As a professional realtor, it’s easy to forget that you’re not just selling real estate, you’re running a business. Chances are, the training you’ve received has been focused on regulations and legal issues, but did nothing to increase your sales, marketing, and financial savvy.
Our next two authors and their book will change all that. Here to talk to us about why it’s time to start thinking like an entrepreneur are the authors of Blueprint, Garry Creath and Chris Scott.
Chris Scott: We’ve always, for as long as I can remember, have people asking us, “Hey, what should we do in this situation?” I think one of the common themes is that people are often in real estate, I think just anybody who is self-employed for that matter, we often think very myopically.
We really think at the down at the weeds level because we’re taking care of customers, we’re taking care of issues, we’re taking care of problems, we’re trying to solve situations and often times, a year can go by, three years can go by, five, 10 years can go by, and you look up and you realize that the real estate practice that you have or whatever you’re doing with the thing that you’re working on is not the thing that you wanted, right?
You look back at the time you spent and you realize, “What I was hoping to accomplish, I did not.”
Even though you were using your best decision making, you were using your best thinking at the time, and you end up getting to where you’re at. Wherever we are is based on the best thinking that we have. A lot of it is because we were so focused on the details that we never paused to look up, look around, and see what’s going on in my real estate practice.
What should I be doing, and what is it that I really want to accomplish?
You know, different people are going to have different things that they want to accomplish. I think what we wanted to do was to take our experience, especially Garry’s experience because he’s been selling real estate for over 20 years now, and say, “How did we craft and cultivate the careers that we wanted?”
I think this book is the starting point. The strategies that we share in this book are the starting point for how do I get that career that I want? How do I get that real estate practice or business that I want to have, that I dreamed that I was going to have?
Garry Creath: Yeah, I totally agree with you, Chris. First off. Real estate for most realtors is a second, third, fourth, fifth career. Quite often, what happens is that they see friends or family members having great success in real estate or a perceived great success.
They think, “That seems easy. I’d like to look at real estate. I’d be great at that, how hard can that be?” We just kind of jump in and not knowing really the purposeful strategies and tactics that we need to have in place or in mind before we take that leap.
Because once we take that leap and we get into it, like Chris said, we get so focused on the details of day to day survival in this real estate business, that next business deal, that next paycheck so I can pay my mortgage so I can have groceries, so I can do these things.
What’s so fascinating about the real estate industry, is that we have cultivated this industry to be a business practice on accident. It is not a purposeful business operation or practice.
We take very, very purposeful experience and design it in a way to where we can provide the experience, the expertise, the arrows in the back that Chris and I have both taken in our real estate careers and share that with real estate entrepreneurs, so that they don’t have to suffer the way that their peers are.
They don’t have to suffer the way that we did.
In fact, they have a real manual, a blueprint here of how to create a successful, sustainable, consistent real estate business that they can be proud to own.
Instead of making accidents every single day to just barely get by and to produce a mediocre business operation in real estate.
It was like, “You know what? Let us give you the experience, the expertise that we have learned over the past 20 years so you don’t have to struggle and suffer the way others do.”
Chris Scott: I think Garry said it. Most people don’t graduate from high school and say, “I’m getting into real estate,” right? Most people fall into real estate. None of us, Garry didn’t plan on going into real estate, he fell into it. I didn’t plan on getting involved with real estate, I fell into it.
So, most people, it’s not a purposeful thing that they aspire to, initially. It’s something that they fall into. I think that’s a problem, because when you’re falling into something, often times, just trying to grab that thing to be able to figure out, “Okay, what’s going on?”
Unfortunately, in real estate, it’s one of those fields where you’re not going to get a lot of help.
So, most people, if you go work at a regular job, the company is really interested in helping you succeed. The peers around you are really interested in helping you succeed. Your manager, your boss, whoever, is really interested in helping you succeed.
But in a real estate field, the person sitting next to you is a competitor. Now, you go have a friendly relationship, most likely, but the fact of the matter is, everybody in the office is a potential competitor. Heck, your broker or your manger may also be a competitor against you when it comes to them needing to be able to survive and put food on the table.
So in addition to having an office with people in it, they’re also having to sell real estate. I think because of this, there’s a weird dynamic that happens where people are often isolated, they’re left alone to their own devices, and that’s where a lot of the struggle comes from.
It doesn’t have to be that way, because there are people out there who have figured it out and can share it with everybody who gets into this practice. But it’s not something that’s very obvious.
Accidental vs Intentional
Rae Williams: What are some of those fundamental differences between having real estate as a career that you stumble into as opposed to making it a business?
Garry Creath: It is all mindset. Owning a real estate business is all about your mindset, it’s all about how you think about your business and your day to day operations.
I believe that most real estate agents get into real estate, they have no experience of running a business, so what do they do? They focus on, “How do I get the next deal?” It’s not a focus on strategy, it’s not a focus on longevity, it’s not a focus on business operations, marketing, sales, human resources, anything like that. The focus is how do I get my next deal, because that’s how I pay for my groceries.
And in fact, most real estate agents that I know actually don’t even get a business credit card, a business checking account or a business name or incorporate. It is all sole proprietorship. What happens in real estate is we run the business expenses through the same checking account and credit card account as our home expenses, and we see these marketing expenses as potentially taking food off the table, instead of an investment into my business and an investment into my growth.
There’s a huge chasm there between that lone ranger real estate agent and a real estate entrepreneur.
A real estate entrepreneur has the vision, the mindset of a business owner and a business leader. They have the mindset of a business operator and a salesperson and what we do is we focus on business as a business.
We work on our business, we work in our business, and we don’t comingle our funds, which helps us focus on the operations that really matter. When we are budgeting in our business, when we are working on reinvesting in our business, when we are working on business development strategies, we have the money set aside in order to do that, because we already have that mindset.
Chris Scott: If you were to ask most people in real estate, what is it that you do? I think one of the first things that’s going to come to mind is that “I help people,” right? I help people buy homes, I help people sell homes.
If you were to ask a group of real estate professionals, what do you love about the business or why did you get into this business?
One of the easy things that people say is, “I got into this for the money,” or they might say, “I got into this to have more freedom and flexibility with my time,” not realizing that they were going to make a lot less money and they were going to work a lot more hours.
At some point, someone’s going to say, I got into this because I like helping people, because there are other ways to make money and there are other ways to have flexibility outside of real estate.
But in real estate, you get to help people. You get to connect people.
So, I think most people in real estate, we really identify with service, right? Taking care of people. When you identify with services which if you were to look at a business context, right? What are the three pillars of a business? You’ve got sales and marketing, you’ve got the operations or in real estate, that would be taking care of the customer, and then you’ve got finance.
So, most people in real estate really identify with just that one pillar of the whole equation. Because that’s where the day to day is, in taking care of customers. But when you want to take a step back, or how do I achieve what I really want to have in my career?
This is just in real estate, this could be if you were a dentist. Anybody who is in professional services, right? Doctors, dentists, lawyers, people in real estate. You can just take care of the customer, right? But if you want to be able to have that practice with the freedom and the money that goes along with it, well then you have to address finances, you have to address sales and marketing.
And so, with all of the information that we provide, it’s trying to help people and assist people in one of those two areas.
How do I design the services that I provide so that they’re unique in the market, how do I design the message that I have in the marketplace? So that’s going to attract people.
How do I design and offer in the market place where instead of everyone thinking I’m just another real estate agent, they look to me as an expert. They look to me as someone who is different, who stands out, who is an authority, who is desirable and who they would want to work with.
I think that’s so much a mindset, it all starts with one step, right? It all starts with the acknowledgment of realizing, “I’m not going to get to where I want just by focusing on service.” There is another dimension to this career that I’m in, and I can’t just focus on the customer now.
You do have to provide excellent, excellent customer service to do any of the other things. However, excellent customer service is not enough to be competitive, because everybody works on providing the best experience that they can, for the most part, right? The folks who care, of course, they’re going to do their best to take care of their client.
You have to go beyond that if you want to have success.
Rae Williams: What are some of the lessons that you learned very early on while building your businesses, that would be invaluable for other people to know as they build theirs?
Garry Creath: So, when I got into real estate, real estate was the most inefficient transactional business that I had ever studied. I studied business in college, and I’ve studied business post graduate. And real estate has traditionally been the most inefficient operation that I’ve ever seen.
One of my focuses has always been on how do I take better care of my customers, build a better business around me, and have sustainable, consistent income and have the identity as a real estate professional in the minds of my clients.
I have always designed my business, my outreach, my marketing, around those messages.
One thing that I can clearly say is the number one reason real estate agents fail—and by the way, there are so many different statistics out there. A recent one by the National Association of Realtors shows that over 80% of real estate professionals fail and get out of the business the first year that they’re in.
And so, one of the missions of our book is to stop that statistic and help people not drop out of real estate, but actually build a sustainable business. One of the primary things that you absolutely must get very, very good at is you must become your own chief marketing officer.
You must consistently reach out to people in your database, in your sphere of influence, whatever you may call it. But you must have consistent marketing communication going out, either with you doing it or somebody else doing it, to stay in touch with people and remind them of your expertise, your experience in the real estate business.
That is exactly why people will contact you, and that is exactly why they will refer you to friends and family members, and that is exactly why you will be a success.
Number one, you must have the experience. You must have the expertise and share your knowledge with other people so that they begin to trust you.
The name of the game in real estate is trust. Real estate buyers and sellers will hire the realtor who they trust will take care of their needs and their concerns. And here’s the thing. In real estate, most buyers and consumers look at us and they marginalize us. And it’s simply because we marginalized ourselves.
They think that we are all exactly the same, that we produce the same results, that we do the same things to market their homes and that could not be further from the truth. But because the consumer believes that, that is the number one reason they marginalize us. When they marginalize us, they come to us and say, “Will you discount your fee?”
“Will you discount your commission? Because somebody down the road will discount their commission, and I want you to as well?”
What we can share with real estate agents is if you want to be successful, you must become an expert and then consistently communicate your expertise to the people. So that you have a powerful brand and that they begin to trust you, so that you continue to be hired over and over again and referred over and over again. And that is going to be the number one secret.
Chris Scott: Yeah, I liked what Garry said about being your own chief marketing officer. In real estate and in most forms of self-employment, most problems it seems like it could be solved with just a few more deals or just a few more clients. One of the things I learned early on in my career was just how important it was to get good at getting customers. Because getting customers is what makes everything else go around.
Without getting customers, you don’t have people to take care of. Without getting customers, you don’t have the income to be able to build your finances. It all starts with getting customers.
I think in real estate, one of the issues is that because we focus on taking care of customers, we have this unspoken expectation, which is if I take really good care of my client, they will probably recommend and refer me in the future, right?
If I take good care of my client, in the future when it comes time to sell their home or to buy another home, they are probably going to contact me to do that.
Unfortunately, statistics show that doesn’t happen very often. In fact, according to the National Association of Realtors, only 24% of home sellers work with their previous agent when it comes time to sell their home. So why do 76% of sellers choose to go find somebody else rather than work with the person that they had worked with previously, where you would have thought that they had trust build?
You knew that they knew, liked and trusted that individual. A lot of that comes down to marketing you know? Unfortunately, there is a marketing gap between getting a recognition that I deserve in the market place versus being unknown.
Garry talked about standing out and what is it and how can we make ourselves stand out and be distinguished—well, those are marketing practices. They don’t happen by accident.
You can have the absolute best service in the world. Unfortunately, if you don’t stay in contact through good marketing practices, people are going to forget your name.
It is not like people buy homes every single year, right? There is some time that goes by between the time my buyers sell a home and then next one that I am going to buy or sell. Even when it comes to recommendations and getting word of mouth business, if I am not in regular contact with my real estate professional after I’ve bought or sold a home, time fades.
Memory fades a little bit, and then when I have a conversation with a friend of a family member and they tell me that they are thinking of moving, well unless my real estate professional has done a good job at staying in contact with me with marketing, then I don’t even think of them, right? They don’t enter into my field of consciousness at that point in time.
So the opportunity for a referral or recommendation just doesn’t take place.
Most of these problems with finding the next customer can be solved by a little bit of marketing to accomplish that.
But if you were to ask most people, “How much time in a given week do you spend thinking about or doing marketing in your real estate practice?” For most people, it is not going to be that much. They might spend a little bit if time doing it, but it is not like they are going to spend a lot of time doing it, or they are not going to have necessarily the skills to be able to close that gap between providing the service that I do and getting the recognition that I feel that I deserve after having taking care of so many people.
Garry Creath: The reality is, in real estate we have a 90 day sales cycle. Here is a prime example of why most real estate professionals live in a feast or famine lifestyle. We work our tails off to prospect and lead generate and convert those clients, and then we get really, really busy driving them around in our cars and taking listing appointments and marketing these homes.
As soon as we get really busy, we stop marketing ourselves for new business. We stop lead generating.
And when we stop, after the business that we currently have closes and we get paid on that, we’re in famine. It is now dried up, and there is no business. So then what do we do? Well we work really, really, really, really hard, and we generate more business and generate more business and then we get really busy.
It is this cycle. It is this feast. It’s this famine. It’s this feast, it’s this famine.
And what our wish is for real estate professionals and real estate experts is that there is no feast and there is no famine. There is consistency in their business. There is consistency in their sales, and there is consistency in their lifestyle and in their joy that they are living with their work.
And that can only happen by treating your business as a business and by utilizing and implementing the marketing skills and expertise that Chris has in your own business. That is how you get out of this cycle and start building a sustainable, consistent business.
Chris Scott: Without the marketing skill and marketing knowledge, it is hard to get a customer. In fact, it is so hard that it is a nice detour from working on getting a customer as soon as you get one.
Garry and I know this one agent here, where this person had one client, just one client that they were helping find a home. All of a sudden, this individual stopped doing all of their marketing. Stopped doing all their prospecting. Stopped all their activities on trying to get the next customer because they were taking care of one.
And that is a recipe for disaster.
Success Using the Strategy in Blueprint
Rae Williams: So let me hear from you guys some of your success stories. Some of the ways or some of the things that you’ve just spoken just a while ago have transformed your careers and other people’s lives?
Garry Creath: Okay, so Hilary is a real estate agent on the North East Coast, and she had built up a really great business and had been very busy for several years. Because of some personal situations, her business slacked off. And it’s simply because she stopped marketing herself.
She stopped treating her business like a business, and really, she just kind of expected that people would continue to refer her because she had done a great job for them.
So, why wouldn’t they refer her to everybody that they know? Well when Hilary came to us, her business was in a slump. She said, “I don’t know what to do, please tell me what to do.”
I said, “Well, what are you willing to do?” And she said, “I will do anything you tell me to do.”
So what Chris and I did is we showed her all of the marketing and the operations and the sales tactics and programs that he and I use in our own real estate business, and we said, “If you do these things, it will work out.”
Hilary went from closing $3 million a year to $3 million a month, within just nine months of implementing the programs.
The programs are focused around producing excellent content for her consumers, for her customers. And producing that and delivering it consistently in what Chris likes to call omnipresent marketing.
Omnipresent marketing is making sure that you are marketing yourself everywhere all at once. So your customer can’t turn around without bumping into you somewhere. Whether it is virtually, in person, on email, in social media, whatever it may be.
By branding herself as an expert, by sharing her expertise and staying in consistent communication with her base that she had built up, she has been able to transform a $3 million a year production business to a $3 million a month production business.
Chris Scott: One of the things that I have learned that has helped us in our real estate practice is something I learned very early on, but did not realize how often it is overlooked. There is a formula in marketing that we use to make sure that our marketing does well and more importantly, it is a great diagnostic tool for figuring out what you are doing wrong.
It is very simple. There are only three parts to it.
It is the fundamental tool of marketing, which is you want to have the right person, the right message and the right time considered in every single marketing communication or piece that you do.
Whether it is on social media, whether it is on video, whether it is in emails, whether it is on your flyers, always take those things into account. Has this piece been created with the right person in mind? What is the message of that right person needs to hear and is the timing of context appropriate for what I am going to ask him to do in this communication?
It is usually one of the things that you will see is most people just copy marketing, or they will produce something for everybody, which means it is for nobody.
I think that is one of the things that we touched on the book, is this right person, right message, right time formula.
If all you were to do is just look at every single communication that you are going to have with a customer, even on your individual emails that you’re sending out with people, is to look at it with just that perspective or that filter.
“All right, who is the right person for this and what are the characteristics of that individual? What does that person care about? What is that person concerned about? What does that person want? Who is that right person really and what is it that they want?”
It is only when I have that understanding that I can create a message or to design a message that is going to satisfy those things that those individuals want.
And when I have that message fine-tuned, then I can evaluate it for the timing. A good example of timing is that if you are driving down the street or on a highway, going 65 miles an hour and you see a billboard and it tells you to go to a really long website address…It is just not going to happen. That is not the right time for that message. We have to take that into account.
The other thing timing has to take into consideration is consistency.
Consistent marketing over time always trumps trying to have that home run message, that grand slam. Because consistency will trump timing every time. We don’t know when that person is going to react and respond.
That is why digital tools are great, because we can employ consistency and let the tools take care of the timing.
That right person, right message, right time formula is something that I think of if there is one takeaway that’s had a great impact on our business.
And it is one that we constantly use whenever something doesn’t go the way we want from a marketing perspective or from a campaign or any effort that we have to go find clients. If there is something that didn’t go right, we can use that formula to say, “Well did we have a good understanding of who that right person was? Did we even really think about what they wanted or what is the message for this individual?”
And usually, our own mistakes are going to be that we really didn’t spend enough time evaluating who specifically this individual is that we want to receive this information or what circumstances they might be in and then making the message one that they would respond to.
A Challenge for Listeners
Rae Williams: If you guys each had to issue or even collectively issue a challenge, whether that is to just anyone listening, people reading your book, people hoping to get into the real estate game, what would that challenge be?
Chris Scott: So, the challenge I would have for anyone who is in real estate or thinking of getting in real estate is to create the challenge of distinction. To create the challenge of standing out.
It is very easy to be one out of 1.3 million members of the National Association of Realtors, and when consumers look at us that way, like Garry said, we just look like one out of a sea. So, the challenge that I would have for anyone listening is what exactly and intentionally are you going to do to equip yourself with the skills, with the knowledge, with the understanding to stand out in what can seem like a really crowded market place?
Really think intentionally and make that your challenge. I challenge myself to stand out. I challenge myself to share my expertise. I challenge myself to do videos and educate people about the real estate market. I challenge myself to do more proactive marketing and standout in my market place.
If you were to think along those lines, you would stand out, and I think you would see some really good results from that.
Garry Creath: That was a good one Chris. My challenge to everybody listening to this is, I challenge you to become a really great listener and a great interviewer.
The reason this is so important is, in real estate, in sales, we are trained by an old heritage that believes that in order to sell something, we need to boast about how awesome we are. We need to tell people things. We need to talk at them.
That couldn’t be further from the truth.
In fact, to be an exceptional sales person, an exceptional business owner, we have got to get very, very good at asking questions, asking clarifying questions and then asking clarifying questions about the clarifying answers that they just gave to our clarifying questions.
So, if we can challenge you to stop talking so much, stop telling people so much, and instead ask questions, be inquisitive, be curious about who people are, who is your customer? Why are they behaving the way they are behaving, why is it that they want what they want? What do they want? And, “Gosh, that seems really important to you? Do you mind if I ask why that is so important to you?”
We must dig down at a very deep human level to understand who our clients are so that we can then design solutions that take great care of them and what they want to achieve.
The only way that we can understand what that is, is by asking enough questions of our customers and then sitting back, closing our mouths, opening our ears, and listening with an intent to understand.
Rae Williams: How can we contact you if we want to get more information?
Chris Scott: Well, Garry’s cellphone number is –
Garry Creath: You can reach Chris at the county lock up.
So, the very best way to reach us is going to be on social media through The Paperless Agent. You can also reach out to us through our public profile pages on Facebook, Garry Creath and Chris Scott.