About a week ago the Chicago Association of Realtors came out with their 2012 sales awards magazine issue of the top real estate producers, thus bestowing another year's bragging rights on hundreds of real estate agents. Getting as high on the list as possible is the goal of many real estate agents in Chicago, myself included, because of its perceived value in helping to generate more business and building credibility among fellow real estate agents. Lots of people, especially the consumer, assume that they gain some sort of advantage by working with a top producer. They believe that agents on this list have some kind of magic dust that will help them sell their homes for more money in less time or get a great deal on their home purchase. But of course, this is total BS that I first wrote about almost three years ago: Real Estate's Top Producer Myth.
I'll just say up front that I've had a bias my entire life against "salesmen". When I think of a real estate top producer I can't help but think of Alec Baldwin's character in Glengarry Glen Ross (BTW, it did take place in Chicago). And let's face it...it does help to be at least a little like Blake to be a big success in this business. But let's try to take an objective look at what it actually means to be a top producer and you tell me if I'm making good points here or if I'm totally governed by my own biases. I've learned a few things since I first wrote about this topic.
The Benefits Of Working With A Real Estate Top Producer
Experience. No doubt a top producer has seen more deals than most real estate agents and with that comes a deep well of experiences to draw upon. Odds are that they've seen it all and know how to deal with just about any situation that presents itself.
They can't be awful. One would think that a top producer could not get to the top of their field if they were a total goofball so there should be a certain security in working with these people.
The Flip Side Of Working With A Real Estate Top Producer
Experience. In general more experience is better than less experience but experience can be overrated. First, it has it's limits. If you believe the research of Anders Ericsson, popularized by Malcolm Gladwell, then it "only" takes about 10,000 hours of practice to become an expert at it. You can hit that in 4 years dedicating 50 hours per week, 50 weeks per year. In addition, if you follow that link I just gave you you can read about the research that shows that novices can often perform just as well as experts. In fact, prior to starting my real estate brokerage I made an entire career out of developing business insights that had escaped so-called experts in their field.
They can be awful. Sorry to say that some of the worst agents I've met are in fact top producers. Some of these guys can be really obnoxious. It really does help to be like Blake. The fact that they are able to succeed proves that the agent selection process used by consumers is seriously flawed.
The numbers don't mean what you think they mean. The fact of the matter is that many of the top producers actually head up a team, myself included, which allows them to leverage other people to goose their numbers. First, those other team members help them get more work done. Second, those other team members help bring in more business. All this business goes under the team leader's name. In addition, if an agent markets an entire development then their numbers are going to soar.
It's not always about closing deals is it? Top producers get credit for closing deals, not for serving clients well. A good agent is only "selling" real estate half the time on average - when they are marketing a listing. However, the other half of the time, when they are working with buyers, they should not be selling. They should be consulting and that's a huge difference. As a buyer do you really want your real estate agent to always be closing?
How much attention are you going to get? I can tell you from experience that once an agent has more than about four listings it becomes really difficult to handle all the showing requests. I can't tell you how many times we get turned down for showing requests by top producers who have scheduling conflicts. Their sellers never even know it's happening. And the same issue comes up in working with buyers who all want to go out on the same weekend. And if the top producer is using a team to work around the scheduling conflicts then there's going to be a loss of continuity.
What is the top producer going to DO for you? I never get tired of making this critical point. It's not about WHO the real estate agent is it's about what they are going to DO for you. You need to nail that down up front. And I guarantee you that 2 real estate agents doing the exact same thing are going to get the same results for your regardless of whether or not they sport that top producer logo.
Who is this top producer? OK. I lied. It does matter who the agent is - but not whether or not they are a top producer. It matters if they are smart, articulate, and have integrity.
Technology has replaced the personal network. There are still top producers out there promoting the value of their personal network. I'm sorry but that's just not the way the business is conducted today - except maybe at the extreme upper end. Technology has thankfully totally leveled the playing field. Listing hits the market and buyers instantly know it's out there.
Client conflicts. This is a subtle point that should not be missed. The more clients that one real estate agent has the more likely it is that there will be conflicts between the competing interests of these clients. For example, two similar units for sale in the same building represented by the same top producer or two buyers with similar criteria represented by the same top producer. Do you really want to be represented by the same realtor as your competition? Did you know that advertising, consulting, and law firms struggle with this problem all the time? It's not a good situation to find yourself in.
The Bottom Line
So I really think this top producer label is way overrated by realtors and consumers alike. It's nothing more than an extremely crude indicator of one sort of very narrowly defined success. But you know what? As long as you are going to pay attention to this sort of nonsense I'm going to keep displaying the logo on our Website and in our email signatures because that's the one thing this is really good for.