In between sessions at the Inman Connect conference in New York, everyone’s on their phones in the hallways. They’re bound to be conducting business in one way or another. If I know real estate people, they’re checking messages, sending contracts, and negotiating deals in what free time they have. But now in the third day of the conference, I can count on one hand the number of people I’ve seen over the last few days put their phone to their ear and actually talk.
We all know technology has changed the way we communicate, and we don’t have to be face-to-face or talk on the phone to get things done. But it’s not about whether you have to; it’s about whether you should, even if you don’t have to. Practitioners constantly make the point that this business is built on relationships, so I would have expected to see more attendees step out to make a quick phone call — to make a personal connection to someone who’s relying on them back home. But instead, they’re texting, scrolling, tweeting, or doing whatever else the whole time. If they are, in fact, doing business from their seats, it speaks volumes to how they choose to connect to their clients.
I don’t mean to sound accusatory. Technology has made real estate an amazingly efficient business in many respects, and practitioners have been wise to take advantage of that. But, man, it’s a sign of the times when all these real estate folks — some of the most social people I know — can go days on end without talking on the phone. Doesn’t anyone — especially a client — need a voice on the other end of the line anymore?
Leigh Brown mentioned having the same observation when she spoke at Inman Connect on Wednesday. “There are things in real estate that don’t change despite technology: Those who hustle succeed,” she said. “They pick up the phone and call people. I’ve seen only a handful of people doing that in the hallway. People are allergic to their phones.” (She meant talking on their phones.)
To be fair, it’s not just the younger crowd I see operating in this manner. Yes, attendees at Inman Connect skew younger, but there are a fair number of older practitioners here, too. And they’re all texting instead of talking.
For all I know, they could be going back to their hotel rooms at the end of the day and spending hours making phone calls and catching up with clients, friends, and family. But I doubt it. It’s become easier to stay connected in a disconnected way, and to some extent, we’re all guilty of it. But this conference has provided a moment for me to reflect on how so many of us have made convenience the priority in the way we operate. And I’m not going to press the “ignore” button on that.