Who Built the World’s Largest Real Estate Coaching & Training Organization? Mike Ferry and the Nucleus of Every Sale
Mike Ferry is the founder of The Mike Ferry Organization, the leading Real Estate Coaching and Training Company. If you are like me, a successful Generation X’r who has carved his own way, I had never heard of Mike. I am considered by many a housing and real estate “expert” and I had never come across him. I never felt more like a student in a teacher’s classroom as I did during my discussion with Mike. Humble, smart, proven, successful and a creator of a sustainable organization that replicates his strategies throughout North America and soon, Europe and Australia, Mike’s sales strategies are so simple, they are ingenious. They are the sales strategies that everyone knows are important but few actually use. In my view, they are the simple lessons in life, but as we grow older we get complacent, lazy, arrogant and apathetic.
Mike has been on top of the sales and management world for over 40 years. His reputation is pristine and it translates to the number of agents and brokerage firms he is associated with. He built this on a foundation of hard work, dedication, focus, personal goals and knowledge of how to translate a sales process to support the highest level of customer service.
From a sharp kid in his early 20’s, Mike’s relentless work ethic was launched with Nightingale-Conant where he was the National Training Director responsible for sales activities of over 1,300 people. Leveraging this, he applied these sales strategies to the Real Estate field and started his own company to service a need, to help produce more effective sales professionals in the business – and this was in the late 1960’s. Four decades and eight presidents later, Mike had demonstrated he has not only longevity, but also results that reflect this.
Who can argue with Mike Ferry today? His organization is a $ 50,000,000 company – yes, that is millions, with tens of thousands of clients across North America. He personifies the mentoring that can only come from a senior statesman or a grandfather. His phenomenal natural ability to teach and mentor his original techniques has helped countless agents achieve and exceed their personal and business goals. The way he inspires all his clients – whether in their first or fiftieth year of Real Estate – to produce at high levels and apply the rules of business to their careers is legendary.
Mike is recognized by NAR and his thousands of clients as the authority in sales strategies within the Real Estate profession. He has a unique combination of tactical strategies interwoven with a call to the human heart. Ultimately, the results and how we achieve them are a reflection of who we are and our motivation. Mike nails this unique blend into a tactical series of sales strategies that are guaranteed to produce results. Mike and his company lead dozens of seminars and retreats every year.
Mike is an inspiration whose influence assists real estate professionals in very concrete ways that have helped agents and brokers improve their performance.
Mike’s story is a perfect one that reflects how close any one of us could be to success. It is always one decision away, 20 seconds of courage and some ostensibly unimportant factors that later become life’s pivot point. That is the subtlety of success. Frequently, we are so close and yet we do not know it; we are blindfolded in our business lives, often operating in the dark as to what the future may (or may not) hold. But those like Mike who have succeeded through the passion of their own convictions have pressed forward regardless of the competition and market conditions.
Where did you grow up, and why do you love the industry?
I grew up in Southern California; I was a local Orange County person – go to work for a real estate brokerage firm – small, local, opinionated and tough real estate broker. It wasn’t easy. We had a very hard-core, disciplined approach to the business. I had to make phone calls, set up appointments, practice our sales pitch. To put it simply, I was forced at an early age to prospect and practice presentations in front of my peers, and the expectation when I left the office was to come back with listings. From there, I transitioned over to Chicago to be with the legendary Earl Nightingale – who really is the founder of the motivational industry. He had enormous influence on me and the world of sales, self-development, and success achievement. I was with him for over four years – now you have to remember, this was in the late 1960’s, from 1967-1971.
How did you get connected with Earl?
It was a cold call really; I happened to be at the front door and a sales rep came in and provided me with a motivational program called “Lead the Field.” I was so excited about it – and of course, because I listened to it over and over again, I started referring this sales rep to all of the local Realtors. About 90 days later, he handed me a check for $ 3-$ 4K for the successful referrals – he was so impressed with the quality of the referrals and with my enthusiasm. You have to remember, this was a lot of money back then. I was just doing something I believed in, and that was to provide this sales rep with some leads. To have him reciprocate like this was astounding; I was so impressed.
Our relationship evolved so quickly and successfully that he asked me to work with him to sell Earl’s material. Before I knew it, we were the highest-selling region in the United States. Within four to five months, after successful selling, Earl called me directly wanting to meet me. Earl wanted me to come to Chicago to train the sales staff there. For several years I commuted to Chicago at the ripe age of 21 – I took a risk but I was young enough to do it.
By the time I was 26 years old, I had a strong foundation – strong mental habits for success in the field of selling. Not too many people have this today, but I was fortunate to have a series of mentors that provided me with strong opportunities. As a result of this, I developed strong leadership skills at a young age.
Tell me about Earl.
He built a business based on a simple proposition: you become what you think about most of the time. Earl must be the largest provider of motivational material in the U.S. today.
If I think I can become a great sales person, as I learn more I can become great. This is human behavior. We need to define success for ourselves and go after that. I came to define success in this way:
Definition of Success: A progressive realization of a worthwhile goal and objective.
I have always been more of a de-motivational speaker because I tend to tell people the reality of what it takes to succeed as compared to what they are doing; with this approach, many people get turned off. For those who want to succeed you have to confront those habits that are undermining your success. That is the key.
While working with Earl I was introduced to Mike Vance, a high executive of Disney Corporation.
So, we were meeting in Chicago – and he too became a mentor. Michael spoke on the topic of creative thinking – outside the box – to accomplish more, certainly a hallmark for Disney.
That relationship led to Dr. Gunther Klaus, one of the top management consultants in the world at the time. When I left the real estate business – when I started a motivational sales career – I was able to succeed, always able to find people brighter, smarter, richer, etc. than I was. Here are a few more people:
Larry Wilson, Wilson Learning Institute in Minneapolis
These were THE people at the time, and I was connected to all of them, one at a time.
So, you stand on the shoulders of giants; good for you, and smart to do this. At what point did you realize you were more the Mentor versus the Mentee?
I was 30 years old, I was asked to teach my sales people how to teach real estate agents to do a half-day seminar for $ 500 – to teach them what I have learned and what I am doing. After the seminar, it occurred to me this is exactly what I was meant to do.
It was June of 1975 – I started my company the next day. I said, I am going to follow Earl Nightingale and focus on the real estate field. I was driving to Orange County; this focus and inspiration came to me and I started the company.
Why the real estate market?
There were only a few people out there – Tom Hopkins, a great friend – but I didn’t accept his tips to build an effective real estate career. I have a methodology and I believe it is the right thing for the Real Estate industry.
How were you growing your business?
I called for 5 days (25 brokers per day) and asked them to hire me to speak to their agents. I did this for three years. I was disciplined and persistent. Then it was a mix of luck and chance that I got to know the founder of Century 21, and then I grew with my relationship with them. I spoke at many of their conferences and offices and I grew my career from there.
In late 1989, after 5 years of focusing on growing my business in seminars, I went from being hired to hiring myself to grow my own business and then on to coaching. It was a progression that still works today.
How do you move people who are too apathetic to be hungry?
The apathy in real estate agents today is very high. They are uninspired, they have no hope; they don’t understand the market; the number of transactions has dropped. There is every excuse out there for people not to be successful, but in today’s market, there is every reason to BE successful as well.
So, to get them inspired or hungry again? You can expose them to new ideas. Should they choose to accept them, they can build a better business. Motivation is internal. Once they understand that they can grow from there, the sales strategies fall right into place. The goal is to get them to establish solid thoughts to build upon that internal motivation. Most of my audiences, 70-75% of them, I get a blank stare, uncertain if they can do something of consequence or meaningful in their lives. That is the bridge to help them cross in their own lives.
A life of doubt and lack of clarity of their goals is what plagues most real estate agents.
What process do you deploy to tap people into an internal motivation?
Motivation is action – motive through action. Unless they know specifically what to do, how to do it and what to say to make it happen, people are largely lost. They need a formula, a paradigm or a guide.
Let’s look at some actions you need to take, to take action to get a contract signed. I articulate a strategy – things to say. I am very specific. These tactics are rooted in that basic motivation and desire.
I see real estate agents in the following way:
- 5-10% of the people have a desire to accomplish a lot
- 90%-95% need to develop this but they need to learn to what to say and do.
My job is to find those people who have a desire to make something of their personal and professional lives.
Tell me about the Mike Ferry Organization and the market today
The real estate industry today is better than ever. The apathy is high – there may be 1.2M Realtors, but only a small percentage understand the business – so the apathy works in the favor of those who want to succeed. The pent-up demand is unfolding in front of us – the desire for people to move up, to relocate, to do something unique and make it happen for their business. The real estate industry is the key factor to what runs the economy, so real estate agents have an important role in our economic recovery. You see, this is the point: to overcome the apathy, tap into that internal motivation, to define clear goals and to go after them in a systemic manner.
Therefore, all real estate agents should say to themselves: I am an important part of the economy – am I doing my job right? We can dramatically change the real estate economy. I see a great economy ahead of us – whether or not success is realized is up to each agent.
What is your secret sauce?
I have a system that highlights a number of important sales disciplines. A few are:
- manage your team
- learn how to prospect
- do good lead follow up
- be strong in the pre-qualifying process
- make strong presentations
- handle objections
- close the sale
- start all over again
Agents do a 90-day production plan – if you do these activities every day, if you are true to the plan, you will succeed.
What do you think a system does for the agent?
If you don’t know what to say or do, your chance for success is limited.
How successful are you?
We have about 80,000 real estate agent customers. We work with about 350 broker owners.
We no longer affiliate closely with NAR, but we did for years. I am a strong supporter of our industry and its leaders.
We provide seminars, retreats, coaching – we offer the same thing in Canada, Europe.
We are having a lot of success in Europe; people are hungry. Success is success – that internal desire crosses borders. It doesn’t matter about the culture – there is always a percentage of the people who want to succeed.
The truth is, the basics work in a good and bad market. I think the worse the market, the more hungry people are. You can build any type of business. The industry in real estate is built on magic formulas, magic systems – do this today and you can be rich, etc. These are gimmicks, not authentic sales systems.
I have proven, in the last 38 years, you will succeed at a high level, period, if you follow my steps; but it is hard – it requires discipline and training. Not everyone wants to hear that, and people will attend my seminars, move away to try out one of the gimmicks, and more often than not they come back to the Mike Ferry organization because they recognize our authenticity and the merits of what we offer versus the other offerings in the marketplace today.
Every business that is successful is built on common principles. All of my competition are teaching the magic pills. Everyone tries them and they come back to me – because they know they need substance.
The reason why I am able to continue is because I believe what I am telling you is so strong.
Gravity has a way to correct behavior.
How many conferences do you do each year?
We do 35-40 sales conferences per year. I do the three to four biggest ones, and I am consultant to my own company.
Smaller events: 200-400 people; the larger events, 2,500-5,000 people.
What do you want your legacy to be?
If someone says “Mike Ferry,” and they say, “He made a difference.”
I believe that we do make a big difference every day.
Mr. Rick Roque, Managing Editor. For comments email me at: [email protected] or call me at 408.914.5895.
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