In this episode of Secrets of the Top 100 Agents, host Tim Neary talks to Shaun Stoker from Ray White Erskineville | Surry Hills | Alexandria, who came in at number 74 in this year’s ranking. Shaun tells Tim that he’s in the business of people. Here, he reveals how he’s building quality relationships for life, and why truly connecting with his demographic helped him to hit the ground running in real estate!
In this episode, find out:
- Why agents should avoid focusing on financial rewards at work
- How getting involved with the community will help benefit the business
- Why agents are becoming more powerful than the offices they work for
Tim Neary: Well, good day, everyone, it's Tim Neary here. I'm the editor of Real Estate Business and host of the Secrets of the Top 100 Agents podcast. Thanks for tuning in. This is the show where we bring in and chat to the very best real estate agents in Australia. I'm really excited about our guest on the show today. It's number 74-ranked agent for 2017, Shaun Stoker. Shaun is with Ray White in Erskineville in Sydney. Hello Shaun, and welcome to the show.
Shaun Stoker: Yeah, good morning. Thanks for having me.
Tim Neary: You're very welcome. Nice to have you on the show. Look, you're a regular on the Top 100 Ranking, Shaun, and that's a pretty tough gig. It's a competitive market out there. What's your secret to your longevity?
Shaun Stoker: There's no secret. It's definitely relationship-based and I'm big on relationships and trust. But it didn't happen overnight. I've been doing this 15 years. When I first started I think I was one of the slow ones. I took about three to four years to find momentum. But I initially started with door knocking, letter drops, getting on the phones and one thing all my owners said when I met them is, "You've got the best follow-up over any other agent we've ever met". And over the years that's built up to the success I've got today.
Tim Neary: Two things that stand out for me. One, it didn't happen overnight. And second one, owners are saying you've got the best follow-up.
Shaun Stoker: Yep.
Tim Neary: So, it's something to my mind, and we hear this a lot from the top 100 agents. There's no such thing as an overnight success in this business. It's about hard work.
Shaun Stoker: Yep.
Tim Neary: And it's about doing the hard yards.
Shaun Stoker: Yeah, 100 per cent yep, yep. And look, and it's building trust and word of mouth. Especially within communities such as mine. I do a lot of business in Newtown, Erskineville, Alexandria. And there are a lot of dog owners. They've got a lot of kids and mother's groups. Which is a great way of spreading a successful sale but it's also a great way, if you're not doing well to spread you know "Don't go with that person". So I've had the great, fortunate experience of, obviously, getting involved in chatter amongst my community to go with me.
Tim Neary: And that goes both ways, as you said. If it goes well it will spread nicely, but if it goes the wrong way then it does -
Shaun Stoker: If you do a good job it goes to one person, if you do not such a good job it goes to ten people.
Tim Neary: That's quite right. That's right.
Shaun Stoker: I initially started at Ray White Surry Hills, then I became part owner of that business. And then we set up the second office, which is Ray White Erskineville, which started three years ago. We've had huge success. So, obviously, we've got now the two. We've got the best of both worlds. One covering the East and one in the West. And we've got now 50 staff between the two offices. It's really grown, it's doubled in the last three years.
Tim Neary: That's nice. You've been in the business 15 years and really grown and the last three years. But I'd like to take a step back and go back because as we talked about off air, our listeners are up-and-coming agents and we want to sort of give them something that they can look towards using in their own businesses.
When you started out, and the business has probably changed a lot over the last 15 years. But when you started out you start, as I'd like to say, with a clean sheet of paper and a pencil. I guess the first step is building a data base. Going and talking to people and putting the wheels in motion. How did you do that?
Shaun Stoker: I think times have changed a little bit. Social media wasn't around when I first started. And offices had a lot more power back then. So, you know the internet was something, even though it was only 15 years ago, it wasn't something that was a massive way. I think the agents, over the years, have got more power than often the offices now.
Tim Neary: Right.
Shaun Stoker: So the branding of the agent, like the Shaun Stoker's become bigger than Ray White. Now Ray White assists you, obviously, with great data base systems, you know, great marketing, training and all that. But ultimately, it’s the community who spreads your name. And I found, when I originally started I used to get call ins to the office. And then they go, you know "Shaun's here", and then you'd go out. Now what I'm finding is very few people actually call offices anymore, and the lead goes straight to the agent. So the agents have actually, in essence, becoming bigger than the real estate offices.
But how I started, originally, was pretty much door knocking, dropping, and then trying to collect data and then phoning them up on a regular basis. So if there's a sale on that street I'd phone the street and say "I'm just letting you know there was a property at 107 that just sold. How does the price compare on your place do you think?". And then, you know, asking them questions and then trying to get in the door, sitting with them once a year having coffee, and then you become their trusted advisor. Lately here what I'm doing is a lot of videos now, market reports, social media and obviously a lot more referral based. Taking my best clients out for dinner, that type of thing.
Tim Neary: Fifteen years on and you're getting a lot of people coming back to you. I know that in the industry some people call it becoming an attraction agency. You're tracking people back to you and it makes a lot of sense that that would happen. But it's gotta start somewhere and when you started out and you were going door knocking and you were talking to people, did you start out with the end in mind? In terms of I want to build up, I want to get a snowball effect going here. If I know that if I get enough, a sort of core group of people that that will grow over time?
Shaun Stoker: I think, look, I didn't find myself in real estate until I was 28. I'm 43 at the moment. So, you know, and when I first started I'd been travelling for ten years around the world and living like a gypsy, you know. And I sort of was reading a newspaper on the beach and I though "Real estate, that's for me". But that traveling's helped me because it helped me negotiate, you know, be expressive when you get to a new country find your way.
Tim Neary: Learn to think on your feet a little bit.
Shaun Stoker: And it makes you street smart. And it makes you have the ability to live with nothing as well. So what a lot of younger agents coming through, they want overnight success. And they're not getting it, and they're not getting that financial reward. And they start stressing out about the finance situation and the failures rather than focusing on the big picture. And that was fortunately, when I started real estate, I didn't care about the money.
Tim Neary: See, that's an important part that you make there. Is that you're almost saying you've gotta get the fundamentals right and then the rest of it will take care of itself. But if you're focusing and the rest of it and neglecting the fundamentals, then you'll never give yourself a chance to get to the rest of it.
Shaun Stoker: A lot of people get out of it within a year or two because they're more focused on the reward then actually doing what they love. I loved what I was doing. I could earn 30 thousand for the rest of my life and I would have been happy. Because I just loved it so much. I loved meeting people and I think also, it's very important that, because I first started my real estate career in Thorn Lee, and I was 28 years old and I think the next youngest agent was about 45 years old. And the demographic around there were over 50. And I just didn't fit in. I was doing okay, but I never would have been successful in that environment. And then I was doing evaluation at nights at uni, and I remember meeting this other agent and he goes "Come and work in Newtown, Erskineville", and he goes "You'll definitely suit that area". I went and worked there and the demographic, we just clicked. Right?
So I think it's essential for any agent. They go and have a coffee before they start or they really think to themselves because I made a move after two years of being in the new area. But I think it's really important you go and sit in an area, and have a coffee. Do you relate to the people around you? Because it's really important when you're sitting in front of those people, that they see themselves in you, right? And, my area, which is quite open minded and eclectic. I resonated with them and they resonated with me and that helps your business.
Tim Neary: I think that is probably one of the most golden tips of advice that we've ever had on this show, is that get in the right fit. When you're starting out, obviously, people talk about your future employer, but you're talking about your future area. Just go and sit in the area. Have a coffee there, have a look around -
Shaun Stoker: Connect to the people walking past you. Fuck if you go into a restaurant or bar, you don't get the right feeling it's because you're probably not connecting with the type of people in there. It's like the area you work in. You want to really connect with the people in that area. Otherwise, it's going to be a struggle. When you're talking their not gonna listen. And, it's gonna be a struggle.
Tim Neary: I think that's one of the best tunes we've ever had on the show and thank you for bringing that. And it leads quite nicely into my next point. Because my next point is always once you've built a database and once you've got yourself going a little bit. You want to start establishing yourself in the area. You want to start to build your brand in the area. Now if you've got a good fit in that area you've already got a good start. Again, going back to when you started out, do you remember how you did it? Do you remember if there was something that you looked at?
Shaun Stoker: Yeah, I remember. I used to knock on doors. Get people's emails, find out those addresses, put them in the system then call them once or twice a week. It depends. If they weren't looking at doing anything, probably they get a call every quarter. Just with an update. Then I'd also send them out a market report and then, if I made a sale in the area they'd get a call saying "Look, I sold this property". And they just got this constant update. What I decided to do was be a bit more selective. There's another successful agent in our office who sells everywhere, right? Whereas I decided I'm going to be a bit more selective and just focus on core area and then just get well known in that core area. And that's worked well for me because, obviously, when I did a good job it spread and then I'd do another great job and so then you become the choice of agents for that area.
Tim Neary: The area expert. Was there a reason why you chose the area? Was it a fit thing or was it just a numbers thing?
Shaun Stoker: It was a fit thing. It was a fit, as I said before. It was just the right fit. I was just the right fit that I felt that Newtown, Erskineville, Alexandria, Darlington, Chippendale and Moore. That was a really good fit for me and my personality. But it was also, I've got empathy. I sort of have the ability to talk to someone and feel what they want and give that to them, rather than just become an agent that talks over people and give the advice they want to give. I've always had the ability to listen to people's needs and then give them that service.
Tim Neary: It makes me think of something you said right at the beginning of the show and that was that this is a people business and you love the business. Even when you started out you loved the business. And, something going around the social media channels at the moment is something about "Listen to understand rather than listen to answer or reply". And I guess that's what you're talking about now is just to listen because people got a story to tell and you won't get it unless you listen to it. And so, if you're thinking about what you're going to be saying and you're replying, you're not getting the story.
Shaun Stoker: That's right. And I always say to my agents, or people in the office "Be curious". The more you ask questions you understand their life, their needs, the more you'll be able to put the puzzle together and actually service them. Because most agent will just go in there and go "Okay, here's the steps", and then walk out. Whereas if you can actually understand their needs and what they're doing you know, you've given them the right advice. Whether you're gonna get the listing or not you're gonna give them the right advice. I had one last night, she just broken up and he was looking to sell his apartment. I went in there, and by the end of it he's not selling, he's keeping it as an investment because he said "Financially it makes more sense keeping this property, Shaun, and you just made the decision so much easier".
But, look, he would have come to that decision once he went to his accountant or financial advisor. That decision would have come sooner or later, right? I probably would have signed it up and a week or two later he goes "You know what I've got some financial advice, Shaun, and it's probably not" ... But I had given that to him. So that trust now is for life because I had pretty much given him the right advice and he's made a decision based on that advice not to sell. But, then I've got a client for life who trusts me.
Tim Neary: And also you've got a referral partner for life that's gonna trust you and send all the people that he trusts to you as well.
Shaun Stoker: Exactly.
Tim Neary: Yeah, yeah, that makes a lot of sense. Mate, we're almost getting to the end of the show and it's that part of the show where I'd like to talk a little about top tips. And just putting your real estate agent hat back on again and, well not that you took it off, but top tips for effective listings presentations. What do you like to do prior to going in to a listings presentation?
Shaun Stoker: What do I like to do?
Tim Neary: Yes.
Shaun Stoker: Make sure that you give yourself time beforehand. But the last thing you want to do is rushing and organising yourself. But, I often send them an email. I have the conversation, listen to their needs on a phone call. Send them an outline of what we're gonna go through and put a pack together, deliver it to their door. And then also on that phone call when I'm talking to them try and work out what personality type they are. You know, are they gonna be someone that's gonna be processed that likes stats, likes information. Are they someone that, you know, is gonna be very short and to the point. And so I can match and tailor my presentation around to their needs. So that comes really from that first phone call I have with them to tailor something around their needs.
Tim Neary: And then, I suppose, when you're in the presentation you're just listening to them and understand and being curious.
Shaun Stoker: Exactly.
Tim Neary: On the other side of the coin, you've to the listing presentation. You want to sell it. What's your top tip for agents in terms of selling the property?
Shaun Stoker: Okay. So, I think every agent, what they've gotta be good at is a great promoter and a great negotiator, right? They're the two fundamentals, you know. That's why, you know, staying away from price and commissions and marketing and using those methods to win listings, it only goes downhill.
Tim Neary: Okay.
Shaun Stoker: Because if you're trying to be competitive on commission or marketing, or if you're trying to talk a price up, it's not a good business model. Right? So, ultimately, what you've gotta be good at as an agent is a great promoter and negotiator. You work on that and you get great at that so A. Taking phenomenal photos, I do videos on all my properties, social media. I get out on social media and having a really good buyer database that we match properties to so that we get the buyers there, nudge to the buyers there so that on the day when we're selling it we've got a great auctionnaire and then, if did passing, for whatever reason, which is very rare these days, but as time comes it might come more prevalent, but once it passes in, that you're in a position where you've got a great negotiating skill to get a great press for it and I think you know he did that over a table rather than on the auction floor.
Tim Neary: Terrific. I really appreciate you coming in. You've really given us some real gems today. The thing that really stood out for me was sit in the area, have a coffee, feel the fit. If the fit's right, then it's on the right track. Yeah. I like the way you also said be curious and listen to people. And I think that's great advice for all real estate agents, and anybody anyway going and looking to develop something.
Shaun I thank you very much for coming in. I appreciate it. Thank you.
Shaun Stoker: I appreciate it. You're welcome.
Tim Neary: Remember 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, Shaun Stoker. Thanks again for tuning in and we'll see you next week. Goodbye.