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At the top of his game: how Alexander Phillips evolves to stay number one

By Staff Reporter
30 January 2017 | 21 minute read
Alex web

In this episode of Secrets of the Top 100 Agents, your host and editor of Real Estate Business, Tim Neary, sits down with Australia’s number one ranked sales agent. With 14 years’ industry experience and over $351 million of residential sales recorded in 2016, Alexander Phillips is Australia’s king of real estate sales.   

In this episode find out:

  • Why consistency is the secret to real estate sales success
  • How to learn and capitalise on past failures and not be hamstrung by them
  • Why self-development is critical for every sales agent

Tune in to hear all of this and much, much more on Secrets of the Top 100 Agents!


Full transcript:

Tim Neary: G'day, everyone. It's Tim Neary here. I am the editor of Real Estate Business and host of the Secrets of the Top 100 Agents show. Thanks for tuning in. We're going to continue to bring you, and chat to the very best agents in Australia. It's the base of the show and it's why we created it. We have a very special guest on the show today. He's Australian real estate royalty, ranked number one in the REB top 100 agents ranking for 2016, it's Alexander Phillips.

Alex Phillips: Hi, Tim. Thanks for having me.

Tim Neary: You're very welcome, Alex. I think, just to get started, we'll just start at the beginning. How did you get into real estate and when?

Alex Phillips: Tim, I've been in real estate now for 14 years. I actually left school, didn't have any idea what I really wanted to do and pretty much fell into real estate. From there, I basically sent out a letter to all the top agents in the eastern suburbs where I wanted to work and I had a few reply from McGrath Partners, which it was back then, in Edgecliff, which was their only office. Luckily got a job there running the backend, doing a lot of mail and letterbox drops, and things like that, then became an assistant to one of the agents. From that point then, obviously, I grew through the ranks every year. Obviously, we've built on it, sort of been a slow progression. Real estate, it's a long game, not a short game. I think for anyone that's starting out they've got to be prepared to do the hard yards. Then obviously from that point became an agent, business owner, and kept evolving from there.

Tim Neary: I like the way that you've put that, Alex. It sounds like when you started out you realised that there was a lot to learn and you wanted to learn from the top guys, and so did you do that? Did you –

Alex Phillips: Yeah, I was lucky enough that I was set amongst, still, the top performers in Australia, and just like a sponge, essentially, just soaked up all the information and worked out that all these guys, basically they're the top performers, were on the phones all day or maintaining relationships with people and building new relationships in front of them, not on email but either face-to-face or on the phones. I knew that's really what this business is about.

Tim Neary: Yeah. And did you pick that up early? Did you-

Alex Phillips: Yeah.

Tim Neary: You sort of said-

Alex Phillips: I was lucky. Yeah, just thrown right in there and picked up ... That's one of the main, probably, attributes that I've been able to not only use but maintain and continually build on. It can come quite tiring doing it day-in day-out, but I suppose we'll talk about it a little bit later, but is on how you maintain consistency, which is one of the most important things to look at.

Tim Neary: Yeah, and I do want to talk about that a little bit later, but before we get to there, today you're the number one agent in Australia but obviously you didn't start at the top. We've seen where you started. Was there a breakthrough point for you or did you just steadily grow over the years?

Alex Phillips: There were a couple of strong sales I did within a space of two weeks in the two suburbs that we have the largest market share in Bronte and Waverley, and both sales went for $800,000, a million above reserve, but it's really what we did after that to promote ourselves, and for the whole marketplace to know, which is, obviously, spreading the word to people of the good work that we've done, and that's really what we do a lot of, is spreading the news of the good work we're doing and giving people advice. It was probably those two sales that stand out to me, that catapulted us to where we are today, but it's obviously been a lot of other things in the background that help us get there, but I'd say that reflecting back on it, definitely the two that stand out to me.

Tim Neary: Yeah, it is that, it's the thing that puts you in front, isn't it? But there's also the legwork that goes in it, it doesn't just happen overnight. How early, or how far into your career, did those two sales happen?

Alex Phillips: They're both probably about in 2007, 2008, so sort of halfway through.

Tim Neary: About, yeah. And then it's just gone on from there.

Alex Phillips: Yeah.

Tim Neary: You were talking about routines, and we hear this a lot from other agents like yourself, that there's certain things that you do every day, and you mentioned earlier that it is a long game. So just in terms of your own business, I'd like to just get an understanding, are there some things that you always do, and are there some things that you never do as an agent? Maybe just start with the always do's.

Alex Phillips: Yeah, there's definitely something I always do, and it is having that routine and getting in the office at a certain time and making sure I make the certain amount of calls every week, because I know that it's been the backbone of my business that will continue to help me bring in more business and doing more sales. I can track my calls, which are always between 450 and 500 calls a week ...

Tim Neary: A week?

Alex Phillips: ... just in the office, plus, obviously, the calls. I know that consistently I do that week and week out, I know that if I do that I'm going to do 150, 200 sales a year. They're the things that yes, I have to do, but behind that though is, obviously, your health, and your fitness, and how you actually maintain a level playing field, not only just with work but your lifestyle, so there's a lot of other things that go in the background there, but what I never do is ...

I would say I lose a lot listings, that's a main part of this business, but when I lose a listing I just move on, so I never just dwell on it. I was talking about it to [inaudible 00:05:12] agents today to do a lot of training in our office for the younger agents to help them through. If you wait it can take a week to get over a listing, and I've seen that. One of the agents in my office today said he didn't sleep for a night. That drains you for the next two days and then you're not going to make 50 calls a day, then you're going to miss out on other opportunities, so one thing I don't do is ... Move on, you weren't good enough. Don't make excuses going to the next.

Tim Neary: Yeah. It's like the talk about that is that it's a process driven industry, if you miss out on something don't beat yourself up. If you miss out on a listing don't beat yourself up about it, just move on-

Alex Phillips: Go find the next one.

Tim Neary: Go and find the next one.

Alex Phillips: Yeah, correct. There's plenty out there.

Tim Neary: Yeah. You talked a little bit earlier about that balance, health and lifestyle. Talk us through a day in your life. How do you make sure that you're ... Or typically a year as well. How do you keep yourself fresh?

Alex Phillips: I suppose I look at a year is ... I'm going away to the US this Sunday for a month, and that's been planned through a year in advance, and I'm going away for a month in July to Europe, and they're always planned a year in advance, so I go away for at least 8 to 10 weeks a year and they're already planned a year in advance. I then break my year up into chunks. From there, if you look at then going on a day-to-day basis is you're obviously always looking forward to something.

For me, I've got a personal trainer four times a week that makes me accountable to get out of bed at 5:15 every morning. I'm in the gym at 5:30, leave there at 6:15. I have breakfast in the office by 7:15, start making calls at 7:30. And then, obviously, during calls prospecting listings, meeting vendors, doing appraisals. Our day starts, I think, probably an hour and a half ahead of everyone else out there, so that's I think one of our ... If you ask our clients, "How do you see Alex?" The general consensus is the hardest working agents in the business and people want to know that you're doing absolutely everything possible to leave no stone left unturned to get the best price of their house.

Tim Neary: Yeah, and I think that's an important point, is that when you get the listing you get it for a reason, so you want to honour that, you want to make sure that you-

Alex Phillips: Exactly, and that's a really good point. You've explained what you're going to do, and that's how we win a lot of our listings is what we do in the background, which they don't really know what you're actually doing. Most agents I think are order takers. They're taking names and numbers and giving a vendor quality end of it, but what we do in the background to obviously drive more buyers, to drive out the price, and then you have to honour it. Honour that, and they're testing you every day.

Tim Neary: Yeah. And then that will go on, won't it? Because if you get that right then they'll talk to their friends ...

Alex Phillips: Exactly.

Tim Neary: ... other people in the neighbourhood.

Alex Phillips: They become your sales team, essentially. One thing John McGrath said to me, "Six stars. Service crates raving fans." And raving fans are those people that are out there basically winning your business.

Tim Neary: Yeah. And that comes back to the point you made a bit earlier about those two sales that you made. That was the show on the front end, but then also the knock-on effect from all of that got you-

Alex Phillips: It's a flowing effect. Even a few things that we've done where I had a house of the week in the domain on the front page once in Bronte, I got asked to deliver 400 of them to the office, and I rolled them up in handwritten notes to all my clients in Bronte saying, "Hopefully one day we can get you a house of the week," or something along those lines. It's just those little things that people remember, but even now, this Christmas we've dropped off 500 Christmas cakes to all our clients this year with a handwritten note just to say thanks for the business. So many people called saying it's just those little things that really add up.

Tim Neary: And it's about building a reputation and then maintaining that reputation, so that you're known in the area that you service.

Alex Phillips: Yeah, exactly.

Tim Neary: Alex, I just wanted to talk to you. We have a lot young, aspiring agents listening to this show. Just from your point of view, having been in the industry, and one of the leaders in the industry, what does it take to be a real estate agent? Just in terms of what you need to do, and we've talked about the routines, but just a mindset that you need to have. Is there something that these young people should put forefront in their mind?

Alex Phillips: Yeah, like I said to you when we first started talking, it's that long game, it's knowing that. But for me, I didn't really start making any money until I was probably five or seven years into it, but I was passionate about ... I love what I do. I don't see it as work, so to me going to work isn't work, it's ... I love it, so. I think you've got to actually like it because it's very demanding. You also got to understand it and get real estate. A lot of people seem to just get thrown into these offices, they don't even know what they're meant to be doing.

So if you're starting out, and if I was starting out again, what would I be doing? I'd be making sure that I get in with the best agents in the business that are going to help you learn and grow, they're not going to hold you back, they're going to give you the tools to become a great agent and to start building a database from day one so you can start to create your own brand within an office. And that's what we're trying to do at the moment, our younger agencies, it's not about me, it's not about Jason, or Debbie, my business partners, it's about helping these guys build up and that's what we get enjoyment out of.

Tim Neary: Yeah, so it's almost a brand within the brand.

Alex Phillips: Yeah, exactly.

Tim Neary: That's a good point as well. We're almost getting to the end of the show, Alex, and I just wanted to get the inside tips, if you like, Alex's top tips for sales. Your top tip for getting more listings.

Alex Phillips: Number one tip is always evolving, always looking for different tools, getting better, doing a lot of training, a lot of personally ... I've got a real estate coach Josh Phegan that I continually use week in, week out.

Tim Neary: Even now, at this stage of the game, you're still using a coach?

Alex Phillips: Yeah.

Tim Neary: I think that's a really important point.

Alex Phillips: Yeah. Michael Jordan still had coach when he's at top of his game, so you look at even the best sports people, you've got to keep getting better. I think it's having really good consistency week in, week out. Knowing when to have a break and making sure you recharge the batteries. I think it's also been when you do start doing a lot of sales, I see agents become arrogant, they're not humble, they're not approachable. That's something that we're not. We're very approachable, easy to deal with, and although we were top of our game we're not there. It's not about us, it's about the consumer and the client. It's always been about that.

Tim Neary: So with your coach, what are the things that you work on?

Alex Phillips: Just different tools to be ahead of all the competition. I've only just started doing Instagram six weeks ago, which I just thought was something you don't need to do, but I think we're starting to get some traction off that, but it's just that technology moves so quickly these days. If you don't move with it and evolve you'll be left behind, way behind.

Tim Neary: Yeah, so just staying relevant and staying at the front.

Alex Phillips: Exactly.

Tim Neary: Top tip for marketing.

Alex Phillips: Top tip for marketing. I think, obviously, for properties itself, it's about having really good, clean photography. If it's about you, it's about giving the clients something that they can benefit from. Our marketing is not about how good we are, but what that sale means to them and what they could do to benefit from it. Consumers do not want to talk with people these days that they don't get something out of. Everyone's time poor. If it's about you they just don't give a shit, they don't care, so it's more about the consumer and how they can benefit from it.

Tim Neary: Features and benefits.

Alex Phillips: Yeah, exactly.

Tim Neary: Alex, just the last thing. Takers playing such a big role in everything at these days, in particular in real estate. Your tip you started to mention  earlier, your top tip for tech and staying relevant in the tech world?

Alex Phillips: Yeah, I think it's always looking at what's new that's coming out and making sure that you do investigate it to see if it's something that you can use within your office, like it might be database system, maybe a new phone system, some sort of social media, but making sure that you know what's out there and looking into it and seeing if you can work it into your business.

Tim Neary: That's terrific. Alex, we've come to the end of the show. It's been really good of you to come in.

Alex Phillips: Any time.

Tim Neary: Really appreciate that. I think the takeaway that I'm certainly getting from our chat today is that it's hard work, it is the long game. Just listening to you speak it's about not just getting to the front and thinking that you're there, it's like getting to the front and then continuing with that hard work to stay there.

Alex Phillips: Correct. You're spot on.

Tim Neary: Mate, thanks very much. Really appreciate you coming in.

Alex Phillips: No problem. Thanks for having me.

Tim Neary: Remember to follow us on all the social media stuff, Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. You can follow me on Twitter @TimothyNeary if you want to do that. Please keep those reviews coming in on iTunes, we do appreciate it. Please give us some feedback as well if there's anything that we're not doing that you'd like to see us do, let us know. Remember to tune in next week and remember also that realestatebusiness.com.au is where you'll find us. Plenty of stories there on all the business of real estate across Australia, and on my guest today Alexander Phillips. Thanks again for tuning in and we'll see you next week. Goodbye.


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