By Debbie Hanlon
When I started out in real estate I was 28-years-old. I was the single mother of three young children, living on social assistance, and I didn’t even own a car at the time. Yet within a year I was the top agent in my home province. Within a year I was No. 1 in buyer controlled sales across Canada out of over 6,000 in the real estate company I worked for. Within two years I owned my own brokerage. Just think about that for a second: single mom on welfare, three small kids and no car, to No. 1 in my first year in the business. I went on to start my own real estate company. I was named to the top 50 CEO list three different times. I was named one of Canada’s top 100 female entrepreneurs out of hundreds of thousands.
Do you know how I accomplished that? I did it by readjusting my attitude about what I did for a living. Now, ask most real estate agents what line of work they’re in and they’ll tell you they’re in sales. Ask them what they sell and they’ll tell you houses, property – they sell real estate. It’s that attitude about what they do for a living that prevents them from doing as well as they can. It’s what keeps them from rising to the top where the real money is made. As strange as it sounds, thinking that you’re selling houses is stopping you from making it in real estate.
The first lesson you need to learn and one I learned as soon as I got into real estate is you’re not in the business of selling houses. You are in the business of selling yourself. Let’s face it; a house is the largest financial transaction most people will ever make. No one is going to buy a house with you until they buy into you. You will not sell a single house before you sell yourself. So sell yourself first. The houses, the property, the real estate and the money will all follow. Trust me, if a 28-year-old single mom on welfare can do it, you can do it.
They gave me an office where I worked. It had a desk, a phone and a phone book. It might have had a stapler, I don’t remember. I spent my first few days going through that phone book and finding the telephone numbers of everyone I could remember from my past. I called them and told them I was in real estate and would appreciate it if they used me when they bought or sold a house. I put all their names and contact information into a contact list I was building.
Once I’d gone through my sphere of influence, I added five contacts a day to that contact list. These contacts could be the bus driver (I still had no car), the girl who served me coffee, the woman at the dry cleaners, anyone and everyone I came into contact with. Real estate, more than anything else, is a contact sport.
I know agents who’ve been in this business for 20 years and have 100 people in their contact list. You meet more people than that in a month. Meeting people, saying hello I’m so and so and I’d like to offer my assistance if you ever need any real estate services, is a free way to market yourself. You’re selling yourself every time you say hello to someone new.
Building a contact list is the cheapest, easiest form of self marketing and it doesn’t matter what stage of your career you’re at, it will help you. There are many other ways of selling yourself that we’ll be getting into as we go along in future columns. The main thing to remember right now is you’re not selling houses, you’re selling yourself. You can do this. You can lift your career to a whole new level through self marketing. Don’t sell yourself short.
Debbie Hanlon is the president and founder of Hanlon Realty. She is a three-time top 50 CEO winner and was named one of the top 100 female entrepreneurs in Canada. She is currently an elected city official in St. John’s, Nfld. and is available for motivational and training seminars. Email [email protected].