What’s up everyone and welcome to another episode of Become a Local Leader. In today’s episode, we have the pleasure of sitting down with Marcie Sabatella, Realtor with Compass.

67 Strategies to Get More Referrals

Meet Marcie Sabatella – Our Featured Local Leader

A proud resident of Pasadena since birth, Marcie Sabatella brings hundreds of relationships and decades of sales operations experience to Compass. She’s known as a real estate powerhouse and specializes in residential and relocation services. Marcie also carries an endorsement from the University of Southern California. 

What do you love about your community? 

The community has always been very diverse and that’s what I love. Any day of the week you can run into people that you’ve seen and you meet all these other wonderful new transports. 

Pasadena has the most amazing art and events and amend so it’s a really lively city. And so, one of my favorite things to do is walk outside of my office because my office is in Old Town Pasadena, and just kind of take it all in. Take in the energy. It really revives me when I need a little bit of a break from my desk. 

What did you do before you got into real estate? 

I’m a graduate of UCLA. I graduated with a sports medicine degree. I was actually a physical therapist right out of college and I had a really great life. But you have to stay flexible. It took a pivot. A family member of mine needed some help in the restaurant hospitality industry. He had had a series of restaurants that had been in his family for over 60 years. He asked me to join as he knew I have a strong business background. I had some experience being a waitress and being a bartender during college so it was really kind of left field for me. However, I really enjoyed the process of creating. 

So, fast forward. We ended up owning restaurants and bars in Pasadena for about 15 years. The bulk of my customer service philosophy and understanding really came from the hospitality industry. 

How did you get into real estate from that? 

In the restaurant industry, you really get to know your customer base. That’s what keeps you successful along with really delicious food and drinks! But if you’re not being treated like a part of your community or somebody knows your name or your order, there are plenty of other restaurants to choose from where you can get that. So, when it came time to get out of the restaurant industry, I had this huge network of people that I had gained trust with. It was an easy transition to use that commodity because a network truly is a commodity. I had the opportunity to carry it into an industry that is already highly competitive. So, it gave me a little bit of an edge and a little foot forward than most new agents, just because I already had the buy-in from my network.

In your opinion, what is your superpower? 

This isn’t something that I came upon on my own, but a couple of my clients have repeated that working with me is like looking for or buying homes with your best friend. I take that as a big compliment. Because as you know we have to know the contract top to bottom, front to back. This is a huge financial endeavor. I take honor in working with people and their families. And my relationship with USC has allowed me to work with newly recruited faculty that don’t live in California and that are getting a job position with the university.

So, it’s my privilege to be a cheerleader for this area and everything that this community and neighborhoods are about. I have to be an advocate expert on everything. From health care to bills, to grooming services, to school information. So, it pays off that I’m so integrated into my community. I really get to keep that at the forefront of all the information that I can pass along to my clients. 

Transaction wise, what are your total transactions in the prior year and how do you feel about that? 

Last year was my best year. Every year, my business has increased by 25%, which to me is really about the nuts and bolts of hard work. You have to take an opportunity and run with it. So, I do a lot of networking. Last year, I had a $10,000,000 year, which was great. My average price is about $1,000,000. But I specialize in everything. My clients tend to have little rentals that they might want to put up for lease or condos that they’re looking for, for their extended families. So truly, I work all over the place as far as price-point is concerned. 

How is your business affected by COVID-19? Is it good, bad, or are you indifferent?

For me, I see our business being deferred. It’s more deferred towards the end there. However, a big chunk of our summer season has been put on hold. I feel that our year would have been better, like many agents out there would thin. But I’m just really grateful to have things in the pipeline that can be deferred because I really feel a lot of empathy for agents that kind of have the same type of platform that I do that are out and about meeting people all the time to network where they get their bulk of leads. That’s all been taken away for the most part. Having anything in the pipeline is the goal right now. 

I’m always a positive person. If my clients aren’t ready to buy or sell right now, I’m still a resource. I’ve been staying connected in that way, seeing if I can do anything for them or their families. Because truly, I feel, and this is what I learned in the restaurant business, is that you have to take care of the people who take care of you. You create your own little real estate community care of one another, so I feel that COVID has been unfortunate. But at the same time, I still feel for the things that I do have in the pipeline. 

What percentage of your business is repeat versus new business? 

I would say about 90%. It’s pretty high. Again, that is because of the trust that my clients and I have with each other. And I think it’s inherent of human nature to want to reach out and help other people. So, when I see a client or a friend, I’m a big connector because I do have such a big networking base that I think they feel that, “Oh, I want to do that as well and she’s helping me.” So, it’s a win-win for everybody when it comes to repeat business. 

What are you doing right now to build new relationships within your database? 

I’m taking advantage of every Zoom meeting and every group Facebook group that I can possibly imagine that I’m truly passionate about. Because I think another key to success is being authentic. Authenticity translates into trust. I love cooking, obviously, from my restaurant background. So, I’m a part of all of these groups and cooking groups. I do meet a lot of people that way. I’m also a board member of the USC Verdugo Hills Hospital. That’s given me a great opportunity to meet new people who are like-minded, who want to be advocates and ambassadors for the community. So, that’s what I’m doing. A lot of these Zoom calls, a lot of these specialized groups in lieu of face to face. Obviously, we can’t do that right now. 

What business owners or local professionals have referred your business in the past or have referred you to somebody either way? 

Other nonprofits because I’m highly philanthropic. The executive staff of the hyperlocal nonprofits have been great and the bank executives because obviously, they are dealing with clients who are needing of my services. I’ve got a bulk of referrals from financial planners, which is really great. Divorce Attorneys, things like that. You never know. It’s always important to remember that people want to know about you when they’re talking to you. They want to hear your story. And I think that’s what people forget, is that there’s an eloquent way to ask for business. There’s an eloquent way to remind people of your value and the services you do offer.

When I’m dealing with professionals that are like-minded in the same types of industries, it’s a pretty easy bridge to cross. I have a lot of referral relationships and that’s how I really message potential referral partnerships. We have a lot in common. If you ever come across a client that might need my services, if you’re comfortable, here’s my bio and my client testimonials on a link that you can just send to your clients. It’s a two-way street. 

What forms of advertising have you done in the past? What do you find work and don’t work for you? 

I like to obviously stick to a lot of social media posts or post social media ads. My broker, Compass, is an incredible company to work for. It’s very agent-centric. It’s technology forward. It makes it so easy to keep connected, and then also be able to budget a marketing strategy. 

When I list a property or I’m working with buyers, I have a marketing campaign that I roll out for both sides just to make sure that I get as many eyes on a property for a seller, or I present as many properties as I can to a buyer. So, I do a lot of social media posts. I still do some print ads for some clients. Print ads are almost dead but some clients still love to see their house Sunday morning in the LA Times Real Estate section. That’s a case by case thing. There are still people who walk around with their newspaper under their arm to work. And so, I understand that angle as well. 

What do your clients rave about? 

Some of the words that are on repeat for my clients are organized, strategic, reliable, hardworking, and flexible. I put myself in their shoes. Every transaction is different as you know. There’s not one that’s the same. So, I try and go in with a fresh eye. I try and have a face to face, or now a Zoom call with my clients prior to starting to work with them because it’s two ways that are working really. My time is valuable as well. I go over and beyond what I have to do. I’m full service. However, I also do need the commitment from my clients because I am putting so much time and effort into trying to advise and assist them as well. 

What are some of the things that you do to give value to the people who live and work in Pasadena regardless of your own transactions and your own needs? 

My daughter is 15 years old and has a lot of friends who all have that age demographic. It’s been wonderful to be able to connect with the parents of my daughter’s friends first to know what they’re all doing and have a little intel. But secondly, philanthropy and community involvement is a huge part of their curriculum now and for their hours. So, what I try and do is take the people in my community more wherever I can, where they can get shortcuts or I just try and give a connection. I make a lot of email introductions to be able to help my friends and my community that way. 

And also, my involvement with the hospital has been incredible because it really has solidified my reputation and my integrity in the community. It’s nice to meet somebody for the first time. They’ve said, “Oh, I’ve seen your picture up in the hallway in the hospital.” They are just a little bit more curious about you. It’s an easy way to be an advocate for them as well by making sure that we keep connecting, and we know that we have to take care of each other. 

What do you think the biggest thing for you is that differentiating factor between you and every other realtor in your area? 

Whenever I have the opportunity to help, I jump no matter what level of help that is. I just find that when you get your hands dirty, it shows that at every level you’re willing to learn, you’re willing to just do what it takes. And again, I learned that from the restaurant business, of course. As owners, I managed over 300 people. So really, my job was to people-manage.

We had other people in place that I trusted to handle the restaurant aspects and the floor of the restaurants and the bars. However, it still was, people wanted to talk to me, wanted to see me. I understood that role. I think in our community, it’s the same. People are looking for someone in charge or somebody who can lead them to the path of their passions. I find that a lot of people in our community really are just looking for somebody to say, “This is what you should do. This is what you can do to really help out.” 

What goals do you have moving forward? 

For me, I try and celebrate little accomplishments all the time because I have been guilty of getting in the end result and not enjoying the journey. So, for me, it’s really important to continue that. Obviously, I’d like to stay consistent in keeping my business and building it at least 25% each year. However, I do want to get to a point where I can kind of sit back and have a team putting in more work. I’d go on appointments, I’d get listings, or I’d start working with buyers, and then I’d have a trusted group of people where they’re doing the footwork of the bulk of the business. I’d love to get to that point. Right now, obviously, it’s just me. 

I also have a great partner and mentor, who had been in real estate for 20 years. So, he really taught me. He’s the logistics side of things, where I’m more of the front person. I’ll go fishing and he cooks the meal kind of thing. I was fortunate to be able to take in a lot of his wealth of knowledge. I also worked with one of our top producers in our company as a buyer’s agent. So, I really learned the bolts. She had a team at the time. I really wanted to learn about every aspect.

What are some of the challenges or roadblocks you have to face trying to achieve these goals? 

I guess time management because I love to do so many things and it does take a lot of time. There are only so many hours left to stay flexible for clients and also to be present for my daughter and helping her with her life. Helping her have her best life, and funding it! But also, I think that time management is so important that you have to make sure that you give back to yourself as well. So, I would say time management has been my biggest hurdle.

On the flip side, I see this as a motivating factor. Our business is highly competitive. You really do have to do a lot of work in the background to be able to be on the front of people’s minds because there are so many of us. I think we all joke about your potential client has a group of at least 10 real estate agents that they know or family members. So, you just have to show your value. You have to make sure to provide results, show your value, and then obviously, be easy to work with. 

Do you buy leads at all from Zillow, or realtor.com, or homes.com, or anything like that? 

No, I do not. I did try NextDoor that now recently has a program, where you can pay to advertize. You put out a hierarchy of what people want to be recommended. And then initially, it was a very reasonable investment. Obviously, I got to connect with a lot of people. I felt that I was doing the connecting myself through other avenues.

I did do a trial for Zillow as far as referrals and leads are concerned but I felt that those leads weren’t loyal people. When I would do all this work and be in it to win it, they could care less and dump me for someone else that could provide them with maybe the listing agent right for that property. So, I just felt that there wasn’t a lot of loyalty. And my business really is all about relationships. I enjoy doing business that way. 

Do you do any other social media ads, Instagram, or even Google or anything like that? 

Yes, I do Instagram. I’ve done some Tik Tok. I believe that all platforms are effective as long as you come across authentic and provide a service. So yeah, I’ve done a couple of Tik Tok, but mostly it’s Facebook and Instagram that I do use. Like I said, some print ad but I’m happy to be doing more of these types of blog interviews as well because I think that really would elevate my business as well.

How much do you spend on digital advertising? 

On average, about $50 a post, which gets me into a very targeted market. And it definitely gives a good 14-day message. So, I feel that on average, a property, you’re going to know in the first two weeks anyway if the market is responding to the product and then also to the price. I feel that a good 14-day ad is a good way to get yourself into different platforms and different age cohorts. 

What is your ROI from those leads? 

On average, I would say it’s about two a month. Up to four a month, which to me is worth it for the investment. I pride myself on being a closer as well, because part of the job is being a close person, you know, pointing out to my clients why this would be a perfect fit. And so, usually, the ROI is pretty high. 

Do you pay a digital marketer to do things for you or you do it all yourself? 

No, I’m pretty good at social media. I’m pretty good at marketing. So, I do it myself. I’ve seen other people hire and that’s great because they don’t have the time. But I make the time because to me, my voice is so important to come through. I’ve seen where marketers are great. They’re posting, posting, posting all the time, and getting the word out. However, their voice is not the voice of who they’re representing. And to me, like the restaurant business, my name is up. It’s my reputation. I’m a little bit of a control freak in that way because like I said, our integrity and our reputation are everything we have in this business. 

Do you do direct mailers? Send out flyers? Do you do door hangers? Any form of print marketing in that sense? 

Yes. I do forms. I’d like to bulk up a little bit more because I do believe in direct marketing. However, it does take a consistent amount of marketing funds to do it. And so, it is one thing that I think does work. I also think that for me, popping in and leaving a bottle of wine for bypass clients, or putting pumpkins out for my neighbors, it’s like old school boots on the ground but it’s thoughtful. It’s like the art of writing a handwritten note. That is personal. It’s thoughtful. Everyone loves to open a handwritten note or find a little gift on their doorstep. So, that’s a way that I set myself apart. It’s somewhat of a door-knocking but it’s not intrusive and you get a little treat. 

Do you have an email newsletter that you send out to your database on some sort of frequency, either weekly, bi weekly, monthly, that kind of thing? 

I do one about every quarter. I curate it very meticulously because I don’t want to be the person that keeps sending information I’m never going to use and it just fills up my email. And so, I try and curate my newsletters once a quarter. But definitely, I do new newsletters when I have a new listing or I just closed something. I try to incorporate a little bit of information that my clients would love real estate related, and then at the same time, including the things that I’ve done, the recent celebrations that I’d like to share with them. 

I stay connected more consistently on social media. People are being touched in different ways, in different avenues. However, I don’t want to be a nuisance as well. 

What do you do to follow up with your database to kind of work your database now? 

Especially during COVID, it’s been really easy to go into my network and send a person that I’m connected with just a message, “Hey, I’m just checking in. It’s crazy times. Just wanting to know if you need anything. I hope your family is well.” And people are much more receptive during this time to connect. So, I really feel that I have to take advantage of the opportunity to connect with them and really help out where I can. 

So, follow up is essential after I meet somebody. When I make a LinkedIn connection, I always send a message thanking them for the connection on the platform so they remember me. And so, when they see a post, “Oh, that’s what she does.” “Oh, I have a real estate question.” I like that line of thinking. Just assisting with my clients. 

Final thoughts! 

It’s been my goal to put into the universe, gratitude. And when you lead with that, I really feel that the universe gives back to you. It’s infectious. People that you don’t even know will approach you and talk to you. Don’t be afraid to just get out there and make friends and be real. And, you know, kick-ass and work hard. That’s just what you have to do.

Hey, if you liked the show, be sure to share it with your friends and colleagues! And if you want to learn more about Becoming a Local Leader, then be sure to check out how other agents are becoming the go-to Real Estate Professionals in their communities.