James Leslie: Overshare for market share

Cold-calling has always been a key prospecting strategy, but for some agents selling themselves to complete strangers just doesn't sit comfortably. James Leslie is one of those agents but, as he describes here, the advent of social media meant he could let potential clients peek behind the curtains into his agency and life outside of work. And the more he engaged, the more organic listings climbed, to the point that he hasn't prospected a day in the past three years.

Prospecting has changed. Let’s take it all the way back to 2007. I know it’s hard but stay with me.

If you were in real estate then (I was in my first year), you would remember a large portion of the office KPIs were based around phone calls.

It was the one thing outside of genuine sales numbers that the business leaders could continually refer to as a metric of success.

“If you make 86 calls per day, you’ll sell 50 houses a year, the numbers don’t lie,” they said.

The problem with cold calling was until you had a base of results and happy clients to work from, it was difficult to forge a connection with someone who, on most occasions, had no interest in talking to you.

They especially didn’t want to talk about the topic you wanted to discuss, which was your amazing sales skills and how much you could help them.

At that stage, as a newbie in my office, I resorted to making calls to people I knew to make the numbers work and prove I was making those calls each day.

They weren’t productive calls, but calls nonetheless.

I justified to myself that the leads would come, and I just had to dodge the business owner until they did.

I was in sales for seven months before being ‘given opportunities’ in other parts of the agency.

I think my personality of being a nice guy bought me some time, but essentially the narrative from above was that I wasn’t going to make it in sales.

I didn’t grind out the cold calls. 

My take on it was that prospecting via phone just wasn’t for me.

Cold leads that required you to sell your wares like a classic door-to-door salesperson didn’t feel like something I could do with authenticity.

So I resigned myself to the fact that I’d be a middle manager at best.

Then the world changed, and so did my potential for a sales career.

I just didn’t know it yet.

As Facebook took hold, we noticed a new age of branding.

And while businesses seemed to still be a little conservative when it came to the online market, individuals started giving people detailed insights into their day-to-day lives.

For the first time, the tech-savvy agents that embraced evolution were the ones making waves, and old-school real estate was taking a hit.

It was a change reminiscent of the loss of attention on radio when television turned up at the party. 

In 2015, I knew it was time to use these tools at our disposal to create leverage in the market.

It was time to throw caution to the wind and implement a model that the industry still resisted, and the public didn’t have previous exposure to.

Finally, there was a chance to build a brand around not just numbers and sales but to create a buzz around who you are as a person. 

The ability to show people what you stand for, the things that drive you, and the reason real estate was your chosen path.

For the first time, it mattered less about the banner you worked under and more about how you put yourself out into the world.

Now, it’s not all positive when it comes to social media.

There are instances where if you don’t tell a story around what you put out visually, assumptions can be made.

In our field, people love to find a reason to take you down a few pegs.

So, it became less about mass content and ill-directed jokes and more about quality stories and narratives that cut through the noise.

There’s no point trying to get someone’s attention if you can’t hold it for at least a few seconds. 

Our strategy was that for every real estate related post on Facebook and Instagram, there would be two personal posts.

We wanted to give people behind the scenes access, to show family connections in the business, and, most importantly, to be engaging.

It was less about ‘the sale’ and more about ‘the people’.

The uptake from our local market was astronomical.

I’d be stopped in the supermarket and told how cute my dog in the Facebook post was or how lovely it was to see us having a picnic on the office floor on Instagram last week.

The brand was becoming about us as humans, and organically the listings were flying in at speed.

We couldn’t keep up. 

I was always one of those who thought blogs were a total waste of time – that the folks behind the screens wanted to see a picture and a few words, tap the like button and move on.

But it wasn’t until a chance meeting that I decided to give it a go and see if I could get people to engage.

It was the best decision of my real estate career to date.

Each week, I write about something that feels important to me. Sometimes real estate related, sometimes it’s about my family and a lot of the time it’s just about life in general.

I talk about challenges I’m facing, real-life situations and the mistakes I make.

It’s not all happy, perfect world stuff, but genuine things that impact my life.

What tends to happen is you build a solid base through your followers that support and encourage you and protect you and your brand at all costs.

It’s so unbelievably uplifting to feel that people have your back and want you to succeed. 

I haven’t prospected for business for a single day in the past three years.

Now, it’s not a strategy I can recommend without risk, but for us, we’ve found our niche.

It’s our point of difference, and the marketplace has embraced it. Our real estate success is based on people understanding what’s behind the brand.

They understand the people, the culture and the legacy we are trying to build.

If there’s one piece of advice I can give, it’s to put yourself out there and be as authentic as possible.  

Don’t try to build a fake persona or use every post to sell something (or yourself).

Instead, just be you, and you’ll be surprised how much people relate to that.

As a wise woman once said to me, “The people you want to attract as clients aren’t the ones you need to spend all your energy convincing you’re the best choice”. 

The number one tool you have at your disposal is the ability to show the world exactly who you are.

So, don’t be afraid to give them a look behind the curtain. Your tribe will understand you, and the rewards will come. 

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James Leslie

James Leslie is the director of Hudson 365, a boutique real estate agency in Devonport, Tasmania, that does things differently.