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Mark Di Giulio: Victoria’s Top Gun

MARK DI GIULIO STARTED his real estate career as a member of Spiro Drossos’ number one sales team in the Barry Plant network of 80 offices. While he has been selling real estate since 2005, he has cemented his position as one of Victoria’s top guns in the past 12 months by selling more than 150 properties and being named the REIV Salesperson of the Year. He is now on track to write more than $2 million in fees this year. Interview by Samantha McLean.

THE DONCASTER Barry Plant Real Estate office has played an integral part in the growth of the City of Manningham, Victoria since 1979 and is one of the market leaders in all areas of residential real estate. The diverse Barry Plant team, more than 40 strong, is known for achieving outstanding results for all types of property, from small investment apartments to multimillion-dollar luxury homes.

Mark Di Giulio has been a part of this award- winning team his whole career. “Real estate was my first job,” says Di Giulio. “I did go to university and studied a Bachelor of Business, majoring in marketing. Made my Mum and Dad really happy! But then I realised that I just didn’t want to go down that path and my Dad said, ‘OK, give real estate a go.’”

“At the time I really wanted to work for Spiro (Drossos); he had won several Barry Plant awards plus the REIV Residential Salesperson award in ’08, ’09 and ’13. I wanted to be his assistant and really learn from the best. So that was where I gained my start, working for Spiro, working his systems and processes; and over the years I’ve perfected this while interpreting it in my own way, taking what his business was to the next level.”

Over the past ten years Di Giulio has now also won more awards than we could list here, but I asked him how it felt to achieve the honour of REIV Residential Salesperson of the Year for 2014. “My goal was always to mimic Spiro,” he says. “When I started my career, Spiro was writing maybe between $300 and $500 thousand in fees. The moment that he went from this level to, say, a million dollars in fees was when he won the REIV and Barry Plant Auctioneer award for Novice Auctioneer, and then he went on to become Residential Salesperson of the Year within the Barry Plant network. After that, he became the REIV Agent of the Year (non-Principal), and then was nominated for the REIA Real Estate Agent of the Year.

“To me, that looked like a natural progression. If I want to be successful, I’ve just got to follow what Spiro is doing. So I set my sights on the Novice Auctioneer award and won it. After that my business started to prosper. So then I thought, OK, now I want to become the Agent of the Year within our company. And I did. And then I thought to myself, no one has written over a million dollars in fees in our organisation; I want to do that, so I did.”

“It wasn’t something that I thought I would want to win when I started out. But I knew it had to be done if I was going to mimic Spiro’s success. Every time he’s achieved something I’ve paid attention, looked at how he did it and thought, I’ll copy that but I’ll make it better again. Spiro had written $1.3 million in fees; I’ve now surpassed that and written over $1.6 million, and I’m on track this year to write $2 million. And yes – now I’d love to win the REIA Residential Salesperson of the Year award too; that would be the ultimate achievement.”

What were the early days like? “Real estate is a career that works well when you are a local because you’re truly part of the community. You start seeing your old school teachers, parents of your best mates when you were growing up. That was a little bit of a springboard for me.”

“I live in the area I sell my properties in. Working in Spiro’s team, I was an assistant for his properties and it was easier for me to gain momentum because I already had success and recognition in the community from being a part of his team. So long as I worked hard, I was always going to be successful because I came from a very successful business.

If you’re starting out in the industry, that’s probably key. You really need be a part of someone’s team who knows what they are doing, who is successful. If you learn from someone who is not successful, then naturally you’re going to get the same result.”

Di Giulio carries 20 to 30 listings at any one time, and yet is still able to provide personal service to all his clients. I ask what his secret is to managing such a large portfolio. “We have four team members at the moment, plus a new starter this year. I’m running as the team leader, my wife Lisa Yeung is my business manager, and I currently have two buyers specialists, my brother Robert Di Giulio and Adam Spozio. I also have an administrative assistant. The buyers specialists who work my buyers are also generating and producing new business. And then I’m nurturing existing business and converting my selling prospects to listings.”

“My biggest challenge on a day-to-day basis is in fact time management. You get to a point in your business where you might only be doing the ‘dollar productive’ things, but then to be consistent with your service and make sure that you’re doing the right things is important. You have to really allocate your time effectively.”

What do you do differently in your listing presentations that sets you apart? “My formula is warm and fuzzy, followed by real estate, followed by warm and fuzzy. I think the trouble with most agents is they are probably only doing a one-hour appraisal dominated by real estate, and that’s fine. My typical market appraisal usually goes for two and a half hours.”

You have won several auctioneering awards  as well. What do you most enjoy about auctions? “Buyers love auctions because they are more entertaining, and that’s something I’ve always tried to do. My auctions,  I think, are probably a bit different,  with things like the easel and the way I use my presence. I’ve seen a lot of auctioneers, and they’re very aggressive, very loud and pushy.

And I think the old-school  agent of aggressiveness is really gone. I’m not a comedian,  but at the same time I’m not an aggressive person. I think that’s probably why I get some really good results. I think the new-age agents are all about engagement. All about persuasive mannerisms. And just being a good, authentic human  being.”

“I actually do some of my best auction work in the rain!” Di Giulio explains further. “I love it when it rains. The emotion and the engagement level are usually quite a bit higher. Some agents will take people into the garage and conduct the auction in there if it rains. I get them into the lounge room. And I love the fact that people can be sitting on the couch, only a metre apart, where they can eyeball each other.

Just seeing every emotion with every bid because they’re so close, and the tension is incredible, you could sometimes cut it with a knife. Having someone who’s on the other side of the street or behind a tree or a car – you can’t get the same level of engagement. I say to my vendors, ‘If it rains, don’t be worried because the rain keeps away the neighbours. It won’t keep away your buyers. Buyers want to buy regardless of the weather.’”

If you could give your younger self any advice now, what would it be? “Oh, I would definitely hire an administration assistant earlier than I did!”

Di Giulio continues, “I think most people come into this business because of their personality type. It’s what they’re good at. They’re not good at business management or paperwork. So that is one thing I would do. The other thing would be to become an auctioneer a lot sooner than I did. And I would tell myself to go through drama classes, improvisation and public- speaking classes. The first year I entered the Auctioneer of the Year competition, I lost it. I played myself back on video and watched myself. And there was nothing  of me in it; it was all robotic.”

“I ended up employing a drama coach, did some drama classes and lessons. And I became more natural and started to understand tonality, mannerisms and presentation, and obviously engagement. Then I adopted that into my listing conversations. I also got into public speaking which just changed my world.

“You need an independent coach, because if you gauge your performance based on your director or your sales manager, mum, dad or wife, they are always going to be biased and tell you you’re amazing! But paying a professional to critique you – this was one of the things that changed my business dramatically. Listing presentations, as well as auctioneering, are performance-based, so the drama classes were a huge help.”

What do you see for your market in 2015? “I’m thinking  the market will continue to build. We’ve got 90,000 migrants coming into the country. Where are we going to put everyone? So, from my perspective, supply and demand  is really the driving force. But having said that, I would actually like the market to level out. I’m a big advocate for having realistic vendors. And I’m thinking that when the market improves you get a lot of vendors who get carried  away and, subsequently, properties don’t sell because the wrong expectations are set.”

“The successful agents of the future will be the ones who can manage this in a professional and ethical manner, while appealing to the emotional side of vendors because it’s an emotional transaction. These will be the agents who can get realistic expectations from the market and in turn be the ones who sell more properties.”

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