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You’re Fired

How counting on technology can cost you the big commission

Julia E Hubbel
Jan 25 · 11 min read

The strange text landed on my phone yesterday afternoon, with an equally weird-looking link. I didn’t recognize the phone number. There was no identification, so I had no clue who sent it. Like the hundreds if not thousands of other texts and phone calls and emails and invasive inquiries I get from scammers all day, every day to distraction, year after year, to my eye this was just one more.

Click on that link, I’m thinking, and I will likely unleash some kind of virus, give some smart kid in Mumbai access to my computer and bank accounts.

It’s happened. A few years back someone wiped out tens of thousands in my business account. I came home from a business trip to find out that somehow, a scammer had fooled Wells Fargo well enough to wipe me out down to the last penny.

It took weeks to get that money reinstated. I was treated like a scammer until the bank could validated that indeed, I’d had nothing to do with it.

Same for ID theft, which has happened to me more times than I can count.

To my eye, as increasingly happens with political messages and scams about the IRS and my Social Security number and 0% Visa accounts and my Microsoft account (the list is endless) this was just one more scam. Match.com and FitnessSingles.com and all the rest, nothing more than easy highways to this stupid old woman’s wallet.

Except that I am not a stupid old woman.I am indeed one of the primary targets for these folks, as they assume that at 67 I am lonely, desperate, doddering and will do anything for a kind phone call or attention.

As a very smart ex-military Fortune 100 business person, I will eviscerate you, you try to scam me.

I called the number out of curiosity, for I thought I recognized the area code. And at times, if I’m in the mood, I love to f*ck with scammers. In fact I did recognize the code (which is meaningless) but there was no one there and I had no idea who this person was. Scam. I left a very angry message and erased what I thought was just one more invasion of my privacy.

The message, as it turns out, had originated from a listing agent of a house that had been sent me for review by an associate of one of two agents where I have chosen to find a new home.

The problem is that I have never spoken to these people. There is no connection, no relationship, and hence, no trust. I had taken a casual glance at the house in question, decided it wasn’t for me, and moved on.

This person had effectively hijacked my number and sent me an unsolicited text, not bothering to offer any explanation, and asked if I had any questions.

Kindly, you idiot, if I had any interest in that property, I’d have bloody well expressed it, I’d have called or emailed about it. I didn’t. That says that I took one look and was done with it. What part of no interest isn’t clear?

So it struck me as extremely invasive to tease out my contact information and fire me a text, my least favorite form of communication, asking if I had any questions.

Yes, in fact, I did. Who the f*ck do you think you are to hijack my number and fire me a text when I don’t know you?

Last evening I got an apologetic note from one of the two agents I was trying out in this area, explaining that said mystery texter was on their team.

I sent him three long texts in response explaining my position. And fired them.

But wait. There’s more.

Several months back I had reached out to two different agents in this quiet, bucolic area. Both came recommended. The agent who texted me an apology last night had been given the job, twice, at my request, to send me information about a part of town that I was interested in. That request went unanswered. I asked for information about another property. What I got was an email from someone else on his team telling me that I could send questions directly. Well, kindly, I had.

That request also went unanswered.

This agent and I had already spoken about several properties in the area. After setting me up on a regular feed of what was available, I kept getting the same properties that we had already discussed and that I had passed on. I pointed this out to him. He acknowledged this. That tells me said agent isn’t paying attention.

And, that this particular agency is counting on technology to do most of the work.

I’m not a goddamned computer. And, frankly, given that my next very large home purchase may well be my last or at least next to last, this is a very, very, very big deal. Home buying is a complex, intimate, stressful and important experience. This isn’t my first rodeo; it’s my fifth home. However, at this point in my life, I no longer have the luxury of decades to make a bad decision, sell, and do over. So the level of communication, trust and connection I have with an agent becomes paramount. I need to do this right.

A home purchase is, for many of us, the biggest personal financial decision we will ever make in a lifetime. Add to this the fact that I am moving to a brand new area about which I know zilch after living nearly fifty years in the same city. This is the kind of stress level that puts people under. There are times I need my hand held when I need information about certain neighborhoods or access to certain amenities that are critical to quality of life. Yet increasingly, agents are counting on technology to do the real work of relationship building.

The other, critical piece of this is that I have spent much of my professional life training sales for the Fortune 100–500. It would be fair to say that I know what the hell I’m talking about when it comes to selling skills, given that I’ve won a few awards and written a prize-winning book on the topic.

The other agent in question is a woman, with whom I have been developing a nice connection. She’s responsive, available and listens. She has turned out to have the specific expertise I’m in the market for, and when I tell her we need to change the search criteria, that’s what happens. When I ask her for information, I get it. That tells me that a) she’s hearing me, b) she has my interests as a priority and c) I’m not just a walking commission to her.

She gets the business. Because my sense is she’s got my back.

I am hardly alone. Other Boomers like me who are in the same position, like Shirley, my 88-year-old neighbor across the street who just sold her home, need to feel we’re in good hands. Not just walking wallets.

The more you and I as sales people count on technology to do the real work of relationship building we are telling real humans that they are not worth our time. That we’re too lazy and disinterested in who folks are compared to the money we’re going to get.

That’s not a good sales strategy when it’s a half-million dollar or more purchase.

Back in 2014, I put my Denver home up for sale. The agent and his firm did a lovely job of staging. Lane, however, did virtually nothing to find me a new place. I gave him very specific parameters. All he did was set me up on a regular drip of places that vaguely resembled what I had wanted. As time went on I kept asking him about potential houses but nothing was forthcoming. I have no idea how the man spent his time but he most assuredly didn’t put in the work to find me a new home. We had an open house for my place. Twelve people came through on the very first day. I had a full offer by day’s end. Lane then set to trying to pry me out of my house with a mighty crowbar. I had no place to move, the buyers insisted that they would rent me my own house for a short while at three times what I was then paying for my mortgage (REALLY?? How kind), and Lane tried to force me into temporary housing. In a seller’s market, at a cost so high that within barely a few months I’d have wiped out my entire profit from the sale.

He didn’t want to do the real work.

You’re fired.

Not only that, he scorched his relationship with my friend the mortgage broker, and she no longer sent him referrals. That’s a lot of potential business.

I kept the place six more years, and the price rose from $350k to about $520k. Now the stakes are even higher.

Recently I published this article about how another tech-based real estate firm got fired when I interviewed them to be my listing firm, and why instead I chose a Baby Boomer traditional agent:

That has turned out to be one of the best decisions I ever made. That woman has bent over backwards to help me solve my problems. I am not only in good hands, I made a friend. As I get ready to move to a new place, I want that new agent to become a friend and I am willing to do work to make that happen.

Because the more I feel welcomed, valued and at home, the more I refer. That’s how business works, especially in the smaller community where I hope to land. We take care of each other and we have each other’s backs. I’m a small town farm girl, I still live those values, and one of those values is that I will not be turned into and treated like an ATM machine.

I love sending business to my business partners.

But not if said agent treats me with such disregard that my requests for information are ignored, that unidentified partners of this firm invade my privacy by sending me texts about a house that I could care less about just because I made the mistake of clicking on the listing for ten or fifteen seconds.

Here’s why that’s offensive: when I do any kind of surfing on the web, and I happen to be stupid enough to look a pretty blouse just because it’s pretty, I am guaranteed to be bombarded for weeks on end with that blouse every time I am on the web again. I have tried mightily to stop this kind of ugly, invasive tracking. I like my privacy. A LOT. I despise the way that Silicon Valley has found ways into my underwear drawer. I hate that sometimes I have discovered that my camera light is on, and that tells me that some scammer is watching me work while I am sitting at my desk, drinking coffee, thinking I am safe. I’m not. This is our world. I despise this aspect of it.

Zuckerburg put tape over his lens. So did I.

So you and I- especially over a Certain Age- live in the reality that there is nowhere to hide that devices can’t invade us, no orifice that technology doesn’t seek to exploit for our money, nowhere we can go any more short of Siberia where technology doesn’t insist on figuring out a way to get us to buy something. Or that some idiot voyeur can’t watch us drink coffee in our bathrobe while taking a tour of our computer to see if we’re low-hanging fruit.

Not humans. Just a commodity.

And while technology in some ways can rightfully claim to make some jobs easier, that relative ease could be costing you customers. For when it comes to enormous purchases that have to do with our quality of life, there are some things you cannot, must not turn over to technology.

So, kindly, here are the three biggest factors in this kind of transaction:

Trust building. Before you invade someone with an unwanted text, you might want to do the due diligence of finding out if your client prefers that technology. Get permission. I hate texting. It’s the fastest way to get fired that I can think of, if for no other reason than I’ve been teaching sales and networking skills for almost forty years. It goes against every single instinct I have when it comes to creating connections. Lean on texts and ignore my calls? You’re fired.

Listening and responding. If I’ve given you a chance to earn my business and I repeatedly ask you for information that is critical to my decision -making process (such as an area report that tells me whether a house’s back yard is slating for development, killing the quality view), when you ignore or forget those repeated requests you’ve effectively told me that I don’t matter to you except as a commission. You’re fired.

Keeping me informed. Before you let other agents have access to my contact information, you must check with me first. I don’t care if they’re on your team. If I don’t know who they are, I will treat them as scammers, or worse, someone who is trying to cherry pick a commission. I am very loyal to the agents and salespeople I work with because I understand how hard selling is. So if someone tries to horn in on a sale, and that’s precisely how I will treat that kind of inquiry, I will slap them down. You don’t let me know that this is your guy? That disrespects me, my privacy AND my loyalty. That’s not service. That’s just sloppy. You’re fired.

You get the picture. I’m not an investor in the secondary market. This is not my business. This is my HOME. I am deeply involved in making sure this is the right decision. As a function of my generation, in many ways, especially since I have trained communication skills my entire life, relegating those critical connections to technology is the single best way to get you tossed out on your ass.

Thousands of folks have flocked to the Denver and other lucrative real estate markets for the promised huge commissions. Companies like REX have made inroads for folks who really do not want to do the real work of relationship building, turning a deeply emotional and intimate purchase into a cold hard cash exchange.

Sales is relational. Not transactional.

I tossed the REX agent out for precisely these same reasons. My traditional listing agent, referred to me by a friend, has earned my trust and my friendship. I am working on developing the same kind of quality connection where I am moving next. You don’t do that with invasive, impersonal technology and treating people with utter disregard for the privacy, their information needs and their concerns about neighborhood growth.

That may work for Trump’s buddies who buy and sell, fix and flip by the billions, but on the ground, especially for folks of my vintage, trust sells. Period full stop. You don’t want to do the work to build trust, that not only costs you the commission, but the next phone call I make will be to the mortgage agent I befriended to tell her about how I was treated by someone she thought highly of, and recommended.

And by the way, the reason I‘m going to call that mortgage broker? She reached out to me via Zillow, by phone, and while I didn’t need her, she and I ended up making friends because she was willing to take the time to discuss the area, share ideas, and give value despite the likelihood that she wouldn’t make any money right away. That’s value. That’s community-building.

She gets my referrals. And any future business I might need, and that of future friends I hope to make.

That’s trust. That’s relationship building. That’s good sales.

Deposit Photos

Data Driven Investor

from confusion to clarity not insanity

Julia E Hubbel

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Prize-winning author, veteran, adventure traveler, animal masseuse, athlete, international traveler/speaker. Perpetually curious.

Data Driven Investor

from confusion to clarity not insanity

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