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5 Personality Traits that Make a Listing Agent Successful

This article is the second in our series on the findings of the recent scientific study my company conducted on the personalities of top performers in a variety of real estate roles. In the first article, I covered the background of the research so feel free to check those out there — “The personality traits that comprise top-performing buyer’s agents.”

Here’s what we found concerning the role of listing agents and what characteristics correlated with only the top-performing agents in that role.

The study:

  • Over a period of six months, we administered DISC and Values profiles to 8,791 total agents.
  • Of those, 3,237 were listing agents.
  • Of those, 679 (21 percent) were “top performers” (i.e., >50 transactions in a calendar year), with 2,558 (79 percent) constituting the control group (i.e., having sold less than 50).

The findings

We found statistically significant correlations in only the best-performing listing agents in the following areas:

More decisive

Top listing agents are more aggressive and assertive than top buyer’s agents — significantly. This quality can be a blessing and a curse in that though this tendency to be extra-decisive and dominant benefits them in prospecting for cold leads, aggressively hunting and closing, it can make them less than patient with buyers. The best buyer’s agents also had a level of D (the “decisiveness” dimension in the DISC profile) that was above the 50 percent line, but top listing agents averaged closer to 90 on a 0-100 scale.

This level of decisiveness is more typically seen in top-performing outside sales professionals in other industries, and it explains the one key variable that differentiates top performers — they proactively sell. Lower levels in the D dimension are more reactive and prefer to let new customers come to them. Such high levels in the D dimension don’t allow for passivity, shyness or uncertainty. Top listing agents are outgoing, hard chargers who prefer to persuade the world to agree with their ideas and opinions.

More extroverted

Top listing agents share a similar score as buyer’s agents in the “I” dimension in DISC (i.e., interactiveness) but still edge them out just a little bit. Top-performing listing agents are even more extroverted, more influential and more prone to be found doing the talking. The I dimension in DISC can sometimes be titled the “influencing” dimension.

People with high I scores love to talk. They love to express thoughts, feelings and emotions. When coupled with a high D, they like to convince and persuade. That’s why the combination of high D and I makes for such a great sales profile. The average top-performing listing agent had an I dimensional score above 75. As with anything, too much of a good thing is bad, and this dimension is no exception. By being so talkative and extroverted the high I risks being too pushy and can come across as “salesy” — especially to a more introverted prospect.

Less stable

Unlike top buyer’s agents, the best listing agents had a score in the S dimension of DISC (stability) that was below the line. They prefer less stability, predictability and structure, and they thrive on more chaos, uncertainty and an always-changing day.

In sales we know it’s vital to be comfortable with risk, which is also something a lower S actually prefers if not enjoys. Such a score equates to someone who is comfortable with not knowing what they will be doing tomorrow — or hell, in the next hour. A higher S score brings with it a greater preference for certainty, such as a schedule and outline of what the process will be.

Lower S types are more in favor of winging it and seat-of-the-pants business planning. Obviously, this approach can create its own problems, but more often than not it works in the outside hunter/gatherer salesperson’s mindset because they are free to adjust as need be to the ever-changing environment around them — and quickly.

Less accurate

Similar to even the best buyer’s agents, top listing agents also have a low score in the C dimension in DISC (conscientiousness). They basically suck at detail. Sure, they can manage it, but they don’t like to, and it doesn’t come naturally. They tend to be disorganized, messy, cluttered and all around chaotic, but they do so in a way that they somehow manage to figure out.

They are less concerned about how things will happen, and more with merely that they will happen. The unfortunate side effect of a very low C score is that they start a great many things but rarely finish most. They’re creators — not finishers. This is why the support of a strong team is an apparent benefit to such personalities because sales are negatively impacted when it is left exclusively to the listing agent to complete every single aspect of detail of the sale.

Super economic

Just like the best buyer’s agents, the best listing agents are — without a doubt — dominantly motivated by the economic dimension. As I talked about in the first article, this doesn’t mean strictly “show me the money.” The economic dimension is a motivation to see tangible and practical results directly from your work.

A sales job lends itself well to this motivation because the more you perform, the more commission you receive. It’s a direct relationship. This also explains why complicated, tricky or dynamic commission plans don’t go over well with this personality style. Make it convoluted and difficult to understand the details of what I’m going to earn on the sale of this next house, and you demotivate the hell out of me. These personalities want a clean and simple opportunity to earn rewards for their efforts. In this study the average score in the economic dimension as 90, which is three standard deviations above the norm (i.e., massively high).


The best-performing listing agents have some similar traits in common. Although quite similar to the best buyer’s agents, they differ mostly in being more aggressive (higher D) and more influential (higher I). They are also less stable (lower S), with one participant stating that his wife had said he was unstable for years.

This isn’t to say that we didn’t see anomalies in the study, where a single-digit percent of top performers were lower Ds or higher Ss. But, we found that those same people invested many years growing to the heights they occupy now. I’ve seen this in many other places and roles we’ve studied. There is no one perfect profile or style for any role. Anyone can be successful in any role. It’s just a matter of how hard they have to work, how long can they sustain that level of performance and if it’s realistic.

Although there were indeed exceptions, the personality characteristics described above allowed the top performers to achieve those results quickly, more effortlessly and more sustainably. Put another way: Both a Porsche and a Volkswagen can go 100 miles per hour. The question is, which one can do it better and with less effort, and which one is likely to blow up eventually?