From luxury car sales to prestige real estate, Rae Mano loves selling opulence. As he explains to Kylie Dulhunty, property and cars have much more in common than just an expensive price tag.
What’s the connection between a Ferrari and luxury real estate?
If you answered a hefty price tag, you’d be correct, but there’s also another, less obvious, correlation.
At Kay & Burton’s South Yarra office you’ll find Rae Mano tirelessly working away on securing the sale of another high-end property.
The assistant sales consultant only joined the real estate fold in September last year, but he’s had years of experience in the luxury sales industry.
Since 2013, Rae has held sales roles at Volkswagen, Volvo, Porsche, and, most recently, Ferrari.
He’s been headhunted multiple times and received numerous awards he sees as just reward for fostering long-term relationships with customers that are not just clients, but friends.
“My motto has always been ‘share, don’t tell’,” Rae explains.
“I come from a medical background, with both my parents being doctors, so there has always been that intrinsic nature in me to take care of people’s needs rather than just sell them something.”
ON AUSTRALIAN SOIL
Born in Malaysia, and of South Indian heritage, Rae came to Australia in 2007, straight after finishing high school, to study a Diploma in Automotive Technology, and become a mechanic.
A self-professed “car guy”, Rae says he was fortunate his parents supported his choice and his decision to move Down Under.
After completing the TAFE course, Rae realised he didn’t only want to be a mechanic, so he enrolled in an engineering degree at Melbourne’s RMIT University.
But it didn’t quite go to plan.
“Six months into RMIT I realised that I’m not an engineer,” Rae says.
“I’m better at the business aspect of things. As I was dabbling with what course to do next, I took a career counselling session and they said, based on my aptitude and skills, I’d be better suited to a business management and entrepreneurship course.
“So I switched courses and graduated.”
Not one to shy away from a hard day’s work, Rae did an automotive apprenticeship at Mercedes-Benz, worked at David Jones, and ran his own bespoke entertainment business, all while studying.
While he waited to hear back about post-graduate programs at KPMG and the big banks, Rae decided to put his car and business skills to good use, and he joined Volkswagen for a sales cadetship.
He did well and was soon positioned at the Hawthorn dealership before shifting to South Yarra.
“That got me knowledge in business transitions and location and what’s important and what’s not, as well as how to maintain your database,” Rae recalls.
As Rae’s performance increased, so did his name in the industry.
“I got really well-known, and I was approached by a recruiter to join Porsche,” he says.
“Porsche was a very good experience in the big factory dealerships.
“It was a very big lesson in hustle, because we were fighting against 10 other experienced salespeople in the luxury market and you had to perform or you were out.”
TIME TO HUSTLE
And perform Rae did, winning the number one sales executive for Porsche Australia in 2017, and top 100 worldwide.
Rae credits his success to his simple philosophy of becoming his clients’ friend, rather than trying to push a sale onto them.
It’s a slow-burn strategy that focuses on long-term relationship building.
“Keep things lighthearted, be creative, and rather than pushing someone into a sale, become the friend that they go shopping with,” he says.
“That really built my relationship-building skills and I realised that you need to look at it as a one or two-year investment in nurturing something.”
On his way back from receiving his award in Las Vegas, Rae got a call from Ferrari who were looking to hire top performers to expand the brand in Australia.
Rae quickly jumped at the chance to align with one of the world’s most prestigious brands and within 14 months was one of their best-performing salespeople.
“With Porsche, it was all about how many cars you sold, but with Ferrari being an exclusive manufacturer and a very luxurious brand, they don’t track the number of cars you sell because that would mean that you’re trying to push numbers into the market.
“Ferrari wanted to keep those numbers low, to maintain brand integrity.
“So I didn’t sell the most cars, but I represented the brand the best. Representation in terms of customer satisfaction, reviews, engagement, feedback from customers, social media, and how I represented the brand within the network.”
MOVE TO ADELAIDE
In 2018 the heads of Ferrari were in town for the Australian Grand Prix and asked Rae to head up a new dealership in Adelaide.
It was a tough gig in the beginning, with the Adelaide market and demographic presenting a challenge.
But slowly, surely momentum started to increase and success came – until COVID-19 hit.
All of a sudden Rae lost his job and he returned to Melbourne in May last year.
“The six months I had in between (jobs), during Melbourne’s lockdown, was probably one of the toughest times in my life,” he reflects.
“Coming from such a high-performing job to nothing got me really down.
“It wasn’t the money aspect that I was looking for; it was the ability to be able to compete in a field that I loved, which is sales.”
Not one to waste time, Rae kept himself occupied during lockdown with a Harvard Business online course in entrepreneurship, looking into contact tracing apps and helping businesses with marketing.
KAY & BURTON’S
Simultaneously he’d also been chatting to Kay & Burton’s Robert Fletcher and Michael Gibson.
“Robert Fletcher was a general manager at Ferrari when he hired me,” Rae says.
“Then he moved onto real estate and luxury real estate with Michael Gibson.
“We’ve always been good friends.”
So Rae joined the real estate game, with his initial role being an assistant selling agent where he focused being on learning the back end of the business.
However, his previous roles at Ferrari almost immediately paid dividends with former car clients becoming real estate clients.
“I see my Ferrari clients more now than I did when I was selling them cars,” Rae says.
He’s also been able to use his branding experience from his time in luxury car sales to good effect.
“Ferrari is one of, if not the, most powerful brand in the world, according to Brand Power,” Rae says.
“So I can bring experience in branding and understanding how to brand the real estate team that we’re in, to ensure that it’s not just about glitz and glamour, but it’s discreet, honest work, with an understanding of luxury and attention to detail.”
Rae says the basic selling skills are very similar when it comes to prestige cars and luxury homes, as is the need to maintain the utmost discretion for the client.
PLAYING THE LONG GAME
He’s also well aware that while prestige car sales may have been more about ‘hustle’, real estate is a long-term game where patience is key.
“It’s not about the speed of acceleration, it’s about the consistency of the simmer in the long-term,” Rae believes.
To network and get his name in front of more potential clients, Rae not only uses online tools, such as social media, but good, old-fashioned physical networking.
“I think especially coming out of lockdown and the pandemic, people appreciate more physical interactions,” he says.
“So there’s a lot of coffee and a lot of dinners. But they are value dinners and value coffees in terms of when you catch up you provide value.
“You inspire them with your stories, you relate with them and you talk about each other’s businesses to create a more uplifting, energy-based catch-up, rather than just catching up for the sake of it.
“I see a lot of salespeople do things for the sake of it, and just to justify it in their minds so they can say, ‘I’ve done it’.
“So you need to ask if you’re actually doing it to provide value and genuinely, intrinsically doing it to better yourself, or are you just doing it because that’s what you’re meant to do?”
In terms of differences between the luxury car and real estate markets, Rae says there’s a lot more face-to-face interaction with clients in real estate and there’s increased freedom to run your own race.
As 2021 progresses, Rae is looking forward to learning all he can from Robert and Michael, and increasingly taking on more responsibility, while continually fostering long-term relationships with clients.
Rae says some in the real estate industry follow the mentality that agents are solely there to sell property and not become a client’s friend, but he doesn’t subscribe to that theory.
“I value the connection more than the business,” he says.