The perfect hybrid: a tech savvy agent who listens

Meeting the PropTech needs of young, digitally savvy agents has never been more important. But, as Nigel O’Neil explains, this needs to be coupled with an ability to listen and commitment to great customer experience to generate business growth.

As with any business, real estate agencies need generational change. Recruiting youth is the lifeblood of continued business success.

But your young recruits are going to be digital natives; they have never known a world that isn’t plugged in.

How do you meet their tech-savvy needs – and in particular PropTech – without chasing every shiny new app and platform?

And, how do you get them to look up from their screen and listen to clients?

The buzz about PropTech is deafening – and with good reason.

The developments in the real estate space have exploded, with investors throwing large amounts of money in the hope of striking the next ‘big thing’.

Arguably the PropTech market is saturated with myriad of value-add technology being promoted to agents as a game-changer.

But, the big question remains: As an agency owner, how do you determine which piece of technology is the best to help your agents achieve premium results for your clients in terms of efficiency, performance, and cost? 

One thing is certain; we must learn and adapt or risk being left behind.

But, how do we avoid making the wrong decision due to the fear of missing out?

The trick is to have a plan, a vision of what you want to achieve, and then break it down into the technical functions that will help you build the end goal.

When choosing which apps and platforms are going to re-shape your business, you need to consult with your agents who are using the technology daily, as well as someone with real tech skills.

You need an expert who can steer you in the right direction on functionality, compatibility with your existing CRM and technology and help mitigate any pitfalls.

Don’t be lured into an expensive commitment based on the fact that ‘Xyz agency has just bought this’.

Listen to your expert and save time and money 

Don’t be afraid to ask tech suppliers for in-office trials (not demonstrations) and get various people, with different technical aptitudes, to put the program through its paces. 

Here are a few tips that can help you assess the value of products:

  • Make sure there is an end benefit for your clients.
  • Make sure the benefit to your business is significant – not just at the margins.
  • Ask yourself, is it meeting a known need? Or is it just nice to have?
  • Measure the projected savings in dollars and/or time for the agent and the customer.
  • What’s the total cost to purchase or lease, implement and maintain?
  • How simple is it to use? Busy agents won’t use a complex tool.
  • Sustainability – who is backing it, what are the planned developments and how frequent are those updates?
  • Service guarantees? Many a clever product, when brought to market, can’t service its success.

Look up and listen

Now that your agents are happily leveraging technology to grow their business, how do they take advantage of the new opportunities the better use of technology provides and ramp up their conversion rate?

Research shows that one of the most important things an agent can do to impress someone and win their confidence is to listen and then demonstrate that they have understood their specific needs.

There’s no tech for this.

Hearing is a function of your ears interpreting sound, whereas active listening is thoughtfully paying attention and giving real consideration to what is said.

And that’s a skill.

Scripts and dialogues don’t teach this, but you can do exercises with your team to show them how to listen.

Tell one person (where others can’t hear) a short but detailed story. They then tell the next person what they were told (out of earshot of others) and that person tells another person and so on until the last person is told.

Then the first person recites what they were told before the last person reveals the message they received.

The chances are that it’s a different story. You can go back down the chain and work out where the details got muddied – who wasn’t listening.

Keep practising until the first and last stories match.

Tip: you might want to confiscate all devices beforehand. 

One thing is certain, PropTech is here to stay and is best served as an extension of existing real estate skills and resources.

Agencies that provide the right technology to increase leads and improve customer experience, as well as instilling in their young recruits the importance of relationship-based listening and listing, have the best chance of implementing successful generational renewal.

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Nigel O'Neil

Nigel O’Neil is the Head of Growth at Barry Plant. For more information go to