I’ve been in the real estate industry for 15 years, and I know how challenging it can be for agents to get a seat at the table with high-end clientele. Regardless of your career trajectory, there are skills you can develop to make the transition to luxury sales that much smoother. These are the habits that served me well when I made the shift to Gibson Sotheby’s International Realty in Cambridge, Massachusetts and started targeting a higher price point.
Forge a new path through branding
In my early days in the luxury market, I worked at a regional boutique firm, and there were agents at the firm who had already been in the business for 30 years. We were respectful of people’s clients, which created a really wonderful work environment, but I found it hard to get my footing in an arena where I couldn’t go toe-to-toe with more established agents.
When Gibson Sotheby’s International Realty set up shop in Cambridge, I saw an opening. Aligning with a respected brand gave me more at-bats for luxury listings, and because the Sotheby’s International Realty brand was new to Cambridge, I was able to compete with my former colleagues because I was flying under a different flag. High-end clientele wanted to at least interview us, and there were real opportunities that I couldn’t have predicted or manufactured on my own.
If you’re feeling stuck or having a hard time establishing market share in your area, consider whether making a change on the brokerage level might create new channels for business.
Earn trust as the luxury expert
For the high-end buyer, luxury is standard. I spend every day ensuring my clients never experience anything less. For me, one part of this is taking care of the numerous important details that come up that the luxury customer may not have the time to address.
My original instinct, when working in the high-end market, was to be very deferential. I’d ask a lot of questions: What do you think about this? Does this timeline work for you? I assumed my clients were going to want a lot of input.
What was so interesting to learn was that many of these clients are operating at a C-level in their work, so they’re used to delegating. Once I figured that out, I realized they just need to know that I’m in control and that I’m going to have strong recommendations, whether it’s getting a designer in or placing their ad in The Wall Street Journal. The reason they are hiring a professional is to feel confident that they’re going to be taken in the right direction. So learning to be more confident and less deferential was actually really helpful in securing more high-end business.
I get so much satisfaction from delivering amazing service. You’ll get pushed to excel every day by high-end clientele. That’s their standard, they don’t want anything less. For me, that was sort of the driving force.
Spend your marketing dollars wisely
When I was starting out in the luxury market, I asked myself: if someone gave me half a million dollars to spend on my business, what would I do with it? My answers directed how I invested in my business in order to stand out.
Most REALTORS® spend money, but do they spend it in effective ways? Creating a flawless customer experience requires personal investment. Sellers want their properties to look amazing — so I need to find the best photographers, designers, and staff. Each property I present is consistent with the Sotheby’s International Realty brand: aspirational and beautiful.
But sometimes, investment isn’t enough. Thriving in the high-end real estate market requires persistence. I once pursued an interior design photographer for months, knowing his incredible talent would be key to showcasing my clients’ properties. All the effort paid off — his photos were sharp and thoughtful, and his artist’s eye elevated the listing.
Don’t be afraid of risk
Of course, continuing to improve requires taking risks; you need to keep iterating and trying new approaches.
The amazing thing about our work is that there’s so much room for experimentation. If my project with the high-end photographer had not been successful, it would have been a sunk cost, yes, but then I would have moved on to the next thing. If you’re not willing to invest in some possible duds, then it is going to prevent you from finding new ideas that actually work.
There are so many different ways to be good at real estate. For me, it was finding my specific voice and using it to provide authentic experiences — my clients know there is a real person behind our marketing copy. That authenticity keeps clients coming back, and attracts new buyers and sellers, too. Find what makes you unique, and apply it to how you provide service. There’s more than one way to distinguish yourself as exceptional.
Lauren Holleran has deep local knowledge and experience in the Cambridge, Massachusetts marketplace, and is passionate about providing best-in-class service to her clients. As Vice President of Residential Sales at Gibson Sotheby’s International Realty, Lauren has been praised for her professional and ethical service, her ability to simplify complex processes, and her calm and steady approach to finding creative solutions to knotty transactional issues. A graduate of Exeter and Dartmouth and a four-time All-American lacrosse player and former member of the US Lacrosse Team, Lauren possesses a strong work ethic and dedication to doing her work with excellence and efficiency. She has served on the board of directors at the Cambridge Center for Adult Education and the Cambridge Tennis Club.
About Sotheby’s International Realty Affiliates LLC
Founded in 1976 to provide independent brokerages with a powerful marketing and referral program for luxury listings, the Sotheby’s International Realty® network was designed to connect the finest independent real estate companies to the most prestigious clientele in the world. Sotheby’s International Realty Affiliates LLC is a subsidiary of Realogy Holdings Corp. (NYSE: RLGY), a global leader in real estate franchising and provider of real estate brokerage, relocation and settlement services. The Sotheby’s International Realty network currently has more than 22,000 affiliated independent sales associates located in over 960 offices in 72 countries and territories worldwide. In 2017, the brand achieved a record global sales volume of $108 billion USD. Sotheby’s International Realty listings are marketed on the sothebysrealty.com global website. In addition to the referral opportunities and widened exposure generated from this source, each brokerage firm and its clients benefit from an association with the Sotheby’s auction house and worldwide Sotheby’s International Realty marketing programs. Each office is independently owned and operated.