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Don’t underestimate the importance of service

05 January 2018 Demii Kalavritinos
Adrian Bo, McGrath Estate Agent

McGrath Estate Agent Adrian Bo discusses how underestimating the importance of service, as well as the emotional aspect of buying and selling a home, can cost you money.

The Coogee agent reminisces on the words of John McGrath that resonated with him early on in his career, and paved his success of ranking 21st in the Top 100 Agents ranking for 2017. He also discusses the impact technology has had on his 20-year career, and gives an insight into the industry before emails were around.

Adrian also explains how he gives his clients a smoother transaction, which he believes has led to his success.

You will also find out:

  • What the public really wants from agents
  • What he did differently in his most successful marketing campaign
  • How he gears himself up for a listing presentation

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

Announcer: 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 Australian real estate. Raw, honest and completely uncut.

Tim Neary: G'day, everyone. It's Tim Neary here. I'm editor of Real Estate Business and host of the Secrets of the Top 100 Agents show. Thanks for tuning in. Very pleased to welcome on the show today ranked number 21 in the top 100 for 2017 from McGrath in Coogee in Sydney's Eastern Suburbs, it's Adrian Bo. Hello, Adrian and welcome to the show.

Adrian Bo: G'day, how are you doing?

Tim Neary: Very good. Very good. How are you doing today?

Adrian Bo: Excellent, thanks. Excellent.

Tim Neary: That's good. Now listen, you've been in the business 30 years, and you've sold in 2016 for the ranking, you sold 92 properties. Obviously, you're well-versed in the business of real estate. I just wanted to start at the beginning and get an idea of what does being a real estate agent mean to you?

Adrian Bo: Firstly, I think it's all about just providing a great service to both buyers and sellers because I think we tend to underestimate the importance of that role and given how emotional it can be for both parties. The best lesson 20-odd years ago John McGrath said to me was try and go through the buying and selling process yourself as soon as possible because that way, you'll definitely have a better understanding when you're talking to your vendors and your buyers of exactly how they feel. I've got to say that I've bought and sold a lot of times, even recently, and it still is an emotional roller coaster no matter how many times you've been exposed to the transaction. It's definitely all about managing expectations both from buyers and sellers, providing really good service and trust and communication because that's what both buyers and vendors want. Look, the remuneration is a byproduct of that, but I tend to find that if agents just focus on remuneration, then the other things may not necessarily occur. I think just focus on the experience and then the remuneration will definitely come.

Tim Neary: I think that's a great piece of advice. Just do the right things, get the fundamentals in place and then the rest will follow. The results will follow, and the upside is the remuneration. I think that's great. And nice advice also from John McGrath, which you got earlier in the piece, which is essentially saying you need to feel what it feels like for people on the other side. Once you feel that, then you can get that affinity with them.

Adrian Bo: Definitely, definitely. And even a few of my colleagues recently who have bought and sold themselves, no matter how experienced they are, it's really only amplified their understanding and sympathy to buyers and sellers. It's never too late to experience that at any stage of your career.

Tim Neary: Those are two great words – understanding and sympathy – that you use. I guess it comes back to what the public want from a real estate agent. Is that what they want? Is that all that they want from real estate agents? Or is there more?

Adrian Bo: What the buyers want is published price guides because already it's challenging to buy property in the Eastern Suburbs of Sydney, so you don't want to make it even more challenging by not actually telling people what the price is. So certainly, transparency and published prices are very important in my opinion to buyers. And to sellers, obviously apart from customer service and communication, they just want as much information as possible in terms of how many buyers have been through, what gets shared, both positive and negative because it doesn't assist the process if you do sugarcoat all the feedback. Obviously, you need to be diplomatic in some occasions because there are some buyers that are a bit harsh toward certain aspects of property. So I think transparency for both buyers and sellers, communication and just a pleasant customer service experience because no longer is our competition just the real estate office around the corner. It's the Qantas Club, it's a three or four-star or five-star restaurant. It's other brands and other industries that our now client base is actually experiencing on a weekly basis. So it's not just the corner real estate office that is your competition anymore.

Tim Neary: That's a good point is that the customer, the consumer, and we're all those as well, is just so much more in the loop with things, just generally, just more informed about everything that's going on in the world. So it involves the business of real estate as well. It involves the touchpoints with real estate agents as well.

Adrian Bo: Definitely, definitely.

Tim Neary: I wanted to just ask you, Adrian, and when you were talking like that, it struck me what you were saying was that what both buyers and sellers are wanting in essence is an honest partner, somebody that can take them through the process that they can rely on, that they know has their back.

Adrian Bo: Correct. That's why the industry hasn't been disintermediated as yet. I don't think it ever will be. A lot of other industries have had disruption and disintermediation, but I feel that agents will always have a place. I feel that conduit between the buyers and the sellers will always be necessary and correct in what you said. It really is partnering with the seller to link arms and say, "Okay, how do we present the property in the best way we possibly can? How do we market it the best way we can in order to achieve the highest possible price?" If a buyer's agent was working with buyers, they would have a similar experience, but we also service buyers and we try and make the process as easy as possible because it is quite challenging to secure real estate in the Eastern Suburbs. You certainly want to make it as transparent and easy as possible for them.

Tim Neary: Now Adrian, you've been in the business 30 years and I just wanted to drill down a little bit into how your career has evolved in those 30 years. Is there anything that, as it's gone, is there anything that you're doing more of today that you weren't doing when you started out? And is there anything that you're doing less of and why so?

Adrian Bo: Sure. Sure. It's a good question. In terms of what I'm doing more of, obviously, technology is playing a larger role, so I do have a blogging platform, which is adrianbo.com.au, and I do fortnightly blogs, and that's certainly a new form of medium that I'm using in all the social medias. That's something that has proven to be quite attractive, especially if you're providing quality information about the marketplace or the local community.

Tim Neary: What do you write about?

Adrian Bo: I suppose I'm doing more of that, more e-marketing as well, but look, nothing's ever going to take away from picking the phone up and actually connecting with both buyers and sellers. So I don't think anything will replace the impact that that has and the importance that that has. But I suppose, technology, I'm playing a larger role in terms of e-newsletters, blogging and posting and things like that and probably less calls, but I don't think anything will replace the importance of phone calls and face to face appointments, so that's still the core of our business, which is calling people and meeting people face to face. I suppose technology has only helped provide more opportunities in order to call and meet people. I don't think it's replaced it, and I don't believe that that's going to happen any time soon in our industry.

Tim Neary:    Sounds like the cycle has changed. These days, you can get more leverage from using the social media platforms, but when it comes to the business end or the important end of the communication, then you want to deal directly face to face or personally over the telephone with the buyer or the seller.

Adrian Bo: Sure. It's one of the few industries I think that technology has actually improved the speed at which information gets to people, with marketing. I remember when I first got into the industry, we relied just solely on print media. Now we've obviously got Domain and realestate.com, the two main portals, plus Asian websites. So information is getting to people very, very quickly, and also we can report back to our owners very quickly in terms of contract issues, feedback, etc. Technology has definitely seen an improvement in terms of speed and efficiency. I still recall being in the industry with no email. So we were ... There was obviously a lot more face to face and phone calls. But email has only helped to improve the whole communication process as well.

Tim Neary: I wanted to ask you what you were doing less of. I guess writing letters is one thing that you're doing less of now that there's email around.

Adrian Bo: Correct.

Tim Neary: But what are some of the other things or an important thing that you've put down over the years that you don't do anymore?

Adrian Bo: Door knocking, I would say. Not that I would discourage door knocking for a newer agent because it's a great opportunity to connect with the local community. It's certainly something that if people felt offended or they wouldn't like you there, then that's obviously something you've got to respect. Certainly, in the early days, that was an opportunity for me to connect with and meet people. I started with a database of zero, and now, 25-odd years later, I've got a database of 18,000 people, so that had to start somewhere, and door knocking and cold calling were two things that I'm certainly not doing now, but I wouldn't discourage it if you're first starting out because you've got to start somewhere.

Tim Neary: That's an evolutionary thing, isn't it? Where you start, you're building, you build from a zero base but then once you get that traction and you've got a sizable database now, you need to do different work on it in order to – what's the right word – to farm it, I suppose.

Adrian Bo: Yeah, a database is great to have but unless you're nurturing it, then it's not really serving its purpose. If you're initially cold calling or door knocking, then that is your database as such because you've got nothing to work from. But as over a 20-odd year period, you meet literally hundreds or thousands of people in my situation, and therefore it's created a list of people for me to contact, to email, to write to, to blog to, to email to. So there's a whole bunch of different communication types that you should definitely use when you've created that database.

Tim Neary: Now, Adrian, we're getting to the end of the show. I just wanted to ask you a couple of experiential questions. The first one is, in terms of a marketing programme, is there any one that has been unusual or that stood out for you, and can you tell us about it and why it worked?

Adrian Bo: Sure, sure. Recently, I sold a property in Maroubra, and it is situated in somewhat of a highly populated Asian community. We did attract an Asian buyer whose parents were overseas. They did respond to the marketing, which was on some Asian website portals that we did use. The buyer did purchase it at an auction but had the parents on the telephone during the auction, and her parents were overseas, and we still managed to have a conversation with the daughter on the phone and obviously communicating and translating with the purchaser overseas. They did end up purchasing the property on that day. The parents did rely on the daughter to see the property, to do all the due diligence and to also bid at auction as well. She would have really been someone around 19 or 20 years of age and it's around a $3 million purchase, so a lot of faith was put into that young individual. We certainly had a successful outcome.

Tim Neary: A lot of responsibility on her at such a young age as well and a lot of responsibility on the technology to make sure that it all held together.

Adrian Bo: Correct. She did take a video of the property. She shared photos online. She had a long chat to the family. She had other family members come and visit as well. So yeah, it's quite a big responsibility and that Maroubra community, it's close to the university, so there will be family members attending there. It's close to the airport, so when the family does arrive, it's obviously quite accessible, and Maroubra obviously has a lot of other benefits as well.

Tim Neary:  I remember reading something where it said if you're faced with a challenge, don't say you can't do it; rather, find a way to do it. And this is a great example of finding a way to do it.

Adrian Bo: Correct. Correct. Yeah, absolutely.

Tim Neary: Last question before we end the show. Just obviously the business is all about getting listings and selling them. When you're going into listing presentation, what's on your mind? How do you get yourself geared up for it? What are the things you think about?

Adrian Bo: I think energy is everything in this business, Tim. I actually think that 90 percent of our business is actually energy, humility, process-driven, discipline, and basically that's the majority of it. I think the product knowledge and negotiation skills can be learned and they're very acquired skills, but the innate energy that you do have or either you don't have as an agent will determine whether you connect with a client or not. You can have the fanciest marketing material or the best brand on the planet, but if you don't have the connection with that client and your energy is not up to scratch, then you will lose that listing. I think getting yourself both mentally and physically focused is very important. Under energy, we can list enthusiasm as well and obviously, you've got to control your levels of enthusiasm, whether you're with a high net worth young CEO or if you're in front of an 85-year-old lady who has been living in a property for 30 years, your energy is going to be there, but your enthusiasm levels you might have to fluctuate. But obviously, just connecting with that client is vital.

Tim Neary: I think that's a good point that you make in terms of fluctuating your energy levels. I would imagine, and I'll take advice from you on this one that as you get more experienced, you learn how to do that better, but when you're starting out, it's better to come in with too high energy level rather than too low energy level.

Adrian Bo: Absolutely. Even I hear stories all the time because I'm coaching agents on things that an experienced agent who just assumed that they were going to secure the business from a past client was beaten by a probably ... even though they may be younger but certainly a more enthusiastic and higher energy agent who did all the little things correctly and didn't have an attitude of just assumption on securing the business. Obviously, success does breed complacency, and this is the sort of industry where it's very easy to become irrelevant and to become a dinosaur so you really need to stay relevant in the market and ensure that your profile and your name is out there, ensure that you're evolving with the technology and obviously experience is only one vertical of being a successful agent in the current market.

Tim Neary: Adrian, it's been a real pleasure talking this afternoon. Thank you very much for your time, and hopefully we can catch up sometime soon.

Adrian Bo: Thanks so much, Tim. I appreciate it.

Tim Neary: Nice one. Thanks, Adrian.

Adrian Bo: All the best.

Tim Neary: All the best. Remember to follow us on all the social media stuff, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn. You can follow me too on Twitter @timothyjneary if you want to do that. If you've enjoyed today's show, please leave us a five-star review on iTunes. It's the best way for new listeners to find us and for them to hear the great content that we are putting out. As always, 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, Adrian Bo. Thanks again for tuning in and we'll see you next week. Goodbye.


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