Master agent trainer Sean Carpenter talks about technology, “humor” and what real estate agents should really be learning.
Sean Carpenter is a natural-born teacher. He walks into a room and immediately starts engaging with everyone around him. A former golf pro, he made the transition into real estate in part to have more time to play golf. Currently, he is the Agent Development Director for the Ohio NRT companies: Coldwell Banker King Thompson in Central Ohio, and Coldwell Banker West Shell in Greater Cincinnati.
Originally licensed in 1998, Sean led a successful career on the front lines as an agent and broker. His current role allows him to do what he does best: inspire and guide others to succeed. Sean’s mission is to “teach with passion and enthusiasm instilling confidence and excitement in his students.” His classes, workshops and speaking sessions include a great mix of old-fashioned sales skills, cutting-edge technology ideas, and lots of laughter.
Sean is the creator of the Ohio NRT’s highly regarded PRO Start Academy and B.A.S.I.C. Training sessions. He has had the same philosophy throughout his entire career: “build relationships, solve problems and have fun. If you do those three things each day, you will have had a successful day.”
Seth Price of Placester caught up with Sean recently to get his insight on the industry, and find out what agents should really be learning.
This job really has nothing to do with the houses. It’s about relationships and balancing the emotions of your clients with the logic of the transaction.
Placester: What are you working on right now?
Sean Carpenter: We have some fun initiatives going on in our companies that are all designed to help our agents maximize their chances for success. These include classroom-driven opportunities, one-on-one and group coaching, company workshops and online webinars. We also try to offer lots of events and activities with nationally known speakers and guests as well as interactive events that allow the agents and managers to share best practices and learn from each other. I try to work closely with our e-Marketing, IT staff and marketing teams to stay abreast of what is happening and how we can continue to build “tomorrow’s agents today.”
P: What does your typical day look like?
SC: I try to get up early and run, because I have so much more energy throughout the day if I can get my blood pumping early. If I’m in the classroom, I’ll arrive early and prepare any handouts and support materials and be ready to greet my students as they arrive. I feel it is so important to start classes and events on time, both to set the example for all who attend but also to respect people’s time. If I’m not teaching, I will usually try to clear all emails, catch up on my daily blogs I follow, browse the social networks and start planning for our upcoming events. I also like to get out to the branch offices and visit with the agents in the field. These visits either turn into one-on-one meetings with my rookie class graduates or coaching sessions with top agents and sometimes even impromptu workshops on various topics of need with the agents in the office at the time.
P: What is the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?
SC: I’ve been fortunate in that I haven’t had a terrible job. Some were better than others, but all of them were fun and taught me a lot. After getting out of the golf business, I moved back to my hometown of Columbus and started working for the MillerCoors distributor in town. I worked there for three years and actually became one of the top salesmen on the team. Of course, calling on the Ohio State campus area, with 55,000 undergraduates, kind of helped with that. I enjoyed that job, but I was really more of an order-taker, and it wasn’t conducive to starting a family.
P: Three real estate trends that excite you?
- The efforts to raise the bar in the real estate industry. It starts with each of us as individuals trying to “become better” in everything we do.
- Agents and companies embracing mobile and web technologies to provide information where the consumer wants it. Old-fashioned sales skills such as prospecting, overcoming objections and closing the deal will never go out of style, but the tools people use have to evolve.
- The integrated usage of video, both at the brokerage and individual agent level. We all have to get more comfortable being in front of a camera. The consumer is showing that they love video. Doesn’t it make sense that we participate in that medium in a way that shows our personality, face to face?
P: How do you differentiate yourself from the competition?
SC: Today, people expect more than what they used to get. Heck, just look at how multi-faceted most of today’s celebrities are. They sing, they dance, they act, they produce, they write. We must do more than just sell houses, lead teams or teach classes. We must be entertainers and bring passion and enthusiasm to our jobs every day. We are competing for people’s time, and we have to be worth their attention.
P: How do you bring ideas to life?
SC: I have been blessed with some really scary levels of creativity. Ever since I was a little kid I have had ideas that were beyond the status quo. Luckily I grew up with parents and close friends who never tried to keep me in that proverbial “box.” Have I had some ideas fall flat? Of course. But when you believe in something and can share your excitement and belief, it’s amazing how quickly you can get people to support and get behind something to make it happen.
I always tell people my philosophy is to “build relationships, solve problems and have fun,” but once you get to know me, you’ll quickly realize that I put “having fun” first. If I’m not having fun, I can almost guarantee it will be hard for me to do the other two.
P: What inspires you?
SC: That’s easy: humor. I always tell people my philosophy is to “build relationships, solve problems and have fun,” but once you get to know me, you’ll quickly realize that I put “having fun” first. If I’m not having fun, I can almost guarantee it will be hard for me to do the other two. Who wants to build relationships with someone who is a boring dullard, and how hard will you try to solve someone’s problem if it becomes a mundane, uninspiring task? There is nothing better than working in a group or on a team where people are laughing, smiling, and truly enjoying what they are doing. Those are the days when you look at your watch and say to yourself, “Oh my goodness, is it five o’clock already?” I guess the old cliché is true: “If you love what you do, you’ll never work another day in your life.”
P: What is one mistake you’ve made, and what did you learn from it?
SC: Trying to please everybody. It’s something I think everyone who has been employed has tried to do. As soon as you realize you can’t make everyone happy and stop trying, life, or at least the job, seems to become a whole lot easier. The first person who has to be pleased with your work is you. Beyond that, focus on the end user i.e. the customer and usually, if they are happy and satisfied, your boss will be too.
P: How do you measure success?
SC: The definition of success is such an individual thing. I usually start off my new agent classes by asking agents to define the word “success” because everyone sees it as something different. The best definition of success that I have ever heard was offered by Bob Dylan. The singer/songwriter was asked how much money one had to make to be considered successful. Dylan responded, “What’s money? A man is a success if he gets up in the morning and gets to bed at night, and in between he does what he wants to do.”
P: If you had to buy some real estate today, what would you want that experience to be like?
SC: Fun and fast-paced. The neat part about this question is if I had to buy real estate today, it would most likely be in a warm climate so that gets me excited just thinking about it.
P: What advice would you give to someone starting out in real estate today?
This is a “sales” job. You will be selling yourself and your services every day. But remember that houses are just the widget that we use in real estate. This job really has nothing to do with the houses. It’s about relationships and balancing the emotions of your clients with the logic of the transaction. As a manager I would always cringe when someone would tell me they wanted to start a career in real estate because they just love houses. They love to watch HGTV and House Hunters all day long. That’s not what this job is all about. I wonder if medical school applicants say they want to become a doctor because they loved watching Scrubs or House?
P: What are the top 5 things a new agent should focus on to get their business in the black?
- Assemble a tiered database: a) Anyone you have contact info for. b) Your sphere of influence. I know them and they know me. c) Your past clients. d) A bulls-eye list of folks that are your fans and want to see you succeed e) Grow your database and fill in the detail as you discover it.
- Time blocking: One of the most important things to continually grow your business. There’s a big difference between business development and business support. Most agents spend time on business support because its easier, but without business development, there is nothing to support.
- Business plan: It’s almost cliché, but without a road map, you end up where the wind blows you. Plan for success–don’t wait for failure.
- Continue to sharpen your saw with self education. Books, blogs, seminars, podcasts. There is no shortage of information out there.
- Coaching. Get some sort of accountability. Choosing a coach is part of sharpening your saw. But it is also about having someone help you set accountability.
P: How do you see technology shaping the business of real estate in the future?
SC: I don’t want to scare anyone by saying they have to use technology. You can have a successful business without a lot of technology experience. You just won’t grow as big. But I continue to remind my agents that it isn’t about them, it’s about the consumer.
Today’s consumer is smarter and more tech savvy than ever, and they aren’t going to want to work with someone who needs to consult their old Palm Pilot for information. The internet, social media and video have made our jobs a bit more complex. But I think if used properly, technology can make our jobs easier.
When I was a golf pro, I had this saying I used to tell people who thought that buying a new set of clubs or using the hottest new ball would help improve their games “It’s the Indian, not the arrow.” No matter what the technology, it’s about what you do with it that counts.
P: What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
SC: Make sure you’re staying in touch with the people who know, like, and trust you. That means past clients and friends and family. If most agents just stayed focused on those people, they wouldn’t need to do any other prospecting.
P: What do you read every day, and why?
SC: Blogs from David Meerman Scott, John Jantsch, and Chris Brogan, because they take my mind outside of real estate, which usually helps me learn new things or something that I can relate to our industry. Most importantly, I read Seth Godin’s blog because he always makes me think. Godin is the master at challenging people to think, and he usually doesn’t care if you agree or disagree with him. He just wants you to think every day.
P: What is the one book that you recommend our community should read, and why?
SC: “The Question Behind the Question,” by John Miller. It’s all about personal accountability, and that’s what life boils down to. It’s time we stopped pointing fingers, blaming and procrastinating. We have to ask ourselves, “What can I do to better understand what is happening?” and, “How can I be better prepared for the changes life is bringing?” I believe in the message so much that every December 31st for the last 8 years, I’ve gotten up early and re-read the book so I could be ready and personally accountable for the New Year ahead.
P: What is your favorite gadget, app or piece of software that helps you every day?
SC: I’ve really become a big fan of the content aggregator Zite on my iPhone. Great information tailored to my topics and areas of focus that are easily shared to social media sites or email, or can be saved to Evernote for review later. I also use Dragon Dictation for texting or sending emails by voice while I drive between Columbus and Cincinnati.
P: Three people we should follow on Twitter, and why?
SC: Debra Trappen (@Debra11). Debra is in charge of the training and social engagement for Coldwell Banker Bain/Seal in the Pacific Northwest. She brings a tremendous passion for social media, real estate, and raising the bar, and delivers her message with a special kind of “swagga.”
David Marine (@David_Marine). As the Senior Director of Consumer Engagement for Coldwell Banker, he always has his ear to the ground for the latest tools, technologies, and trends in our business. He also blends in a nice mix of sports, pop culture and entertainment to show he’s more than just one of the voices of Big Blue.
Chris Nichols (@UtahREPro). Chris has a great approach to Twitter. He shares stories from his involvement in the Utah Association of Realtors as well as his active role in many aspects of the NAR. He also tweets out some great content and links for real estate agents to use to grow the business, and is one of the most personable and genuine people I know in the real estate channel. If you deliver anything of value, Chris will be the guy to not only comment, but also re-tweet it.
P: What real estate expert would you love to see us interview?
SC: Matthew Ferrara always impresses me with his deep knowledge of everything from technology to brokerage management, industry policy and market structures. He’s one of the smartest people I know. Matthew doesn’t always “toe the line” of our industry, which is good. There are enough “yes men” already, so it’s nice to hear someone who not only challenges some of the myths and “fluff” of our business, but also backs up his stance. Like Seth Godin, you might not like what Matthew says, but you will be forced to think about both sides of any issue.
P: When is the last time you laughed out loud? What caused it?
SC: I try to laugh out loud daily, but this week my daughter Riley became a teenager. Watching her log in to Facebook for the first time just cracked me up when she saw all of the people and the speed that her peers would respond to her friend requests. It also made her mad that she is more than 2000 friends behind me.
P: How can people connect with you?
SC: Coldwell Banker King Thompson & Coldwell Banker West Shell, both part of the NRT family of real estate brokerages across the United States.
P: Where are you located?
SC: Columbus, Ohio.