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Why relationships are critical for negotiations

25 January 2018 Demii Kalavritinos
Charles Tarbey, Century 21

CENTURY 21 chairman Charles Tarbey joins Tim Neary to reveal just how much work goes into building a successful brand and why real estate without people isn’t real estate at all.  

The “real estate royalty” outlines his four pillars of real estate and how each one can make an agent’s career.

Charles also tells Tim how his unique marketing targets consumers and how it puts distance between CENTURY 21 and all of the others.

You will also find out:

  • The intrinsic link between technology and negotiation
  • What lies ahead for 2018 and beyond
  • 5 facts about Charles no one knows!

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

Make sure you never miss an episode by subscribing to us now on iTunes

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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:    How's 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've got real estate royalty on the show today. It's Chairman and Owner of Century 21 network, it's Charles Tarbey. Hello Charles. Welcome to the show.

Charles Tarbey:        Thank you very much.

Tim Neary:    Now, Century 21 is arguably the most recognisable brand in Australian real estate today, but that's no accident, is it? Tell us, Charles, how much work goes into building a brand?

Charles Tarbey:        I'm glad you said ... Obviously my competitors may argue that point, but what we've focused on, and we really, really have, when you look around the industry you see a lot of industry focus. We focused on the consumer. Yes, it's important to stay in touch with the industry, and yes it's important to keep other agents engaged, people move around, we'd like more people to be involved with C21.

            To my detriment in many ways, we have stuck with that focus on the consumer, and it's very hard for the consumer, for any consumer out in the streets, to say they don't know the brand, but there are many, many real estate companies across this country within the industry have a profile, but with a consumer do not. So, for me, it's always been about that, doing what you and I are doing today.

            Whether we're focused on radio, whether we sponsor the children's telethon in Perth, whether we sponsor the Phoenix A-League soccer team in New Zealand, or whether it's the radio programmes, or Sky News appearances, TV campaigns. They are all consumer focused, and that's the whole concept of it, from my point of view.

Tim Neary:    And it's consistency as well, isn't it?

Charles Tarbey:        It is. You have to maintain it, because if you don't, you do fall out of favour very quickly. I found that over the years. We have been on television pretty much every year for the past 20 years, and there was a time there a few years back where I had the opportunity to sponsor the Australian Open golf, which is the most prestigious tournament in this country. And that's a $1.3 million sponsorship event. We became the major sponsors by default.

            Certainly it didn't cost me 1.3, because it was close to that, but it cost a substantial amount of money. It sent the message about the brand to people who play golf, and people who play golf range from five years of age to 95 years of age. There's a significantly high female component, so for us, we were getting a message across to very, very broad base of consumer.

Tim Neary:    Touching everybody and getting that right dynamic in there. Now, essentially real estate can get a little complicated, but it's not essentially that complicated, is it? You've talked about these four pillars of real estate. Take us through them, Charles.

Charles Tarbey:        Yep. A lot of real estate practitioners have a tendency to get focused on that next script or dialogue, or that magic bullet that's going to change the world for them. Essentially, real estate's voice to voice, contact to contact, belly to belly, in my view. Even though technology has played a very strong part in the way in which we deliver our message, the best real estate agents are the ones that still know how to communicate with people directly.

            Most real estate practitioners, when they send out a broadcast or a bulk email, they think that they've reached people, but you and I both know that you can send out an email to 10,000 people. 3000 may get it, 1000 or 2000 may ignore, 500 my unsubscribe from you, but you're sitting in your office thinking you've done a great job.

Tim Neary:    That you've communicated with all these people.

Charles Tarbey:        Yeah, and I can pick up the telephone and talk to five people and get more business than 1000 emails that go out, but the four pillars that I see, real estate's built around prospecting, it's built around that listing presentation, it's built around the presenting of the property itself, and then it's built around a negotiating stage.

            Those four stages are what real estate is all about. The majority of real estate practitioners have been taught to focus on prospecting, but in reality, prospecting doesn't deliver anything to you. You're out there in the middle of the night, seeing people and their families, when you should be with your own family.

            And quite often you're there against three or four or five other agents, and you can go in and get absolutely no business at all. So, you work for free for a significant period of time, and I think that the prospecting component is probably the one that we need to focus on most, and certainly as an organisation, we are.

            We believe that the real estate practitioners only really earn their keep when they're listing, presenting a property, and negotiating the transaction. To that end, as an organisation, we've started focusing very heavily over the last couple of years, at lead generation, so that we can take the real estate agent away from the prospecting component.

            If you go to buy a car, the car salesperson didn't go out, design the car, get the material, build it, bring it to the showroom. It was delivered to the showroom. That's the same with white goods, but our industry is one of the very few industries where we're almost out there, trying to find a piece of land, designing a property to go on it, getting the material, building it, and then putting it on the shelf.

            That component of it takes a significant amount of time, and it also destroys a lot of people and their energy in real estate. It really does nail them.

Tim Neary:    We were talking a little bit and you mentioned a little bit early about this tech disruption that's going on at the moment. It's getting a lot of talk but how much of an issue do you think it really is, and how does it play out from here?

Charles Tarbey:        Well, we wouldn't have existed in real estate if you believed what people were talking about 10 years ago. Real estate agents would be obsolete. It's not a disruption as much as it is, and I keep crediting Graham Mirabito, ex-CEO of CoreLogic, with the words, that to me, it's constructive evolution. Now, I've taken onboard what he said, and I look around at those organisations, and I think to myself, "Okay, what are they doing to get this business? Is there something they're doing that we're not, that we should be?"

            That's how we're viewing technology disruption, if you like, because if I was to take onboard every single piece of technology that was delivered into the industry in the last four or five years, we would be in a right mess now, because 90% of it hasn't worked, and the 10% that is out there, very little of it's making any money.

            And in addition to that, the disruption is now disrupting the disruption. So, you've got companies competing against companies that came in to disrupt our industry. All of a sudden, the whole process has changed. There are parts of it I like. Going back to the four pillars, the negotiating platform in my view is one of the weakest areas in real estate. It's one of the most untrained areas in real estate, for real estate practitioners to understand how to bring two parties together, and negotiate an effective transaction that suits both buyer and seller.

            That is an area that we need to focus on, and there is some technology out there that allows the buyer and seller to transaction transparently with the agent sitting in between. I think that means that the agent's still involved in the relationships, but the technology's assisting.

            We've always said significantly ... Somebody asked me the question, "What's changed between now and 20 years ago or 30 years ago from real estate?" I said, "Nothing really, other than the way we deliver our message." Instead of a letter, we send an email, instead of a flier in a mailbox, we send out broadcasts. The way in which we deliver our message, but the agents that will stand the test of time, and I believe 2018 is their time, will be the ones that know how to deal with people and maintain their relationships.

Tim Neary:    I mean, there's a nice link between the two, isn't there? About technology and about negotiation, because at the end of the day, the technology can assist people to get in front of people, and this is a people business, but at the final hurdle, at the final gate, it's about negotiating the deal, isn't it?

Charles Tarbey:        It is.

Tim Neary:    It's about-

Charles Tarbey:        The auction platform has in someway brought that together, but we both know the auction arena represents only a small percentage of transactions in Australia. But if we were able to create a platform where a buyer and seller can negotiate, without upsetting each other, because I've seen situations where people have gone into a home, or I've even taken people through a home, and they might walk through, the seller didn't want to leave, which is another issue in itself, but the seller didn't like the attitude of the buyer, strangely enough.

            I've gone back to negotiate and speak to a seller and they'll say to me, "Was it those people that drove that red such and such car?" I go, "Yes." "Look, we don't care if they pay full price. We are not selling our home to them" because they still feel as though they're leaving a part of their lives in that property, and they don't want that person to live there.

            So, negotiation is a very, very simple, yet complicated process if the agents don't deal with it effectively. Because you can end up going to a buyer, back to a seller, back to the buyer, back to a seller, with counteroffers, and in that process, you could really damage any relationships you might have had.

Tim Neary:    'Cause it's a really skill, isn't it, negotiation? It's about both parties leaving the table feeling that they've got something.

Charles Tarbey:        It's the same as a listing presentation. When a real estate agent rings me up, I had one agent ring me and said to me, "Look, I've got a buyer and I've got a seller. The buyer's made a good offer, but I just cannot get the seller to accept. What would you say to them?"

            I said to the agent, I said, "Look, it's a bit late." When you are negotiating the sale of the property, that starts the time of listing the property. How did you set the stage for the seller, and what sort of feedback have you given along the lines of what you said you would do? That's where it starts.

            I remember another agent rang me not too long ago and said to me, "I've got a buyer. It's a $900,000 property, and we're within 5000 of what the seller's asking price was, and the seller won't take it. What do you think I should do?" I said, "Look, my advice to you is to sign a contract at the 895, take it to the seller, because I think your seller is not motivated to sell." That's exactly what happened.

Tim Neary:    What happened, yeah.

Charles Tarbey:        That person could have lost that buyer because that buyer has made a genuine offer and they could be getting mucked around and think, "Look, I'm not going to deal with these agents anymore." I think that selling a property, negotiating starts at time of listing. With a buyer, it starts at time of meeting a buyer, not at that point.

Tim Neary:    At the end. I stand corrected, but I think it was Stephen Covey that talks about start with the end in mind, start with the end in mind.

Charles Tarbey:        I've heard that, yes, yes. I've heard that over the years. Start with the end in mind. That's a very, very good point. I think he was referring to objectives. If you set yourself an objective, look at what the end result's going to be. So, start with that, get a mental picture of what that objective is, burn it into your subconscious mind, and they say that the thought that you hold are hourly transforming you into the individual that you saw yourself as being, the end in mind.

Tim Neary:    Yeah, and I love that kind of stuff. I know that we're both keen golfers, and Jack Nicklaus was always famous for making those clutch puts at the 18th. He was asked once, "How do you do that?" He says, "Well, I don't know how I do it, but what I do know is in my head, I've never missed one of those puts."

Charles Tarbey:        It's funny, because as you say with golf, you often get over a put and it's the smallest put in the world, and you can see yourself missing it. Of course, that's exactly what happens. So, yeah, the mind is very, very clever and I think if you set that stage, I always say to people, if you build a relationship, the conditions become negotiable.

            Now, you can't step into a negotiating platform and try to negotiate with somebody you don't even have a relationship with first. I think going right back, the start of the listing presentation, right back, meeting the purchasers for the first time, that's where negotiating starts.

Tim Neary:    Where it starts, yeah. Cool. Well, it's 2018 now and I'd be interested to know, what you think, what lies ahead for the industry in 2018, and even beyond?

Charles Tarbey:        Yeah, I think people are sick of hearing me say this. I always say there are two types of markets in real estate. One where you get the buyer up to meet what they think is a vendor's ridiculously high price, that's called a boom. The other where you get the seller down to meet what they think is the purchaser's ridiculously low offer. That's called real estate, and that's what we're in 90% of the time.

            I think 2018 will definitely present itself to be that way, and this is why I think the emphasis on pillar number four, and that's the negotiating aspect of it, and the comments we made earlier about building relationships at the start are critical.

            Because those agents that have been socially media driven, an important part of marketing strategy, but if that's the only strategy they have, and there's no follow-up to that strategy, those are the agents that will suffer the most. Having pretty videos and wonderful videos about yourself is one thing, being able to actually complete the process is absolutely everything.

Tim Neary:    Those are wise words, and they fit in nicely with what you were talking about earlier about this constructive evolution.

Charles Tarbey:        I argued with my friend, Graham, but he's right. He's right. It is constructive.

Tim Neary:    Yeah. It's an evolution, it's the way things are going. Charles, we're getting to the end of the show, and I always like to just keep it light. It's not every day that we have somebody of your ilk in the studio with us.

Charles Tarbey:        Thank you.

Tim Neary:    I think a lot of people know you publicly, but I was interested if you could tell us five things about yourself that would surprise most people to know.

Charles Tarbey:        Okay. I have a significant amount of time for my children. This is important, because a lot of people think you get busy and you don't have, so I do regular road trips when I can. Just came away with one with my son who's 27, so for me, it's absolutely critical to ensure that I have time to converse with my children so that they can to some degree, feel the pain that I feel every now and then in business.

            I always tell people, never forget your children carry your surname, so everything you do in business, that will eventually reflect on your children, not you, 'cause you could be in the Greek Islands enjoying yourself. For me, that's one thing I focus on, is time with my children and understanding they carry my surname. If you want something a bit more lighthearted than that-

Tim Neary:    No, no, no, no. I love that stuff. I had dinner with my daughter last night and it's been the highlight of the year so far.

Charles Tarbey:        The important thing is for me, too, is that a lot of people don't know that, and real estate agents in particular have an incredible background. There are a lot of very, very talented, latent thespians in real estate. There really are. And everywhere you turn, you find somebody with a talent, and it's quite extraordinary.

            I do have some things. I was a college gymnastics champion, at St. Pats College in Goulburn, which led me to springboard diving. But that led me to weightlifting. I held five Australian weightlifting records in my teens. Something a lot of people don't know-

Tim Neary:    Fantastic.

Charles Tarbey:        ... which is very interesting. Certainly for me, I still train, but-

Tim Neary:    I'm not wrong in saying that you start every day down in the gym?

Charles Tarbey:        Yeah, I did this morning. Pretty much every day, get down there, and just ... That's pretty casual, but I get things done.'

Tim Neary:    That's why you hit such a long ball.

Charles Tarbey:        There you go, for such a short man.

Tim Neary:    I never said that.

Charles Tarbey:        They always say to me that I was the Australian weightlifting champion because I didn't have as far to lift a weight off the ground-

Tim Neary:    Cheeky.

Charles Tarbey:        ... because I'm only 5"4' in the old terms.

Tim Neary:    That's bloody cheeky.

Charles Tarbey:        I love music. I play guitar and piano, and I hooked up a bunch of mates who are professional musos recently. One of them is the base guitarist out of the old band Sherbet that wrote-

Tim Neary:    I remember Sherbet.

Charles Tarbey:        ... the song "How's That?" Yeah, Tony Mitchell. We hooked up a band, they did it as a favour for me, and I put on a gig for family and friends down at my property, and there's the last one. I own a golf course, how wanky is that? I own an 18 hole golf course, championship golf course, at Kangaroo Valley. I used to absolutely bag people out for playing golf, telling them how much time they were wasting.

            I now believe that still to be the case, but it's very challenging for me, and so they're just a few things that hang around me still to this day. The gymnastics, the weightlifting, the music, the golf, still there.

Tim Neary:    Just talking on the golf, you mentioned to me something about how golf is an analogy for business and just to tie back to what you were saying about it not being a waste of time.

Charles Tarbey:        Very much so.

Tim Neary:    Maybe just to end, take us through that, Charles.

Charles Tarbey:        I often think about that. When you get up on the tee, you don't think about what your swing should be like. You start thinking about where you'd like the ball to land, which is very, very different. Most people sit still at the swing, and they can't work out why they can't progress. Sometimes you've got to take your mind off that and think about where you'd like something to land.

            Then, once you've done that, you've got to forget what just happened. You learn from it, but if it stays with you now, your next shot is going to have some challenges.

Tim Neary: It’s about what happened then, not what's going to happen next, yeah.

Charles Tarbey:        Correct, and if you make a mistake, you've gone, "But how can I correct that mistake?" Rather than go, "I made a mistake" and throw my club around somewhere like you've seen people do. It's learning about that, and it's about managing from the tee to the green into the whole. It's managing that process, which is exactly the same as business.

            You have long term objectives, you have short term objectives. You have an objective, the objective is the hole, and this is the key, too. 'Cause if you had a footrace, and it didn't have a boundary, for instance, a 100 metre race. If you just shot a gun, everybody took off, what's the point if there's no objective?

Tim Neary:    Good point, yeah.

Charles Tarbey:        I think that that's the key. A lot of people forget you have an objective, you know the objective, you've seen it there, you've seen it, you can look on a plan, I can see where the hole is, I can see all the issues around it if I look at a map, and I can play that hole and manage the process from A to B.

Tim Neary:    And stay in it until you get the ball in the hole. yeah, yeah.

Charles Tarbey:        Correct.

Tim Neary:    Charles, it's been a real pleasure having you on the show. Thank you very much for your time.

Charles Tarbey:        Thank you, cheers.

Tim Neary:    Remember to follow us on all the social media stuff, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn. You can follow me too on Twitter, @TimothyJNeary, if you'd like 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, Charles Tarbey. Thanks again for tuning in, we'll see you next week. Goodbye.


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