“20 Minutes of Successful Niche Secrets – EPISODE 11”,
Where I Interview Linda Stevens
“PODCAST – EPISODE 11,” Where I coach Linda Stephens and help her to discover her Niche market!
Glenn: Hi there, everybody. Welcome to the 25-Minute Coaching Podcast. The whole goal of this podcast is to just take what we think are seemingly really complex challenges and obstacles in real estate, and really just break them down into little pieces. So we have a clear understanding of what the challenge and what the obstacle is, we’ve written a prescription, and then at the end of the call, you have a blueprint to go on and overcome that challenge, and just have an amazing real estate career. So today, I’m really excited. I’ve got Linda Stephens with me from Toronto. Hi, Linda!
Linda: Good morning, Glenn!
Glenn: How are you?
Linda: I’m fine, thank you. How are you?
Glenn: I’m great. So Linda, just tell me a little bit about you – how long you’ve been in the business for, where you work right now, and if there’s anyone who’s thinking about maybe referring people to Toronto, you can give your contact information. And then after that, we’ll just go through the challenge or obstacle that you’re facing.
Linda: Sounds terrific. Well I got into the business, Glenn, in 2009. I came out of a career as a law clerk, and I just wanted to change. I wanted to do a little bit better, and that was my whole goal. So I’m currently with Zolo Realty in Toronto. They’re a unique firm that focuses on Internet leads, and as my life experiences changed, they fit the bill nicely (I was caregiving for my mother who recently passed). Prospecting’s a big trouble for a lot of agents to find business, and with the Internet leads, it balanced it, so I had the flexibility to fill that caregiving role. And now I’m looking to rebuild my career and move onward to regaining where I once was, and my biggest challenge is to have a discussion today and take a look at where we go from here.
Glenn: Awesome. So what’s a number people can reach you at or an email address if they do have any other questions or thoughts? Or they can even give you some feedback on these calls. So where can they reach you at, Linda?
Linda: Well that would be great. My direct mobile number is 289-221-5999. My email is really easy. It’s firstname.lastname@example.org.
Glenn: Perfect. Okay. So let’s get down to it. So what’s the biggest challenge or obstacle facing you right now in your real estate career?
Linda: I have a tendency to be self-limiting, and so I have to work on my inner beliefs and my inner story to overcome that story of the glass ceiling. Many of us have come from other backgrounds and other careers, and lots of you want to do a little better as well. So if you were earning, let’s say, in the private sector, $30,000, $40,000, $50,000, whatever the number may be, you’re comfortable in that level. You’re comfortable in the lifestyle of what those earnings give you. As you transition in your career, when you start to go beyond that, and become a little bit more capable than you believed you were, your inner alarm bell sounds, like, “Mayday! Mayday! You’re making too much money!” And you start this self-sabotage, and maybe many people on the call can relate to that. And so we actually, even without realizing it, put that glass ceiling in place, and we need to find ways to have a mental toughness to break through that glass ceiling and to soar in our careers.
Glenn: Alright. Well I think a lot of people will go through that in their career. They’ll go, “I’ve only made $50,000 (or $400,000), and that’s enough money,” because they’ve already built their life and their world around that kind of money. And to me, what I found is, money is just really a store of energy for you. Your savings account, your equity in your house, your wealth is really just a store of energy so that you can last to a certain point in your life. And a lot of people, when they put that glass ceiling limiter on them, at the end of each year, they just have no more storage of energy left. So a lot of times, the issue here is really one of, “What’s the accelerator or magic button that will let you let your self-esteem catch up to your self-worth?” Because I know, personally, when I first got into real estate, my dad had never made more than $50,000, and I thought, “If I could just make $50,000, I’m going to be rich, and everything’s perfect and my life is great.” And so, I would get up to about $47,000, and then I would just stop working, and it was just this weird issue and ceiling that I put on myself, because I didn’t want to make more than my dad. The great news is that I got over it, because what I found was that it wasn’t really about me anymore and money. Because money is not just what it can do for you and for your own means – money is really a storage of energy that you can give away to others. And what I found is that if you said, “Hey, if I give you $10,000,000 right now and your house is paid off,” most people say, “Oh, I’d travel” and “I’d do these things.” And I say, “Okay. Once you’re finished your travel and everything else, how are you going to spend your time?” what most people will tell you is they’re usually going to be passionate about some type of cause.
Linda: Right. I’m glad you mentioned that.
Glenn: So what’s your cause? If you had $1,000,000 in the bank right now or $10,000,000 in the bank, and you had to fill your time, who would you serve?
Linda: My passion, Glenn, is working with seniors. Again, caregiving for my mother who passed away, I was surrounded. Most of my friends are seniors. I would pop in on their coffee circle. Holiday season, pop them in the car, take them around to see the lights. I just took a senior to apply for Christmas Assistance. I think we don’t realize that many of our seniors are living below the poverty line or on fixed incomes, and it absolutely broke my heart. I left the room to give this woman her privacy, but I overheard one part, asking the intake clerk, “Is there any chance that I could get something for my grandchildren?” And I just thought, “No senior should go through their life and be at the other end of the spectrum, and sitting there worrying, ‘Can I even give my grandchildren anything?’” So I participate in a lot of different points programs. I love the Shoppers Optimum Points Program, and they’ve got a Redemption Weekend coming up, and I’m going to use my bonus points to get gifts for her grandchildren to give to her that she can give to them. So I’m really passionate on helping seniors live with dignity, winter warmth, making sure that they have enough. Seniors are choosing between having enough to eat and paying their hydro bill. And it’s a growing crisis. It’s a hidden crisis, and I’d really like to get more involved and help some of our local seniors. I think we all have a little role to play in our communities, to go out and make others’ lives better.
Glenn: Right. Wow. That’s pretty amazing. And that’s the fuel that I think most agents need, because real estate isn’t who you are; it’s just what you do to create the abundant life that you want to live. And we do that by coming from contribution, and from helping our clients, and from keeping them safe through the real estate transaction, and protecting them from some other maybe not-so-good agents. And it becomes a mission on helping not only your clients, but also helping them at such a high level that they want to refer everybody they know to you. They know where your heart is. And I would really encourage you to start talking to your clients about why you do what you do, and even start marketing it back to your clients that, “My goal is to help 100 seniors this year buy Christmas presents for their kids.” And I think everyone can relate to that kind of stuff, because it’s the emotion that really makes you go into action about anything – it’s not the logic. Logic just makes you think and plan, but the emotion and the cause is really why you do what you want to do.
Linda: It’s the story, and sharing, and stories are selling. And I think you’re right. If you have a passion, the whole ideal is, “It’s not about the money.” And I don’t think we’d be surprised, if we look at top-producing agents, as you’re saying – they have a passion. If you’re in it just for the money, it’s the wrong reason. There has to be a bigger story behind there that lights your fire and gets you going and makes us go through what we do.
Glenn: Yeah, that’s right. So one of the ways to do it is you just start setting your bar. And I would encourage you and everyone who’s listening right now to start just setting the goal of doubling your income in the next 12 months, because it’s not really that difficult. I know in one of my coaching programs, we did a pilot where we had 75% of the participants double their income in 12 months. And we started with the “why” of why they’re doing this and what they’re passionate about. And some people aren’t. They’re like, “I’m just doing it for the money.” And I’m not in judgement about it, but it’s much easier to get up every day and have the energy to deal with all the stuff you do as a real estate agent. It’s the weirdest business in a way, because from the outside, it looks so easy, and from the inside, it’s the hardest business to try to explain to anyone else in the world.
Linda: Very true.
Glenn: So on that challenge, just start thinking about, “I want to double my income because I want to make a difference for seniors,” and that’s going to be your fuel that’s going to get you through all of the obstacles. And so, how you do that is, I would really encourage you to start focusing on, “What area of the marketplace do you want to be a hero to? Who do you want to help? Who do you want to serve?” Because the challenge is, most agents right now are trying to serve everybody, and there are just too many agents, frankly. There’s 42,000 agents just in Toronto, and I was just reviewing some stats the other day that said that the average agent’s losing 21% of their client base every year just because their favourite client’s daughter’s boyfriend got their real estate license. They’re just getting pecked away on that. And the moment you live in that world of trying to be everything to everybody is when you end up being nothing to nobody. So I’d really encourage you to start focusing on a niche market that you just want to be a hero to.
Glenn: So who’s your dream-come-true client? Who’s your client that if you could just wake up every morning, and at 10 a.m., you had an appointment with this person, and at 1:00, you had an appointment with this person, and at 4:00 with this person, and they were the people you loved working with, who would they be?
Linda: I would say they would be a move-up buyer – your people that are going from a townhome and stretching into a family home and creating possibilities, and that those possibilities can happen for them. The excitement that you get and the excitement in their eyes, like, “Yes! This is what we had in mind!” 97% of people have a problem making a decision. They’re fear-based, and they’re trapped in their own fear. And when they light up and realize it is possible, it’s very exciting.
Glenn: So what’s keeping them up at night? What’s the biggest fear right now to your target market? Because you can address your marketing and your prospecting to the unique conversation that’s going on in their head. If someone has got two kids, and one’s two years old and one’s four years old, I will guarantee you the biggest thing they’re ever thinking about right now is to get into an area with great schools.
Glenn: If it’s a senior who’s trying to decide when to sell, that’s a completely different conversation, because they’re like, “I know I should sell. My kids are telling me I should sell. But I feel comfortable here, and I don’t know what to do. It feels uncomfortable going to try to find out what to do and I can’t make a decision.” So there’s a complete unique language for every single target market that you’re going to be dealing with.
Linda: Right. Well I think the biggest fear of the people I’m trying to target in our area is simply the housing costs. Many areas have gone up so much that we actually have some areas of townhomes that are more expensive than the detached homes. So in their mind, they have this ideal: “Well, we started here. Now it’s time to move up into a family home,” and they just don’t see the possibilities, because they don’t realize that there are certain pockets where they could afford a detached home. If you sold in the 600s for a townhome, but in the older part of town, there are some detached bungalows, great lots, selling for 550, they actually could be in an equity position. But they don’t believe that, because they just think, “Well, if we’re moving up, it must cost more.” So getting beyond their internal beliefs to see the possibilities, I would say, is one of the aspects.
Glenn: Right. So if you were to write a post on Facebook talking about a list of the Top 10 Best Detached Homes between $500,000 and $650,000 in great school areas, easy access to the 401, (and it’s the hidden list that nobody really knows about) – that’s a great offer to give somebody. Because the only people who will respond to that offer are people who are looking for exactly what you’re offering. Does that make sense?
Linda: Yes, it does.
Glenn: So you could even do the same thing on Craigslist and Kijiji, and you could write ads that said, “Would you like a list of the Top 10 Best Homes for Families in Toronto between $550,000 and $650,000?” or “$600,000 and $700,000?” Because the only people who will ever respond to that ad, are the people who want it. And what most agents do is broad marketing all the time: “Hey, free CMA! Thinking about buying or selling? Give me a call.” And it’s just so ridiculous, because you’re expecting them to respond, and you’re trying to hit a wide market. Where really, the secret to your success is going to be, “How can we move this family from here over to here?” So is there a townhouse development where you know a lot of those people are in right now? And if you do, where do those people mostly go?
Linda: They usually go very close – within 3 kilometres or 5 kilometres of where they currently are. I find people don’t even want to jump the barrier. Where I am, (this is a Newmarket-Aurora neighbourhood), and a lot of people won’t want to leave Aurora to go to Newmarket; Newmarket doesn’t want to come south to Aurora. It’s funny that they want to stay. Again, it’s a comfort zone for them: they know the school, they know the shops, and they know the area. They know they want to move, but they want to stay surprisingly reasonably within the proximity. We’re also, in another area called Bayview Wellington over here, seeing a push with influx of great demand of buyers coming in, and those buyers are actually looking a little bit north, outside of the area. So there actually is, now that I think of it, a little bit of both. You just have to figure out, “Which group do you want to work with?”
Glenn: Exactly. And the one way you could do it is you could print off all of the sales of, let’s say, townhouses on the northeast corner of Bayview and Wellington, and you could look at all of the sellers’ names. And then you could put the sellers’ names back into Canada 411, and that will tell you where they moved to. And then what you start to figure out is what we call “complementary geographic neighbourhoods,” where we know that 40% of these people, on average, are going to move other there. So then we can start marketing on both sides. If we know they’re going to Stonehaven, or if we know they’re in Newmarket and they’re going west of Yonge, like up on the area around DoubleTree – if you know that’s where they’re going, then we can market back to them. “Here’s a free list of the Top 10 Homes in the area that you’re going to.” And you actually start marketing them and dropping them off in the mailboxes of all the people who have the townhouses. So what you’re actually doing is just giving them exactly what they want, but it appears absolutely random to them in their mailbox, because everyone else in their mailbox is putting, “Just listed! Just sold! Beauty glamour shot of me on my phone in a race car” – that type of marketing. And if you ever watch – and you probably do it in your own house – you actually pick up the stuff from your mailbox, and you walk right over to the blue box and throw it out, because it doesn’t speak to you.
Linda: There’s nothing in it for them, and the public wants what’s in it for them.
Glenn: That’s right. So, the secret is, make it so irresistible, (what you’re offering), that it’s impossible for them not to take you up on your offer. And you have to put, “Free lists of the Top 10 Homes. No cost. No obligation. By email.” And that’s the first contact. So you’re marketing what they want. And if someone sends you an email and says, “Hey, I’d like the free list,” then the moment they do that is the moment, by email, you can go right into a Buyer Consultation, and then you just ask them the four questions. And the four questions are: “What does the perfect home look like? What is the perfect area? What’s your perfect time frame? And what’s your perfect price?” And then based on that, you’ll know exactly the Top 10 Homes to send them, because you can just pull them up on the computer.
Linda: And that gets them thinking.
Glenn: And that gets them thinking. And you start sending that to them, and you offer to bring them out on a tour of those 7-10 homes, and you say stuff like, “You’re not allowed to buy a home that day. We’re just going out to take a look to see if your money and expectations are at the right level.” And it’s just friction-free real estate. You’ll find that people will actually go out, because the mistake most agents make is they put up barriers all the time. They say, “I don’t work with anyone until they do a Buyer Consultation with me. I don’t work with anyone until they sign a Buyer Agency Agreement with me,” and that’s putting the onus and the risk on the consumer. And that’s the challenge that agents have, because frankly, if I’m a consumer, I don’t want to sign a Buyer Agency. I just met you, and now I’m obligated to you for six months. So make it so easy for me to do business with you that I’m just going to go out on the tour. And when you’re on the tour is actually when you start building the relationship. And then at the end of the tour, you can say, “Why don’t we just stop off at Tim Hortons or a coffee shop for 20 minutes, and we’ll just recap what’s going on on the tour. I want to know if your money and expectations are at the same level. And that’s it! We’re done for the day.” And what I find is that breakthrough marketing of, “Just make it so easy for people to do business with you” has just been lost in the real estate industry right now.
Linda: Absolutely. It’s a race to the bottom. Unfortunately we have become an industry, (you mentioned on the marketing), that’s too much, “Free this!” and “Free that!” What are we doing to ourselves? We can’t live for free, but we can turn it around to make it more about the consumer. And you’re right, that has been lost.
Glenn: It has, because a lot of the real estate training lately has been, (and I think it’s honestly from the ‘80s), it’s a duel: “When they say this script, you say this script.” And then you out-duel them and you conquer them, and I think that’s just ridiculous. Why don’t you just show up the same way as if they were your best friend, and your best friend said, “Hey Linda. I want to buy a house from you today,” or “I’m thinking about buying a house,” or “We’re thinking about selling.” You’re not going to go over with a 48-page PowerPoint. You’re not going to go and do a full Buyer Consultation. In fact, you’re probably just going to go and talk about nothing for the first 20 minutes as you build rapport, and then you’re going to get onto that topic of real estate. And the more, I think, we can do that, and the more agents can do that – that’s what the consumer wants right now. The consumer doesn’t need the pressure.
Linda: They’ll feel more comfortable. That’s right.
Glenn: Exactly. So does that give you an idea? It’s almost like an easier lead conversion strategy, too, because now you’re just giving them more offers all the time, without obligation.
Linda: I like it. I like the casual approach, instead of, “Oh boy, going to meet the fist today. I’ve got to get that buyer rep.” And you walk away feeling like you’ve failed if you haven’t got it. Or you’re from a position of fear: “If I don’t sign them today, someone else is going to.” There are some clients we would be glad if they signed with somebody else at the end of the day, but if we go from a position of giving, I think that’s a much better approach. It’s a much better feeling.
Glenn: Yeah. And will people take advantage of you? Of course they will. But you know what? That’s life. So what if you just showed up, and you said, “I’m going to do that for the next 10 people.” And so what if two or three people took advantage of you, but you converted the next seven. Who cares? It doesn’t matter, because at the end of the day, as a realtor, I want to be able to go home and just say, “I did my best today.” And I can’t control what any of the consumers are going to do out there. All I can do is show up, be professional, be prepared, give them everything they’re looking for, and let them make the decision on what they want to do.
Linda: Absolutely. I think that’s great. I was at a hockey arena last night, and it’s one of those things – any kid who goes up and takes 10 shots on goal – they might get two of them. They might get three of them. And we’re so focused on the seven we didn’t get. We need to focus on the three that we do get.
Glenn: That’s right. That’s the whole conversation about, “Do you live in the gap of what you didn’t get? Or do you live in the gain of what you got?” And I love when people will double their income, (or some people get to 80% of doubling their income,) and they focus on the 20% that they didn’t get instead of realizing that their income’s gone up 80% in the last 12 months.
Linda: That’s phenomenal.
Glenn: And the more you can just live in that world of, “Listen. I’m here to serve you and help you,” is the moment you stand apart from almost all of the other realtors out there, because they learn ‘ABC: Always be closing.’ “If I show people five homes and they don’t buy, they’re gone.” And I’m like, “You know what? That’s old school, and it’s also what we call short money, compared to long money. Short money is, “I’ve got to conquer these people or they’ll buy from someone else.” Long money is, “You know, only 15% of the people I meet today are going to do something in 90 days anyway, and 85% are going to do something in the next 3-9 months, so why don’t I just keep serving them and build equity in my business and stop pushing them? And eventually, when they’re ready, they’re going to use you.
Linda: Because they’ll remember that that was the pleasant feeling. They didn’t feel like they were being dragged to the vet. They felt like, “Hey, this person got me. They understood. They listened. They cared.”
Glenn: That’s right. So here’s the blueprint that you can, if you’re open to it, work with. So what I would do is I would go and find the townhouse complexes in Aurora or Newmarket, (wherever you want to work), that have the highest turnover rate. And I’ll give you a hint: it’s going to be the ones that are five years old or younger, because 80% of first-time buyers will sell within five years. And the beautiful thing about going after that market is, they all bought from the builder, usually. And I’ve never met anyone who had a great experience dealing with a builder – so they don’t have an agent, and they had a terrible experience with the builder. And you could even door-knock and say, “Hey, listen. I work in the area and I find a lot of people in townhouses right now are thinking, “Should I finish my basement? (because a lot of them were built with unfinished basements). Should I update my kitchen? Or should I move to a bigger home? And if you want to renovate your kitchen or basement – fantastic. I’ve got some great renovators I’d love to send to you. I don’t get any referral fees. I just work in the area. I’d love to help you. And if you’re thinking about going to a bigger home, then what I can offer you is a free list of the Top 10 Best Homes in that area.” And just make it so ridiculously simple for someone to do business with you. And then you start looking. “Okay, those are my townhouses.” The turnover rate in townhouses is 22% a year, compared to detached homes in Aurora and Newmarket, which will be maybe 3% or 4%.
Linda: Right. Okay.
Glenn: Yet, if you look at where all the agents are spending, all of their marketing flyers, they go to the detached homes. So here’s your way that you can break into a market: you can go and dominate the townhouse market. If someone sells their house for – what is it? 600? How much is the average townhouse now?
Linda: Yeah. 550 or 600.
Glenn: Okay. They’re probably going to move up to about 850 or 900, right?
Glenn: Yeah. Most people will upgrade 50%. Or they might move somewhere else and go to Holland Landing or Innisfil or some of those other areas and do more of a lateral move. But if you think about it, for every transaction where they were going to sell 600, buy 900, that’s 1.5 million in volume that you’re doing. So if you calculate your commission on that, how many of those do you really have to do in any given year in order to double your income?
Linda: Not a lot.
Glenn: Right. And that’s the whole focus of dominating into a niche market where you can actually just go, “I’m going to go and take this market. No one else is focusing on it because they’re trying to do a detached here and a rental there and a townhouse here, and I’m just going to dominate it.” And you can take that market. You can run it, and you just become the person. And the great thing is that people moving from their townhouses up to detached homes are usually in their 30s, and they’ve got a couple kids, and they’re about to move. They’re either going to stay there for five or seven years, or when they get to their 40s and things are going really well, they’re about to move into their luxury home. So now you can almost complete the whole circuit. You could almost build a division in your business of rentals into Newmarket/Aurora, or buying first townhouses in Newmarket/Aurora, and then moving to the second home, and then moving to the luxury home. And eventually, when they become older and their kids have moved out, they’re going to start moving to the golf course communities, or to condos downtown, or wherever they’re going to go.
Glenn: So now you have the whole sequence of events, and you can just go, “Okay. Here’s my market right now. I just want the townhouse moving to the detached.”
Linda: Okay. Great.
Glenn: Does that make sense?
Linda: It certainly does.
Glenn: Yeah. So what are your thoughts about that? Does that excite you? What are you thinking?
Linda: Well it’s funny, because the whole plan looks great. I do want to move outside of Newmarket/Aurora, and the only reason I say that is, we have such a saturation. Newmarket/Aurora/Richmond Hill – it’s like the Bay Street for lawyers. Everybody wants to be on Bay Street. So we get a lot of complaints from consumers, mainly because, as you’re touching on, they’re not being served. It’s all, “Me Me Me Me Me,” and the glossies and whatever, and they’re tired of getting five or six marketing pieces. They don’t want you to call them on the phone. They don’t want you to knock at their door. And so, Bayview Wellington, moving out. Where I’d like to be is that northern horseshoe area where it’s just out. It’s a comfortable price point. So I know where they’re going to, but I think I now have a way to still have an anchor at the other end for the people who are making that move outward. So it gives me a little bit of clarity on which direction I’m going.
Glenn: Yeah. And that’s cool. And now you’re going to be set up for next year where you can just sit there and go, “Here’s where I’m going.” And then you might find that as you’re doing it, you’re like, “I love this!” And then you can start even building your team around it, because there’s going to be people moving from all different areas. Some people stay in Aurora; some people move out. And you can start building a referral business out. If you really think big about this, you can duplicate that team, because there’s someone in Whitby or Oshawa who’s going through the same thing. There’s someone in Brampton going through the same thing. There’s someone in Oakville or Burlington. So you can actually start to duplicate the team that you’re doing.
Glenn: And then with all that extra money, you can start helping thousands of seniors every year.
Linda: That would be very exciting.
Glenn: Sound fun?
Glenn: Cool. Okay. So Linda, thanks for this call. I’m just going to end the recording right now. Just stay on the line though, okay? Thanks a million. I really appreciate everything you did.
Linda: Thanks so much.