She wants to get into the deep conversations. So, even though we had just met, we skipped the chit chat and dived deep into the values that define Debra's business, and the history that shaped it.
No entrepreneur finds an easy path to success. And Debra is no exception. She's seen some serious bubbles burst.
First, it was the dot com bubble in 2002. She was in the heart of Silicon Valley when it happened. Then it was the real estate bubble in 2008. Debra had just started recruiting and training agents for a large brokerage.
But that second bubble didn’t stop her.
Her experience mentoring and training agents during this extremely difficult time for the real estate industry helped Debra discover her magic: building relationships.
"[I was]doing a lot of mentoring, a lot of hand holding and conversations about what was happening inside the real estate space. And, I mean, some of them were like, 'I can't make my mortgage.' Some of them were, you know, 'My, my car is getting towed, what should I do?' You know, it was really intense stuff. And I realized that, that's where the magic is for me. It is really nurturing the relationships with the agents, not from a retention perspective, but from just a human perspective."
Debra found her calling. Then, one fateful night atop 30 Rock, during Inman Connect in the heart of New York City, Debra had an epiphany.
“I had this divine moment,” she said. “It was like, ‘You need to get out from behind the brokerage so that you can serve the industry at large.’”
So Debra left her successful career at a large brokerage and struck out on her own.
Today, Debra is an empowerment coach with d11 and her message is simple: fire up your life!
As a trainer Debra learned that her magic was in nurturing relationships with real estate agents. Now she puts that magic to work at d11, which she founded to help real estate agents engage, elevate, and empower magnificent relationships.
"It's really growing into this beautiful practice of helping leaders in this space get in touch with who they are, so that they're building organizations based on their soul. Not the dollar."
But building a successful business in a relationship driven industry can be exhausting.
Focusing on the quality of your relationships, instead of the quantity, Debra told me, helps you avoid exhaustion.
"Shallow is exhausting when it comes to relationships."
That's why Debra makes sure that who she is as a person drives who she chooses to work with.
“I use my passion for dogs and wine and yoga and whatever it might be to tell my story so that the people who have those things in common with me go, ‘Oh. Well I do want a coach.’”
You don't have to look far to find someone complaining about how Facebook and other social media are turning us all into shallow attention-seekers.
But Debra sees things differently.
"[Social media] allows me to jump over the, 'Hey, how's it going? What's happening with the kids?' I already saw all that. Facebook allowed me to see that. And, I can say, 'Oh, yeah, I went on this trip, or went here.' And dig in and go, 'Oh, my favorite meal was,' or, 'my favorite bottle of wine was,' and you can get deeper into the things that really create a deeper connection, not just the casual conversation."
I love this perspective. If you want to learn how to master Facebook for relationship marketing you need to discover the power of lists.
Debra places all of the people she's nurturing relationships with into Facebook lists.
"I use lists on Facebook – like mad. And, that's where I spend my time. I rarely go to my news feed."
By placing her relationships into Facebook lists, Debra sees everything they post – not just what Facebook thinks is important. And this enables her to keep up with everything happening in their lives so that when they get together they can skip the casual and jump straight to the deep conversations.
"I can see the power of the matrix of Facebook. And see through all of the bells and whistles and pokes and all of that fun stuff, and really utilize the tool for what it's meant for: getting to know people."
Everyone that knows Debra knows her words: wine, dogs, and yoga.
"And the whole dogs, wine, and yoga, I've said that combo I can't tell you how many times from stage. Because it gets people going, 'Oh, well, what are my dogs, wine, and yoga?' And that's where the magic is. What are your words?"
For Debra, finding her words made it easy for her to find her people – and for her people to find her. Debra has helped real estate agents across the country go through a similar process of discovery.
“I help people get out of their way and the bulk of what I do is for the person. Help them define their values, what they're passionate about -- really uncover what their purpose is. And then for real estate, I help them translate that into their niche so that they're serving their ideal client who, when the phone rings, they want to answer it.”
One of Debra's words is wine. So wine informs the way Debra networks.
"When I sold real estate, everything around how I would interact with my clients had to do something with wine. [...] And so, I was creating a community of my clients who all share the same thing. And as a realtor, as a real estate professional, the best thing you can do to build your business is get your people who love you together."
Instead of trying to be all things to all people, Debra teaches agents to share your thing with your people. This helps you develop your personal brand and stand out among a crowd of real estate agents. And, just as important, it makes it much easier to build relationships, and do the work you love.
But building relationships is not enough. You also have to build trust.
For Debra, trust is all about service.
Debra's philosophy is the antithesis of lead gen.
"I'm anti-hustle, anti-lead. Because why spend all that time getting to know a stranger when you've got hundreds of people in your world that you know already."
Instead, Debra encourages agents to build trust with the people in their network.
"For me," she said, "trust is serving. Right? I build trust by serving and giving and sharing."
Debra gave me an example of how this process of building trust leads to new business. It starts with listening. You need to pay attention to what people are telling you.
"There's moments that elicit real estate needs in every conversation. So, sometimes it could be, you know, "We've been thinking about starting our family." Or, it could be something as simple as, "I am so tired of this kitchen. I hate this layout."
As an agent, when you hear these signs you immediately recognize that this person may need your help. But, just as important, when you recognize these signals, you don't always have to talk about real estate right away.
"And sometimes it doesn't even happen in that moment and I think that's really important for people to remember, is, I can take note of that moment that they shared with me, and then when I'm out touring around with my latte and just checking out the new listings, I can say, 'Hey Jen, you know, that conversation we had about your kitchen? Like, I just saw the most amazing kitchen for you.' And, and I'm coming from a place of serving, right? I'm saying, I heard you. I understand what your issue was. And I think I have a solution for you."
I thought that was very powerful.
But I was curious: what if you knew someone was likely to sell, but you hadn't reached out in a while: what do you do then? “Shake off the shame," Debra said.
"We all have that problem. We all lose touch with people that we do care about. I think if you can just shake off the shame, give yourself some grace, and say, ‘All right, hey, I haven't talked to you for a while. I would love to reconnect.’ And just be honest. You don't need a sales pitch to connect with somebody that's from your past.”
I really enjoyed getting to know Debra and learning from her. It was a true pleasure and I hope you enjoy the conversation.
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