There may not have been an official NASA countdown or huge crowds to witness her fiery launch, but Sheila McGraw, RealEstate.com’s Pro of the Week, entered the real estate business “like a rocket. I did everything and anything to get a client in my car!”
New agents take heed because that drive, those clients in her car, propelled her to Rookie of the Year status and over $150,000 in commissions in her first year in the business.
McGraw is no less busy today, easily maintaining her status in John L. Scott’s President Elite club, handling 40 to 50 sides per year and earnings above $200,000 annually.
A California native, McGraw grew up in Sitka, Alaska where her grandparents were involved in the construction and real estate industries and three of her uncles had successful careers as developers. Although she attended the University of Alaska, graduating with a degree in business, with all that familial real estate in her blood there was no way she was going to escape the industry’s tentacles.
It was 1995 when the McGraw rocket officially landed among the ranks of the real estate agent. It took working 16 hours a day to build a business worthy of garnering the title of Rookie of the Year.
Unlike many rookies, however, McGraw knew that she would hit a plateau financially if she didn’t hire an assistant, so that task was checked off the list shortly after her first year. The relief from the myriad administrative duties inherent in any real estate business set her free to, as she puts it, “get warm butts in the seat” beside her and add to her success. Today, her office is home to one assistant, a transaction and listing coordinator, a marketing director and two buyer’s agents.
When asked about the qualities she looks for when hiring staff members she said she “hires on attitude first, knowledge of the position second and I like to hire people that have been athletes; they seem to be more aggressive and know how to win.”
McGraw believes strongly in the value of continued education, and for the past 15 years has adhered to the discipline and accountability principles of Tom Ferry and Brian Buffini. In fact, despite the old adage that those that can, do, and those that can’t, teach, Sheila does both.
“I am certified Business Coach and Mentor by Buffini and Company and by Tom Ferry Your Coach and have coached as many as 40 agents at a time. I strongly believe in coaching and encourage everyone to participate.”
Looking at the designations behind McGraw’s name on her business card, it’s easy to see the value she places on continued education: Not only is she a certified coach and mentor and managing broker with Bellevue Washington’s John L. Scott, she holds the CRS, CRB, CDPE, CNE and E-Pro designations.
It’s common for new agents, once set free from their broker’s training program, to flail about, seeking the magic path to the wild success of their more experienced peers. One of the best ways to do this is through mentorship. Since this practice hasn’t really caught on in the real estate business as it has in other arenas, the next best way to learn to be successful is to model oneself after someone who has achieved the level of success one aspires to.
With that in mind, I asked McGraw what advice she would offer a new agent. “Persistent and consistent behavior,” such as “time blocking three hours of lead generation every morning, four days per week and you will live the life you want.”
Lead generation is that necessary evil in every real estate business. We all know that we need to keep the pipeline full at all times, so a consistent schedule of popping future clients into one end of the pipe is the only way we’ll see any pop out the other end.
While time-honored lead generation techniques such as cold calling and door knocking have somewhat fallen by the wayside, don’t put that phone in the desk drawer just yet.
McGraw burns hers up four mornings a week, calling her sphere, writing notes to former clients to keep the referrals rolling in and, surprisingly, relying on some of the old-school methods: “door knocking, newsletters and floor duty.” Her goal during her morning ritual is to network and “call, call, call, touch as many people as possible.”
Referrals are the holy grail of the lead generation process. Studies have shown that it can take up to 10 years to begin receiving your first referred clients, and we all know it requires nurturing each client, following up with them over the years and keeping our names top of mind so that when the subject of real estate comes up, our name is right there.
McGraw has done a masterful job at building a referral base and, while her referral business has been as high as 93 percent in some years, she figures that about 65 to 75 percent of her business is via referral. “I really put a lot of time and energy into working by referral, warm leads are nicer and you build both trust and a relationship more quickly.”
So what does this rocket-fuel propelled dynamo do to relax? A glass of red wine is a must, but she also adores sunshine, so you’ll most likely find her outdoors enjoying the beach and water, or maybe on the local golf course. She enjoys spending time with her adult children and especially values time spent with “Jordi and Payton, the two cutest Shih Tzus ever.”