Auctioneer. Coach. Media expert. Speaker. Author. Social media celebrity… These terms have all been used to describe a man who in our industry really needs no introduction. Elite Agent Editor Samantha McLean went one-on-one with Tom Panos to talk technology, lead generation, and why it is essential to play the long game in today’s competitive environment where the consumer is in the driver’s seat.
Most people know Tom Panos as a coach, trainer and News Corp executive. But the truth is that’s not where it all began. “My first job,” says Panos, “was working as a real estate salesperson in Lakemba… while I was at university in 1988-89. This was followed by Padstow, and shortly after that I opened up my own office. I never worked in property management, so 21 years of age working as a salesperson and a business owner at 22. Real estate is the only job that I have ever really had.”
Panos says staying in real estate, rather than going on to do something “of a higher standing” with his degree, was mostly an accident. But even back then he says he cared less about what other people thought he should do, and rather than letting go of a job he loved he decided to stay in the industry.
“From the first day I was in the job, Sam, it felt effortless – I was good at it and I liked it. So I’ve always had a theory that if you are good at something, if you are passionate about it… well, it’s like what I call a GPS unit, where GPS stands for good, passionate and makes you smile. Those three things I had in real estate.”
The first year in real estate is usually a challenge for anyone. Panos agrees. “The most important lesson from my first year was to embrace rejection; always remember that when someone rejects you, it’s not about you; it’s about them, because they don’t even know you.”
While Panos quickly fell in love with real estate, he still completed his studies and now has university degrees in organisational behaviour and peak performance, a Master’s in management, and a post grad in psychology, all of which have been useful to him in the industry. “What I studied at uni has been great, because it allows me to work out whether something is fact or fiction. It also helps me to understand whether something is a fad or evidence-based.”
WALKING THE WALK
Panos’ CV now includes coaching, training, speaking and running various multimillion-dollar revenue divisions of News. He is Australia’s most searched real estate coach and holds the number one and/or the number two spot in Google for most of the things that he is known for.
On top of all of that, he still calls between seven and 12 auctions in Sydney’s Inner West every Saturday. I sense both humility and gratitude in his tone when he admits, “I don’t have an ‘auction company’ where I outsource other auctions; I’m limited to time. I’m booked out every Saturday and have been for years.”
His coaching career began during his tenure at Raine & Horne between 1998 and 2003, where the relationships he had with the franchisees and their sales teams morphed into coaching-type relationships. “They would bring up a problem. I would then work with them to sort out the problem and before you know it I’d be getting voicemails on my mobile all the time asking questions. Then it got more formalised and instead of me doing it one-on-one I just started running training sessions at a head office level.
The biggest barrier to success, he says, are the stories we tell ourselves.
“Everyone has a story. Think of the metaphor of the beach ball, with different coloured panels. When one person is looking at it from one side they see red. But the whole ball is not red. People see the world as they see it, not as it really is.”
It’s getting people over that that is the problem. “It’s getting people to deconstruct and change what someone may have felt was true for so long, but really wasn’t. It’s a problem when your view of the world is self-limiting; it really affects you in both your personal and business life.”
SUNDAY NIGHT ‘TV’
This idea of self-limiting beliefs was a topics in one of Panos’ recent and relatively famous ‘Sunday night rants’ using Facebook Live, which I too am a fan of watching. I note to Tom that more people in the industry are probably watching him than 60 Minutes at 7.30pm on a Sunday night.
“Yeah.” [Smiles] “Well, you know, Sam, I am actually really pumped about that. And I’m not saying it’s because of me. It could be listening to someone else, but I think that it is more useful to listen to someone who is going to help you, rather than what 60 Minutes is talking about or even someone like Alan Jones, or anyone else for that matter, might be talking about. You have to think with all these shows… How useful is what they are saying to you in your personal and business life, you know?”
Another topic that Panos regularly talks about is self-esteem, and something, surprisingly he admits is still difficult, even for him. “It is still a work in progress for me. But I’m a lot higher now than I was.
“The issue is, Sam, when you get accolades don’t become attached to them. The benefit of that is that when you get people that slag you off, unsubscribe, say negative stuff, you are also not attached to that.
“This means that you are not going to feel high when everyone says ‘you are the best’, but at the same time you are not going to actually get into a slump personalising when someone says something negative.”
And then there is one last thing. “You have to accept that people are going to say negative things and the reason they do that is they mean it and they believe in it. But my experience with negativity is that they are negative because in you, they see something they wished they were doing themselves.”
THE POWER OF FACEBOOK
Panos is very successful on Facebook and passionate about the opportunity it presents for other agents. “Facebook is the letterbox drop of 2016. Savvy agents are getting high quality videos done for their listings. Then they segment their audience on Facebook and target their videos to them.
“If you list 50 properties per year that get viewed 5,000 times each, that’s 250,000 views of you becoming a trusted advisor in your area.”
As part of our chat Tom allowed me to sneak a look at his social media stats. Some weeks his live broadcasts will reach in excess of 200,000 followers and their friends on Facebook alone. “I’ve had posts on Facebook that have reached more than every Sunday newspaper in Australia. I once had one post reach 2,000,000 people. That is the power of it.”
“With Sky Business last week I had 25,000 views, 225 shares. The last one had 75,000 views. With auctions, it can be anything from six thousand to 18,000 views.”
NEW AGE LEAD GENERATION
There are no Blind Dates in Real Estate is Panos’ latest book. It’s about the current wave of consumerism; how consumers have more power than the corporation and how to grab the attention of the skimmers. Agent 3.0, he says, is having the ability to get them to pay attention. “Agent 3.0 faces a consumer that is text savvy, social media savvy, knows the price of everything but the value of nothing. It’s also someone who is time poor. Agent 3.0 can solve those problems. Agent 3.0 is the ‘Google’ of their marketplace. You don’t have to be the person who creates the information, but you need to be able to curate the information about your local area.”
“I have tried to do this with my own business: to be the ‘Google’ of real estate training, where people look for information on where to go for training on scripts, social media, how to get engagement, that sort of thing, anything to do with coaching.”
“So my top lead generation technique for online is to create large volumes of content that solve the problems of your consumer, what keeps them up at night. Then let Google drive that and light that for you so people come to you for that information.
“Think like a consumer, but sell like a superstar.” We both agree there is no reason why other agents could not successfully replicate this model.
LONGEVITY IN REAL ESTATE
While Panos is famous for giving advice to others, I am curious to know what is the best piece of advice someone has ever given to him.
Panos pauses and thinks on this one before he answers simply, “Play the long game”.
And clearly, this is an important lesson for everyone. “OK Sam, so what that means is lose the listing, lose the sale, but never lose your reputation. Because playing the long game means that you might win a deal and upset someone now which will give you a $20k commission. But that is so short-sighted because you are putting probably half a million bucks on the line in forecasted income in the coming year.
“It’s having this ability to do the thing that’s right, not the thing that’s short and easy. Understand that it’s going to be hard before it’s easy.”
We also talk about the need for consistency, and at this point, it’s hard not to laugh at Panos’ showering metaphor. “Yep. Consistency to me says this: you have a shower and expect to be clean and then you say OK, I’m done. But you’re only clean for 24 hours; you need to have a shower again the next day!” That is the same for all of your marketing and prospecting.
SETTING YOURSELF APART
One thing Panos says the truly incredible people in the industry do is to provide such great service that their clients ‘do the prospecting for them’, instead of the commonly taught approach of cold-calling and door-knocking.
“Sam, the normal sales classroom approach to prospecting is that if you interrupt enough people who don’t want to talk to you, you will eventually strike someone who will!
“What I am saying is why wouldn’t you do such an incredible job that you have people who basically become your ‘sales creators’? … because when the business comes to you, rather than you going to them, the whole dynamic of the relationship changes.”
From his time as a coach, speaking at AREC, training and so on, people these days probably feel like they almost know Panos even if they have never met him. So I ask him, is there something that is not so obvious about you that you wish more people would get? Panos answers this one with a smile, and if you follow Tom on social media it’s likely you will understand his once again well-thought-out answer.
“I think a lot of people probably think that because I use straightforward, blunt language [smiles] to explain things that I either don’t know how to use other words or that maybe [I am being] aggressive.
“I’m actually a nice person. I just don’t sugarcoat things, and I find that when you don’t do that and you tell people what they need to hear, well… I would say that a lot of people would find it surprising to know that I’m a very spiritual person. I actually believe that we came here with nothing. We are leaving here with nothing. The reality is that our role is more than to build the largest net-worth we can.”
Given your experience now, what would you now tell an 18-year-old Tom Panos just starting out in real estate?
“The advice I would give myself would be to take more risks, because we are all going to die anyway. The second one is to learn the concept of embracing temporary incompetence. Too many people put off [doing] something amazing because it is difficult. What I am saying is everything is difficult at the start, so get comfortable being uncomfortable.
“I would say, Sam, that one of the stories I had in my head early in my career is that if it didn’t feel natural and it didn’t feel easy, don’t do it.
“I’ve learned subsequent to that that some of the most stimulating, most rewarding things in my life were, in fact, the things that took me out of my biggest comfort zones.
“The other thing would be to understand that everyone has two jobs. Job number one is to do the job that you get paid to do, and job number two is to find clients to do the job for. I wish I had learned earlier on that if you master client acquisition I would have had a faster, more successful commercial life.”
Tom’s top 5 tech tools
- Facebook Live. “At this moment, livestream is massive and authenticity always wins out. Facebook loves authenticity, so people should get out there and master live stream. I say ‘master’ because there are no safety nets and you have to be confident being able to present knowing that.”
- Mevo Camera. Mevo is one of the first cameras for live-streaming Facebook and you can edit while you film.
- Zoom. “I’ve tried them all: Skype Business, GoToMeeting and Webinar, and was a long time subscriber. But Zoom for video conferencing; I love its simplicity,” says Panos.
- Simple SMS. “The best piece of technology in 20 years is the text message! Think about the value that you derive out of a text message: it helps you have conversations that are short and to the point. Easily accessible. Mobile. Never lets you down.”
- Things. “Things is an app: very simple, allows you to simply keep track of to-do’s, projects, emails, and more. I use it on my Mac, iPad, iPhone; it keeps everything synced.”