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How this agent’s commitment to clientele built him a 25,000-strong client base

By Tamikah Bretzke
22 May 2017 | 23 minute read
Glen Coutinho web

In this episode of Secrets of the Top 100 Agents, host Tim Neary talks to RT Edgar’s Glen Coutinho, who ranked number six in this year’s Top 100 Agents ranking. Glen says he’s a people lover who loves clients more than real estate itself! Tune in to hear how his attention to detail and commitment to his clients led him to building a 25,000-strong client database.

In this episode, find out:

  • How agents can draw strength from their clients
  • What a top-ranked agent looks for in new staff 
  • Why keeping in touch is great for business


Full transcript

Tim Neary: G’day everyone. It's Tim Neary here. I'm the editor of Real Estate Business and host of the Secrets of the Top 100 Agents show. Thanks for tuning in. This is a show where we bring in and chat to the very best real estate agents in Australia. Very special guest on the show today. Ranked number six in the REB Top 100 Agents Ranking for 2017, it's Glen Coutinho. Glen is with RT Edgar in Hawthorn in Victoria. Hello Glen and welcome to the show.

Glen Coutinho: Yeah, good morning. How are you?

Tim Neary: Good mate. Really well indeed. Thank you for joining us this morning. You're ranked in the Top 10 now, in Australia, for two years running, Glen. That's a pretty impressive result. It's a highly competitive environment that you work in so how do you do it? How do you stay in the Top 10?

Glen Coutinho: Actually, I think it's not that I wanted to, I actually think it's been five years in a row.

Tim Neary: All right mate. Nice one. I was only working on the last two, so.

Glen Coutinho: It's been four or five years so, yeah.

Tim Neary: So even better. How do you do it Glen? What's your secret of success for this longevity?

Glen Coutinho: Well so, I've been in real estate for 30 years now. This is my 30th year and my secret, I suppose there's a few of them but, I, my main one is that I'm a lover of people and I think that's been my strength. A very long-term focus on a customer. So, to give you an example, I just listed a house for a lady who just received wedding flowers for her wedding anniversary which she's received for 25 years in a row.

I haven't missed her wedding anniversary for the last 25 years and another client of mine just gave me a house to sell and look, I've been sending his son a gift from the day he was born. He's now 15 so he's had 15 years of consistent, not missing his birthday.

Tim Neary: That's something quite special. I mean, we hear it over and over and over again from, from the top real estate agents in the business that it's a people business and that you need to focus on the people but, that's some kind of commitment to knowing your clients and understanding your clients and I want to talk a little bit about databases because you know, obviously, you didn't start at the top.

You built it and typically, the starting point is building a database of people. So, maybe you can take us back a step and just talk us through those early...

Glen Coutinho: If I go back in my, probably about my second year in real estate, I was doing exactly the same thing but not with the great expense but, I would not meet a client without asking their husband's name and their children's name. It was always my mindset to know the family really well.

Tim Neary: So it’s always been a people thing for you.

Glen Coutinho: Always been people, yeah.

Tim Neary: Yeah.

Glen Coutinho: Not really that interested in property and not really a fan of real estate to be honest. I like it because it introduces me to families and I like to get to know the family well. So, if I was dealing with you, you know, within a couple a days’ time, I would know your wife's name, your children's name, your football side, your passions. I'd record it and then I'd get to know you better, you know so.

Tim Neary: Yeah.

Glen Coutinho: I met somebody two days ago and they got my name and number but by the time I'd left, I'd had their wife, kid's name, football side. Their kids had a little gift in the mail. Dad had a Carlton scarf posted to him, you know?

Tim Neary: That's fantastic. I mean, that's a real lesson in it being a people business. How do you remember all of that stuff about people because your database must be quite big by now? You've been in the business a long time.

Glen Coutinho: Ah Yeah, look, database is massive but look I probably, I put everything in my mobile, to start with and everything into their system. So, after I would meet a client, everything goes in there, in my mobile so when you ring me next, it'll pop up with your wife and kid's names on my phone. If you're passionate about horse racing, something will pop up so I know a little bit about you and then I'll have it into my database which is top producer in all, and everything goes in there as well. So, if you looked at one of my client's files, most of them are about four or five pages long.

Tim Neary: And correct me if I'm wrong Glen but, when you go down this route it's important to come across, when you speak to somebody, as being genuine and authentic and you have to be genuine and authentic in order to sound like that. Just talk through it so that I understand it. I mean, you wouldn't just know these people on paper. You would have an affinity with them and you would remember them and there would be something more than just what you recorded on the paper. Am I right in saying that?

Glen Coutinho: Yeah, that's right. So basically, if I meet them, I've gone to their house, I wouldn't sit down and ask them their children's name, I'd just walk around the house and it's written on the doors normally or in the rooms, you know? So, the dogs' name's on his collar. You know, I just collect the information as I scatter through the place.

Tim Neary: So it just occurs to you naturally and then it just becomes part of your rapporteur?

Glen Coutinho: Yeah. If you buy a house off me, I always ask for your license for identification although I don't need it.

Tim Neary: Yeah.

Glen Coutinho: And I may look into the birth date, then I record the birth date and about six months later, you'll get a message from me, you think, "Aw. How does he know that?" You know? Just little things like that.

Tim Neary: And people respond well to that, Glen?

Glen Coutinho: Love it. Absolutely love it. It was a client of mines' 50th birthday, yesterday and I found out through her son that they were going to a restaurant and when she got to the restaurant, there was some champagne waiting there, from me.

Tim Neary: Right. Nice. Nice. Yeah.

Glen Coutinho: And one of my clients', last Sunday, was her daughter's 12th birthday so I took her face off her Facebook page and then I made these cupcakes and had them delivered to the party. So, 20 cupcakes with the kids' face on it and all her friends loved it.

Tim Neary: That's fantastic. That's fantastic.

Glen Coutinho: You can't buy that sort of recommendation in referral business. Just can't buy it.

Tim Neary: And you can't really learn that kind of stuff in a textbook. That just something that would be in your natural game. Your database and we talk about this a little bit, quite a lot actually, with real estate agents at the top of the pile is that, what's the sort of the optimum number to have in a database? People say it varies for different people but what's the size of your database and do you think it works well?

Glen Coutinho: Mine's a little scary. So, a good agent should... A fair agent with a couple a years, three or four years under his belt, I think needs 1,000 people on his database.

Tim Neary: Right.

Glen Coutinho: Somebody's that's been in the business ten years, should have 5, 6, 7,000 people on their database. Mine's over 25,000. So mine is pretty solid.

Tim Neary: That's massive and I mean, the obvious question that comes up from there is that; how do you get to all 25,000 people of in your database? How do you touch all of them?

Glen Coutinho: For example, I was in... Here's an example, right. I was in Tasmania, yesterday. The girl at the restaurant that looked after me and the girl down, the lady that looked after me in the restaurant downstairs, both provided me great service. Both got a thank you letter sent to them the same day. Both have written back to me to say thanks and both of them have now gone into my database.

So there's two really good first impressions with somebody and client for life attitude. I just have that mindset of being first amazing impression with every person I met. I wouldn't walk out of a hair dressing salon without writing a thank you letter.

Tim Neary: Right. Right. So it's a...

Glen Coutinho: And that builds my database and basically, I put them on an email programme so they get my face every couple of weeks via the internet, via email.

Tim Neary: So that you stay top of mind.

Glen Coutinho: Top of mind. I connect with them through social media. So, I've got, you know, 5,000 on Facebook, couple of thousand on Instagram and so I can touch base with them very quickly.

Tim Neary: Glen, I just want to go back a step and I like the way that you said early that, you know, an agent starting out should first... The first target should be to get 1,000 and then to move up. You said you got 25,000 people in your database and I guess that the cornerstone of building a career in real estate, starts with the database.

The next step up from there is probably building on that database and building yourself a reputation. Getting a profile in your market. Is it the next step and if so, how do you do that? How does an agent starting out move from just a couple of names in a database, to becoming a presence in their local area?

Glen Coutinho: Okay. So, the first step is, you have to be religious on your phone calls. So, you really, if you're a young agent, and you're starting out, then your start time should be 7:30 at the latest, 7:45 if you like. That's about the best time to get in. 7:45 which is what, the time I started for two years in real estate, in my younger years. Was in the office and at the desk by quarter to eight and then I was consistent on about 50 to 75 phone calls a day.

Tim Neary: A day.

Glen Coutinho: For two years. A day.

Tim Neary: Yeah.

Glen Coutinho: Six days a week. Not negotiable. So, if I missed it on Tuesday, it was double on Wednesday. Self-discipline. Nobody told me to do it and I did that for two years solid and by the end of the two years, I'd had over 2,000 people recorded in my database and I was away. Most people can't get past that first year in real estate or first, second year.

Tim Neary: Okay. That's interesting and I liked what you used. The term you used a little earlier and it comes up a lot with us is that self-discipline. You need to do it. You said if you missed one day then you doubled up the next day.

Glen Coutinho: If your boss comes into you and tells you, you need to make your calls, you're in the wrong game.

Tim Neary: Okay. So, you're making all these phone calls. You're touching people. That naturally then, would start to develop, you would start to develop a brand in your local area. People would start coming back to you.

Glen Coutinho: Yeah because, if you were making 30 or 40 calls a day, you are going to come across people that want to sell houses and then those ones, you allocate to ring them a bit more regular and get to know them and go and see them. And eventually, you'll list the house. Once you get your first, your second, and your third, your name's in the marketplace and away you go.

Tim Neary: And then it starts to snowball and roll on. At some point then, Glen, there's going to be a need to bring on an assistant. When is that and how do you know that the time is right?

Glen Coutinho: I think, once you've made a hundred thousand or close to a hundred thousand, eighty thousand dollars a year, then you've got a business that's moving. You can't get to the next level without help. So, you'd say to yourself, "Okay, how much business am I missing?" And you'd find somebody to work one or two days a week with you and then build them into five or six days a week.

Tim Neary: Okay.

Glen Coutinho: They might just work on your opens on Saturdays but, you know. Effectively, a good agent would meet about 100 people a week.

Tim Neary: Okay. Yeah.

Glen Coutinho: That opens inspections. If I do four opens, I'm going to meet 30 or 40 people.

Tim Neary: The help that you need. You're going to need a personal assistant and at some point, you're also going to want to bring on some agents that are working with you so you're running a team of agents. What do you look for? What did you look for when you got to that level, when you got to that 80 hundred thousand?

Glen Coutinho: If you're going to select a young person, the first thing is, they need to be confident. They need to look sharp. So, I judge them in the first minute and a half, by how they look. Are they confident? The second one is they will need to look healthy and the third one is, they need to want to be at an estate agent. I don't want somebody that just wants a part-time job. I want somebody that's trained, wants to be a real estate agent, you know? Somebody walks into my business and their mother's a real estate agent, their father was an estate agent, they want to be an estate agent, they're halfway there.

Tim Neary: Okay. okay.

Glen Coutinho: It's got to be in their blood. If it's in their blood, if they're a thoroughbred, it's in their blood, their mother was a real estate agent, then they're halfway there.

Tim Neary: I like the term that you use, if they're a thoroughbred. And you said that within the first minute, you can see that so that's what you're looking for and I suppose that first impression they make on you, that's the same first impression they're going to make on a client. On a potential client.

Glen Coutinho: Yeah. So, your first impression you know, I'd meet six or seven young guys a week just to give them advice on real estate. How to get into it and all that and I can't employ them all, right? But, if I'm going to employ one of them, the first thing I'm going to do is look at his shoes and then look at the way he's dressed. I'm going to check whether he bites his nails and look at how sharp his tie is. Is his shirt organised? Is he clean shaven? Are his eyes clear? Does he smell good? You know, what?

Tim Neary: It's a tough gig.

Glen Coutinho: We lose them very quickly. They walk in stinking of smoke stick air, they haven't got a tie on, didn't polish their shoes. Just, that's how I get judged when I walk into someone's house.

Tim Neary: It's that attention to detail isn't it? It's the small things that make the big difference.

Glen Coutinho: If you're walking into a real estate office and you want an interview and you want a job and you've got shiny shoes, pair of cuff links on, nice cuff links, good watch, good suit, pressed, you're clean shaven, your hair's done. You know? You look the part. You got a pen in your pocket and a notepad to take notes, you're just about there. You just about got the job.

Tim Neary: You know what comes up for me when you say that Glen is that, if somebody comes in like that, it actually tells you doesn't it, that this means something to them. That they've put a-

Glen Coutinho: Yeah.

Tim Neary: Bit of effort into it. That they want this. That they're ambitious. That this is something that's important to them.

Glen Coutinho: Yeah. Absolutely. And that's how you go into someone's house. It's never going to turn up casual look, "I'm sorry I'm not in a suit. I'm casual." You're gone day one.

Tim Neary: Yeah and I was going to say that the corollary applies, doesn't it? If somebody doesn't do that then you know, well it doesn't mean anything to them. So, if I'm a vendor that's looking to list my house, it's my great asset in the world and I get somebody that's come in and they don't really care about it, I'm going to go, "You know what? I'm gonna choose somebody that does care."

Glen Coutinho: Yeah. And then the next level is do what I would do. I would send a letter confirming the appointment. After the appointment, they would get a text and an email saying, "Thank you for meeting with me. I really appreciate the opportunity." You know what, you've just about got the job.

Tim Neary: Yeah.

Glen Coutinho: So, it's the easiest business in the world and sales guys are the easiest people to pitch to, you know? Research the guy you're interviewing. So, they're coming to see me. Go on the internet, look up my wife's name. Look up my kids' names. Know a little bit about me. Know my football side. You've virtually got the job because that's what I do when I come to pitch on a house.

Tim Neary: Yeah. That's gold. Those are the top tips. Anybody listening to that, just write that down and apply it. It doesn't take a lot to do that and all the information is available these days.

Glen Coutinho: It's all online, you know what? And you gotta think the same as the person that's interviewing you and then, once you do get that job, then you've got to be consistent. If you're young, if you're not sure what you're doing, look the part and just be there every day, early.

Tim Neary: Yeah.

Glen Coutinho: Be the first one in and the last one out, like in the gym. First one in at 7:45, last one out. The bosses will take notice. They'll give you a leg up pretty quickly.

Tim Neary: Nice. Show that you can. Listen Glen, we're really running out of time though. I can't believe that the podcast has gone so quickly this morning. I just always like to just end off, when we talk to the top agents in Australia, just with a couple of tips to leave with agents starting out. And if I could, what is your top tip for... Okay.

Glen Coutinho: Okay. Right.

Tim Neary: Go.

Glen Coutinho: Record everyone's details that you meet and be super, super nice to everyone. One. Number two; you're in real estate seven days a week, 24 hours a day so when you're out socially, you're still in real estate. So you have to protect your own personal look and feel for the rest of your life.

Tim Neary: Top tip. Love it. Yeah.

Glen Coutinho: Drunk, smoking, having a great time. You are an estate agent – like a politician, you have to look like one all the time.

Tim Neary: Fantastic. Is there a number three?

Glen Coutinho: Make the calls. Just make your calls. No excuses.

Tim Neary: No excuses. Love it. Listen Glen, it's been a real pleasure to have you on the show. Thanks very much for your time and-

Glen Coutinho: Okay.

Tim Neary: As always, lovely to talk to the Top Agents in Australia.

Glen Coutinho: Anytime mate. Thank you very much.

Tim Neary: Nice one mate. Go well.

Glen Coutinho: See you buddy.

Tim Neary: Cheers.

Glen Coutinho: Bye.

Tim Neary: Buh-bye. Remember to follow us on all of the social media stuff. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn. You can follow me too on Twitter @timothyjneary if you want to do that. Also, tune in next week. Realestatebusiness.com.au is where you'll find us. There's plenty of stories there on the business of real estate in Australia and also on my guest today, Glen Coutinho. Thanks again for turning in and we'll see you next week. Goodbye.


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