THE GAME-WINNING PLAY

Mega agent Kelly Cook transformed $40 and a three-line classified ad into a career as one of the most successful real estate agents in Arizona with over $60 million in closed volume last year.

But his real estate career didn’t really take off until 2012, when he joined Keller Williams. It was here he learned to apply the four models for building his business from Gary Keller’s The Millionaire Real Estate Agent with the support of an office of experts willing to share their knowledge to further his goals.

KCook.jpg

Following a playbook was a natural transition for Cook: he had been a quarterback and wide receiver at the University of Nebraska, then coached at his alma mater and Ole Miss before transitioning to a career as an NFL agent.

“Every aspect of his business is run by the MREA models,” says Tony Hughes, Cook’s team leader at Keller Williams Arizona Realty. “He teaches the importance of not reinventing the wheel and to stay true to the models that Gary Keller has given us from his 30-plus years of experience.”

Cook’s current goal is to use his business to help at least three people become millionaires. “That’s a big professional goal of mine. Which means I have to become one first,” he says. “I’ve got some good people on my team right now, so it’s definitely a possibility. I’m right there.”

Cook’s success as a mega agent and founder of the Kelly Cook Real Estate Group might make it difficult to believe that just 12 years ago he was new to the state, unemployed, and sleeping in his sister’s spare bedroom.

A Pivotal Moment

After a chance encounter with his sister’s landlord – where he learned that the landlord made $25,000 on a month’s worth of transactions – Cook decided he would train to become an NFL agent while selling real estate to create a steady income.

Cook wasn’t afraid of hard work and long hours. As a graduate assistant football coach, he had averaged 95 to 100 hours per week, 10 months out of the year, and earned $800 a month.

A $40 Start

Cook started his real estate career with a 20-agent boutique firm. It was 2005, he was in a state where he knew almost no one, competition was fierce and the internet was not yet relevant.

So Cook came up with an idea: he’d buy the least expensive classified ad in the newspaper’s Rentals section. His thought process was that helping people find a rental would earn him a quick $100 to $400 for each transaction. Then, when their lease was up, he’d help those renters buy a house.

With no competition in that section of the classifieds, Cook received a reasonable number of calls for his $40 investment.

From NFL Recruiting to Full-Time Real Estate

Cook liked real estate from the getgo. “I loved the fact that you could literally work 100 hours a week and, if you did that, you could do really well financially. You could reap what you sow,” he says.

After two years at the boutique firm, he then made the switch to Prudential Arizona Properties, now Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices, for five years. All the while, he pursued his NFL dream. After being turned down by a player he’d been working with as a potential client, Cook began thinking: the maximum he could charge on a contract as an NFL agent was 3 percent. That was the same percentage he made showing a house. “That’s when I got really motivated to focus on real estate,” Cook says.

Opportunity In a Challenging Market

When Cook decided to pursue a full-time career in real estate in 2009, the market was heavily depressed; however, where others saw chaos, Cook saw opportunity. He quickly seized short sales when agents asked him to handle the time-intensive work for their clients. Cook had read Keller’s The Millionaire Real Estate Agent and it made a lot of sense to him. “The game plan was set out for you – it was there. You just had to follow it, plug into it,” Cook says.

But even though he followed the principles of the book, things weren’t working for him at Prudential and he didn’t know why, Cook says. During his years in Arizona, many of the successful agents he met were with Keller Williams. The way they talked about real estate was eye-opening: there was training and team building – ideas that were never talked about at Prudential or the boutique firm

Changing Teams

When he made the move to Keller Williams in 2012, the open culture was something he noticed rightCooks Gamebook.jpg away: most agents at KW were willing to answer questions and share their expertise. They helped each other succeed.

Cook’s business began to change. He began learning how to build a team. “I started taking some of the tools that Keller Williams offers – personnel reports and things of that nature – to try to match up the right people for the right positions as much as possible,” Cook says. Then, he worked on building systems, so that when someone new joined his team he wasn’t reinventing the wheel.

His leadership has made a significant impact on others, Hughes shares.

“Kelly exudes passion for the craft of real estate and his passion is contagious. He is such a positive influence on all of our 400-plus agents. He teaches in our market center, and is a model for how to build a cohesive and unified team of focused professionals.”

Cook never wants to stop expanding his business, so no one working with him ever feels like they’re bumping up against a ceiling, he says. “Our goal is to really keep growing. And our vision is specifically that we provide opportunity for growth for all of our team members and clients.”

Cook is a great example of what Keller Williams is all about, Hughes says. “He lives the values that we all hold close. He is focused on building a $100 million empire and is committed to succeeding through others.”

KELLER WILLIAMS SURPASSES $1 BILLION IN PROFIT SHARE TO ASSOCIATES

Profit share is one way in which Keller Williams Realty exemplifies the principle of success through others. Each month, market centers share roughly half of their profits with the agents who helped grow the market center and make it profitable. But in order for there to be profit share, there must first be success.

Since the inception of the profit share program, KW has distributed more than $1 billion to associates who have helped the company grow!

And, thanks to the company’s recent growth and agent production gains, it has distributed more profit share in the past four years than in the preceding 21 years combined.

“As a company, we’re motivated by helping people fund their lives and create opportunities,” CEO John Davis says. “Giving back is part of our culture. Profit share allows our people to earn passive income for life so they can pay for their kids’ education, take care of their parents, and invest for the future.”

The historic achievement comes as Keller Williams is closing in on its most successful profit share year yet. Through the first 10 months of the year, KW has shared $151.9 million with associates in the United States and Canada, an increase of 14.1 percent compared with the same period in 2016. (Keller Williams associates outside of the United States and Canada participate in a similar program called “growth share.”)

Individual Keller Williams market center owners share roughly 50 percent of their office’s monthly profits with associates who have helped the business grow. As of Oct. 31, 98 percent of Keller Williams market centers were profitable for the year. Moreover, a record four market centers had already distributed $1 million or more this year. There are also individual agents who have received seven-figure distributions.

In the six years since Keller Williams launched its companywide Growth Initiative, profit share payouts have grown substantially:

  • $154.4 million in 2016
  • $129.8 million in 2015
  • $98.1 million in 2014
  • $78.2 million in 2013
  • $55.3 million in 2012
  • $38.3 million in 2011

Keller Williams Co-Founder and Chairman Gary Keller and early company leaders created the profit share program to ensure the goals of KW owners and agents remain permanently aligned. Innumerable lives have been changed as a result.

“Profit share saved my life.”

Dawn Braithwaite, a top-producing agent out of Ridgewood, N.J., credits the profit share program for saving her life. After a bad fall, Braithwaite sustained severe injuries to her wrist and within 24 hours learned she needed surgery. Her heart sank as her insurance company told her the surgery would not be covered.

“I just got divorced and was trying to pay all my bills,” Braithwaite says. “There was no way I could afford it. I didn’t know what to do.” After meeting with her doctor early in the week, she learned her only options would be to negotiate the price of the surgery down or have it performed by medical students at another clinic on the other side of town. But even at a discounted rate, the surgery was out of her price range.

She canceled her surgery and resigned herself to being stuck until she received an unexpected message in her inbox.

“On Thursday, I opened my email and saw that my profit share check had been deposited,” she says. “I couldn’t believe it!” Stunned and relieved, Braithwaite contacted her doctor right away and was in surgery the following day. It ended up being the surgery that saved her life.

“What should have taken an hour ended up taking two and a half,” Braithwaite explains. “It was a complicated operation because the doctors found that I had severed an artery and nerves. I could have bled to death. If profit share hadn’t come in, I don’t know what I would have done.”

“With profit share, our opportunities to give are so much greater.”

Linda McKissack.pngLinda McKissack, Keller Williams’ number one profit share earner, calls the program “the greatest gift we’ve been given.” Since becoming purposeful about profit share in 2007, McKissack has built a significant business and teaches agents how they can fund their lives long after their last deal is finished.

While McKissack has enjoyed the money, “the real gift is significance,” she comments. “It changes people’s lives.”

She has seen the impact firsthand with her family.

“My son-in-law was sick for 10 and a half months with terminal cancer,” McKissack shares. “My husband and I only worked three weeks during that time because money was coming in passively. Helping him fulfill his life wishes and being with my daughter, granddaughter and family – it was priceless. If you have profit share covering your expenses, you have freedom. You never know what’s on your horizon.”

“It allows me to be free. I will pass it along to my children.”

Since profit share is willable, agents are able to leave a lasting legacy for years to come. When Charles Bowles – a Keller Williams agent from Tulsa, Okla., and a significant profit share earner – died, Steve Whitaker was astonished to learn he had been included in his will.

“We were good friends and I helped take care of him during the last few years of his life,” Whitaker explains. “When he passed, he left everything to me, including profit share. I was able to take the proceeds and build my own house with it.”

Today, Whitaker is thriving in Oklahoma and owns a waste-removal company called Git-Er-Gone along with numerous properties. He partners with many Keller Williams agents in the area to remove unwanted items from homes. The monthly income from profit share “allows me to be free,” he says. “I don’t have to work as hard as I would.”

Just as Bowles paid his profit share forward, Whitaker plans on willing his profit share to his children so they can benefit from him. “I will put it in a trust so they can continue to take care of the properties we own.”

HOW TO RACK UP REFERRALS THROUGH SOCIAL MEDIA

Keller Williams associate Sheri Wolfe of the Chesterfield (Mo.) market center is racking up referrals with relevant and entertaining social media posts. Her strategic social efforts combined with the CGI tools and guidance from her KW MAPS Coach have resulted in a 103 percent increase in her production in the last 12 months.

Wolfe – an active Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter and Instagram user – explains that social media marketing is more than building a page and posting listings. It’s about keeping users interested and engaged. An effective strategy is one where your posts put you in the center of your neighborhood and get everyone involved. Wolfe cautions against posting only about yourself and your listings. “If every post is all about you, they will get bored,” she says.

Showcasing Your Authentic Self

If you scroll through Wolfe’s pages, you will quickly see that she showcases her personality and that she is the expert in the neighborhood. But, most importantly, Wolfe uses social media to show people that she cares. “I am very proud of our area,” she says. “I want people to know it isn’t just about getting the listing. I want everyone in my neighborhood to know I am here.”

New Call-to-action

She recommends other agents do the same, and instead of hyper-focusing on the numbers of views, shares and likes, stay genuine and authentic. “That’s your focus and then the numbers will come. These are people’s lives and they need to feel that you care,” Wolfe says.

In an industry where reputation and referrals are extremely important, the fact that 15-20 percent of Wolfe’s total business and 52 percent of her business in her own neighborhood comes from referrals shows that her strategy and genuine concerns for her clients’ needs are getting noticed.

When to Post

No matter what your plan is, the key to a successful social media strategy is to be consistent, says Wolfe. She posts at least a few times each week to all of her social channels.

“I post in Snapchat at least once a week,” Wolfe says. “Snapchats are usually ‘Look where I’m at’ or ‘Check this out’ type of posts. They’re only active for 24 hours, so they are not anything that you can redo or keep out there for an extended period of time.”

What to Post

To get more eyes on her posts, Wolfe makes sure the content she shares on social media is relevant. “I don’t just post a listing,” Wolfe says. “I place context around the listing by tagging what’s around town near the listing. Then, the places I tag can see the post, which they might not have seen otherwise.”

This strategy pays off! Recently, Wolfe received a listing because someone saw a post where she tagged a location near them. “They didn’t realize I covered that part of town until they saw the post,” she says.

Other ideas for posts include “coming soon listings,” especially during the holidays when inventory is notoriously low, and doing live videos at neighborhood events and festivals.

“You don’t just want to show people a house,” Wolfe says. “You want to show them what’s around it.” She offers that some events around town to post about include local football games and school activities. “I also give shout-outs to other businesses where I’ve received great customer service or saw something I thought others would want to know,” she says. “Not every post is a home run, so don’t get discouraged. Some things work, some don’t. It’s all about trying to find out what works for you.”

Pro tip for Facebook Live: “If you’re going to do a live post, don’t script it. Instead, write down some highlights to be sure to say. [And] if you mess up, just keep going. It’s not going to be perfect, but that’s all right.”

Don’t leave leads hanging

If you were hoping for some magic, you won’t find it with social media marketing, Wolfe says. To make it work for you, “you have to roll up your sleeves, be held accountable, and do the hard work,” she says. One important aspect of the hard work is in the engagement and follow-up.

When someone engages with one of Wolfe’s posts, she interacts with them. “I read every post and every comment,” she says. When the interaction is strong, Wolfe takes the conversation to an email or an instant private message and shares more information with them. “I don’t reach out to everyone who likes a post,” Wolfe says, noting that some people just like to be nice, but they aren’t really interested.

Leveraging the Load

It’s no secret that one of the biggest hurdles with social media is the time it takes to run an active business page. This is why Wolfe decided to leverage some of her time by hiring someone to assist with posting. “You can’t be a jack-of-all-trades,” she says. “You have to know what you can do and where you should outsource.” However, Wolfe cautions that if you outsource all of your posts, it will come across fake and won’t be as effective. “You have to be engaged and involved in your social media even if you have help with some of the content,” she says.

Reflecting on a recent conversation she had with her KW MAPS Coach, Wolfe says, “I still have room to improve. I need to get better about tracking and measuring my social media activity.” She is up for the task! “The success I have experienced is simple, but not easy,” Wolfe says. “You have to do the work.”