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Most sellers only interview one agent when choosing someone to sell their home. So it seems to us that is far more important than listing presentations. We explain why.

First, some data:

nar number of agents interviewed by sellers

This data, from the National Association of REALTORS Annual Profile of Buyers and Sellers (2010), raises an important question: Does the listing presentation really matter, if two out of three sellers only interview one agent before selecting them to sell their home? If the majority had interviewed two or more agents, it might seem that the listing presentation made a comparative difference in the decision making process. But since it’s only one, it begs the question:

Does securing the appointment matter more than what you say during it?

Now, we’re only slightly being facetious here. It’s logical to conclude that in two thirds of the cases, whatever the agent said during the listing presentation was sufficient to leave with listing. One possible explanation is that agents who secure listing presentations are sufficiently trained and equipped to close the deal 66% of the time. We certainly hope that’s the case, but there’s no real way to measure it.

On the other hand, what if the appointment really is more important than the listing presentation? Consider the implications: Companies and agents pour a tremendous amount of time and money into the mythic listing presentation. It’s no small exaggeration to say that, accounting for technology, training and time, it’s a serious chunk of change. Whether it’s a high-tech iPad presentation or a leather-bound printout, listing presentations consume an inordinate amount of resources for most brokerages.

But does it really matter?

It would seem that the real competitive advantage would be to secure the appointment. A mere 19% of sellers conducted a listing presentation duel, and we’re left to wonder what ultimately induced them to select one agent over another. Cynics might suspect it was the agent who agreed to list it at the most unreasonable price, offered the lower commission, or both. We prefer to think it was the agent with the best information and the most well-reasoned market advice. It’s probably important to have good data and give solid advice when meeting with prospective clients; but you have to get the appointment before any of that matters, right? You decide.

It’s hard to argue, though, that the appointment is less important than the presentation. which leads us to the next question: What’s the best way to secure the appointment? There’s data for that, too:

NAR - how sellers found agent  2010

Simply put: the most common ways sellers found their was through an established relationship. Put another way: Advertising didn’t do it. Nor did web sites. Or newspapers, postcards or refrigerator magnets.

Relationships matter if you want to list homes.

You see where we’re going. Anything that helps you maintain and nurture existing relationships is the path to securing future . It holds true for buyers as well: The same research shows that 64% of buyers interviewed only one agent. Whichever piece of the market you want, it’s about relationship prospecting. Not advertising.

What’s left for you to decide is: What’s the method my future clients want me to use to keep up with them? Will they go to lunch with you a few times a year? Will they answer the phone when you call asking for referrals? Do they stop by your office after getting your mailing piece? Do they accept your friend request on a social network?

Maybe it’s a little bit of everything. Or maybe we’re still wasting time, money and effort pretending that being busy is the same as generating business.

Maybe it’s not that hard to answer this question: Just look in the mirror. Do you get all weak-kneed when you open your junk mail? Is your phone number at the top of the Do Not Call list? Love spam? How frequently do go to lunch with your last real estate agent?

If you find yourself admitting that you “like” your favorite brands on Facebook, “follow” your trusted advisors on Twitter and “watch” the Old Spice Guy television commercial again and again on YouTube, then you have the answer to how to maintain relationships in the modern age.

More importantly, you’ll have a new perspective on just how much time and money should be spent getting appointments rather than preparing and presenting at them.

Just saying.