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January 9, 2017

We Default To The Level Of Our Training

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Written by Bob Hunt on Monday, 09 January 2017 3:12 pm


Recently I was reminded of an adage that I learned from a Marine Corps fighter pilot: "People don't rise to the occasion; they default to the level of their training."

Many real estate companies know this, and it is why they provide, or send their agents to, all sorts of training.

For the most part, the training programs available to agents are likely to have to do with what we call "sales skills". They learn what to say and how to say it with respect to first contacts -- telephone calls, people met at open houses, etc. Agents learn scripts to use in different situations. They learn what to say when they encounter objections of one sort or another. Some agents -- some very good agents -- will practice their scripts and dialogues over and over again.

The scripts become not canned verbiage, but ingrained habits of thinking and responding to different kinds of situations. And, when the situation arises -- when the buyer raises concerns about the interest rate, or when the seller says that there is another neighborhood agent who will list for a lower commission rate, the well-trained agent won't have to rise to the occasion -- to think of something on the spot -- he will default to his training. And that's a good thing.

So far, so good. Real estate agents are sales people. The California license is for a real estate salesperson, and it is good for them to perfect their craft.

But they are also agents. And, as agents, they have duties to their clients. Those duties include providing competent representation in often complex transactions. In short, it is all well and good that agents may be trained in the arts of contacting people, working with them, and, ultimately, getting them into contract. But those agents should also be trained to be equally (or more) adept at constructing and completing transactions that are beneficial to their clients.

It is my observation -- not a scientific study, to be sure -- that, on the whole, real estate companies tend to fall somewhat short when it comes to providing training to their agents when it comes to the business of training them in actually conducting the business of real estate.

This is not to say that no such training occurs. Most companies will see to it that they either provide a session on how to complete a standard purchase contract or they will encourage their agents to attend such a course. But this pales in comparison to the training that is designed to show agents how to get someone to make an appointment, agree to a listing contract, or sign a purchase contract.

Agents need to be good at those things, to be sure. But there are other competencies they should have as well. They should be able to understand a title report, to explain an escrow closing statement, to determine whether their client has received required disclosures, etc. etc.

When situations get sticky in a real estate transaction, when questions arise regarding contract interpretation or legal requirements, one can't expect that agents will rise to the occasion. They will default to the level of their training. Regrettably, that training may all too often be insufficient to the occasion.

Bob Hunt is a director of the California Association of Realtors®. He is the author of Real Estate the Ethical Way. His email address is


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