In recent years, real estate agents - feeling the time crunch from selling a lot of properties - have turned to outsourcing much of their administrative work to virtual assistants.
For time-blocking focused people like our co-founder and chairman Gary Keller, the real estate virtual assistant method presents a unique model that, when done right, can get similar results as the traditional transaction or marketing coordinator model.
Recently, Keller sat down with Daniel Ramsey, owner of MyOutDesk (myoutdesk.com), a provider of real estate virtual assistants and a KW Approved Vendor, to answer the question: what exactly does a real estate virtual assistant do?
Here is their conversation.
Gary Keller: Hey, Daniel. Thanks for joining me today. Let’s get this rolling. Give me the short one-to two-minute explanation, from your point of view, of a virtual assistant.
Daniel Ramsey: Several years ago, I was at a conference, and I remember someone saying that if you’re doing your own paperwork, you’re an assistant. What they were basically saying is that you’re worth what your assistant gets paid – that varies throughout the country – but what you’re saying is, “I’m worth 10 bucks an hour.”
The point I’m driving at is there are a lot of really, really good real estate agents generating business. But once it gets in the door, they need help. That’s where a virtual assistant comes in. In my opinion, there are three areas where a virtual assistant can really be impactful to a real estate agent and their office. The first is the administrative side of the business, which looks a lot like a transaction coordinator. They’re putting information into the MLS, taking care of the paperwork and the contract-to-close duties. What’s cool about this part is that you can also use them on the personal admin side. So, for instance, my wife’s birthday is coming up this Wednesday. She wants to go to a comedy show in our favorite restaurant downtown. And so, I sent over a link to my virtual assistant and said, “Buy six tickets and make reservations at this restaurant.”
Keller: What’s the second area of business?
Ramsey: So the second one – which we all need – is the marketing side. That’s like social media, 33 Touches, videos, fliers – the stuff that drives business to you. There’s a lot of repetitive work that goes into creating that online marketing machine, which is where a virtual assistant can help.
Keller: You use the phrase “repetitive work.” How significant is that in the way we view the best use of a virtual assistant?
Ramsey: Whenever you have an hourly employee who isn’t paid on commission, they are creating a machine that you can depend on. The virtual assistant’s strength is taking a program that they’ve created and then running with it. They shine when they are able to help with systematic and repetitive programs.
Keller: And the third area?
Ramsey: The third is the sales support side. Making calls and talking to clients is such an important part of what we do. What’s interesting is that about three years ago, the National Association of REALTORS® put out a statistic which stated that 80 percent of all sales are made between the fifth and the 12th contact. Most agents are really good at making two or three contacts to someone. But what if they’re not ready to buy today or sell tomorrow? Unless they’re set up in a system that constantly calls and keeps in touch, you’re likely not going to get the sale.
If you talk with them over six months, create rapport, develop a relationship and show them value, they feel like they’re important and cared for. That situation is most likely going to result in a sale. The difficult part for a real estate agent is doing all those follow-up calls, which keep the deal from falling apart. We’ve created a “lead coordinator” position or what we like to call an “ISA” or Inside Sales Agent to do that for you.
Keller: So let me switch gears here. What’s the biggest mistake that an agent makes when they hire a virtual assistant?
Ramsey: When you look at the overall leverage piece, what we’re really talking about is your “Leads, Listings and Leverage” triangle from The Millionaire Real Estate Agent. The biggest mistake I see agents make is to assume that leverage is not as important as the other sides.
Keller: You just explained keys to the kingdom. That’s the step that every real estate agent has to ask themselves. “Am I ready to make a hire?” Because, the problem is that when you decide to generate leads for leverage, and you decide to master that, you’ve now agreed to do two things: You’ve agreed to be a real estate agent and a businessperson. And that is like having two masters and taking on two roles. You’re saying, “I’m not only gonna be the quarterback, but I’m also going to be the defense and the tight end.” And usually people don’t even realize that that’s the issue staring at them. They just don’t get it. They just think “hiring is easy” or “it’s a no-brainer.” And I always chuckle when people come back, after trying to do it for six months to a year and go, “Wow, it’s a lot harder than I thought it was. It’s hard to find good people and it’s hard to work with people.”
Ramsey: Absolutely. There’s a whole side to finding the right person. And once you find the right people, you have to keep them in the game and accountable to what they need to be doing. This applies to virtual assistants too. We have agents call us and think that we are the “silver bullet.” One of the services we’re now providing is an over-the-phone consultation with a licensed and experienced agent who does two things. They answer the housekeeping questions – what time does a virtual assistant work – and then they dive into their office and find how the agent is running their business. We then identify talent versus non-talent and look for the holes within their company. Without this piece the virtual assistant doesn’t typically work. You have to set expectations, create a job description and have a ramp-up period of three to four months for the person to be 100 percent comfortable when they come into a new job. And at the end of the day An agent still has to lead the team and be the coach.
Keller: What are you going to pay for a virtual assistant?
Ramsey: Great question. Our base is $6.70 and $9.60 is our high-end executive person. The reason that’s our price is because we wanted to be able to offer high-quality people and give them an option they don’t currently have in their country. We pay our virtual assistants two times the standard income, we give them health care and we give them vacation time. We also do two conferences a year, which is more incentive to stay with their clients for a long period of time. Because let’s face it – turnover is the enemy of leverage.
Keller: Last question. If I’m thinking about getting a virtual assistant, what’s the key to get started?
Ramsey: Gary, it goes back to setting expectations on the front end. Having a detailed job description after the initial coaching call, creating an office manual, setting up quarterly goals and getting a mindset that you are a businessperson and not just a sales person. We ask for the DISC profile of everyone on the team to understand how they interact. We also want to set expectations about what you expect to accomplish. For instance, in month one, you expect them to have reached 25 percent of the goal, month two is 50 percent, month three is 75 percent and, by the end of the quarter, they should be performing 100 percent of the job goals.
Keller: Awesome. Ramsey, this has been fun talking about myoutdesk.com, thanks a lot.
Ramsey: Thank you!