In the following interview, Robert Slack, broker/owner of Robert Slack Fine Homes in Ocala, Fla., discusses the firm’s growth, leads and recruiting.
Region Served: Ocala, Orlando, Fort Lauderdale, Tampa, Miami, Sarasota
Next Move: Naples
Native of: Cumbria, England
2017 Transactions: Just over 1,000; expecting to do 3,000 in 2018
Inventory Status: There’s not as drastic a shortage as there is in other areas, but there is a little bit of a multiple-offer situation. We’re training our agents to handle these situations to make sure they get the winning bid.
The future is…rosy. Business is wonderful, and agents are doing a good job. The market will be going up for a while. I don’t think we’ll see a huge rise in interest rates.
Robert, we interviewed you a little more than a year ago. At the time, you were at about 56 agents, recruiting by promising them a supply of realtor.com® leads. How did this work out?
We’ve continued to offer the value proposition of giving agents 40 realtor.com leads a month, with no monthly fees and no joining fees. We’re now up to 206 agents and still getting 10 applications a day from agents who want to join our company. Since the last time we spoke, business has boomed. Most months are a record over the previous. We’re going to close 230 transactions this month (at press time) for about $50 million. Life’s very good!
How has the company managed to grow so much in that timeframe?
About a year ago, I invited in a competitor of mine, and he’s now the COO and runs his part of the company out of the Orlando office. We recently opened an office in Land of Lakes, north of Tampa, and we’re looking to open further offices this year, concentrating on Miami. Our next office will be in Naples.
You were at 500 annual closings per year and now you’ve shot past 1,000. How much of your expansion and growth came from the leads?
The internet is definitely driving the business with all of our leads coming from realtor.com. We get a lot of leads from them. Eighty percent of our closings this past year came from leads through realtor.com. There’s no question that the quality of the leads has a lot to do with it.
Do you take on new agents, or do they have to have been in the business a while to be able to succeed with online leads?
We have a lot of brand-new agents. We have to get them onboarded and trained, but two weeks after they get their license, they can be seeing instant cash flow.
What do you think makes your company successful with the opportunities you get from realtor.com?
We don’t do anything else. We don’t call expireds or FSBOs. We don’t stuff mailboxes. We have a call center in Ocala that operates from 7:30 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. 365 days a year. We have a group of people there that call back every lead in 20 seconds. The five-minute [response time] of 2-3 years ago doesn’t work anymore. Our call center people don’t try to preapprove people over the phone, but rather, they try to set appointments on behalf of the agents because 92 percent of buyers will go with the first person they speak to. We buy shared leads from realtor.com, which means we have to be first. We have to beat the other person to the lead.
We’ve sold several multimillion-dollar properties in the Miami and Fort Lauderdale areas this year, and we were able to show one $36 million property that came from a realtor.com lead.
For those who have been struggling in the business, is it too late to make the switch to online leads?
One of the main issues in this industry is the amount of agent turnover. That’s because at a lot of companies, they get the agents in then say, “Now go sell something,” and don’t give them any help. We have very little turnover of agents because if someone is committed to working, they’re going to do very well with the online leads we provide.
Would you say your success has more to do with your investment in online leads or your strategy for converting those leads?
I would say it’s a bit of both. Our approach definitely works, and people really like the realtor.com leads. Their information is more accurate and more updated than some of the other big portals. The leads seem to be real buyers.
For more information, please visit www.realtor.com/brokerwin.