“20 Minutes of Successful Niche Secrets – EPISODE 37”,
With Grant Sprague, a high achiever who wants to break through his current ceiling of production
“20 Minutes of Successful Niche Secrets – EPISODE 37,”
With Grant Sprague, a high achiever who wants to break through his current ceiling of production
Glenn: Hi! It’s Glenn McQueenie, and welcome back to another segment of my Success Series podcast. It’s called the 25-Minute Success Series call, and what we really try to do in this is go one-on-one with a realtor to find out where they are now, where they want to go, and really come up with an award-winning blueprint for them to follow for the next 12 months. So my special guest today is Grant Sprague from Keller Williams Select Realty in beautiful Halifax, Nova Scotia. How are you doing, Grant?
Grant: Glenn, I’m doing great! How are you doing today?
Glenn: I’m doing fantastic. Thank you so much for joining me for this podcast. For those who are listening, I’ve met Grant before. He actually came into Toronto and took my 2-day course. I’ve taught out there in Halifax a couple of times, and I’ve got to tell you, Grant (or for anyone listening) – if you ever get to Halifax or any part of Nova Scotia, they are probably the nicest people you will ever meet in the world.
Grant: I’d have to agree.
Glenn: What do you think about that, Grant?
Grant: I agree with you, Glenn. How could I not? It’s amazing. But you know what? I’ve met some really amazing people in Toronto as well, yourself included. But I do agree.
Glenn: Yeah. They are so nice. I remember I was teaching out there, I think it was last year, and I taught in St. John’s first (St. John’s, Newfoundland) and I’d probably say they might be the happiest people, just generally. But in Nova Scotia, they’re by far the nicest people. And I don’t want to offend anyone who’s listening in New Brunswick, but I don’t even know what they are.
Grant: They’re pretty cool, too.
Glenn: Honestly, they are truly amazing people. So Grant, why don’t you just give the people listening a little background – a minute or two of what your business looks like right now, what you do and where you are now, and then I’ll circle back and see where you want to go.
Grant: Absolutely. Sounds good. So my business right now, I would say I’m sort of on a re-boost, if you will? I’m 10 years in the business, so probably just over a year and a half off as a team leader, so I shut my business down because I didn’t have a team, and I started back up again at the latter part of 2015. Since then, I’ve been looking at my business a whole lot differently than I ever have before thanks to your 3-day workshop in Toronto there with The McQueenie Method. In all seriousness (I know I’m putting a plug in), but it’s really been a part of my life since I left there. Where my business is at today is I’m growing. Last year was my best year ever, and this year I’m on target to do better than last year, but I’m below what I targeted for the year, so I have work to do.
Glenn: Okay. So what was the – maybe not the big breakthrough – but how did your business grow so much last year? The gift of working with people who are high achievers is they set goals, and then when they reach them, they just set higher goals. So you have a record year last year, and then you’re like, “Okay, now we’re just going to go higher.” So what was the big shift for you last year? What were some of the tactics you changed? And what’s also been carrying on this year? And then we can talk about where you want to go.
Grant: Sure. So when I went to your workshop, we talked about niche markets and we talked about creating raving fans, and that really hit home with me. I’ve been struggling forever trying to think, geographically, where do I focus my attention? And then it hit me last year: It’s not a geographic thing at all. It’s my client base. It’s my people that have supported me over the years. Over 93% of my business each year comes from referrals. So what I realized was that I wanted to create raving fans. I wanted to be able to offer that white-glove service. And I realized that although I’m doing well and my clients are happy, I’m not happy with it yet. I don’t think I’m “there.” I’m not at that point where I could say that I’ve got the well-oiled machine that’s going to create raving fans. What I did realize, though, was not to focus on geographic farming or making cold calls or whatever, but to focus more on creating that raving fan – giving that amazing experience to my clients so that it’s so great that they want to start telling people about the services. Then they’re calling me and intentionally or purposefully giving me referrals. So I learned that from you, and I’ve actually started to apply it. I’m not there yet. It’s going to take awhile. That was a breakthrough for me.
Glenn: Yeah. Well it’s so funny, because instead of a geographic farm, you actually just built a people farm, if you think about it. Most people don’t think of it in those terms, but what you really did at a great level is you already had a community. Then I think what I’m hearing you went and did is you went back and said, “I’m going to go give back to this community. I’m going to go get back in touch with my community, because these are the people who already like, trust, and respect me.” Or I could go farm over here, which is fine, if you really like to farm. I think people should farm. Or you could do both. But there’s a beautiful richness that occurs with people when you talk to them and they already like, trust, and respect you. And when you step up your game and you go, “Well, I want to move them from being just a happy client to a raving fan client (I don’t know if it’s “raving fan,” because it’s a pretty overblown, used term in our industry), but more, I would say, they almost become preachers for you. They’re so wowed with what you did that they’re so happy, and when someone says or thinks about real estate, they just start talking about all the little things that you did – not that you just bought and sold a house for them. Is that what you’ve experienced?
Grant: Exactly. Yeah, that’s exactly it. And you know what? It actually boiled down to just a couple of minor changes in my business. Like I said, I’m not there yet, but I applied a few different methods or techniques. And it’s not rocket science. All it is is really stepping up the game a little bit and caring a little bit more about the process, because we can become complacent over time. We do so many transactions, it becomes just a transaction. So I had to bring myself back to, let’s acknowledge the fact that these people do this once every 5-10 years or less, and I have to do whatever I can to make it an enjoyable and relaxing experience. Just by making a couple changes that way and staying in touch more during the process – that was huge. I noticed right off the bat that was making a big difference for people. Even just a quick little phone call just to let them know that you care, even if there was no reason – “Just touching base, making sure you’re still okay” – that kind of thing. That was one thing, and then also implementing a couple other small systems made a difference.
Glenn: Right. So the net result of that is that you kind of transcended from counting deals to now counting high-quality relationships, really.
Grant: I like that.
Glenn: Is that what I’m hearing?
Grant: I like that. Yes.
Glenn: Yeah. This business is so based on “how many deals I’ve got to do a month,” or “he did so many deals a year,” and we forget sometimes that behind every deal is a family. They only go through this, as you said, maybe every five years, seven years, 10 years, 30 years, 50 years – yet we just think it’s another transaction (some more gross commission income). Maybe we get closer to our goal or our plaque or our trophy, when what we’re really dealing with are human lives who are all saying, “Treat me individually. I’m a person. I’m not just another deal.” I love just listening, because it sounds like what you did is you actually slowed down the transaction a bit by over-communicating with them and calling them for no reason, in order to speed up your relationship that you’re actually going to be having with them. That also shows up even when offers come in, because now they’re like, “Oh, this guy’s not just after the deal. He really cares about me, and I trust him.” There’s a beautiful magic that happens when you have that speed of trust in a transaction. In a high-trust relationship, everything speeds by, and when there’s no trust, everybody second-guesses it, and it gets bogged down.
Grant: Right. I agree with that. Absolutely.
Glenn: Okay, so can you just tell me a bit more about this year? Did you just continue growing on that, or did you expand your business? Were there any other systems or models that were really working for you that just caused more people to be referring more people to you?
Grant: It would be nice if everybody had a perfect business on the go, and I would hope that I’m not the only person out there that’s experiencing this, but I’m all over the map sometimes. Sometimes I feel like I just have to focus on one thing, and I know that that’s important to do. So basically, I would say that I’m just trying to step the game up a little bit, but I also know I have to increase my lead revenue resources, like branches. That’s something else I’m starting to work on. I developed my Facebook a little bit more, and I can see that I’m getting a good response. I’m getting some good feedback from people when I see them. I guess they’re recognizing the Facebook a little bit more often, but there’s really nothing else that I’ve done. To me, it’s such a big job to step up my game and offer a better level of service. I didn’t realize it was going to be that hard. There’s a lot of work involved to do that, so I spent some of the year scrambling, thinking, “Okay, what’s my niche market going to be? What am I going to do? Who am I going to focus on?” Then I realized over time that currently (and not that it would always be), but I think right now, Glenn, my niche market is my referral business. That’s what it morphed into. So I’m focusing basically all of my attention on how do I make my clients extremely happy (like you said earlier), so that they’re actually going out of their way to tell people about me? So that’s all I’ve been really focusing on this year and for the last four or five months, but I spent a few months wasting time, I think, trying to do this and trying to do that, and change the website, and talk to people about maybe buying leads. Then I finally realized that the number one thing for me to focus on, really, is first I have to perfect what I have.
Glenn: Yeah. It’s really the conversation about what we call “moving from E to P” – from entrepreneurial to actually really being purposeful and just focusing on the lowest hanging fruit and the key things that will actually multiply my business forward. I’m always amazed why agents will “squirrel” – “You’ve got to go to Facebook ads.” Okay, then I’ll go put all my money in Facebook ads. And then they usually give it up before it actually starts to work. “Oh, I’m going to go and do geographic farming, and I’ll do it for eight or nine months when it really might take 18 months.” I think if people just slowed down right now, and said, “My lowest hanging fruit usually is people who have the same mindset as me, who are just like me.” That can be people who I play hockey with, people I curl with, people who I play Bridge with. There are these groups that exist. For you, you just said, “Okay, well this group of people already likes me. These people don’t even know me, so why don’t I just do the smart thing and go spend more time there,” which is the exact opposite of what most agents do. Most agents just go and spend all their time trying to find people they don’t know, who don’t trust and don’t like them, and then get shocked at their conversion rates.
Grant: Well it’s not fun working with people that don’t like you.
Glenn: I know! It’s so uninspiring, right? You have to prove that you’re trustworthy, and it’s just like, “Oh my God.” That’s why referrals are so wonderful. So let’s imagine it’s 12 months from now, okay? So September 2018. Just paint me a bit of a picture of what your business looks like at that point. We’ve talked about where you are. Let’s talk about where you want to go.
Grant: Okay. So I’m a little worked up at the fact that I set my goals, and it looks like I’m not going to achieve the goals that I set for this year. I’m going to beat last year, but I’m not going to achieve what I set. I know why as I look back on it. So actually, right now, I’m already starting to develop my business plan for 2018, and I’m actually going to take it a step further than I did before. So basically, I’m starting with the end in mind. I’m breaking it down into basically, what am I going to do each week? And I’m going to print it out. I’m going to have it with me, so that I can review it all the time. I did not do that this year, and I think that might be what derailed me. I didn’t have a real plan. I didn’t have an actual path to follow, so to speak. So what’s going to happen is (and I’m determined to do this), the goal that I set for myself for 2017 – it’s going to be higher than that. And I know how to get there. So that’s the plan, is that I’m going to break through the ceiling that I’ve been trying to break through. And how I’m going to do it is by creating a business plan – something that’s easy to follow, step by step, break it down week by week, print it off, keep it with me, and make sure that I stay on track. Do you want me to give you some numbers? Be specific?
Glenn: Yeah. Let’s hear where you are and where you want to go. I think that’s really interesting.
Grant: Okay. I’m really hovering around the 35-40 transaction mark, so my average gross sale is not going to necessarily change a huge amount. That’s one of the things I got side-tracked on, wanting to find a niche market that would actually yield a greater GCI per sale, but then I realized that that’s not where I’m going to be. I’m going to focus on my referrals and my repeat business and so on, but I have to find a way to increase that.
Glenn: What’s your average sale price, Grant?
Grant: My average sale price is $225,000. Average commission is 2.1% or 2.2%, so roughly $4,000 per transaction. So my goal is 55 for 2018 – to do 55 transactions.
Grant: I figure, if I can do that on my own, without an admin assistant, then in order to get to the next level, I’m going to have to hire somebody. I realize that. I have somebody part-time right now that helps me with my social media and so on. So that’s my goal, to do 55 transactions, and I know I’m not going to get there unless I actually write the plan out.
Glenn: Right. So let’s break it down. I would really argue that you’ve done well. You don’t think you might hit that big stretch goal that you made for 2017, but what if we just changed the game a bit? What if we just said, “Here’s our 12-month goal” and it starts today? There’s a different energy that gets created when you’re riding out the last three months of not thinking you’re going to hit the goal, compared to starting the first three months of a brand new goal.
Grant: Right. Okay.
Glenn: Does that make sense?
Grant: It certainly does.
Glenn: Right. And then what if we just broke it down into chunks, and all we wanted to focus on were 90-day sprints? All we have to do. The 90-day sprint is, what I’ve found for me over the last five years, the biggest breakthrough in my business. I set an annual goal, but I really just focus on 90 days, because 90 days is enough time to do just about anything that you want to do, and actually get it done. For example, a year ago at this time, I said I wanted to lose 20 pounds in 90 days. Well, you know what? I’d tried to lose 20 pounds before, but it was the first time I actually hit the goal of losing 20 pounds, because it was 90 days. It was reasonable. It’s a pound and a half a week, and because of that, I went, “Oh man, that’s like 5 ounces a day!” The beautiful thing is, when you set your 90-day plan and just break it back down to the monthly and weekly, then all of a sudden it just becomes completely manageable. So 55 transactions over the next 12 months is probably 4.5 transactions per month. So let’s call it 14 transactions that you have to do in the next 90 days.
Glenn: Really, when you break that down, we’ve got about 12 weeks. Pretty reasonable timeframe, because a lot of real estate ends about mid-December anyway. We could just focus on one sale a week, really, because sometimes you’re going to get a listing and then a sale that will drop off of it, or you might double-end a listing or whatever. So it’s easy to get the two-sale week. But what if it was just one? Just one sale a week?
Glenn: That’s all we had to do.
Grant: I’m up for that.
Glenn: Yeah! And then how do we get one sale a week in a fairly predictable fashion, right? So how many have you done so far this year would you say? About 35? 36?
Grant: Yeah, it would be 34 so far.
Glenn: 34. And what week is this in the calendar right now? Any idea?
Grant: No. Not a clue.
Glenn: I’m going to guess we’re about week 39. So you’re doing it anyway. This isn’t like we’re going to blow up your business and build a brand new one. You’re doing like 0.9 right now per week, anyway (or 0.85). So it’s really just about doing one a week. But more importantly – it’s not even about the 55 transactions – it’s about what that’s going to do for you in your life, right? You said you’ve got an assistant part-time right now who does a lot of your social media, and I think about 55 is where you can afford a full-time assistant.
Glenn: My experience has been, in coaching a lot of people, that between 36 and 40 deals is really where people should be getting at least a day or two a week. I think most of us could handle 36 or 40. It’s a busy life, because those are the 36 or 40 that went together – that’s not all the other offers and all the other buyers and sellers that didn’t do anything.
Glenn: Wouldn’t you agree? That’s about the capacity for most single agents by themselves.
Grant: Yeah. It’s a long day.
Grant: Yeah, I agree.
Glenn: My experience is, the model’s changing. It’s not ‘bring on a full-time person’ anymore. It’s ‘hire someone a day or two a week.’ My favourite target is trying to go back to my past client database with a mailing or an email campaign that says, “Hey, I’m looking for someone to work 3-5 hours a day. Perfect for someone who wants to work 10-3. Drop the kids off. Pick the kids up.” What you end up getting are a lot of professional stay-at-home parents who have got that freedom right now between 10-3, and they would love to get their brain working and contribute to something. And you don’t have to pay them a lot. You have to pay them fairly, but it’s more about just having some meaningful work for them to do. And they’re already professional, so they get it done. The first thing I would do is send an email broadcast to all your past clients right now. And every time you’re out, next time someone says, “Hey, Grant. How’s your business?” I would say, “Oh, it’s great, but I need your help. Do you know anyone who’s looking to work maybe 3-5 hours a day? Or even a couple days a week, really just running the backstage of my business?” I always like using that phrase, too. Not “doing my admin” – it’s “running the backstage of my business,” because you’re the front stage, right? You’re the performer, and you really need someone to get the lights going, the curtain to come up, sell the tickets, and do all the other stuff that needs to be done, so that you’re rested and you can be performing.
Grant: I am a performer. I agree!
Glenn: I know! I agree. I’ll second that! Okay, so level one I would say is get the 3-5 hour or the 10-20 hour person, and I probably would do it now. I remember I went from 40 deals to 80 deals a year when I got my first half-time assistant (I was sharing them with another agent), but they took all of that off. In the model in The Millionaire Real Estate Agent, it basically says at 36 deals, you hire an assistant. That brings you to 60 deals just by hiring an assistant. And then when you get to 60, you hire one buyer agent that will bring you to 90. That’s what the model is. That’s been the proven model, so I would probably stick to it, but we’ve got to watch our cash flow, too, right?
Glenn: Number two is, I would probably break up your client base right now, because in that whole range of past clients, you’re going to have probably 10 or 20 who you just have that super connection with. I always think it’s like the clients who love me – the people who are just, “Oh my God, Grant. You’re amazing!” They can’t stop talking about you all the time.
Grant: I love those guys, too! Yeah.
Glenn: They’re the best, right? And they’re also usually your biggest advocates, so I would really encourage you to, over the next 30 days, just take 10 or 12 of them out for breakfast or lunch. Not dinner. Not drinks. It takes too long. Breakfast, everyone knows is an hour. Lunch – most people can figure out it’s an hour. Although, might say I’ve had some Halifax lunches that’ll last a little bit longer, because I know Haligonians!
Grant: Different topics.
Glenn: That’s right! So maybe it’s better to have breakfast if you’re in Halifax! I would take them out just to spend time with them. And you don’t go out with them to ask them for business, because the business automatically comes from the time they’ve just spent with you.
Glenn: Isn’t it amazing when you meet somebody at a party, and then a couple days later, you get a referral from them?
Grant: I love it! Yeah. It’s like magic.
Glenn: And it’s not because you were being cheesy, going, “Hey, I want referrals! I heart referrals. I love referrals. Do you have any referrals for me?” That’s like 1970.
Glenn: So just come from contribution and relationship of just spending the time with them. Just take them out. They like you, and they’re going to talk. And guess what? Near the end, they’re probably going to start bringing up real estate. And when they ask you about business, don’t say, “It’s great! I’m really busy,” because it really says, “Oh, I guess you don’t need my help.” I’d focus more on, and even say this: “What I’ve really seen now in my business is I’m the best with this type of person, like this type of client.” And they’re going to, “What are you talking about?” And I go, “I work with people who are just like you. They’re nice. They’re amazing people. They’re friendly. They’re cooperative. They’re a pleasure to work with. And I’m terrible at working with people who aren’t nice, aren’t cooperative, and can’t trust me, because I wear my heart on my sleeve. That’s really my goal. I just want to work with more people that are like you!”
Grant: Love it!
Glenn: Make sense?
Grant: I love it. Oh, yes. It makes sense for me!
Glenn: Yeah, because I know that’s who you are, too, right? You’re the same. What people don’t really understand is, all we’re really looking for is ourselves. We’re looking for people who have the same values, beliefs, and integrity. We’re friction-free when we find people who are a lot like ourselves.
Glenn: So you’ll notice, whenever it moves into high trust, friendly, cooperative, willing to engage with you – whenever you move into that type of transaction, it moves very quickly, just because of the speed of trust, right?
Grant: Yeah. No, that sounds great. I think I’ve seen it on the cover of your book, The McQueenie Method, and it was something like “Just bring you.” And to me, that’s key. If you can’t be yourself in front of your clients, then they’re the wrong clients as far as I’m concerned.
Glenn: Right. I would also do the reconnect phone call, probably. It’s the two-question call. I would call everyone who’s bought a house from you in the last two years and ask, “How are you doing? How’s your home?” If you could call through all of those people, you’re going to probably reconnect with a lot of them. You could also set up some breakfast and lunch dates if you want – but more importantly – start targeting those really good clients. Have you ever done client events, Grant?
Glenn: So what would be one thing that a lot of your great clients would come to if you did it?
Grant: I don’t know. I’ve thought of this so many times and I’ve had so many (what I would consider) great ideas, but I’ve never executed on it. Most of my clients are in the same geographic area, and there is a place up on a lake, that’s a huge, massive cabin that is fully equipped for a big party. So I had the idea of getting a couple bouncy tents or whatever, and just having a great big barbeque and inviting all of my past clients and future – everybody who I could think of. And then have some of the top ones stay, if they wanted to spend the night, and just make it a big overnight event. But then I thought, maybe it’s not appropriate to do the overnight event. Anyway, that was just one idea that I had. I see people do the movie theatres and so on, but I really don’t know. I can’t decide what would be a good event to do.
Glenn: So the best way to decide is, I would go to your marketplace. When you’re doing
those two-question calls, the third question might be, “Hey, listen. I’m thinking about doing a client event just to thank you and get a whole bunch of people together for a party. What would you love to do if I could put this together?” And just poll them. They’ll tell you, “Hey, listen, why don’t we all go for dinner?” It could be, “Let’s bring in this band over here and we’d love to do this.” “You know what? It’d be really great to see everybody, and they could bring their friends and family, and you book a little restaurant and get a great little band or something in it.” There are so many great things, but I can’t tell you because I don’t know your clients, right?
Glenn: But polling is pretty cool, because they’ll tell you exactly what they want. And then I think the third thing is, you know those top clients? I would honestly think about doing something extra special for them. Your top clients, your Top 10 or 20 – they get like the Gold/Platinum level, and everyone else gets the Silver.
Glenn: So you have the “Top Referral Party” or something, and then you give out awards. Or give out awards for referrals in front of everybody. That would be awesome.
Glenn: That’d be so great. And then honestly, I would just get a piece of paper right now, and on one side of the page, just write “Stuff I like to do in real estate” and on the other side, “Stuff I don’t like to do in real estate.” And all the stuff you don’t really like to do, that doesn’t really give you energy – you circle that, and that becomes the job description for your admin assistant.
Grant: Right on.
Glenn: And then when you’re spreading the word out, and people start saying, “Well, what would they do?” you’ve already got 10 or 15 key tasks that are important. They’re just not as exciting for you. It’s more $15-$20 an hour labour than what you’re making right now.
Grant: Exactly. Yeah.
Glenn: If you could just imagine that in every week, you just exchanged 10 hours at $20 an hour, and got 10 hours at $50 or $100 or $150 an hour, then you’d probably see your income go up dramatically. And then you enter the leverage world of real estate.
Grant: Yeah. I like it, Glenn! You’re a genius!
Glenn: No I’m not! Listen, none of this is new. People have lived before me, but it’s more the focus of just running the 90-day sprint.
Glenn: And I think if you could hit that, and you’re coming into the holiday season when you do get to see a lot of those people – this is all building up your funnel as you come into January, February, and March. Instead of going, “Oh, I don’t know if I’ll hit my goal. I’ll just try to ride this year out, but I’m going to go after 2018” – when you just start your goal today, you go, “Wow! Good. I’ve got 12 months to hit this. This is awesome!” So grateful for all the deals and transactions I’ve done and all the people I’ve met this year, but over the next 12 months, I’m just determined to connect more with my clients, meet more and more great people, and just have a more fun, healthier life.
Grant: I’m in! I’m in.
Grant: A life by design!
Glenn: There you go! Alright Grant, thank you so much for joining me today. Do you have any final questions? Or are we okay?
Grant: No, we’re good. We’re good, Glenn. It’s been a pleasure, and thank you so much!
Glenn: Oh, my pleasure.
Grant: I really appreciate your time.
Glenn: Thank you, Grant. Take care! We’ll talk to you soon.
Grant: Okay. Bye bye!