Secrets of success from California’s No. 1 Real Estate Agent

I recently came across an article on on how Mauricio Umansky is shaking up the real estate industry in America.

Who is Umansky?

For those who have not seen Million Dollar Listings LA, Umansky is the founder of The Agency, a real estate agency in California.  Despite only having 3 offices in Southern California, he has been named by the Wall Street Journal as the America’s No. 7 realtor (he is No. 1 in California).

Why is his story so interesting?

According to the article, an increasing number of people with no service orientation were going into real estate in America, resulting in the real estate industry becoming more focussed on sales volume and the bottom line, rather than the customer experience.  When he founded The Agency, Umansky wanted to change the whole experience of how people bought and sold their homes. So how did he create excellent client experience?

Here are 5 things he did:

(1)  Define the culture

According to its website, The Agency believes in (amongst other things) integrity, collaboration and innovation, and it only hires people who share the same values.  Above all, the agency has a “no jerks” policy.

In a service industry like real estate, what customers think of your staff is what they think of your business.  It is critical that how your staff operate and deal with customers is consistent with how you want your business to be perceived.

So what do you think of your staff? Would you sell or buy a house through them?  If your answer is not a solid “YES”, what are your customers likely to think?

(2) Set high standards

If a person is offered employment at The Agency, it means that he or she is someone the company has chosen to invest in. That person does not need to be the best, but they have to be talented, knowledgeable and good at their job.

I recently asked the director at one of the fastest growing real estate brands in Queensland what he looked for in hew hires. “I look for energy”, he said, “everything else can be taught.”

At the Validum Institute, we train a large number of people looking to enter the real estate profession.  At the end of each course, we have a pretty good idea which students will succeed in the industry. These are usually the students who have the desire to learn as much as they can from their trainers and connect with those around them.

As an employer, do you hire the first decent candidate you see or are you prepared to wait and invest in the right candidate?

As an employee, what makes you the right candidate? The real estate industry is undergoing a period of massive change – are you able to adapt and learn new skills?

(3) Exceptional marketing

The Agency has an in-house full-spectrum marketing arm that takes care of all its agents’ marketing needs.  This frees up agents to do what they do best – looking after the client.

Not everyone is in the position to have an in-house marketing function.  However, with technology it is easier than before to have access to good marketing advice and tools that allow you to produce high quality marketing material at a low cost.

Is your marketing as good as it can be?  When was the last time you took a step back and examined your approach to marketing and the materials you produce?  Do your marketing approach and materials reflect how you want to be perceived by your clients?

(4) Be an adviser, not an agent

At The Agency, agents are in it for the long run.  They take the time to understand and research the market they operate in, so that they can act in their clients’ best interests.

Increasingly, the top sales coaches are talking about helping your client and providing value.  That requires a mind shift from focussing on closing a transaction to one that focusses on building a relationship.

(5) Allow mistakes

Umansky doesn’t mind if his employees make a mistake every now and then. If you don’t make mistakes, you don’t progress and grow.

In business, there are bad mistakes and good mistakes. An example of a bad mistake is breaching client confidence.  Bad mistakes should not be tolerated, full stop.

A good mistake, on the other hand, could be trying a new client engagement strategy which did not work. Good mistakes often contain important learning that can be identified and shared.  More importantly, staff need to feel safe enough to make a good mistake every now and again.

When was the last time someone in your business made a good mistake? And how did you address that?

Where to from here?

You might say that this is all very interesting but it is really not relevant for you because the market, industry conditions, customer needs, profit drivers are different from the States. That’s not the point.

The point is:

  1. Have you asked yourself these questions?
  2. And what are you doing about your competitors who have?

* The article on discusses 8 things in total – to see the full list, click here.