Mary Locy is a RealtorⓇ from Northeast Ohio. She is also one of the authors in the new real estate business book, Becoming A Local LeaderⓇ. This book features 22 top-producing agents’ stories, who through their stories are sharing their advice on how to build a business on relationships and referrals in a specific geographic area. 

We’re going to get to know her and learn from her because she’s been able to build a really great business, the business that most agents think about, which is 90+ percent on referral in her area, and having a long sustainable career in the business. 

Every agent has a different message that they want to share with agents. And so, why don’t we start with what your main message was when you thought about writing this chapter and having agents read this? What is the main message that you want them to get across?

I would say focusing on your client’s best interest. I usually do more than is expected of me as far as getting my buyers or sellers to purchase/sell a home.

A lot of agents when they get in the industry, they want to go above and beyond. They want to make their clients raving fans so that they repeat and they refer. Can you give some ideas of what is going above and beyond? What is doing more, that the client notices, the client appreciates, that then turns them into this raving fan who refers and repeats? What are some examples?

I think following up, returning phone calls, getting information to your client as quickly as possible, and initially getting as much information. For example, when you’re out showing a home, I think doing your homework on the property and the neighborhood. Once you’ve been in the business for a while, you know the questions most buyers and sellers are going to ask. I think getting that information upfront helps your client make a decision especially in this market, where homes are selling as fast as they are. You really have to get your homework done beforehand.

What are those most common questions? What is the stuff that you prepare beforehand that you know is likely going to come up so that you can be professional? 

As a seller, they’re wanting to know about the market. What is being sold in my neighborhood? What is my home’s value? What are things that I can do to get the most out of my property? And then, when I’m working with buyers, of course, they’re wanting to know any updates that a home has had since the owner has owned the home, what the monthly utilities are, and things like that.

Let’s take a step back and help people understand who you are and how you got into real estate. Tell us about the area that you do business in.

Well, I live in Northeast Ohio. I live in a rural area, Northern Tusk County and Southern Stark. It’s basically in the middle of those two counties. We have a lot of beautiful farm areas here. It’s just gorgeous rolling hills. I love just getting out and driving and just enjoying the beautiful scenery in the area. 

I started working in banking. I had a financial background for about 13 years before getting into real estate. Back when I was in banking, we handled closings in our office. Here in Ohio, we have closings and title companies. I had an interest in real estate for many years but then in 2002 I decided to pursue that interest and get my real estate license.

When agents get into the business, especially in markets similar to yours (rural, suburban, small towns), a lot of the gurus, coaches, experts, and programs come from big cities. Here, people have all these strategies of how to be a great RealtorⓇ, how to build a great business, and that person is from a big city like Miami, San Diego, LA, New York, something like that. How do you feel you do business differently because of the area that you’re in and the people who live and work in that area, as compared to someone who lives in a big city?

Well, I think in smaller local areas, rural areas, I mean, of course, there are less homes to sell in a rural area than there is in a big city. I think it’s really important to know your local area. And actually, I volunteer a lot in the area that I live in, whether it be a festival or whether it be in the historic areas of Northeast Ohio. I belong to several community business associations that reach out and help, for example, the schools. I think it’s important to be involved in your community to get to know your neighbors and help as much as you can.

Do you find RealtorsⓇ in big cities do it differently because there are so many more homes and people, they have the ability to do business in a different way? Whereas in a rural market, it just wouldn’t work.

I agree. Yes. In big cities, I mean, of course, you’re going to have more opportunities for buyers and sellers. But in smaller local communities, of course there’s going to be less real estate agents. But there’s also going to be less opportunities for clients. I think expanding on not only when you help a client buy or sell a home, I think you want to work at staying in touch, especially on social media. For example, on Facebook. That is an area where I find it really easy to talk to past clients to see what’s going on in their life. Especially when you’re working with someone to purchase a home or to sell a home, I mean, that’s one of the most important, most expensive things they’ll ever do in their lives. So, I take that very seriously. 

I do have close relationships with all of my clients. It’s interesting to see how the kids are doing, with birthdays. I’m always telling, you know, if someone’s birthday is coming up, I always get online and wish them happy birthday or touch base. It’s very interesting to keep and also to go back and see when you sell a home and once the clients have done their updates. I love going back to see the after because I know what the before was like. So, it’s very interesting to see what they’ve done to their homes. And I do that quite a lot actually.

In the book, you said something really cool that I want you to explain, “volunteering with intention”. You said you think it’s really important that agents volunteer with intention. What did you mean by that?

I think volunteering is a very important thing to do in your community with the intention of helping people. I mean, I love my job. I love selling real estate because I think when I give someone keys to their new home and see how happy they are, well, that is one of the most enjoyable things about selling real estate is being able to help people. I love helping my community. Whether it be volunteering at the schools or helping with some kind of event that’s going on. 

We have the Bolivar Strawberry Festival every year. There are people that I see there every single year. They come. They know where I’m going to be. They always come in. I think it’s more that you develop a friendship with people over the years that it turns into something more than just selling real estate.

You talk about a super important thing for agents to do is to make detailed notes in the CRM. What kind of advice would you give agents on why to make detailed notes, maybe you’ve gone through a period where you didn’t and saw the negative impact of it? And also, what are you trying to put in there?

Well, you certainly want to remember your client’s family. For example, the kids’ names. If they have pets, you want to remember that. And let’s say you talk to someone and they’re looking to sell maybe next year at the same time, you certainly want to put that in your CRM as far as the notes and also put a reminder in there a few weeks before this time next year. I think it’s always important to keep notes on people, your past clients, your current clients, because down the road, as your sphere grows, then you may forget, you may not remember something that’s important the next time you see that person.

Was this always in your nature to do this, or was this something that was trained?

I learned by mistake by not doing it early on. I am always trying to keep up on technology as far as anything that I can do to make my job easier. Whether I’m sitting in my car after an appointment, I’ll drive down the road and quickly park somewhere and update my CRM notes right there. So, I try to get everything done as quickly as possible during my daily routine so I’m not working late at night anymore, which is what I used to do years ago. I think just getting things done as quickly as possible on the same day helps you to remember and make better notes as well.

You’ve built a very successful business on relationships, referrals, follow up, volunteering, getting involved in the community, and everyone seems to be taught to buy Zillow leads, buy RealtorⓇ.com leads, do office duty, do open houses, do some cold calling and door knocking. You even did that to no avail. Yet, everyone just seems to blindly listen and do it. Why do you think that is in the industry?

I think in buying leads, you may get one lead out of a hundred that really turns out. I think buying leads is really a waste of money honestly. I’ve done it. I’ve done it for several years. I do not do it anymore because I think people are just online because they’re curious. There’s a lot of times that you have someone looking to see what their neighborhood is selling for. Well, that lead may go into one of these popular sites out there as a lead, and it’s really not a lead, it’s just curiosity. 

I think a lot of the newer agents do get into, “Well, I’ve got to buy leads here. I’ve got to buy leads there.” And really, I think it hurts them because getting out and doing open houses, that’s a good thing initially. I think it’s good to meet people. But once you have past clients, I think working with your past clients and your sphere of influence is more important than spending money on buying leads. I think you should save that money and use that toward a good CRM. Sending out cards or things just to touch base with your sphere and past clients will get you more, in the long run, more quickly than just trying to get a quick sale on buying leads.

You’ve been in the industry for how long now? 

Since 2002. 

And you have 85-90% repeat referral-based business. All relationships and referrals. This is what everyone wants. You clearly spend your time and money in a way to make that happen. What are some of the main pillars of how you spend your time and money to make that happen?

I always send out touch point mailings to past clients and my sphere of influence. I’m always just trying to find out, you know, if someone’s birthday is coming up, for example. I’ll send them a birthday card. I’ll also go on Facebook or any kind of social media that they may be on and just let them know that I’m thinking of them and I wish them a happy birthday. Or I’ll send a text or a phone call, whichever communication they prefer. 

One question I ask right upfront when I have a new client is, how do you prefer to be contacted? That’s something that I keep in my CRM so I know. And that’s how I continue to contact them just to let them know I’m thinking of them. Sometimes it may not be for any reason. I will just pick up the phone or I’ll just send them a card just saying “Thinking of you. Hope everything’s going well.” If I knew that they were doing some updates on their home, I’d mention that. “Hope everything is going well. I’d love to see what you’ve done to your home. So, give me a call when you get a chance.” 

It’s just a way to let people know that you’re thinking of them. It’s not that I’m looking to, “Okay. Are you ready to sell your home?” I’m interested. I want to see what changes you have made. To me, it’s really interesting to see what they’ve done to their home or how the family’s doing or how the kids have grown since the last time I’ve seen them.

Now, there may be some younger millennial agents who go, “Really? Does that stuff still work? You’re sending cards, writing notes?” Maybe give people an idea of the scale and the scope of how well all this relationship-based marketing has worked for you.

I guess it’s something that you have to figure out yourself when you’re working with a client. I mean, you’re going to know what’s going to work for them. Whether it be a text. I mean, depending on the person that you may want to just send them a text every couple of months. It’s something that you have to figure out yourself as you’re working with people to know what’s the best way to stay in contact.

Whereas some agents are like, “I’m trying to spend money to get leads.” you’re like, “Hey, I’m spending time and money to improve the quality and the strength of that lead.” How do you increase your database? How do you increase your sphere of influence? How do you get more people to do all this stuff with?

Well, a lot of times my past clients will refer to me. For example, when their son or their daughter is wanting to buy a home. I sold them their home so they will call me and say, “Well, Little Joe is going to be buying his first home so I wanted to give you a call.” I think if you have nurtured your sphere along the way, you have people that know, like, and trust you. And I take that very seriously. I treat everyone the way I want to be treated. I’m always trying to go over and beyond and get better every year as far as what I do in my career to help people. With that, I think that helps to grow your business because when people do have had a good experience with you, they always refer you out to other friends and family. And that is the way that you grow your business.

I want you to imagine telling your ‘2002’ self getting into the business. “Hey, here’s this book called Becoming A Local LeaderⓇ with all this information in it.” What would the message be saying to that new agent why they should pick up the book? How do you think it can help them with their career?

It’s a book of experienced agents. I mean, I would have loved to have had that when I started because you can really learn. I mean, we as real estate agents are always getting phone calls and emails about buying leads and all sources of trying to get new clients by spending money on those things. I think it would be wonderful to have a book that you can actually read that a lot of seasoned agents give the information on how they work their business, you know, what works for them. It may not work for this new person, but I’m sure there’s something in there that will work. We have 20 that’s going to be in this book. I think it’s a wonderful idea.

When people read your book and read your chapter, they want to get in contact with you because they like you, they like the way you do business, they like the way you think, and maybe they want to have a relationship with an agent in Northeast Ohio, how can they get in contact with you?

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Call  (330) 323-2975