Sharing Knowledge: Learn From Life’s Journey

People care when you go the extra mile and use a personal touch. Find out how one Chicago-area broker-owner took important life lessons and applied them to his business.
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Broker-owners who’ve been in the real estate business for decades have amassed valuable experiences and insights. In this miniseries, “Sharing Knowledge,” brokers reflect on their careers and offer their best tips to help newer real estate professionals survive and thrive in this ever-changing industry.

In 1984, then 24-year-old Paul Wells, e-PRO®, SFR, decided to take a trip around the world. He funded his adventure by selling the first home he had purchased at the age of 22. “I learned to say yes, no, please, and thank you in 20 different languages. It got me everything I needed,” says Wells, who’s now broker-owner of RE/MAX NOW, in Lake Barrington, Ill., and RE/MAX, Barrington, Ill., both northern suburbs of Chicago.

The three-month trek that took him to 30 countries did more than fulfill a dream; it also taught Wells valuable life lessons that helped shape his real estate career—including the importance engaging with people as he did when he spoke to folks in their native languages on his journey.

“I learned a lot about the world, but I truly learned more about myself,” he says, reminiscing about solitary moments on his journey, such as walking down a country road in Italy for miles with just his pack on his back and the beauty of the Italian landscape all around him. Experiences like that made him realize that money isn’t necessary to find happiness.

“Money isn’t key for me. I’m not a rich man,” Wells says. “I like to make a difference, and many of the relationships I’ve made in this business are forever.”

Since starting his real estate career in 1987, Wells has realized that what clients want doesn’t change with age or time. Every generation wants a personal touch when it comes to buying or selling real estate, he says, even if they don’t admit it—and he tries to convey that to his 41 agents. “People crave it. They specifically want to be told ‘thank you.’ It’s two of the most underused words [in business],” he says.

Wells has more advice for agents new to the business on how to give clients the personal attention they want and deserve.

Make statistics meaningful. You and your agents need to go further than telling potential clients that it’s a seller’s market. Explain the real estate statistics so that it mean something to your potential clients’ lives, Wells says. A thoughtful hyperlocal market analysis that includes pending sales and recently sold properties is a good start when working with sellers. Boil it down to the subdivision where they live. Then put the numbers in the context of their goals.

Reach out in passive and active ways. “We tell our agents if they aren’t touching their clients once a month, they will forget about you,” Wells says. His passive methods include social media likes, comments, and messages, as well as emails and direct mailings. Facebook and other online platforms are a great, easy ways to keep tabs on your past clients’ lives, he says, but don’t let that be all you do to keep in contact. Make sure you’re doing active outreach, such as meeting with past clients over lunch or coffee, inviting people from your sphere to a special event, or just picking up the phone to talk.

Call five people per day. Wells is a big fan of reaching out over the phone, and the conversation doesn’t necessarily have to be about listing a person’s house at that moment. “Only about 6 percent of the people on my database will sell their house this year or be looking for a house,” Wells says. “But I will become a source to recommend to their friends and family.” He recommends that his agents time-block one hour each day to call people in their sphere to check in.

Keep business cards with you at all times. It may sound simple, but you never know when you’re going to meet someone new. Always be prepared. “Everyone knows someone who is going to be looking for a house or selling a house,” Wells says.

Only work with people you like. Life is short, and you’re not going to get along with everyone, Wells says. You don’t need the stress of working with people who make things difficult or cause you to feel uncomfortable. These type of clients take up too much of your energy, he says, so stay focused on meaningful relationships.

Host thoughtful open houses. Wells’ agents hold four open houses a month, and they put out a sign-up sheet asking visitors to rate their likelihood of buying a home. “It can be a gold mine because buyers walk in who aren’t working with an agent,” he says. But he warns his agents not to waste their time rushing those buyer leads who aren’t ready to purchase. Step up your game for the buyers who show signs of urgency, he says, and take the long view with those who want to buy down the road by keeping in touch. “Make sure they know you are the person they can depend on, that you are their trusted source,” Wells says. “It also shows that you care.”

If you're a broker-owner interested in being featured in the "Sharing Knowledge" series, email writer Lee Nelson.