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First Person

Why Alissa Harper Believes Agents Need Technology to Help Fuel Their Relationships

“My stance is very firmly that technology needs to help power and fuel the relationship but it can never replace that kind of belly to belly, face to face component.”- Alissa Harper, Senior Vice President of Strategic Growth at Inside Real Estate

Here are a few highlights:

  • How technology can help scale an agent’s business
  • Why being in the moment is better than perfect when it comes to connecting with your clients.
  • How deep engagement creates numerous business benefits

Rather read it? Check out the transcript here:


Mike Schneider: Welcome back to another episode of First Person. And today I have Alissa Harper here. She's the VP of Growth at Buyside, a real estate tech and data company (now the Senior VP of Strategic Growth at Inside Real Estate) . We'll hear a little bit about that, um, but we-- as always, we're gonna be talking about the intersection of relationships and business, particularly in real estate. So, uh, our company's called First and we like to rewind all the way back to some of the firsts. How did you decide, why did you get into real estate?

Alissa Harper: Yeah. Crazy story and thanks so much for having me here today. Um, so I actually got involved in real estate, way back when I was 16 years old. I grew up riding horses, pretty competitively and it's an expensive sport. My 16 year-old brain thought, "What's a career path that will give me a flexible schedule and has uncapped earning potential?" And so my, again, 16 year-old brain, naive brain said, "Real estate." So my first job was actually at a John L. Scott brokerage, just outside of Seattle. And I went in when I was 16, was the office manager for a couple of years, got my license when I was 18 and then moved over to the tech side of the business. And the rest is history. 

Mike Schneider: Wow. So you've been in this-- you've known this industry from a lot of different angles.

Alissa Harper: Yeah.

Mike Schneider: Um, talk a little bit about, just, relationships and real estate at a high level first.

Alissa Harper: Yeah.

Mike Schneider: Because I think that it's always interesting hearing different vantage points on that.

Alyssa Harper: Yeah, absolutely. Um, you know, I've spent almost half my life now in the real estate tech space. My initial root's on the residential sale side of the business and now more recently in tech. And I think, you know, it's interesting. As we focus a lot of our time and energy, especially at conferences like this, talking about technology and, you know-- is technology, kind of, disintermediating, --

Mike Schneider: Right.

Alissa Harper: --the agent and the consumer? My stance is very firmly that technology needs to help power and fuel the relationship but it can never replace that kind of belly to belly, face to face component. Real estate is unique in that it's a very infrequent, highly emotional, transaction, in time in most people's lives. And I think, ultimately, they need someone to, kind of, shepherd them through that process and technology can help empower agents to do that but, it certainly can't replace that, that human element.

Mike Schneider: Yeah. Totally agree. And I think that's one of the interesting things as we have these conversations, is hearing how that actually plays out on the ground. And I'm curious. You know, you spent some time in the real estate tech world and now with some of data side of things. 

Alissa Harper: Yeah.

Mike Schneider: How do you see the relational, relationships driving agents business particularly? Or, or on your side, how, how--

Alissa Harper: Sure.

Mike Schneider: --it drives your business in connecting with brokerages?

Alissa Harper: Yeah. I mean, I think it's, it's everything on both sides of the fence. Um, I'll start on kind of the, the real estate side of things for agents. Um, I mean, their relationships are by far their most important asset, right?

Mike Schneider: Mmhmm. Agreed.

Alissa Harper: You ask just about any agent out there, they'll say that the majority of their business comes from repeat referral. Um, I think that's true, with the caveat that it's really difficult as you scale and as you grow your business and potentially grow to a team or even at the brokerage level,  to scale that personal touch. Right?

Mike Schneider: Yup.

Alissa Harper: And so that's where the technology needs to come into play, to really help them scale and, and help them maintain that human element, across a larger audience, larger number of people. Um, so I think it's really critical--

Mike Schneider: Yeah.

Alissa Harper: --especially as you grow and expand the business. 

Mike Schneider: Yeah, that's been an interesting dynamic we've seen at First too, is that the traditional wisdom has been, "Since you only have a certain amount of time, you can only fit the people in that are the top referrers because that's gonna be the repeat business source.

Alissa Harper: Yeah.

Mike Schneider: And now, with a lot of technology you can actually change the math on some of that in terms of who else you might focus on with that limited amount of time.

Alissa Harper: Yeah.

Mike Schneider: I think that's really interesting. But to your point, it's still about building a relationship.

Alissa Harper: Yeah.

Mike Schneider: So you-- so you're in sales. I'm curious. Do you have any tips or tricks for people that you, in terms of how you follow up with people and maintain longer term relationships?

Alissa Harper: Yeah. I have to say, our customers are probably more equipped to answer this cause I'm not great at follow up, not as great as I should be.

Mike Schneider: [laughter]

Alissa Harper: I will say, I don't know if this is a, tip or a trick but I will say one of the things that I'm really focused on right now is just,  pushing off on that, that procrastination, right? 

Mike Schneider: Mmhmm.

Alissa Harper: So being willing to, just dive in and act now with, you know, whether it's a marketing message or a personal follow up. It's really easy, I think, for all of us in our roles to, kind of feel like the message needs to be perfect, or you need to have a really buttoned up strategy. And I think, especially when it comes to connecting with people, do it in the moment. Let it be authentic and just get it done. Get the message out there. Connect, with whatever's relevant, whatever's happening at that moment. Just do it. Don't hesitate. Don't procrastinate.

Mike Schneider: Just do it. 

Alissa Harper: Yeah.

Mike Schneider: There's no time like the present.

Alissa Harper: Exactly. You said it much better than I could.

Mike Schneider: Yeah. No. I-- that's just a mantra that I've adopted over time. But I think that's a really good tip or trick is, don't worry about making it perfect.

Alissa Harper: Yeah.

Mike Schneider: Um, get it out. Keep the progress going when-- I think that's true of most relationships.

Alissa Harper: And honestly, I mean, timing is everything. That's what's so interesting about, tools like First and some of the work that we're doing at Buyside is, you know, data is really helping us identify those right times to connect with people in ways that we never could before. Right? It's giving us insight, it's giving our agents insight into, you know, when a life event might be happening and now it's relevant. It's the right time to reach out. Um, so doing it but also knowing when the right time to do it--

Mike Schneider: Yep.

Alissa Harper: --is kind of a winning combination. 

Mike Schneider: So, you mentioned procrastination, which I understand cause you invariably end up with this massive inbox and at some point something falls through the cracks. Any tips or tricks on how to re-engage?

Alissa Harper: Oh, that's a good question. I mean, I think, for me, candidly I'm more of an introverted person so when I build relationships, I really wanna get to know the person--

Mike Schneider: Mmm.

Alissa Harper: --and, um, have something a little bit deeper than your traditional surface level relationship. So I think if you know your audience and you know things about them that are more than just the, the surface level, you know, 'what's going on with the weather or the latest conference topic,' you're able to engage on a deeper level. Um, and so that makes it easier to kind of reach out and, and ask them about how something's going on with their kids or something that's more significant, more meaningful. 

Mike Schneider: Yeah, the smalltalk gets old very quickly.

Alissa Harper: It does.

Mike Schneider: Um, how do you get the--

Alissa Harper: It's tough for me.

Mike Schneider: Do you bring that up? So you're in a broker meeting or sales, are you getting into that level of conversation or is that happening in person when you're meeting?

Alissa Harper: Yeah.

Mike Schneider: What-- how do you do that.

Alissa Harper: For me, in person's always preferred.

Mike Schneider: Yeah.

Alissa Harper: I think it just creates a better opportunity to engage deeper and get to know somebody. I think that's key, in our business, both on the technology side of things as well as in residential real estate. For agents out there, you gotta understand what's important to people. Right? We work with large brokerage and franchise organizations and as you engage with different stakeholders, they all have something different at play, whether it's somebody in a franchise sales role,  a manager that's tasks with recruiting and retention, or somebody driving the launch of a new technology initiative. They all have different goals and things that they're trying to accomplish. And so being able to understand the nuances of those individuals and what matters to them, is super important, you know?

Mike Schneider: Yeah.

Alissa Harper: Not a one size fits all approach, you know?

Mike Schneider: Right. Well, I love that. I think that's a good reminder is, it's always better in person. And then, to your point, can you get a little bit deeper in the conversation or, and, or just add it onto the conversation. I think that's the other thing-

Alissa Harper: Yeah.

Mike Schneider: --is, um, you led with horseback riding. If you know someone's, you know-- if you can get to their hobbies--

Alissa Harper: Yeah.

Mike Schneider: --and understand where they're at. I think that, you’re always wrestling with this tension of the relationship side and being salesy, and you're in Growth and Sales. What's something that you would share, wish you had known earlier, about how to manage relationships and not come across as pushing the sale too hard?

Alissa Harper: Yeah. That's a great question. I think, for me it's-- you know, we deal with a lot of, timing in our industry, right? I think agents do in, their roles as well, dealing with buyers and sellers. I think being respectful of, of people's personal timing is important and kind of balancing. You know, you might have some pressing needs to get a deal in the door. But recognizing that the longer term relationship and adding value, along the way and in accordance with your perspective clients timeline is critical. And that pays dividends down the road. So kind of balancing the urgent with the valuable long term relationship, has been pretty critical I think.

Mike Schneider: Yeah. Well, you were an agent, you work with a lot of brokerages. Is there anything that you've seen, or that you'd recommend in terms of, how to invest further in relationships? From a technology standpoint, you mentioned some stuff with Buyside in terms of the data, or anything that you're seeing that you think is a, is a shift there? It seems like this is a big topic of conversation--

Alissa Harper: Yeah.

Mike Schneider: --and to your point, people attribute most of their business. But what's happening-- what are you seeing out there?

Alissa Harper: Yeah. I mean, lots of shifts going on in, in the real estate space. I, I would say, you know, you gotta understand your customer and the consumers today are used to convenience in just about every aspect of their life. I think that's really a driving force behind a lot of the real estate, technology--

Mike Schneider: A lot of this change.

Alissa Harper: Yeah. The different models that we have entering the space. So understand your customer and what they need, and then adopt the technology that's gonna work for you, you know? It's an age old saying but the best serum is the one that you use. So figure out the tool sets that are gonna work for you and integrate into your workflow, into the workflow of your team or your brokerage. And, and don't just buy something to check it off the list. You need to actually know that you're gonna be able to invest the time to implement it and integrate it into your business. 

Mike Schneider: That's great. And I think your point earlier of all the technology and all of the data is here to help you get into--

Alissa Harper: Yeah.

Mike Schneider: --that one on one conversation, that relationship. That's where the business comes from.

Alissa Harper: Yeah. Absolutely. 

Mike Schneider: Well, thanks for being on, Alissa. Appreciate it.

Alissa Harper: Thanks so much for having me, I appreciate it.

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