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How Chris Hassall went from real estate receptionist to Top 100 Agent by getting the basics right first

By Demii Kalavritinos
22 September 2017
Chris Hassall, Buxton Real Estate

Ranked 27 in this year’s Top 100 Agents, Chris Hassall reveals the sacrifices he made in becoming one of the top agents in the country, and why you need a little ‘mongrel’ to become the best.

In this episode you will find out, the essential dialogue you need to build your career, how the growth of juniors has changed for the better, how to grow your business through building a world-class database, and setting achievable goals. 

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

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

Full transcript


Speaker 1: The top 100 agents are the best of the best. Listing and selling more than any other agent in Australia. These are the practises, actions, and beliefs of the most successful agents in Australian real estate. Raw, honest, and completely uncut.

Tim: Good day, everyone. It's Tim Neary 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. Very pleased today to welcome on the show ranked number 27, in the REB top 100 agents ranking for 2017, from Buxton in Bentleigh, Victoria, it's Chris Hassall. Congratulations on finishing in the top 100 again this year, Chris. Obviously, you didn't start at the top and I'd just like to go back a couple of steps and just sort of talk around how you got into the business, and how you got started, and how you grew to where you are now.

Chris: Yeah, it was a bit of luck at the start, I was about 17 and working on the Saturday reception at Buxton Bentleigh. I've got a very good family friend, said just come get the work while you're in between study and things like that, so I was working Saturdays, and sort of said, "Let's give it a crack." Got a PA Cadetship and yeah, did that for couple of years. I guess it all took off from there. My boss at the time, he's now my business partner.

Tim: Oh, fantastic, that's a great story. Again, obviously you didn't start at the top, was it a steady growth from where you started to where you are now or was there sort of a break through point?

Chris: Yeah, I do remember sort of the break through point. I'd always listen to a lot of CDs and DVDs and things. I remember James Tostevin at one the AREC sort of said there's a call time period to being successful. For me, it was probably like a five, six years of being in full time sales and notice it changing. Simply, I think it was, I was PA for four years with the learning and the training, and getting all my scripts and dialogue up at the same time, building a bit of a database. Then, probably three, four, even five years in full sales, until I really started to enjoy the job a lot more, and that was probably reflecting all the repeat customers that I was then getting, and all the referrals that were starting to come to me. I was probably not having to scratch, and bust my guts as much.

Tim: Chris, just going back then, it's probably a good story, probably worthwhile just to have a chat about that. You talked about working, learning the trade, for a couple of years, and building a database, and getting the scripts and things together as you went. What were the things that you learned then, that you're implementing now?

Chris: I've still got the same basic blueprint, so we've got our ideal week, so I won't make morning appointments. I think getting into the office, 7:30, 8:00, clearing through your emails, following up on the things that you need to do. Particularly, the non-dollar producing things in the morning, before the phone starts ringing, that's something I still do, so we won't make morning appointments. My Tuesday is basically blocked out for prospecting, so that's me calling my database, so no appointments on a Tuesday. Basically, that's me calling all my anniversary calls, wishing people happy anniversaries, and you know, people that are approaching settlements, and just checking in with people to find out if there's any plans on the horizon. That's my ideal Tuesday.

                Some of those things, we still do today, but the biggest thing that we implemented back then, and still do today is our script and dialogue sessions. We do training on a Monday or a Tuesday, a good hour of role play, scripts and dialogues. I know it all now, but to be able to teach the younger guys in the office all the scripts and dialogue, and if you get an objection, this is what you'd say here, this is what you'd say there. That's been probably the biggest part of my development, even into the first couple of years. That was huge, that Craig Williamson, my business partner implemented and we still do that today, we love it.

Tim: It's so good to hear you talking that way. We speak a lot here at REB with a lot of agents in your position and everybody seems to, in different ways, but seems to say the same thing, this is business for the long term. This is a business that is process driven to a large extent, but you've got to play the long game. You're talking about things now, that you're still doing, that you learned back in the day, and that almost like, some of the golden rules to the business.

Chris: I agree, I think even starting again today, or probably better when the young juniors are coming in, they're the foundations that you have to work from. There's no point being an energised idiot in front of the seller, and they're not knowing what to say, or they get presented with a situation where, "Hey, we really like you, but the other agent's 1%." What do you say in that situation? Having that dialogue, I think is like the skeleton, that you need to really get strong, and as you say, then you build from there, but it's so important and that's what we train the guys up when they're coming in now to be fully ... Probably, I'm a bit jealous, because we're a lot more aggressive with our training now, than we were back then. We didn't have market share when we were at Buxton Bentleigh, when we first came into the marketplace. Now, we're market leaders, so the juniors coming in, they're getting all these scripts and dialogue, plus they've got the well known brand to have represent. If anything, it's probably a bit easier for them and it reflects as well. Like, my PA just went into full sales and mainly he was with me for about three years, and then he just stepped into sales and he already $350,000, I think in his first six months in sales.

Tim: Fantastic.

Chris: Almost like a proud dad, thinking through that sort of stuff.

Tim: Awesome.

Chris:    Which back in the day, I couldn't even imagine doing that in 12 months.

Tim: Hey, Chris, something's come up for me as we're speaking you know. You talk about, it's almost easier now for juniors coming into the market now. We know that a lot of people do come into the real estate industry now, and some of them go on, but a lot of them fall out as well. I guess it's not the training that makes the difference, it's the mindset, and it's the personality of the person that's coming in. If there is such a thing, what is sort of the ideal mindset of good real estate agent? What are the things that real estate agents need to be in order to be successful?

Chris:    I think, the first thing that jumps to mind, when you're just saying it, is you know, we're definitely hire on the person not the skills. I think anyone can be trained up, but probably the first thing I look at when I'm sitting across from someone that wants to get in the industry, is this person someone I like? Do I feel comfortable with them, because ultimately when the seller's there, doing the same thing, they need to feel that good vibe, and you almost can't articulate it, but you need to feel comfortable, and say, "Hey, this person's a good person, they seem professional, they seem to know what they're talking about." That's a new era of an agent. It's not the slicked back hair, sports car, hey, look at me in my sharp suit. It's more professional, presented, articulate type person. That's probably the first thing.

                I think you just need to understand and make sacrifices. You know, I used to love my football and my cricket, when I was getting into it, and I had to sacrifice those things. I had to sacrifice going out with friends on a Saturday night, because back then we worked on Sunday, so a lot of my nights would be going out, obviously enjoying that sort of thing, but I put work first. I guess, in reflection, I don't regret it for a second. You probably just need to understand there is sacrifices you'll make, if you really want to have a crack at it. That'll sort out the pecking order for the people that are prepared to get up early and work late. Definitely we have work life balance, but when you need to work, you need to work.

Tim: Just listening to you speaking now, it sounds to me like there's two most important things, and people look in the mirror. Juniors looking in the mirror today, would need to answer those questions. One, am I a people person? Am I personable? Do I have the right sort of people ... Can I establish rapport with people? Second of all, am I committed to it, because it sounds like if you're not both of those two things, then this is going to be a bit of a struggle to be in this industry.

Chris: Oh, absolutely, the bar's been raised in the industry. I mean, there's people getting out of their professional jobs and into real estate, because of obviously the potential income you can make. You know, the bar has been raised, there's great trainers out there, like Panos and others, that you know, are raising the bar. John McGrath's stuff as well, it's just quality content that, yeah if you're not prepared to do it, there's people behind you that are. The energy, the commitment, everything that you need, if you don't, well, again, you'll be across the table getting the bad news from that vendor, because someone came there and more enthusiastic.

Tim: To that point as well, if you're not prepared to do it, there's going to be others that are. I was talking to one of the well known MDs in one of the networks, just during the week. She was saying to me, that one of the profiles that she looks for, one of the things that she looks for, is a little bit of mongrel, she wants people that are professional as you were talking about earlier, but she was saying, "I also look, you've got to have a little bit of mongrel in you." Would you agree with that?

Chris: Yeah, absolutely. You need that sort of, just that bit of killer instinct in a nice way. It's in a classy way, but you do need that little bit of competitiveness I probably would use that word competitiveness in you. The guys come in, they've got a listing, we give each other a huge high five, and my hands throbbing three hours later, because it's just that inner competitiveness that you need. Mongrel, competitiveness, however you want to word it, you do need that sort of hate to lose mentality, absolutely. It's just like a sport we love it. That's probably half the reason that we're always coming into work energised, you're feeding off each other, with your surrounding teams as well.

Tim: I love that analogy that it is like a sport and we often talk on the show, about sort of the parallels between being a top end real estate agent, and being a top end sportsman. In terms of being up for the game, being ready for it, being fit and prepared, and going through the coaching.

Chris: Training absolutely.

Tim: Training, yeah absolutely. I wanted to spend a little time just talking about perhaps some of the specifics of growing the business. When you started out, and in your experience, if you would just go back to the beginning of your career in the business. Around database, and database building, we talk a lot about, what is the optimal number to have and how do you work a database? Do you remember and maybe just enlighten us a little bit about how you did it? How you grew your database? In your experience, what is the right number of people to have in a database?

Chris: I still remember in my mind, it was always, we had to have goals, so you wanted a goal, how many database contacts are you wanting to add each week, or each three months, or six months. You'd write those goals up, and then you'd have to have the reason, not just a diary hidden under a desk, but in your office, on a piece of paper, so anyone walking in, would see those goals. Those goals would then make you accountable. It's also something that's in front of you, and that's your focus. I think long term, when I first got in, I wanted 10, then I wanted a 100, then I wanted 200, then I kept growing it, then I want a thousand. Then, I guess I'd get it up to 2,000, and then I think currently today, I might be sitting around 2,500. They're good quality contacts. A lot of my phone calls now are, "Hi, it's Chris Hassall, good day, how are you doing," and they've got my number in their phone. It's not, "Hi, it's Chris Hassall, from Buxton," needing to remind them, that was a big focus as well.

                Then, the basic, if you had 2,000. Now your goal is in five years have 2,000 contacts, or whatever time it takes you, people that have a house to sell, 2,000 of them, if 10% of those people turned over, do your numbers, that 200. Then, if you can only close 50% of those, so let's say you only list half of those, there's a hundred listing. Ready made, each year for you, jumps from your database, without the organic stuff that'll come from everywhere else. Then, if your average fee ... I know my average fee is about $18,800, and that I do about $110,000 a year, that's my $2 million, that's my goal each year. Probably the goal this year, is to get my fee up. I don't know that I can manage more than about 110 sales it seems, the last few years would suggest. That's the goal for all my younger guys in the office as well.

                Everyone's going to have different levels of goals, but they need to have them in writing, in front of them. My analogy, if you're up on stage and you've got all these bamboo sticks with plates above them, and you couldn't keep the plates spinning for them to stay on top of that stick, it's almost like that database as well. If you don't call your database, if you're not sort of in touch with them every six months at least, then the plates start to fall off. You need to keep that momentum going with all the relationships that you have with these people. Again, that comes back to your ideal week, so choose days, your prospecting day, you've got the time to do it. That's probably in a nutshell, our goals of building that database.

                Then, beyond that, what do you say when you call these people? There's always a reason. Typically, it's happy anniversary, or just wanted to let you know about a sale in the street, or we've just listed one in the street, so when the person picks up the phone, it's not the agent calling them saying, "Are you selling?" Because that's something, you're asking them to sell. You've got to give them some information. Again, the scripts and dialogue that we run through, how do you start the phone call? How do you finish it? Yeah, that's it. I think I’ve articulated it enough.

Tim: Yeah, you did, you really did, and I love the analogy that you used, about keeping the plates spinning, because as you said, "If you're not calling them, then somebody else is going to be calling them." Then, they're not really on your database anymore, they're just names on a page.

Chris: Yeah, that used to be my little voice in my head actually funny you say that. If I'm not doing this, someone else is.

Tim: Yeah.

Chris: That always kept me accountable. You could use the analogy to vision not watering a plant it will die. Whatever it is, you can picture that. Once you've kept in touch with that person for two or three years, with some genuine contact, you know, the phone calls are really easy. Then, I'm starting to chat about my kids, and we're chatting about other things other than real estate. That's probably what I love about the job at the moment the most, just dealing with people, not just for real estate, but just you know, just being a good person, probably the best way to put it.

Tim:That's a real piece of golden advice, you know, is the more you work the database, the more you're doing it, the easier it becomes. Because you start to develop rapport. You start to develop a relationship with people. It's not just about ... It's not a cold call anymore. It becomes a warm call, a chat.

Chris: Absolutely, and one big tip I can give any listeners, is as many people as you can save in your phone, save them. Save their name, save the property address. How powerful is it if they call you and you're straight away on the phone, saying, "Well, good aye Tim how are you going?" They're like, "Oh wow, he's got my number in his phone." Even just that little, adding them to the phone, can again help with that rapport building and trust.

Tim: That's a great tip and folks you heard it hear first. That's a top tip, from a top 100 agent. Putting the name in the phone there, probably a good point to lead in. We're running out of time Chris. I'm having a look at the clock here and just, you were talking about scripts and dialogue a little earlier as well, and the sessions that you have, just in terms of tips. For junior agents coming in, in your experience doing the training that you do with the scripts and dialogues, what are some of the most common objectives that you hear every day, and what are your mitigants, how do you counter those?

Chris: I think the fee one is the biggest one always, because either there's agents that are new in the are, trying to get market share, so they're coming in with low fees. It seems to be a pretty common theme. The best thing I've implemented probably something from Andrew Kelleher, and he came to us years ago, and it was his five year of a flat fee, so if you're chasing your 2%. They say Hey Chris, Century agents, two of them are at 1.5%, you're at 2%. We want to go with you but hey, that's where they're at. If it's a flexi fee so it's not so much script, but it's also a concept of okay, let's keep the fee, 1.5% to 2%, close the sale, once you know what I've done and all the commitments I've fulfilled, and the great result that I've got. Then can you then at least judge me on the commission not so much now. That's been something that probably worked really well for us.

                It keeps us accountable, but also gives us an upside, because we truly believe we'll get a better result than our competitors. That's probably been my one thing to overcome that talk about commission. I remember in that situation, Chris, you're 1.5, they're ... I'm like okay, let's just do it for 1.5% and you lock it in. It's sort of a bitter taste in your mouth when you leave that listing appointment. Whereas now, you know you leave thinking, okay, if we really get a great result here, we might be rewarded a bit more. Plus it takes the issue out of the fee also. Then you can close a lot more people on the spot. We'll match what they're offering, give us some upside. Next on the list, fees are done.

Tim: It makes a lot of sense, because it probably gives you some room to move into and it probably gives the vendor some room to move into as well, so nobody feels like they hemmed into a corner.

Chris: That's it. They give the sales team an incentive , a character dangle as well. In the back of their mind, subconsciously like you know, yeah, we know we have an opportunity to get a better fee here, let's bust our guts. Again, the reasons why we're number in the market place, maybe that's one reason, there's obviously a lot of others. The only other one about scripts and dialogues, when you're picking up the phone and you're calling someone, and the first thing that I find that puts the conversation at ease. Hi, it's Chris Hassall calling from Buxton, you know, just a quick call to say, I know you're not thinking of selling ... Saying that at the start of the phone call, puts the phone call at ease, because most people when a real estate agent calls them. They go, "He wants to know if I'm selling." When I don't say that, the first thing people do is they jump down my throat and go, "Chris, we're not selling." Then, suddenly I'm on the bad for that phone call, but if I actually own that statement, and say, "Hey, I'm not calling to see if you're selling, just calling to touch base." Hey, good day, show an interest in your situation if things should change, that is one key script that I think is a very powerful one to sort of get in and say that before they say that and or a potential vendor says that.

Tim: Another piece of gold, because it probably just takes the sting out of the conversation straight away, then it lets people talk about what they really want to talk about, which is real estate. Everybody wants to be talking about, everybody's interested in real estate, but they don't want to feel like they're hemmed in. Another piece of golden advice. Hey mate, listen, we've come to the end of our time slot here, it's been really terrific chatting with you. Love to stay in touch and maybe get you on the show in a couple of weeks or a couple of months time, see how things are progressing.

Chris: Absolutely.

Tim: Nice one.

Chris: Yeah, bring it on.

Tim: Good. Chris, thanks so much.

Chris: Pleasure.

Tim: Remember to follow us on all the social media stuff too, 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 today, Chris Hassall. Thanks again for tuning in and we'll see you next week, goodbye.

How Chris Hassall went from real estate receptionist to Top 100 Agent by getting the basics right first
Chris Hassall web
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