Prudential Douglas Elliman

As a former state champion swimmer, She brings endurance, determination, and focus to hard-to-close transactions.

Staiano has done everything right—educating herself about New York and its diverse boroughs, building a large database, and using Web sites, virtual tours, and e-mail to market herself and her listings—in her quest to be the next Dolly Lenz of real estate. But one unusual key to her success, she says, is the full year she spent training dogs to serve disabled children. "The training strengthened my listening skills," she says, "and refined my ability to pick up on nonverbal cues." Her advice: Listen twice as much as you talk.