For many top producers, their rise to the top has not been because of tricks of the trade or gimmicks. There’s no secret sauce or magic bullet they discovered. Rather, hard work, commitment and a focus on the basics of selling has helped them reach their goals again and again.
“I attribute my success to hard work and a high level of client service,” says Kathleen Malone, an agent, certified luxury home marketing specialist and director of sales for Elysian private residences with @properties. “I think it’s safe to say the days of quick and easy sales are over, so I am working hard to help clients through this troubled market to reach their goals.”
Hard work is a large part of being successful, but a passion for the job also is necessary. Ultimately, those in the real estate industry must love what they are doing to reach top status; those who view it as a side job or passing occupation are unlikely to reach such heights.
“It can be somewhat all-consuming, and it’s certainly not for everybody,” says Debora McKay, a real estate broker and luxury specialist with Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage. However, she adds, “when you enjoy doing something, it’s almost like a hobby.”
At the Top
Buyers want to work with professionals who know the business, have a good reputation and have in-depth market knowledge, notes Honore Frumentino, broker associate with Prudential Rubloff. To stay on top, utilizing real estate basics, such as prospecting and educating oneself and one’s clients about the marketplace, is important. “Easy” sales are few, and agents must know how to work for each success story.
“People realize in today’s market that they really need somebody who knows what they are doing,” says Frumentino. “Having been a top producer for so many years, it is attracting more business to me today than when the market was good.” In the past, clients may have selected a friend or relative to represent their real estate interests, but now, they want professionals who have track records of success, she says.
Being a top producer helps with business, says Ben Broughton, a Realtor with Century 21 New Heritage. He shows clients his stats to show he knows what he’s doing. “I want clients to know I have proven to get results year after year,” he says. “Proven results equal experience and knowledge to help new clients meet their goals.”
Cindy Banks, team leader with RE/MAX Cornerstone, uses her top 10 RE/MAX team designation in all marketing materials. “I have earned designations, awards, knowledge and respect for my 25 years in the industry,” she says.
However, while being a top producer can help with business, “realistically, what matters is your reputation as a solid, respected, effective business professional,” says James J. Murphy, president of the Murphy Real Estate Group. Each year, he analyzes where his growth comes from and then focuses on those areas while also improving less-performing areas of business.
Buyers ultimately want more from a real estate professional today than they used to. “They want people to be honest with them and tell them the truth,” says McKay. “People don’t want to be sold.”
Indeed, trust is a key factor in a client relationship. “Buyers are looking for an agent who they trust and feel confident in to represent their best interest,” says Broughton. “They are looking for advice, guidance and, of course, a home that fits their needs at a great place,” he says.
Buyers have high expectations for their dollar in the market, says Murphy, and the location must meet their needs in addition to their price goals. “For residential buyer clients, the key is to make the buyer understand this is where they will live,” he says.
Tools of the Trade
Building a solid reputation takes time, and those at the top each have experienced lean years and times of struggle on the path to success. “Our first year was brutal,” says Murphy. His group experienced growth through 2001 and accelerated growth between 2002 and 2006 before slowing in 2007 and 2008. However, in the past two years, his business has started to grow again.
Banks also had a rocky start. “The first five buyers of my career went elsewhere,” she says. “I was devastated [but] my great manager wasn’t, and she pushed me to stay in business.” After that, Banks describes her rise to top producer status as steady.
“Really, there is no magic bullet,” says Murphy. “Each year you must analyze where your growth comes from. Focus on growth areas as well as improving less performing areas of your business.”
Many top producers identify goal setting as an important component of their success. “The goal is always to grow,” says Murphy. He attributes his success in 2010 to hard work, reinvestment in his business and setting growth objectives, then planning accordingly in order to achieve them.
Broughton also pinpoints setting goals as a way to keep gaining success. He plans to increase his goals in 2011 by 25 percent. To help achieve this, he plans to continue learning the knowledge necessary to close more sales. Also, “I plan to generate and follow up more efficiently with the leads I receive from Internet marketing,” he says, noting he plans to utilize online tools such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter more this year than he has previously.
Not all top producers see social media as beneficial, however. “I am not yet convinced that Facebook and Twitter are effective tools to reach potential buyers for my properties,” says Murphy. “But I do think they could be effective branding tools.”
Similarly, Malone does not currently use Facebook as a marketing tool. “I do have my own website, and I will be evaluating all of those outlets to increase my online presence this coming year.”
Marketing remains an important component of getting ahead. Broughton uses Internet marketing, sphere of influence, newsletters and more to find clients. Word of mouth and referrals from other agents and clients are beneficial tools for McKay.
Murphy has his own custom real estate publication that lists his properties only, and he distributes it throughout his marketplace. “This gives maximum exposure to potential buyers for our properties and is a productive branding tool.”
For those in the industry who are hoping to achieve top producer status, hard work is necessary “Work hard, study the market, and continue to get educated,” says McKay. “Study the market again and again and again.”
Flexibility also is important, notes Banks. “Great producers embrace circumstance, change and adapt,” she says. “Be flexible and be willing to share ideas.”
Customer service needs to be the No. 1 priority, says Broughton. This includes communicating promptly and on a regular basis with both buyers and sellers. It is important to respond promptly to voicemails and e-mails, because clients will not hesitate to call someone else if forced to wait too long for a response.
Ultimately, to be a top producer, “it is not rocket science, but it is commitment,” says McKay. “I have found my niche, and because I enjoy it so much, that comes across. People want to work with people who love what they are doing.” C.A.
Century 21 New Heritage
Murphy Real Estate Group
For more about Chicagoland’s top producers, read our Closing Strategies of Top Producers story.