YPN’s G.E.T. (Grow. Elevate. Thrive.) breakfast series kicked off at Manny’s last week with a panel of Top Producers.
Elizabeth Amidon, Jameson Sotheby’s International Realty, Mario Greco, Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices, and Joe Zimmerman, Keller Williams Chicago – Lincoln Park, shared their expertise, advice and tools for success. Here’s the full transcript of their panel.
What type of prospecting and marketing do you do?
Joe: Everything we do is purposeful and structured. Marketing is local, personal and has a call to action. Most importantly, it sustains what we believe: perfecting the real estate transaction for the client. Our database touches everyone 33 times a year.
Elizabeth: I feel strongly about marketing, regardless if it’s for a specific listing or drumming up new business. I put myself out there as much as I can, wherever there’s an opportunity.
Mario: The best marketing and prospecting we do is when the sign goes up, and the under contract notice goes on. We get more business from signage and sales than we do the other stuff. The key is to do what’s comfortable for you. And, when you get a lead, respond immediately; put a reminder in your calendar to follow-up again later.
What advertising and marketing mistakes have you encountered?
Mario: I feel strongly that lead generation sites that promise exclusivity are a waste. They lead to very little – if any- return on investment. The better leads come from your contacts, and we try to reach out to everyone in our database at least 4 times a year.
Elizabeth: I spend a lot of money on Zillow. The biggest mistake I’ve made is not reaching out to every lead I’ve received – because you’re throwing $150 out the window every time.
Joe: In regards to your personal database, don’t assume you know what they want. Don’t get in your own way. Until you perfect your database, don’t pay for Zillow leads or SmartZip or any lead generation program out there.
What processes or tools do you recommend we use to increase our business to the million-dollar achiever level?
Joe: Track your numbers. Know where you’re at. The goal is to net 40 percent on every transaction. Tracking your numbers lets you have a predictable business.
Elizabeth: I feel like a lot of business is being open to whatever comes in, staying cool, and not getting overwhelmed. Be ready and open.
Mario: The daily battle we face is the all-knowing nature of our buyers and sellers. One of the things I do to combat that is to bring as many of automatic valuation print-outs to a listing appointment, because if you can show that Zillow said something was worth X, SmartZip said it was worth Y, and we sold it for Z, it helps to illustrate that maybe they do need a professional to guide them in the process. When you do that, you gain loyalty, which sticks with them. You immediately become a professional. It’s an assumption we need to fight in a hot market.
What apps or tools do you use to keep you organized, calm, cool and collected?
Elizabeth: I have a coach, and he totally keeps me on track and demands things from me, which is good because I can get distracted easily. He makes me track what I’m spending money on and what business I brought in each week. It’s a huge help to me.
Joe: Absolutely. Mary & I have two coaches that we get held accountable to. So get a coach, but start with yourself. In our culture we’ve embraced the Miracle Morning. That is something that’s changed a lot of lives. There are people who say, “I can’t do that,” but you need to take some time for yourself because it helps you to better serve others.
Mario: What I respond well to is my accountant/bookkeeper. They help keep me on track with where I am in terms of income, and I can make decisions based on what I have and what I don’t.
Do you guys save for retirement? How?
Mario: You should worry more about retirement than where your next day’s money is going to come from. It’s nice to have a cushion for when the market turns. In our case, you should be contributing to a SEP-IRA. A SEP allows you to borrow unlimited for 60 days free. It’s almost like a credit line. If you return the money within 60 days, you aren’t penalized. Get disability insurance, life insurance, umbrella insurance. Make sure you’re insured. It’s important – expensive but important.
Elizabeth: I hugely support retirement funds and investment. You have to save your money. It’s super important and the reason we work – we want an easier life at some point. We want to take vacations and do fun things. It’s essential and the driving force for what we do.
Joe: Insurance is smart. There are two books: Millionaire Real Estate Investor – I invest in real estate. It’s what we do, what we know. There’s also the Complete Money Makeover, by Dave Ramsay. It will teach you how to invest.
Are million-dollar buyer’s expectations different? Do you handle them differently?
Joe: We don’t. We lead with purpose. What is their expectation for us? How do we make this go perfectly for the client? You’d be surprised at the answers when you ask that question to clients, regardless of their level, because you’re giving them permission to say what’s important to them.
Elizabeth: I approach every deal the same – I want them all. I care about people; it’s not necessarily the money. You can have a very easy million-dollar client, and a very easy 90,000-dollar client.
Mario: I agree – treat them all the same. I try to find out as much as I can about them, whether I ask them directly or google them. That way I know if they’re financial people, or artsy people or felons. They all want different things, and that will tailor your approach. Financial people want the best deal; others want to feel good. So we tailor to personalities rather than price points.
When did you know that you needed to build a team?
Mario: I read the Millionaire Real Estate Agent about a month after I started. Within 3 months I was sharing someone to answer the phone, within 6 months I had my own person, and by the end of the year I had two to three people. I knew pretty quickly I needed to do something, and it’s partially because I’d read the book. Not only do you hire people to do what you’re not good at, but also what you don’t like to do. I started to build my team that way. If you think you’re busy, and all you did in the day was schedule inspections and appraisals and answer calls, you were busy, but you weren’t productive. I realized that if I had two or three things going at once, I needed someone else to back me up.
Elizabeth: I don’t have a team but I do have an assistant. Jim Miller kind of forced me to take her on, and she’s changed my life. She frees up a lot of time for me, and she’s been really great. I don’t have a team but I can see why it’s a huge asset.
Joe: Our journey here, when I wasn’t partnered with Mary, I knew that other people could do things better than I was. It was putting pressure on my family life. When I came to the realization that other people out there could do it better, it helped us build a powerhouse team. I just had to get out of my own way.
Mario: You should be worried about the expense of hiring someone. But if it’s a good hire and you manage them right, they will always pay for themselves. It’s one or two or three transactions that they’ll probably free you up to do that will pay for them.
How do you maintain your work-life balance?
Joe: We focus on one thing: honesty. When we’re with family, we’re with family. When we’re with business, we’re with business. We’re very time structured. When I’m with my kids, I put my phone in a closet and I don’t look at it. Yes, the lines bleed and it’s unrealistic to say that they won’t, but the better you get at it, the better your life will be.
Elizabeth: I watched a TED Talk recently and they talked about time management and how you can make time for anything you really want to make time for. But when you are busy, you stretch yourself thin. I run every day, and I don’t take my phone with me. That’s a big part of how I disconnect. That’s my time. When I am with friends and family, I turn my phone over. Even when you’re with a client, you have to be with them. You can’t have your phone beeping and other people calling you, because you’ll lose the client.
Mario: I agree. I went to Africa a few years ago, and it was the first time I was going to be truly unreachable. I prepared my clients ahead of time, with a two-month warning, one-month warning, two week warning, with “here’s what’s happening, here’s who’s handling what.” I didn’t lose a single deal, the group corralled a few listings, I didn’t get fired. From then on I realized your clients do respect your personal time.
I think it’s the fear of showing your clients that you have a personal life that you make yourself constantly available. Set expectations up front – don’t be afraid to have personal time. Your clients will respect that. If they don’t, you don’t want to work for them anyways. I took a drastic step a few years ago when I decided I didn’t want to be tied to my phone day and night; I hired someone who literally all she does is read my emails, twelve hours a day, and respond to those she can respond to. It’s a lot of money to spend, but it’s made my personal life infinitely easier. It’s something not everyone can do. But don’t be afraid to tell your clients you have a personal life – they will respect it. And if you do go on vacation, do not respond to an email because then they’ll think you’re available, and your vacation is over.
What was one of your biggest learning experiences as an agent?
Joe: People. You have to succeed through others. Get out of your own way.
Elizabeth: I would say that listening to people, taking what you can get from their experience, making it your own, and using it to be stronger and smarter and better.
Mario: Do not assume that someone you worked with in the past and had a successful transaction with is going to work with you in the future. Everyone knows a thousand REALTORS®. Don’t ever count on repeat business without making sure you remain top of mind — regardless if you’re a big group and people have heard of you. Always be in people’s sphere.
Is there a system you use to get in touch with past clients?
Joe: Our current CRM is Boomtown. It can be used as lead gen if you want it, but we use it as a CRM tool. The Millionaire Real Estate Agent has the 33 touch plan – focus on that.
Elizabeth: I’m a cowgirl when it comes to organization, and I keep lists and such, but the busier I get, the more I realize I have to keep better track. I’ve used a couple CRMs. One is Lasso – I just started using it. It’s great for working with a developer because several people can use the account and you can track what’s been sent out and by whom. The other one I use is called Contactually. That program reminds me to check in with clients a few times a year. You have to keep in touch or else you lose them. You have to be their friend and be checking on them, and it makes a big difference.
Mario: We use Property Base – a Salesforce application. I use old fashioned Outlook, with calendar appointments spaced out over the course of the year to reach out. We have a quarterly newsletter that goes out that summarizes our activities.
I’m not friends with my clients –I try to keep a distance there. You have to stay in front of the client, and you have to stay a professional. Decide what you like and what your clients like, and do that.
How do you identify the roles of your new team members as you start hiring? What’s your strategy?
Joe: There’s a blueprint: Millionaire Real Estate Agent. It’ll be the blueprint for your company, and the first hire will eventually be your CEO if you do it right. First hire is an admin, and it goes admin, admin, buyer’s agent. Two admin and two buyer’s agents can do 100 transactions.
Elizabeth: I’m more in the beginning stages of a team. The person I have working for me is admin, she just does paper work and easy things. The next person will someone who will run around with checks, drop off keys and work social media/boost ads.
Mario: When I first hired someone, it was to answer the phone. I think there’s no bigger separator in our business than having your phone answered during business hours and it never going to voicemail. You actually give the impression, rightly or wrongly, that you’re a business. When I call and get a voicemail, I’m turned off and annoyed. My first hire was to answer the phone, and then that broadened into showings, but only after I found someone else to answer the phones. And now I have someone who answers the phone seven days a week, 8:30am to 11pm, which is a little overkill. Get someone to answer your phones and then you can figure out what you can do more.
Is there an economic model you follow to run your business? Who holds you accountable?
Mario: I’ve never written a business plan. My weekly update from my bookkeeper and accountant keeps me on track. They act as comptroller for me, and I was lucky to find that early on.
Elizabeth: I look for role models in our community, and I ask them questions, or for vendor referrals. I try to follow what they’re doing because likely I can learn from it. I have a coach, we talk on the phone once a week. Part of writing down what I did this week is anticipating what’s coming next week.
Joe: Seek out mentors in the industry, but also nationally and globally. At the end of the day, when you look globally, there are people doing billions of dollars in business. They’re doing things differently at a high level. They’re going to become Fortune 500 companies on the New York Stock Exchange. These real estate teams follow 4 models: lead generation model, organization model, budget model, and economic model.
What does your morning look like from the time you get up to when you start working?
Elizabeth: I’m a rise and shine girl. I have to have some coffee. I check a few emails, check the weather, then I take a run. Working out is a big part of my life on a lot of levels. I’m hopefully back before people are intensely texting and emailing me, but usually by the time I get back, I have a lot of work to do. But running is my Zen, it’s when I start planning my day. Hopefully by 8 or 9am, I’m taking calls and meetings or whatever I need to do.
Joe: I follow the Miracle Morning book. I believe in it, but it’s not for everyone. My alarm goes off at 4 AM. It works for me. I have a glass of water next to my bed. I do what they call savers in the book. I sit in silence, I write affirmations, I visualize my day, I exercise, I read 10 pages a day and then I script. It takes about an hour and a half to do, but the one thing for me that has been a game changer, is visualizing the day, getting a sense of what I have to accomplish. You can start at different times, but I have kids, so my goal is to have breakfast with my kids every day before they go to school, and I accomplish that by doing this.
Mario: My morning starts the night before. From that, I know how much time I have in the morning for my ideal routine, which is get up, shower and read the paper. It used to be sports page to front page, but now, with our new president, I go front page to sports page. Lately I haven’t gotten past the front page because I’m reading it pretty closely. Once I have my coffee and read the paper, it’s usually 8:30, 9:00. I check my emails and I’m ready for whatever the day has in store.