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How to Build Business in a New Town

One sales associate shows how to set up shop and start racking up sales in a community where not everyone “knows your name.”

Daniel Grieb
When I started my real estate career in January 2006, I didn’t have a customer pipeline, a list of interested prospects or even a database filled with contacts that I could call and talk to about buying and selling homes. I also lacked the community roots that many sales associates around me already had (since I’d lived in Winter Springs for only two years) and the business experience (I previously worked as a police officer).

But what I did have was a burning desire to succeed in a field that was, at the time, coming down from a multiyear boom. Everyone was telling me that the market stunk and that I shouldn’t even consider real estate, but I went for it anyway and finished out 2006 with 42 closed transactions, with an average homes sales price of $210,000. Right now, I have 11 pending transactions that will add up to more money than I ever made in a year as a police officer.

With all the forces working against me—from the market conditions to my new surroundings to my lack of experience in the field—how did I do it? The answer is simple:  I followed these steps that I learned from a real estate coach with whom I consult twice a week via 30-minute phone calls. Here’s what he taught me:
1. Knock on Doors  
Knocking on doors isn’t as popular as it used to be in the real estate industry, but I revived the practice last year by driving around neighborhoods doing just that. If I saw a for-sale-by-owner (FSBO) sign in someone’s yard, for example, I’d go up to the door and introduce myself. I’d let the homeowner know that I was a real estate sales associate, and then I’d start talking with him or her to find out the real motivation for selling. If the homeowner said he was moving to Texas, I’d say “Texas? That’s exciting. How quickly do you need to be in Texas?” I’d then offer him help in getting to Texas.

Even if those homeowners didn’t wind up listing with me, they would spread the word about my willingness to help by referring me to friends and family. One of my first transactions was a $562,000 listing that came from calling on a homeowner whose neighbor was a real estate sales associate (and he didn’t even know it). And to think that this type of referral marketing starts with a simple knock on the door!

2. Be Good on the Phone
Unlike a lot of salespeople, I’m not afraid of cold calling. In fact, one of the first tasks I do every day is get on the phone and start calling prospects. I talk to recently expireds and FSBOs, and I work hard to build up a circle of influence that includes at least 100 people. My circle now also includes past clients with whom I’m on the phone every day, offering my help and asking for referrals of friends, neighbors and colleagues who may want to buy or sell homes.

Before contacting people, though, I recommend that you make sure you’re in compliance with the federal do-not-call law by calling only those with whom you’ve previously done business. [To help Realtors® comply with the do-not-call law, the Florida Association of Realtors (FAR) offers the free DNCQuickcheck™ compliance tool for individual members (there’s a one-time $50 setup fee for offices). For more information go to]

3. Do the Numbers
Because real estate is a numbers game, I look at the number of contacts that I need to make every day in order to achieve my goals. This year, for example, I want to close about 75 transactions, with at least 60 of those coming from listings and 15 from buyers. To accomplish my goal, I know that I must make 30 contacts per day and that I must go to two appointments per day.

4. Build a Solid Reputation
In this business, all I have is my reputation. I want to be known as the sales associate who says what he means and who means what he says. I don’t lead sales associates or clients or customers in the wrong direction, and instead view the transaction as a “team” effort that involves many different people.

For a real estate transaction to be completed, a mutual respect and trust between (co-brokering) sales associates must be established.

I’ve learned that a good or bad reputation in this business spreads quickly.

5. Don’t Make Empty Promises
I never make any promises that I can’t keep, and I hold my clients to the same principle. So, if we make a verbal counteroffer that sticks, I don’t ever allow my client to back-door the buyer by taking the “next best offer.”

6. Pre-Interview Everyone
Before I start working with a client, I ask a lot of questions to find out how I can best serve him or her. Whether clients come from a FSBO, expired listing or referral, I start by asking questions that will lead me to their true motivation. This, in turn, helps me help them accomplish their goal, be it to move out of state, maximize their profits or preserve as much equity in their property as possible. 

During the prequalifying process, I first ask them if they’re interviewing other sales associates (so that I know where I stand), where they’re moving to and why. I dig down to find out if they want to sell, or if they have to sell.

I also keep in mind that market conditions are such that those who want to sell may be unrealistic (e.g., about their asking price) and wind up burning a lot of my time and marketing efforts. By conducting this prequalification process, I get a good grasp of exactly what it’s going to take to sell a home in a way that leaves the client satisfied and coming back for more.
Daniel Grieb is a sales associate with RE/MAX Town and Country Realty in Winter Springs. Licensed since June 2005, Grieb closed 42 transactions last year at an average sales price of $210,000. A former police officer, Grieb works twice a week with real estate coach Tim Harris, of the Mike Ferry Group.