ROXANNE PATERSON, WINNER of International Best New Talent this year for LJ Hooker, is most certainly one of the network’s rising stars. Starting her career in the industry last year at 27, she has already become a member of the prestigious Captains Club. In an honest and frank interview about starting from scratch, Roxanne talks about her prospecting secrets and what it really takes to gain recognition in the community when you are just starting out. Interview by Samantha McLean.
ROXANNE PATERSON’S local area is Bracken Ridge, about 11 km north of the Brisbane CBD. It’s an area that she has lived in for many years and she already had a significant amount of knowledge of the surrounding areas. Prior to joining the industry and LJ Hooker Bracken Ridge Roxanne managed several large fitness chains. I ask her what her first few months in real estate were like and she is refreshingly honest with me. “Very hard. It is a hard, hard slog, and I guess anyone who thinks it’s going to be easy is just never going to make it in this industry. Mentally it’s hard. There were a few times where I drove home in tears, thinking, ‘It’s dark, I haven’t seen the kids. I feel like I’m getting nowhere’. But I’d sacrificed so much, and my family had too, that I just set myself a six-month timeframe. I said to myself, ‘I’ll give this all I’ve got for six months, and if I still feel like this at the end I’ll walk away knowing that it wasn’t for me and I tried my best.’”
Six months came and went. For Roxanne, the wheels definitely started turning as hard work and dedication to her goals played a part. She now carries 19 listings and averages nine new listings each month, with a strong forward pipeline. She does this on her own without an assistant, although admits to being pretty busy and thinking about taking that next step.
“I usually leave home by 7am and I’m in the office from 7:30. More times than not, I am walking in the door at 8 at night. When I first started this role, I had an honest conversation with my principal, Derek Collins, about how big a transition it would be for me, my kids and my husband. So to keep some balance I try to work at home on Fridays. Yes, I’m on the phone most of the day, but it’s just a day that I can be present with the kids, and still get things done.”
You’re not a real estate agent for the first half of your first year. You’re really not. You’ve got to earn your stripes in the industry. You don’t go out and just start selling houses for that first period of time. You’re a telemarketer, and you have to be.
But for the the days in the office it is full and absolute focus. “When I walk in the door of a morning, it’s ‘game on’ until I go home. There is no waste of time. My husband often laughs. He’ll call me throughout the day to ask questions and sometimes sit at the other end in silence, because he knows my mind is elsewhere! (laughs) But it is definitely game on from the moment I walk in the door.”
When you’re coming in from scratch, as Roxanne did, there has to be a solid focus on prospecting. “Every day I focus on new contacts that I haven’t already entered into my database and, more importantly, keep in touch with some of the existing clients who are in my database. I am a big believer in not just selling on a Saturday. I think a lot of agents ‘cruise’ through the week and do what they have to do on a Saturday, but I try to be a bit more proactive. I do mid-week open homes and I find them quite successful. I use that traffic as well. I sell every day of the week, and I think that allows me to transact the amount that I am, because I’m in charge of my time. If you’re transacting every single day that you’re in there, it just opens the doors to do so much more.”
Has being a part of such a large network like LJ Hooker helped you along the way? “I only have positive things to say about the brand,” says Roxanne. “I guess being one of the most recognised brands in the world, in the beginning I thought ‘I can’t go wrong joining LJ Hooker’, and that proved to be true. “LJ Hooker are very big on training. They truly are. There is probably not a month that goes by when we are not invited to some sort of training session or event. From the get-go, I was attending these events and participating in the training to assist me in getting to where I am. And these events cover off on everything: prospecting, database building, auctions; you name it, they do it. Everything I did and continue to do was well worth it.
“One of the most valuable things in the LJ Hooker network has been the technology. I didn’t walk into the office with an existing database. Anybody in my database now is someone I’ve tracked down, had a conversation with over time and is now essentially a client of mine. They have the background and the systems in place that allow me to maintain that, so from day one there is not one person I’ve spoken to who isn’t now in the database. And the tool itself is fantastic; I can enter some details about the person, I can set the follow-up period, I can set everything in there. And it’s at my fingertips everywhere I go.”
Earlier in our conversation Roxanne had talked about being involved in the community, so I ask her to tell me a bit more about the sort of things she gets involved in. “My children go to the local school, so that’s huge. I find that so beneficial, just getting involved in their activities and events, and people start to recognise you. And from the community point of view, I guess they look at me and say ‘Okay, she’s taking the time out. She’s not a big frightening person like some real estate agents seem to be. She’s just like one of us. She’s a mother and she’s taking the time to be here.’”
“At the end of the day, we have to know exactly what’s going on in our patch as well, in the community. If you don’t go to those events, then really you’re left behind in this industry, you truly are. I walk into the local shops now and I’d be lucky if I didn’t have four people stop me and say hello and want to chat, which is fantastic. I love it.”
What advice would you give someone who is just starting out in real estate? “Firstly, just be open-minded. Secondly, you’re not a real estate agent for the first half of your first year. You’re really not. You’ve got to earn your stripes in the industry. You don’t go out and just start selling houses for that first period of time. You’re a telemarketer, and you have to be.”
“I found so much success on the phone. It’s time-efficient. You can contact more people than you can’t. Then you can personalise your marketing efforts; you can follow up that prospect with a handwritten letter, or whatever it may be.”
“My advice to grow your business more quickly would be never waste a contact. Never waste an opportunity. You’ve had a conversation with someone, you’ve obtained their number, you’ve obtained their address, you’ve obtained all that information from them: don’t waste it, and more importantly, don’t drop the ball with it. Don’t let that person drop off your radar. If someone has had an operation, call them in six months’ time and make sure they’re recovering okay, or for whatever it may be. If they put in an extension, don’t sell them something but just call them and say, ‘How’s the extension going? I drove past, it looks fantastic’. That’s the biggest thing, not to waste contacts; because all of a sudden, when that person wants to sell, you’ll be kicking yourself in five months’ time if you haven’t maintained that contact.”
Never waste a contact. Never waste an opportunity. You’ve had a conversation with someone, you’ve obtained their number, you’ve obtained their address, you’ve obtained all that information from them: don’t waste it, and more importantly, don’t drop the ball with it.
“But if you’ve maintained it, if you’ve earned their trust in that period of time, then you also then get to dictate more of your own terms with, for example, a marketing plan that you put forward, because you are their choice. You don’t have to compete so hard with five other agents. Your database is everything. I can’t stress that enough. It comes down to those little things along the way.”
I ask Roxanne how often she keeps in touch with her prospects. “It depends,” she says. “It varies from two weeks to three months to six months. There is no rule of thumb; it just depends on the conversation that is taking place. If someone indicated that they’re not loving the phone calls, for example, I will provide them with market information and a personalised letter. Some people love the calls, and I’ll chat to them once a month. It really depends on the person, but I never leave it longer than a five-month period by any stretch.”
“Its funny,” she muses, “When I first started, I used to sit with my head in my hands thinking, ‘How am I going to do this? I’m starting new in this suburb; no one’s heard of me, no one knows me. How am I going to be that person who’s recognised?’ But everything I put out there had my photo on it and my name; and if I speak to someone I’ll probably say my name, Roxanne Paterson, three times.’ My theory with my marketing is that when it goes into someone’s letterbox, even if they throw it out, they’ve at least hopefully caught my picture and my name. I’ve consistently done this for a 12-month period, and now it seems to have worked. Now if you say ‘Roxanne Paterson’ the majority of people will know who I am and where I am working. That was my aim, to be recognised and to push past others who are actively selling in the area.”
“But it’s amazing what comes back around over time. All those appraisals and listing appointments that I did when I very first started, when I thought the vendors weren’t going to sell – I’m selling them now – and that is from those first few meetings. Once you get momentum it’s a follow-on effect. You just can’t at any point drop the ball, you really can’t, because to hold the market share in the area you need to keep it up. I had 30 groups
through my open homes last Saturday, and 28 the week before. They are pretty big numbers, but had I not got the 19 listings that I’ve got at present you lose that power. It’s important with the competition that you don’t lose that power of the market share.”
What is your secret to winning the listing? “I think when you’re a real estate agent and transact property all day every day, sometimes we can forget how enormous it actually is, and how important what we are doing is to those two clients. I keep that at the very forefront of my mind when I am sitting there in people’s living rooms as well as when I am transacting the property. If you hold that thought, when you pick up the phone, you then naturally treat the process with the respect that it deserves.” And she is adamant about the value of authenticity. “I’m a big believer that I am Roxanne Paterson at home, mum to two kids with a husband, and I am the same Roxanne Paterson who works for LJ Hooker, who people see every day. That in itself is very powerful. I’m just me. There’s no fake, there is no rubbish, just honest conversation, and you’ve got to remember what you’re transacting.”
Who in the business inspires you? “I was in one of the early training sessions and I heard Paul Moore (Head of the LJ Hooker Captains Club) approach someone in the crowd; a Captain from another local area, so they were close to me but not quite in the same area, so I could relate to the amount of property that they were transacting, as well as the area. Paul was bouncing questions off them, and all these new people who were eating out of his hand as a trainer! I wanted to be the person that he was asking the questions of, at some point down the track.”
The LJ Hooker Captains Club is a prestigious program that recognises the top performers in the LJ Hooker network. To achieve this recognition you need firstly to gain at least 20 hours of training, and also to be in the top 15 per cent of the network according to actual numbers written. Says Roxanne, “I set myself a goal when I first started that I wanted to reach Captains myself within the first 12 months of starting. It was probably from that very first training session: I wanted to be that real estate agent who people looked up to and respected. That’s probably how it began and what’s kept me going.”
“I’ve got a great working relationship with boss Derek Collins as well. There’s been many a time I’ve sat with him and said, ‘I’m facing a brick wall. Help me through. What do we do?’ We talk it out and we overcome it. I guess being able to do that with someone you work with every day was probably what pushed me through to get me where I am.”
What are your goals for the next 12 months? “Well, certainly to maintain Captains for the second year in a row. I would love to be pushing for ‘Multi’ (the top seven per cent), which is the next step up. I am working hard towards it. It’s just got to be onward and upwards; I don’t ever want to take a step back. So obviously to maintain where I am but just to take on a little more area as well, one suburb at a time.”