If we look around at the mega successful businesses of today, (think Facebook or Amazon) they’ve grown very quickly from the seed of an idea that someone had the courage to chase and bring to life.
The two words that stand out to me from that paragraph are ‘courage’ and ‘idea’.
I have always believed in the power of an idea. But without the conviction to stare down the critics and chase your dream, nothing will ever happen.
Sometimes the pressure to quit is so great you find yourself questioning even basic business decisions.
That happened to me in the early days of Bestagents.
Close friends and even some family members told me I was on a fool’s errand. They told me to stick to what I know and I would be okay.
But I didn’t want to be okay. The entrepreneurial spirit that was born and nurtured through my real estate career was in my blood.
I remember the one main thought and belief that kept me going through the darkest nights: If I didn’t give it my very best effort, I knew I would be plagued with regret later in life. Could I really look myself in the mirror in 20 years time and say I gave it my all?
But to get to the actual launch of Bestagents, I need to go back a little further to what I call the dark times.
By late 1989, the heat was coming out of the Australian economy.
The stock market crash of 1987 was trickling down to almost everything bought or sold. Property prices were down and so was the actual volume of properties sold.
But that didn’t stop my brother and I from opening our real estate office at 97 Kooyong Road Armadale in Melbourne Australia on January 1 1990.
We were young with lots of real estate experience and lots of energy. We were going to set the world on fire.
By mid 1990, the crippling recession that wiped billions of dollars from the Australian economy was taking hold. It would last for four brutal years.
Values in every market were slashed and in many cases halved.
But way more damaging for the real estate industry was the dramatic decline in the number of properties sold.
It was a double punch that broke many real estate companies and ended many careers.
One by one, the teachers, car salesmen, taxi drivers and bored housewives who had chosen a real estate career to make some quick cash in the boom, drifted back to their old jobs or simply gave up.
By the end of the year, our savings were gone and we were in debt.
Listings were getting harder and harder to come by and without listings there would be no sales and no future.
I remember long sleepless night laden with worry and stress. I can handle a lot of things but I hate worrying about money, especially when the consequences go beyond myself. My family was relying on me to provide an income and a future and I was on the threshold of letting them down.
I firmly believe that life is not really about what happens to you, it’s how you handle what happens to you.
We all face challenges at some point in our lives and I was at a definite fork in the road.
I knew that one way was to do whatever it took to hang in and make my new business a success. I guess the other way was to ditch my dream and go back to work for someone else. But that would be giving up and it’s simply not in my nature.
In the years leading up to 1990 I had experimented, like most agents, with marketing ideas to attract sellers with but with mixed success.
My real estate success strategy has always been fairly simple: Dedicate each morning to solid prospecting and in particular calling at least 30 contacts. This would keep my listing presentation schedule full. (By the way, this single routine daily task has won me more listings than I ever thought possible and if you take just one idea away from this story, I encourage you to copy this wildly successful success strategy)
I knew if I could start to build and maintain more relationships, I would have more people to prospect on a daily basis. This would give me more listing appointment opportunities, more listings and more sales.
As a passionate student of marketing, I had often wondered about the power of offering potential sellers information as a way to engage them.
While everyone else was offering free valuations I could change the game and do something completely different. But what?
With my back to the wall, I had very little to lose.
A big part of my real estate success up to this point was my ability to transform the way a property looked and help my seller get a better result.
I became skilled at choosing a ‘look’ that gave my listings broad appeal. It was a formula that worked every time. A better looking property gave me better looking marketing images, more (and often competing) buyers and very happy sellers.
My idea was to do a ‘brain dump’ of these ideas and show sellers everywhere how they had the power to influence their selling price by following my presentation formulas and ideas.
Naturally, a big part of the overall success was the agent who could bring everything together but I learned early on that people didn’t want to know about the agent. They only wanted to know about things that would help them.
I learned that engaging a potential seller and giving them ideas that would help them was the secret to really connecting. After the relationship was forged and trust established, I was the obvious choice as their agent.
I remember one day, following a very successful sale, the seller, who was a big time advertising agency CEO told me the strategy I used to sell his home was the best he had ever seen. He told me something I’ve never forgotten and it quickly became part of my presentation ‘pitch’ to sellers.
Here’s what he said:
“One of the most interesting and unique things about real estate is that it has no recommended retail price. Almost everything we can see around us has a RRP but not property. And unlike everything else, the value of property actually increases over time. You told us to do certain things before we went on the market and I believe that helped us achieve a result well above our expectations. You actually manipulated the market in our favour and I love the way you did that”
One of the highest paid ad guys on the planet had just given me a priceless marketing idea for free.
This comment from a very happy client not only gave me the point of difference I was looking for, it gave me the title for my booklet that would eventually turn into a bestselling book
Boosted by the comments from my ad agency client, I created a small booklet called How To Sell Your Home For More. It was a print-on-demand 32 page brochure.
I hired a designer to create a professional looking cover and I employed the specific rules I had learned from direct mail masters like David Ogilvy and John Caples to craft direct mail letters and flyers about the offer of my booklet.
My first letter drop was a complete disaster. I got zero responses. I dusted myself off and got back on the horse.
I went back to Ogilvy’s direct mail rules and spent the next few weeks tweaking and testing with small 500 piece runs of letters and flyers.
The phone began to ring with people wanting a copy of the book. Success at last!!
I started to focus on the letters that gave me the best results and I began to get more and more calls from potential sellers looking for copies of the book.
One by one I started adding new contacts to my list of potential sellers.
Then slowly but surely, I started giving property appraisals and valuations to people who had asked for a copy of the book.
There is something indescribably satisfying that happens when you keep going against the odds and experience success. In a matter of months I was out of debt and into the black.
I’ll be the first to admit that the extra income was welcome but my free book offer and direct mail success gave me the best feeling of vindication and confidence I had ever had and that’s why I believe so passionately in the power of an idea.
I now owned a dynamic and compelling point of difference in the market. I also had a marketing weapon I could employ anytime to help me win more business.
I made the decision to expand the booklet into a real book and had a few thousand printed. My free book offer started to work better than ever. This success gave me the confidence to start thinking about other ways I could leverage the book to attract more contacts.
Then something totally unexpected happened.
Other agents, who had heard about my success with the book, the letters and flyers approached me to see if they could use the book in their local markets so I started to license the concept to real estate people everywhere.
In the years that followed I continually worked on improving the book to make sure it stayed fresh and had a broad appeal. As more agents started using the book, I ordered more books in greater quantities to reduce the price per unit even further.
I began using the book at open homes to attract potential sellers. I would keep a ‘free book register’ so anybody wanting a book would simply enter their name and contact details.
I tapped into my professional contacts and sent direct mail letters to their mailing lists offering a copy of the book. The funny thing is, I didn’t even say it was my book but just a bestselling book that was helping property sellers everywhere sell for a better price.
Sending the book as part of my ‘pre-listing kit’ was a big success. Potential sellers were really pleased to receive an actual book instead of all the printed material my competitors were sending. In fact the more successful the book became, the more it stood out as being so different because all of my competitors talked about themselves not what was in it for the seller.
In the years that followed we developed dozens of different marketing cards, flyers and letters to help our member agents attract sellers.
Last year we started building Free Book Websites with automatic email follow up. This has been a huge success and a great way to leverage social media and online marketing.
I was careful to make sure only one agent per area could use the book and related material as this would preserve the integrity of the offer.
How could the book and ‘sell for more’ concept be a dynamic point of difference if many agents in the same area were making the same offer?
To date there have been 12 editions of the book and sales to agents and the public are now more than 200,000
I recently did an interview and was asked “what drives me?”
The question made me stop and think and a hundred things ran through my head.
I believe the number one thing that drives me is the success enjoyed by the many hundreds of agents who now use not just the book but the entire Bestagents marketing system.
What drives me is the sheer joy of knowing that my ideas are now used by so many agents who have put the system to work to build personal wealth and lifestyles they may not have otherwise had. I have added something very real and lasting to their lives and to the lives of those they love.
The flow on effect is that I know so many property sellers are getting a better result when they use a Bestagents member.
Coming to Canada in 2008 is another chapter in an exciting personal story.
I’m delighted to be growing Bestagents here in North America and building so many awesome friendships with agents far and wide.
Real estate has given me so much. I took a risk and a chance and look what happened!
I believe we owe it to ourselves to do whatever it takes to achieve the most we can achieve and I applaud the forward thinking and courageous men and women who are Bestagents members for having the conviction to change the game and reap the rewards for standing out in their market.
Your continued success is my real reward.
Dream Big & Take Names,
Founder & CEO
Bestagents Real Estate Group