Rick Culp, a 24-year real estate veteran from Denver, has previously talked with our team about his FSBO open house strategy.
But we also talked to Rick about how the industry has changed in the time he’s been in business and how he’s adapted.
Rick says that in today’s tech-driven society, relationships can be overlooked in the real estate buying and selling processes, but he strives to build those connections and keep up a consistent referral business.
Adapting to Changing Times
“Well obviously, contracts are being signed electronically now, so we're not doing the running around that we used to do. But that running around that we used to do to get those kinds of documents signed forced us to have face-to-face conversations with our clients and be in front of our clients. So what I'm seeing happen is that relationship is missing. With social media and everybody texting, a quick email, a phone call. We aren't developing maybe the relationship that we used to have.
“And so I think that, you know, I mentioned to you earlier, I'm a little bit old school in that way. And so I think that, I think that one of the things that would be beneficial to newer agents getting in the business is to remember that that one-on-one relationship, that face to face contact is very important.”
While most agents are primarily in the business to make money, Rick says putting too much emphasis on the payoff can prevent agents from being successful.
“One thing would be don't focus on the money. If you'll focus on the client, the money will take care of itself. I think a lot of agents, especially newer agents, are anxious. They had gone through real estate school, and they've gone through all this training and they haven't had a paycheck in several months.
“They quit their job and now they're just super anxious to generate some income and get some deals going. Just don't let that anxiety or that enthusiasm become obvious to your client that you're in it for a quick buck. The money will take care of itself and your clients will certainly appreciate that once they know that you care about them.”
Building Referral Business
Rick has managed to build up his business through consistent referrals, which he’s gotten over the years by building strong relationships with his clients.
“The typical consumer out here buys a house about once every five, seven, 10 years. You can't make it on that client. You've got to have a number of clients and referrals. And so that client ... can be a source of referrals for you and other business if they know that you really care about them in that way.”
“Just build a relationship. Have conversations. And when I tell agents a lot of times is when you start to feel that anxiety coming in, breathe, relax, and you'll be yourself, and you'll make a different connection and get the sale versus all about the money.”
But although he’s comfortable interacting with clients and building relationships now, he wasn’t always that way.
“I'll be honest, I came out of the corporate environment and I wore a suit and a tie and the white shirt a lot in my corporate environment, and I brought that attitude right into real estate. I used to wear a tie and a coat shirt.
“I remember showing up to pick some clients up on a Saturday one day with a shirt and a tie on. And my clients says, ‘Geez, Rick. It’s Saturday. Take your time. Relax a little bit.’ And I would encourage the agents to do the same. Relax. Enjoy the process. Get to know the people. You will see a huge difference in your business that way.
“I was pretty gung ho. I was aggressive, and I went after my clients and then once I got into it and started just remembering some of the corporate training that I've had — relax, take a deep breath, and be friends with these people and get to know them and ask them about their family and their kids.”
Putting People First
Rick says it’s tempting for agents to get right down to business when they arrive at a listing appointment, but he encourages people to control their sales instincts.
“I was raised on Ford — F O R D. That's Family, Occupation, Recreation and Dreams.
“So when you go into somebody's house and you're walking around, you see pictures of their family, you talk about their family. Everybody wants to talk about their family or their occupation. I'll see that they'll have some plaques on the wall, maybe some recommendations or some things that they've done, some certificates of achievement that they've accomplished. Recreation — you notice they've got some sports paraphernalia around the house, some skis. … Then dreams. Maybe you see a picture of a home. They've got a second home in the mountains or a vacation home on the beach. So everybody wants to talk about those items.”
Rick says that when you focus on the things people care about, talking about business later on becomes more natural.
“Remember those things when you're talking to people. If you can think about something as basic as that, that takes over the conversation. There's always time for the business, but get to know the people a little bit that way first.
“We talk about it with our friends. Why not talk about it with your clients? How could you not? It's called developing rapport. You have to develop rapport. That's so critical. And sometimes, I can remember going into somebody's house — once it was a For Sale by Owner — and I sat down on the couch and man, I just laid into them with everything I was going to do for them.
“And I saw the wife and I knew I lost her the first five minutes. I should have been slower, a little softer in my presentation, asked her a few more questions, gotten to know them a little better. And I was anxious, a little overaggressive. So essentially in our society today, everybody's being bombarded with spam. Everybody's getting just hammered with spam. And so people are a little anxious about you in general and real estate brokers.”
Rick didn’t realize when he first got into the real estate business the public perception a lot of people had about realtors. He makes an effort to show people he’s not just a salesperson, but someone who genuinely wants the best for his clients.
“At the very bottom of the list are car salesmen. One notch above them are attorneys, and one notch above them are real estate brokers.
“And I had no idea that the consumer's general thought of a broker was that way. But I don't think it's changed a whole lot. Because unfortunately in our industry, a lot of agents sometimes don't act professionally. You don't get the training they need and one bad apple can spoil the barrel. And so you get a few agents that just make mistakes and then all of a sudden that becomes the norm.”
Standing Out and Getting Reviews
He says reviews, especially on social media, play a large role in today’s real estate industry.
“Unfortunately, some of the sites out there, people only post a review if they're upset about something. So they post a negative review on someone. … That doesn't mean that in general that person or that company couldn't be outstanding. So we have to really, really be careful with social media out there and the chance that somebody could throw something out there online that could hurt or damage you.”
Rick works in a highly saturated market in Denver, with over 20,000 licensed agents.
“Right now you've got big teams that are doing pretty well. You've got discount brokers that are grabbing a portion of the market, and then we've got these other 20,000 brokers in our market trying to scramble over that piece of the pot.
“It's pretty crazy. So you've got to bring value to the table. The value is the big thing that I see now. You got to differentiate yourself from your competitor and show value that they may not be showing.
While Rick leans on his 24 years of experience to build rapport, he says new agents should focus on really understanding and getting to know their individual markets.
“The average broker will come in to a listing appointment or talk to a buyer and the consumer will say, ‘Well, how's the market?’
“You might say, ‘Oh, the market's good, and interest rates are pretty good.’ What they're really looking to say is in your specific neighborhood, the market went up 5.6% last year and the average days on the market in your neighborhood are such and the turnover rate in your neighborhood is such, and this is what I think will happen in your neighborhood. They want specifics. They're used to getting the same all generic answers. So that is one way to add value.”
Consulting Over Selling
Rick also says it’s important to take the role of a consultant and ensure your clients anything they share with you is shared in confidence.
“When I sit down with a buyer, when I sit down with a seller and say, Mr. and Mrs. Buyer, Mr. and Mrs. Seller, tell me anything that I need to know and I just want you to know it's held in the strictest of confidence. I am a consultant to you, and I'm an advocate to you and so you can disclose these things. I think sometimes the consumer is really afraid to tell us everything because they don't want us to know everything. But we need to know that the real key points to give them the best service that we can provide, the best service or the best loan program.
“So kind of falls back to, you're talking about trust and rapport and having those conversations that build that and it's so simple.”
Rick says when agents are dealing with clients facing foreclosure or experiencing other difficulties, building trust should be the top priority.
“That's a huge thing and getting clients to trust you. If they trust you, then they'll trust giving a referral to a friend of theirs.
“I've noticed that the referral process is not what it used to be. I used to get a lot more referrals than I do now. Maybe some of my clients think, ‘Oh well, Rick doesn't need the business. In reality, that's not true. I think people are concerned that if they give a referral and you don't do a good job, it's a reflection on them, and so they're skeptical about giving referrals. And then I think that, you know, the new consumer out there, the millennials especially like to go online and look at reviews.
Rick says to get referrals, agents have to ask for them.
“And there's a way you can do that in a nonthreatening way. Say, ‘Hey Joe and Mary. I really enjoyed working with you and just, I know that you'll be in this house for seven or 10 years and it's been a blast. But if you know anybody that's looking to buy or sell a home in the near future, would you just please think of me? I hope that you think enough about me and thought that I did a good enough job that you would refer those people to me.
“And what are they gonna say? No, probably not. They're going to say we will. And once you've asked them and they've told you that, then when somebody says, 'Yeah, we're thinking about selling our house,' and it's going to be hard for them not to think about you. And the fact that we told Rick we would give him a referral and we probably should mention him to these guys. If you don't think to ask for it, and that person mentions it to Joe and Mary, 'Hey, we're thinking about selling our house,' they may not feel the obligation to really come out and refer you, so you still have to ask for that referral."