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The rebirth of a career

By Demii Kalavritinos
30 November 2017
Tanja Neven-Jones, O’Brien

Tanja Neven-Jones reveals her biggest secret  “just shut-up and listen to people”  and how having a point of difference is fundamental to succeed in the industry.

Ranked 38th in the Top 50 Women in Real Estate ranking 2017, the O’Brien agent discusses her most important learnings over the last 14 years, how conferences can change a business for the better, the process she implements to differentiate herself and the biggest piece of advice which has pushed her to success.

You will also find out:

  • The importance of education
  • Her breakthrough moment
  • How to prepare yourself for a listing presentation

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


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Did you like this episode? Show your support by rating us or leaving a review on iTunes (Secrets of the Top 100 Agents) and by liking and following Real Estate Business on social media: Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. If you have any questions about what you heard today, any topics of interest you have in mind, or if you'd like to lend a voice on the show, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for more insight! 

Full transcript


Voiceover: 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 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.

            Very pleased to welcome on the show today, ranked number 38 in the top 50 women for 2017 from O'Brien Real Estate in Chelsea in Victoria. It's Tanja Neven-Jones.

            Hello, Tanja, and welcome to the show.

Tanja N.J.: Hello, Tim. Thank you for having me.

Tim Neary: Now, 14 years in the business in 2016 you sold 102 properties. That's a real bunch of properties. You obviously are well versed in the industry and you were just telling me a little off-air that the thing that you really, and I quote, “what I really, really adore about real estate is that it's a people business."

Tanja N.J.: Absolutely. It's not about selling houses, it's about helping people get into their next property safely and helping them be there to make the decisions that can enable them to do that.

Tim Neary: It's quite important, isn't it, and it's what the public wants from real estate agents is to understand that it's not just about the fundamentals, it's also about that this is their home and that there is a personal element to it.

Tanja N.J.: Oh absolutely, and that's what I really love is when people do invite me into their properties to help them make that decision to do we stay, do we go? If we do go, can you hold my hand throughout this process? It's not about the egos and what car we drive and all of that. The ego-based marketing that we put out there, that has to be left at the door, or when we're speaking to people we're there for them, we're there to listen, we're there to help meet their needs and help make the process very easy for them.

            It can be very difficult a) to make the decision to move whatever their circumstances might be, but b) is how do we do this? How do we do the sales transaction? How long are we going to be on the market for? How much money do we have to spend to sell our home? Do we need that money upfront? All those millions of questions that they have. I've learnt just shut up and listen to people and answer the questions that they want answered. Don't talk too much, don't go in saying who we are, what we do, why am I number one? They want you to listen to them and sometimes we just don't.

Tim Neary: It's that lovely old phrase, isn't it? Two ears and one mouth; listen to us as much as you speak.

Tanja N.J.: I was about to say that when you first get into real estate you're trained to go through these scripts and dialogues and nail that listing presentation the way you've been trained to, but that's got to be adapted, and more so a listing presentation just should be listening, yeah.

Tim Neary: It's a very competitive industry. How important is it to have a point of difference?

Tanja N.J.: Incredibly important to have a point of difference. Being a woman in real estate, I think sometimes it is the reason why I get the business. People will know that we're caring, we have empathy, we've got an incredibly good eye when it comes to detail and styling property, we're a little bit softer when it comes to negotiations sometimes, we really listen to what it is that they've loved about their home and we're very willing to share that with the next buyer or people that come through the door. That's one of the questions I ask is, what have you loved about your home? I'd like to share that with the people that come through.

Tim Neary: 'Cause they know it better than anybody else.

Tanja N.J.: Absolutely.

Tim Neary: Yeah. I like what you were saying a little earlier, when you were saying it sort of came for me. It's about knowing yourself, knowing what you're own strengths and challenges are, and then putting your own strengths in the front. Don't try and reinvent yourself to be somebody else that you think might be quite good at it.

Tanja N.J.: Yeah. Oh look, I do a lot of training. I do once a month training, I train with people in our office, I have a real estate coach in Josh Phegan, and what I learn from when I go and see speakers and go to conferences, look, people do the job well and if I can take one thing that I can adapt to my personality and my presentation, well then that's a successful conference that I've attended. I don't try to copy anyone else, I am who I am and I do very well because of that.

Tim Neary: And you can never really get enough of conferences and seminars, can you-

Tanja N.J.: Oh, can't get enough.

Tim Neary: ... because you go to one of them and you might get one little gem and that might connect a couple of dots from somewhere else, but it might be the very reason that-

Tanja N.J.: It can change your business.

Tim Neary: It can change your business.

Tanja N.J.: Yeah, absolutely change your business, and that's what I love. The new technology is great to go out and see that and how we're going to implement that into our business, but it's just sometimes the one line that you hear from one of your colleagues that you go, "You know what? That would really work for me and my personality and I'm going to use that."

Tim Neary: And you just implement it-

Tanja N.J.: Absolutely.

Tim Neary: ... and it just opens up a whole new avenue.

Tanja N.J.: Yeah, yeah, or one process or one system that you can implement that again will change what you do out there in the marketplace.

Tim Neary: Now, talking about changing and influencing, when you started out in the business did you get a piece of advice or a series of advices?

Tanja N.J.: Look, when I first started it was almost 14 years ago and I don't think we were as evolved as an industry as what we are today. I was quite literally there's your phone, there's your desk, that's your farm area, off you go. It was all about the transaction and not necessarily about the people. And look, if I know, there wasn't a lot of great advice out there for me to really hit the ground running, it was just we joined a big franchise company. When we joined that big franchise company, their training academy was just exceptional and that's where I really, really, I guess, nailed real estate.

            I'm an ex-school teacher so education and training is very important to me, and I have always been with companies that do provide that. It's an absolutely must-have for me.

Tim Neary: What kept you in the game in those early years? It sounded like it was quite tough-

Tanja N.J.: It was.

Tim Neary: ... and there wasn't really a breakthrough moment.

Tanja N.J.: The first six months for me were a struggle. I think if it wasn't for my parents I would've left the industry, but they were very supportive financially, very encouraging of my ability to connect with people, they knew I'd be good at this and I just needed to be persistent.

            It wasn't until the company I was with merged with the big international that we got the training. That's when I nailed it and went, "Okay, I can do this. I know I can list property and I know I can work with people to get them moving into their next property." Now what are the other skills I need to do?

            And because real estate really is, it's not just about selling houses, it's about managing that campaign, it's about speaking with buyers, joining the dots on the vendor and the buyer and making those deals happen, but then showing the empathy and keeping up with market trends, keeping up with what the market is doing. There's never a dull moment, is there really?

Tim Neary: No, true. And then there was another chapter to be written for you, wasn't there, because the franchise and the international company came together and things grew, but then it got a little sour.

Tanja N.J.: I went from a sales consultant to business ownership. We had a very, very successful business, one that was a great place to be part of. I really appreciated my time that I had as a business owner. There are lots of lessons learnt. We had a very big successful business, we were the number one office for our franchise group in the state three years in a row.

            Unfortunately things didn't quite work out and I had to start back at square one, and that was in 2013 that I had to get back into real estate sales, listing and selling, back on the ground, and I had to do it because I literally had to start again.

Tim Neary: You used a great word when we were talking off-air. You said "rebirth" and it was a rebirth, wasn't it?

Tanja N.J.: Yeah, it really was a rebirth. I now quite often have the conversation with my new company and they're, "When are you going to start an office again?" And I just don't want to. I love being in people's lounge rooms, I love being out there at open for inspections, and I just love the element of not having to worry if the photocopier breaks down, or the receptionist doesn't turn up on a Saturday. I thought I loved that side of ownership, you know, managing and running a sales team, but looking back at I really don't. This is what I love doing right now.

Tim Neary: It the business end of it. Now, you also said that you feel like you're highly skilled in negotiating and highly skilled in marketing. Talk us a little bit through that. I mean, as I think you said it to me, a lot of real estate agents would say that, but it's a real important skill to have, isn't it?

Tanja N.J.: Absolutely. Marketing a campaign or a property is you've got to nail that and you've got to nail it very quickly. I, when I list a property, the first thing I ask one of the buyers, or one of the vendors, sorry, is what time of day does your home look the nicest, because we'd like to work with you in regards to getting the photos right, the timing that we do those photos, the angles that you like, the words have got to be that we write about the property have got to nail and get to the point very quickly. Consumers don't want to read through "sipping Chardonnay on balconies". They just tell me how many bedrooms it's got. Make it simple so that the buyer is getting to the point very quickly.

            We are now doing a lot of online marketing, which we encourage with our vendors as well. We've got to hang out where the buyers are hanging out, and that's online, so we do a lot of sponsored ads on the socials and on the web.

Tim Neary: How has that changed over the years, the move to online?

Tanja N.J.: Very much so. Look, we still do print media. We do print media absolutely, but now the focus is very heavily on video, it's on audience maximizer products where we use the cookies technology to put the property in front of people when they do switch from website to website, or webpage to webpage. We do get a lot of buyers that are taking notice of properties that they probably wouldn't have considered, but when you shove it in front of their face they are actually engaging.

Tim Neary: And with this remarketing it just sort of follows them around all the way, doesn't it?

Tanja N.J.: Yeah, yeah. It's stalker kind of marketing, I guess, but it's working really, really well. But not only that, the vendors are embracing the suggestion when we say, "Look, let's put your property where the buyers are, which is the Internet." How are we going to do it? Well, this is what we're going to use, these are the products we're going to use. We're going to shoot a really lovely video.

            Because we can't sometimes describe what it's like to live in the area, what it's like to live in this home in words and photos, so actually have that motion, using a lot of drone work, places your property in the suburb. It shows that the beach is only a kilometre away, it shows that the school is there, and when we're using drones, videos, online marketing, we're seeing a whole new audience of buyers.

Tim Neary: It's certainly very sensible and it's hard to argue against as a vendor when you get shown the evidence. Has it made the job easier?

Tanja N.J.: Yes, I think so. We do a minute 30 video on almost all of our properties now and I think it's easier for a buyer to see more of the home, and in effect it makes it easier for me to sell.

Tim Neary: Tanja, it's been great to have you in the studio. I've got one last question to ask you and that's the cornerstone of the business is listing and selling properties. When you're going into a listing presentation, how do you prepare yourself? What's your mindset?

Tanja N.J.: It's a good question. I don't really give too much thought to it, actually. I do obviously the preparation work needed, which is bringing the comparable sales. I spend a good 20 minutes on the phone with people before I actually go and see their home so I build that rapport. When I knock on the door I want them to say, "Hi, Tanja," not the introduction at the doorstep.

            I guess every real estate agent says it, most of our business is referral business or it's repeat business. I have an incredibly good client care programme in place so that when I've sold a home those people get six touchpoints a year from me. In fact to day we're handing out Halloween buckets to all of our past buyers-

Tim Neary: Nice.

Tanja N.J.: ... that have got kids between the age two and 12. That's just one of our many touchpoints we do, but that listing presentation is again an attitude of I really want to work with these people.

Tim Neary: I should tell listeners that we're actually recording this on Halloween day, so 31st of October.

Tanja N.J.: Yeah, it's the 31st. Sorry, sorry, sorry. No, no, it's the-

Tim Neary: It's the touch.

Tanja N.J.: It's the touch.

Tim Neary: The touch, and it ties in very nicely to what we started off with the podcast saying, and I quote again, "I really, really adore about real estate is that it's a people business. It's about people," and that comes through very strongly.

            Tanja, it's been a real pleasure having you in the studio today. Thank you for taking the time to come in-

Tanja N.J.: No, thank you.

Tim Neary: ... and speak to us.

Tanja N.J.: All right, no worries. Thank you.

Tim Neary: Terrific.

            Remember to follow us on all of the social media stuff, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn. You can follow me too on Twitter @timothyjneary if you want to do that. If you've enjoyed today's show, please leave us a five-star review on iTunes. It's the very best way for listeners to find us and for them to hear the great content that we are putting out. As always, 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, Tanja Neven-Jones.

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




The rebirth of a career
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