Are High Earners Great Business People?

J Philip Faranda January 13, 2011

Superbowl quarterback, high earner, maybe not so great at ice hockey. Or real estate. A few events lately have me asking why agents defer their professional opinions to the client when the reason lies squarely on their income and no other fact germane to the negotiations. I’ll explain: On more than one transaction, a buyer agent has punctuated their latest negotiation with the remark “and my client is a doctor too” or “she’s an analyst on Wall Street, got it?” I get it. But how does one have anything to do with the other? Understanding the quarterly profit of a tech stock or how to remove a gall bladder does not make you an expert in real estate transactions. 

Doctors are often happy to observe this. My older brother, a financial consultant with a number of physican clients, confirms it. Knowing how to read an X-Ray is far different from understanding how to manage one’s finances or construcingt a real estate transaction. The same goes for computer programmers, actors, big-time publishers, and Wall Street types. I have clients who lost money with Bernard Madoff and other scam artists. Were they unskilled wage earners? No! they were an attorney and an endocrinologist. 

I think that it boils down to the idea that some agents get a little intimidated by prestige or income rather than trusting their own professional skills. A true professional client should appreciate some give and take, input, advice, and even the odd uncomfortable message. They shouldn’t want a “yes agent.” We don’t have to debate. We simply owe them a heads up when we see them veer. A plumber wouldn’t fix a toilet the homeowner’s way to just pacify them- who wants a sewage backup? Why then do agents let their clients wag the dog? 

Professional skill sets can translate to other fields, but I wouldn’t bet a transaction on it. I am no more qualified to remove a kidney than a nephrologist is to negotiate a short sale. Rather than be a deer in the headlights with high-earning clients who, though confident, are out of their area of expertise, we owe clients better: advice, the downside of their idea, clear communication, and respectful disagreement where it is merited. From that position we can manage expectations better and affect a better outcome. 

We are not lower on the food chain when it comes to our profession. More agents need to understand this, and consumers shouldn’t be mislead by their paycheck either.  

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