TECH WARS! What’s Your Strategy?

Your job is to provide clarity. By doing so, you’ll alleviate agents’ anxieties about technology.

Gary Keller declares, “Keller Williams is no longer a real estate company. We are now a technology company.” He also pledges to invest $1 billion in technology. Ryan Schneider, president and CEO of Realogy announces, “Leveraging our untapped real estate data now takes center stage.” Compass and Redfin claim to have the best real estate technology. Zillow Instant Offers, Open Door, Offer Pad, and Purple Bricks are disrupting the industry with their technology platforms. What’s your strategy?

Are your people confused, anxious or afraid about these tech wars? As a leader, your No. 1 job is to clarify the future for them. Clarity is the antidote to anxiety. What’s your strategy? Here are some ideas that may help you.

First, take 10 minutes and watch Bill Chee’s famous “Hungry Lions Coming Over the Hill” speech on YouTube. Bill was 1993 NAR President and delivered his speech on April 26, 1993, to NAR’s Board of Directors. He predicted, “There is a high probability that the Realtor® organization will lose control over and direction of the MLS as it currently exists. We must allow greater public access versus being secret and exclusive. We must have a consumer focus versus a Realtor focus.” How prophetic 25 years ago!


At the time, Bill saw the hungry lions as IBM, Microsoft and media companies. Today, they are Zillow, Compass, and perhaps, at some point, Amazon. Bill missed the specific identities of the lions, but he was correct that, in the age of the internet-empowered consumer, our industry needs to be more consumer-centric. Which leads to the first of four fundamentals for building a tech strategy:

  1. Consumer Centric. Focus on what the consumer wants. This is often in conflict with what the agents want. Your leadership skills will be tested on this one. What is the common thread among all the industry disruptors (Zillow, Open Door, etc.)? They are consumer-centric whereas most of the real estate industry is agent-centric. Build your technology to be consumer-centric.
  2. Immutable Laws of the Internet. In their breakthrough 2000 book, The 11 Immutable Laws of Internet Branding, Al and Laura Ries clarify that your business, as it relates to the internet, will either be a market or a medium. It will not be both, and you will not decide. Your customer will. A market is where goods and services are sold—think Amazon and eBay. A medium is where people go for information—think Google and Zillow.

It’s fairly clear now that our industry, as it relates to the internet, is a medium, not a market. The early fears that consumers would “buy or sell a house with a mouse” have been resurrected recently by Open Door and Zillow Instant Offers. We’ll see if these disrupters can change this immutable law. It’s my understanding that in the first beta test of Instant Offers, only 1 in 80 sellers took the offer. The real game is generating 80 seller leads to sell to real estate professionals. Again, the strategy reverts to a medium versus a market. The fundamentals still say build your technology to be a medium.

  1. Nature of a Real Estate Transaction. Real estate transactions are infrequent (an average of every 8.18 years); high dollar (much higher than anything you are buying from Amazon); complex (not as simple as buying a book or an airplane ticket; uncertain (there are a lot of moving parts in a real estate transaction); and high risk (for all the reasons mentioned above). These five factors combine to require a human’s interaction. Build your technology to make it easier and to create smooth transactions that close on time.
  2. Power of Relationships. Thought leader Simon Sinek was asked what he thought about the new technologies being introduced in the real estate industry. His observation: “Human beings are social animals and relationships will always win. There is a small percentage of people who just want a transaction. Most want a relationship. Invest in your relationships. They are your most valuable asset.” Relationships are the “killer app.” Build your technology to enhance relationships. In Ninja Selling, we believe this is your CRM and your flow systems for consumers.

Much of the tech buzz involves big data, predictive analytics and artificial intelligent (AI). Here’s what Apple, Google, Microsoft and the leading tech companies are saying about AI, “The keys to figuring out AI are the sociology, the psychology, and the anthropology, not the technology.” This was their conclusion when their Association of Boards of Directors met at the most recent Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas. Their speakers were sociologists and anthropologists—not technologists.

The key is the human factor. How do humans relate to the technology? Is it friendly (R2D2) or is it a threat

(The Terminator)? Is it simple or is it confusing? Does it serve us or hurt us? Design your technology to serve your consumers and your agents—not to disrupt, confuse, use or bypass them—and you will have a winning strategy.

By Larry Kendall, author of Ninja Selling and chairman emeritus of The Group, Inc.