Agents Santiago Arana and Dawn McKenna have come a long way since they started in real estate. They shared their pro tips for taking things to the next level with attendees at Connect Now.

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Santiago Arana of The Agency and Dawn McKenna of the Dawn McKenna Group at Coldwell Banker both started their careers in real estate by transitioning from other industries. Arana worked in the restaurant industry, while McKenna was a stay-at-home-mom with a flair for interior design.

With years of experience now under their belts, the two real estate professionals had some valuable words of wisdom to share with attendees of Connect Now on Thursday at a panel called “How to Take Your Business to The Next Level.”

Santiago Arana | The Agency

“When I was starting, I wanted to figure out who has gone through this, and how do they do it,” Arana said. “It’s always good to hear from other people and what their stories are.”

McKenna got into real estate on a whim when she was decorating her family’s home, and got her heart set on a $20,000 couch. She figured if she could get her real estate license and just sell one house, she’d have enough to buy the couch. Less than a year later, she had sold $38 million in real estate — and had forgotten all about the couch.

“Why? Because I used my network,” McKenna said.

“I became the biggest agent in the entire state of Illinois with four kids in tow,” she added. “I was very relatable.”

Arana said that keeping positive energy by practicing self-care has been key to his success. When he’s feeling at his best, he’s better prepared to take on life’s surprises.

“[What] worked for me is when I changed my attitude,” Arana said. “When I started becoming more connected to myself and knowing that if I do the things that I do everyday and I’m in alignment with myself and what makes me happy, and I’m giving my body exercise, I’m eating healthy, and I’m doing the things that are important for me first thing in the morning, then when I come back to my house and I have breakfast with my kids and my wife and I’m going to go on four listing appointments, I’m going to go on showings, or even if I’m going to go door knocking — perhaps, when I present myself to that door, people are going to feel the energy between the last person that was there and me, guaranteed.”

“So, the goal is to try to be prepared,” he added. “You’re going to be in a place where you see and handle everything a lot better.”

That positive energy and drive to keep moving forward helped Arana get through the 2008 financial crisis and come out stronger on the other side. He kept telling himself, “No, you can’t go back — if you’re going to fall, you’re going to fall forward.”

Dawn McKenna | Coldwell Banker

This year when COVID-19 started to spread rapidly across the U.S., McKenna said her instinct was to grab the helm and determine how she could shift her business.

“I said, ‘What can we do to pivot? What can we keep?’ We needed to give people hope.”

In general, McKenna said the best thing she’s done for her business is stick to what she’s good at (sales), and hire on great teammates who can take care of some of the other details. McKenna revealed she’s never even put a listing into the MLS because she hired an assistant early on who handles it for her.

“Probably the single thing I did in my business, and what I think everybody needs to do in order to be very successful, is stick to what you’re good at,” McKenna said. “I’m good at sales. I know how to close a deal and I know how to engage somebody. I know how to capitalize on my network and I know how to make things look the best they can.”

As real estate agents across the U.S. and around the world try to brace themselves for 2021, Arana said it’s important to focus on the things you can control, and assessing your comfort levels.

“We can focus on the things we can control,” he said. “What can I do more of what? And what’s safe to do? And how I feel. It’s something very personal, too.”

For those agents who may not feel comfortable doing in-person business right now as COVID-19 cases surge across the U.S., he said they might start building a business plan or create and send marketing materials out to clients.

McKenna added that doing video calls with clients is also a great option now, as people still really want human socialization.

“The first thing you can do is get on a Zoom with these people and face-to-face,” she said. “They’re craving that right now.”

Email Lillian Dickerson

Finish out the year strong. Join us for Connect Now December 17 and our flagship Inman Connect January 26-28. You’ll collaborate with your peers, learn skills and strategies to boost your business, and plan for a year ahead that is likely to be anything but predictable. Reserve your spot now.

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