The secret to a long, successful real estate career? Ditch the sales pitches and swagger. Just listen.

By Diane Terry

I am often asked what I feel is the secret to my 30-plus-year successful career. The answer for me is simple. It is understanding the importance of your listening skills. Stephen Covey said it best: No one cares how much you know until they know you care. I have seen fellow agents dish out thousands of dollars to learn “pitches” and, God forbid, “swagger.” I assure you there is not one past client I was honored to work with who cared about my swagger, and they would smell a sales pitch a mile away.

In the many listening workshops I teach and with the private coaching clients I have, we start first by understanding the type of listener you are. There are basically 11 listening modes to which we tend to default. You can find them in an excellent book called “Listen Like You Mean It,” by Ximena Vengoechea. It is very important to understand what your default mode is so you can be aware of your behavior and train yourself out of it.

For example, I am a problem-solver. The minute a client begins to share their problem, I am troubleshooting the issue five different ways in my mind. Before I learned to train myself out of this, I was so busy solving the problem that I was not staying present, remaining quiet and listening for the “real” problem, and probing for more.

All people need a bit of a warmup before they get to the core issue. So, they may give you what is easy to share, but unless you create a safe space and all the time in the world, then they are not going to trust you enough to share the REAL issue. The first problem shared is rarely the real one. If you do not know how to listen, you are going to waste your time showing how you can solve the wrong or incomplete problem.

When I meet sellers in their homes and I notice that I am doing the talking and not them, I silently reprimand myself with W.A.I.T. — “why am I talking”? I am learning nothing if I am doing the talking. Remember, “words conceal, silence reveals.” Get comfortable with silence. Did you know that in the U.S., people jump in after 4.6 seconds of silence due to discomfort? Contrast that to Japan, where it is 8.2 seconds. In the silence is a sea of possibilities.

Learn the type of listening style you default to in a client situation, and create a safe space for them to reveal what is most important to them. Learn how to ask great questions. Know how to probe deeper. Seeing good listening as a cooperative conversation vs. listening to “win” will serve you well, not only in business, but in all the areas of your life.

Who else would like to see a collective discussion of our industry revolve more around integrity, honor, work ethic, privilege, fiscal responsibility, a standard of excellence and the sacredness of our vocation? How about less of things like pitch, swagger, pay per click, buying leads, “use your buyers as bait” and sending unsolicited CMAs?

We are better than this. Let’s all hone our listening skills and become invaluable partners in our clients’ journeys of success.

Diane Terry is a 30-plus-year real estate professional in the Seattle area. She is the chairperson for Windermere Real Estate’s In City Standards of Practices Committee and has been for six years. She has recently parlayed her coaching and teaching skills into She offers talks, workshops and one-on-one coaching on listening skills, business planning, boundaries and women in business.

Elevating excellence: The high calling of real estate agents

By Dennis Jones

As real estate agents, we live our lives in the world of diverse property types, complex transactions, ever-changing market conditions and demanding client expectations. Some agents, especially those with limited experience, stumble over the complexities.

A recent incident on an online forum caught my attention, as an agent who had managed to snag a $1.5 million listing was seeking advice on how to effectively market the property to attract buyers. By his own admission, he had no idea where to start.

This scenario, while seemingly innocent, brought a disturbing reality to the forefront. Imagine a surgeon, right before a critical operation, asking his peers on social media, “What’s the best way to perform open-heart surgery?” Seems absurd, right? As real estate professionals, we are tasked with guiding individuals through one of the most significant financial transactions of their lives. And we are expected to know what we are doing.

The growing number of licensed real estate agents presents a double-edged reality. While a wave of fresh talent joins our industry every year, the regulatory bodies have set a low bar of entry. This has flooded our industry with many novice agents who lack the knowledge required to handle the complex responsibilities inherent to our profession. It’s unsettling to think that the owner of a $1.5 million home hired a real estate agent who has “no idea” how to market it. Yet, this situation is not unique; it is symptomatic of a broader issue where agents lack the skills and expertise to perform their roles effectively.

Thankfully, the remedy is within our reach, and it’s not an insurmountable task. The solution involves plugging our knowledge holes with personalized training and mentorship tailored to our needs. As more and more agents willingly submit themselves to expert instruction and commit to mastering necessary skills, our industry can not only weather this storm, but also use it as a catalyst for improvement. By integrating a strong mentorship program with an unwavering commitment to personal and professional development, we can equip agents with the tools they need, fostering a workforce of well-prepared and confident professionals.

Our profession is one of the highest callings of all consumer service careers. We are not just facilitating a financial transaction; we are guiding individuals and families through a process that significantly affects their lives. The trust placed in us is immense, comparable to few other service providers. It is a mantle we should wear with honor and pride.

So, fellow agents, it’s high time we kick it up a notch and commit ourselves to the continuous pursuit of excellence. Embrace learning, sharpen your skills and renew your commitment to serving your clients at the highest possible level. Not only will this raise your game, but it will also help lift the bar of professionalism across the industry.

A central pillar of this professional development is constant and clear client communication. By keeping clients in the loop, we foster trust, prevent misunderstandings and facilitate smoother transactions. This sets apart the professionals from the amateurs. By placing a spotlight on communication, we not only improve our service, but also contribute to creating a higher industry standard.

Every listing, whether valued at $500,000 or $1.5 million, represents someone’s dream, someone’s investment and someone’s financial future. Such significant stakes demand nothing less than our utmost professional dedication and competence.

Just as a surgeon understands exactly where to make an incision well before they walk into the operating room, we should aim to become knowledgeable, competent and dependable professionals who preserve the honor and the high calling of our profession.

Dennis Jones is the author of “62 Tips for Real Estate Professionals,” and the founder of RARE Agents, a virtual coaching and mentoring program for Really Awesome Real Estate Agents. Jones has been training, mentoring and coaching agents for over 20 years.

Email Dennis at or visit for more information.