#219 Mail-Right Show With Special Guest D.J. Paris

We Discuss What D.J. Has Learned After Interviewing Over 100 Top 1% Producers in Chicago

D.J. talks about what he has learned after interviewing over 100 top 1% producers in Chicago for our podcast Keeping It Real. Also, he talks about how his firm, went from 0 agents/brokers to 650 in just about 8 years.

D.J. Paris is the host of Keeping It Real Podcast, one of the largest podcasts for real estate brokers in the country where he interviews the top 1% producers to find out how they grew their business. Please visit keepingitrealpod.com to listen and subscribe. D.J. is also President of Sales and Marketing for Kale Realty in Chicago and spends his time creating marketing campaigns to attract brokers to join their company. In the past eight years, they’ve grown from 0 brokers to 650 brokers. D.J. also serves on boards related to branding and customer experience and regularly speaks at conferences about what he’s learned from 20 years in marketing. His most important values are authenticity, empathy, and humor – which he also believes are the key to any successful marketing effort.

Jonathon: Welcome back folks, to the Mail-Right Show. This is episode 219, unfortunately, my co-host is not with us, he must be still in party mode coming back from his holiday, but we got a great special guest. I got DJ Byers with us. He runs a really popular podcast as well. He agreed to come on the show. I’m really looking forward to the interview. So DJ, can you give us a quick intro?

DJ: Yeah, happy to. So thanks for having me on your show. I also run a podcast called Keeping It Real, which is a really dumb name and I wish I hadn’t have chosen it because now I’m stuck with it, but it’s become quite popular. So I guess I can’t change it. So for everyone who’s listening or watching, here’s what keeping it real podcast is. And every time that name I have to say it, I just cringe. So forgive the name, but what we do on the show is we interview the top 1% producers. So initially it started out here in I’m in Chicago. I was saying it’s a bombing 30 degrees here, so it’s pretty rough everything’s iced over at the moment. But we started it locally here in Chicago. We have 45,000 realtors in the Chicago land area.

And I thought, wouldn’t it be interesting to talk to the top 1%? So that would be the top 450 and ask them how they grew their business. What success secrets they have, what strategies they’re using, what mistakes they’ve made, and to share that with the audience, and really it was just; we thought a nice way to give back. So we have a real estate firm ourselves called Kale Realty, and we have 650 realtors. And initially, my thought was, well, this would be a nice thing to do just even for our own realtors. And then I thought, well, that’s silly, why don’t I expand it and make it available for anyone that wants to listen? So we, of course, made it available to all the brokers in Chicago and of course, all the brokers nationwide. And I say brokers because in Illinois we only have brokers, so I’ll say realtor instead, but there are hundreds of thousands of realtors.

And we said, well, gosh, this is silly. Why are we only talking to the top 1% realtors in Chicago? We now have expanded it to the entire country, of course, the world too. And basically what we do every week is we talked to a top producer and ask them how they built their business. And our podcast is available on iTunes, Google Play, Stitcher, of course anywhere you find podcasts, but you can also go to keepingitrealpod.com and we have got about 119 episodes I believe. And we’d come out with a couple every week, so that’s what we do.

Jonathon: Fantastic, well, let’s start this way. In coming to the end of 2019 DJ, what have been some of the major topics trends that you notice repeatedly coming up, talking to brokers, and agents for your own podcast during this year?

DJ: Yes, that’s a great question. So what we tend to hear, so it’s funny, at the firm I work at. So my day job is I do recruiting for our firm. So we have about 650 brokers at our own firm. And then, of course, I do the podcast where I talk to top producers from all over the country. And I get a lot of feedback about this but me, myself, I am not out there producing, so I am only going to be able to relay what I hear, which is good because it doesn’t go through the filter of my own experience and I can just give you guys good information. This seems to be this time of the year, every year seems to be a time of reflection and also prepping for the New Year. Things slow down, obviously, home sales are in decline and not in a negative way, but just because of the time of the year with the holidays.

So this is a time where people work on their business plans and really try to figure out how can we make 2020 the best possible year. What I always go back to, and it seems to be what our guests on the podcast always go back to is fundamentals. So I’m just going to give you a really good example or I think a good example of something I heard once, one of our guests mentioned. And I thought this was a funny thing to say and it almost was so simple. It was easily dismissible but it was such a great piece of advice that I love to share it with your audience. So I talked to one of the top producing teams in Chicago who have been top 1% producers for over 10 years. And not only are these guys top 1% producers; it’s two guys, they’re a team they’re also actively involved in their local associations.

They’re presidents of various boards and they’re really out there and committed and they’re super busy. And I said to the person I interviewed, his name was Josh. I said, hey Josh, what are your goals for next year? Because we were interviewing Josh around this time of the year a couple of years ago. I said, hey, looking forward to next year. What? What? What are your production goals? And he laughed and he goes, oh, we don’t think like that. And I said, well, what do you mean you don’t think like that? What are the numbers you’re trying to hit? Now, this is when I was real early on the podcast. And I just thought that would be a good question. I no longer ask that question because of Josh’s answered. He goes, oh yes, we don’t think about how much business we want to do. I said, well, how do you set goals for your production for next year?

And he said, his partner’s name is Tommy. And he goes, we only have one goal. If Tommy meets 365 new people over the next year, we will hit all of our production goals, right? So thought, what a wonderful, great reminder to everyone who’s out there who’s a realtor to remember. The goal is to add people to your contact list, right? Of course, to maintain contact for those people once they’re on your contact list. But to never forget, the fundamental exercise is to increase the size of your network, because we all know your network is your net worth. So I consistently hear that from the people I interview is, how do we keep adding people to the network? So that’s was just one thing that came to mind.

Jonathon: [Inaudible 06:34] I hate that term production. Something that grips through me when people in this industry use that it sounds like we are in a coal production or product production. The way I see this and I just wanted to get your feedback; we’re there to provide a service.

DJ: Correct.

Jonathon: I’m not an active real estate agent or a broker. I run a technology company that helps the industry, but I have the same attitude. And if I was a real estate agent, this would be my fundamental attitude to things. Could I put my hand on my heart and say that the majority of my clients, buyers or sellers, did I really help them buy a house or sell a house? Could they say, after hiring me and we going through this ride basically of selling or buying a house, would they say at the end of it, did Jonathan really helped me? And did he do what he said he was going to do? And if they can’t say that, I’m not going to build a really great business, am I?

DJ: Yes, that’s everything. I once interviewed a gentleman who is 30-years in the business and his name is escaping me at the moment, but I would love to give him credit for this. His son decided to get into real estate. So as the son was in his first year, this is a classic first-year mistake. His son created this business plan for the New Year and brought it into his father and said, hey, here’s all of the production I want to do, here’s all the transactions I want to do next year and here’s my plan to get there. And in theory, we would say, hey, that’s a great idea. And his dad said, I want you to walk out of the room, his name was Craig by the way. The father said, I want you to walk out of the room and I want you to rewrite this business plan.

And instead of number of transactions, I want you to rewrite it to the number of people you help. And don’t worry about any of the production, don’t worry about the numbers. I want you to come up with a goal of how many people can you help this year, whether they pay you or whether you do it for free, doesn’t matter. And this is a top 1% producer. And he says, he thinks of it as how many people can we help next year? And it’s not a cute turn of phrase, it’s really saying, how many homes do I sell? He says, he doesn’t think like that. He goes, how many people can I help on a yearly basis? And again, I’ll achieve my business goals by how many people I help; makes sense.

Jonathon: It does. Now, when it comes to technology, where do you think technology is, and the attitude of the people that you have interviewed during 2019? What has been your general impression of their attitude and the way that they’re using technology?

DJ: Yes, that’s a great question. So the challenge with technology; I’ll start with the challenge and then I’ll try to resolve the challenge. The challenge is, especially in the real estate industry is there’s a tech bubble, right? There are so many players in the tech space. There’s a million different offers that are hitting realtors every single day from tech companies saying, use our service, use our product, we can make you more efficient. And some of them, of course, can do that, right? Many services like Mail-Right, can actually help you increase production. But there’s also that expression that the best technology is the one you use, right? So with all the different players in the space, I think it can be overwhelming for realtors to determine, well, what do I actually need? What’s actually going to move the ball down the field?

And the answer is, well, there isn’t really an answer because there are so many different options. What I think that at the end of the day, anything that helps automate contact or rather reminding people to contact their clients after the sale is really, really critical. Because what we know is that of course, real estate, fortunately, or unfortunately, is mostly a transactional business, right? So you get paid per transaction, it doesn’t really annuitize all that well. So in order for you to annuitize your business, we’re talking about annuities or really referrals. So Jonathan, as you’ve said, are my clients so satisfied with me that they’re going to remember to refer me to their friends. Well, technology can help you and I think one of the ways that the people I’ve interviewed have talked about it, is coming up with a communication strategy.

So obviously realtors are constantly thinking about how do I close this deal? But then what’s the communication policy after the transaction closes? How often am I touching that client and providing value, still helping them after they move into the home or they sell the house six months later, a year later, or two years later? Because we know the data is really clear that if you do a great job, and you stay in touch and the “and staying in touch” is the critical component, that those clients will most likely use you in the future. But if you don’t stay in touch and the odds are, they won’t. So technology, I think if nothing else can help; you stay in touch with your clients through some automated strategies like what Mail-Right offers. I think what you guys offer is so important to realtors.

Jonathon: Well, all thoughts have gone into it. It’s like a really bad two years to build the final product that I wanted. I’ve lost a lot of hair in the process actually. So I’ve got to put this before we go for our break, and we go into the second half. I’ve noticed that there tend to be two camps when it comes to the generation of leads. There’s the camp, I call it the Buffini camp.

DJ: Sure.

Jonathon: That utilizes, and it’s a very legitimate mythology of building very close relationships in the community and especially clients that you’ve bought or sold property for; keeping very tight with those people and for them to become master referral in your market, in your community marketing. And then there’s a different set that looks for Zillow and online lead generation, right, and they do very little [inaudible 13:39] Buffini mythology. And I’ve found that a lot of those that are very dedicated to the Buffini don’t do a lot of online lead generation. Where I’m thinking too; I just want to see what your thoughts about this. It is in 2019 and in the coming years to be really strong, I think you need the combination of both marketing outlooks. What’s your thought about that?

DJ: Boy, I couldn’t really agree with you more. I think that we now have the ability; you’re right. So typically realtors go one of two ways, either they buy leads or they work referrals, they either do Buffini or use another analogy as a trainer, like a Mike Ferry approach, which is I’m going to pound the phones, I’m going to buy leads and I’m just going to. My previous career was not in real estate, so I worked for one of the largest lead generation companies for health insurance, so nobody loves online leads more than me. So my background is kind of that way. I’m not a referral guy per-se. Now I’m not a producing realtor, but my background is in online leads, and I know how to convert those.

I also know that those are very difficult, and they require a totally different skill-set and a totally different personality in certain ways. Now, what brokers I think don’t understand is that they have to treat online leads, Zillow leads, and OpCity leads different than their sphere of influence, right? Those are two totally different strategies. I believe that brokers should be doing both because there’s a certain subset of the market, especially the younger generation who really doesn’t always work by referral, right? They are going to Zillow before they ever; I mean most people go to Zillow before they ever talk to a broker anyway, but certainly, anyone 30 or younger is going to Zillow before they talk to a broker. And they’re filling out forms, right? And they’re doing that and you need to have a strategy in place, but to build exclusively by referral, hey, if you can do that, my hats off to you.

But I love the idea that you can pay someone else to generate a lead and then you might have to call them five times over the course of two days, which I know is not the most fun activity, but does it work? Yes, it can work. So there are different personality types that will be more applicable to working internet leads. But I know from working in that industry what it takes to do it, and if you have the tenacity and if you have the time set aside, you can be really successful working internet leads.

Jonathon: Just before we go. But do you think, are there any people that come on your radar that can do both?

DJ: Yes.

Jonathon: That’s great,

DJ: Although, what I will tell you is, this is a great opportunity for the listeners. If you say, I hate making cold calls because really working with internet leads is making cold calls to some extent. Even if they’re live transfer leads that Zillow offers, OpCity–

Jonathon: I call them lukewarm.

DJ: Yes, maybe they’re lukewarm to possibly, you know, they could run the gamut. It depends on the personality types. So this is a great opportunity to partner up, right? So if you say, hey, I’m a face to face guy, that’s what I do best. Me personally, if I was out there producing, I would be a face to face guy because that’s what I do best. But I would want somebody to be pounding the phones or taking those inbound phone calls. So that would be a great reason to partner up with someone and say, hey, my skill set matches where I just want to sit behind a desk and pound the phone all day. And the other person maybe wants to be out there in the field. I would say if it’s you’re a solo practitioner I would say pick a lane. Don’t try to be everything to everyone but find a partner and for me, there is strength in numbers.

I’d rather have somebody else who loves doing that on my team than try to do it all myself and maybe not be as successful.

Jonathon: Alright, we’re going to go for our break and we’re coming back, we will be delving more in this fascinating conversation. I’ve enjoyed it so far. We’ll be back in a few moments.

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Jonathon: We’re coming back. I’ll miss you my co-host Robert, but I think I’m doing a reasonable job with his interview, I’ve enjoyed so far. It’s always interesting when you’re on the other side, isn’t it?

DJ: You know what’s funny, I was just telling the owner of our company, I said, he’s been a guest on podcasts before, and I said, this is the first time anyone’s ever asked me to be on a show, so I really appreciate it. Thanks for having me.

Jonathon: Oh, this is [inaudible 18:59] episode, and I thought you did a great job.

DJ: Thanks.

Jonathon: And I like mixing it up. We’re mere mostly a technology discussion podcast for real estate agents, but I like mixing it up a little bit. Another question, in the two and a half years plus, I’ve been doing this podcast and it’s been an education for myself is that I’m amazed. Even though a fan listens to the audiobook version and it can be; parts of it a bit cheesy, but the red book Kelly, How to Become a Million Dollar Real Estate Agent.

DJ: Yes.

Jonathon: I still think it has a lot of relevance, but I’ve been amazed with the amount of agents I’ve spoken to doing demos with, showing them the Male-Rights system, just general discussions with agents. Is the amount of agents that don’t build up a database, don’t even listen to or even read or listen to the audiobook of the– I still think it gives one of the most coherent lay of the land hand holding descriptions of how you can become a successful real estate. Some of it has become a bit dated, but the core of it is still there. Why do so many agents struggle building up an effective database?

DJ: That’s a good question. So I’m a big Gary Keller fan as you are. Millionaire real estate agent is maybe the Bible or one of the first books any brokers should read looking to grow their business? I think the problem is that the barrier to entry is pretty low, right? And nobody says; so we have a real estate school here at our office. It’s not our school, but there’s a school that rents space from us. So I talk to students, people who are getting their real estate license almost every day. And what nobody tells them, and certainly the schools don’t tell them is hey, this is well, I mean the schools tried to tell them, but what nobody really sits down and says is, are you capable of running a business? Because what this is, is a business. It’s not a job.

And in order for you to run a business, you’re ultimately responsible for, no matter what firm you choose to work for, whether it’s Keller Williams, whether it’s our company or Coldwell Banker, whoever, you’re still going to do 99% of the job. And you need to really, what I wish was more in the classes to get your license was how to run a business, which of course they don’t teach because they’re just teaching you all the rules and regulations you need to be able to perform the job. But what you really need to perform the job is business skills.

And so that includes segmenting. And the one thing that Buffini does, well, he does a million things that I love, but one of the things I love the most about what Buffini does is he says, you have to think about your business, whether or not you agree with Buffini about his referral ideas. Irrespective of that, you have to segment your business into support customer acquisition and different areas. I learned from Brian Buffini that you know, hey, at least an hour a day needs to be spent acquiring new customers. And that’s probably only one hour a day, but it’s probably the most important hour of the day. And then maybe six hours of the day have to do with serving the existing customers you already have; we’ll call that customer service. And then another part of the day has to be planning financially.

How much did I spend today? How much came in? Again, you’re running this like a business. And so I think that that, that becomes challenging. So as a broker gets their license and they start to try to run their business, a lot of them just aren’t aware, Oh my gosh, I need to build up my contact list. I need to build up this database of people. And the simplest they call it outcomes razor, right? They say the simplest path is oftentimes the most effective path. And what that could mean is have you just written a list of the 300 people you know? Studies show that we all know about 300 people or if you even done 50 people that you know. And by the way, have you told those 50 people that you just got your real estate license or maybe you have your license for five years.

Do those top 50 people know? Here’s a great statistic. What we know is that 16% of the people you know are going to transact in real estate over the next 12 months. So if you know a hundred people, that means 16 of them are going to be either buying, selling, maybe selling, and then buying, maybe renting. Those people are going to be transacting in real estate. So the question is, if you know a hundred people, there’s at least 16 sales transactions or rental transactions that are coming up. These are people that are going to be doing business. The question is, how many of those 16 or more transactions are you capturing? And the answer is, well, obviously every broker who’s listening can answer that themselves. But if the number is less than 16, if you’re not capturing that many out of a hundred people you know, and then the thought is okay, how do I stay in front of them? How do I make it so that they never forget that this is what I do and that I can help them?

Jonathon: Exactly, you put that so well, but you know, the value is in the database as I say.

DJ: Of course.

Jonathon: I noticed during the year, I think some of the biggest to me, one of the biggest stories is being Compass, and how they have been seen in the industry.

DJ: Yes.

Jonathon: So I want to get your reflections on what your feelings around Compass is, and secondly slightly more controversial, even though Compass is pretty controversial, is that I feel that Zillow has got a little bit lost and also the hype round eye buyer analysis, homebuyer and other schemes like. It seems to be an enormous generation of fear in the real estate industry, which I understand, but I don’t totally agree with either.

DJ: Sure.

Jonathon: I feel that Zillow is doing itself really a little bit lost, so maybe you can give us some feedback where you think about that remark, and also about Compass.

DJ: Yes, I’ll start with Compass. I personally a lot of agents in Chicago, now, the firm I work at is a nontraditional firm where instead of taking a percentage of commissions, we just take a flat fee. So we operate in a pretty different space than the traditional firms like Coldwell Banker or Keller Williams, et cetera. And Compass to me as they’ve come into the Chicago market and really made a huge splash. They’ve attracted a lot of top producers and I have talked to those top producers. I have had them on my show. They love it at Compass, so all I know about Compass is straight from the horse’s mouth, which is from the brokers I’ve interviewed. And I will tell you that the people I’ve interviewed seem to love it. Now, technically they’re a competitor of ours, so I would love to tell you, oh, they’re terrible, they’re the worst.

The reality of it is everyone I’ve talked to loves it there. So from that perspective, my hats off to them, they’re doing something right. And what’s most interesting to me about that is they really came into the space with a very similar model a very similar traditional model. Their technology is supposed to be amazing and I’m sure that it is. When they first came on, I thought, well, I don’t know how this is going to work because they’re no different than any other firm, and its working. At least here in Chicago, they’re killing it, and my hats off to them. I don’t know about other markets, but I’m really excited because I think whenever; I always think a rising tide raises all ships. So Compass comes in, they’re doing something right, and what it forces firms even like ours, even though we don’t directly compete with them, I always think, well, that forces us to step up our technology game, right?

So we now have to provide better stuff because we don’t want to lose agents to Compass. And we know that people when they move over to Compass really like it there. So we have to make sure our agents are so happy. We have to have tools like Mail-Right, to offer to our brokers so that we don’t lose them to other firms. I think anytime new companies enter the market who are really exciting as threatened as I can feel about that, I also get excited because I go, okay, how can we up our game? So that’s my thoughts about Compass, and I’ve only had positive experiences with them so far, so I’m happy to report that. As far as Zillow goes, I’m not that tied into the eye buyer world, unfortunately, to give a great opinion about this.

I will tell you that I know a lot some of the top, oh, not top leadership at Zillow. I’m not that well connected, but I know some of the people in middle management at Zillow and they’ve been nice enough to have me out to their offices in New York and I’ve been really impressed with their vision. So I think they’re still figuring out their whole lead platform that’s evolving.

Jonathon: Why do you feel that I’m getting the impression a bit lost?

DJ: I don’t know. It’s funny and I think, well, Zillow rolled out a platform earlier this last year that I thought was really, really great, they call it the flex program where they were offering leads to brokers in certain markets. And we were lucky enough to be one of those markets, where they were taking a percentage of the back-end and not charging upfront, which I thought was really cool and they are going to be rolling that out soon. So what I really like about Zillow is that they’re willing to try new things. And I know that they get a lot of pushback from brokers who feel that they’re trying to edge out the broker out. I don’t necessarily get that opinion or I don’t get that impression from the people I talk to at Zillow who I know pretty well.

To them the broker, and I say, broker, of course, I mean realtor is so critical to their success. I used to think many, many years ago, oh, Zillow is just going to replace brokers, which of course, was very threatening to me. And then as I got to know people at that company more, I don’t feel that way anymore. I actually think what they’re doing is, in a way and again I have no affiliation with Zillow, but what I think they do really well is they help shoulder some of the workloads off of the broker. Because everyone uses Zillow, we know and no longer are brokers having to do all of the searchings for the client.

So the broker can focus on all the other parts of the transaction instead of just, hey, here’s a list of a hundred properties I think you might like; Zillow kind of does that for you now. Now again, I know you were asking more about the Eye buyer side, and I, unfortunately, I don’t know enough about it yet. I haven’t seen it flesh out yet. I’m very, very interested to see what happens with that, but I just don’t know, it hasn’t really hit our market in Chicago that much yet. So we’re all kind of waiting to see what happens.

Jonathon: Fair enough, I think we’re going to end the podcast part of the show. Hopefully, you can stay on for another 10 minutes.

DJ: Sure.

Jonathon: Which we call bonus content. I’m going to be asking some more questions about the agent broker relationship, which is balancing that, and I just want to get DJ’s views about balancing that and a couple of questions. So DJ, how’s the best wildfire listeners and viewers to find out more about you, your podcast and get hold of you?

DJ: Yes, thanks, guys. So again, go to keepingitrealpod.com. All of our episodes or you can stream online right from our website. Again, keepingitrealpod.com, also, please follow us on Facebook. We are at facebook.com/keepingitrealpod and you can find us. Every single day, by the way, our producer spines, an article about how brokers can grow their business and we post that there. We also do a weekly video, and of course, all of our episodes are posted on Facebook as well. So find us on Facebook and again, what our podcast is designed to do is help you get in the minds of the top 1% producers nationwide, so that you can learn from their success, and hopefully, I’ll build your business.

Jonathon: That’s great, and we’ll be back next week with another guest. I’ve got some great guests coming up. It’s going to be a really interesting period before Christmas and the New Year. Hopefully my co-host Robert will be with me, I’ve missed him, but there we go. [Inaudible 32:21] Unfortunately, I think he’s still in holiday mood or having some more computer problems.

DJ: Or I’ll fill in for him.

Jonathon: Yes there we go, you never know, do you? But we’ll be back next week viewer and listeners where we’ll be offering more technology insights and more interesting insights to make you a more effective real estate agent professional, providing the success you’re looking for, not only for yourself but for your family. We’ll be back soon folks, bye

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