Public opinion of real estate agents is generally, well, abysmal. Okay, agents aren’t thought of as poorly as attorneys or politicians. But they come nowhere near inspiring the kind of trust that nurses and schoolteachers do. The fine people at Gallup have the numbers to prove it.

Agents in the high-stakes, high-intensity New York City real estate market are taking measures to improve their clients’ perception and improve their businesses. Rather than focusing their professional development on quick-money seminars, they are investing in advice from “business development coaches” — also known as charm school for brokers.

Can’t afford the tuition? Here are our favorite tips:

  • stop talking and practice the art of being a good listener;
  • banish “yes” or “no” questions from your client meetings, ask open-ended questions and actually learn something about your client’s needs;
  • don’t be afraid of asking the tough financial questions up front — it saves everybody’s time in the end;
  • turning off the cell phone shows your client they are your top priority; and
  • practice building personal relationships with your clients — they are people, not leads.

All this charm coaching was actually encapsulated in Dale Carnegie’s seminal self-help book published in the 1930s: How to Win Friends & Influence People. Carnegie’s book proposes that the best way to connect with a person — gain their trust so you can gain them as a client — is to take a genuine interest in who they are and actually listen to what they have to say.

Remember, when you are a real estate agent you are not actually selling houses, you’re selling your ability to effectively represent another person in a real estate transaction. Yes, cunning and a killer-instinct may help you to close that big deal. But building quality relationships is the key to a successful long-term career.