How one real estate salesperson has excelled, formed a team and increased sales volume and transactions.
You’ve worked hard in your new real estate profession and seen success—more referrals, listings, closings, and inquiries. In fact, you frequently feel you can’t get everything done and are missing out by not being able to be everywhere and do everything you want. Perhaps, it’s time for another talk with your coach or mentor or to take a class to help decide if it’s time to hire an associate, build a team or have your own brokerage firm, even one with multiple offices (see what GREEN, Global Real Estate Education Network offers). There are all kinds of possibilities, but be smart and take your time. Too many changes could backfire.
The first step is to draft a business plan to weigh all possibilities, which you may never have done. Nick Baldwin, a salesperson with his own team, Nick Baldwin & Associates, at Keller Williams Realty in Montclair, N.J., never developed a plan when he started out 11 years ago. He first worked with his mom at Re/Max, until she became a franchisee of a Keller Williams market center. He followed her there.
He’s a good example of someone who has increased his business steadily since he’s been on his own during the last 18 months. He now employs his wife Anne as his administrative assistant and three buyer agents. We talked to Baldwin about how to make growth a reality as you move to the next level in your real estate career.
Flying the coop. For Baldwin, the first major change was his realization that he would find it hard to increase his $150,000 salary without leaving the safety net of his mother’s team, who was also his mentor. Once he was responsible for himself, he took more risks but also worked harder. He increased his sales 192 percent within 12 months. His caveat to others is to understand that, as an independent contractor, it’s important to make the shift to another level, according to your, rather than anyone else’s, timetable.
Adding staff. When he started his team, he realized quickly he didn’t have adequate time to go over paperwork, write contracts, send out mailers, organize files, see listings, and increase listings and sales volume. As a result, he decided he needed to hire a licensed real estate assistant who would function as his transactions coordinator. In this instance it was his wife who is also licensed. “I needed someone to take on some parts of the job that didn’t make money but were vital, so I could focus on those tasks that did bring in funds such as lead generation and calls over the phone or in person meetings,” he says. He also knew that another pair of ears, eyes and hands would allow him to run the business smoothly rather than have anything fall through the cracks, a challenge he was concerned about. Baldwin and his wife work well together since, he says, she is highly organized and helps keep the team in order.
Setting goals. Baldwin knew that the best way to increase sales was by focusing on raising his dollar volume or the number of units he sold, or both. He decided to go after selling more houses in a higher-price range as well as expanding his buyer and seller network. He worked to attract more repeat business and gain more referrals. To accomplish these goals, he needed additional staff.
Forming a team. Forming a team became his next logical step as business continued to increase and as he saw that his one assistant couldn’t handle all the work. Baldwin’s next hire was a showing agent whose responsibility was to show homes to buyer clients and who would be interested in becoming a buyer agent at some point. As an employer, he was also learning that some hires would work out while others wouldn’t. He was eager to see staff members succeed, and among his strategies was to hold two weekly meetings and one monthly one to go over ways of doing business, practicing scripts, discussing contracts and negotiations. He had now become a mentor to others. He generally can tell after three to four months if staff members get his way of doing business and will work out.
Moving onto an even higher level. Baldwin and Anne plan to replicate their team and practice in Clarkson, Mich., north of Detroit, where she is from and where they want to relocate to raise their family. They plan to keep their team in New Jersey by working remotely with them and flying in periodically.
Continuing to be mentored and mentoring others. Baldwin continues to consult his mother about improving customer service and relationships. He also consults with agents in different parts of the country to brainstorm and learn what they are doing whether it’s learning how to hire better and have different types of people with different skills on board. As one would expect, attendance at real estate conferences to learn ways to expand his team and get new listings is part of his strategy as well. In addition, he uses Facebook to attract attention and watches more webinars. He is COO of Lab Coat Agents, the largest real estate Facebook group in the world with 82,000 members and its own website.
And he prides himself on being a mentor to those on his team and encourages them to speak up to him during their meetings, at regular lunches, and other team activities. “I have taught them to hold me accountable and be sure I’m doing what I’m supposed to,” he says. “For me, the hardest part of being at this level is the stress I feel about whether my agents are happy and if I’m doing enough for them.”
Considering longer range goals of becoming a broker or going for higher-priced listings. Breaking into a new, higher price range takes great time and cultivation, Baldwin says. Some of the best ways to do this are 1) through direct mail farming monthly; 2) hosting open houses for other agents with listings in those higher priced areas; 3) attending networking events where homeowners of such homes might attend; and 4) door knocking in those areas, he says. But the caveat is that home owners of higher-priced homes expect a classier approach. “You’ve got to walk the talk. Your marketing has to be at that level,” he says. So far, he has no plans to move into a more expensive niche or become a broker. But at some time, he will re-evaluate.