Keeping It Real

THE FIRST SENTENCE OF HER bio reads, “Yes, you found her. The no-BS Realtor. And yes, she sells a house every 1.3 days”. Leigh Brown from RE/MAX in Concord, North Carolina is not only a successful practising Realtor but also one of the most in-demand speaker/coaches in the US right now for her no-nonsense, ‘tells it like it is’ approach. From a corporate career selling chainsaws to successfully growing her family business, her practical advice will have you laughing and feeling good about yourself in no time at all.

You are a practising agent as well as a coach and speaker. Tell us a bit about your local patch and how you got into real estate.

I’m from North Carolina, which is in the south, and it is East Coast. The market here is a little more laid back. The average price is $US 200,000, so it’s a very affordable market, and therefore relatable to a lot of Realtors. I think that’s why agents like listening to me, because I can relate to so many people. For example, I love Raj Qsar from Orange County in California, but his price range is $4-5 million and that’s not most of us. I really talk to the ‘average’ agent.

I’ve been in the business for 15 years. I originally came in with my Dad, who has been a Realtor since 1978. I’m the luckiest girl ever; I got to learn from my Dad who is amazing. Everybody loves him and he’s always been good at real estate; he’s just not an organiser! He could have been really great if he was slightly more organised. He’s not; he’s a lover of people and not paperwork.

When I joined my Dad, I had actually been in corporate sales where I’d been selling chainsaws. That’s a really fun experience. I learned a lot but got tired of the corporate environment and so I joined my Dad. I came into the industry as a buyer’s agent.

How did you adjust from the corporate world to being in real estate?
It’s such a hard industry to break into. It looks so easy on paper and it’s just not. When I came in with Dad, my first goal was to learn what to do. I lived in his hip pocket and I went everywhere with him and observed everything before I was ‘cut loose’ with clients. During that time I was also organising his office because I can’t live in piles. I was getting his business model cleaned up as well.

My business has grown every year. I got him retired out of the business a couple of years ago; he still has his licence, but he only sells a house when he feels like it which is really nice. He’s just a rock star. Everybody loves my Dad. I’ve grown the business from being a buyer’s agent to doing $70 million in transaction volume last year, which is a really big achievement.

Now we’ve got to number 89 in the RE/ MAX Top 100 worldwide. I was number 89 in the world and I love that. But it’s not just me – it’s because we have really amazing agents with me on my team; we have a shared culture and values. I’ve been able to apply a lot of my corporate background to real estate without losing the ability to be relational. You can get too corporate and then you don’t have any relationships, but if you’re too relationship all the time, sometimes you don’t have any money to show for it!

You are becoming very well known in the States for being a video marketing ‘Rock Star’ yourself. Tell us a bit about your special techniques for using video in your listings.
It’s really simple actually; I use my iPhone! I hold it right here and talk to it, and then I send it. I’m not doing a lot of fancy stuff. I’m doing some professionally done video for some of my listings, so that’s something we’re moving into.

What’s really driven my video presence is the all-authentic, Realtor-on-the-street straight talk. I do have a strong southern accent; in most parts of the world they tell you to get rid of your accent. I embrace it because it helps me stand out and allows me to be authentic. That’s probably my number one thing.

When I talk to agents I always say ‘Be who you are!’ If you are a dreadfully boring accountant, video will show that you are a dreadfully boring accountant; but there are clients who want that, that’s who they trust. Clients want to know you’re real!

You’ve seen Realtor business cards. I’ve got a whole stack on my desk and the pictures don’t look like them! The consumer doesn’t know what to expect. If you’re using video it’s a living, breathing way for you to introduce yourself and tell people, ‘Hey – here’s who I am. I’m not going to sell you anything. I’m going to help you find a home. I’m going to help you in the process. I’m not scary!’

We know video is what consumers will always click on. They see that little arrow and they click. There’s a learning curve on it, though, because you get scared of doing video. Most people don’t like what they sound like and they don’t like what they look like, so they avoid video.

I always get a lot of laughs when I tell audiences they are scared of video because they think they are terrible. Your clients are going to meet you in person someday anyway, so get over it! You are what you are, and if you’re overweight, so what? You’re underweight, so what? If your hair fell out, it doesn’t matter. What they’re interested in is whether you listen and whether you sound like you’re intelligent. Do you sound like you’re going to care about what they need when they’re buying and selling property? Video can do that in 30 seconds.

What do you talk about in your property listings to engage the audience?
For a lot of the ideas that I’m evolving I’ve got some other agent friends. One of the best things about real estate is there’s such a culture of sharing in this industry. I don’t have Raj Qsar’s budget or his price range, but I love his style. I also love Patrick Lilly, who’s in Manhattan, New York City. I don’t have his price range either. He’s also selling multimillion dollar properties. He’s the one who encouraged me to add more community flair to my videos and talk about the areas. I incorporated some of their ideas into my style because that’s what it’s about: take things you like about other people’s styles, add your thing to it and make it really work for your market. It’s so cool. You don’t see that in a lot of industries.

When I’m starting I ask my sellers, ‘Tell me the one thing about your house that you love.’ Every seller has one something that they love! Now, some sellers want to tell you 20 things; I don’t need 20 things, I need one. Then I’m going to look through the house and see something that I feel a buyer would respond to.

And that is something I should know as an expert in my marketplace; I know what a buyer’s going to respond to. So I’m going to make sure I emphasise that. I also want to know what my sellers love because it’s their home and they live there.

I think sometimes in our industry we get very cavalier about houses because we’ve seen them all. We get very jaded. You forget that somebody comes home there every day and has supper there, and has a glass of wine, and gets in the pool, and takes a nap. They live there.

As Realtors, we look at it and say, ‘Oh, it’s four bedroom; three baths. It’s going to sell for $350,000.’ We chunk, chunk, chunk and move to the next house. When you allow your sellers to tell you why they love it you can then share that with buyers; first of all your sellers are engaged with you as an agent and second, buyers know that it’s more than four bedroom, three bath, $350,000. They feel a connection to it because it’s special.

When you list all 20 things that’s not nearly as special as saying ‘here’s the two or three things that are the most special’, so give them a little teaser.

Since we’ve changed our video style, the tours (open homes) are going much, much better. We‘re getting more showings and more viewings online because the buyers are saying the neighborhood sounds great, there’s some cute things about this house and they want to come see it. That’s our job: to make a buyer fall in love with the property, even if it’s the most boring house ever. There’s something about it you can always find.

What are some of the things that you are hoping to share with the Ideas Exchange audience this year?
The biggest thing I want to leave your attendees with is a better sense of who they are as agents.

I know that sounds really fluffy, but there is so much power in knowing your unique value proposition in the marketplace. Who you serve best, who loves you best and why they love you best.

When you’ve examined those things, then we talk about how you target those people to make them buy and sell with you and tell people about you. When you know who you are and what you provide to the marketplace, it’s no big deal to ask your fans to please recommend you.

It’s going to be fun. They’re going to laugh a lot in my session! I’m hoping to give the audience some great tips that are going to be meaningful and funny at the same time.

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Samantha McLean

Samantha McLean is the Co-Founder and Managing Editor of Elite Agent and Host of the Elevate Podcast.