Real Estate Agent Podcast 3: Joe Sinnona
Real estate is a story every day. I think that if you’re not telling that story, then you are that proverbial salesman that people perceive us to be.
About This Episode
Joe Sinnona’s a busy guy. When he’s not coaching members of his team at Verdeschi Realty, he’s traveling the country speaking about the importance of developing good habits. What began as a temporary gig away from his full-time teaching job has blossomed into 29 years as a real estate professional, and he’s come to love the industry “like Oprah loves bread.”
This episode covers how to stay on top of the unceasing tide of new technology, how to stay ethical in a fast-paced industry, and why so many real estate agents fail so early in their careers. Joe emphasizes the importance of having mentors, and gives some advice about how to become an integral part of your community.
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JON: Hello and welcome to shop talk the real estate show. I'm Jon Forisha and today my guest is Joe Sinnona, Team Leader at the Joe Sinnona Team at Verdeschi Realty and CEO of Sinnona Speaks Seminars. Hey Joe. Thanks for joining me today.
JOE: Thank you very much, Jon.
JON: Okay, so let's just start with your background a little bit. How did you get into the world of real estate?
JOE: Well, nearly by accident. I come from a teaching background and I was teaching in the Bronx at 1141 and I was calling my room to order in the early morning hours of September, the end of September. They thought there was a sub coming in and I had already acquired my real estate license the summer of '89. I came into my classroom and the room was out of control. Kids were going wild and I threw a chair in the corner, southwest corner of the room to get order. And after, I asked them to quiet it down. And finally, when I did get the order, uh, behind me with the head of the board of Ed writing me up for disorderly conduct and anger management classes that I had to take later on.
JON: Oh yeah. They don't like it when you throw chairs.
JOE: No, they don't like that. But it was either I took a leave of absence or I was forced to quit and I don't quit. I did take a leave of absence in the hopes of returning. And here I am almost 30 years later in the real estate business.
JON: Wow. So you said you got your license in '89. Why'd you do it? I mean, you were teaching at the time. Why go into real estate?
JOE: So my mom and myself and my sister looked at a home here in island park, New York and she thought it would be great if I got my real estate license and joined her as a part timer. And I said, I don't know about that. And she said, well, you can always put it on your resume. And I said, you know what, maybe I'll give it a try. I do like homes and I do like going to open houses. At the time my mother had seen, or prior to that, my mother had seen in two years over 100 houses with this lady and I did acquire a knowledge of the real estate market where we were looking and I knew just about every home on the market in three towns. And I had already acquired a knowledge of, you know, the process of buying a home and have somewhat of an interest. So I decided to pursue it as a part timer. But then little did I know as the Robert Frost poem says, two roads diverged in a wood and I took the road less traveled and it really has made a difference in my life over the years.
JON: Wow, that's great. So what is it about the real estate industry that gets you excited? I mean, you've been in it for almost 30 years now.
JOE: Yes. And every day kind of feels like the first day it's, I tell people that I love real estate like Oprah loves bread and I love to empower people. I love to work with the public. It sometimes has its trying times, you know, people don't understand really what a real estate agent carries on their shoulders. You know, it's been said time and time again that we are not just realtors we are therapists, we're professional therapists that wear many hats. And sometimes those hats could be that of a marriage counselor, an arbitrator, a consoler, seeing someone who's holding the hand, helping the first time buyer into the process. It has so many aspects to it. And what I love about it is that the freedom to just be who you are and have that independent feeling of making up your own hours, getting dressed the way you want to get dressed. Professionally of course, and just managing your business from a to z. And I always say it's not a nine to five job. It's a sun to moon job really, because you don't know when your client or customer wants to go out and see some houses or even have the overtime to list their home.
JON: So in addition to real estate, I mean leading the team at Verdeschi Realty, you also have your speaking company, right? You're the CEO of Sinnona Speaks Seminars. So why do you think speaking is a worthwhile way to spend your time?
JOE: Well in real estate, everything became the same, you know, I don't want to say monotonous, but everything has a cycle to it and sometimes it's just a cycle that repeats itself. So about five years ago or so, I said, you know, right after surviving a hurricane, I said, you know what, there has to be another avenue to stay in the business because my business had flatlined literally. And I said there has to be another way of staying in the business and make it a little bit more interesting. And I was already teaching. I've been an instructor for real estate for about 16 years teaching the pre-licensing, so I myself as a speaker, I attended the National Speakers Association conference and I determined after that conference that I wanted to be a real estate instructor slash speaker. And I formed less than two years ago, Sinnona Speaks Seminars to give agents that feeling that they could get the one on one coaching, they could get the hands on experience of a real estate agent who has and is still doing real estate so I can identify with their problems and their issues in the field and on a national level, I could speak to an audience who has the same issues and the same profession as myself and could also get that empowerment that they're looking for, that they need direction and I want to be their compass. And I want to change the face of real estate by teaching only good habits, which is my mantra in Sinnnona Speaks. It's to learn only good habits, bad habits out there. People need to learn good ones.
JON: That's great. It's thrown around a lot that 87 percent of real estate agents fail in their first five years, why do you think that is?
JOE: Because they don't have a business plan to really go forward when they know when they begin, they should have some coaching. They should have a business plan. They should put down their personal goals, their professional goals. They need to have a vision board all set up prior to even taking the wheel of becoming a real estate agent. They should have this in their mindset. This is not a nine to five business. They have to get out of the mindset of clocking in, you know, that proverbial clock in with the punch card. And here you are ready to work. This is not that business. The stability of a paycheck is the instability of a pay day. And that is, you know, for some people, they call it commission and you know, in the public's view, that is an ugly word. So I say fee for services rendered and then that's not my word, that's a motivational speaker who taught me and I always looked at this business as a, you know, this was never a safety kind of business, of fail safe kind of business. This was always a business that you had to take risks in and you had to work extremely hard to build up your black book of clientele and then you could do something with that later on. You could deal with first generation, second generation. I'm dealing with almost third generation already and the secret to that agent not failing in their first five years, is to get to know people and to engage in consistent conversation. As Les Brown says, to be always ready, to be always on, and to have your business cards ready, and know what you're talking about. The knowledge, the power behind the knowledge, the education is priceless is what we learned in real estate. People say, oh, you just learned from a book. It's a textbook and you pass the course and pass the test. It goes beyond that. It's not one of those businesses where all right, we took the two tests and were licensed. It has to go beyond that and that is a message directed to every broker and 87 percent of all real estate agents fail because brokers fail to educate their agents and they are throwing up their hands as we probably are speaking in this podcast and they're throwing up their hands and saying, I don't want to teach my agents. I don't want to keep empowering them because they're tired. These brokers, I can't blame them, but it's like Rocky. You have to reinvent yourself in the ring and you have to go back to the beginning and the beginning is basically one on one, you know what I'm saying?
JON: Absolutely. So on the subject of basics, how do you train new agents when they join your team? How do you train them up?
JOE: Well, we have a professional business plan. We just rewrote a training manual for them, so that they could have a base when they come in, they started out with previewing the inventory and they have to come to our training classes and then they have to also have a vision for themselves, a professional development and that is going and getting designations, professional designations. Professional Development is not just CE credit having a designation that gives you ultimately that CE credit, you know, in the way of what is your specialty, what is your niche, you know, are you a seller's agent, are you a buyer's agent? Are you a person who sells second home resorts? Are you someone who is going to teach, you know, you could be out in the field and deal with a lot of diversity and the designation for that is a designation for working with seniors is a whole array of it. And that's why I said this, there's a whole menu ready for that new agent to attack. And the first designation they should really go for is the designation that I only took in the last two years called GRI Graduate Realtor Institute and that will give them a basis of what this business is about. And then after that, SRS Seller's Representative Specialist, and after that Accredited Buyer Representative and people just like, they look at me like they have three heads and they go, why should I have all this professional development? Because that's going to give you, no pun intended, the foundation to build your house of cards. This way you're not a schmo out there getting viewed like the rest of the real estate agents that are out there that don't have or don't even want that professional development. And those are the people that drop out of the business because, you know, some people, they come into this industry with high aspirations and they say to me, you know, I want to dabble in real estate. My new agent orientation classes that I teach. And I go, what do you mean dabble? But what are you doing, this is not an industry, I don't like and I don't respect people who have this vision that there were two, they were given that vision by people who make it look easy. And they go, yeah, come on board, be my assistant. But meanwhile that person could have another specialty and they could be either a mechanic or a teacher or somebody in a blue collar industrial industry. Now you're going to get into our industry, our profession, and you're going to see how really difficult it is to be a real estate professional. And now you're shocked. And then you go, well, I, I can't hack it, you know, this is a lot harder than I thought. And by the way, it's not just 87 percent of all real estate agents that fail in their first five years. I believe it's 87 percent of the industry that fails in the first year.
JON: Yeah, I've actually heard a different stat, that 80 percent fail in the first two years, which, that definitely seems realistic to me. So when you're counseling new real estate agents, what kinds of habits do you recommend that they form early on?
JOE: Do your work with the highest level of integrity. Always. Again, I was trained by one of the best realtors, a mentor in the very beginning, and that is, also grab a mentor in the very beginning and listen to motivational speaking and on the subject of integrity, he taught me that, you know, if you're going to say something at 10, don't change your script at 1. Always work with that high level of integrity and you can't go wrong. The habits that you put on are like skins and if you put on the ugly skins, eventually you'll get to the core of you and you will be ugly in this business and you will be so out of the business and your reputation will follow that way. But I come across a lot of people that say, you know why you haven't changed a bit? Because my script hasn't changed a bit because I am genuinely that person that sells, goes out there and tries to make a living. So I rented once to this gentleman who, we looked throughout the apartment and the only defect in the apartment was that the shower was higher on a platform than the toilet and the commode and the sink. So the shower was way high and this gentleman was about six foot. So when he got into the shower, you had to crouch down and there was the shower head. And he goes, listen. He goes, I don't think I can take this shower anymore. I don't think I can take this apartment because of the shower. And I said to him, well, how many minutes do you take for a shower if I may ask? He says, about five minutes. And I said, well, it's not a lot. It just came right out of me. And I said, well, it's not like you're going to live in the bathroom. You're living in the apartment. And he goes. And he thought about it for a second and he says, you know what, you're right. He goes, I love this apartment. He goes and I can live with the shower. And when I told my wife that, she said, boy, Joseph, you could sell just about anything and the Brooklyn Bridge along with it. And I didn't mean it. Like I was saying, the guy, I meant it like, you know, if it was my apartment and this was something that I really liked. I could live with that. I can't, I have to compromise some choices, you know? I wasn't lying when I said you're not going to live in the bathroom, you know, it's five seconds, five minutes, and then you're going to step down, you're going to do your other business there, whatever. I says, how many showers does a person take during the day? So he started to laugh and I did the rental, but there were times like that that, you know, you have to kind of. I was taught the soft sell approach. So if that was a hard sell approach, that's my best one. So, you know, sometimes people need that extra guidance that regality, and some of the things that I teach a new agent is you just have that natural conversation with people, whether it's a seller selling their house or someone buying their house or somebody even renting a house, just be who you are and talk from a personal experience. I'm a very great, I consider myself to be a very good storyteller and I can tell you a story and put all the characters and pieces together and important shot and really tell a good story. But I think real estate is a story every day for a new agent. I think that if you're not telling your story than you are that proverbial salesman that people perceive us to be.
JON: So what are three essential things that a new agent should do in their first year once they get their license?
JOE: I'm a very good broker slash mentor. I always tell people, interview five to seven brokers during the pre licensing class way before you even get your license. This is a big decision and that's very important. I interviewed the big firms, I interviewed even the small firms and saw the difference right away and saw that you're not going to get lost in the shuffle. Educate yourself with as much as your association gives you. My favorite four letter word is free. So some associations have free material. You can go on YouTube and grab a whole bunch of stuff from great motivational speakers that are out there in the field that are also in the real estate field, but also people that are unrelated to real estate. Because there's a philosophy and a psychology behind real estate that you have to show to your clientele, and I don't think the motivational speakers have it just yet. So listen to motivational speakers, TED Talks are a very good avenue that I like to direct people to. And then also build a business plan, guide your business and build and redefine your business plan yearly. Make up new goals and don't start on December 31st and say you quit smoking, and then by January 15 years smoking again. You have to start your business goals and your business planning in October. That's a very good month to start. And it's, even though it's fall, it's change and it gives you a, hey, you know what? I'm looking forward now to the new year. I have my systems in place and I'm going to hit the ground running January second. And if you fail, my other piece of advice part two is that if you fail on Monday, there's no reason why you can't get up on Tuesday and say, all right, I'm going to turn the page and yesterday's gone and today is now and tomorrow, you know, no one knows what tomorrow's going to be. So stop trying to be the director and the actor, the producer and the writer when you plan tomorrow. And then if some wrench comes in the way of your plans, even on your daily routine, as I tell my team members, you know, you go on with the next day and you plan again and you keep planning again and you'll see that your success will follow if you put your service first. Lot of people look at their success first and then they put this service last. I say, put it first and you'll see that you can really quote unquote kill it in any market that you're in, even in a bad market, you can still be successful.
JON: So how do you think real estate helps to build a sense of community, and I don't mean just, you know, the actual physical community, but the feeling of community?
JOE: If we're talking about getting to know one's infrastructure and sphere of influence, I think that if you're not giving back to your community, you're not building up your real estate career. So in order to build a sense of community, you have to be part of that community. We started to do community videos about businesses this year. I have a page on Facebook called Southshore Living where I interview only businesses and it's not just restaurants, it's any type of business that I go in and I go, hey, how would you like to come and be part of this? Because a lot of community business people especially don't have a Facebook presence. So what I do is I try to give them that presence and I start off every interview with hi, this is Joe Sinnona coming to you live from... And that's the extent of me, everything else is all about whatever that is, this is about being in that community and being part of an organization like Habitat or Ronald McDonald House or anybody, anything that's in your community that gives back to people and kind of builds a sense, and then people know who you are. They go, Hey, what do you do when they start engaging and they say, I do real estate and leave it light. Don't ask. If you vomit on them, you know, because eventually you're going to get that referral from the community that you're giving back to. So I think in order to build a sense of community, you have to give back to it.
JON: And have you seen an impact on your business from doing those kinds of videos?
JOE: Oh totally. I know last year alone I probably added about $40,000 to my income just doing facebook videos. I'm exploring this whole Instagram TV now and LinkedIn with the video there too. I think video is by far the best medium we have and it's free, ladies and gentlemen. A lot of agents, they're fearful of doing that and I think that if they don't incorporate at least one piece of technology into their business, they will be out of business. They'll be part of that 87 percent of realtors in the digital age, you know?
JON: Well, real estate, as an industry, it's so slow to adopt these new technologies as they come up. And, you know, a few years ago, Snapchat was all the rage in the marketing world and I saw a few articles about what it can do for your real estate business. But do you see people using things like Snapchat or you mentioned Instagram TV, do you see a lot of that with real estate?
JOE: Well, I see it in the millennial age group because I have several millennials on my team. So they use Snapchat, they use Instagram. I'm more of a leaner toward Facebook. I look at my LinkedIn. Those are the four areas that I focus on mostly. And I'm, you know, it's very time consuming, you know, for an agent to be on social media. So my advice is pick one and stick to one if you'd like, and stick to the one that makes you money and where your clientele's coming from. Having that branding presence is so important. I used to be the guy that would advertise on shopping carts and buses and banners and all sorts of stuff, and that was very expensive in the print ads and the local newspapers. That guy is chasing me now because he's competing with this digital age and I'm glad to some degree that this is all free. This is making money, but this is also helping people because I don't just go out there and say on social media, I'm a real estate agent. I'm doing, you know, these episodes as I call them. I want to show people the human side of me, number one. And number two, I want to show them gratitude. So I picked people. I think I have this, uh, this episode called the 100 people. Thank you. And I pick 100 people in my life to thank them for being in my life. I think I'm on number 14 now because it's taking time because I'm enjoying it. I'm stretching it out and I don't care if it's a year or two years. A friend of mine did a 100 people, I love you too, you know, as his gratitude. I wanted to do 100 people, thank you. It's just so that people can see that it's not just about real estate to me. I did an anniversary video last year on September 13th, which is my anniversary and by the time I got home I had 600 views. I have over 2000 viewership with that 2,700 views because people see that I was genuine in the video and I was just not selling. And I even said thank you and I inspired new agents. Come into the business, stick with it. Be who you are, be genuine, use these outlets, this technology to your advantage. And I say that also to people who have been in the business who are afraid to use this technology. It's not going to come out and bite you, you know, I'm, Oh, I'm afraid, I'm afraid. Well, stay where you are, keep doing what you're doing and that will probably work for you for some time. And, you know, let's face it, we do this business to the point where we feel we're going to be carried out of our offices and probably, you know, horizontally.
JON: I like what you said though about picking one technology that works for you and sticking to it because I think that the reason so many realtors are scared to do this stuff is that they hear all the platforms we've been talking about and they think they have to do all of them. They have to go from nothing to active on every single one of them, which of course is daunting. So that's a lot to ask.
JOE: Yeah, absolutely. And a lot of people are going to, there's going to be a big shakeout, I predict in the next couple of years where people are just going to be overwhelmed by the new way of selling real estate. You know, and by the way, this is something that social platforms have been teaching us for the last 10 years alone, is that to get with the program and adapt to these new measures because a robot cannot show a house, a realtor can. And that's the God's honest truth that a realtor is still useful in the end. It's still the cash person, the middleman between the buyer and the seller and a buyer and the seller. They need that middleman. I don't care if anybody disagrees with me. I still see a need for our industry and virtual tours, virtual anything is not good. Just going to sell real estate. People sell real estate, but they need the background of the digital media, the social media to keep current with people because people do forget you in this business, even after five years, you know, people do jump ship and they try another realtor. There's no reason to try another realtor unless that realtor gave you a reason to try someone else. You know, that's my philosophy on that.
JON: So how do you make sure that somebody doesn't have a reason to try a different realtor after you've closed the deal with them?
JOE: Well, I do a lot of things. First of all, Brian Buffini has a great contact real estate management system that I use and I keep current with his flyer system, if I don't like the flyers that he puts out, I make up my own. But lately his stuff has been great and I send it out to my clientele that I have in the CRM. I have over 3000 clients that I hit almost every month with cards, phone calls, or flyers, market generator reports, conversation in the streets. I'm a real estate agent who is busy, is engaging and is managing their business. But this is what it takes to manage your business, is to be consistently doing and always on. So that when you're out in the streets, you should be talking real estate. This is how you build up a business. And this is how you build up referrals. I'm doing this and also speaking at the same time, you know, people say, Joe, you have this incredible energy. Well, it's because I love what I'm doing. It's not a job. It's not a nine to five job. I'm not clocking in at 6:00. Yeah, I go home and then at 7:00 I could probably talk to my neighbor about real estate and people always ask me, how is the market, how is the market, you know, if I could go back to the beginning of my career, you know, what one thing I would do differently.
JON: That's my next question. So go for it.
JOE: I would definitely have grasped the concept of the technology a lot quicker. I definitely would have gone to more seminars. I definitely would have picked more mentors in my life and I would have definitely have listened to more motivational music and speakers and things that could have built my business and catapulted it faster than when I first started. The first six months I had no, I had a little bit of direction, but I had no direction to build this business that I have now and that's probably something I would've done differently. I watched an episode of the honeymooners where the character went door to door selling irons and when he sold irons, I said, that's it. I got to go door to door. And that's how I discovered door to door. I saw my nephew coloring a Captain America. So I cut his head off. You know, not my nephew, but the Captain America. I made a copy of it and I put my head there, a picture of my head there and in the shield I put a house that we were selling at the time and I put, when it comes to buying, renting, or even selling your home, let Joe Sinnona be your super agent. And I went door to door for three weeks and got 14 listings in three weeks. That's my claim to fame. And in this neighborhood, people still remember me going door to door and now 29 years later, still going door to door, still prospecting with different people, maybe the second and third generation of people that I know first met on newer homes, people who have turned over their homes in the last 29 years. And I'm getting a whole different story, a whole new story that's relevant to what I did 29 years ago, only in a different light, you know. So I think what I would do differently is to do all the things that I've done today quicker than I did. There was a lot of procrastination. There was a lot of hesitation, a lot of fear, a lot of people operate with this fear syndrome and they shouldn't just take risks, take steps. If you can do it, if you have six months worth of reserve in money, absolutely take those risks because it will give you a good ROI for yourself. Just take the risk. Just do it.
JON: That's a great way to end. Thank you so much for being on the show today.
JOE: Thank you so much for having me and I look forward to making sure that this podcast not only reaches the new agent or reaches the seasoned agent or the veteran in the business, however way you want to call it, to empower them to love real estate the way I do to redefine yourself once and for all.
JON: So if somebody wants to follow you, read more about you, where can they go? Can they learn more?
JOE: I'm on Facebook. I'm on YouTube. I have all the social media. You can Google me. I have a ton of stuff out there on the Internet and I have my Facebook page which is Sinnona Speaks Seminars and my YouTube pages, the same, Sinnona Speaks Seminars.
JON: Fantastic. Okay, well thank you again.