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How this agent grew his database by 50% in five years

By Tamikah Bretzke
17 July 2017

In this episode of Secrets of the Top 100 Agents, Robert Pignataro joins host Tim Neary to explain how he increased his personal database by 50 per cent in just five years!

Low interest rates and a strong housing market were instrumental to Robert connecting with new clients, but that’s not all. The Strathfield Partners founder reveals how harnessing social media, tailoring his marketing strategy to the right demographic and a consistent work ethic not only grew his database, but led him to rank amongst the top 10 in real estate!

In this episode, find out:

  • Why no property is unsellable
  • The importance of leveraging the local community
  • Why agents should keep an open mind when working with vendors


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

Full transcript

Tim: G’day everyone. It's Tim Neery here. I am the editor of Real Estate Business and host of the Secrets of the Top 100 Agents podcast. Thanks for tuning in. This is a show where we bring in and chat to the very best agents in Australia. Really pleased today to welcome to the show an agent that's ranked number 10 in the REB Top 100 Agents ranking for 2017 from Strathfield Partners in Strathfield in Sydney. It's Robert Pignataro. Hello Robert.

Robert: How are you?

Tim: Good. I'm well, thank you. How are you?

Robert: Always well. Always well.

Tim: That's good. We'll get straight into it then. Top 10 finish this year, up from 23 in last year's ranking. Congratulations. That's a pretty good year for you, then. What did you do better or what did you do different during the calendar year that's seen you move into the top 10?

Robert: There's two answers to that question. The first answer is that taking advantage of a good market and more direct buyers. So the buyers that were, I suppose, previously we had a lot of people invest in the market for the first time, but what we actually saw was some of our investors coming back into the market place and spending bigger, and wiser if I can put it to you that way. But the other thing that also happened was that we had a change in the market place. Some lowering of interest rates which caused a lot of people to go out there and buy. So there was a dramatic change in dynamics over the last three years.

Tim: Okay, so it's probably a combination of the work that you did in working your database.

Robert: That's my secret. Building a database and hanging onto that database and servicing that database regularly helps when the market's in your favour, and certainly that's what we did here. So over the past five years, our database has probably increased by about 35 per cent. My personal database has probably increased by about 50 per cent. So I had a lot of followers and people that trusted what I'd said, and what I believed and hence why I got where I got.

Tim: Nice. So let's talk a little bit about that database because that's an interesting topic for a lot of people starting out in the business. How do you build a database – if you go back to when you started – how did you build your database and what size is it today and how do you work it? Let's start at the beginning. How do you build a database?

Robert: So any person that comes in, whether it's a rental inquiry, a sales inquiry, or commercial leasing inquiry would be someone that'd be saved into your database. Even your tenant or someone who's looking to rent may potentially become one of your landlords or one of your buyers in the future, so you would add them to our database. And you'll see that that's exactly what's happened in my database. So I've had people that have been renting from me for five or seven years that have followed my advice over the years and eventually bought from me.

So it was a combination of building a database and how did I build it? Simply by people that come to see me. Any inquiry that I will take, any person that bought from me that wanted to buy their second property would be on my database.

Tim: Right. Okay.

Robert: So virtually anyone I spoke to would be on my database.

Tim: And do you follow a routine, Robert? Is there information that you want, or that you regularly go after? Or do you just ad hoc it?

Robert: No, no. I service my database regularly. Probably two or three times a week. Last week for your information, I send out bargain buys, I send out things of interest, newsletters, there's a lot that I filter through my database. It's not purely a business thing, there's also a bit of an academic thing at the same time.

Tim: So what does your database look like? What information are most interested in about the people that you connect with?

Robert: If it's a property developer, we educate, we're given information about what recent styles are in the area. For argument's sake, if I've got a property in a particular street that sells for a record price, I will spam my database and let them know why it sold for that price, what made it so unique in the market place, and how they could make their property just as valuable by doing the same or adding value to their own property.

Tim: Okay, so that's interesting. So the database you have, you actually segment in terms of the different market segments that you're interested in selling to?

Robert: Definitely. I mean look at it. In the next couple of days I'll be spamming my database a new project that we've got listed. And that new project will target first time owners and investors. Particularly because of its location. One, I'll put it to you, it's not a prime location, but it's a great location, but its price point, and it's an attractive price point for a modern accommodation, and it'll probably sell out fairly quickly based on my database and what I'm about to send out in a spiel.

Tim: So that makes a lot of sense, because you want to target your marketing to the particular market segment.

Robert: That's exactly right. So there's an audience that I'll be attracting. Obviously it won't be suitable for everyone, but the inquiries will still come in. Even if I don't hit the target with that particular personal inquiry, everyone has a friend. Everyone has someone they talk to about particular amazing real estate or someone's asked someone about where should I buy, or what should I look for? If my email hits their inbox and they've just read it and I've spoken to that person, they'll relate that email to that other person. And my database is just joined another person to my database, and now I've got an inquiry, and most of the time, a secondary or third-hand inquiry is a buyer.

Tim: That's interesting. So in terms of sending out the messaging, is there any particular messaging that you stick to? And do you have a range of them?

Robert: Nah. There's no set routine or wording that I would use. Because every, every email, every spam if you like that goes out, will go out with its own caption for each unique property. So every property is very much different. So if I take one as extremely well-priced, I will call it a bargain buy. If it's something that's got huge gain for the future, I will display that as my ad. Future gain. Endless possibility. So there is a certain catches for certain properties. They're not all the same.

Tim: So there's a bespoke messaging depending on what the unique aspects of that property are?

Robert: Exactly. And look, it's not a secret. Everyone wants to insure that whatever they buy today is good for the future. Right? Everyone these days, I mean look, the reality is that some people get a bucket of paint, and paint a wall and all of a sudden they're renovators. All of a sudden someone builds a deck in the backyard or up front, they become a builder. Somebody puts a granite pad in the backyard, all of a sudden they're developers. And that's what we're seeing happening at the moment that people want to get into development and building and so forth, but really not understanding the severity of getting into a large debt. That's a big problem. So small steps first to get into those larger steps.

Tim: Robert can we just take a step back? I mean you're an established agent now. We talked about the database that you built and how you work your database as well, but a lot of the listeners that we have listening to the podcast are people that are starting out in the business, and it's a great opportunity given that you are now in the top ten and one of the top agents in the country, just in terms of building the business, just in terms of building your reputation, and your business in the real estate industry, obviously the starting point is, and we hear it over and over again, the database. But then probably after that you want to start building a profile in the market place.

Robert: It's not purely database. The other thing that's really important is your local community. So if your agent is, let's say for argument's sake that listed a property that's probably not the best property in town, but it's a certainly a property that's popular for a price range, and if you looked at the property, and let's just say, if you did some TLC to it, it would sell quickly or it would sell for a premium price. He should be able to communicate that to his community, should be able to network with his friends, even people that are not interested in buying, and he could communicate that to him, because he wants those people to speak on his behalf. So a signboard is what we call a 24 hour thousand. That'll stand there 24 hours a day. But you want the public perception to know that this property is a valuable property. In this work, yes. Someone that's handy, or someone that can see the potential by doing the good amount of work, will get you a significant gain straight away.

Yes. Try selling in the community is very important, but you need to start somewhere, so any listing is a good listing, you just need to work on it. Everything is sellable. There is no such thing as not being able to settle. You've got to be able to educate that vendor to ensure that they're at the right price.

Tim: That's interesting. I'd like to come back to that a little later on when we go through sort of the wrap up. I'd like to do a bit of a top tips approach. I want to talk about that in particular again. Just in terms of building a profile, what advice can you give us around how you built your profile, and sort of base practise in that area.

Robert: I was consistent. That was my main objective. So for argument's sake, when I say I was consistent, so if I came to my office and I started at seven o'clock, I would be here seven o'clock every day. Consistently. Now for the last 20 odd years I have been in my office no later than six or six-thirty every morning if not early. I'm the first one here and the last one to go. People see that every morning. I see the same people every morning come in and say hello to me as they walk past, and they still say to me, "Robert, you're still here? This hour? Even after so long." People get to know, and I get listings because people come in early morning and say, "Look, I have to see you before work." Be consistent is what the key factor is. Be open minded when talking to customers, because both buyers and vendors have different needs. And then they've got different requirements for selling and buying. But the key factor for me was to be consistent.

Tim: And it sounds like consistent and also just putting in the hard yards of doing the hard work?

Robert: I'm constantly under pressure all day long. That's how I like it. I do not have long-winded conversations, and I'm very straight to the point.

Tim: Robert in terms of, but then we're sort of getting to the end of the show now, so I just, as I said a little earlier, that the sort of the top tips section. Like your top tips around end-listings presentations, what are the conversations that you like to be having with the vendors that you go in and see?

Robert: First, I want to reassure the vendor that I understand their property. So when I view a property for a market appraisal, whether I'm selling it or auction it, whatever the case may be, I would look at the property and ask a few questions to familiarise myself with the property, and then I will point out some key factors that I think would be sellable with my vendor, and in the public and what the public wants. For argument's sake, in my particular suburb, people look for large blocks of land, a second bathroom in a unit is important, and a garage is very important. And there will be the some decisions and the strengths of that property that I would point out to my vendor. But most of all I will reassure my vendor that they have me available 24/7 and all my customers are available 24/7.

You see a lot of agents only strictly speak to the open houses midweek and on a Saturday. A lot of buyers demand, want to have a private inspection, want to go through the property and enjoy it quietly and peacefully on their own. There are different needs. And that's what I mean. You need to be consistent, and you need to stand out from everyone else.

Tim: It's quite a unique skill, that being consistent but also standing out. So you need to understand what it is that the vendor wants, and then cover it.

Robert: You need to understand what you're selling. If you don't understand what you're selling, you're not going to be able to sell it.

Tim: Okay. Then your top tip, Robert, for once you've got the listing, and then marketing it and actually selling it.

Robert: Perform. So when I mean perform, even though you think the property may be overpriced, or a little bit harder to sell because it has some deformities, if you like, or it has a secondary location, focus on the good points. Focus on what will make this property different, and how you can make it stand out. So whether you need to walk the streets with some letter box drops, whether you need to seek a buyer out of the area, whether you think the rental return would be far greater than an occupier's needs, whether a coat of paint will do it, sell that across to your buyer. But believe in your property. Look at Sal's over the last five to ten years. See what the gain is over those properties and show it to your vendors and to your buys.

But yes, at the moment, properties aren't where they're meant to be, but if you look at the last five to ten years, you see a strategic pattern. So believe in that product, be consistent.

Tim: And Robert I've got one last question that I just want to run by you. We've seen over the last couple of years the advent of social media, and it's become more and more popular in the various different platforms that people can use and are using it more and more frequently.

Robert: Definitely.

Tim: My question to you is, do you use it? You would've seen some changes...

Robert: We use every platform available to us. Whether it's social media, the website, and so forth. And that is your biggest platform. And that's what I mean by being consistent. If you're going to spam, you spam consistently over all of them.

Tim: The same message across each platform?

Robert: Each buyer comes from a different platform. You have a younger generation which is using the social media. You have the business people that are you using, out of social media, such as, you know. Then you go to this more serious one, like real commercial, realestate.com and domain.com.

Tim: Yes.

Robert: You've also got places like Homely. You've got a lot of upwards sites that are available. And not to mention there is a huge off-shore market that was available to Australia up until some time ago. It's limited now, but still very powerful in our economy.

Tim: It sounds, Robert, like you use social media, as you said, frequently and diligently. It's something that works well for you? It's an important part of your business?

Robert: Look, to be honest, you couldn't operate without it today. And if there's anyone that says that they don't use social media, I don't believe that's the case. Anyone that says that they don't use printed media, I don't believe that's the case. The Internet is the biggest tool and social media definitely is one of the most important factors in promoting a property.

Tim: And Robert, that's a terrific place to end the show today. Thank you very much for your time and giving us those insights.

Robert: Look forward to it and thank you for your call. Have a lovely day.

Tim: Nice one, Robert. Thank you very much.

Remember to follow us on all the social media stuff, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn. You can follow me on twitter @TimothyJNeary if you want to do that. 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 on the show today, Robert Pignataro. Thanks again for tuning in, and we'll see you next week. Goodbye.

How this agent grew his database by 50% in five years
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