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California Association of REALTORS® Interview with Walter Sanford * Thoughts on Being a Top Producer * July 8th, 2013 | Posted in General Real Estate

Thank you for the opportunity to help with your article about top producers.  Here are your questions and my answers.

Q:      What steps/behaviors did you take/adopt that accelerated your rise to a top producer?   

A:      In hindsight, I can tell you that it was not a plan, but my common sense actually worked!  Can you imagine what would happen to an agent’s confidence if they had this plan?  Coupled with that plan, a guarantee from my coaching clients and myself that it (the plan) actually works? 

Here’s “the plan”:

  1. Study what the superstars in your area do.  You will find that most will fit into the following plan. 
  2. Know that controlling the listing side of the market and having the inventory is the most profitable aspect of real estate and the least expensive method of generating buyers.
  3. Discover what demographics are most likely to list in your market.
  4. Develop value for these groups.
  5. Take that value to these groups through social media, your website, blog, articles, direct mail, radio, ads, telephone, and in rare cases where the demographic is really hot — to the door and the phone. 
  6. Capitalize on hot lead generation opportunities  like assisted living centers, mature people in large homes, old expireds, new expireds, old FSBO, people who love you, out-of-state local owners, divorce attorneys, and about 65 other groups for which I have plans. 
  7. Make your listing presentation better, your pricing and commission plans better, and lessen the costs of your marketing. 

 When you complete “the plan” with just a few new lead generation systems in place, you will see net profits double in the first year and then double again within months.

Q:      What personality traits or behaviors do top producers share (like maybe a coach, a team, exercise regularly, constant drive)? 

A:      Each of my coaching clients has doubled his or her net within 8 months over their previous 12 months; some even faster.  However, many cannot afford coaching.  I have written manuals that mimic coaching, and these have helped people considerably.  Teams are overrated when you look at the take home pay of each member.  Probably the rainmaker (head of the team) is the only one making a net large enough to rationalize being on a “team.”  Many team members use my systems then leave the team, because they no longer need the security of lead generation since they can do it themselves. 

This business takes work.  You need to feel good to go the extra mile, stay the extra hour, or just make one more call.  Exercising regularly and eating well are traits that most top producers exhibit. 

Drive is the visualization of a goal.  Mine was enough income property allowing me to have a replacement monthly income after expenses.  I have done that…twice.  The first time – I did it with too much leverage, which didn’t allow me to survive a tough market.  This time – I’m buying for cash flow, which has allowed me to continue adding property to my estate.  When an agent has a portion of his/her commission checks going toward down payments on investment dreams then he or she has the income taxes being sheltered by those same investments, there’s some real excitement to work our plan – very hard! 

I think the most important behavior is not only determining goals but also making sure the goals are not mutually exclusive.  A common trait among top producers is balancing the work with family, fun, and faith. 

Another trait is the ability to break down big goals into 10-year, 5-year, 1-year, monthly, weekly, daily and hourly goals through time blocking.  Everything leads toward working more efficiently so an agent can close more.  Then he or she can buy and manage income property to produce a cash flow so he or she doesn’t have to work so hard. 

Q:      What makes top producers tick? 

A:      Working toward the goals stated earlier, helping other people achieve their goals (your broker, the agent you brought into the business, the agent you helped to recruit, your church, your family, etc.) is what kept (and still keeps) me ticking!   Also, designing systems that work while netting more money and providing happier clients all in less time.

Q:      Are top producers born or created? Is it genetics or coaching and systems?

A:      I don’t know, but I do know that God gives everyone a talent.   I have seen non-salespeople use my systems and absolutely destroy (in a nice way!) the competition.  There are good ways to do the business along with better ways and best ways. 

If you are doing the best activities in this business all the time and letting go of the least profitable activities, I would say that your success is guaranteed.  Sure, some are blessed with looks, an education, start-up capital, and/or a great personality.  Many of my superstars had none of those items.  They just slowly and surely instituted consistent implementation of great systems and strategies.  Some got those systems and strategies from one of my seminars, some from my manuals, and some from coaching.  Some got these concepts from other trainers or just used common sense in what was profitable.

Q:      Do you have any recommendations for mid-level agents striving to become top producers?  

A:      Generate listing leads every day.

Q:      Is it harder to attain and maintain top producer status in today’s market or is the market irrelevant? 

A:      You need to be flexible.  The market changes and your demographics change.  For instance, all the agents who today depend only on short sales and REOs will be hurting tomorrow, if they don’t change their demographics.  In 2007, the market changed.  No longer did buyers want to buy, and sellers didn’t like the prices.  It was harder to find clients who wanted to participate.  If you didn’t have systems that generated clients from different demographics, you were out of business.  

Each of my coaching clients maintained their 2007 production every year since and some grew it.  Did the activities change?  Sure, but they were used to lead generation so they simply increased their listing inventory as the market slowed.  There are always buyers and sellers out there.  When the bear chases you, you just have to be faster than the other agent! 

Q:      During your NAR Expo presentation, you mentioned that you had made several bad real estate deals necessitating you to net a large sum each month. Can you share that figure? 

A:      Sure, but it pains me.  When I got into real estate 30 years ago, I had just lost all of my negative cash flow and depreciating real estate in four states.  My monthly “nut” was a little over $30,000 a month.  It took years of success in selling real estate and negotiations with lenders to get everything paid back.  Great systems and strategies to handle personal listing inventories of over a hundred listings at all times in the 80’s and early 90’s allowed me not to only pay everyone back but also to start the real estate investment program that I now live off of.  I love real estate!

Thank you for the opportunity to share!


Walter Sanford has been designing and implementing real estate systems for 30 years.  One of the most successful REALTORS® and now wealthy from his systems, Sanford teaches his systems and strategies through his products, seminars, and personal coaching producing the best results in the industry.  Do what works, do what is proven.  Hire Walter Sanford.  Call our office at 800.792.5837, email, or chat with us online at


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