You will be corrected if you mispronounce Monroe, birthplace of Robert Russell, this week’s Real Estate Pro of the Week. This genial Louisiana native and Texas transplant will give you plenty of opportunities to get it right though.
Robert came to the world of real estate after a successful stint in the insurance business. “I owned an insurance agency and I was in the top 1 percent of agents. I decided I’d gone about as far as I could in my town, so decided to open a second office in Texas.”
Robert enjoyed selling insurance until he met a real estate agent. “We were selling our house and I kept thinking about what little work I thought the agent did for the money she was making. One day I called my wife and said ‘Honey, guess what I did today? I enrolled in real estate school!’”
After successfully passing the Texas Real Estate Commission’s real estate salesperson license exam, he converted his brick and mortar insurance business to an online concern. Unlike many new agents who can barely afford their MLS dues, Robert had the income from the insurance business to pay for his fees, lockboxes, signs and all the other financial outlays involved in starting a real estate business.
During the recession, Robert’s productivity fell to 70 sides a year. He notes that right now the Dallas area is experiencing the best real estate turnaround they’ve seen in the last five years. Productivity is up and he figures he closes about 125 sides a year.
Robert’s business is equally split between referrals and FSBOs. Robert’s staff consists of many partnering agents in several states and countries, one virtual transaction coordinator and a real estate attorney who acts as the sponsoring broker for Robert J. Russell Real Estate, LLC.
When asked what advice he would offer the new agent or one who is hoping to rejuvenate a sagging career, Robert wasted no time and minced no words:
“Get a good contact management database. Don’t take any shortcuts, learn everything you can about it – how it works and what it can do for you. That database will be the one thing that’s gonna make you a lot of money in the future. Then, don’t be afraid to make phone calls.”
Like you, I groaned at that last one. “Listen,” says Robert, “The things that will make you successful in real estate are the things you hate doing the most. If you’re not making 100 cold calls a day, you shouldn’t be in real estate. Reach out to a minimum of 100 people a day.”
Robert relies heavily on his IRES (International Real Estate Society) designation. “Having the IRES certification has opened doors for me all over the world.” Those referrals he mentioned earlier? Although some are from past clients, most are from the referrals he sends to agents all across the globe.
While those referrals constitute half of his annual income, the other half comes from his ability to sway those stubborn FSBO folks into listing with him instead of going it alone. He’s developed a FSBO listing system over the years that many try to copy.
“When I first started doing FSBO twelve years ago, I thought the homeowners were less educated and trying to sell their houses alone because they didn’t know any better. What I’ve found out is that they’re actually really smart and most are, like me, Type A personalities. I found out quickly that they are selling the home themselves because they think they can’t afford to hire an agent.”
His pitch to FSBOs includes “nothing but questions. My first question is, ‘Do you think your house is overpriced or underpriced?’ Ninety percent of the time they say overpriced. Then I ask them Dr. Phil’s famous question: ‘And how’s that working for you?’”
Technology plays a large role in Robert’s success. He is a social media expert (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Foursquare, etc.) and speaks to companies around the Dallas metro area on social media strategies to increase business.
Asked about the types of strategies he teaches, Robert shared that “When you do Facebook, 80 percent of your personal page should be personal and only 20 percent business. It’s the opposite for a fan page – most of that page should be devoted to your business. What kills me is agents that plaster listings and stuff on their personal pages. Clients want to see that you’re a real person, so save the business stuff for your fan page.”
Robert believes that learning about real estate and listing and sales strategies shouldn’t stop after your broker’s training program. Although he doesn’t officially subscribe to any of the top real estate training programs, he does subscribe to their YouTube channels and to those of all the large real estate companies. “When Coldwell Banker or Keller Williams comes out with a new training program, they post videos to YouTube and I get free training!”
When he’s not converting FSBOs or communicating with agents in far-flung reaches of the world, Robert enjoys his speaking gigs, his Saturday morning radio show and his volunteer work with I am Second, an inspirational movement. Weekends, however, are devoted to his 13-year-old son who is ranked ninth on the list of U.S. swimmers. “I’m at swimming meets every weekend and also enjoy date nights with my wife.”
Robert’s overall aim is to stand out from other Dallas agents. To that end, he uses a caricature instead of a photo of himself and it’s become his trademark, of sorts. “I plaster it everywhere and on everything I can.” His wife was afraid that clients wouldn’t take him seriously but “they love it,” replies Robert, “it shows my sense of humor and makes me more approachable.”
The two mistakes Robert sees most frequently in the real estate business include agents who don’t grab leads when they’re presented. “Website leads, such as e-mails, need to be responded to within four minutes. That’s all the time you get before you lose the lead.”
The other is the cookie-cutter mentality of most agents in the business – their fear of being different and trying new ideas. “Your old ideas don’t scare me. What scares me is your inability to think up new ideas.”