Debbie Hanlon_crop - webI was pleasantly surprised at the letters I received after my last column about the systems I used to help propel me to number one in Canada in my first year in real estate. Most people wanted a more thorough explanation of what exactly those systems were. I’ll be detailing them all in a book that’ll be available in the next month or so, but in the meantime I will briefly run through one of the systems that I found invaluable for picking up new clients: my FSBO system.

With all the established Realtors in the industry, it can be tough for a rookie to make much of a splash in their first year in the business. It’s even tougher to become number one in Canada but that’s exactly what I did and the systems I developed were a big reason why. The thinking is that there isn’t a lot of business for new agents, because established agents tend to get most of it, but I noticed there were quite a lot of for sale by owner (FSBO) signs around. Why shouldn’t I go after them and offer my services?

I figured it would be like any other sales-related activity in that I’d have to stand out from all the other agents competing for the same business. I was already busier than a lumberjack with two woodstoves, so I developed a system to make getting that business even easier. As the system was fully automated, all I really had to do was set up the file and make one phone call per week.

Whenever I saw a FSBO house I immediately took a picture of it and jotted down the address. Then I’d find the names of the people who owned the house and track down their telephone number. Using a template I developed (all my systems come with easy to use templates), I’d put the picture of their house behind me standing next to my realty sign with SOLD across it. Above that was written, “The next sign you’ll see if you sign with me.”

Underneath the picture was a short section explaining why they should list with me. That went out in the mail, along with a crossword puzzle, a pencil and some other light-hearted reading material.

A week later I’d call them and ask if they’d received my package. It wasn’t really a cold call then because I’d already introduced myself via the mail package, so most were quite happy to chat. I’d remind them that if at any time they wanted a free real estate consultation with me, all they had to do was call.

Even while I was on the phone to them, a second mail drop was on its way.

This one showed a moving van parked in front of their house with the words, “It’s your move” written above it. Again I’d have a small section below it with more reasons why they should list with me. Each week this pattern of a clever picture highlighting their home and soft sell messaging followed by a quick phone call was repeated. It wasn’t long before they were calling me to list their homes.

Most people don’t realize that real estate is hard work. That’s why they think they can bypass the commission fees and sell their home themselves. After a while the stress, the mortgage payments and playing real estate agent after they finish their real job makes the vast majority of people list with an agent. To be that agent you have to stand out from all the others competing for that listing. How successful was that particular system for me? It, along with the other systems I developed, made me number one in Canada within a year.

Today in the age of the Internet it’s even easier to turn FSBOs into CHC…cold hard cash in your pocket!

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].

Debbie Hanlon is the owner broker and Realtor at Debbie Hanlon Real Estate, a new boutique brokerage in St. John’s, Nfld. She is also a motivational speaker, real estate coach, author, former city councillor and children’s entertainer. She lives in St. John’s with her husband, Oral Mews and her dog Fisher.


    • Steve:

      Aw, c'mon, it's not that Debbie went after the obvious potential business as a new Realtor that's interesting; it's about how she went about it in combination with her drive that's noteworthy, at least from my perspective. Being a single mom with youngsters obviously provided the fuel for her fire-in-the-belly desire to succeed…on behalf of her children. Debbie took hold of an old idea and created something new for herself…success!



  1. Hi Debbie: You forgot to mention one other reason why you have been so successful…BRAINS!



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