The Future of Real Estate: Meet the promising new talent at The Agency

PRINT MEDIA, DOOR-KNOCKING, letterbox drops and handwritten notes: it sounds a bit like a coaching mixtape from way back. While everyone expects the younger generation to be behind a tablet or mobile, these agents who are the future of the industry are actually more sold on the traditional listing techniques that top agents were successful with 20 years ago. But perhaps what sets them apart is that passion to go the ‘extra mile’ for their clients in a market where competition is more fierce than ever. And, as you would expect, they do have a tip or two on how to maximise the tech they have grown up with. Azal Khan time travels backwards – and forward with some of the promising new talent at The Agency.

New girl on the block Anji Lake knows how to think outside the box.

Having joined The Agency Eastern Suburbs just a few weeks ago following a career in fashion PR and in sales at BresicWhitney, Anji has had to hit the ground running to forge her own path as an agent working independently without support staff or under a lead agent.

This has meant being more creative in her lead generation approach and combining traditional and digital methods.

“In a day and age where no one knocks on anyone’s door anymore, people do sometimes get a little bit of a surprise because they go, ‘Wow, okay, she didn’t call me beforehand or send me an email to let me know they’ll be knocking on my door’.

“Some people do find it a bit confronting, but once you actually provide them with information that is valuable then people really do drop their guard and actually appreciate that face-to-face contact. Especially in a world where everyone is hiding behind their computers and iPhones.”

A focus on cultivating good relationships with buyers has given Anji an edge in an industry that is being constantly disrupted by tech.

“I think we’ll see an explosion of a lot of companies opening up on the internet, making it a lot easier to sell a house. I think our job as the agent is to show that we can actually provide an amazing service. Things change in minutes these days, so we have to work a little bit harder.”

With over 7,000 followers on Instagram, Anji knows the power of personal branding.

“Social media doesn’t really generate a lot of leads for people, but it gives you great exposure. I think it gives potential sellers or buyers an insight to who you are. So doing my little videos, putting together some good content, I think is a really good way to capture who you are as an agent.”

Despite not being in a team at The Agency, Anji knows she is part of a greater team and the lack of competition amongst agents is part of the success of the business.

“I can call any one of these agents any time, male or female, young or older, and they will take my call and give me fantastic advice or just listen. I think that speaks volumes about the company.

“I was working on leads and Tom said, ‘Let me look through my database and see who I have in Rushcutters Bay’. He then printed out a spreadsheet of people that he knew in that area on his personal database. I have had that from various other people in this office and I just don’t think that happens in a lot of other real estate agencies. There is a sense of ownership over ‘these are mine’ contacts. I think it’s very different here; there’s zero competition within our office, no one concealing things or competing against one another.”

What is it like to manage the team of one of Australia’s highest-performing agents?

Georgia Lunn has been keeping the Ben Collier team running like a well-oiled machine for five years and the key is to keep it simple.

“We’re very old-school. We don’t really do anything special. And it works for us so we just go with it.”

Client services manager Georgia’s week is spent working on proposals for Ben, preparing an upcoming auction, marketing, liaising with clients, managing Ben’s diary and making sure the other five agents in the team have the tools they need to succeed.

“Peter and Davide are on the phones all day every day. Ben’s on the phone as well, but Ben normally is on the phone to his current vendors and his thirty, sixty, ninety-day pipeline, so he’s nurturing people all the time. And so in terms of the marketing and everything, Ben is pretty old-school and likes to run with print.”

Georgia uses Microsoft Outlook to manage the database and MailChimp for marketing campaigns. HomePass is another app that connects to a CRM and stores data collected from open homes, but mostly the team use iPads with names collected on the Notes section which are then transferred to an Excel spreadsheet.

“Being on Ben’s team is full-on. It has its highs and lows, but mostly highs; I think you have to really enjoy who you’re working with. I feel like it’s more of a family than a team.”

Peter has been in Ben Collier’s team for three years and believes real estate has come full circle back to traditional methods, where it’s all about the experience for the client.

“I think it’s now going back to where people want the experience. People want to speak to a person; I think those traditional methods are starting to come back into play. People are too afraid to go out and door-knock or pick up the phone.

“Too many people hide behind emails and […] social media and think they’re getting close to people. But they’re not.

“We don’t use a lot of technology. Maybe that’s because of who we work for. I think that our whole team runs with the mentality of ‘keep it simple’.”

Working in the competitive patch of Paddington, Peter works seven days a week and says it’s not hard to stay motivated when surrounded by inspiring and supportive agents.

“In the last couple of years I have developed friendships with certain high-performing agents in the industry. Every now and again, I sit down and have a coffee with them, or I know that I can give them a call and they’ll help me out.”

Davide started out in real estate three years ago, doing eight hours of phone calls a day generating leads, and from there has worked his way into Ben Collier’s high-profile team.

Work ethic is what will distinguish young agents from veteran agents who have been working in areas for decades, Davide says.

“Get out there in the marketplace, door-knock, make the calls, be seen at your open homes. That way when people meet you they have an understanding of, ‘Oh yeah, I’ve seen [or] spoken to that guy a few times.’ I think that the best way you can win is [by] sweat and time-honoured relationships.”

It takes a certain kind of drive to work seven days a week non-stop for months on end.

“On our team, we just keep it simple and work hard.

We walk into Mondays like they’re Saturday, Sunday, Wednesday, Friday. You’re always there and you know what’s expected. There’s no downtime or winding down.

So it’s actually a good thing when your competitors have had a day off on Sunday and they come in Monday morning and take a bit to warm up. We’ve already been there, we’ve already called that client.

“When people ask me, ‘You work seven days, that’s absolutely crazy’, to me it doesn’t feel like I’m working seven days because whenever we’re in a group we all get along with each other. At the end of the day, we all want the same thing, which is success.”

Tom Wilkinson joined The Agency after being a small business owner and project manager in the construction industry.

Working closely with agent Thomas Heath as support partner, Tom manages the content strategy for the team and spends the majority of his time reaching clients on the database. The team do a weekly market wrap video and are active on Facebook and Instagram.

“The video goes out once a week onto the Facebook page and we’ve got an Instagram page that’s run by a third party; we just have to provide them the information to post and they kind of edit it to suit the audience.

“Recently I’ve done a bit of the door-knocking and I find I haven’t had a negative response. When I have knocked on doors I’ve always been quite welcomed; they are interested and want to know what’s going on in your area.”

He believes change is imminent in the industry.

“I think when the time will come we will have to adapt. We will have apps eventually where you can sell your property online.

“As the younger age groups come through, they are already heavily relying on their phones and apps for their everyday use. So who’s to say they won’t want to sell their home through an app?

“We might not see it in the next five years, but next 10 to 20 years I think we’ll see a big change.”

Digital communication is all well and good, but nothing can take away “the element of hard work and just sweat”, says Rick Woodward, who joined The Agency last year.

“Social media might be good for branding, but I don’t think it’s as effective as an hour of door-knocking would be, or an hour of phone calls. You should be prospecting for a relationship.”

Rick is selective with the content he pushes on social media, finding “things like what to look for in a kitchen” or “how to create a better ensuite” work better than telling people how much you sold a house for.

Younger agents don’t have an off switch, and that’s their competitive edge over more experienced agents.

“When you’re contacting clients who are thinking of selling on Sundays, they know that there’s never downtime for us. We’re never thinking of anything other than their property and how we can get a better result for them.

“You just don’t switch off. I’ll go to bed at night thinking about who I need to call tomorrow.”

It’s the little wins that keep Rick motivated and lead to bigger wins, “like even when a client saves your name in their phone. And when they answer it’s not, ‘Hello, who’s this?’. It’s, ‘Rick, what do you have to tell me?’”

You’d be hard-pressed to find a single minute in Adrian’s day that isn’t maximised for productivity. He uses multiple forms of contact to achieve his aim of reaching a minimum of 50 contacts a day.

Adrian uses the Mojo app while driving that calls three different numbers at a time and connects to the one that answers. He can dial between 300-400 people a day.

“I have definitely pulled business from sitting in traffic. I was calling someone once and happened to be driving through the area. Then five minutes later I turned up to their doorstep with a card and told them now they can put a face to the name. They were surprised but appreciated that level of service and attention.”

Part of being a young agent is building resilience to rejection.

“It is tricky getting listings when you’re young. People will say ‘I like you but we are going to go with this other person’. It’s hard to beat the guy who has been in the area for 30 years. The only remedy to that is you need to have more opportunities and a bigger pipeline. You have to move on.”

You can count on Adrian to do things differently. In 2014, every one of his listings was found on Gumtree.

“Gumtree is another way to find private sellers. With those calls you have to create impact immediately with energy on the phone. You’re not going to have that if you’re not driven and hungry.”

The roles of agents will change because there is so much pressure from the digital space, Adrian says.

“I think there’s a lot of people like Purple Bricks coming out that are offering things for free. Nothing happens for free. REA and Domain are pushing up their prices and that makes it harder to make higher commissions. To combat that, agents will need to offer greater service.”

When was the last time you received a handwritten note? The simplest tool is often the most compelling.

Starting at The Agency a few months ago, Spencer thought getting on to expired listings might open some doors for him.

“I wrote a handwritten card to touch base with the vendors of a $3 million apartment in Port Melbourne that had been on market for 62 days with a different agency.”

The family called him back a week later.

“It came out in the listing presentation that Peter [Kakos, GM of The Agency Victoria] had sold their family home in Brighton East for a record price four years ago, so the vendor had trust in Pete. The family loved the fact I wrote a handwritten card.”

Spencer works seven days without an assistant while juggling a business degree to achieve his goal of working in Melbourne’s prestige market.

In the future, Spencer thinks agents will need to be “more chameleon”.

“There are older agents in [the] system, but the younger guys are willing to work until 11pm or 12am at night; we are willing to do all it takes. People do business with people they trust and like. It doesn’t matter what the brand is, it’s the person they want to do business with.”

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Azal Khan

Azal Khan was a in-house features writer for Elite Agent Magazine.