“Tell me and I’ll forget; teach me and I may remember; involve me and I’ll learn.” Benjamin Franklin spoke these words nearly 250 years ago, but they still ring loud and clear for Joe Hartsell, a newbie real estate agent who managed to go from earning $0 to $100,000 in one year by rejecting the “shiny salesman” pitch and taking on the role of a teacher.

“Tell me and I’ll forget; teach me and I may remember; involve me and I’ll learn.”

Benjamin Franklin spoke these words nearly 250 years ago, but they still ring loud and clear for Joe Hartsell, a newbie real estate agent who managed to go from earning $0 to $100,000 in one year by rejecting the “shiny salesman” pitch and taking on the role of a teacher.

Hartsell, who works for Re/Max Executive Realty in Charlotte, North Carolina — and who spoke at Inman Connect New York — says his success isn’t due to online leads, chatbots, extravagant social media marketing plans or snazzy listing presentations.

“I get back to basics,” he said in a one-on-one interview with Inman.

Those basics include knowing market data, providing excellent customer service, connecting with his sphere of influence and staying sincere.

Here’s Hartsell’s four-point plan for success:

Know your numbers

Hartsell says every real estate agent needs to know three sets of data:

  • Price trends
  • Available inventory
  • The dollar per square foot in your area.

Having that available knowledge allows him to help clients and potential clients on the spot — which has made him the go-to person for real estate knowledge in his community.

Teach, don’t preach 

Hartsell, who is a former teacher, says it’s important to remember that clients rely on agents to not only sell their homes but to teach them the ins-and-outs of the buying and selling process.

“People don’t like the shiny salesman,” he said. “I think it’s more trusting to have us writing something on something tangible in front of us than me coming with this preset PowerPoint with the numbers already logged in there. I think there’s an amount of distrust to that.”

During his listing presentations, Hartsell takes out a piece of paper and a set of pencils and sits beside the sellers so they can work out the numbers together.

“I can put up a PowerPoint and really ‘wow’ somebody, but what I do — and I think it speaks more volumes for me and to the client — is just know the numbers.”

Keep social simple

Hartsell said he’s spent no more than $500 on advertising throughout his two-year career — a number that pales in comparison to the thousands that some spend in a fraction of that time.

“I use Facebook mainly because I’m 32 years old, and that’s where my buyers are,” he said. “It doesn’t cost me anything to advertise there — it’s free!”

For example, Hartsell took a photo of a seller’s seashell-encrusted toilet seat cover that would have made the little mermaid jealous.

He posted the photo on Facebook and Instagram, which drove impressive amounts of traffic and engagement to his pages for three weeks.

Keep people at the core

“Remember that you’re here to help people,” said Hartsell during his final minutes on stage at ICNY.

He noted that agents can become obsessed with new technologies that essentially “remove you from the transaction,” tactics to make a bigger commission, ways to cut out the competition, all while forgetting the purpose of being an agent: to make people’s “American Dream” come true.

Beyond treating clients well, Hartsell said it’s important to build positive relationships with other agents and take a diplomatic approach to praise and criticism.

“You’ve got to be a diplomat,” he said. “My ego is never worth more than putting food on my table.”

Email Marian McPherson

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