Archive for the ‘The Realtor Success Series’ Category

A Seminar on Team Building

Thursday, May 5th, 2011

Seminar on Team Building

Over the years I’ve had agents tell me they "wanted a big team".  Or they "didn’t want a big team".  I’ve never seen anyone who didn’t want "a big team" have a need for a team at all.  And (other than an oversized self image) I’ve never seen any good reason to "want a big team".  It just doesn’t work that way.

Further, most "real estate teams" are not "teams" at all but simply people who sit at offices in the same building or room.  They are not teams in any real sense of the word, "team".

I believe the fundamentals of team building are the building blocks of building a business.  Here is a link to a page that has pretty much the entire two hour talk I gave (Wendy came in near the end and covered hiring) and also some links to little snippets where specific questions are answered.  Thanks to Phil Sexton for doing all the editing and making this possible.  I hope you like it and find it as helpful as I intended.

No BS Real Estate

Sunday, August 8th, 2010

Jeff Brown's Head

I don’t think Jeff Brown’s (BawldGuy) head is much larger than Jay Thompson’s head or my head .  The three of us will be on a panel together on Tuesday, August 24th in Scottsdale.  Each of the three of us has a different approach to our business and yet I can’t remember a time I disagreed fundamentally with something significant that Jeff or Jay had to say about how to get and keep customers.

That last part of that last sentence is THE most important skill in business success: HOW TO GET AND KEEP CUSTOMERS.  If you are good at that one you could be bad at most of the other skills and still be a success.  I am not recommending being bad at the other important skills – just pointing how how important that one is.  If you are not good at that one it won’t make much difference how good you are at the other skills – if you are in business for yourself – you will still fail.  How we get and keep customers is what we will be covering – from three different perspectives.

In Gary Keller’s wonderful book, "The Millionaire Real Estate Agent" the idea of Leads, Listings, Leverage was a key concept.  If you are working on or solving a problem in your real estate business you were always solving or working on one of those three issues.  How to get more leads, how to get more listings from those leads or setting up or improving your systems.  Those three things: Leads, Listings & Leverage were THE things.  Just those three.  No matter how it might seem that our industry is changing or the economy is now "different" (it usually is) those three things really are what needs work.  Getting leads, converting leads into listings and being able to handle more and more and still give great service.

The "economy", various market conditions, etc. does not determine your stats or your income.  Your ability to adapt to the current market and lead generate in that market with an offer that seems desirable to consumers in the current market and then lead convert establishes your income.  That is all in the skill category and that is something you can do something about.  Always.

How Many Problems Can You Handle At The Same Time?

Thursday, August 20th, 2009

Too Many Problems

At any given time we all have a limit.  That limit varies depending on a number of factors: the nature of the problems, the emotion tied to the problems, how far down into "seriousness" one is, even how well rested or hungry one is at the time.  Bottom line, it becomes too much when there is more external push against self than there is left of self to push back.

I’m really not interested in proselytizing but I ran across this little gem the other night and I saw so much potential for anyone who could understand it that I wanted to share it.

The rationality of the mind depends upon an optimum reaction toward time.

DEFINITION: Sanity, the computation of futures.

DEFINITION: Neurotic, the computation of present time only.

DEFINITION: Psychotic, computation only of past situations.

So when a person is handling situations and problems quite well they have their attention mainly on the future.  They are happily creating a future which they can clearly see – and they are making that future they see a reality.

Down from that is the person who is "working in the present".  This is usually thought of as good and very pro-survival but is factually in the neurotic category, not unlike a rat in a maze.  Handling an escrow can fall into this category.  One’s attention is thoroughly stuck in the present and they can not see much of a future, as handling now is such a struggle.  Like an air traffic controller, they can not take their eyes off of the screen.

Way down scale, stuck on the past, is the person who can not visualize a future or even really see much of the present.  Fact is, we have all been – each and every one of us – in each of these three states with regard to different subjects at one time or another.  I am reminded of a truly beautiful quote from Winston Churchill, "If you are going through hell, keep going."

Where were you going before the excreta hit the rotor?  What was it you wanted in the first place?

Survival pertains only to the future.

COROLLARY: Succumb pertains only to the present and past.

If you can again see what it was you wanted – even if you can only see it dimly at first – keep looking there.  What were your goals?  What was it that seemed so delightful, that just thinking about it made you feel better?  How would life be if you had that now?  That is where to put your attention to get out of the mess.

An individual is as happy as he can perceive survival potentials in the future.

Smily Face

I Hate Most Every Sales Pitch And Most Salespeople But Make My Living Selling

Monday, August 3rd, 2009


It’s true.  I really don’t like salespeople, I don’t like to listen to a sales pitch and anytime someone says, "I just need twenty minutes in person to explain it to you", I already know in advance that whatever it is I don’t want it.  And, for sure,  I don’t want to listen to them explain it to me.

It is also true that I have made my living on straight commission since I was 17.  I have not had a "job" or worked for wages, I’ve lived on commissions all these years.  Several times over the years people who wanted to get me to sit still for a sales pitch so they could give me a "briefing" or "enlighten me" have pointed out that my attitude on this subject would harm by business.  I don’t think so.  In fact, I believe my attitude has helped my business.

Once I am interested in buying something I do want information: whatever facts and data I might consider important.  But notice it is whatever facts and data I might consider important.  I don’t want to be "rushed".  I want to take my time.  That amount of time might only be a few seconds, but still – I want to make my decision based on my time schedule not the schedule of someone else who needs to move things along.  I don’t want to allow someone else to fixate my attention and then evaluate the relative importance of all the various "facts" for me.  That’s my job.

The person who "only needs twenty minutes" wants to attempt to evaluate – for me – the relative importance of various data and then try to tell me what to think.  All for my own good, of course.  No thanks.  I just want the facts, all of the relevant facts and then it is my job to decide which facts are important and which ones are not so important.  To me.  Those last two words are the key.  To me.  Which facts are important to me?

I believe it is the same, most of the time, with our buyers and sellers.  In most cases we wouldn’t even be talking to them for very long if they weren’t interested in buying or selling real estate (I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t, anyway).  My job is to make sure they have all of the relevant data.  It is up to them to decide which of those data are "important".  Is it a two-story home?  Single level?  Does it have a swimming pool?  How close is the school?  How much is the house?  How much have other homes nearby sold for?  Will I evaluate those last two for them?  Absolutely.  But it is still up to them to decide if it is the home for them or – if a seller – the offer is acceptable.

There are lots of examples of this but really, I want to treat them the way I would like to be treated.  The way you would like to be treated.

Russell Shaw Webinar for Number1Expert

Friday, July 3rd, 2009


Here is a link for a webinar I did about a week ago for Number 1 Expert.  You do have to fill out a short form to listen and give them them information to get to the actual recording.  It is about an hour long and you will see slides on the screen that are in sync with my answers.  They titled the talk, "How to Stay Positive in Uncertain Market Conditions".

Some good stuff.

We are looking to attract more listings without paying a lot of advertising expense

Friday, June 19th, 2009


This was passed along to me by Benn:

We are a small real estate company in Md.  We are trying to expand our clientele do you have any advice on how we can grow our business.  We are looking to attract more listings without paying a lot of advertising expense.  We tried the expired listings but most of the time the homeowner phone number is not listed.


(name deleted)

I’ve deleted your name, so in case you feel insulted by what I am about to tell you – you can feel a little less insulted because no one but you will know who wrote the note above.  Including me.  I couldn’t find you, no matter what I tried.  The very first thing I attempted to do was to find out a little bit about you – what you are doing now.  There are so many different companies who seem to have a similar name – that there was no way for me to land on your web site.  If you even have one.  You didn’t give your name or any contact information when you wrote this and I am going to assume this is somewhat standard operating procedure.

The first problem I see you being up against isn’t the size of your company, because that is irrelevant.  What sort of leaps off the page is you are very out of communication with the world around you.  Do most of the people who live or work within a hundred yards of where you office even know your name or what you do?  If they saw you on the street would many of them even know you sell real estate?  I believe this is your primary barrier to confront and handle: come out of non-existence with the people in your immediate vicinity.  Start there.  Then widen that circle.  Get out and talk to people.  Get rid of (as in completely rid of) the idea that you need permission to approach someone – like you need someone to issue you a license of some sort before you open your mouth.  You didn’t find any phone numbers in the print-out of the expired listings.  So what?  Just give up on expireds?  Maryland is a pretty small state.  You could probably drive across the whole state in a few hours.  You could absolutely drive completely across the town where you live in 90 minutes.  Show up at their door.  Ask them if they still want to sell their home.

You don’t want to pay a lot for advertising for two reasons: you don’t have the money to pay and you wouldn’t know what to put in the ad anyway.  Okay so skip advertising for now.  Prospect.  Learn what people consider valuable just by trial and error.  See enough people and ask enough people what they might be interested in and in very short order (a few hundred people from now) you will know what to say and what not to say when you are talking to a prospective customer.

There are exactly two methods of getting business in our business: marketing or prospecting.  Learn to effectively do one or both of those or leave real estate sales.  Fortunately, or unfortunately, those are the only three choices.  The skill of getting customers is the "important skill" in our business.  For a really bright future make this important thing your important thing.

The Secret to Becoming a Top Listing Agent

Tuesday, May 26th, 2009

Only the mediocre 

Here are some factual statements:

Most people who enter the real estate business are gone in just a few years.  Most real estate agents, who stay in the business, are not very successful.  To be in the top 1% of all agents in the U.S. would require about 50 – 60 sales a year.  Most agents, who are successful, (50 – 60 sales per year) do not really know why they are successful.  They think they know but they are usually wrong.

Only about 25% – 30% of the top 1% of all agents actually know why they are successful and most of those don’t know it very well.  So success can seem mysterious or elusive.  It needn’t be.  If one were to apply the same exactness to the subject of real estate sales that any well trained engineer would apply to his discipline it wouldn’t seem mysterious at all.

But applying that exactness would mean – really – looking, not listening.  Look at what people do.  Look at how they do it.  Exactly.  Look at what results they get from doing it.  It makes little to no difference what they think is causing their stats to rise.  What is causing their stats to rise?  Anyone who says he (or she) knows why they are successful would be able to teach it – and teach it in such a simple manner that the other person could apply what was being taught and get a similar result.  There would be no special cases, no exceptions.  Not if a scientific approach was being used.  Anyone who knew why they were successful would be able to increase their level of success.  If they could not do that one thing then what they are thinking is the "reason" isn’t the real reason for the success they have had.  That last one is so obvious it is usually missed.  Is there really any "highly successful" person who left real estate sales so they could teach it?  Even one?

There are few subjects on earth (possible exceptions are mathematics, physics, chemistry, etc. – and the other so-called "exact sciences" – that don’t just reek with false data.  The subjects of sales and marketing (those are two different subjects, by the way) have so much asinine, stupid and unworkable gibberish being pawned off as "the way to do things" that it is a minor miracle anyone who actually studies either of those subjects ever succeeds at all.  Just as an example, about 20 years ago it was validated that, in some fields, women who were trained by male sales managers did not do nearly as well as women salespeople who had no sales training of any kind.  Amazing.  The "sales training" had an actual negative value.  This is just one example.  So the thing to do is: LOOK, DON’T LISTEN.  I don’t care what someone says they are doing to bring about sales results (and highly successful real estate sales people will sometimes actually invent things to tell others because it "sounds better" than what they are actually doing).

There was a scale developed many years ago (originator is uncertain) that has been altered (for the worse, in my opinion) from what I learned in 1971.

From the bottom up, the original scale went:

1.  Unconsciously incompetent.  Doesn’t know and doesn’t know he doesn’t know.

2.  Consciously incompetent.  Knows he doesn’t know.  (note that NOT knowing is a step UP!)

3.  Unconsciously competent.  Knows how to do it, but doesn’t really know why it works.

4.  Consciously Competent.  Knows how to do it and knows why it works, so can increase it and validly teach it.

cat in mirror

The secret to becoming a top listing agent?  First become a really crappy listing agent.  Become a really crappy one, then a bit less crappy, and so on.  That is the actual path.  There is no substitute for "stage time".  None.  Fail.  Fail more and go right on doing it.  Having the right attitude is probably more important than any other factor.  A complete willingness to do whatever is necessary and to have the viewpoint that you are going to persist until you have arrived.  Sort of like it mattered.

To Clarify ….

Sunday, March 15th, 2009

Radio and TV Ad Calls

A great question from Mike Price in response to this post:

What percentage of brokers would you guess use any sort of formalized tracking system for analyzing lead sources? At an agent level?
When you finally created and implemented a business system, did you put into place your own tracking system or did you use something off the shelf?

Excellent questions, Mike.  I’m glad you used the word, "guess", because that is what I will have to do to respond.  At the broker level, I am thinking any brokerage firm with 20 or more agents – that is still in business and has the resources to stay in business – uses some sort of stat analysis.  I don’t know about the tracking part.  Keep in mind that a "lead" to a brokerage firm is seldom a buyer or seller – it is an agent.  One they can hire.  A lead for a brokerage firm is a possible hire.  Most successful brokers are not in the real estate business – they are in the get and keep agents business.

At the agent level, it is an easier question to respond to – as all successful agents keep some kind of stats.  Sometimes referred to as, "they know their numbers".  They seldom know them all and there are some stats that most agents will go out of their way to "not-know" (like actual number of listing appointments).  But top agents will typically have a pretty good idea of how many listings they take a month, how many closings they have a month, how many leads they get a month, how much income they get per year and per month.  The better ones will have their lead sources specifically named, as well.  How many deals did I get last year from referrals?  From internet leads, from my geographic farm, etc. 

Any agent not keeping those stats (which I am estimating at 93% of all Realtors) will not be able to do much business.  My answer to your lead question is 7%.  Nationally, and in most specific locations, 7% of the agents do over 80% of all of the business.  It isn’t 80- 20.  It is 93 – 7.  7% of the agents do almost all of the business and 93% of the agents do the remaining 20% of the business.  There is a bright line of demarcation between the two groups.  That line is keeping track of important stats.

The answer to your 2nd question is easy.  I used the "count them once a month" method and then transferred the "IIII", then crossing through with a line = 5, into a spreadsheet.  I’ve included three of those stat sheets here.  As you can see I have not yet bothered to enter January or February’s stats to the Excel spreadsheets.  Very sophisticated, I know. 🙂

Escrows Closed

Listings Taken

And from Dru Bloomfield to this one:

You should know that this post has generated side bar conversations.  The face-to-face kind.  One of the points that came up in a couple of these conversation was that any Gen X/Y Realtor needs to seriously consider online social network as part of their marketing mix.  They are there anyway – it’s where they grew up. It’s where their future client base is and will be.
Some of us who are older may be less comfortable with this kind of relationship building, but in fact, that is what is happening.  I watched Amy Cherow and Phil Sexton greet other like old friends yesterday.  They had never met in person before, but they immediately jumped into a prior Twitter
conversation about skiing that went on and on.
I think that we can talk about marketing and SEO and producing, but ultimately what these on-line tools are doing is building relationships. In this fast-paced world, we are all looking for instant gratification or proof that our efforts are working. 
That being said, social networking isn’t for everyone, just like TV or direct mail don’t fit for others. 
My humble opinion is that agents must market in a way that’s enjoyable and productive individually, since these actions must be repeated over and over to achieve their personal goals.

tattoo feet

I realize this brands me as someone suffering from something other than terminal hipness but I don’t really understand someone getting a tattoo.  I understand the desire to "be unique".  I understand how the process of getting the ink under the skin is considered art by some.  I have many friends who have "gotten inked".  But the bottom line is, I really don’t get it.  Why, in the name of God would someone want to f–k up their body permanently for something that is guaranteed to look just awful later?

I feel exactly the same way about "social networking".  I don’t get it.  What the hell does it have to do with business?  Or me?

Big businesses are usually based on marketing (getting the customer to reach toward you first) as opposed to prospecting (you reaching to the customer first).  Speed of getting a potential customer’s questions and concerns responded to accurately and quickly is of paramount importance.  But I don’t even take my cell phone with me when I am out of my car (unless I want to play solitaire while I eat).  I get about 150 emails a day.  As it is now, I already have all the off-beat requests, odd issues, and "important news" coming my way that I can handle.  Already, I "delegate graciousness".  I am not trying to network.  That said, there is nothing that Drew wrote I disagree with – nothing.  Like getting a tattoo, it isn’t for me.  Doesn’t mean it can’t be art.  Or fun.

I Mean Business

Thursday, March 12th, 2009

I Mean Business

What is a "top producer"?  How is it defined?  Why would anyone care?

Some would say if you are in the top 10% you qualify.  I set the bar higher because the bottom 90% is doing so poorly.  To be in the top 1% – of all agents in the United States – you would need to sell about 40- 50 houses a year.  The first year I qualified I sold 38 houses.  At 40 – 50 sales in a year you would probably always be in the top 1% in your area and in the country.

Why does it matter?  Why have you seen me mention so many times, "what top agents do"?  It certainly isn’t to suggest that someone doing less or something different is in any way "wrong".  There are many many ways to approach this business and anything that is working can be defined as "good".  To me it has to do with systems (successful methods).  There are some top agents that have very poor systems and handle their business by taking each particular situation, each escrow and just "glowing it right".  Through sheer intention and desire, making it close.  Forcing the deal together.  These agents do not have a stable business but have a temporary perch they will soon fall from.  When I think of "top agents", for me, it is really shorthand for "has workable systems".  Most importantly, top agents who are stable top agents spend very little energy "glowing things right" with regard to procuring new business.  Without exception, they have exact and specific methods they apply again and again and again – and get the same predictable results each time.  They have a system for getting business.  They do not depend on: lucky breaks, caught a good one, happened to meet a guy who is ready to buy, didn’t expect it to happen but it did sell and close.  As I personally spent the first twelve years of my real estate career depending exclusively on lucky breaks, happening to catch a good one, etc. – I am very familiar with how that works, as well.

During my first twelve years in real estate all of my deals – each and every one – came about as sort of a fluke.  If I had arrived just 15 minutes later, I might have missed it.  If I hadn’t driven down that street I wouldn’t have seen the guy in his front yard by a FSBO sign and wouldn’t have stopped to talk to him.  I discovered that I could get business from almost any activity.  Just about anything could produce a deal or two.  But while striking up a conversation with the guy behind me – while playing goofy golf, or chatting with someone in line at the drugstore or a movie theater could produce business, it wasn’t a very predictable method.  It is this point alone – a predictable method of producing new customers – that separates the top agents from the pack.  This is what makes the difference between having a business and having a job.  It was in 1990 I started to really make that transition from hoping for a deal to the continuous creation of deals (developing workable systems).

So when I hear someone say, "I got a deal from twittering", "I met the client at a Kiwanis meeting", "I knew them from church", "We golf together", "The neighbor really liked my custom yard sign", etc., to me that sale is in the category of a fluke.  I mean no disrespect.  That is not to say it didn’t happen or will never happen again but that it is not a controllable event.  I can’t go to enough Kiwanis meetings to get all of the business I want.  I can’t happen by enough golfers to support myself.  During those lean years I did have "miracle escrows" that truly seemed like a gift from heaven at the time.  And I was grateful too.  But I was also determined to eventually get to the miracles as usual level.  That required workable systems.

1. The Discount Realtor Rain Dance

Tuesday, February 24th, 2009


Realtor Rain Dance

I believe that the success of a rain dance has more to do with timing than the quality of the dancing.  A few short years ago the discount real estate companies were being heralded as the wave of the future.  "Traditional brokerage" was all but finished.  Game over.  Now the internet based, lower fee, more modern, forward-thinking companies would dominate the industry.

Virtually all of the real estate companies that proclaimed this the loudest are either already completely out of business or have dwindled down to the point that few think of them as much of a threat to anything (except their own stockholders).  Oh sure, a few companies are still attempting more "innovative things" but eventually the venture capital folks will pull the plug on the money hemmoraging and that will be the end of this particular round of remarkable real estate sales innovation.

What happened?

Discount companies in real estate brokerage tend to fall into one of two categories: national or regional companies funded by investors (who believe there is a scalable model) or a small, local, one-man show.  Can the one-man show survive?  Sure.  Pretty much anytime anybody puts enough of themselves into anything they can make it "work".  But those people don’t have a business – they have a job.  Usually, they can’t even afford much in the way of help, let alone have a business model that is scalable.  It seems that the proponents of "let’s charge less" to drive in lots of business often overlook the obvious fact that less means less for them and less to pay for promotion.  If you take in less you have to (without increasing your overhead by very much) take in that "less" far more often and in far more volume in order to have "enough".

So how come these companies that were charging less and thereby so successful a few short years ago are now going out of business?  Yes, it is true that all companies are having a rough go of it just now but the discount companies have been hit even harder than the traditional brokers.   Glenn Cohen, the guy who started the company that later became Foxtons, here in the U.S. had this to say, about a month ago, at Inman Real Estate Connect:

"…because in a down market people are desperate to sell, and in their mind believe — whether it’s true or not, and in some cases it very well is — that the local agent of the big brand name can do a better job for them and they’re less likely to trust the sale of their home with a discounter.

I don’t say it can’t work, and there always will be a small place, I think, for flat-fee MLS and for discount. And if you develop some best practices around it you can do really well, but frankly you can’t make a whole lot of money as a flat-fee discounter, at least the way I view the business model. So it’s not all that enticing for an entrepreneur."

Why would the consumer’s perception of what is a good real estate company or a good real estate agent change?  What causes that change?  Why can’t a discount company continue to attract the consumer when the market is "bad"?  After all, they charge so much less, don’t sellers still want to save all that money?  The correct answer?  Yes, if they believe they can.  In a long-lasting seller’s market they believe they can.  When the market turns and favors buyers then sellers stop believing that "just anybody can do it".

This last seller’s market was the longest one in history.  We’ve never had a seller’s market that lasted that long before.  Historically, about two-thirds of the time it is a buyer’s market and about one-third of the time it is a seller’s market.  The "natural" seller’s market was winding down just about the time the bust happened in the stock market.  Then all of that stock market money started chasing real estate and what should have been a buyer’s market turned into a red-hot seller’s market.  This was further fueled by Wall Street criminals (like the kind at Bear Stearns) who created and caused the sub-prime mess (and cheated French, Chinese and German bankers out of hundreds of billions of dollars).  A direct result of this was that more discount real estate companies came into existence and survived than at any time in history. 

To someone who just recently arrived it did look like the game had changed and the "traditional broker" was going the way of the buffalo.  If only that seller’s market would last forever.  But it didn’t.  They never do.  Which is the "problem" that discount real estate companies have.  They thrive in a seller’s market and can’t survive well (or at all)  in a buyer’s market.  When it is easy to sell any house the value of a Realtor’s knowledge – in the eyes of the public – goes down.  Way down.  It doesn’t take much to "become a Realtor".  When anyone can "become one" and anyone can sell a house there is extreme downward pressure on commissions and most agents are seen as a "commodity" by the public.  Which agent can we hire for the least amount of money (as they are all the same, producing the same result) becomes a common viewpoint from which agents are viewed by sellers.

When the market shifts and there are more sellers than buyers (and this will always eventually occur) it is no longer true that "anyone can do it".  Few of the agents who came for the gold rush stay and even many of the old-timers head for greener pastures (as in another line of work) all agents are no longer seen as a commodity.  In fact, some are now perceived again as a fiduciary.  It is almost impossible for a company that based their entire marketing campaign on "we do it for less" to later be perceived this way.  To the exact degree that they were successful with their "we do it for less" message – they will continue to be  be stuck with that tag and perceived as "we do it for less" when what the seller now believes is "I need more".  Oddly, most individual agents (if they have their eyes open) can turn on a dime and change with the times, it is companies that are stuck.  It is companies that ran national PR and advertising campaigns.  When it comes to marketing, most agents seldom rise much above mailing postcards to a geographic farm.

The Wall Street types, the investment bankers, the marketing geniuses, the brilliant entrepreneurs who (every time there is a prolonged seller’s market) come out of the woodwork and start their "takeover of the real estate industry" uniformly achieve all of their success only during a seller’s market.  Their dance worked.  They were brilliant.  Then.

This will all happen again.  It might look just a little different next time but it will still be the same thing.  If you’re young enough you will get to see it again a couple of times. 

Remember this post or bookmark it.