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How D’Leanne is crushing the negative stigma placed on agents

20 October 2017 Demii Kalavritinos
D’Leanne Lewis, Laing & Simmons, Double Bay

Ranked 10th in the Top 50 Women in Real Estate ranking, Laing & Simmons Double Bay agent D’Leanne Lewis joins Tim Neary to discuss her journey in the industry and how she has overcome the negative titles attached to agents over the years.

D’Leanne reveals the skills she uses to stay afloat in a competitive environment, her interpretations of her clients and how she visualises them, the ups and downs she faced throughout her 25-year journey and why she believes that “there is no excuse for bad behaviour”.

You also find out:

  • How treating people equally can drive success
  • How to convert solid database work into sales
  • How to embrace change and to turn it into better business

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


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Full transcript

Speaker 1: The top 100 agents are the best of the best, listing and selling more than any other agent in Australia. These are the practises, actions, and beliefs of the most successful agents in Australia real estate. Raw, honest, and completely uncut.

Tim Neary: Good day everyone, it's Tim Neary here. I am Editor of Real Estate Business and host of The Secrets of the Top 100 Agents podcast. Thanks for tuning in. We're very pleased to welcome on the show ranked 10th in the top 50 women for 2017 from Laing & Simmons in Double Bay, it's D’Leanne Lewis. Hello D’Leanne and welcome to the show.

D’Leanne Lewis: Hi, Tim. Thank you. Nice to be here.

Tim Neary: Fantastic. Now, look, you've been in the business 25 years and you had a really good year last year to get into the ranking. You sold 47 properties. Let's just start off by talking a little bit about what real estate means to you.

D’Leanne Lewis: I've always loved real estate in terms of the contact with people. Love having a chat, love talking. It's a people business and it's a relationship business, so that's something that I've always really enjoyed, so that hasn't changed over 25 years. I still have the passion and drive for it. The challenges with it are that every single person has a different personality. They've got a different set of circumstances, so with every certain person brings a different set of skills that you need to develop and sometimes you'll have someone come into your open that's as nice as pie and a great person and fantastic to negotiate with, and other times you get really difficult people that come in, as well.

                I think the challenge in that lies to be professional and understand that it's more about what they're going through, not a reflection on you, and the great thing with this industry and our profession is that we get to change people's perceptions of what they think you are based on maybe bad experiences that they've had before. You actually can in one conversation, two conversations or five conversations, change that person's perspective, and that's a pretty cool thing to be able to do on a regular basis.

Tim Neary: It is pretty cool. You mentioned a little earlier skills. Now, where you operate in Double Bay here in Sydney in the eastern suburbs, it's pretty competitive. You're not the only agent that's operating in those streets and some of the best agents in the country are operating in that area. In order to stay afloat and be competitive in that environment, you would need to have skills and you'd need to have a point of difference. What do you think your point of difference is in that market? Why do you people come to you?

D’Leanne Lewis: Well, my point of difference is me. We're all individuals and so, I always have said to my staff, I mean, there's so many agents in the game, actually more than I've ever seen it before and this is where you hone your skills. You can't focus on what other people are doing and try to mirror them. It's more find out what you're good at and then get really good at it.

                My point of difference is the relationships that I build with people and the solidarity of those relationships, the service that I give those people. My essence has always been, even when I started when I was 20, was just go the extra mile. Do what the other people won't do, because they can't be bothered or they're too lazy or they don't see that there's a dollar value at the end of the service; whereas from my perspective, I've always been of the thought that if you're wanting to think about real estate, I want you to come and talk to me. If you want a gardener, a cleaner, window cleaner, whatever you need, I'm not gonna do it for you, but I want to be the person that you contact for that information.

                No job is too big and no job is too small and I've always had that mentality and that's grown with me over 20 years, and that's also seeing my clients grow from selling one-bedroom apartments for them to now 15, 16 million dollar houses and they're the same clients that have been with me the whole time, so that means a lot.

Tim Neary: Yeah, that's fantastic. Just listening to you speak, it certainly sounds like what you bring is that ability, that personal touch, and that ability to make anybody and everybody, no matter who they are and where they fit in, feel comfortable and feel like they're valued.

D’Leanne Lewis: Well, they are and they should be. I think coming from ... We were talking about this earlier, coming from South Africa, my parents immigrated here with the mindset that they didn't want us to be brought up in a society that you would judge by the colour of your skin and I think that's inbred on me the fact that we shouldn't judge people because of how much money they've got, where they choose to live or where they can afford to live. We should all be treated the same and so I, a lot of times, visualise when I'm dealing with people that as frustrating, as some people are, and there are a lot of people that are frustrating, but I'm dealing with my parents and you think about how patient you should be in that situation, because you don't know what their situations are.

                How hard they've worked to get to a certain price range, for those people, that's everything, and some agents can be very dismissive, because a lot of guys want to be only at the high end of town. They don't look at the smaller guys, but they forget that that's your bread and butter coming up the ranks and those people can make you. They can break you, as well, so why wouldn't you want to treat everybody with the same level of respect? They don't care how much money you've got, you're still a person. You've still got needs. You still have a family, so why wouldn't you treat the person equally?

Tim Neary: It's a great sentiment and it comes back to what you were saying a little bit earlier about ... You said writing some of those perceptions, those bad perceptions, that people have, the public has, of real estate agents, because of maybe some people are a little bit more cutthroat.

D’Leanne Lewis: And the cutthroat comes from wanting easy money, really. You want to only sell 10 million dollar places or eight million dollar places, but you don't know where those buyers have come from, those sellers have come from, because they've just happened to ... They haven't just woken up one day and ended up with a 10 million dollar house, they've worked for it, and they've come up through the ranks in terms of the price perimeters as well. You gotta remember-

Tim Neary: it’s a journey.

D’Leanne Lewis: ... that everybody has got a context and everybody's got context and people talk.

Tim Neary: And it's a journey, isn't it?

D’Leanne Lewis: Totally.

Tim Neary: In where they are in the cycle and it's-

D’Leanne Lewis: One-hundred percent.

Tim Neary: ... Yeah.

D’Leanne Lewis: Yeah.

Tim Neary: D’Leanne, what is it that the public want? Talking about the perceptions that the public has, what do you think it is that the ... What it is that you know that the public wants from real estate agents?

D’Leanne Lewis: Well, they don't want us to be wankers.

Tim Neary: There you are. You heard it ... You heard it here first folks.

D’Leanne Lewis: Yeah. News flash. Really, we're in the service industry, no one service. Imagine I came to a property that you were selling and you were the agent and I asked you for the price range, "Oh, we're not quoting a price." Well, that's silly. Why aren't you? That's why I've come.

Tim Neary: That's why I'm here.

D’Leanne Lewis: Exactly. I want to see it again, because my husband can't make it, so we can only do these times because it suits me. We're in the service industry and that involves servicing your clients. What do they need, how can you facilitate it, make it happen? That's what they want, service. It's not difficult. It's not too much to ask for what we get paid to provide the highest level of service that is possible.

Tim Neary: That's a really good point and it probably is something that more and more real estate agents should realise early in the business that ... and we're just running a poll, actually, on REB at the moment around this whole issue of have real estate agents become too money focused in the recent time and we're getting some interesting results out of it.

D’Leanne Lewis: What are you getting? Interesting.

Tim Neary: Well, there's four questions that we're asking. One of them is yes and no, two of them are yes and no, and the other are ... some of them are and it's just a small percentage, but they're giving the whole industry a bad name and that's getting about ... So far, it's running at about 25% and then we've got another one that says most of them are and that's why the industry's got a bad name, and that's probably around at about 16% at the moment.

D’Leanne Lewis: Sixteen, interesting.

Tim Neary: Yeah, but it's evolving. We're gonna run it for a month and see how it goes.

D’Leanne Lewis: Very interesting. Yeah.

Tim Neary: Hey, but D’Leanne, I wanted to just ask you, going back to the beginning. You've been in the business for 25 years now, you're obviously a very experienced and well-versed real estate agent, but-

D’Leanne Lewis: Is that another way of saying I'm old?

Tim Neary: It's another way of saying that you're good.

D’Leanne Lewis: Great! I'll go with that. That's good.

Tim Neary: But it didn't start out like that.

D’Leanne Lewis: No.

Tim Neary: You obviously learnt the business and you learnt and you've probably made a few mistakes.

D’Leanne Lewis: Yeah.

Tim Neary: I wanted to ask you, is there any piece of advice that you got early on that resonated with you that went like, that's the thing and I'm gonna keep doing that?

D’Leanne Lewis: Yes. Keep your head down. Service, service, service, service. When someone calls you, call them back. Call them back the same day. You're not too good to work hard, so no matter how successful you get, you are only as good as your last sale, 'cause that's what people remember. There's no point sitting at a listing appraisal and saying, "Oh, I sold this house in 1998. They don't care." It's about what you're doing currently and how good your service is as well and how good your results are.

                It's like we are ... Sometimes you feel like a little mouse. You're going, going, going. You're churning, churning, churning, but that's what you need to do because your clients need to see that you're active, that you're focused, that you're getting the results, and that's, again, back to one thing ... Well, two things, actually, service and hard work and they're interlinked. You can't have one without the other and that's advice I got when I was ... I saw what people around me were doing and I made an active decision not to do that and then I saw what the really good ones around me were doing and I made an active decision to follow that, but I put my own spin on it, because we are all individuals, so I made it work for me and work in a way that resonated with me, my personality, my soul, and I wanted to be true to that, okay.

                I was saying to this the other day, you can't separate so much who you are at work and who you are at home. You're the same person. If you are a good person, you genuinely want to help people, that's gonna come out, because people can read through it. They can read through being disingenuous very, very quickly, and so, it's just be present, be focused, give service, and enjoy what you do and everything else will flow from there.

Tim Neary: Will follow from there.

D’Leanne Lewis: Yeah, 100%.

Tim Neary: Talking about that mouse on that treadmill, that wheel rolling around, is there anything that you're doing more of ... less of today? Let me start with the less of, because of the mouse analogy.

D’Leanne Lewis: Less of. Yeah.

Tim Neary: Is there anything that you're doing less of today that you were doing then and is there anything that you're doing more of today, just as you refine your business?

D’Leanne Lewis: Yes, I'm doing more database work. When I first started, I mean, we had big mobile phones and we didn't have the databases that we-

Tim Neary: I remember those bricks we used to hold.

D’Leanne Lewis: The bricks, yeah, and the computers, we didn't have a computer on our desk. That was 25 years ago. You had these little study cards and you put your buys in based on 500,000 to a million and so up the food chain you would go and that was your database. They didn't have training sessions. It wasn't the industry that we have now where people are more willing to share their knowledge. We didn't have anything like we're doing today. With these younger agencies, absolutely no excuse to not succeed. You've got so many tools available to you. You've got so much coaching, it's so exciting. And there's no excuse for bad behaviour, because you've got all those good things around.

                When we were starting, we didn't have any of that. It was basically a sink or swim. No one told you what to do. You really ... and it was very cutthroat as well. There weren't a lot of women in the industry and so, it was really ... You had to make some pretty strong decisions about how committed you were to be good at this job. Yeah. There wasn't a lot of assistance.

Tim Neary: Was it tough then? Being a woman-

D’Leanne Lewis: Yeah, it was.

Tim Neary: ... in the business?

D’Leanne Lewis: Yeah, it was. I think it was tough just being anyone in the business. I never saw myself as being a woman in the business, I saw myself as being an agent and how am I going to be a successful agent, and that's still how I see myself now. This is not a gender-based industry, it's about the skills and it's a skills-based industry and so, we have to focus on what we're good at.

                If I've got two arms, I've got two legs, I've got a brain, I can talk, I can be good at whatever I want to do and that's not based on if I'm a woman or I'm a man, so I've always had the mentality and I think the marketplace out there is intelligent enough not to differentiate. It's more about show me your results.

Tim Neary: Results.

D’Leanne Lewis: Let me see how good you are.

Tim Neary: Comes back to what you said a little earlier and I like the way that you said it. You looked and you saw what the top agents were doing when you started out and you said, "I'm gonna do that, but I'm gonna bring my own spin to it. I'm gonna bring my own stuff."

D’Leanne Lewis: A lot of them were a little bit chauvinistic I remember, because they would say ... Say you and were wife would come through an open, they would call your house and say, "Oh," Mrs. Jones answered the phone, "Oh, could I speak to your husband please about a property?" And I was like, well that's dumb, because you're not respecting the fact that she's got equal say in this whole process. Sometimes more than an equal say, 'cause a man's not gonna buy a house if his wife doesn't like it.

                It's just more, again, going back to the everybody needs to be treated equal and equally and all of that comes back into one really simple, very simplistic, motto in terms of running a good business.

Tim Neary: Yeah, it's so true. D’Leanne, we're sort of getting to the end of the podcast now. There's two more questions that I wanted to just put to you. One of them is, and it's about the nuts and the bolts of the business. One is around the most memorable marketing campaign that you put together, if there is one that stands out? And also, I just want to talk a little bit about listings and how you get yourself into the mindset and what you're thinking about when you go into listings presentation. So let's start with the marketing campaign.

D’Leanne Lewis: Oh my goodness, I've had so many memorable ones. I think the one that stands out probably the most of recent was called the Bronte Wave House and it was one of my all-time favourite houses in Hewlett Street in Bronte and the owner had systematically bought up the houses around him, bought out the houses behind him, and then he'd separated but kept the biggest lot and he turned into an amazing house and we called it the Bronte Wave House because it was just beautifully designed by Walter Barda. And he actually just let me go for it. He let me just get creative with the branding, with the styling, with everything.

Tim Neary: Must've recognised something in you that said, "Give her free rein."

D’Leanne Lewis: I was just ... I was like a jabber jaws. All these ideas were coming out of me and I do get very passionate about it, 'cause I love being creative with it and I think when you have that sense, then you know someone else is gonna connect equally to it. The job is finding that person that connects equally to it and it was a really exciting campaign

                We set a record for the suburb that year. I think we sold it for 15.63 and now ... It was around 12, so it was a huge number that we got for it, but because it was such a magnificent home, and yeah, he really let me run with it. What also helped me with it is that I was pregnant at the time and no one actually knew and there were a couple of times the internal lift wasn't working and I had to walk up these stairs with the heels and thinking, "Oh my god, I think I'm gonna throw up. Which bathroom am I gonna use, but no one can know." That was really exciting and we exchanged contracts on the Friday night, so yeah, that was pretty cool.

Tim Neary: Nice one. There's a nice lesson in that, isn't it. When it's working its working and the flow is good and you just know and it feed ... that sort of positivity, and it just feeds on itself, doesn't it?

D’Leanne Lewis: Yeah. But there was a time where it wasn't actually that great in the campaign. We were struggling a little bit. We were sitting around 12 and we were looking at it and self doubt does creep in, because you think, "Am I ... Have I gone too much this way?" And then you just need to trust yourself. You need to trust your instinct and to trust your judgement  and also, I guess, back to that is not every deal is easy and the testament to a truly good agent is trying to make something happen where there's nothing happening.

Tim Neary: When it's not easy.

D’Leanne Lewis:When it's not easy, 'cause if it were easy, everybody would be doing it. That's the trick, actually. When you've got no one coming through your opens, no one is being generated through advertising, that's your bread and butter. That's where you go back to the drawing board and say, "What can I do to try and make this happen?"

Tim Neary: To make a change.

D’Leanne Lewis: Yeah, absolutely.

Tim Neary: Yeah. D’Leanne, final question-

D’Leanne Lewis: Yes.

Tim Neary: Going into listing presentation, how do you prepare yourself? What are you thinking about and what is it that you want to achieve?

D’Leanne Lewis: I just get focused before I go on making sure I have got the data ready, that I'm ready with all the information and I'm very good with that, to just be completely ready. I don't want to be thinking behind the scenes, "Oh god, I don't have this. What's the last comparable sales?" You need to know your stuff. Know your data. That's one thing. And all agents should know that because we've got a wealth of information-

Tim Neary: It's there, isn't it?

D’Leanne Lewis:... just at their little fingertips. Yeah. If you don't out your facts it just means you're lazy and you don't deserve to get the business on that basis, so know your stuff.

Tim Neary: And that's just the start, isn't it? That's where you walk in the door.

D’Leanne Lewis: Before you even get there, you need to do your due diligence as you would anything else. You're not gonna buy a place after only having seen it once. An owner's not going to employ you if you don't know your stuff. Also then, really I just try and get to know the client, what their needs are, or how they're visualising the process. What they need from me. Obviously, get the best price, yeah, but it's about finding out what their needs are and how I can work in with that to make it a really great outcome. Not just, okay, we're gonna sell a house, but how can we make this really awesome outcome where you're gonna walk away singing my praises 'cause you're so happy with the price and the service. What can we do? Let's work together and that's really relationship. Let's build the relationship.

Tim Neary: And building that rapport.

 D’Leanne Lewis: Absolutely.

Tim Neary: Yeah. It's been a pleasure having you in this morning. Thank you very much for coming.

D’Leanne Lewis: Thanks, Tim.

Tim Neary: Perfect. Thank you so much.

D’Leanne Lewis: Thank you. Cheers.

Tim Neary: Remember to tune in next week. Realestatebusiness.com.au is where you'll find is. There's plenty of stories there on the business of real estate across the whole of Australia. Thanks again for tuning in and we'll see you next week. Goodbye.



How D’Leanne is crushing the negative stigma placed on agents
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