The Value of Professional Designations

There seems to be some conflict among real estate practitioners regarding the value of earning the professional designations that are available within the industry, and of the benefits of promoting them, once they have been earned.

While simply possessing designations does not guarantee either professional competency or quality of service, there are many benefits to pursuing such credentials.

Regardless of your personal position, it can be safely said that an agent who has earned professional designations is likely to be more competent than they were before attending the classes that entitled them to use such designations.

The same can be said of those who earn college degrees, pass the bar or earn CPA certification.

Given this, those that earn real estate designations are likely to provide better service, on average, than those who do not have these credentials.

Realizing this, I always send business referrals to agents with designations, not because it guarantees the "quality of their work" but because it increases the "probability" that they will provide quality service, and that's a good thing.

Granted, there's no "sure bet" with probabilities. I could provide you with five of the six winning lottery numbers for next week's drawing and if you can only buy one ticket (as in having just one client to refer) you still have no guarantee of winning the whole jackpot, just much better odds.

From a personal perspective, I have strongly believed in the value of professional education and designations from the beginning of my career. I obtained my GRI in just over a year of obtaining my license, earned my CRS the next year and my CRB a couple of years after that.

Along the way I also took plenty of classes that did not lead to any particular professional designation.

Why do I feel so strongly about the value of both designations and the education required in earning them?

I can guarantee you that this course of action improved the quality of my services greatly, and also gave me a competitive edge over my competition. Both of these provided very valuable benefits to me.

The improvements came from what I learned and how I applied that knowledge to my business practices. The competitive edge came from the public's perception of my credentials.

For most, the first issue makes perfect sense. However, many practitioners greatly underestimate the value of promoting their designations to members of the public.

I often hear statements such as

"nobody but a real estate agent knows what these designations stand for, so why bother putting them on your card?"
While it's true that the average consumer has no idea of what it takes to become a real estate agent, and certainly does not know what our industry's designations stand for, there are still great opportunities available in actively promoting your credentials.

Here are the two most common examples that I can share, from my personal history, that demonstrate the value of promoting professional designations to the public.

  1. When a consumer would look at my business card and ask (as many do) "What's a GRI?" it gave me the opportunity to promote myself. I would simply respond by casually mentioning that "Getting licensed only requires a 40-hour course and passing a multiple choice test (in Michigan, anyway) but that the real knowledge necessary to provide quality service comes after licensure, through advanced study."

    Consumers don't need to be overwhelmed by details in order to realize that there is significance in earning professional designations.

  2. One of the most successful pages in my listing presentation contained a current breakdown of designations earned by members within my own board.

    After getting agreement that the potential client did, in fact, want to hire a competent and qualified professional, I could narrow my competition with the marketplace in just 30 seconds.

The layout of this page in my listing presentation was very simple:

Total Membership:850
Number with GRI:143
Number with CRS:26
Number with CRB:9
Those that have earned all three:5

I further broke down the numbers into percentages, and while the numbers I've used here are approximate, the last line was always within the 3-6 range during the years that I was active in selling real estate.

While you may or not personally be impressed by such comparisons, I can assure you that it was more than moderately persuasive from the consumer's point of view; and there's an obvious value to the agent who uses this strategy in their presentations.

For anyone who doesn't immediate recognize the value of designations in interacting with members of the public, I can quickly summarize based on known psychological principles.

In the absence of having all of the potential knowledge necessary to make an informed decision, which is seldom possible, humans rely on "clues" to help them make their daily decisions.

On of the clues that they look for is the appearance of "authority," whether it is real or simply perceived.

Reliance on the appearance of authority is seldom done on a conscious level, but is instead "programmed" into us over a lifetime of experiences that dictate that we give more respect and credibility to those in positions of authority.

This is not to say that we all blindly follow authority. We are simply more likely to listen to, and believe, those who are perceived as authorities on some subject matter, than to those who are not.

Finally, professional designations convey the appearance of authority. This is what makes them much more powerful in affecting consumer's decisions than most of us would realize on a conscious level.

Whether you wish to pursue professional credentials simply for the education they provide, for the strength of their power to persuade others, or both, you are to be commended and will surely be more successful for your efforts.

The content of this article is based on my seminar:
Prospering Through The Power of Persuasion
Stephen M. Canale
Contact Stephen

Preparing Professionals for Competition in Tomorrow's Marketplace
Copyright©1995-2005 Stephen M. Canale