In today’s tech-obsessed world, we’re often told that technology is the answer—to happiness, to health, to success. That’s certainly true in real estate, and it looks like agents and brokers are starting to listen. According to the NAR, the average broker spends about $1,400 a year on tech. Agents, meanwhile, are spending $850 a year on average, with 20 percent spending over $2,000.
I think a lot of people get stuck with CRMs…because their process is so systematized, that they forget to be human.
— BILLY EKOFO
But while they can certainly help you build a leaner, smarter, more efficient real estate business, technology has its limits. For Billy Ekofo, who serves as Director of Leads Management at Century21 Redwood Realty, even the best digital tools for real estate can only go so far in helping agents connect with buyers and sellers.
“Yes, I worry about conversion. I have to. It’s part of my work,” Billy explained. “But I don’t worry from just the perspective of numbers…in the end of the day, those are real people with real needs that we are trying to help.”
Billy’s path to real estate has been unique, to say the least. Born in the U.S., Billy spent most of his childhood in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. At 17, he escaped that country’s social and political upheavals and returned to the States, where he learned English and ultimately attended business school.
Today, Billy is in charge of ensuring that agents across ten offices in the Washington, D.C. area have the tools they need to connect with prospects online. But Billy will be the first to tell you that converting leads isn’t just about great software: it’s also about making a real emotional connection with people.
Unfortunately, Billy told us, many agents get so focused on dialing in their technology that they lose sight of the human element. “I think a lot of people get stuck with CRMs…because their process is so systematized, that they forget to be human,” he said. “And so, having a system that allows you to…break that barrier between system and lead, to be that person to answer the need, is key.”
In addition to connecting with consumers on a human level, Billy also highlights the importance of serving the larger community as a real estate professional. “Think about the amount of businesses and people that cross path with a Realtor,” Billy explained. “An agent is a conduit for a lot of things to happen: we have title companies, we have non-profit organizations, lenders. The real estate agent is in the middle of that, and able to interact with all these people who have different functions in the community.” By taking a community-oriented approach to real estate, Billy says, agents can reap incredible rewards even when times are tough.
In this interview, Billy offers his unique insights on how to bring online leads into the real world, and explains why the best real estate professionals think of themselves not just as agents, but as agents of change.
- Matt & Seth