TNS Podcast Episode #34: How 1 Agent Does Over 100 Transactions Per Year
Sara Kalke on Podcast Episode #34: Do Over 100 Deals in One Year
All right, we are live. Welcome to the Thrive Not Survive podcast. I am your host, Kelley Skar. With me today is Jeff Thibodeau. He's jumping back into the podcast. Welcome, my friend.
Jeff Thibodeau: I'm back.
Kelley Skar: So happy to have you back. I'm really excited about this one today. I reached out to Sara Kalke, who is a very top producing agent out of Edmonton, Alberto, which is about three hours north of Calvary. I've known Sara for a couple of years. We've spoken at one or two events today, and one of the things that really intrigue me about Sara is the fact that she's about to do such a high level of transactions and still have a life, and still achieve this balance that everybody's looking for. So that's the topic today. I'm gonna frame this up. I wanna introduce Sara properly so I'm gonna switch screens here. I'm gonna jump over to my browser and just read a little bit of her bio here. So a little bit about Sara.
After graduating with a classical music performance degree, yes really, I started in real estate as a home staging consultant and client care specialist. My company helped hundreds of sellers prepare their homes for sale with my specialized value-added home staging, professional photography and top-of-the-line marketing. My services grew a reputation in Edmonton, and often sellers would list their home just based on my photographs and marketing skills. After four years, much hard work and dedication, my family and friends kept asking me if I could help them buy or sell a home. I decided it was time to provide the level of service I had grown a reputation for to my friends, family and clients; and hopefully, to you. I have been a licensed realtor since 2008, and love every day as a realtor.
She was born and raised in Edmonton. She's one of Edmonton's biggest fans. She grew up in the University area now calls Strathcona home. She's got a great appreciation for the diversity of the communities in Edmonton, and has helped clients in every area of the city, including Leduc, Sherwood Park, Beaumont, Stony Plain. She also has a passion for green housing, sustainable living, building strong communities, horseback riding, and her family. I added those two other parts in there because they weren't on the bio on the website.
There she is, Sara Kalke. Welcome to the Thrive Not Survive podcast, my friend.
Sara Kalke: Thank you very much for having me. I'm super excited to be here.
Kelley Skar: Well, I know that you're in an airport. You're in Jackson Hole, Wyoming ready to got rip it up and shred some of that snow out there. So I'm gonna try not to keep you very long here. So we're gonna jump into this right away. So give us a little bit of background. You've been in the business since 2008 so for about a decade. Where did it start, and where is it growing to, in terms of transactions and just growth of the business?
Sara Kalke: That's a great question. When I started in real estate, I had no intention of being a realtor at all. I was fundraising to go to Germany, and continue on being a classical musician. I play the flute. And then, one thing let to another. I met my husband. I figured out real estate would be a great way to buy a horse. So I bought a horse. And one thing led to another, and real estate kept on coming up as this great way to pay for horses, and for adventures. So I am currently on route to an adventure on a mountain, and I think that has been [inaudible 00:03:18] real estate for me is that it is the doors that it opens up in life. The cool thing starting as an assistant and being in the real estate industry, but on the backend, I had this great appreciate for the systems, organization, just the stuff of real estate that has to be, and has to be done well, and the absolute critical importance of doing a very good job for my clients in terms of details.
So I came about real estate in quite a different way than most people do because I kind of paid my dues. I was an assistant. I learned the business from the backend. Often we just wanna jump in and get the hero side of it, make all the money, do all the stuff, be the boss of everything. But I took my time, learned the systems, and by the time I did say to everybody I knew, "Hey, now I'm actually selling real estate," hit the ground running. Hit six figures my first year in commissions, while I was still working full-time as an assistant and stager for the real estate people that I was working for. Mostly because I already come across a bit of a, I wouldn't say expert, but somebody who knew what I was doing in real estate.
Now, the journey until today has been a really crazy one, really interesting. I started up there. Yesterday was [inaudible 00:04:47] so I shared the story about losing my first daughter in 2012. And then, a year and eight days later, had my daughter Zoe. So I had lots of bumps and hiccups, and things that really helped me remember always that it's not just about how many houses you sell. It's about the quality of life that you have, and through that process, I really gained an appreciation for mindfulness and meditation, not so much in the sense of sitting on a [inaudible 00:05:18] saying ohm, but being very present in every moment. And I think, if there's anything that I've done to get me to 105 transactions in a year, it's that I'm a big, big believer in do one thing at a time; be super, crazy, ultra focused. It's probably why I like random, extreme sports. Do the work, and things will come back to you.
Kelley Skar: Well, that's definitely something that you share in common with Jeff, mindfulness and meditation and being in the moment. Recently, Jeff and I were out together at Lake Louise, and I remember kind of looking at him going, "Dude, what's going on?" And he's like, "Oh, man. I'm just sucking this all in." I'm like, "Okay. Well, that's good, man. That's good." And I thought, "Jesus, I should have been doing the same thing," but he was just really enjoying himself. Jeff, you got something to add there?
Jeff Thibodeau: Sara, did you find this mindfulness and presence and wanting to be in the moment was something you brought into this career, or at some point the stresses and the labor of real estate took you too far and you had to learn these skills? Or is it something that was part of you before becoming a realtor?
Sara Kalke: I come from German farmer parents, who always taught us be intense about absolutely everything in your life. So the intensity was not something that I had to learn, it's something, in fact, I have to keep a little bit. I'm like a border collie that doesn't know when to stop running. So what I to learn I think mostly was through survive struggle and surviving grief and pain really, was learning how to bring things back. And then, just when I thought things were going really well, because I get so ahead of myself and so hyper focused and into something and kind of obsessive almost, that 2015, again by the end of the year, I was so exhausted. I was working all the time. I was doing well, success in the eyes of the world, but I wasn't living any of my dreams. I wasn't really doing anything cool. And then, again, it just keeps surfacing over and over and over again. That mindfulness is something that I need in my world to have a balance. We say balance too often I think, but balance for me really means being mindful every single day.
Jeff Thibodeau: Okay, thanks.
Kelley Skar: Yeah, absolutely. It's something that one of our agents actually spoke about it at our last Thrive Not Survive event. And the way that she likened it in terms of balance, is kind of breaking down into ratios. So we're doing everything kind of in proportion to one another. Right? She actually broke down into an analogy of a cookie. So you're not gonna have two cups of flour, two cups of sugar, two cups of salt, two cups of chocolate chips in this one cookie. You're gonna put all of these ingredients in the bowl, you're gonna mix the bowl up, and then each cookie is gonna have different proportions of the ingredient. Right? And so, that's kind of the way that she brought it back to real life, is you've got a certain amount of your business takes up a certain amount of your life. And if you've got the ratio's kind of dialed in, that's where the balance comes in. Right? This whole idea of balance is kind of a myth I think.
Sara Kalke: Yeah. Well, it's the universal law of [inaudible 00:08:37]. If the pendulum swings in one direction of really intense work, it also has to swing the other direction of really intense rest. Ask [inaudible 00:08:48] about it. [crosstalk 00:08:51], but yeah.
Jeff Thibodeau: I wanted to ask, what does really intense rest mean? I've never heard someone describe it like that. What does that mean to you?
Sara Kalke: Kelley did a great job describing it when he talked about your moment of just taking everything in. That's it. It's those pauses that you have, even while everything is really hectic, where you can just say, "Okay. I feel the emotion in this." And you just are able to cut yourself off, be totally, 100% calm in the moment. And then, just keep rolling. It's a rhythm that happens, micro-rhythms that happen within a day, but then also big rhythms, things that happen where we'll go to the mountains for four day. I'll go and ride my horses. And that's a different kind of rest because my mind is totally off. If I'm on the back of my horse, especially my young one, or we're going down the fence in a show with the cow, and we're both going absolute top speed, your mind isn't working. Your mind is resting in a different way. Your body is active in a different way, but your body's also restful when you're doing real estate stuff. It's just like a blob. It's just sitting there. Everything is kind of little parts on and off.
Kelley Skar: Okay. I'm gonna dial us back a little bit. We are getting way too deep here, way too deep, off the. Okay. I wanna come back to kind of the three topics that we were gonna discuss here today. So lead you in mindset and organization. We were kind of going that down that trail of mindset. So we've been talking a little bit about balance and ratios and shutting your mind off and that sort of thing. I think there's a lot of agents out there, especially as we grow our brokerage here in Calgary, the more conversations I get into with realtors is how do you get over these humps? How do you go from feast to famine, from feast to famine, from feast to famine?And how were you able to create this level of consistency in your life where it isn't just transactional, but the feast could be you're just spending all kinds of time with your family, and then all of a sudden you get so busy and there's no time for family anymore, right? So it's this feast, famine type cycle, and it doesn't really matter whether it's transactional, or if it's personal. So what I wanna do is kind of maybe delve a little bit into mindset, and talk to you a little bit about how you're able to bring all of those layers in, and layer one on top of each other, almost like a layer cake, right, where you cut into that cake and you take that bite, and every bite of that cake is gonna be kind of equal. So what kind of a mindset have you got to be able to do 105 transactions, staying hyper focused and organized on your work, but at the same time, able to spend that time with your family and your horses, and take in some of your hobbies?
Sara Kalke: Really, really good question, and sometimes when you summarized, you said, "That's like two and a half houses a week." I was like, "Oh, my goodness. That sounds horrible. I'm so busy." But then I was like, "Oh, wait. It was actually really fun." The reason it is really fun is because always charging toward my path of least resistance. It is actually the same exact concept as how I generate leads. My purpose behind generating leads and doing business as a whole, is finding my people, as I like to call them; the people that I work with best, the people that everything just flows with. And those are the people that I market to.
So I created a local community called Walkable Edmonton, and it's because every single time I'd have a conversation with my easiest path of least resistance, my chocolate cake people, the ones you just wanna go hang out with so you really, really love your work. Every conversation, seller, buyer, whatever, it's awesome. You just have so much fun. Every conversation we would have, at some point, would have the word walkability in it. So I thought, "I'm going to reverse engineer, pulling more of these people into my world." Then we created, kind of again reverse engineered, a Facebook group called Minimalism Edmonton. And it's based off of the idea that if you want to live in a walkable area of Edmonton, you can't necessarily do it, and also have a 2,800 square foot huge house.
So those things all come together, and they're also really close to my heart. So it's not like it's hard for me to put on this thing about like, "I sell only luxury homes." I'm super down to earth. Half of the time, I'll be zipping from the farm riding my horses to show houses. It's a different world. So finding the places that I have the most fun, and then a lot of problems that come up in life tend to be problems of either boundaries or attachments. So when I have a problem with real estate clients, like sellers, especially in our market. You're in Calgary. In Edmonton, it's the same. I sold 105 houses. I think I had 25 transactions fall apart last year, which is a lot. I mean, that's a lot of mental resilience that you have to gain for yourself and with your clients.
So part of my job is to go ahead of everything. That's our job as a marketer, is to control conversation that people have about our homes. That's the job of a stager, is we know what conversation having a room is going to create. Well, I know what conversation having improper communication is going to have with my clients. Or if I set really vague expectations of what's happening in the market, even if they get an offer, and I'm not getting ahead of the conversations that they're having with their family and friends and everybody about me, I'm neglecting my key responsibilities to them. And I take that very, very seriously. It's being in that space of responsibility not only to my clients, but also to my family, that if I'm going to absolutely crush it and do a great job in real estate, I'm doing it in a way where there's a lot of flow. So the path of least resistance, it really answers questions one and two. How do you lead generate, but also how do I keep the train on the tracks?
Jeff Thibodeau: Hey, I gotta chirp in here because you're saying things that I'm hearing for the first time. And I read a lot of this stuff, but this concept of path of least resistance, again, where did you pick this up? Because the entire industry tells us hustle, grime, put your head down, work harder, put in more calls. They don't go, "Hey, have a great life. Go on vacation. Go with the path of least resistance." Sara, who taught you this?
Sara Kalke: Probably most of it I learned from John [inaudible 00:15:41], my friend and business mentor. I remember, I went to see him at a conference in 2014. It was the first time I'd ever left my daughter at home. She was one years old. I went in the morning, got home at night. And this guy was there who was living this totally different life, and I was fascinated. And what I found is that, and he always says that, he's like, "Don't glamorize the grind." Why is everybody saying, "Oh, well I stayed out until four in the morning, and then I got up and I have 15 hours of appointments, and I made 9,000 cold calls." And he's like, "Dudes, you're all saying garbage to people who don't wanna hear garbage. No one wants to be sold. We're over this now.
And these were all things that I had believed for so long. The reason I got into real estate was because people were like, "I like working with you because I don't feel like you're selling me." And then, I just kept going towards that and more towards that and more towards it, and every bit of language that I put out there on social media, or in my real estate coaching, everything is breaking this habit of we have to grind. We can just do cool things, and it's amazing how it flows. I went to 12 horse shows last year, and that's two day weekends, usually three day weekends, where I'm totally gone. And I don't have a buyer's agent, but I still sold 55 houses to buyers.
Jeff Thibodeau: So a followup question to this path of least resistance because initially, to me, that seems like we're told set these massive goals, bigger than you've ever set before, double your business. And then, that seems to be in real conflict with take the path of least resistance. Right? Do you think your potential, or your growth, just purely on production, has slowed because you've taken this path of least resistance? Or you're still hitting the same achievements, plus you're getting the life with want. You kind of know what I'm asking?
Sara Kalke: Absolutely. I will tell you the things that I changed, and the results that they had. Between 2015 and 2016, the key change that I made was going to the gym. Before, I was one of those people who insulted my life by saying, "I don't have time." And literally unless you're diagnosed with a terminal illness and you have months to live, you have time. It's just that you're not prioritizing it. So John [inaudible 00:18:11] called me up. He called everybody up, but I just heard it. That was the only change I made out of 25 transactions that year.
The only change that I made between 2016, which was a 98 transaction year, and 2017, which was 105, was I went to three times as many horse shows. I bought an extra horse so I was showing two really the year before, and then I got to be I was showing four of them, and I sold more houses, and I worked less. And I actually had more fun. So it works. You have to really smart about it. I mean, there's certainly been times where you have so many things on the go that it's easy to get kind of out of rhythm, but that's when I goes to back how good of a job am I doing with my clients to make sure that they're always ... It's not relevant to them if I'm gone 12 weekends a year.
The important thing to them is that I'm doing a really great job, and I have people in place. I have two assistants at home that take care of so much for me, and it was a conscious choice. I said, "I will hire one of my part-time assistants as a full-time assistant so that I can go and do more horse shows." But the results speak for themselves really.
Jeff Thibodeau: You look really angry today in Jackson Hole. You look like your life is just falling apart.
Sara Kalke: It is so rough.
Kelley Skar: I don't want people to get confused her about this path of least resistance. It doesn't mean that you don't have to work. Right? It doesn't mean that you don't have to make the phone calls and send the emails and go knock doors and followup and keep your eye on the perfect. That isn't what you're talking about. Right? What you're talking about is saying-
Sara Kalke: Oh, no.
Kelley Skar: What's that?
Sara Kalke: I said oh, no. It is not doing nothing.
Kelley Skar: Right. So you are grinding it out, but you're really enjoying what you're doing, and you're really enjoying the time that you're taking for yourself. And that seems to be part of the ratio, part of the mixture that you've got of your life. Right? That seems to be a big part of it to me.
Sara Kalke: Yeah. RE/MAX put out an event in Arizona in the summer of 2015, and [Darren Hardy 00:20:34] spoke at us, a hole room of RE/MAX's top producers for a whole day, eight to five straight Darren Hardy. Beginning of the day, he talked for about an hour about how we were all lazy, unfocused, complete cellphone addicts. He did it on purpose to make us wake up, but he was absolutely right. He's like, "All of you think that you're awesome, but you're wasting your lives being addicted to your cellphones. You are not productive. You think you might be, but none of you are reaching your true potential. And if you got git by a bus tomorrow, there would be nothing awesome to say about you." He was super harsh, but it, in a way, was true.
And I was like, "It's no longer about I don't have time." It was about I'm going to, instead of just owning a horse that I see once a week, or once a month, because I'm like, "Oh, I don't have time." I was like, "I'm gonna show horses. I'm gonna go and get after this." It's not that I go and hang the farm and it's leisurely. I get there sometimes at 9:45 at night. I ride until 11:45, and this after putting my kid to bed. Every single segment of my life is super intense, and I don't want people to be mistaken. You make a really good point. I love the word hustle because it reminds me keep going, keep going, keep going, but work smart, be extremely focused when you are working. But then also, make sure that you're being extremely focused when you're doing things that are awesome and fun and not work.
Kelley Skar: Yeah, I love what you said by saying you insulted your own life by saying, "I don't have time." That is one of my biggest pet peeves is people that say, "I'm sorry. I just don't have time." That, to me, makes absolutely no sense.
Jeff Thibodeau: Well, I think you find too, I don't know if you've found it, that intensity. Right? You can probably look back and find a time when now you can squeeze two hours of work and get the same output that you got in eight hours of work before because of the focus. And I think there's a lot that I'm listening to you talk that I'm trying to put through my own filter, but that idea that if you're gonna operate at that level on intensity, it has to be focus, and then it has to have some off time too. Because I don't know, some days when I'm on the phone all day, or I've got team meeting, coaching call, coaching call, team meeting again, I come home and I can't talk to my family anymore. It's gone. Right? You've used it all up.
So I think it has to come with it. Right? If you're gonna live this scattered life where not a lots going, and you get maybe two hours of output out of an eight hour day, and then you try to become super focused in these other areas, it keeps ratcheting itself up. And my question is, I guess, what is the next level of balance and life and winning look for you? Is it 200 transactions and 48 horse shows? Or are you in the zone now? This is the thing that I think people find interesting. Is it just always charging ahead, or have you found your zone and now it's more balance, more life? Where are you at right now?
Sara Kalke: Yeah. Which dials are getting tweaked right now? The dial that I'm tweaking is adding a coaching program. So I've always been a believer that the greatest honor that we can have in life is to take the abundance that's been given to us and relay it to people who need that help. Every single piece that I learn in real estate that I learned about mindfulness when I was surviving PTSD and loss and I was in a really horrible place, they all came from other people who helped me out. And so, I feel a responsibility to make sure that I'm adding that piece. But with that, also creating some alternate streams of income for my family. So the coaching stream, just different things that kind of keep my mind engaged and going.
The real estate, I'm really not focused on selling houses this year. Actually, in 2017, my goal was to sell way less houses. And it just kept happening, and I was like, "Oh, weird. Cool." At no point was I like, "Oh, I have to sell a ton of houses this year." So this year I'm being very flexible about it. I'm really believing everybody who comes across my path in the real estate is getting evaluated as am I the right fit for them. Are they gonna be best served by me, or by somebody else? And I'm really trying to take a bit more of a focus on taking time to do very little. Because a lot of what I've been doing is very active things, active work, active other stuff. And the piece that I'm adding in a lot more now is spending time on the floor playing play mobiles with my four year old, and just in a space of relaxing and playing and kind of dialing it back in some areas, while pushing forward in other ones.
Jeff Thibodeau: That's awesome. So this Walkable Edmonton thing. Obviously you've been in my bubble, even though maybe we haven't had this level of conversation for a long time because I was a former RE/MAXer too, and so connections and seeing everything you were doing in Edmonton, and kind of [inaudible 00:26:03] away from each other. And I saw you launched the Walkable Edmonton thing, and I thought, "Wow, that's something smart." I see everyone focusing on neighborhoods and stuff, but you pinned in on the one thing that urbanites really care about. You gave us a little back story, but maybe give us the results that have come by it, by taking that really super niche approach to your community around something that a lot of people would think, "My street, or these restaurants and shops." But you've just taken this concept of walking and turned it into your niche. So what have the results been, and the impact on the community and all that, for you?
Sara Kalke: It has been exactly what I hoped it would be. And by that, I mean when I started Walkable Edmonton it was an alternative way to market my place with my way of helping people to traditional ego-based advertising. It's really quite challenging in our world to not just be like, "Oh, hey. It's my face on a billboard." And for a little while, I actually integrated both. I had some bus benches, which felt really, really weird, but also bus benches with Walkable Edmonton on them. And now, we've transitioned. I think we only one or two left in the city, and the rest are all Walkable Edmonton. The cool thing is people feel a lot more comfortable. This is digital body language. People are not comfortable with cheesy salesmen anymore, or women, whatever. What they want is somebody who understands not only their community, it's not just about a neighborhood, it's about a lifestyle. And not a lifestyle like, "Oh, I'm rich," or I'm this or I'm that.
A walkability can encompass a whole bunch of different kinds of people and kinds of neighborhoods, but it all comes back to just that tiny niche of people who really understand what walkability is. It's a complicated, urban planning concept. So there's a lot of people who see it, and they're like, "What's that?" But in terms of results, I have quite a few people; out-of-towners, who's always been a really great niche. They come to Edmonton and they want somewhere walkable because they're used to living in Toronto in a walkable neighborhood. Our first year, I think I sold about 12 properties last year that were directly related to Walkable Edmonton. So that's a fair chunk of change that came across from it, and it continues to grow.
Now the other thing that's really critical to remember with the way that social media marketing is now, is the days of late attribution are over. The days where you can say, "Somebody called me because of a bus bench, or a flyer." No one really does flyers anymore. Some people do I guess, but a Facebook ad, just word of mouth. It's not really just word of mouth anymore. It has to be, oh well, I know 28 realtors because everybody I know does. But the key differentiator with me is that I'm out there interviewing business owners, or featuring events, continually committed to making the community the star that's the hero and we're the guide. So then people will say, "Oh well, there's all these other people, but Sara get it. She gets walkability." It's an indirect way of getting to my result, but it's a faster, easier way to get to it because as soon as we sit down, we're connected. So path of least resistance again.
Jeff Thibodeau: Yeah. It's coming up over and over again. Right? Because if you just look at it on the surface, I'm like, "Oh, wow. I should make Walkable Toronto, or I'll make Walkable Calgary." But the reason it's working for you is because you cared about Walkable Edmonton before there was a social media page. So it's not work for you to go and talk about Walkable Edmonton. So other people who want Walkable Edmonton like you and like the authentic you, and they feel like ... I'm sorry. I'm just screaming at the screen right now because it's great to talk to people who get it. But when you can be your authentic self, yes, you're gonna turn off some people. But the magic is, the people who are attracted to you, you're not in competition anymore. They want you because they like you. Right? So fantastic work. That's awesome stuff.
Kelley Skar: So there's a lot of talk about agents having to hire ISA's, inside sales agents, to scrub and to followup because they're just so busy, and they just don't wanna put in the work and the time to followup with the leads that they're generating. So who's doing that for you? Is that a part of your assistant's role, or is that something that you're taking care of yourself?
Sara Kalke: This is an awesome question because I do by business totally opposite from what we're trained to do in an internet space. My goal is not creating shallow internet relationships with people. It is nurturing the deep relationships that I already have with my community. That is the absolute key. So I do not have any lead capture anywhere. I do not have a Drift email campaign. I do not send out newsletters with pumpkin pie recipes. I do absolutely nothing conventional from the real estate page. There are no leads to stir up because I don't think that I can make a lot of money if I have to spend a whole bunch of time cutting up the wheat from the chaff every single day. That takes a lot of effort. I just the wheat to come to me. I want the farmer analogy. I want the absolute most important things to come to me.
So in fact, I've never really focused on having all of these things that everybody wants. Now the phone calls generally come to me, in terms of if people want to view a property that is not agent showings, but if somebody wants to view a property. I do a crew of real estate agents. It's the only way I could possibly do it at home, from my office, who are all kind of on an informal basis. They get peppered with leads here and there. If I am already booked with something, and there's somebody [inaudible 00:32:08], it's very rare that will actually meet that person at the property. Because when I meet them, it's very likely that they're not going to be my path of least resistance type of client.
So depending on the property, some of them I know, I can just walk through the door, and the property's such that I'll find 28 people who are all my people. Other properties are more like, "Okay, I'm gonna send it to somebody else." And they keep that lead. That's their person that stays with them forever. They [inaudible 00:32:34], but it's not as heavy as a team would be. It's great for me because I don't have to have the responsibility, or financial obligation, to running a big team system. And I don't have to generate leads that aren't my path of least resistance.
Kelley Skar: Interesting, interesting.
Jeff Thibodeau: Man, that's so good. I just wanna highlight for our listeners, right, what's really going on with Sara here is she has such an abundance of like-minded people reaching out to her that she can choose her clients now. Right? And say, "No, this one's not gonna fit, or I know the sign calls I get from this property aren't gonna be my people." Right? Hear how she's pre-thinking about everything. Let me ask you though, has it always been this way? Or when did your career shift over to the abundant mindset, where you started saying no to clients, or handing them off?
Sara Kalke: Yeah. Well, I don't say no to everybody. And this is a common misconception about my business, I think. So much of it is still word of mouth based. So if somebody calls me who has a property that is by no mean walkable, I will be thrilled to put it on the market, do all of our marketing, do the video, do a Facebook advertising, do all of that stuff. It's more a matter of whose most likely to actually result in sales for that client, or for anybody else. If there's somebody who needs to see that place with me so I can sell it, I absolutely will. The key is knowing when I'm using my time for work, my objective is to make as much money as possible in that time. That's really what it comes down to. That's why I work. I wanna have a really great time doing it, but I need to be doing money-making activities as much as possible. So that's what it is. It's not that I turn down business. It's that I want to focus 80% of my attention on people that I know are the easiest to work with.
Kelley Skar: So did we finish off with the lead generation stuff do you think? Or do we maybe hit on it for a couple more minutes? I guess, the thing that I'm most curious about, and I think what a lot of our listeners are gonna be curious about, is your lead generation pillars. Right? You talk about walkability, Edmonton, and your sphere of influence obviously. Do you have any other lead generation pillars that you're utilizing to generate X amount of leads to convert into 100 transactions a year?
Sara Kalke: Absolutely. It's extremely important. When I started in real estate, I was an observer of so many real estate practices that were unpredictable. I started selling real estate on my own in 2010 in a market that's similar to our market now. It was a down market, where oil markets and things are always going up and down, and people were just not buying stuff sometimes. They were like, "Oh, we're just gonna wait because prices are gonna drop." And sellers would be like, "Oh, we're just gonna wait in case prices go back up." So there was this stalemate happening, and I realized quickly that most people's businesses is kind of like a tree with just one branch sticking up. It's not a really great way to capture a whole bunch of light to grow your leads and have a solid base.
So what I started doing was thinking of different ways to actually buy or sell real estate, which pays for all of my expenses. That's puts a roof over our head. So one of the ways, which is how I met you, was networking with other real estate agents. RE/MAX has this great networking kind of conference circuit that you can go on. And I remember in 2010, putting myself on a plane to Toronto to a RE/MAX kick start, an event they don't have anymore. I didn't know one single person in Toronto who worked for RE/MAX. I knew no one. And I remember standing in the hotel in the morning, looking at myself in the mirror, being like, "You're crazy. What are you doing? Why are you here? You don't even know anyone." But I was like, "Just get out the door, and get there." And I knew as soon as I started talking with people, I would be fine. And from that one conference, I got home, sold a condo to somebody who had some family in Edmonton. So out-of-town referrals was a really, really big part of my business.
It's not remotely related to walkability, I do a lot of military referrals and relocations, people who have known me from all around. These are things that are absolutely critical pillars of the business. You can't just only sell the cool stuff. It's not just downtown lofts and the stuff that I really like selling. Then it was telling my story on social media. Social media became a really big part of my business, but I have a really, really different approach to social media than what we're told to have when you go to traditional sales model trainings, which is all about selfie videos, "I sold 28 houses today. I'm so awesome. This is my new listing. Check out." We're spamming people. If you know people who get into selling health products, or being fitness coaches online, and all of that stuff, it's really kind of gross to watch. And a lot of what we do as real estate agents is the same way.
So my feeling always has been, on social media, how can I tell my story in a way that doesn't seem weird. So that's another branch of the tree. Social media connections. And then, find my group. So social media groups have actually been a really big part of my business, finding like-minded moms. I had no clue that showing up in a space where other moms were discussing staying up all night and their kids and all of this stuff would actually become business branch of the tree, but it did because you get to know people on a real level. And then, you're sharing your story. This is your life. This is what you're doing. This is what you're passionate about. And then, they come to you, rather than you just turning them off.
So I'd say it's very important from a lead gen perspective to always remember you can't just have one branch on your tree. You have to have a couple. All of those were specifically because they are my path of least resistance. You get somebody from out of town who calls who has to come in and buy a house in three days, that sounds like a pretty good deal to me. I'll take that. So I think spreading out, having a whole bunch. I love experiments so this year I'm doing an experiment with going old school. I've never sent out paper before, but I'm doing an old school flyer program in a neighborhood and just seeing how it goes. I mean, it might be great. It might be awful. I like trees so I feel kind of bad about it, but if I can do it in a meaningful way, I think it might be something really cool to add to my business as well.
Kelley Skar: Okay. I think we covered that off. I wanna get into organization now, and I don't wanna keep you up because I know you wanna get out there and probably have a drink, or something like that, just totally relax. So you mentioned that you've got-
Sara Kalke: You're good. I'm not in a hurry. It's fine.
Kelley Skar: Okay, cool. You mentioned that you've got two assistants. This is a conversation that I see in these groups all the time, talking with agents that are having a certain amount of success. They're always about, "Well, I need to start a team. I need to hire a buyer's agent," and then you hear all of the gurus and the coaches say, "No, no, no. Hold on. Back it up, back it up. You don't need a buyer's agent. You need an assistant." Right? And so clearly, you've gone that route. You don't feel like you need a buyer's agent. You have agents in your office and other offices that kind of take off some of the excess leads that are coming in through kind of online that you hand off to other realtors, but you've essentially stuck with your two assistants.
Talk to us a little bit about how you came to hiring those assistants, what the process was, what you were looking for. And then, number two, what their roles and responsibilities are. And then, number three, if you wanna expand on systems and processes, that'd be great too. And if you forget all of that, I'll come back and remind you.
Sara Kalke: Okay, perfect. So assistants. Now I started in real estate working at the front desk reception of a RE/MAX office. I paged people on a paging thing. It makes me sound super old, but that's what I did. Then, I got into the back end as an assistant so I knew assistanting really, really well. I knew how to make trade records. I knew how to do all of the stuff that real estate assistants are typically supposed to do. But when I started [inaudible 00:41:22], I was already very busy because I was selling real estate plus running this contract business helping them stage properties. So what I decided to do at first was hire a traditional assistant. Totally, completely backfired badly because I was really good and really fast at doing all of the assistant stuff.
And what I realized is, kind of same thing, I know I'm beating it to death, but I needed to find my own path of least resistance. The path of least resistance with assistants was figuring out the stuff that I hate doing. And the stuff that I absolutely hate doing is running errands. Hate it. Then, all sorts of little minutia that comes up in real estate all the time; drive here and pick up keys, go get this check, go pick up a gift bag for so-and-so. There's so much of just logistics in our business. Print off these 12 sheets to go in a binder today. There's so much stuff, creating address lists of people. All that stuff, right off the bat.
The assistant that I hired is my first assistant and my most longstanding, loyal assistant is actually my mom. A lot of people don't know this until they meet her because I'm like her clone. I wanna be her when I grow up. She worked as a personal assistant in the Alberta government, which is in Edmonton for cabinet ministers for 30 years. So if you want to get somebody who knows how to be an assistant, you hire Jad. She is phenomenal. We have a weekly thing, my two assistants and myself, and she runs the meetings. She sits down, she's like, "Okay, these are my six things that need to be done." And I'm like, "Here's this idea and this idea and this idea." And she's like, "Okay, but these are the 12 things that I need to know first."
So you need to hire somebody who is your balance. There's a principle of balance in our world. So if you're somebody whose great at coming up with ideas and you're really awesome with people, it usually means that you're not as skilled at bringing it all back and doing all of the little kind of task-oriented stuff. So an exercise that my coaching clients do is we write down on one page all of the things in your personal life that you are likely to do in a week. So laundry, grocery shopping, cooking meals, running errands, dropping the kid off at school. All of those kinds of things get written down on the life page, and then you do the same thing in your business page. So conducting appointments, setting up showing, filling out trade record sheets, all of that stuff
Then, we go through and in red, you circle all this stuff that you hate doing. The stuff that just jams you up, or you don't do it. You put it off. It's like that email you've been meaning to get back to for six weeks. The stuff that just never happens, that pile of laundry, those things. And then, we look at both lists side by side, and all we do is reverse engineer, buying back your time in whatever way is the most effective for you. Most people don't actually need a real estate assistant. What people need is some sort of personal assistant in their lives, and certain areas that they just let go of. I don't cook, ever. I just don't. Somebody asked me how to make mashed potatoes for a party two weeks ago, and I was like, "I don't know how to make mashed potatoes." I've literally never done it.
There's things you just gotta let them go. And I don't feel any guilt about not knowing how to make mashed potatoes as a woman, as a mom, as a wife. Who cares? Thank goodness my husband is a really, really good cook. He actually likes cooking. But a lot of the time, we just buy pre-made chicken breasts. We made a lot of stuff that are short cuts. And so, I think that's the biggest tool that I can pass on to people is sometimes what you actually need is a laundry service. What you actually need is a stay-at-home mom from down the block who can come to your house and have a little side hustle where she can make some money doing your laundry every week, putting it away. Hire a house cleaner. Get your groceries delivered to your door. Sure, it's more expensive.
But I calculated the other day because I'm a nerd and this is how I think, that I bought 12 chicken breasts, I prepared them myself as opposed to buying the already cooked chicken breasts. It took me two hours because again, I'm not a very good cook. It took me two hours by the time I prepped everything, went to the grocery store, got them, everything else. You know how much money I save? $44, so two hours of my time was worth $44. Wrong answer, right? The things that we think we're supposed to be doing, like taking your own car to the carwash, why? Why would I take my own car to the carwash? I have to spend so much time there. You don't have to go and buy your own gift cards. There's so much that you can [inaudible 00:46:40], and you create a job for somebody who really needs one, who isn't sitting at a desk all day.
Kelley Skar: Jeff, you look like you wanna jump in here.
Jeff Thibodeau: I could just talk for like five hours, Sara. She's incredible. No, but you're right on the money. Most people don't need a real estate assistant, and they get hung because it's either like a 30 grand or a 60 grand commitment. And you're 100% right, what you need is a house cleaner, someone to pick up your dog poo and someone to do your laundry. And then, you can have those six hours back to go make a deal. And those services are inexpensive so I love it. It's putting it all together. Again, it's not work/life balance. You've got a life and you're a real estate agent so let's take the worse stuff off your plate on the whole life, not just on your business. Right? I love it. It's amazing.
Sara Kalke: Yeah, and it makes life way more fun too.
Jeff Thibodeau: I joke, right? I'm like no dual-
Kelley Skar: Yeah, go ahead.
Jeff Thibodeau: I was like no dual income family should clean their own toilet. Come on. What are we doing here, right?
Sara Kalke: No, you wanted me to talk about organization I think next. Yeah?
Kelley Skar: Yeah, exactly.
Sara Kalke: Okay. I won't take long. It's my two key principles to organization, and I didn't create these so they're not new things. One is, if something comes up, if it takes than 10 second to do, do it now. You will constantly see me when I'm driving in my car with my fingers crossed, like a little kid remembering to do something. Because if something comes to my mind, I must deal with it immediately. Loose ends are absolutely the kryptonite of productivity. You cannot have loose ends and stay productive and stay efficient without chasing from behind, being in a scramble. And being in a scramble is not fun. It sucks. So anything that comes up, especially if it takes less than 10 seconds, do it now. Send that email, put the event in the calendar. To me, often in a day, if something comes up and I'm like, "Oh, yeah. I have to do that." If I can't immediately outsource it to my assistant, or deal with it directly, or send an agent a text, or something else, I will send myself an email.
Because I don't believe in lists, the only two places that tasks live are in my calendar and in my inbox. That's it. Inbox meaning text inbox and email inbox, but that's it. None of these complicated systems. We don't even have CRM. We have triggers and responses. A trigger is a recurring action, something that happens every single time. Real estate's not that complicated. People buy the house, they remove conditions, they list the house. It's the same thing over and over again. It doesn't mean that you need a list. You don't have to logon and be like, "What do I do now that we listed this property. Oh, my gosh." Of course, you order the sign. You do the things associated with that trigger. So the first one is do it now.
The other one is very, very similar to that, and it is touch everything once. And that just means is something comes up that is a trigger, you do everything associated with that loop all at once. So a prime example that I give to coaching clients is say a condition waiver comes in. Now, I don't like having to talk to my assistants 12 times a day and tell them what to do, and I guarantee they don't want me calling them 12 times a day and telling them the same thing over and over and over again. I liken it to be a double's tennis player, and you're constantly going to your partner's side of the court and hitting their balls for them. And then, when a ball comes over that you're kind of comfortable with them getting, you're like, "Oh, that's yours. Oh, you need to get that. Oh, you need to get that one." Create simple triggers.
So the example is a condition waiver comes in. All I do is I forward that email to my clients, Cc my assistant, and the email says, "Congratulations, your house is sold. We will be in touch with the next steps, and Jas will install sold stickers and send you a picture tomorrow." I know, I don't install my own sold stickers anymore. But within that, I've told everybody involved in one email, it's the same every single time, what's gonna happen next, whose gonna do it. And I didn't have to send any additional things. I didn't have to go and login to a checklist. I didn't have to go and have a message to each of my assistants saying, "Okay, now you need to do this, and now you need to do this." The one assistant knows, as soon as she gets a waiver, her job is to send them the next steps.
It's the same every single time, order the sign, send them all the paperwork, make sure that they know that they have to send their lawyer, and all of those things are all just batched. [inaudible 00:51:50] things that we have to do, and all these micro decisions we have to make, make it into one decision. So touch everything once. Any one thing has just one trigger, instead of 19 different triggers. Because that, I think, where real estate gets so complicated for us, and why we feel like we can't take a break because it's like things are constantly coming at us. If you play Whac-A-Mole where everything comes up, I wanna wack that mole right now, right now, right now, right now, right now. And you just keep on it so everybody feels like they're having a really great customer experience [inaudible 00:52:27] weeks since the house sold, aren't you gonna come and put up those sold stickers?
Kelley Skar: Awesome. Jeff, do you wanna tie this all together, and take us out, or what?
Jeff Thibodeau: Yeah. I was bringing up all my things I wanted to spin off of there, but I know we're coming off on time. But I think the really nice thing that you said there is really whether it's for yourself, or it's handing off. But you have these little handoff moments, and I grew up with a nurse as a mom so shift change was really important in nursing industry. They come to your room, they go over the patient stuff, and then they walk. One person leaves the shift, and the other one is taking over. And I see what you were saying.
Most people who hire their first assistant, we sit at a desk together all day, and we're like de, de, de, de, de, de, de, all day. Instead of saying, "Here's the contract, you take it from here." And then, when their part's done, they maybe hand it to someone else, or hand it back. But it's not this constant you let go of a thing and you know the rest of it's gonna happen because your team is gonna do it the same way every time. And that's really, really important in systems. It's all those little micro handoff moments I think are the most important part of organization.
Kelley Skar: 100%. Sara, thank you so much for your time today. We covered so much. We went a little bit over. We try to keep these things to 30 to 40 minutes. I know that we're way over that, but that's so cool because I think that our listeners are just gonna get so much value from this. So thank you for taking time out of your day in the airport in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Get out there and shred. Say hi to our friend, John [inaudible 00:53:54] for us for sure.
Sara Kalke: I sure will. Thank you so much for having me. It's been great chatting with both of you.
Kelley Skar: Awesome.
Jeff Thibodeau: Appreciate your time.
Kelley Skar: So if you guys are listening to this on iTunes, it would always be very, very great of you to leave us a kind, five star review. Leave us a note down below, if you're watching this in YouTube. If you're watching us on Facebook as well, leave us a note down below. We will answer any and all of your questions. If you have questions for me, or Jeff, you can reach me, email@example.com. You can reach Jeff at firstname.lastname@example.org. And if you wanna throw in some questions for Sara, I hope you're okay with this, I'm gonna throw your email address, it's email@example.com. There we go. There we have it. Thank you so much. We'll talk to you soon.