Eric Pearson is the founder and president of Washington DC area’s Pearson Smith Realty. From its humble beginnings as a 15 agent team in 2014, Eric has leveraged mostly online lead sources like Zillow Premier Agent to grow his team into a thriving brokerage of more than 700 agents in 2018.
Inspired by Eric’s story and want to try your hand at starting or growing your own team? Zillow Premier Agent has lead generation plans specifically designed to help teams like yours take off
Honesty, Integrity, Knowledge, and Passion
In the process of growing his team from 15 agents in 2014 to a thriving brokerage of 700 (and growing) agents in 2018, Eric Pearson tried to distill the qualities that his clients were looking for in a Realtor: Honesty, Integrity, Knowledge and Passion. These were the main qualities he looked for in new agents when building out his team.
For many newer agents reading this, Eric’s approach to hiring might seem counterintuitive. After all, why not focus on sales or marketing skills when hiring new agents? The answer is surprisingly simple. These were not qualities that his clients were looking for.
Scaling Lead Generation, How to Hire Agents & More
In this video we talked about… One of the most challenging aspects of growing a team or brokerage is scaling lead generation quickly enough to keep junior agents happy and busy. Of course there’s a fine line here— overspending without growth means leads don’t get the attention they need and can die on the vie. Here’s our interview with Eric on how he scaled lead generation to keep his team happy, how he trains agents, and more.
Eric Pearson: Pearson & Smith Realty Interview Transcript:
Yeah, that’s amazing, I think … Hold on one second here, sorry audio’s kind of cutting a little bit. So yeah I think what you’re saying there is pretty interesting ’cause that’s kind of like the catch 22 of starting a team is that you’re training all these great people and you have these fresh faces. Then once they get at a certain skill level they want to kind of leave the nest, go off on their own. So I guess the transition kind of makes sense going from your team and then you maybe have one or two admins to making a full fledged brokerage where you can offer more support training and all that.
So let me ask you this, I think one of the things that a lot of people struggle with especially when they’re, maybe they have too much business to handle, maybe they want to invest more money in online leads. They’re thinking of starting a team, how did you handle just attracting newer agents, people who were maybe fresh from school? People who were struggling, or people who just wanted to be buyers agents, how did you attract agents to your team? What was your strategy, I mean did you take them out for coffee, what were you looking for too?
For starts to get that whole cycle rolling you’re looking at, I don’t want to make that a year process on a team, I’d rather make it a three, four months and now you’re booming, you’re being consistent in your business and you’re seeing closings on again that consistent basis. So it’s more the quality of the leads, it was also the success of the agents that were already on my team, easily being able to say, hey look at this agent see what they’ve been able to do in such a short time. Then it just became very systemized, so as they were coming on to the team and joining we had those procedures in place where in the first week or two they weren’t feeling lost. Like I’m on this team, there’s all these great things, I haven’t even been set up on a lead system yet, or something along those lines.
So it was more just very good processes and set up, leads that were quality and then also like hopefully a true belief in them seeing as I go about this, I was smart enough as a team leader to take myself out of business pretty much. I said, look I don’t need … I’m going to worry about building you up and making you successful, if I do that then it’s going to be a win, win for both parties. A lot of time with team leaders in a sense, what you see is they can’t, for some reason they can’t take themselves out of that production. Or at least to a level where they’re still going to be able to have the ability to train that agent and help that agent really be successful. I was just smart enough to realize, let me put them ahead of myself. If I can do that the success will come for everybody.
So what’s something that you looked for in agents early on that you’ve kind of stuck with or changed maybe?
I think the thing there that’s important is that you guys had a system. You had … Whereas, someone just kind of being thrown into the fire of a brokerage straight, fresh from school, doesn’t necessarily have a system down. They don’t have … I’m sure you’re coming in, and giving lead nurturing, e-mails. You’re saying, “Hey, look. You gotta call this. You should say this.”
At that point, it almost, like you said. It almost kind of … Not that it’s foolproof, as we both know, but it kind of becomes a numbers game, where it’s like, “These people are buying houses. People are buying houses. They’re gonna do it through someone.” So, if you’re in the right place, at the right time, even if you’re … Unless you have actively repellent personality, and you’re a horrible person, you’re gonna get deals done. It’s just simple math.
That’s an awesome point, man, because … So, how we run is an agent of the day model. So, you have ISA. We run agent of the day. So, everybody gets one day a week. They show up at 9:30. There’s a 30 minute team meeting with coaches and things like that to keep them on track, in terms of what they’re doing, and what other ways the conversion may help. Then, from 10:00 to 5:00, they’re in office, and why their leads go from 10:00 am to 10:00 am the next day. For a 24 hour period, they are getting leads.
During that 24 hour period, they’re getting 10 to 12 leads. They’re probably getting about 45 a month. With just general conversion, we’re asking to get those agents to about one and a half, two deals a month, off what we provide them, and hopefully, other stuff. It’s literally like a three and a half percent conversion.
Awesome. So, we talked a little bit about … We’re trying to … getting into the kind of meat of the conversation, here. So, let me ask you how … As far as online leads go, you seem pretty plush in online leads, and I know a lot of people … Not that they’re the only lead source.
How did you sort take a level of, say you’re getting, I don’t know, 100 leads a month, just to have a nice round number. You have a team. The team is happy. They’re working their leads. They’re closing 12 deals a year or something. How did you step that up to the next level, for lead generation specifically? Was it something where you were like, “Okay. I’m getting 100 leads a month. I wanna hire more people. I’m gonna invest more cash into Facebook ads.” How did that happen?
It’s pretty much that. We do it based on number of leads a month per agent we think’s gonna help them be successful. That number’s probably 30 is realistically what it should be. We do more around 40. So, we try to just over deliver, in terms of to agents and things that we do. Ours is just a matter of, when we add an agent, we add 40 more leads of about the same quality. So, that way the agents can take those, and we know it’s gonna lead to success, as long as those … What they should do.
So, ours is a … In a sense, a pay to play game. At the end, we do … Obviously, there’s easier ways to get leads, and things along those lines, but we like to keep at least half, again, specific property based, which the Zillows, the Realtor dot coms, the Homes dot coms, plenty of those, which obviously has a higher level of conversion. Then, about half from the Paperclip, the Facebook, whatever else we can do to go out there and generate lead sources.
Then, right now, we generate six, seven, 7,000 leads a month. So, it’s just at a point, as we continue to grow and scale that. As we see the agents becomes successful, obviously the model, it works out very well for us. So, it’s mostly pay to play. We go out there, and we contract, and work with these syndicated sites and things like that.
What is your a … Have you tried any? I know that Zillow has … One thing that I thought that Zillow has that’s pretty useful is they have the sort of team functions, and they’re offering you sort of concierge programs, and everything. Is there any value in those programs? Is it something … Or Premier Agent Direct with Facebook advertising. It kind of seems like having a listing up, claiming it, doing your Premier Agent thing, and then advertising on some other list, just get some leads, seems like it’s pretty good way to fill a pipeline. Then, all these other programs they’re coming up with, like Facebook advertising. Then, some of the weird ones that they have, lead concierges and all this stuff. Just out of curiosity, do you find any value from those new programs? Have they offered it to you? Have you tried them?
To be honest with you, we have more faith in our agent, at the end of the day. The only reason for that is it give us the oversight of it. Unfortunately, with the concierge service and all that, I don’t get to see. If there’s a kink, it’s tougher to kind of get in there and correct it, to make sure it works. So, we do not use them, nor have we enough experience to say, “Hey. Would that increase conversion or anything along those lines?”
When I say that, people do need to understand I’ve had multiple talks with Zillow and kinda seen it. They are truly about the consumer. That’s what they care … The reason they have the concierge service is … There’s really not a pay for it, in terms of things. It’s not like it’s … It’s just an added function that they do. They get extremely tired of real estate agents not following up with people on their site asking questions. Actually, it’s generally what’s best for the consumer.
In terms of the real estate agent, obviously, it’s a one touch. I want it to come to us, ’cause we can put it on our campaigns, and our just general follow up scratch list [inaudible 00:17:35] make it better. With that all being said, the team function, again, is a consumer based thing. It allows, potentially, a couple more reviews on that team, and things along those lines, so people can see, “What is this agent all about? What is this agency all about, et cetera.” Now, that helps tremendously, in terms of being able to add people, boost reviews, get higher rankings, and things like that onto Zillow.
I do not use the back end, in terms of the lead routing, which you can set up call based systems, where it broadcasts out to multiple agents, at one time with a phone call, or ways to route leads based on zip code or whatever per team member, and things along those lines. So, we don’t actually use the function. I think they are probably great tools for teams, if you look at it and say, “Hey. I can get on Zillow and get all that for free. I personally wouldn’t have to go out and pay for a boom town that costs an additional $15,000 a month.”
So, you’re giving a lot of product to a real estate agent that is potentially kind of growing and don’t have the ability to add a bunch of spend other CRMs and sources, and all that. However, once you get to that next level, your own CRM, and own in house stuff is gonna be needed just for the follow up, and accountability. It’s all good stuff.
One thing that Zillow does that’s obviously great is the Coming Soon marketing and things like that. We’re in a business where, unfortunately, with IDX searches and everything out there, clients can go out there, and buyers, they can find homes almost before the real estate agent can sometimes. The agent is not even … “I’ll wait ’til you tell me about something.” Having functions like that, where you can go out and market prior to, or find a property for a client. I can go and say, “Look what I found for you that you didn’t find.” A bunch of different avenues. I think everything that they’re doing is the approach for the consumer. While it may piss some agents off, every now and then, at the end of the day, I don’t see how it almost negatively impacts anybody that doesn’t want to pay to get leads.
We actually run every model out there, to be honest with you. Now, you do have to look at it and say, okay, our real estate brokerage, we have about 150 people that are on some type of lead system. The other ones, sometimes, are individual agents, or a team themselves, or whatever. Because we’re kind of … We have 14 packages, only two involve getting leads. You know, at the end of the day. But we do it in three different ways.
Number one is just like a general shark tank model where it kind of rings a bunch of people at one time, and whoever answers first, which is gonna lead to speed to lead measures. Which is super important. So that one just kind of really, they go there and agents, whoever can call the quickest, gets it. Or click the quickest. Everything runs through BoomTown, by the way, is what we’re using.
It’s called the shark tank function. We have an ISA model, where we have a bunch of leads that go to an inside sales rep and that person converts and sets true appointments for real estate agents. Those are kind of for agents that are kind of graduation on to that next scale. We’re not gonna guarantee how many, but it’s nice to get an appointment every now and then. You have someone truly on call, making sure those happen. The inside sales model, which is a absolutely amazing. What we found, when we built out a extremely large call center was that those people typically want to become real estate agents. So it’s tough to remain [crosstalk 00:22:23]. To find a person who just truly loves to do that, and it helps us on a certain level.
And then we do that agent of the day. And how we do it, it’s actually, those agents have one day a week. About 10 agents, and they go out on that Monday, or whatever. They’re set up, their BoomTown, for lead distribution on a round robin between those 10 people for that day.
From a general training perspective, so our brokerage is made up of 13 packages. Right? So, if you go on leads, which is two packages, what I can guarantee, we assign personal coaches to you, and all that type stuff. If I’m gonna be giving you leads, and spending that much money on it, I’m gonna give you so much oversight and help with what you need, and make you as successful as possible. So you can almost … Why the training will always be there, which I’ll get into. Like, you can almost throw it out the window, because you have someone just one-on-one, mentoring you, helping you, at all times.
We have two packages that are basically for new agents, or dual career agents, or something along those lines. Which I’ll kind of tell you how we hit those as well. And then, everybody else has to do a minimum volume of two and a half million and above. So, a lot of people are coming in already experienced. So they’re looking for the more high level training that we kind of hit at all times. But for those brand new agents, how we do it is, we do, obviously, the … Hold about five to six in-class trainings a week. Within that, each one is live stream, and then re-recorded … Or recorded and put into a video library, so we can kind of show them. They can get that at all times. Later on.
We hold one-on-one sessions, so if you ever want to coordinate with broker, you just click a link and you can schedule one-on-one on their calendar. We have mentorship programs that we don’t force the agent through. Where they can pick optionally if they want to. That are a little bit more creative in terms of, hey, if you want to work with this agent, here’s their profile, and they ask for a bottle of bourbon if they close a deal or something. A little bit more [crosstalk 00:27:37] if the agent want [crosstalk 00:27:38] and do it. And then weekly, we do accountability coaching. Virtual podcast space for each and every agent that kind of hits into the lead generation, higher level topics, you know, things along those lines, that kind of help them grow and maintain.
So, we’ve actually tried to take every possible way to help train and guide an agent, and provide it to them at all times. Now, it is a business where you’re a 1099 independent contractor. It’s all there for you, you’ve got to come get it, and do that. If you’re on leads, it’s kind of … We’re gonna really push to make that [inaudible 00:28:10], but everybody else it’s, hey, we’ll support you at all time, it’s an open door policy. Here’s everything set up for you, now take advantage of it. And let’s kind of really make this as successful as you want it to be.
So, what we typically tell people is, hey, look, focus on three to four things that you are comfortable with, that you’re going to be consistent with moving forward. Right? And one of those has to be referral based business. After that, here’s the millions of ways to do it, right? You can hold open houses, you can buy online leads. You [inaudible 00:29:40], you can door knock. You can do all these type things. Just general networking, or … Again, a million ways to do it. But you gotta pick, and you gotta remain consistent, and build an actual game plan around [inaudible 00:29:50].
what I have typically seen, and this is just me, and kind of really interacting with agents, and seeing a ton. No matter what they do, or what they say, it’s majority online and referral based. Call ex-buyers literally every day, all day long, and hey, if that’s what you want to do, and that’s what you’re comfortable with, then … And you’re willing to put in hours and hours of that prospecting time, go for it! No one’s saying that it’s wrong, or anything to do. But, even the agents that do that all day long, when I look at their business, it makes up such a small percentage of it, and takes up so much of their time.
In terms of the ways to do it, we can teach and train on everything. On where to go. Like, hey, you want [inaudible 00:30:29], jump on a bulk in seven, or REDX, or whatever, here’s where you get the numbers. And here’s what you gotta do. And here’s the scripting that’s gonna make it make sense. But, if you look at it, and you’re really not even comfortable on the phone, or … You know, here’s what this may lead to, you determine if that’s what’s right for you. And then be consistent on it, if it is. So we teach and train on everything, but what I have personally seen is online leads … Take online leads, get amazing at converting them, and referral base. Right?
And do that the right way. The problem with a lot of agents, they get online leads and it’s turn and burn. Right. That’s why [crosstalk 00:31:03] don’t use that agent again, because they forget about them. You gotta think … Or, the other aspect is referral based business think online leads suck because they don’t call them for two days. And then they’re like, that person had a another agent already. And it’s like, you got the lead on Wednesday, it’s now Friday. If you can just couple the two together, online leads, convert, make them your best friend, now there’s a loyalty. There’s a trust. And they know you’re gonna take care of them, build that referral based business, it’s what I’ve seen to be the best way to really, really grow a real estate career.
Awesome. Great. Hey, so this has been super, super interesting. And just one last question, it’s something I like to ask everybody who is successful, and doing great. And again, for sort of newer agents out there, newer teams, newer associate brokers that are trying to dip their toe in, and like, oh, should I invest my savings, or what should I do? And again, back to Barbara Corcoran, but she has a great story, and that she made a ton of mistakes. You know. She was a waitress, and then she invested money with a consultant who just happened to have an amazing idea, which came up with the Corcoran report which, you know …
Is there … What kind of, if you today, Eric today, could go back a couple years, and find Eric who was like, just starting out, trying to say, hey, I’m gonna do this, and make this into a big thing. What advice would you give? Like, what kind of mistakes would you say that you might have been making, whereas today, you’re like, oh man, I can’t believe I was doing that. This is the [inaudible 00:32:38] thing. What is something that people should look out for, maybe, when starting a team, or trying to take teams to the next level, more importantly?
Yeah. And it … This wasn’t necessarily something I did, but something I see so many people do. Is, obviously, to give up [inaudible 00:32:54] piece. And what I mean by that is, we’re talking about leads specific today, with the Zillow, and things like that. Like, I make Zillow, Realtor.com, I make those leads work on a 50/50 split. Right? And if you’re doing it as an individual agent, your split is 80/20, 90/10, 100%, whatever it is. Like, you should 100% kill in terms of what that ROI is gonna bring to you. Like, it’s a no-brainer. I don’t care, any of the changes, or whatever happens, if you can convert that lead, you’ll make a ton of money. What they do wrong is they give up after three, four, five months. Right before it hits into a funnel, where you’re actually gonna start seeing the ROI.
So what they have to understand is when you get into that online lead business, it is expensive, and it’s gonna be expensive for about four to six months. And then you got the funnel going, right? You’re moving these people along from active, I’ve just converted you, to, now you’re hot buyers. Now you’re pendings. Now you’re under contract. Or now you’re at settlement. And that’s when the flow, when it gets there, it’s there forever, as long as you just don’t stop. These people get to four months and say, man, I’ve spent eight grand, I haven’t closed a deal. Like, this stuff doesn’t work. And then they quit it right away. And don’t realize they were probably two months from crushing an online based business.
Now, can everybody do that? Definitely not. Not everybody has eight grand, ten grand, twelve grand, whatever it is that you need to really be successful and get that going. But if you do, and you are willing to call quickly and do all those things, guaranteed I’ve never seen it not work, as long as people do what they’re supposed to do.
Yeah. [crosstalk 00:35:56] Ours is … The value propositions. One is just culture. It’s a show. It’s kind of that google feel. That Zappos feel. We’re trying to do something where, hey, it’s about being you. It’s super, super agent focused and supportive. There are thirteen comp packages. Some are around getting forty leads a month. Some are around getting 100% split. Some are around in between that. And other are team building. There’s not cost per agent. You can grow. You can do whatever you want. So that [inaudible 00:36:26]. We have kind of that passive income revenue sharing streams. We literally tried to build the perfect brokerage for real estate agents. Because we’re very understanding of the fact that, hey, everybody’s ultimate goal … And if it’s not, shouldn’t even be in the business.
But everybody’s ultimate goal is the client. Right? We have to take care of that consumer. But brokers need to realize, how I take of that consumer is providing to my real estate agents. We’re gonna have the day-to-day interaction with that client, and we’ve just really figured that out. We’re gonna do everything we can to help the agents be successful. And if they are, the clients happy, they’re happy. We’re happy. And we’re growing our brokerage. That was vision, day one. And it’s vision today. And we’re just not taking our eye off that ball of creating that workplace that’s perfect for real estate agents.