Matthew Ferrara, Philosopher

Matthew Ferrara vs. Mike Ferry: Resistance is Futile

smackdown What does it take to be a great salesperson in the 21st century? Watch the video of the debate and then decide if you can resist using social media in your strategy for the future.

This week, I had the opportunity to “debate” one of the real estate industry’s longest-standing coaches, Mike Ferry, as part of Coldwell Banker’s GenBlue Convention. It was staged as a “Smackdown” here in Las Vegas, home of many wrestling matches over the years. Part real debate, part over-the-top stage act, the goal was to let two different strategies for selling go head to head for the audience:

Relationship selling versus transactional selling.

The bootleg audience video, courtesy of our friend Chris Smith, is here for you to watch (hi res version to be released by CB later). In this post, it’s not my goal to “get in the last shot” or “win” but to challenge you to think about the issues. Plenty of other bloggers have done a good job taking Mike Ferry to task on this, such as Chris Nichols’ “Has Mike Ferry Lost his Mind?” and the comments on Chris Smith’s page. You can also search Twitter for #GenBlue and #Smackdown to see what the buzz has been.


I’ve waited until the end of the week to post anything, actually, for two reasons: I wanted to personally step back from the event and look at it purely as a learning experience, to help you sort out the issues; and because the rest of the social nets have been doing an awesome job of talking about this for me, anyway. Our Facebook Fans have soared by 200 alone this week, and Twitter followers up 25%. So I didn’t need to post this to make the story “more about me” rather than try to find the lessons.

Here is what I think they are:

  1. The essential question of the debate is: Who’s matters: You or the customer? Now, I firmly believe that if you work hard you deserve your success. But it’s the way you work with clients that matters as much. My presentation tried to be “about” the audience – something that left “them” smarter, happier, better, not me the “winner.” Mike’s presentation was about him. The same can be said about our approaches to selling.
  2. Does reputation matter? You could argue, as Mike did repeatedly, that some people “don’t have any time left” to work with indecisive buyers or hesitant sellers, and that they needed to find deals “now.” But at what cost? The first time you “dismiss” a customer who isn’t ready to buy “today” you become as “friendly” as the customer-service phone reps of big conglomerates we have all come to hate. And word gets around in the Twitter-age.
  3. Which approach accounts for the world that is emerging all around us? At one point, I truly felt like I was arguing with someone who still believed the earth was flat. My “FUTURE” argument tried to look at reality as it is, and incorporate it into our careers. If people are using the phone less, we need to find another way to connect with them. If they have become afraid to answer their doors to strangers, it seems strange to be the person knocking. If the research shows that over 65% of business comes from referrals, why would we burn through 100 cold calls a day to perfect strangers? It doesn’t mean we don’t need effective methods to qualify customers and manage our limited resources, like time. But I think it does mean we need to keep up with the times.

After a week of reflection, two ironies still strike me: First, if you stripped away Mike’s style, he has some sensible techniques that, if combined with modern technology, might make his clients truly unstoppable. Second, the “Smackdown” debate continues to rage online – it never stopped from the opening bell – on Twitter, blogs, Facebook and email. Yet the only person who isn’t in the discussion is Mike. Some of his clients have weighed in on these discussion; so, his clients are using social media to come to his defense. That should really say it all.

For twenty years, my mission has been to help clients see the world as it is, and adapt those changes into winning sales strategies. I have never done a workshop where there hasn’t been a lot of skeptics in the room. That’s the rule with change: people find it hard, will resist it, will even run back to safety of the past. But at some point, we all encounter the Future.

And as I frequently point out in my workshop, the next generation of consumers is likely to say to us: Resistance is Futile.

  • Paul

    Hi Matt, I have been following this “debate” for several days now and really enjoying the comments. It is more than just a generational difference, it’s much more entertaining than that. Mike was clearly playing to his market (Boomer agents, from whom he has extracted a very good living over the years I feel certain). Now, the smarty pants Gen Y (I think the X’ers skipped this debate altogether, as any good Slacker would) have got this fancy, dancy social media thing (re: Allen Simpson and his Poopy,Snoopy Dog and his M & M’s comments) that is challenging my way of life…He is shouting “Get off my lawn” at the top of his voice and his friends and colleagues are listening in agreement. The problem is, they are at the end of their house buying cycle. The future is for the younger generation, not the icons of the past. And, btw, I am a Boomer (big time)…I even drive an Oldsmobile, how’s that for a generational tatoo?

  • This discussion is just silly – a filler for a convention. The fact is you need to communicate with potential buyers and sellers in a variety of ways……social media is just a tool among others. And in today’s world you speak to people in a lot of ways.

    I think the real truth is that this industry if filed (really filled) with people who simply cannot do what it takes to be successful. And in the end, it is that way in many industries.

  • I agree you need to communicate with consumers in a variety of ways. I guess I just don’t agree it’s silly. :>

  • I agree with your points regarding Mike. What I really got out of his argument is that we need to be more aggressive contacting individuals and not just sit behind a computer and then I took your argument to say, use every medium we have available to get a hold of the person. In other words, combine old school and new school and become a Hybrid Agent, if you want to call it that. I myself don’t answer my home phone if I don’t recognize the number and I’m running into the same thing with expired listings. They’re either going to answer the phone or won’t answer. Which means I need to find other ways to get my message in front of them.

  • I am all in favor of great salesmanship. I’m not sure if “aggressive” is the right adjective, but I take your point: We need to be serious, dedicated and hardworking salespeople, and we can’t hide behind anything – postcard mailings, social media or floor duty. Definitely agree; and in this day and age, there are so many constructive ways to be great salespeople, why would we not want them ALL? :>

    Thanks for your comments!

  • Matt, I think your reflections very well sum up my feelings from the event. As I’ve said to many both at Genblue and also in many posts, Mike had some good points in salesmanship and having strong work ethics. It’s sad he continues to take the stance he made about new technologies to reach the consumer base. Could you imagine how dynamite his program could become if he integrated in just the slightest bit of social media? Fortunately for people like myself and you, he refuses to do so, which means we will continue to thrive as more agents realize the need to offer clients more than just a strong sales pitch.

  • Jeremy:
    I completely agree; it reminds me of someone who gets caught up in their own “self made story” and can’t break away from it. Mike has long been the “anti-tech” sales guy and perhaps it’s now impossible for him to grow beyond. It’s not that he isn’t capable; it’s that something is preventing him from making the choice. Maybe it’s the fact that some people keep buying his coaching “as is” and so it reinforces his belief that he’s “good enough as is” without changing…. but that will change as people look for other options, like yourself.

    Thanks for your comments!

  • Sean Carpenter

    Matthew – I enjoyed the “Smackdown” and appreciate you and Mr. Ferry’s efforts to prepare for this entertaining event. It’s clear that both of you realize the importance of “sales skills” to further any sales person’s success. Getting the client is the first step and then taking them all the way to the closing table is the majority of the “transaction.” Mike this this entire process can and should be done sans technology. But that’s like saying that all you need to do to win the Daytona 500 is have a driver who can turn left 800 times faster than anyone else.

    Technology is such a vital part of today’s society and the person who learns how to use it not only efficiently but effectively will accomplish more.

    Mike’s approach to the argument kind of reminds me of Steve Martin’s character, Navin R. Johnson, from The Jerk…”All I need is this thermos…and this MLS book…and this copy of the phone book……”

  • Gwen

    I attended the conference and witnessed the “Smackdown” I have been in the business for about 30 years and while I think the basics taught by Mike Ferry are extremely important – any agent who knows the basics and is not using the technical tools available will never make it with the youthful clients in todays market. I attended the break out session for both you and Mike and I was very uncomfortable with some of the cheap shots Mike took in his session. Thanks for keeping up the professional image that we all must continually strive for.

    Will your “Real Estate – The Next Generation” session from the conference be available on a cd. It was a great session. Thanks for all you do.

  • Thanks, Gwen. I appreciate your comments and agree that we have to keep up with the times!

    With regard to Real Estate, the Next Generation, there is a full 1-hour video version of the program inside our Learning Network that members can enjoy. Please visit to gain access to it and more than 200 other videos as well!

    – Matthew

  • Not so sure about you Matt

    Why iPhone will Never Beat Blackberry
    ● Posted by Matthew Ferrara on June 13, 2008

    You may think through this article of yours as it just does not look good. We didn’t see you pull Blackberry Pad out of your pants while on the stage there… did we? Get real man.

  • Hmmm. Let’s see. This blog entry is more than three years old… and…. I still hate typing on the screen. Blackberry keyboards rock. And there’s a difference between what I use for a phone and for a data reader / tablet.

    So “thinking through” this article I still stick to my main points. 🙂

  • Karen

    Matt, I have to tell you, I was tweeting /facebooking from Gen Blue in Las Vegas during the “smackdown” , and I get a text from a past client from Florida that recognized the Gen Blue Marquee at the Mirage. They asked if I was actually in Las Vegas, because They were in Vegas celebrating an anniversary. So I text them back to let them know I would call afterwards. I call and lo and behold, they were getting ready to retire and were ready to sell their home in New Mexico, and wanted to relocate to Texas. And since I helped them durning their last two transactions, they wanted me to assist in the next two! We met for dinner and I did a market analysis on the spot to seal the deal. So social networking is definitely about being in the right here right now. And still allows for that “face to face” time that Mike was talking about. But it gets better. They go back and post to Facebook they met with their Florida Realtor in Las Vegas and what had transpired and two more buyer referrals were the result! Tadaa!

  • This is an awesome story! Thanks for sharing it!

    Matthew Ferrara & Co. Mobile Transmission Complete.