Teaching how to sell

By Andrew Jenner | January 13th, 2015

Working with Real Estate Digital, Darren Kipfer '96 specializes in teaching real estate agents how to use technology.

Working with Real Estate Digital, Darren Kipfer ’96 specializes in teaching real estate agents how to use technology. (Photo by Jon Styer)

If you’re a real estate agent in 2014, having a website isn’t an option. It’s a must. That can be challenging, though, because you may well be about 56 years old – the average real estate agent’s age in 2014 – and you’ve probably been in the business since long before “website” was a part of the vocabulary.

That’s where Darren Kipfer ’96 comes in. A regional sales director for Real Estate Digital, Kipfer spends nearly all his time on the road selling customizable websites and related software that allow real estate agents to focus on the core parts of their business.

“Most real estate agents are not computer programmers, nor should they be,” said Kipfer. “Their business is a people and relationships business. I can help them use these sometimes-complicated tools to further their business. To me, it’s about helping others get what they want, and I find that very rewarding.”

After EMU, Kipfer spent three years as a second-grade teacher before his growing interest in technology led him to an instructor role with a software company and, since 2005, into technology sales. He’s been with Real Estate Digital since 2011, and works in numerous states from his home base in suburban Washington D.C. 

On paper, Kipfer’s job is selling things. But he considers himself more of a teacher than a salesman, and looks back on his education at EMU and subsequent teaching experience as ideal preparation for what he’s doing now.

“It’s been a huge benefit to have that background,” he said. “I educate about using technology to improve processes, extend marketing and grow business … and I find it exciting to take something that can be complicated and explain it in a way that can be easily understood by anyone, at any level.”

Kipfer’s teacher-like approach to sales been a successful one; he’s racked up six Top Salesperson of the Year awards with several companies and led all sales staff nationally for 59 of the past 64 months.

Sometime around 1995, Kipfer taught himself rudimentary HTML and, from the computer labs, put together a “very basic” website that was hosted on EMU’s server – making him, to his knowledge, one of its very first students to have a personal site. He can’t remember everything that on it, but knows it did include some information about Canada, where he grew up as a hockey nut and Wayne Gretzky’s biggest fan.

He still plays ice hockey twice a week and goes to every Washington Capitals game he can. In 2007, after one of his first successful years in tech sales, he made good on one of his lifelong dreams: Wayne Gretzky Fantasy Camp. (He went again in 2013.) Once, he recalls, chuckling, when Gretzky took the ice with Kipfer’s team, the two flew down the rink together on a two-on-one. Gretzky’s pass set him up perfectly in front of an open net, but Kipfer shot it wide. No matter. He’d skated with The Great One.