to fall into this trap. I educated myself, and I broke away from the low skill industrial lead generation methods. I use intelligence and marketing to get better leads to come to me, and guess what? Those same techniques help me to sell houses faster and for more money. My smarter not harder methods allows me to make more money, while spending more time with my family, and the best part is that I can do it without loosing the respect of my family.

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