A while back I did an interview with Justin Havre, who is a top real estate agent in Calgary Alberta working at CIR REALTY. CIR is the largest independent firm in Canada with about 650 agents. With his team, Justin Havre & Associates, he has been number one or two in his market for a number of years, (#1 team for 2011-2013) and to put things in perspective, at the time of the first interview he and his team were doing nearly 200 transactions a year. I sat down with Justin in our original interview to understand some of the things he was doing successfully to reach this level as well as to see where he thought he could improve his business practices.
In our original interview, Justin noted the significant investment he makes in technology every year. He operates multiple real estate websites and the leads generated from these sites form a significant piece of his business. At the time of the first interview he had 6 people on his team and one of the problems he noted as needing improvement, was the ability to respond effectively to the large number of leads he received every day.
The second key area he identified that needed to be improved was his communication and contact with customers he has already worked with. He realized that largely due to the huge new lead volume he was experiencing he was neglecting the people that he had already done business with.
I interviewed Justin recently to get an update on how things were going and to see what he had been able to do to address this specific business needs noted in the first interview. Most importantly, I wanted to see if whatever steps he took had the outcome that he desired.
Re-invent Your Business
Remember, Justin is hugely successful and ranks at the top of sales year after year in his markets. Yet the first thing he told me in this follow up interview was that shortly after our first interview he ripped his business apart and re-invented himself and his team. A key to the transformation was his willingness to see that if he didn’t change he would get the same outcome, which might look good to some, but to Justin it wasn’t satisfactory. So his first step was to increase the number of agents on his team from 6 to 28! He realized he was not properly addressing the leads he was getting daily, often a hundred leads a day through his optimized technology network, and so he ramped up the team to fix that.
As part of this process, Justin worked closely with his web provider, Real Estate Webmasters to fine tune his lead rotation rules to make sure that leads coming in were being responded to immediately or were moved to another agent. He credits the quality of the tools he uses to be able to manage this effectively. He noted that with 100 leads a day on average you can never expect to have your full team just working leads. A third of your team ends up working leads on any given day while the other two thirds of the team are busy working on other activities or simply not available. But this leaves about 3 leads a day per person, which Justin feels is ideal.
Getting the Leads
It is important to note that all of the leads Justin and his team work with come directly from the Internet through via their websites or direct searches. He does not pay for leads or subscribe to any of the “lead generation” sites on the web that many agents use. He owns and operates several sites on his own in his target markets with some of these sites geared to specific property sectors, such as vacation homes, or city living. These sites are more than static web pages. His vendor, Real Estate Webmasters, provides enterprise level tools including sophisticated CRM capabilities combined with strong mobile tools and complete lead management. In addition, Justin also invests significantly in SEO for his markets on an ongoing basis.
Justin shared with us that as he expanded his team to 28 agents, not all of the new agents were able to succeed with his model that focused heavily on lead management and conversion. Part of this, he says, was due to picking agents that may have been successful in terms of sales but who were not particularly technologically savvy, or simply weren’t wired to manage their business this way. These experiences have taught him to emphasize technology skills and desire to work with technology more in his recruiting and resulted in this original growth to 28 agents to level off at 20 agents at present.
The good news for Justin is despite the learning curve his expansion has shown tangible results. Since our last interview his transactions have increased by 255%. I asked how his conversion rate was compared to his first interview and, while constantly changing, he says it averages about 1.5% on raw leads. Recently, however, he added 3 inside sales agents to the team just to scrub the leads, and this had raised the team conversion rate to 3%, which is outstanding.
Remember Existing Customers
Justin acknowledged his team had not done a great job staying in touch with his existing customers in the past. This is an area he has made great strides in and is now an integral part of his daily business. Today all of his past customers receive a direct mail, in the form of a custom newsletter, once a month. In addition, team members contact all past clients via phone or in person at least once a quarter.
The team is also hosting some fun events as part of their customer appreciation. They recently rented out an entire movie theatre for a customer appreciation event, showing a first run family movie. He said the event was booked in hours. Understanding that creating strong customer relationships is not about trying to sell people every time you touch them Justin has instructed his team attending the event that this is just a fun event for clients and their families. No business is to be discussed. Business will come as a natural result of a good customer relationship.
Knowing that Justin would already be thinking ahead I asked him what is coming next? He informed me that he is getting involved with radio and TV advertising and has teamed up with the RATE (Radio and Television Experts) Group, experts in real estate advertising on TV and radio. The cost for entry into these media channels is significant, but once again, as Justin says, they work. It will be great to do a follow up with the Justin Havre team in the coming months to see how this next phase pans out in his ongoing quest to continually improve his business.
Areas For Improvement
Good business people are always looking to fine tune processes even if they already have great results. Justin is the definitely this way. When I asked him where he wants to see continued improvement he immediately said lead conversion. He points out that this is a constant process of looking for ways to tweak things to improve the conversion rate. With the number of leads his teams gets a difference of 1% has a huge impact to his bottom line. Interestingly enough, he says that getting agents to “opt out” of leads when they just can’t handle more is actually one of the tweaks that is having a positive impact. Once agents realize they can close more business by being honest about how many leads they can handle effectively, they are happy to opt out if necessary.
Coaching is another item that Justin continually invests in. Justin provides professional coaching, through various independent coaching services, to all of his team members on a regular basis to help them improve every aspect of their client services. He believes this is money well spent and it translates directly to higher conversions and better customer relationships.
Whenever I have a chance to interview and interact with someone I respect that is demonstrating excellence in his business I think of the take aways that I can apply to my own business. Here are a few for your consideration:
- If you want things to change you have to something different – This is a very typical failure point for people that achiever a certain level of success. They are often afraid to change whatever initially made them successful. Unfortunately, the rules change all the time and today more than ever we need to continually re-invent ourselves. Be a risk taker and try something new. If it doesn’t work, try something else.
- Invest in technology – Don’t think of technology as an expense, think of it as an investment. I can’t think of a single business or businessperson that I admire that does not understand this tenant. When you invest in technology wisely you invest in your own success.
- The best customer is your existing customer – I remember seeing a NAR statistic that said over 80% of people who recently used a Realtor would be happy to use the same agent again on their next transaction but only 24% do. That is a huge opportunity lost. This means that over 50% of these once happy customers are going to some other agent for no good reason other than then fact their agent did not maintain their relationship. Real estate agents often ignore their recent customers thinking the return on investment is to far out. They focus on new leads. They forget these customers have sons and daughters and friends that they are losing as prospects when they don’t stay in touch. Invest in your existing customers.
- Don’t stop re-inventing yourself – Take a lesson from Justin. With over 400 transactions in 2013 he is already wondering what he can do better. Make this mindset part of your business.