Regan Sample is one of the authors in the new real estate business book, Becoming A Local LeaderⓇ. This is a book that features the stories of 22 hyperlocal agents, who through their story share their philosophies and strategies on how you can grow your business through relationships and referrals.
One of the themes that you’ll find out shows up a lot over and over and over again, and especially in Regan’s story is the principle of giving and the action of giving value first and earning people’s business. Not buying it, not asking for it. And not even just waiting and hoping and praying for it, but earning it.
I’m excited for you all to get to know Regan and his story so you can all learn from him on how he became a leader for his community and build his business.
Let’s start with the main message that you want agents to get from this book. The goal of us writing this book together was for us to help RealtorsⓇ in the industry build their business in a better way. Something that’s better for their future, for the industry, for themselves. What are you hoping that people get from your chapter?
I’d say what I hope people get from it or what I just tell people in general is building a business based on building relationships. And like you had said, adding value first. I’ve always thought, not asking for business or for selling what I do, but earning trust, adding value upfront, showing someone what I do in the community, how I want to help other people, and doing those things. I think supporting the community, building more community, just being that source in building relationships is the way to build a long-term sustainable business. It’s not transactional. To me, a transaction is a dog chasing its tail around. Building relationships is just building more and more community. It’s like a rising tide. It lifts all our boats and we all do a lot better.
Now, do you have this stance because it’s just something that you were taught? Have you always been this way? Is this something where you have experienced the opposite, you’ve been transactional, and then you’re like, “I hate this.” and now you are more relationship base and you’re enjoying it, and you’re more successful because of it?
Yeah, I think it’s maybe because I’ve felt the other side of being a customer with transactional people. An example is a company that moved me from Colorado to Arizona. I went shopping there. We had a one-year-old baby, new job, and relocated. The agent that was helping me find a house, I could tell wasn’t listening, wasn’t taking the time to actually know that difference between hearing and listening, being an active listener and paying attention to what it was I was looking for, but instead was just trying to find a house, trying to find a quick deal.
Other times in life where I’ve had that feeling that people aren’t listening, they don’t care. At the end of it, I think to myself, “I’m not going to call them again.” I had a client event and someone said, “Oh, these are all clients of yours?” And I said, “It’s family and friends.” “That guy said he bought a house with you.” And I said, “Well, yeah. He’s my friend.”
I feel that the more that that happens, like you said, it makes it more fun at the end of the day. It makes it more rewarding. But to actually have that relationship and stay in touch with someone versus a transactional, once it’s done and they’re gone. That almost leaves you sort of that empty feeling. And again, from the customer side, from the other side of that feeling, you know, just feeling like taking a number at the deli and you’re just who’s next. That’s not my business. I don’t want to feel that way. I don’t want my clients to feel that way.
I totally agree. In that one part of your chapter, you talk about a story of an interesting distinction about some clients who want a transactional RealtorⓇ, and some who don’t. Talk to me about the learnings that you’ve had getting into real estate, how you work with the clients that you want to work with, and how you’re not worried about the ones that are transactional.
Give a reason why you think agents shouldn’t worry about it in the future. They should definitely not spend their time on these transactional clients. But what’s been your experience and your learning from the types of clients out there?
I feel like the more the more people you help, the more you can kind of see what they’re expecting from you, what they appreciate and what they don’t. If somebody is just real transactional, if they want an agent, they click the agent on their computer, they go to a showing, “That’s what I wanted. Thank you” and go away.
If you worry about that, then you kind of feel bad, why did I do wrong? For me to accept it, “Hey, that’s someone that that’s what they wanted. I did what they expected for me. They’re happy with that service.” It’s not what I would have wanted. That’s not the level of professionalism. That’s not the level of brokerage services or client care that I would want for myself or my family, or that I want to provide. But for me, I can’t worry about it because that’s what they wanted.
If they got what they expected, then I’ll save that time and energy for the people that really appreciate it, that they really want that person to be a partner with them to buy their current house or sell it, or find the next one, or start learning about investing in properties. Or that person that can just be a resource for them when something else happens in life. They need either repair or whatever.
You got that transactional client through a lead that you bought, right?
Yeah, that was right at the beginning of COVID. I wasn’t able to go out and network and meet people and do the volunteering that I like to do and be active in our Local Area Chamber of Commerce. It was buying leads. I can go do my job. I need to spend money on the internet. That’s how I got that client.
And so, here’s why I think agents shouldn’t worry. This is why I came up with this other article on what are the things that people don’t talk about when you buy leads. So, when you buy a lead, the person is actually just conceding to the fact that they don’t know, like, and trust anyone who can help them. They don’t know anyone who can even refer to them. So, now they’re turning to XYZ form of advertising, print, flyer, bus bench, online ad, to go find a RealtorⓇ just to get the freaking thing done, get the transaction done. What do you think is going to happen in the future as technology advances for that type of client?
The same thing.
Well, they’re not going to use a RealtorⓇ. Technology is going to advance to a point where that type of client, they’ll just click some buttons and make it happen without even talking to someone. But then, there’s all these other clients that you have a relationship with that want the human experience, that want to do this with a person. And then, how do you find those clients? Through your database and sphere of influence.
I always say, people want to do business with people they know, like, and trust. Now, you said, if you don’t know someone that you know, like, and trust enough to refer someone to you, that’s where I feel the relationship-based focus of building a business is.
Transactional people will come and go, and I’ll help them. We’ll do our best to give them great service. And who knows, maybe down the line, they remember it and they want that experience again, but the other people that really appreciate it, those the ones that tell you about their friends moving to the area, that tell you about the person that’s going to sell, introduce you to the neighbor that’s moving away. You start to really see your business grow organically. You don’t have to worry about the transactional people because you have so much other stuff going on taking your time and your attention. It’s more fulfilling anyway.
Yeah, there are givers out there in this world. And as a RealtorⓇ, you want to work with the givers because they’re going to give you tons of referrals. Now, in order to work with the giver, you usually have to give first. You have to be, as you said is one of your favorite books I’ve read before, The Go Giver, you have to be the giver first and then the givers will come into the surface and then they’ll give and give and give and the business will do so well.
Just a quick background. How did you get into real estate? Before we get into some details on how you build your business and what you do in your community, tell everyone kind of how you got into real estate, why’d you get into real estate, and a little bit about who you are.
Yeah, sure. Before I was born, my parents had to get rental properties. And as a little kid, that was what we would do in the summer. We would help turn rentals and that sort of thing. Real estate has been the family business. My dad’s a real estate attorney. They were licensed agents for a while. Now, they’re getting to their mid to late 70s and that’s still their income. That’s their business.
I think there was a part of me that wanted to do something different. I got into financial advising. Similar kind of story about taking care of people. My grandpa had died and for 30 years, a relationship-based financial person made sure my grandma didn’t run out of money until she was one month shy of a hundred years old. That’s sort of something that inspired me to make sure that if it was with finance, helping someone with investment properties because so many people would say, “Well, you get a rental and then the tenant just pays your mortgage.” No, no. You’d have to think of it as a business.
But for years, I wasn’t feeling happy and I kept joking for a long time with my friend, Josh, who’s my managing broker. I mean, we’d see each other at different events. I’ll kind of joke. “I think I have the wrong license. I should be in real estate.” And in the summer of 2018, I went out to visit my grandma. I didn’t take the interstate and just took the state highways and took in the moment. I went up by myself just to visit her. I spent one day with her and drove back. It’s a three-day trip. When I got back, I said, “All right. I realized this other stuff I’m doing isn’t what’s making me happy inside.” I switched my license.
That’s when I joined with my friend Josh and joined his brokerage. It’s funny because I just felt like that knowledge that I could bring from the family knowledge in real estate, knowing this area of being a native here, bringing in that financial background, I felt like it was really great package that is unique for my clients if they’re thinking of their first house, their downsizing. Having a different level of education and helping people through different life stages.
In my own experience, when I got sent to Arizona, having sort of an unpleasant experience with that agent to make sure to be one agent that wasn’t going to be that way. And someone who would think big picture and not just sell a house because prices are up but think about what your tax situation is, think about this value, think about all these things even if it means that I’m not selling your house, or you’re not buying this. We’re making sure that we’re doing what’s in your best interest. We’re making sure you’re educated.
I like what you’re saying there, “I’m going to think about how to help my client.” In this world of the internet, one of the things I really liked about what you said in your chapter was, “I don’t want my clients to go to Google. I want them to come to me.”
I say this to RealtorsⓇ all the time. I’m like, “Listen, there’s Google, there’s LinkedIn, there’s Facebook, there’s Zillow. And then, there’s going to be some new tech things down the road, too. But there’s some things that these websites that people turn to for real estate can’t give them.” And so, when you think about having your clients come to you and the stuff that you can do for them, the information you can give them, the recommendations you can give them that these platforms can’t in the same way, what comes to mind?
These platforms, these search engines, they’re nonverbal. They’re not seeing the things that are stressing people out. They aren’t looking at how someone feels about things. They don’t strategize. They don’t think of different options or present information in different ways or take time to explain it. The internet of things makes it harder for some people because that connection is not there. It’s not a partner. It could be a quick resource to give you some information. It lets you see some pictures of the house inside but it’s not going to talk to you about how you feel about things.
I would tell people like, “I can talk to you about these on the contract. I can talk to you about this process. I can explain dollars and cents of things. But there’s a value there that I can’t tell you, and that’s the value of how you feel about it.” Versus transactional focus or lead generation that tell you, “You got to buy this house. You got to buy this house.” How do you make sure that they are making knowledgeable decisions, it’s the best decision for them, and that they feel comfortable with what they’re doing? There’s no way these platforms can judge that. There are some people that don’t do it either but that’s something I think that’s unique.
People have fears, doubts, worries, insecurities, and things that these platforms don’t know. And then, sometimes they don’t even know what question to ask. A really good RealtorⓇ is going to help them figure out what questions should we be asking because you might type the wrong thing into the platform. “I know you’re thinking that or saying that but I’m getting a sense that that’s actually not what you think or mean because maybe a friend just told you that that’s what you should be looking for or asking about or whatever.” I think it’s a huge value that RealtorsⓇ can provide using internet, but you have that filter.
You just made me think of going with my mom when she’s doing some estate planning stuff. She asked me to go along with her and she’s there with the attorney. He asked her a question and her answer didn’t line up with it. And I said, “Hey, Mom. I think what he’s trying to ask you is, you know, this, this, and this. Am I right?” He said, “Oh, yeah.” And then, she answered it. She asked him a question. I said, “I think what she’s trying to figure out is this.” I think that translating that feeling and goals and helping to bring all that together and translating a question to someone in a different way of presenting it. And also, finding out how that aligns with their goals and what they’re trying to achieve, which those platforms don’t do.
Now, one of the things you said, which I wanted to try to articulate is, “Trust needs to be earned. It doesn’t grow on trees.” So, when you think about how an agent earns from the people who live and work in your community so they want to use you, so they want to refer you, how do you do it?
I guess it’s funny. There are so many things that I do that I reference from the learnings I had from my mom when I was a little kid. When you said that, the first thing that came to my head is, if you say what you do, you do what you say, you don’t have to worry about what your story is. You don’t have to try to remember what it is.
I think for me, there’s different things that I make a point to do. I try to make sure that if I don’t know an answer to something, I tell someone. There are so many people that stumble through and they say things, “I’m pretty sure. Don’t worry about it.” I’ve gotten to a point I have no fear of saying, “Great question. I’m not sure I’ll get back to you.” Letting someone know you need to educate yourself more on something, but at the same time being transparent, repeating things if you need to, taking the extra time to listen carefully, and meeting with people genuinely to get to know them and what they’re trying to accomplish and get to know them, get to know their business, not meeting with people to hand them your card and pitch them on a sale.
For me, most of my contacts are, “How are you? How’s the family? How’s the job been? What’s new with you?” I don’t go and meet with people and start saying, “Tell me about your house. What are you looking to sell? Do you know what the markets are doing today?” That usually comes up because they know what I do for work. “What’s the market doing? I heard it’s crazy. What’s the news?” They’ll ask me about that. “I want to know about that.”
That’s the thing. I think people just like sincerity and being genuine. People have told me I was different because of the way I present information, the way I would actually listen. I feel like those people appreciate it. That’s what helps build that.
Let’s go deeper into this again. Let’s see what you would say to this question because everyone talks about listening and being genuine and authentic. It’s a big buzzword. Be genuine, be authentic, actively listen.
There’s this statistic that a big data company produced. It said, 95% of consumers for a product or service, the leading reason why they didn’t choose whatever that product was, whatever that service was they were being sold, there’s a bunch of reasons but the number one reason why 95% of people answered as to why they didn’t go with that product or service is because they felt like that company or person didn’t understand them. They didn’t get them, which goes back to being genuinely interested and actively listening.
It appears that it’s still this black box of like, I know I need to do that. But how do I do that? Have you ever learned and do you have things that you do, maybe you consciously were doing in the past, and now it’s second nature to help you be genuinely interested, to help you actively listen? Make that person feel like, “You didn’t just hear me, you actually listened.” What advice can you give agents for how they can do that?
For me, something that comes to mind is I feel like a lot of people are really quick to think of replies and to assume where someone’s going with their statement. They kind of shut off listening and start formulating a response. I think something really important about that is paying attention to a lot of the nonverbal communication that people have. You can get a sense of how they are feeling about things.
Also, empathizing. I tell my clients, “When I’m talking to you and we’re looking for your house, or we’re talking about your financial situation and goals or what you’re trying to accomplish, I take mine and I throw it away.” When we start to find out what you’re looking for, that becomes what’s important to me. For better or worse, I kind of wear it. Like, when we’re going through inspection processes and there’s things we want to negotiate for, or we’re waiting for an appraisal, I feel that with them. I think that a lot of it is putting yourself in someone else’s shoes and listening carefully. What is it that is really motivating? What is it that makes them feel the way they feel? Is it asking more questions to help uncover what’s the underlying reasons for that? But sometimes it’s just taking the time and not being rushed, not thinking of where we are going into this. At the end of this, is this leading to a sale?
This is that first step. We’re generating our relationship. We’re building that there. I can’t build trust with you. If I don’t understand you, you’re not going to understand. I’m not going to understand how to help you. I think it’s time to do that. There’s a phrase that I’ve used. There was a company event. We had a speaker. I can’t think of his name, but he used the phrase, “Be where your feet are”. He talked about how people are on their phones or typing what other people are talking. We do it with our kids. And you start to realize how often you’re there. You’re with someone, but you’re not fully present. So, I’ve made a point to keep my phone facedown. Unless there’s something urgent.
I let someone know, “Hey, I’ve got this thing that might come any moment. I need it.” But I put the phone face down so there’s no distractions. I put things aside. I try to carry that with my family when I’m home. I tell people at certain times, “Sorry, I couldn’t pick up as I was having dinner.” That’s what the voicemail is for, or a text message. I think there’s something about slowing down and being present, being where your feet are, and taking that time. You have to put an effort into active listening. It’s not just, “Oh, I listened carefully.” It’s, “I actually have to put an effort to focus in have that be beneficial.”
Something I learned was, “Repeating what people say shows that you listened.” As you said that I was like, “How do I slow down?” Breathing deep while someone’s talking. Because when you’re trying to think of a response, you’ll notice your heart rate get up. And if you force yourself to breathe deep, it actually slows your body down, which helps you listen. Getting rid of distraction one is a good point. For me, I’m a note taker. I’m visually showing you that I’m listening.
I think people are almost afraid of awkward silences. They’re listening but it’s like, “Well, what if they finished talking and I haven’t figured out what to say next?” And it’s like, well, then you can tell them that, “Hey, I’m listening. I’m really trying to think about what to say next.” You can actually even say those words. “I’m just taking what you’re saying all in before I respond.” I think people will go, “Holy”. Like, “Wow”. You’re doing it. You’re taking the time to not just respond but to think, to listen, to process, to think, asking questions. You always just keep asking questions, like you said.
So, for anyone following, that’s a lot of advice. It really is. If you can make people feel that you’ve listened, that you are genuine, that you have empathy, that you feel their feelings, you will get the trust, you will get the business. How do you do that? That was really good. Okay.
It’s funny. Like you said too, repeating things back. When you said that I was like, “Oh, wow!” It’s something I think I do without really noticing. But there’s something about slowing down and listening.
I had a client in his 90s. I remember meeting him. It had nothing to do with business. I thought it was going to be more business and that’s what we’re here for. I remember telling my wife afterwards. I said, “I don’t think anyone’s listened to his stories in years.” And he told me about being in Germany at the end of World War Two and the Germans surrendered. How he met his wife in this French village that he was in. He told me about how they got married. And then, he saw one of his World War Two co-soldier a few years later in New York City. He just told me his stories for like an hour and a half. And then he’s like, “Oh, I have to go. We ran out of time. It was such a great conversation.” I can tell from right that we had this different bond. I remember telling my wife, “I can’t guess the last time he’s had a chance to tell someone about his life and how he got to where he is.”
Even though people know that I speak and do videos, I’m actually very socially awkward, especially at parties. So, when I’m around groups of people, I don’t tend to say much. I just ask questions. And then, when I found out later in life, it was like, “Wow! People seem to really like me because I don’t talk about myself very much. I just asked people questions because I don’t know what to say.”
That was how I got started in business. People would want to do business with me or help me because they would end up telling me their stories. And that kind of got into the whole interview thing that I just know that people want to tell their story and very few people let them. Parkbench was now just this way to meet people to get to know people and help them promote themselves and share their story because I know that people would love that and like me more for it. And now you’re doing it.
So, I wanted to see what your thoughts are on why you’re doing this Parkbench thing in your area. Who do you think should do it? I know it’s not for every kind of RealtorⓇ out there. So, why are you doing it? Who do you think it’s for? How has it helped?
I first found out about Parkbench at the end of 2020 or towards the end of the year. Prior to March of 2020, I was doing a lot of volunteering at my kid’s school. I helped in the classroom and their field trips. I helped at different nonprofits. I was a part of different networking groups. It’s a lot of interaction with people and building community and relationships and connecting people together. When I’d hear someone’s going on a trip that may need someone to take care of their dog and things that have nothing to do with my business but just adding value and little bits and pieces here and there. And yeah, someone is a dog walker, I’m like, “Oh, you should come to this event – Humane Society. You’ll meet some people there.”
Obviously COVID came along, things stopped as far as all that. I’m trying to figure out what to do to meet new people. First of all, I needed to do it personally. That’s something I love to do. There’s something about being RealtorⓇ. I couldn’t see myself having someone that tells me I have to come in at nine, I have to leave at five, I have to take my lunch break at this time. I need that flexibility and to interact with people. So, I kind of struggled for a few months and just threw my money on the internet. It could be a Facebook post, Zillow, or NextDoor. I’m throwing my money on the internet and hoping that is enough.
I was able to get a couple of transactions that way. It helped pay the bills and get us through that awkward rough time of pandemic shutdown. It was December when I saw some ad or some posts about Parkbench. Something about it caught my eye. I’ve learned a little more. I talked to someone about it. I think I had a Zoom meeting. I was talking with someone there explaining how this works by meeting different businesses and interviewing and promoting. My wife walked by and she just stopped, I turned and looked. I thought she was going to say, “Oh, who’s trying to sell you what now?” because there’s so many internet leads people reaching out to different agents and saying, “At this time of COVID, you need more leads. You need more leads. There are a couple different things I tried. The rate of return just wasn’t there. She stopped and said, “This is for you. This is you. I’m listening and this fits you.”
What I really liked about it was the ability to go out, especially at the time that we’re shut down and not able to go to events, and be able to help promote somebody. Being active, I know a lot of businesses in my area anyway. But to be able to say, “Hey, I can do this and promote your business. I’ll take the time to edit it. I know your story. I’m going to listen to your story. I’m going to listen to how you run your business. I’ll put edits in it that are a feel for your business, I’ll share it, I’ll take my time to promote you.” Obviously, I’m in the video. I introduced myself so I promote myself as well. But I used to do that networking anyway. I would say, “You guys get to know each other. How did you meet? Oh, Regan, he’s my real estate agent. He introduced me to the caterer or whatever.” But by doing that, then I started to see this community building it.
Some of the different people I interviewed were watching the interviews and doing business with each other. One person I saw on Facebook put out a comment looking for a videographer for her nonprofit. I just sent a message and said, “I’m not a videographer. I’m a real estate agent but here’s my platform that I sponsor. Here’s some links. Check this out. I’d love to promote your nonprofit.” She watched someone make mixed dumplings. She ordered the dumplings. He delivered it to her the morning before I interviewed her. And so, just to see building this sub-community inside my community is really awesome.
I guess the last kind of point on what you’re saying too is, it’s not for everybody. There are people that are more transactional just like in any industry. If it’s financial advising or insurance agents or whatever. I’d say someone that really wants to build relationships with their clients and their customers. When I did financial advising, I would say when someone hires me, they hire me until one of us dies or retires because this is this journey. It kind of feels similar to real estate. But if it’s your first house, you’re probably going to get another house. Maybe you’ll add investment properties. And then, you might have a family. And then, you might downsize. In your mid-70s, like my mom who doesn’t really want stairs anymore. In five years, she might be looking at ageing in place as long as she can.
Someone who understands that process that wants to be along for the whole ride and thinks of this as partnership, I think Parkbench is a good fit for those people. People that genuinely feel generous with their time. I think of it as they are not scorekeepers. They’re not, “Well, I did this for you. You give me something.” It’s, “Hey, you know what? I know there’s going to be a bunch of crappy construction down by your place. I know this is going on. You’re starting to do events again. Let’s do an interview and let’s help promote.” “Oh, you have an event coming up in two months. I saw it on your website. Let’s do it. Hey, let’s promote you. Let’s do this.”
Sometimes I’ve had doubts when things aren’t right. I try to check, maybe to refresh. But I always felt the more good I put out, the more good there is that comes back. It might take a while to come back around. But I feel like if there are people in that mindset or want to get shifted to that mindset, this is a great platform. And not just with COVID when things were more shut down, but going forward, I think it’s a way to stand out and differentiate. It makes you more than a go-to versus Google. It’s a way that I can demonstrate my expertise and my local market of telling someone great restaurant to go to because I’ve listened and I understand that. “Well, you and your kids will really love this place. Trust me.”
The story about how this whole thing started was Amanda, who was a RealtorⓇ. We moved to a new area. She’s like, “I want to get more business in this area.” I said, “Okay. What are you going to do to earn it and to truly be an expert?” You want to say you’re the expert for this area? Okay. You can’t just say it. I know those agents are saying it. They have an Asterix beside their name. But don’t be like them. How are you going to actually become it? I think there’s this softer, again, tangible side to agents who do this in their community. It’s like you learn so much more about what’s there to then offer that information to people who need it.
Now, when it comes to the book, for the people who want to build a business on relationships and referrals in a specific area, we made this book because agents are doing it. There’s not a lot of people talking about how to do it. And we wanted people to learn the strategies, the mindset, the philosophies because maybe they’ve never done business before and they’re in real estate. Maybe their broker and association are not giving them their information. They need to learn from other people. When you think about this book, people reading your chapter and learning from all the other agents that are in this together with us, why do you think agents should read this book?
I think you make a good point, especially that newer agent or someone that’s wanting to break through or shift their business and the different examples that you mentioned. I think I even mentioned in my chapter, there’s not going to be one story that appeals to everybody that turns out to be a light bulb moment. Kind of like Baskin Robbins 31 flavors, right? Because people like a different flavor, a different vibe or energy. I think that there’s something to take away from everybody.
In business and networking, even in different businesses, not just real estate agents, but someone that’s a friend of mine in insurance or someone who’s an accountant, or whatever they do, I try to learn what they’re doing. When they tell me something they do to follow up with their clients or something they do to save time and be more efficient and not always do I have a takeaway, but I try to look for something they do, where I can do something better.
I think that with all the different stories and these chapters, someone getting started, I think it could be eye opening for them. Different from all the sales coaching books that are out there. I mean, there are so many sales coaching books that you can get but this is from people that are in production. These are people that are building their business a certain way. They have their testimonials. They have a real-life story of how it’s worked for them or how they’ve learned a different way. I think it’s relatable. There’s a lot of things that someone could take away to take their business to the next level to stop chasing their tail in transactions and shift that model or just start off on the right foot and not have that let down from a transaction. To kind of open their eyes going in a way that they can position their business as they get started or as they continue to grow.
I love the reference to Baskin Robbins, 31 flavors. You are one of them that makes it delicious. Yeah, every agent has a unique thing that they can bring. Either because of where they come from, because of their background, because of what they did before they were in real estate. There are so many things that make a difference between one RealtorⓇ and the other and depending on the homeowner.
Yeah, you may actually like that RealtorⓇ over that one. It doesn’t say that each one’s bad. Just that’s your flavor. I love that analogy. So, when people read your chapter and resonate with you and the way you do business, how can they get in touch with you?