In this episode of Secrets of the Top 100 Agents, host Tim Neary is joined once again by Alexander Phillips, Australia’s top-ranked agent for two years running. Alex says he’s cultivated a proven formula for success. Here, he gives agents the inside track on how they can build their brand and invest in their own business. But beware – he says there’s often no loyalty in real estate!
In this episode, find out:
- How to avoid ‘leakage’
- The right time to branch out and build a team
- Why having and breaking down a business plan will make you a better agent
Tune in now to hear all of this and much, much more in this episode of Secrets of the Top 100 Agents!
Tim: 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. This is the show where we bring in and chat to the very best agents in Australia. A very special guest on the show today, it's number-one-ranked agent, two years running, Alexander Phillips. Hello, Alex, and welcome to the show.
Alexander: Hi Tim, thanks for having me.
Tim: Nice one, mate. Look, you're ranked...top-ranked agent in Australia for two years running. It's very, very impressive. It's a highly competitive environment out there, so what's the secret? How do you do it?
Alexander: Well, I've been thinking about it a lot, Tim, just in the last couple of weeks. With, obviously, the change in my office and the other competitors and just thinking about what we do, I think it's a consistency in everything that we do. It's very structured. We do the same thing day in and day out. It's a proven formula, obviously, because we got the number-one ranking last year, and it's flown on into this year, which has even been...tied our stock levels, I think, than what they were the year before. But our sales have actually increased. We're just doing things...we're faster, hungrier, and I think going back to being more consistent as well.
Tim: Yeah. You say that, I remember when you were on the show last year, we talked a little bit about your business, and you made the point then that it is about consistency, and it's about doing the right things all the time, and following through the right way. It looks like more of the same and, as you said, just being, not a little hungrier, but just being hungrier.
Alexander: Yeah, exactly. I look at what we do day in and day out, and we're in seventh gear. The minute we get into the office, we're in there and we're working. We don't go for long lunches. We're always available, always on the phones. We're doing the basic things what real-estate agents, I think, should be doing, which is building relationships, getting in front of people, closing deals, maintaining databases, updating people, giving them advice, just doing all those little things right.
Tim: Nice one, mate. Talking about that, I'd like to just take a step back and maybe talk about ... You obviously didn't start at the top, and you're business is based around building that solid business. If you don't mind, can you talk us through building those stages? When you started out, how did you build a database? What sort of best practice around building a database?
Alexander: Yeah, it's a good question. I think building a database starts from day one. If I was stepping into a real estate agency for the first time and I was 18 or 19 years of age, the first thing I would be doing is, obviously, making sure that as many people go on my database through either cold calling, old open-house books, expired listings, working your own network, shadowing someone in your office that may not want to deal in a certain price bracket or a certain marketplace that you can take on or their flow on, people that they don't want to deal with that they're just not interested in it. I think it's about making sure that you maintain a relationship with those people with market updates, market forecasts, just sold, just listed, and continually building it. Basically, what I do now is what I did 15 years ago. Nothing's changed, which is calling people, giving them relevant information, seeing if they're an actual buyer or a seller. I think something where we have a clear advantage over anyone else is progressing the client to make a decision to sell now or buy now, rather than waiting 6 to 12 months.
Tim: I like the way that you say that, Alex. What you did 15 years ago is what you do today. It makes me think that building the database is an important thing, but it's not a static thing. That database isn't something they just put on a shelf and it sits there. It's something that you use and you work on a daily basis.
Alexander: Exactly. I think real estate agents that, I suppose, start pulling their foot off the pedal will miss out on a lot of business because there is zero loyalty in real estate. The consumer will always go with the best option, and even if they've had a long-standing relationship with somebody, you don't have the runs in the board or you haven't maintained a relationship, you're going to be second or third on the list, and therefore, you're not going to be getting that listing. So you’ve got to remember that you're very easily forgotten in this game, and if you're not out there in social measure, letterbox shops, on demand, and REA. There's so many different things you got to be doing to make sure that you've got this personal brand and name in the marketplace or you'll be long forgotten.
Tim: It's a nice point that you make and a nice way to move into the next part that I wanted to talk a little bit about. If you're not front of mind, then you're easily forgotten, which often... You're talking about building a brand, building a profile in the marketplace. You touched on a couple of things there, but for young guys starting out in the business, what's a good way or what's the best way to build a brand, build your profile in your marketplace?
Alexander: I think it's about trying to narrow in on a pocket in the marketplace you're going to work in: price point, suburb, school catchment – whatever it may be – that you get known to be the person to use, not just spreading out too much. You can probably do that a little bit to make sure you're still getting an income from other areas that may not be especially big. It's like anything. If you have a broken back, you're going to go to your back specialist, or you've got a brain tumour, you go to your brain specialist. People will always tend to go with where they feel the person is best suited to them.
Tim: You talk about spreading yourself too thin or not spreading yourself too thin. What's an ideal number to have? Is there an ideal number to have in your database, in your touchpoints?
Alexander: No, I don't think. Everyone's different. Some other guys that we compete against have over 10,000. I haven't deviated off...it hasn't changed in for over six years. It's always hovering around two and a half thousand. There's only so many people we can manage. Probably we also have leakage in our database. It still could be better, could have more up-to-date deed information, could be probably better systems that we do. We could be still a lot better, I think, in what we do with our database management.
I think, these days, with technology, the age you're relying more on technology as touchpoints for the consumer through email, newsletters, Instagram, Facebook, whatever it is, but that doesn't build a relationship, and they can sense how passionate you are, other than if you pick up a phone or meet them face to face. You can find excuses these days to say, "Well, I've tried everything. I've tried to call that...tried to get in touch or build a relationship with that person, but they've gone with another agent." If you've never picked up the phone or sat in front of them, well, they're not going to remember you that easily.
Tim: This is a volume business. It's a people business, about talking to people, but there's various conversations that you can have and various, I guess, levels of conversations that you can have. At some point, am I right in saying you would need some help or you could do with some, bringing on an assistant or bringing on different people to help you in the business? When is a good time, as somebody's starting out, to look for help and to bring on an assistant into the business?
Alexander: I think one way to doing it at least... I think, after you're doing two deals a month, which is what? Twenty deals plus a year? That's the minute you put on an assistant because, depending on where you work, two deals pays for your assistant per annum. Something I think that we've always done well, when I look at the guys that are doing well now that are coming through the ranks, they're investing in themselves, and they're putting themselves on the line by really stretching themselves. I probably can afford an assistant, but it makes them more accountable, makes them more hungry. You're building up someone within their own business that may become an agent one day, and that would satisfy that particular person, but this is where I think a lot of agents just... They don't reinvest in themselves, and an assistant's the first thing you can do in respect to that.
Tim: Talking about investing in yourself and bringing an assistant, is there a point, also, where you want to bring in other agents, other junior agents, underneath you and sort of run a team of agents?
Alexander: Yeah, I think that's probably when you're doing 50 plus, or even 40 plus, deals per annum because, unless you're being able to do everything, which you can't, the consumer's not going to benefit from your service, and you'll have leakage with the process of actually selling someone's home. Things go wrong, they turn on you, you don't sell their property, and then you're going back to, even, letting go of your first assistant. I think it's something you've got to do is have a plan in place for over ten years. Like anything lasting, you need a business plan or model on where you want to get to and then break it down on how many deals that needs to be, how many years you want to be at that position with one assistant and then you put on a second or third. You got to plan well in advance and then work around that.
Tim: It sounds like you've got to establish yourself properly and build your own brand properly before you can start to look to expand and bring on others. I guess we were talking quite a big-picture approach, but in terms of building that brand and building the profile, just at the nitty gritty, it's really about getting listings and about making sales.
Alexander: Yeah, correct.
Tim: Yeah. I guess, what have you found to be an effective way for you to get more listings and to make more sales? Let's start with listings.
Alexander: I think it's just that continual face in the marketplace. I think a lot of agents that get to a position that they're in the top of their field rely on referrals, which is not something we actually rely on so much. Most of our business is just coming from the database management and running really open homes. People that buy through us or miss out through us because they've been through a very straight-up process, even if they buy through another agent, underbid on a property of ours, they will use us. It's probably a combination of things. I think it's coming back to having a good name in the marketplace.
Tim: That makes a lot of sense, Alex. You talk about running an effective...running a good open home. What does that look like? How do you do that?
Alexander: I think it comes back, firstly, to having it set up correctly, with how you actually interact with the clients firstly. You can't interact with a client if you just got one person at an open home. We always have two at every open home. We're introducing ourselves, we're shaking hands, we're asking very good, detailed questions about what else they're looking at, why they're here today, what else they missed on, are they ready to act on something, qualifying where they live at the moment. Really, I suppose, understanding on what they're actually there for. Are they actually just browsing? Are they actually buying? There are so many different things that come into play. Then it comes back to, probably, the presentation of the home. All of our properties are presented 10 out of 10. Probably 50% of the people that come through have something to sell, and they'll remember that, or they're actually judging you when they walk through the door because they're trying to select an agent by looking at open homes, which is a smart thing to do.
Tim: Then, I suppose, everything that you learn through the detailed questions and working with those people that walk through the home – that gets fed back into the database – which you then use as an ongoing tool.
Alexander: Yeah, exactly, and you keep building relationships.
Tim: And keep building those relationships. Alex, I really appreciate your time this morning.
Alexander: No, happy to help.
Tim: It certainly does. I just want to ask you one more question just to end off, and that's pretty much ... I know that you're busy. I know that you're working long hours, and we talk a lot about balance in this business. Very quickly, talking about balance and managing your time, what does a typical week look like for you in a quick summation?
Alexander: In the office every morning after gym and breakfast by 7:00, 7:15, start making calls from 7:30, appointments, appraisals, closing deals, at home by 6:00, 7:30 at the absolute latest, open homes on Saturdays all the way through to 3:00, Sundays doing a lot of appointments, second appointments. Doing that for probably like a six weeks, non-stop, seven days a week and then having four chunks of holidays throughout the year, so you're recalibrating yourself from re-energizing yourself.
Tim: That's a balance so that, when you're in the office or when you're with clients, you're there and you're present 100 per cent.
Alexander: Correct. Yeah. Our intensity's through the roof because we've been... We've not burned out, and that's probably how we win a lot of our business because our energy levels are so high.
Tim: Yeah. I think that's a very important point, to not be burnt out, to take the break before the burnout comes.
Tim: Alex, man, I really appreciate your time and always making yourself available for REB. We certainly appreciate it, and again, congratulations. Two years in a row, it's some kind of achievement.
Alexander: Anytime. Happy to help. Thanks for calling. Bye.
Tim: Bye, bye. Remember to follow us on all the social-media stuff: Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn. You can follow me on Twitter @timothyneary if you want to do that. Remember, also, to tune in next week – realestatebusiness.com.au is where you'll find us. There's plenty of stories there on the business of real estate across the whole of Australia and on my guest today, Alexander Phillips. Thanks again for tuning in, and we'll see you next week. Goodbye.