A number of top performing agents, from a range of backgrounds, revealed the practices and approaches that have made them successful.
John McManus of McGrath Estate Agents Northbridge told attendees that the basics matter most, and that what’s most important is setting targets.
A golf shop owner until as recently as 2006, Mr McManus said he sees colleagues wasting time because they don’t understand what the basics are.
“It is important that I have a structure in place, [something] that I check in myself every hour, not monthly or quarterly,” he said.
Mr McManus – who is an early riser – said that his day, and that of his team, revolves around being organised and accountable.
When it comes to marketing, his approach is to be relentless: “If you are everywhere the vendor will feel they have to give you the listing,” he said. Letter boxes are also a favourite target for Mr McManus, with hand-delivered thank you cards a common communication tool. And, he added, you should get as many testimonials as you can.
As part of his listing presentation, Mr McManus shows potential clients their market’s overall footprint.
However, when he’s talking about competition, he focuses on the houses they are competing against and not the agents selling them. It is important for agents to relay information to the people they deal with, and without using dialogues that are so scripted that they sounded insincere.
“Have all the dialogues in your head, but connect with the people and say it in your own words,” he advised.
Mat Steinwede, principal at McGrath Estate Agents Central Coast, said success is about getting what you expect.
“There is power in decision,” he told the AREC audience.
Mr Steinwede said the power of thought and the power of expectation shouldn’t be underestimated. In his own case, he wanted to become the area expert and he began his professional journey by choosing a 1,000-home territory to manage.
As part of his strategy, Mr Steinwede picks between five and 10 houses and drops off a property related report to each one. The kicker is that the report includes a photo of their house on the cover page. This approach has netted him a 60 per cent share of the market in his territory.
Like Mr McManus, his marketing is consistent and highly targeted, and follows the mantra that agents should “capture everything and nurture it”.
Tom Panos, real estate advertising director at News Limited and auctioneer, said agents need to be aware of who they associate with.
“Do not rely on will power and discipline,” he said. “Your reference group and the people around you highly influence your behaviour. [You should] hang out with people that want to grow.”
Mr Panos also questioned the need for cold calling.
“Do you think the people that are writing $1 million go out and do cold calling?”
he asked, adding that agents need to become “the attraction business model”, under which people want to speak to them rather than agents’ forcing conversations on people who aren’t interested.
A North American
California-based agent, Alan Shafran shared his blueprint for yielding 100 deals per year.
Mr Shafran said the first two seconds of a prospecting call will determine as much as 90 per cent of the call’s success.
But rather than be overtly “professional”, he said agents should be “friendly and outrageous”.
“Listen to what they say and what words they use and imitate them,” he advised, adding that agents need to be clear on the market they want to work with before they starting prospecting.
“Choose your customer and choose them now,” he said. “What kind of person do you want to deal with?”
When it comes to dealing with prospective clients, Mr Shafran believes it is best to always approach everything in a consultative fashion.
“Always start by asking questions that show your care,” he said. “Ask what they are concerned about, or ask for their permission or if they have a moment to hear your concerns. Explain to them the situation and their options, and ask what they want to do.”
Each situation should be handled using the same format as it leaves the client feeling in control and secure that they made the best decision for themselves. Mr Shafran’s ideal listing presentation would include a quick, 30-second resume along with an explanation of how he plans to communicate with them. A few questions would follow and only then, once the client feels comfortable with him, will they begin by reviewing the price.
Accompanying him would be an iPad, as he likes to keep it simple.
“All I want to do is make a connection,” he said. “If they don’t like you, then nothing you say will make sense.”
Mr Shafran added that agents should be able to show vendors the cost of overpricing their property.
“Show them how homes priced properly receive nearly asking price, while others take a big risk with time and money,” he said. “It is all about setting expectations. If you set them wrong, you have failed before you even have a chance to succeed.”
At a separate LJ Hooker Forum, held in the AREC expo hall, top‑selling LJ Hooker Double Bay agent Bill Malouf opened up about his own success in the industry.
Mr Malouf’s introduction to real estate came when he was working as a licensee in a number of pubs in western Sydney. At the time, he was seeking to buy a property and learned very quickly that most agents he dealt with were more focused on selling him stock that didn’t meet his clearly articulated needs – apart from one, an agent named George Devine.
“Everyone else had shown me properties that didn’t meet the criteria,” he recalled. “Obviously, it was the only thing on their books. I purchased one of the two properties that George Devine showed me.”
After a discussion with his wife about looking for a career change, he recalled telling her the following:
“There is a huge gap in the industry, and the gap is that no one is listening to what I’m saying or what I want.”
It was September 1986, and that is when Mr Malouf paid a visit to the LJ Hooker Double Bay office. He admitted he has never really had a career coach, nor set a goal.
“But what I have done is grow up in a family that’s terribly competitive,” he said.
Moreover, after getting married at age 25, Mr Malouf realised what his goal should be:
“I was given a great lifestyle by my parents, so my goal setting became what I could do for my family,” he said. “To do that, I had to be successful at whatever I did. My goal was purely the drive to succeed to provide the lifestyle for my family.”
That passion continued to drive his success.
“I do it because I get out of bed in the morning and I truly love [it],” he said. “To try and instil success in my team, I have to be selling. I have to be succeeding as well because if I’m not, they can’t look up to me, and they can blame what’s going on in the world at present.
“I need to set a benchmark for the people that work for me. It’s not fair for me to walk into a boardroom meeting or a sales meeting and complain about their figures if my figures aren’t on the board. You will never get anyone to follow you if you aren’t leading from the front.”
Industry performance trainer Josh Phegan told Real Estate Business that top agents now focus on three key things.
“It is either a prospecting issue, winning at the listing presentation or clearances,” he said. “At a prospecting level, what are you doing to generate lots of leads? We are seeing now, around June and July, [that they are] generating leads for August and September.
“At a listing level, you’ve got to make sure you are listing them at the right fee. Fees are a big argument right around the country now. Fees are progressively going down and property prices are staying the same or going down. In addition to that, the cost of living is going up – so work that out! What [you] need to do is actually increase your fees if the volume of properties that are selling is decreasing,” he continued.
“Becoming a great businessperson and a great salesperson are often two very different skill sets: understanding that a 0.5 per cent reduction of your fee is actually relating to a 25 per cent reduction in your fee. The third issue is about clearance. How do you get the property sold in a short period of time? If you can get a property sold in 23 days rather than 66 days, that actually means you can do double the volume. Why does a client come to you? Because you actually have a process to get their property sold. And how do we showcase that to your customer? By track record and case studies.”
Mr Phegan said top agents are also relying less on technology.
“The days of social media and databases have been around; we’ve been through all that,” he said, “and we worked out the thing that does work is getting face-to-face in front of the customer, shaking hands. “We are going back to that. The top performers [are] saying, ‘All I want to do is go back to that. Anything technology-related, let someone else handle it.”