Today I have a very special treat for you!
I recently connected with Steve Kantor, the author of "The Billion Dollar Agent", and he shared with me the section of the book written about/interviewing my very first real estate mentor and team leader, Sherry Wilson.
It is an interesting read and even more interesting to know that it was written THIRTEEN YEARS AGO ... I'm blown away by how many of these concepts, tips and bits of advice are still applicable today. Social media is to real estate now what the newspapers were then.
There's no secret sauce. Work hard. Serve your client's well. Do what's right. Invest in your personal development AND your business. Have a system. Be consistent.
Enjoy the read!
Sherry Wilson has been ranked Loudoun County's top real estate agent virtually every year since 1984, which marked the beginning of her real estate career. What's more, during her first two years, she was still teaching middle school full time! Her secret to success has been staying in close contact with her clients throughout their transaction and paying attention to detail every step of the way.
How many years have you been in the real estate business?
I have been in the real estate business for about 23 years.
What is your personal background and how did you get into real estate?
When I started selling real estate in 1984, I was a full time middle school teacher. I was teaching Math, English, and History in Loudoun County, VA.
What lessons did you learn from your family, friends, previous jobs, and life experiences that helped you most to succeed in your career?
One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned is to stay consistent. I practice consistency in everything I do. I also stay in constant touch with people. Through my career, I’ve learned that in order to be successful, you must surround yourself by people who are successful themselves. Always look ahead and never look back. You’ve got to constantly focus on the positive in order to succeed.
What do you enjoy most about the business?
I enjoy the art of the deal. I enjoy putting it all together and then seeing the outcome – making someone happy. It makes me feel good to be able to do something that not all other’s can. I make the American dream happen, and through that I make relationships with people that last a lifetime.
Do you believe goals are important to your success? If yes, describe your approach to goal setting for your business and life?
I have always had goals, but in the past, I never used to write them down. In 2001, I attended a Brian Buffini seminar that made it all clear to me. In order to achieve your goals, you must write them down and review them every day. You can’t go anywhere unless you know where you are going and how to get there. If you write down your goals and affirmations, and review them each day, you would be amazed at what you can accomplish in just one year. I’ve since shared this strategy with the rest of my team members and it’s working for them too.
Are you A Billion-Dollar Agent or do you believe you will hit that level during your career? Are you over a billion for career sales or what do you estimate?
In 2005 I did $185,000,000 and sold 343 properties.
I estimate at least $1,200,000,000 (one billion two hundred million) in sales so far in my career.
What is your current staffing including: yourself, listing agents, buyer agents, managers, and assistants?
I have 5 core agents who have been with me for more than four years. I have another 7 agents who I’ve personally trained and mentored over the last few years. On staff I have about 12 people. My staff includes a Listing Manager, Contracts Manager, Advertising Manager, Staff Photographer, Agent Manager, Office Manager, Bookkeeper, Agent Assistant, 2 receptionists, and 2 couriers.
New Customer Marketing – Lead Generation – Prospecting
What are your top 5 methods for new client lead generation and about what percent of new customers are generated from that approach?
The #1 method for new client lead generation is advertising. I advertise in 18 local papers throughout the area just West of Metropolitan DC. Then I have my courtesy vans, which I lend to clients and 3 PT cruisers that my couriers drive. They are wrapped in my logo and contact information. I even have my logo wrapped around a huge Loudoun County Transit Bus. So, you can’t go anywhere in Loudoun County without seeing my name or picture. We recently started a “Just Sold” campaign, where we will be sending about 100 “Just Sold” cards to neighbors of properties we list and sell. Repeat business and client referrals are also a huge source of business for me. I have never telemarketed or sent direct mail because I haven’t needed to.
What do you do, if anything, that you feel is fairly unique and successful?
As far as my marketing goes, I put a huge effort into client parties and branding my name and logo. The internet accounts for about 30% of my leads right now. My team agents keep in close contact with past clients.
What marketing advice would you give to someone at $100,000 who wants to get to $200,000 and more?
My advice for newer agents is to brand yourself and invest in your business. You’ve got to spend money in order to make money. Take out a business loan if you have to. Then stay consistent and persistent in everything you do.
How much do you spend on advertising?
I spend about 11 or 12% of gross income on advertising, but a good target is around 10 percent.
Client Marketing – Repeats/Referrals
About how many past clients have you worked with?
My repeat and referral business makes up about 60% of my overall business. This is why follow-up and staying in touch is vital to our business.
About how many past clients do you have in your database?
My A plus list is about 1,200-1,400 people.
What percentage of your total dollar volume is spent on expenses?
In the past years, about 65% of gross income was spent on expenses and I net about 35%. Those numbers changed in 2006 to where the expenses are much higher and the net is much less.
What client marketing activities do you do with past clients?
I do an item of value from Brian Buffini’s program.
I do a quarterly mailing of a newsletter.
I do a client party at my house for new clients and older clients every two months.
I have a huge party with about 450 people. They are from my list of 1,200 people we stay in touch with. We even put an ad in the paper a few months prior to ensure we don’t miss anyone – the ad encourages any past or current clients to call and join the party.
What one thing would you tell a beginning agent to pursue to achieve success?
I would tell them to find a mentor and learn all you can. Find someone who knows what they are doing and can show you the right things to do. When I started my business back in 1984, I had an agent who was helping me, and of course I split the commissions 50/50 with this person. This is a necessity in order to succeed. Find someone who is successful and follow in their footsteps.
Growth of Business
What single quality has made you more successful than others?
The key to my success has been persistence. I do not accept the word “no.” It doesn’t exist in my vocabulary.
What does the average real estate agent fail to do which are among the reasons why they are average?
The average agent will throw a deal together but never follow through. They might be busy with another job, or they are inexperienced and don’t know any better. Having the transaction signed is just half the battle. Getting to closing and ensuring that your client is happy is a big challenge. Some agents don’t feel the urge to bring themselves to the next level. If they are happy or satisfied with their current production level, then they are just average. But the agents that push themselves and never look back are the ones who succeed and are considered above average.
What one thing would you tell a beginning agent to pursue to achieve success?
I would suggest the agent practice persistence and follow up, and possess a strong knowledge of the market and inventory.
Did you make any big mistakes that you want to warn others about?
In the beginning the biggest challenge for me was delegating tasks. I did not want to do this in fear of losing control and I was worried things wouldn’t get completed the right way. Then I realized that delegating to others would give me more leverage and more time to focus on the income producing activities. The next challenge was finding and hiring the right people to work for me. This is one of the mistakes I made. At first I tried to find people that were just like me, but then I realized that was not the best thing to do. So, overall I’d say that hiring assistants and delegating tasks is a must, but be careful not to give away ALL of your control. I gave too much control to a previous Office Manager and I should have had more oversight and involvement with her tasks.
What would you have done differently if you could begin your career again to speed the process of getting to your current level of business?
If I had a chance to do things differently, I would have hired more experienced staff, people with proper computer and database skills. Also I would have concentrated more on Internet growth earlier in the game.
Building a Team
In what order did you add your first part-time and full-time staff?
Within 6 months, I had hired my first assistant. I was teaching school full time so I hired someone part time to put up signs, do paperwork, faxing, etc. If you are not growing, you are dying. It’s important to recognize when it’s time to build a team. You need to give away some in order to get some. Otherwise, you will end up working 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and you won’t have any time to enjoy your successes.
What are best books you have read in past 10 years that helped with your business and life?
I read 17 Indisputable Laws of Teamwork, Freedom from Fear, Leadership 101, and The Four Agreements.
What are the best seminars/conferences that you attend, if any?
I attended Peak Performers and Mastermind with Brian Buffini and both conferences of Howard Brinton.
What are questions you would like to ask of other billion dollar agents?
What are three best ideas that have grown their business or that has made an impact?
What wouldn’t they do if they had to do it over again?
What are the top 3 recommendations you would make for a skilled agent who has been in the business 3-5 years and is making $100,000 and wants to double to $200,000?
Join a team so you can just concentrate on the income producing activities and leave the details to someone else.
Go back to the basics and keep in contact with people, follow up, and be persistent.
Know your market better than anybody else and be the expert in something.
Delegation and Leverage - Assistants
We see a challenge of people right at the point of needing to delegate, outsource and hire their first part-time assistant to leverage their time.
What percent of agents do you think are in that zone and why do they fail to take the next step? What would be benefit for them to take that step?
Agents can double their income if they learn to leverage themselves. The team agents can take care of the income producing activities of writing contracts, prospecting for business, and following up with people. Agents need to leave the small details to other people (assistants) to handle. I think most agents fail to take that step. In my opinion, most agents do not add staff -- whether it is a manager, coordinator, or an assistant -- because they are scared of spending money and they are scared of losing control. It seems quite obvious that eventually one single person will max themselves out, and not be able to grow anymore. In order to continue growth, you have to expand your team.