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7 Pieces of Real Estate Advice...from an Advice Skeptic

Matt Beall, broker, Hawaii Life Real EstateThe following is a chapter ("Burn This Book") from the book REAL: A Path to Passion, Purpose and Profits in Real Estate. The author of this chapter is Matthew Beall, broker at Hawaii Life Real Estate. @mattbeall

Here’s a Zen koan.

An elderly Zen master lived in a remote village. The master had practiced Zen his entire life and his knowledge and wisdom was cherished by all who knew him.

On his deathbed, the master summoned his most accomplished acolyte and gave the apprentice a massive leather-bound book. Filled with handwritten passages, the master explained the book was his personal journal, containing insights he had amassed his entire life and all the secrets of Zen. The master explained that upon his death, the student would become the new master, and he advised the student to rely on the wisdom of the book for guidance and assistance.

When the master died, the student immediately burned the book.

I’ve worked in real estate for fifteen years. I’ve made billions of dollars of sales, I’ve managed hundreds of agents, and I’m here to tell you to suspect any advice I have to offer.

Why? Real estate is an industry of over a million people in the United States. It’s both a massive and hugely varied industry, with markets that are wholly dissimilar. It’s also very dynamic. The real estate industry constantly changes. Given such multiplicity and tumult, there’s an extraordinary amount of advice available—but most of it is absolute hogwash.

Here’s a personal anecdote. A friend of mine is a golf pro. He knew I had never played the game, so he gave me a free lesson one year for my birthday. The first thing he said to me, even before I picked up a club, was, “Don’t listen to anyone.” Or, as he elaborated, be warned every golfer has an opinion he or she is anxious to share. How to swing. What club to use. The proper grip. His sage advice: Ignore all of it. Instead, he recommended, learn one way and make adjustments to that original approach over time and with professional tutelage. It’s brilliant advice, for golf and real estate.

I’m sure this book mentions at least a dozen times there’s virtually no barrier to entry in real estate. As a result, the industry has its share of uneducated, get-rich-quick types, addicts of every kind, and unfortunately, a lot of total morons. (There, I said it.) Combine the motley crew with the cultural trend of instant-gratification (social media, text messaging, Google), and the result is an entire cottage industry that exists simply to sell things to real estate agents. Marketing. Software. Websites. Apps. Books. Collateral. Conferences. Media of every kind. And real estate agents eat it up, shelling out big bucks to buy the latest bright and shiny object, because so many want a shortcut to success. If this book isn’t about how to build and maintain a real estate career that sustains itself, you should probably consider burning it. Seriously, if there’s one bit of advice I can offer, it’s to maintain a healthy skepticism of the “advice” given to real estate salespeople.

And with that out of the way, let’s get on to more advice.



Stephen Covey, the notable management consultant and author, said, “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” Agreed.

The truth is you don’t know what you don’t know. And you’re new. Don’t try to compensate by talking incessantly about what you do know. Instead, listen. Listen to your prospects. Listen to your brokers. Listen to cooperating agents. Ask them questions, and then really listen.


Learn to write

One of my top salespeople types using two index fingers. Yes, he is (very) slow, but he is also very effective. He only focuses on what matters, because he can’t afford to ramble. He’s concise. He gets to the point quickly. He gets results.

Sales and relationships revolve around conversations. In turn, conversations revolve around words. Words matter, as does diction. Whether conscious of it or not, people form impressions of you reading your diction and syntax. If you can write clear, readable, crisp email messages (still the leading generator of new leads), listings, market newsletters, and blog posts, you’ll win.


Don’t make assumptions

When I started my career, I sat open house a lot. I work in a resort market, so people from all over the country would come into my open houses. Often, they would ask the price of the listing, and then sound surprised afterwards. I learned to ask them, “Are you surprised because the price is higher or lower than you thought?” 

It’s a great question, for so many reasons. Regardless of their answer, the question itself creates a context for the prospects. It tells them that there are people who might feel the opposite. It also gets them talking. Why are they surprised? What are they comparing it to?

In similar situations, I learned to rephrase the question “Where are you from?” because that question assumes the person is not local. I live and work in Hawaii, where people either strongly identify with already living here, or at the very least don’t want it to be obvious that they don’t live here. So, I changed the question to “Where is home for you?” or “Where is home for you now?”

The latter question is apt because many attendees of an open house are considering a move. It also opens a dialog with prospective sellers. Many times, the visitors to an open house are neighbors, measuring what homes in the neighborhood are selling for. I learned not to alienate them asking “Where are you from?”


If you’re going to kick ass, you have to take names

Another mistake new salespeople make is not taking names. You, the new real estate agent, are now in the business of people. Not properties, people. Properties will always be there. The people won’t.

Take names. Record them. Track them. Take notes. Don’t let them out of your sight. Use a system to keep track of the people you meet and follow up with each and every one. Whatever you do, don’t allow any name go unrecorded. Contact information is the currency of your new business.

If you’re going to work a specific neighborhood or market niche, learn the names and preferences of the owners. Who are they? Why do they live in the area? What makes them tick? What’s your relationship to them? Of course, you have to know the commodity, too—the details of various properties and what makes each one valuable. But properties are not what your stock in trade. Relationships are.



Real estate is one of the only industries in the world that requires cooperation among competitors. Whether the competition works in the same brokerage as you or in a competing office, you have to get along with others to succeed in this business.

Don’t let things fester. If you have a disagreement or issue with an agent, clear it up immediately. Save face. If the other agent is wrong, a jerk, or even outright insufferable, suck it up. Other brokers should hold you in very high regard.

You need others, and you always will. Even if a peer leaves the business, stay on good terms, since he or she could easily become a client. (I’ve sold a lot of real estate for people who used to be in the business.)


Tell them to “Fuck off!”

Strangely, this might be the best advice I’ve ever been given. 

Very early in my career, I was working on my first sale over $1 million with a friendly, cooperative broker (who has since become a mentor of mine). The $1 million sale was all cash, with a 7-day close. It was short and simple, and the clients on both sides were very happy. At the same time, I had a client who was horribly litigious. He sued everyone, for everything, all the time. (I didn’t learn about this until it was too late.) While the deal was small, it was unnecessarily complicated, with incessant bickering over tiny details, countless threats, and a raft of lawyers.

While lamenting the souring deal to the cooperating broker in my big sale, he said, “You know, Matt, sometimes you have to tell them to fuck off!” I was shocked, not because of his language, but at the very idea. I actually had the thought “You can do that?” Indeed you can and should. Even if you are in survival mode, needing every dollar, as I did, you have to realize there are costs involved in taking on business that’s personally compromising.

You don’t have to work with everybody. You can pick and choose. It’s a radical thing to consider, especially when you’re just starting out and don’t have any business, but you can set boundaries with prospects. And when you do, it works.


Get a coach

After about 12 years in the business, I finally hired a business coach. I feel like I wasted 12 years.

One of the first things I learned from my business coach was how to hire. The real estate business isn’t getting any easier. You can’t do it all, and even if you could, you can’t grow a business to any scale going solo.

The classic mistake most salespeople make (myself included), is that they prospect like mad, garner a bunch of business, and then get totally bogged down trying to close that business—ironically leaving no time for prospecting. It’s boom or bust in a vicious cycle.

Worse, most salespeople call for help when already overwhelmed. It’s a recipe for disaster. Hiring under duress favors convenience, not correctness. Whether help comes in the form of an assistant, another agent, or both, hiring right requires patience, practice, and discipline.

Hiring right also requires a good dose of humility. Know your weaknesses and hire to offset your personal shortcomings. For example, I’m a self-starter and tend to rebel against authority. I don’t like being told what to do. While admirable in some ways, my psychological disposition is nonetheless a liability. My hires—and my coach—provide corrections. In fact, I’ve found that agents who work with a coach do far better in their careers.

Don’t think that you can’t afford a coach. The truth is that you can’t afford not to hire a coach. And don’t just pick anybody. Get a pro. Find a coach that has a proven track record.

And burn this book.



About The Book

REAL book coverMost real estate books fall short. REAL goes beyond mere tactics and strategies to focus on the core of what really matters - You. In addition to the authors' lessons learned, this book also includes contributions from some of real estate's most influential thought leaders: Marc Davison, Spencer Rascoff, Sherry Chris, Krisstina Wise, and many more.

If building a real estate business that lasts is important to you, this is a book you surely won't want to miss!

Buy the book

Dave Crumby

Dave is the Chairman of Firepoint / Realvolve, a state-of-the-art customer relationship management (CRM) platform built expressly for real estate agents. Dave began his real estate career as an agent in 1996. Dave authored in 2013 the book titled 'REAL: A Path to Passion, Purpose and Profits in Real Estate’ that has since become a best seller. The book features Dave's experience and the wisdom of other successful real estate leaders, such as the CEOs of Zillow, Trulia, Better Homes and Gardens, and many others.


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