There’s always something to howl about

The Difference Maker

I’ve been having periodic, kinda sorta regular conversations with a young real estate agent in the southwest. It’s been goin’ on for maybe a year or more. He thinks he has a very bright future, but from where I sit, he hasn’t yet grasped just how really good he’s destined to be.

He’s a goal setter, yet he’s not hit his goals the last few years. Don’t get me wrong, he’s done very well. But missin’ his goals consistently isn’t from poor work ethic, he’s like a Nebraskan corn farmer at harvest time. The guy’s relatively tech savvy as he maintains his own websites, which are designed to be lead generators. He has an IDX etc. Still, goals not met.

He works his ass off, gets referrals up the ying-yang, follows up, crosses his T’s, dots his I’s, loves his mom, and eats his veggies. So what’s the hold up for Heaven’s sake? What’s been missing?

95% (Pulled out of the clean, breezy San Diego blue sky.) of real estate agents who don’t make it, fail for this reason.

Promise you won’t roll your eyes.

Bottom line? He stopped spending so much time with websites, and other various marketing tasks, and began spending most of his time either prospecting or, you know, being belly to belly with folks who could tell him to go to hell. Turns out a buncha folks attached to said bellies haven’t been giving him directions to Satan’s abode.

Go figure.

His income this year will most likely eclipse last year’s goal by about 30% or more — a goal he failed to reach. Puttin’ it another way, If he reaches this year’s goal, and he’s ‘this close’ to being on target, he’ll have exceeded last year’s actual income by approximately 55-70%. All this by simply parkin’ his belly in front of more stranger’s bellies than ever before.

Who’d a thunk?

Oh, and for the record, so far this year his ‘high tech’ lead generators have produced a tad less than 20% of his income. The dominating majority of what he’s accomplished has been using methods available when Truman was in office.

Regardless of all this success, he needs to completely retool what he’s offering — a completely different value proposition.

I’ve advised him to quit, as he so concisely put it, competing with all those agents out there who couldn’t carry his jock on their best days. To be accurate, I added the jock part. 🙂

See, he’s been doin’ what I do, only at a level I did back when I was his age. One of my mentors gave me the same advice. Don’t compete with amateurs. Instead, pick their fields clean. And when it comes to specializing in investment property as a real estate agent/broker, purposefully competing on a regular basis with home agents is silly on its face, and a colossal waste of time.

No need to go into the nuts ‘n bolts of my advice, but if he follows through, and I’m convinced he will, I predict his income will triple in the next couple years. He’s been selling things as opposed to results.

It matters not that 99% of those reading this won’t be specializing in investment property. Just don’t lose sight of the sea change he embraced like a lost child newly found:

Focus like a laser beam on being belly to belly with more folks per week than your used to in six weeks. Do that, and as night follows day, your professional life will never be the same.

Caveat: The discipline required to constantly market and putz around with websites etc., isn’t nearly the soul cleansing discipline it takes to constantly, consistently be belly to belly with those who can crush your spirit.

It’s called being in the arena — and when it comes right down to it, most simply don’t have the stomach for it. It’s why they spend so much time and money doing other things.

Spending as much time as possible in the arena — goin’ belly to belly — IS the difference maker. It’s what sets the talkers apart from the doers.

Talkers spend most of their time doin’ whatever it takes to avoid the arena.


21 Comments so far

  1. Joe June 8th, 2011 6:15 am

    “The discipline required to constantly market and putz around with websites etc., isn’t nearly the soul cleansing discipline it takes to constantly, consistently be belly to belly with those who can crush your spirit.”

    I respectfully disagree with you Jeff. Most of our business comes to us through our websites. That is to say, our clients come to us, and only after they come to us through our websites we go ‘belly to belly.’

    I’m not saying going belly to belly will not generate business, however, I am saying there are more folks (potential clients) on the internet Googling [city st] real estate than there are clients to be had by “being belly to belly with more folks per week than your used to in six weeks” as you put it.

    For instance, San Diego had approximately 200,000 searches done in the last 30 days for San Diego homes and/or real estate phrases. The above figure does not account for the hundreds of thousands of searches being done for lesser competitive phrases.

  2. Dylan Darling June 8th, 2011 6:39 am

    It really just depends on the area. Popular cities such as San Diego, or even here in Bend Oregon, have people constantly moving in from out of area. For these areas, working on your website and SEO is SUPER important. I’d say that 70% of my business comes from my website (or a referral from a past website client). With my new IDX coming in a few weeks I hope to increase that number.

  3. Eric Bramlett June 8th, 2011 6:40 am

    With regards to online marketing, agents usually drop the ball after the lead comes in. If you follow up slowly or choose to email when a phone number is available, you will fail. Likewise, if a phone number is available and you give up after hitting voicemail once, your close ratio will be low. I’m not good at chatting strangers up and handing out cards, so I don’t know what encourages “belly to belly” success, but I do know a number of agents who successfully earn nice livings using this technique.

    The bottom line is that “belly to belly” marketing and internet marketing both work, when worked properly. The trick is to find out which successful technique you will follow to success.

  4. Jim Klein June 8th, 2011 7:41 am

    Personally I always take Jeff’s masterful grasp of business to be less about location or technique, and more about actually doing it rather than waiting for it to happen.

    It’s the greatest economic error of our time. Anyone can reap, but it takes a special person to sow.

  5. Jeff Brown June 8th, 2011 8:21 am

    Hey guys — I’ll take the blame for what seems a misunderstanding here. It’s the emphasis on ‘messin’ with your tech stuff’ as an EXCUSE not to be belly to belly. Remember, I’m the ‘skin the cat’ guy. How the cat gets skinned is hugely irrelevant to the fact that there’s indeed a catskin on the wall.

    I agree with Joe, Dylan, and Eric, following through on IDX leads is key. But it’s no different than doin’ the same for direct mail leads, cold calling, or anything else agents do to initiate contact.

    I still maintain, however, that if we enter 100+ agent brokerages in the country at random, we’ll not find more than one in 10 whose top 5% producers include an agent getting most of their business from IDX. Surely that’s changing as we talk here, but it ain’t happenin’ now. Those who’re kickin’ major booty via IDX are still relatively rare.

    If I’m showing my tech ignorance here, please show me, as I honestly don’t have a dog in this fight. Again, it’s about gettin’ belly to belly with more folks, and catskins on the wall.

    For the record, I’ve grown to admire those who’ve successfully solved the IDX lead puzzle.

    Jim, thanks so much, you’ve boiled it down masterfully.

  6. Danny June 8th, 2011 9:06 am

    Hi agree with Joe and Eric and I do see your point Jeff.

    You can have all the leads in the world coming in but if you don’t know what to do with them then it is a waste.

    “Again, it’s about gettin’ belly to belly with more folks, and catskins on the wall.” I believe you will have more opportunities to get belly to belly through the Internet.

  7. Erion Shehaj June 8th, 2011 12:42 pm

    Most of our business comes to us through our websites.

    From my experience, most folks who make the above statement haven’t actually sat down and figured out exactly where their business comes from.

    I know because I used to say the same thing.

    Usually what happens is they are confusing “business” (what Jeff calls “skinned cats”) and “activity”. Agents feel like all the activity they’re getting (leads, registrations etc.) is coming from their site and therefore their bankable checks must follow suit. As I discovered about 6 months ago to my mindblowing surprise, close to 80% of GCI came from repeat clients or referrals. Now that figure may be different for a different agent but I’ll go out on a limb and say it’s well over 50% for 95% of agents out there.

    But ultimately, I think this post is not about old school vs. new school but rather a post about opportunity cost. I agree with Eric that how you follow up with IDX leads can make all the difference between conversion and failure. But further than that, I think the fundamental question is:

    “Could the time spend on trying to convert IDX registrations be spent doing something that might produce more income? Or put a different way, if 80% of your income comes from repeat clients or referrals, wouldn’t it make more sense to keep in touch with past clients and generate even more repeat business or referrals?”

    Some food for thought.

  8. Joe June 8th, 2011 3:44 pm

    Erion Shehaj wrote:

    “From my experience, most folks who make the above statement haven’t actually sat down and figured out exactly where their business comes from.”

    Perhaps you need a change of acquaintances and business relationships to change your experiences Erion! [grins] Since you quoted me, I couldn’t resist a reply! 🙂

    We DO know where are business comes from. In fact, we know where the business came from, how many times they have been to our site, how much time they have spent on our site, and a host of other variables. Lastly, the phone call we make to the new business is not to figure out where they came from, but to see if they need any help in finding what they are looking for. Kinda the ‘belly to belly’ thing Jeff is referring to.

    For what it is worth, most tech-savvy folks have a grasp on where their clients are coming from, especially those of us who are doing PPC.

  9. Erion Shehaj June 8th, 2011 7:36 pm


    If I paid five figures for my site I’d be pretty defensive about it, too. 😉

    But all joking aside, if you are tracking the source of your closed business, good on you. You are the exception that proves the rule. That’s why I said “most agents”…

    Further than that though, I never said IDX won’t result into closed business. In fact, a portion of my business does come from IDX. But the fact that the overwhelming portion of top producers do not get their business from IDX is crucial, because it shows the opportunity cost of putting most of your weight on IDX conversions. In other words, I don’t doubt your skinned cats; I just wonder if there would be more if you focused on other methods that might not be as high tech but generate referrals and repeat business.

    What do you think?

  10. Jim Klein June 8th, 2011 7:56 pm

    I’m hearing arguments about Dairy Queen versus Baskin-Robbins. Me, I’m thinkin’ about frozen yogurt; Jeff’s probably already shipping and invoicing it!

  11. Jeff Brown June 8th, 2011 7:59 pm

    Geez Jim, now I’m obsessing about Jamocha Almond Fudge. 🙂

  12. Dan Connolly June 9th, 2011 6:55 am

    Erion when you talk about what percentage of agents do what, what data do you base your opinions on? Do you have surveys to back up your statements, or is it about the people you talk to around your water cooler?

    I think the real data out there suggests that an overwhelming percentage of agents don’t make very much money doing anything.

    I know a lot of people who do phenomenal business with online IDX, amd most of them are way too busy to spend a lot of time chatting in online forums. I get 80% of my closed business from an IDX.

    What I don’t get is this idea that there is only one way that really works or that should work. Every method of prospecting has some who make a killing, some who just get by and some who can’t make it work at all. Most people who are knocking it out of the park with any method aren’t broadcasting the method to the world for fear of educating their competition.

  13. Zachary Whitston June 9th, 2011 11:04 am

    You make some very good points. There are too many people in the real estate industry or any other sales arena who focus on “getting ready” to get ready, making sure everything is as organized as possible, shoes are polished, and DAY PLANNER IS EMPTY. It plain and simply comes back to pareto’s 80/20 rule and knowing where to spend your time- specifically on high payoff activities. Thanks for bringing this up!

  14. Charles Merrill June 9th, 2011 3:06 pm

    Knowing your buisness and your area is key.

  15. Grant Worthen June 10th, 2011 10:46 am

    I agree with Jeff that being successful is getting in front of people “belly to belly” however, it is hard to say that internet marketing or IDX is not an effective way to create this opportunity in the first place. Everyone’s situation is different, sure there is an opportunity cost to using the internet to try to generate leads through IDX but the reality is that property searches and internet marketing are a standard these days, and if you don’t provide them, someone else will. Beyond that, it is not just about having them but more what you do with them and managing your time. IDX is just another tool in the tool belt. It is not about having the tool but what you do with the tool. I talk to hundreds of real estate agents who have built their businesses around their websites and their websites only and they are very successful.

  16. Jim Klein June 10th, 2011 7:53 pm

    Face it, Jeff…half the Packers fans knew how to coach the team better than Lombardi. You can dream of Jamocha Almond, but I’m dreaming of fast tracks and yielding turf at Delmar!

  17. Gabe Sanders June 11th, 2011 8:28 am

    There is a lot to be said about the old methods of working the real estate business. Some where there’s a sweet spot in blending the old with the new!

  18. Jo Amick June 14th, 2011 7:41 pm

    Great post and interesting comments here. I would have to say that there’s value in both methods. A balance of the two depending on your local market would yield results.

  19. Roxanne Ardary June 17th, 2011 9:40 am

    Makes sense. Definitely need to combine the two marketing arenas as others have said. But for me personally, this year I’m trying to do as you are suggesting to develop more “in person” relationships.

  20. Wayne June 26th, 2011 7:28 am

    What most Realtors lack is leads!!

    I have to say that your young Realtor may be doing exactly what he should by: “The discipline required to constantly market and putz around with websites”. He is creating leads and without leads ALL Realtors are dead in the water!!

    That said … once you have leads…. it is all about converting them to clients where you can get “belly to belly” with them!!

    There are skills all along the way 1) Creating Leads 2)Converting Leads to Clients 3) Converting Clients to Sales


  21. Jim Klein June 26th, 2011 9:43 pm

    “There are skills all along the way 1) Creating Leads 2)Converting Leads to Clients 3) Converting Clients to Sales”

    Hey, are you one of those agents who are selling houses and property? I haven’t seen one of those around here yet.