Real Estate Business’ inaugural Top 50 Sales Offices ranking reveals the agencies – both large and small – that prove lacklustre property markets are no impediment to success
REAL ESTATE agency principals and licensees wear a number of hats within their office.
First and foremost, many principals remain top performing sales agents in their own right. It’s often where they’ve come from, and for many of the principals who Real Estate Business speaks to, it remains a role they love and have no desire to relinquish.
It also keeps them sharp, and helps build respect among the team they lead – another important part of the role of today’s principal.
In an industry in which a salesperson’s confidence levels can seemingly ebb and flow on an hourly basis, it’s critical for principals to keep their teams focused and lead them to the ultimate goal. More than formal meetings and training exercises though, it’s often that subtle yet immaculately timed word of encouragement that can help get a salesperson back on track and moving stock. Or it can be a good rollicking and some home truths that inspire others.
Either way, it’s the principal’s leadership that often means the difference between success and failure, of building a team culture that nurtures staff while not hiding the financial realities of performing at a consistently high level.
Add to the mix demanding vendors, impatient buyers, rapidly evolving technology, new marketing methods, recruitment, dour property markets and ever-changing legislative requirements, and it’s easy to see how complicated the life of today’s principal is.
But, as witnessed by those that made this year’s Top 50 Sales Offices list, many still succeed. Made up of a diverse array of agencies from across the country, we’re pleased to see that offices from outer suburban and regional areas also made the grade in what is an incredibly competitive industry.
The methodology for this report was based on four key metrics, broken equally into two sections:
The first two metrics were focused on scale, which remains an important measurement tool on the basis that bigger numbers necessitate a higher level of management and administration – a skill in itself.
So, sales volume – or the value of the properties sold – and the number of sales, were two metrics that, combined, collectively made up half of each office’s overall ranking.
PERFORMANCE AND EFFICIENCY
The final two metrics used in determining an office’s final ranking relate to its performance and efficiency, and it’s these measurements that allowed smaller players to more evenly compete with their larger counterparts.
Conversion rate was one of these metrics; this compared the number of listings against the number of sales made in the year, highlighting an office’s ability to move stock efficiently. Note that some offices recorded results above the 100 per cent mark because they also sold listings in the 2011/12 financial year that were originally generated in the previous financial year.
The final metric within this section was office efficiency; this compared the number of sales agents and sales support staff against the total number of sales, providing a clear idea as to how productive each member of the team was.
All data was submitted online by senior management from each office, and where possible their numbers were verified by RP Data. Where required,
Real Estate Business undertook additional research to reconfirm numbers with group head offices and/or the agency principals themselves.
Thank you to the offices that participated. In the following pages we feature the top five offices from this year’s list, along with a number of other offices that, for various reasons, caught our eye.
DISCLAIMER: REAL ESTATE BUSINESS has undertaken a process to ensure the accuracy of data used to formulate the Top 50 Sales Offices ranking. Data for the ranking was supplied by individual real estate offices or individuals. While Real Estate Business has attempted to validate the accuracy of data, any errors or omissions are the ultimate responsibility of the company or individual that supplied the data and associated information and to the full extent allowed by law, or ranking participants, its publisher Sterling Publishing (Sterling) and Sterling employees excludes liability for any loss or damage sustained by readers arising from the supply, use, or promotion, of the Top 50 Sales Offices ranking.
Methodology: RP Data
RP DATA verified the findings and results of the Top 50 Sales Offices report by correlating the information provided to Real Estate Business by participating agents against RP Data’s own data.
This information was derived from online listings, print listings and RP Data’s ‘Recent Sales’ team, whose members call agents to collect and validate property sales as well as other government sourced data.
RP Data then provided a report to Real Estate Business on the degree of correlation between the information supplied to Real Estate Business by participating agents and RP Data’s own database. This enabled Real Estate Business to scrutinise entrants and to conduct further investigation into those whose claims did not correlate with RP Data’s database.
While RP Data believes all the information in its database is complete, accurate and reliable in all material respects, it does not warrant its accuracy or completeness and to the full extent permitted by law, excludes liability in contract, tort or otherwise, for any loss or damage sustained by any person or body corporate arising from or in connection with the reliance on such information and data in the findings and results of the Real Estate Business Top 50 Sales Offices report. Only the data that was supplied to Real Estate Business by agents was correlated by RP Data.
INDEPENDENT AGENCIES, whose numbers are thought to make up at least half the Australian real estate market, performed the best this year, with 15 making the list.
Of the real estate groups, Ray White (eight offices) and Raine & Horne (seven offices) performed best, with offices spread across the country. Harcourts was next best with four offices, while First National Real Estate came in fourth with three offices.
One group that did particularly well was Sydney-based Starr Partners, which yielded three offices in this year’s list – that’s from a network of just 28 offices.
INDEPENDENT AGENCIES, whose numbers are thought to make up at least half the Australian real estate market, performed the best this year, with 15 making the list.
Of the real estate groups, Ray White (eight offices) and Raine & Horne (seven offices) performed best, with offices spread across the country.
Harcourts was next best with four offices, while First National Real Estate came in fourth with three offices.
One group that did particularly well was Sydney-based Starr Partners, which yielded three offices in this year’s list – that’s from a network of just 28 offices.
WHILE NSW dominated this year’s ranking, what’s worthy of note is the number of offices from outer Sydney suburban and the state’s regional areas. This is due to the role efficiency and conversion rates played in determining the final ranking, balancing out offices located in areas with high median values.
Victoria was also well represented with 12 offices making the final cut, while Western Australia (seven offices) also performed strongly once the state’s population is factored in. The 2011/2012 financial year was a tough 12 months for agencies in Queensland, although six still managed to make the final list.
CUSTOMER RELATIONSHIP management systems (CRMs) are the foundation of most successful real estate agency offices, and with many now Cloud-based the CRM is evolving rapidly with mobile technology. The most popular CRMs used by the country’s top performing sales offices were MyDesktop (nine offices) and RHCompass (six offices), the latter being Raine & Horne’s internal CRM setup.
WHILE THERE was an array of responses to key challenges, a number of trends emerged. The most common response related to vendors, and getting them closer to what the market would pay for their property.
When referring to the challenges his office faces, one respondent said, “Educating vendors of the true market value of their home and the importance of correctly positioning their home with the right pricing at the beginning of their marketing campaign.”
The second most common response was commission fee discounting by competitors.
“Fee competition is our biggest issue as many competitors are discounting by up to 50 per cent of the standard fee. However, we have held our fee stable over the past 12 months with some of our agents actually increasing their rate,” said one principal.
Getting enough listings was another to rank high in the list of challenges, while the media also gained a mention.
“Our biggest challenge came from mainstream media reporting negative press, relaying the theme that ‘the mining boom is over’,” one principal said.
“The constant reinforcement of this theme had a significant effect on market sentiment, which saw the number of investors and purchasers to the region decline. With extensive experience and knowledgeable sales executives, the team has had great success in changing this perception.”
“I WISH I’d sold them all!” says Michael Whittaker, principal and licensee at Bathurst Real Estate, of the listings his office won during the 2011/2012 financial year, despite selling the vast majority of them in the same 12-month period.
Mr Whittaker, who along with his wife Stacey, runs his agency in the regional NSW town of Bathurst, has always been incredibly proud of his sales team’s performance. But being an independent in a regional area makes it difficult to gauge just how well you’re really doing against your peers, he says.
“It’s always frustrated me a little bit that as an independent agency we don’t get the kudos we desire,” he says. “That was the main reason we entered [the Top 50 Sales Offices list]. I know not everyone enters but everyone has the option to enter.”
Bathurst Real Estate (formerly Peter Rogers Real Estate until the beginning of 2012), which had seven staff in the sales department as at June 30 last year, finished 23rd in this year’s ranking. What helped get them there was their staff efficiency, finishing third when it came to their sales to staff ratio (37 properties sold per sales team member, including support staff).
Mr Whittaker, 41, and principal for six years, says there’s pressure to sell lots of property in his market.
“We have to churn out lots of sales,” he says. “Our average sale is around $280,000 to $300,000 ($290,000 in 2011/2012), and we predominately don’t do vendor paid advertising (VPA).”
While a comparatively modest selling price and absence of VPA can hurt the bottom line, Mr Whittaker points to high commission levels – five per cent for the first $100,000 of each sale, and then 2.95 per cent for amounts above that – as one way in which his office recoups revenue.
And sell they do, transacting 257 properties in the 2011/2012 financial year.
That his success in the 2011/2012 financial year came not long after they had some significant changes in the sales department, gives their result added gloss.
Mr Whittaker says listings in Bathurst are a mix of conjunctional, open and exclusive. “It would be nice to have all exclusive listings but it doesn’t work that way,” he says. But rather than try and convince the market that exclusive contracts are the only way to go, Mr Whittaker believes he’s better off working in a manner that’s consistent with what the locals want.
“I think working with your environment rather than against it is the way to be,” he says.
Mr Whittaker is a big believer in being involved in the local community, with his office donating around $50,000 each year to various local events and organisations.
“The comment I get from the locals is ‘You’re everywhere’,” he says, adding that he’d rather contribute money to his local community than pay fees to a franchiser or marketing cooperative – not that he’s suggesting they’re poor operators. He just prefers being an independent.
Apart from community engagement, Mr Whittaker points to his office’s treatment of prospective buyers as another point of difference. “They get out and show homes,” he says of his sales team. “The team still takes buyers out to show homes, and that’s why they all have four-door cars.”
Simply telling a prospective buyer to come back on a Saturday when a property is officially open for inspection just doesn’t make sense, he continues, particularly when around 40 per cent of his business comes from people who live outside of Bathurst.
“I want to take them around personally,” he says. “I love being in my car and talking to them. It builds a more personal relationship.”
He’s also upfront with buyers about an issue that can become a sticking point in many transactions, and that’s pest and building-related problems. He asks them to pay the $440 it costs to have a pest and building report done, reducing the chance that they come back late during the contract stage to renegotiate on price due to something either they or their solicitor spots.
Mr Whittaker says his management style is a mix of the formal and informal. The team meets at 9am every Monday, and this is generally followed by a caravan that lasts until noon.
“I like to give them freedom to run their own race but I do also see it as vitally important that if they see me put my foot down, they have the respect to know that we have to do things a certain way.”
Working with business coach Terri Cook since late 2010 has also helped the agency, he adds. “She has been great for us a point of contact to discuss business ideas and strategies, as well as giving us confidence to try different things.
“We feel that working with a business coach is beneficial, as business can be a lonely place sometimes and having a third party independent person to talk to has helped move our business upward.”
The entire office – all 22 employees – gets along, he says, describing the office culture as “exceptional”. They’ll often have a beer after work, either at the office or the local pub, which he feels is a good sign of genuine camaraderie.
He acknowledges that some in his team seem to find selling easier than others, yet for those that stick to the fundamentals, success usually isn’t too far away.
Young gun, female performer
SHE’S YOUNG, successful and a woman, not to mention kicking butt working in a regional town.
At just 34, and despite never selling a home herself, Ella Reid, director of Harcourts Townsville City and Beaches, manages one of the highest ranking sales offices in the country.
Starting her real estate career at just 16 as a receptionist, Ms Reid has worked in almost every position in the company. When she had the chance to progress to a business owner in 2010, she jumped at the opportunity.
She believes it is her background that has helped the business go from strength to strength.
“I come from a different perspective to other principals. My experience has mainly been working in department management and business development in property management, not as an active selling agent,” she told Real Estate Business.
“Although this has had its difficulties I have found that I have been able to support my selling agents from a consumer level and provide them with a strong administrative background.”
However, she admits starting out as a young, female principal was challenging.
“I did experience some reproach at the beginning, mainly due to my age and inexperience in the selling arena – I know most people thought I would fail in the first 12 months,” she says.
“However the opposite has occurred since taking over the office. Harcourts Townsville has achieved a number two ranking within Harcourts Queensland and a number seven ranking within Harcourts Australia. My team have pulled together and have gone from strength to strength. My determination to prove the naysayers wrong keeps me motivated,” she says.
Ms Reid also admits female support groups in the area and a business mentor have played a huge role in her success.
“I get a lot of support from other business leaders and am proud to be part of Townsville Business Women’s Network, which provides women in business with a means of communicating with each other and supporting each other,” she says.
“Not long ago I employed the services of a business coach, Aaron Brooks, whom until recently was also the CEO of Harcourts Queensland.
“His mentoring has provided me with direction, encouragement, clarity and, where needed at times, sanity.”
According to Ms Reid, the Harcourts group has been another important source of support.
“I am also continually supported by the Harcourts corporate team, this gives me a lot of avenues to bounce my ideas off and to talk about my aspirations and fears,” she says.
And whilst Townsville is a regional town, Ms Reid says the seaside Queensland city has a strong economy boosted by diverse industries.
“The key fundamental is communication on any level, and we demonstrate this through the continued referral business we get from our clients,” Ms Reid says.
TOBY PARKER was approached to buy the Balwyn branch of hockingstuart when he was just 25, half the estimated average age of a principal in Australia.
The previous owner of the Balwyn office had been unable to get it off the ground, due to heavy family commitments, according to Mr Parker.
“The last owner couldn’t get the office to write more than $1 million per annum, so my first goal was to break that, which I did in the first year,” he says.
Now Mr Parker’s Balwyn office has ranked as the 14th overall best sales office in Australia, and much of this was due to the agency’s conversion rate, which reached 139 per cent, more than 30 per cent higher than second place.
The reason his office had a conversion rate well above 100 per cent was partly due to timing, and a strong June 2011.
“We had a busier than usual month in June 2011 in terms of listings,” he says. “We ended up having about 60 properties listed for sale with us at the start of the financial year.”
Despite the overlap working in their favour, this still means that hockingstuart Balwyn managed to sell 191 properties in the 2011/2012 financial year, while listing 137. Even adding the 60 or so listings to the 2011/2012 financial number wouldn’t have dented their strong conversion result.
“We’ve actually had our best six month period ever in the past six months, which is surprising to a lot of people,” he says. “But that’s because of all the client follow up that we do.”
“We don’t try to sell the most houses in the area. We try to utilise the ones we’ve got and give the best service we can to those ones,” Mr Parker says.
Setting goals is an important part of the business, he continues.
“We had a meeting today where we planned for the next six months. We reflected on the last six months and we also got all the guys to bring three things they would change about the business to the table.
“We identified what we’re doing well and what we can improve on. We might have performed very well in an area we used to be weak in, or the other way around.”
So what did Toby learn about his team over the past year?
“Our biggest strength, and this is something we’ve known for years, is our vendor management,” he says. “We rank in the top couple of hockingstuart offices from our audits all the time.
“It’s just providing feedback throughout the campaign so that the vendor is fully informed when offers are coming in, and they can then make an informed decision.
“Buyers are out there to buy, but they really want the service aspect of our industry.
“Even with the referrals for both sellers and buyers that we get, we wouldn’t be anywhere near the same without a great network like hockingstuart around us,” Mr Parker adds.
“You’ve got over 300 agents, and we’ve just hit 50 offices, so there’s a lot of people out there within the network sending referrals to us. Today I’ve had two appraisals, which were both referred from another hockingstuart office.
“You need to work collectively as a team, because I really believe the best offices have a good team environment.”
ADAM DENINA is not only the principal of the second most efficient office in Australia, he is also one of the youngest principals to appear in this list.
Adam started his career in real estate 10 years ago, when he was just 17.
“I’d started as a leasing consultant when I was 17. I went into a sales admin role when I was about 19 and into a sales position shortly after that. I was ‘rookie of the year’ in the first year and ended up buying shares in the business when I was 23 or 24,” he says.
“Now I own a third of the business with my father-in-law and one of the property managers.”
Starr Partners Parramatta boasts one of the lowest average days on market, sitting at 29 days.
“The first four weeks are the most important when it comes to selling a home. If a property hasn’t sold in less than four weeks, we have to question what we’re doing wrong,” he says.
“We do it because if it doesn’t get sold in that time frame, you won’t get the price you want.”
According to Mr Denina, selling within four weeks requires two simple steps.
“Price them right, and advertise them right – it’s the simplest formula,” he says.
As well as these two basic steps, Mr Denina believes having enthusiastic and determined staff is vital.
“I’d say persistence is the number one reason our office can make a list like this. Our sales guys and our assistants all work as a team, we band together and push each other along,” he says.
“I really think consistency is important too, keeping with the basics and always pushing for more.
“Having good support is also vital for ongoing success. We have the girls who do the admin and marketing side, and without them, we wouldn’t be much.”
Mr Denina’s agents are some of the most efficient in the country, and the secret to keeping them on top of their game is by always having a presence in their process.
“We have one-on-one meetings every week to make sure that nothing slips through the cracks,” he says. “It also helps to have a good CRM system to keep on track with everything that needs to be done.”
Starr Partners Parramatta is fairly well established, with a name in western Sydney.
“I’ve been on the phone to Doug Driscoll, our CEO, four or five times today alone. He’s always available,” he says.
“We have training once a quarter, sometimes even more. Doug has implemented a lot of good things, especially when it comes to technology – NFC chips in our signboards, advertising, professional photos, as well as helping out with charities to show that we’re not all about take, take, take.
“At the end of the day we have a good bunch of people running 28 great offices,” Mr Denina says.
RPM REAL ESTATE Group dominated the categories of listings and sales. In fact, RPM had 400 more sales during the 2011/2012 financial year than the agency that finished in second place for this category.
But those who are familiar with the Melbourne-based office will know how they managed to list 1,400 properties in 12 months.
“We tend to go after multiple listings at once. So we target developer listings that have multiple properties for sale,” says Peter Grant, director at RPM Real Estate.
“But we still deal with one-on-one mums and dads, we just focus on more volume-based sales.
“We have a property management department and we have to face the same problems as any other office in the country.
“We still have guys standing at open inspections every weekend, but we’ve said, ‘Ok, we know property, why not go out there and chase some of the bigger boys?’”
According to CEO Kevin Brown, the company is sitting on tens of thousands of lots waiting to be sold.
“Total yield of the projects we’re sitting on, there’s more than 30,000 individual lots. They’re not all on the market yet. So we release it stage by stage. Some projects will take a decade or more to work through,” he says.
Mr Grant says their business model is very focused.
“I guess we’re in a specialised area of property where there are only a couple of people dealing with the volumes we work with,” he says. “So what we do is basically take the same principles as our fellow agents and adapt them to something a bit more specialised.”
According to Mr Grant, his sales agents have to manage anywhere between 50 and a 100 active listings at any given time.
“A lot of them would be within the same regional development, so our sales agents have a very good overview of the subdivision, or land or project.
“Therefore, we have one person who specialises in that particular project.
“Because they’re so familiar with the project, it really becomes a question of different sizes and different prices. So it’s a lot easier than managing 100 different types of houses in 70 different streets.”
Mr Grant says timing matters when selling property.
“The general idea with the public is to wait until the news reports are good, or to wait until it’s the ‘right time to buy’ and then act,” he says.
“What we say to our clients is that when the ‘market is low’, that’s when it’s the right time to buy.
“We don’t see the market as a bad market. Our sales results have remained strong and consistent because we’ve highlighted that this is a good time to be purchasing.”
THEY ARE ranked number one when it comes to office efficiency – each staff member contributing, on average, 46 sales each to the agency’s final sales tally.
Yet according to the directors at Creer Property in Newcastle, NSW, that wasn’t by chance or luck but rather due to well thought-out systems and procedures.
“We put our office’s efficiency down to being detailed and having strategic checklists that are constantly revised and re-implemented to suit the ever changing needs of the industry,” Richard Stanton, director and development manager of Creer Property, tells Real Estate Business.
And these systems and checklists come from a long line of selling real estate.
Creer Property has been established since 1872, and while selling and buying may have been quite different 140 years ago, the sales agents pull from the wealth of knowledge available to them.
Mr Stanton has over 40 years of real estate experience, while his business partner, Craig Nealon, has almost 20 years under his belt. Both know that culture, systems, transparency and hard work are what make their office successful.
“Clients are looking for transparency and finding out what a company stands for,” says Mr Stanton. “Our place in the community is strengthened by our day-to-day dealings with any client or person and remembering that every interaction should be a positive one.”
With just eight sales people and two support staff, the directors at Creer Property believe size doesn’t matter when it comes to selling real estate.
“It’s about all agents within the team servicing clients and producing results,” Mr Stanton says.
“It’s about all the agents contributing to a common goal.
“There are standards and goals within the team that mean a ‘smaller’ team can produce more than a team twice its size.” Number 2
WHILE MANY agencies struggle to find impressive new recruits, Damian Moore (pictured), director of Ray White Glen Waverley, is busy grooming his own.
With a Personal Assistant Cadet program in place, Ray White Glen Waverley has seen many young and enthusiastic budding sales people rise through the ranks to become top selling agents. In fact, just last year Ray White Glen Waverley’s number one sales person was Ming Xu, a gentleman who started out in the cadet program back in 2005.
“It is the starting block for those people who join the industry and don’t have any experience,” Mr Moore says.
“We think that it is a recipe for disaster if you enlist a new staff member and say, ‘There’s your phone and there’s your desk, good luck’.
“The recipe for success for those agents who join our business is that they first get to learn the ins and outs of real estate; learning everything from preparing a contract to how to set up an open home. And they learn it all from a senior member of staff who gets really good results.
“The people we bring in as PAs have got a really good training platform from the right people.”
Other success stories from the program include the current sales manager, Andrew Davies, who started out as a personal assistant to Mr Moore when the company first began back in February 2003.
“It’s our way of looking at bringing inexperienced youth and mature people into the industry,” Mr Moore said.
“It is a fail-safe method to make sure we can groom new staff into a role in sales, which isn’t hit and miss.
“It is something that seems to work really well for us and seems to be lacking in a lot of other real estate businesses.”
Additionally, Ray White Glen Waverley marches to a different drum when compared to your average real estate office – a majority of the office is fluent in Mandarin, and several other Asian dialects, a feature Mr Moore says reflects the cultural diversity in Glen Waverley.
“We are very fortunate to be in an area with such a large multicultural influence and we replicate that in our team,” he says.
“The diversity in the office needs to match the cultural diversity of the suburb.
“But more so, the success we enjoy comes from the fact we all share the same values — we want to excel at getting the best result for our client.”
“Our philosophy is very simple; a vendor can only make a decision to accept an offer, be it on auction day or in a private sale, if they are well informed as to what is happening in the market,” he continues.
“If there is one thing I could put my finger on it is that strong communication with our vendors — about what’s occurring in the market, sales that are occurring around their home and offers that are being brought forward because of a marketing campaign — is the key to our success.”
HUMILITY. IT’S a word that Murray Brown, 46, principal and one of three directors at WA-based Ray White Rockingham, in southern Perth, wants to emphasise when writing about the success that his team has achieved.
He stresses this point: “I’m a humble person. I like to keep quiet and get on with things.”
Yet in sharing how he leads the sales team, it’s obvious he plays a big part in its success – finishing first in the inaugural Real Estate Business Top 50 Sales Offices ranking. That team is led not just by Mr Brown, but by fellow directors Elsie Corby – who is a top performing sales representative – and Jacki Brown (pictured), who manages the office and property management division.
It’s a structure that works well, he says, because each part of the business receives the focus and attention it needs to thrive.
In the 2011/2012 financial year, the sales team (including support staff) posted 508 residential sales from 519 listings, with a sales volume of $215 million.
Ms Corby, formerly from Zimbabwe, says Murray excels as a leader because of the time he dedicates to his staff. “He’s brilliant at training, and he makes everyone feel valued, regardless of whether someone is doing one or 10 sales a month.”
And he’s fair, having established a clear set of rules for the team, including herself – she emphasises that she receives no favouritism despite being a director.
Mr Brown believes time invested in staff is generally returned tenfold. “I do dedicate a lot to my staff, and as a result they are quite open with me in their discussions,” he says. “That leads to trust and rapport.”
The former sales representative, who was ‘rookie of the year’ in his first 12 months at a company he once worked at, says he knows how tough real estate sales can be, so he’s able to relate to his team.
“Because you put the time into them, they feel obliged to give back,” he says.
“Most principals don’t support their staff, they don’t give them their time. [The staff] don’t feel loved.”
But while he’s happy to invest time into his staff, he also emphasises the importance of ongoing performance. At the start of the year he makes it clear to the team just what’s expected – sales staff need to take home an adequate income, the business needs revenue, they need to be happy with what they do.
“We have an expectation that they will perform,” he says. “That goes hand in hand with this job … otherwise we will [eventually] let them go. They know I’ve done it before.”
Accountability is critical, and as part of this, a new customer service department he’s recently set up tracks customer satisfaction to ensure his office is performing.
“Salespeople might think they’re being looked at over their shoulder, but it’s good to be accountable,” he says.
If salespeople come to him for guidance, it’s often when they’re not achieving – and this generally boils down to work rate.
“Elsie works like a Trojan,” he points out, adding that even the top performers with all their support staff still work hard to get results. “You can’t clock off in real estate,” he says.
Part of the reason Elsie is so important to the company is as a role model. Her work ethic is insatiable, he says, and having steady, consistent performers on your team helps attract top agents from other offices.
“My staff are the best recruiters,” he says. And they’ve all improved their performance since joining his office, he adds, noting that one particular agent, who was already a top performer, added $100,000 to his income in his first year alone.
Mr Brown is big on how agents should engage with customers. While learning sales dialogues can be important for someone new to the industry, Mr Brown says it’s imperative that agents evolve from the cliché speak and into more mature and consultative conversations.
“It’s important for salespeople to be detached from the outcome,” he says. “They need to be a consultant, to have good, unbiased information.
The primary concern is not to get the business – I know that sounds corny, but you need to be focused on the needs of the customers.”
Mr Brown considered the office’s ability to turn listings into sales – it sold 98 per cent of the listings it received for the year – as testimony that clients had shown faith in the advice they received from the sales team.
“It’s nice to hear it [about our listing to sales conversion rate]. That says to me that our customers are taking our advice, and that they moved forward following a decision that we helped them with. They are trusting us.” This included conversations about market expectations around price, an unenviable task for agents in what has been, up until recently, a flat market.
But excel they did, he says, to the point where they posted a number of record months during the year.
When asked about his team’s culture, Mr Brown looks at how staff treat each other.
“I do insist they have a high respect for each other,” he says. “If I find that’s not there, I do deal with them quite hard. It doesn’t matter how much money you make, it’s about trust and honesty, and hard work.
“One thing I like is they do celebrate others’ success a lot. At team meetings each week they applaud each other on a listing or a success.”
They also socialise together after hours, although he’s comfortable not being part of these gatherings – he would rather spend time with his family, and he says his team respects his decision.
He believes his team is courageous, and they’re confident. They listen to his advice, and they get on with their jobs. They work with him to solve challenges, or to try new things, as Mr Brown isn’t averse to admitting he doesn’t know all the answers.
And, he repeats, the agency’s success is ultimately down to them.
“I can give them leadership but it is [ultimately] up to them. I’m very proud of them.”
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