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Tim Foote on why quality over quantity is good for business 2

By Tamikah Bretzke
29 May 2017 | 25 minute read
Tim Foote web

In this episode of Secrets of the Top 100 Agents, host Tim Neary talks to Belle Property’s Tim Foote, who placed number 34 in this year’s ranking. Tim says his database was built on the principle of quality over quantity. Here, he explains why a smaller pool of clients is good for business and how he leverages his strengths against the weaknesses of other competitors in the field.

In this episode, hear about:

  • Why you should work with a mentor
  • How to develop real estate instinct, and follow it
  • The importance of being well-versed while being yourself

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


Full transcript 

Tim Neary: G'day everyone, it's Tim Neary here. I am editor of Real Estate Business and host of the Secrets of the Top 100 Agents podcast. Thanks for tuning in.

This is the show where we bring in and chat to the very best agents in Australia. Very pleased to welcome to the show today, ranked number 34 in the REB Top 100 Agents ranking for 2017, from Belle Property Mosman in Sydney, it's Timothy Foote. Hello, Tim, and welcome to the show.

Tim Foote: Hi there, good to be here.

Tim Neary: Lovely to have you on the show today, Tim. Congratulations, first of all, ranked 34 in the Top 100 Agents. Nice result.

Tim Foote: Thank you.

Tim Neary: Obviously you didn't start at number 34 in Australia, you started at the beginning like everybody does. I guess, you know, we talk to agents a lot and the success in the business is built around building a solid business.

Tim Foote: Yes.

Tim Neary: So, if we can, let's just go right back to the beginning and starting out. If you remember those early days, I guess it all starts with building a database.

Tim Foote: Yes, yes.

Tim Neary: How do you go about doing that?

Tim Foote: Look, I had the good fortune of having a good mentor to learn from and they were really straightforward. They said, "Get 500 people who you want to talk to and they want to talk to you in a, you know, a specific geographic area," which is not rocket science by any means, but I suppose I kind of thought, "He's successful, I'll do what he says," and then over time simply did that.

When I first started out I came into a marketplace that had some pretty good agents in it, so I was kind of a little bit intimidated and thinking, "How am I going to compete in this space?" I sort of thought to myself, "If I can find a niche in the market where they're not looking after well, then I can, uh, you know, I can perform." So I found a particular area, it was a street, had about 300 properties on it and a price point that wasn't sort of the top of the market but was still a healthy price point and so really just started to own that street in terms of regularly calling people, to the point, I sold a property last year, 15 years later, where the lady goes, "Oh, I remember you used to call me." We literally hadn't spoken in 10 years and she said, "Remember when you used to call me? I thought you were polite and so, now I'm going to a retirement village, and, and you were the first person I called."

Tim Neary: That's fantastic. I mean, there's two things that stand out for me there. One is that you were very specific and granular in terms of where you wanted to start.

Tim Foote: Yep.

Tim Neary: You found a place where you would be comfortable to start and there's where you started.

Tim Foote: Yep.

Tim Neary: The other thing was that, 15 years on, she still remembered that you were polite, so you did something right at that time.

Tim Foote: Yes.

Tim Neary: I guess there's a lesson in that for others that are coming up through the ranks. You know, find your own voice, find a place where you can play. Maybe you were a little intimidated to start so you got in, you found, and you got confidence in working there. You started with 500 names on the database or, you didn't start with 500, when you started that was your first goal to get to 500. I guess today your database is a lot bigger than that.

Tim Foote: It's interesting, you know, right at the moment, the database is a whole lot bigger than that, but the reality is you can't have genuine relationship or genuine conversations with a limitless number of people. Whilst electronically you can communicate with a really big market, ultimately it comes down to talking to people. Even today, I drill that down to still be 500, and I notice when I get away from that, when you get so busy that you don't necessarily keep in touch with those people and you go back to those people and have those conversations, it's amazing. It's amazing the opportunities that you find in that.

Tim Neary: That's an interesting point, you know? We talk to a lot of agents on the show and this question of what is the optimal number in the database comes up so often. It's different for everybody. Everybody talks about the ability, not necessarily in terms of quantity but in quality, and the quality is in touching those people in the database and being able to have touch points with them.

I haven't come across anybody that said the number is 500. It normally gets into the thousands. I would imagine that, at 500, the quality of the conversation or the style of the conversations that you have with those people would be a lot different and a lot more, I want to use the word intimate but for want of a better word, a lot more closely aligned with where they are. I mean you would know them a lot better if they're just 500 rather than 25,000.

Tim Foote: So I think there's two sides to it. So, there's one side which is the broad reach to a marketplace and, in terms of the area that I cover, that's most probably 4-5,000 but, in terms of who are the people that you're going to regularly talk to and build relationship with, yeah, that's a smaller number. That's people I've sold for, people who've bought through me, referral contacts, people who are just going to give me business in one way or another or I'm giving them business. I think that kind of bigger approach is good from an electronic point of view or a market presence, but then, kind of, don't be afraid to go, "Let's focus on, um, a subset of that and, and really build relationship with them."

Tim Neary: And that would be the low-hanging fruit, those were the people that would be most likely to be in the market or be doing something.

Tim Foote: Look, it's a combination of things. That 500 is more people who I know and who will either do something in the future or they'll recommend me to somebody. There's still the low-hanging fruit where, you know, you might sell a property in the street and so you call everyone in the street. The people in that street, you know, not all of them are going to be on the 500 but you want to talk to them when you've got something relevant that's specific for them.

Tim Neary: Yeah, yeah. And you talk about talking to them. How do you talk to them? What do you say? What are the different touchpoints that you have?

Tim Foote: I'm not overly structured in my scripts and dialogues. I think you can learn a lot from listening to people because our craft or the tools of our trade is our words. That's all we've really got to use. So, it's good to be really well considered in what you say but to be yourself. So I'll hear a lot of things but it'll be more ... Yes, I've heard a lot of things but then I'll just talk in my style. It'll literally be sometimes, "Hi, this is Tim." This is someone I don't know. "I'm just letting you know about X, Y, Z sale," or, if it's someone who I haven't spoken to, I'll like, "Oh, I haven't spoken to you for a while, was thinking of you, thought it would be good to say g'day, see what you're up to." So it's generally fairly casual, because that's me but I suppose it's reaching out. It's being proactive. That's the key thing.

Tim Neary: And it's being who you are, that's what I'm hearing you say. You've got to be authentic and I guess people respond to that and the opposite as well. If you're not being authentic, they'll respond equally to that but in the wrong way.

Tim Foote: Totally.

Tim Neary: Yeah, yeah. So if we move one step on. I mean, if the cornerstone of building the business is the database, that's where you start. The next step, I guess, would be building a presence, getting a bit of a brand for yourself, getting known in that area. You talked about that one street. I'm hazarding a guess here but I'm saying it's no longer just one street that you're working on. How do you move from the beginning to building a presence and becoming known, becoming a force in the geography that you work in?

Tim Foote: Yeah, it's a good question. So, I started out specialising in a particular part of the market and then, you know, it took a while, but started to get some momentum and started to get some profile in that. Then I had ambitions to do greater things than that so rather than being kind of trapped or hemmed in by your original position to go, "Okay, well, you know, now I've got some experience. Now I can do bigger and better things." Interestingly, part of me was thinking, "You're always going to be this person. That's what people see you as the marketplace."

The reality is firstly the market cares a lot less about that than what we think they do. Secondly, the market's a lot more fluid. They measure by performance and by reputation, so I say that to say I then sort of decided I want to penetrate other parts of the market and so just intentionalised that, went about doing that, and, surprise, surprise, I've got a far greater presence in that bigger part of the market. Reality is that original street, I really don't do a whole lot on that street these days.

Tim Neary: Yeah, and you talked at the beginning of the show about being intimidated by some more established agents that were operating in that area. As you got confidence and you started to spread out, I'm assuming again that that intimidation level started to fade a little bit as you grew. Is that a thing? Is that how it goes? You start to get confidence in your own ability, you get a few runs on the board, and then you start to become a little bit more, you used the word ambitious?

Tim Foote: Look, I think there's two things. One, you get confidence in your own ability and, two, you realise we're all just humans. So, you know, we're all just the same and you actually start to get a feel for your competitors' strengths and weaknesses and so you can then start to leverage your own strengths in that dynamic.

Tim Neary: I suppose also when you start to recognise strengths and weaknesses, you recognise in yourself areas where you would want to grow and areas where you would maybe want to develop your own skills and repertoire.

Tim Foote: Yep, absolutely.

Tim Neary: Terrific. You start with a database and you build a profile, the next thing is you get too much work so you want to bring in an assistant. You want to bring in a team. Is that the pattern, the path that you followed as well?

Tim Foote: Sort of! I got my first assistant because I lost my driving license.

Tim Neary: Okay.

Tim Foote: So I needed someone to drive me around.

Tim Neary: Okay, that's as good a reason as any.

Tim Foote: Absolutely and so, from then on, I've always had an assistant and I think there's two parts to it. One is getting an assistant which immediately gives you greater resources, you know? But, two, it's learning how to work well with that assistant or assistants because salespeople generally aren't great people managers. We're generally hunters, we're looking for business rather than nurturers managing people. So there's two sides to success in terms of having an assistant and getting the best out of them.

Tim Neary: That's what I wanted to ask you is what do you look for in an assistant and perhaps there's also what do you want to avoid? And when you bring them on, how to bring out the best in the asset that you've essentially invested in?

Tim Foote: Yeah, and I don't think I got this right to start with.

Tim Neary: Okay.

Tim Foote: It took a few failures and successes to get it right. I think the key thing is understanding that you need assistants in different areas. So, a lot of people say the first assistant you get is sort of an admin assistant, whether that's part-time or full-time will depend on the load, but someone who's generally most probably completely opposite to you. You know, salespeople are generally less organised, more ... Generally they focus on wherever the lower hanging fruit is, which is a great instinct to have. You've got to have that.

Tim Neary: Nice word that you used there, instinct. Because a lot of it is instinct, isn't it?

Tim Foote: Yeah, absolutely. But that personality needs someone who's actually organised and keeps you on time and makes sure that you don't forget the keys or drop the ball or whatever it might be. So understanding the profile of person to match the profile of work, so there's an admin profile where it's about someone likely to be completely opposite to you.

And then there's also the kind of understudy to you, which is where you start to get more bandwidth in terms of the sales sides of things, where you're wanting to make sure you can talk to everybody that you need to talk to with buyers and sellers. So that's much probably more of a mini-me, so quite a different profile to the admin role.

Tim Neary: And are those two different people, because it strikes me that it can be a little tricky if you're looking for that admin role, for somebody that's not you, that it'd be difficult to identify that person. It's easy to find somebody that you're similar to.

Tim Foote: Yeah, most of us, I think, fall into the habit of employing people like ourselves which, if you're looking for a mini-me, that's great. If you're looking for an admin person, that's a disaster.

Tim Neary: And they're two different roles, aren't they? Or not?

Tim Foote: My experience is it's rare to find one person that can cover both those roles well. You'd nearly say it's better and, I haven't done this so I'm sort of speaking from other people's experience, but it's nearly better to get an assistant that you share, it's better to get an admin assistant that you share with somebody else rather than trying to get one person that can do the admin and the sales side. They really are different head spaces and different skills.

Tim Neary: Yeah, that's a good point. It's a good tip, really, as well. If you're going to bring an admin assistant on part-time and share it with somebody else, which I suppose just halves the load a little bit, the financial load.

Tim Foote: Totally.

Tim Neary: And then do you get to a point where you want to bring on a mini-me? You used the term a little earlier-

Tim Foote: Yeah, absolutely.

Tim Neary: And that would be a different profile altogether, wouldn't it? There you're looking for another hunter, another one with the sales instinct to go for the kill, as it were.

Tim Foote: And I think you're looking for someone who's prepared to learn. Like if you're bringing on that junior salesperson, reality is if you're hungry that means they're going to have some confidence and think they know what they're doing, which is great, you want that. You also want someone who's teachable and who's prepared to learn from you because you really want them to do it your way, not their way.

Tim Neary: Yeah, yeah, yeah. That's a good point and we hear this, it comes up quite a lot, this issue of learning and continuous improvement. You've been in the business 15 years, you're in the Top 100 Agents, you're in the top 50 of that, so you're right at the top of your game. Have you got to that point now where you think, "Okay, now it's time to relax and, and, and, and take the foot off the pedal?" Or are you still looking to learn more and still looking to drive on?

Tim Foote: Look, I think, in the industry that we're in, you actually ... You can't sort of sit back and cruise. Yes, you can leverage your time better, which is about team but you can't sit back and cruise.

Tim Neary: In terms of not sitting back and cruising and in terms of the business, it's always, while we get top agents like yourself into the studio, it's always a nice opportunity to talk a little bit about how you do your business and, again, just talking to some of those agents that are starting out and wanting to learn some tips from the top, let's talk a little bit about those sorts of ... In terms of the business is essentially getting listings and selling properties. So, how do you go about getting more listings? And I would imagine that you might have refined your process a little bit over the 15 years that you've been doing it.

Tim Foote: Look, yes and no. I think the basics are the more people you talk to, the more opportunities-

Tim Neary: The numbers you gain.

Tim Foote: - You create. It's not a straight numbers game in terms of if you do the numbers you'll succeed. There's also the art of selling, so it's the combination of having the right skills and doing the numbers.

Tim Neary: And what is, you talk about the art of selling. What is that? How do you recognise that?

Tim Foote: Look, so I think there's a few components to that. One, there's a people component. Two, there's a negotiating component. Three, there is a, what's the right word, a discernment component. You've got to read between the lines.

Tim Neary: Right.

Tim Foote: I really see that as a big area, particularly a lot of young agents that they've really got to develop their ability to read between the lines and work out what they're really thinking and what they're doing as opposed to what they're saying because there's a big difference.

Tim Neary: How do you do that? I know that's probably an easier question to ask than to answer, but is there anything that you know or do you just develop an instinct for that?

Tim Foote: I think it's both. I think, one, I think you've got to be ... I was talking to one of our guys just this week about exactly this and that it's one being open to understanding that you've got to develop because the first thing is you've got to be able to identify an issue to be able to address it. Then, it's most probably learning from others, so finding people who've got that and working out what they do. Thirdly, it's just doing it. You know, the more you do it and, if you've got a willing mind, the more you learn.

Tim Neary: Right, right. Do you still have mentors that you look up to or are you doing a lot more mentoring now?

Tim Foote: Look, I've had a real estate coach for 12 years and certainly think you've always got to be learning from someone.

Tim Neary: That's an interesting point as well. I mean, here you are, Top 100 agent but you're still working with a coach and I think that's a lesson to everybody out there is that you just ... There never comes a point when you can be complacent, isn't there? Because this is a competitive industry.

Tim Foote: Totally.

Tim Neary: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Hey, Tim, we're almost getting to the end of the show now, but there's just one other question that I wanted to ask you. The industry has changed quite a lot over the last 10, 15 years and I suppose when you started out social media was less and there was less emphasis on technology than there is today. What is your best advice for embracing technology and social media and using it to assist you in making you more efficient in the business?

Tim Foote: So I think the mindset has got to be there's opportunities in everything. You know, there's opportunities in great problems, there's opportunities in change, and it's about having an attitude of continually going, where's the opportunity in this? With that mindset, there'll be some stuff that comes and goes. Just because it's the latest bells and whistles doesn't mean that it's going to revolutionise anything. It's having the open-mindedness to prepare to embrace these things.

Tim Neary: Okay, that's terrific, thank you very much. Tim, it's been great to have you in the studio today. I think the thing that I can take away from talking with you it's about people. This business is about people and connecting with people and talking with people, then just running the numbers but at the same time it's not just about the numbers. It's about actually being authentic and connecting with people and letting them understand that you are genuine and then let the confidence come from there. Let the results come from there, which will breed confidence, which will breed more results.

Tim, it's been terrific having you in the studio. Thank you very much. Thanks for your time.

Tim Foote: Great pleasure, thank you.

Tim Neary: Cheers.

Remember to follow us on all the social media stuff, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn. You can follow me on Twitter at @TimothyJNeary if you want to do that. Realestatebusiness.com.au is where you'll find us – plenty of stories there on the business of real estate across the whole of Australia and on my guest today, Tim Foote.

Thanks again for tuning in. We'll see you next week. Goodbye.



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