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Resilience, Growth, & The Luxury Market with Shannon Byerly

November 25, 2019


In this episode, I interview Shannon Byerly with Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage in Denver, Colorado.

Shannon has been in the business for five years, but you would think it has been longer based on her sales production. She was rookie of the year her first year in the business and has been crushing it every year since.

In our conversation, Shannon and I discussed:

  • Growing your business from an already busy base
  • Breaking into the luxury market
  • Coping with personal tragedy
  • Customer Service

The advice that Shannon shares will absolutely have a positive impact on your business.

If you enjoy this episode, I would like to ask you a favor: Please consider subscribing and leaving a review. We need your support to grow the show.

Shannon’s Links

Topics and Timing

Episode Transcript

Start of Interview

Bob Burns: I am really excited about today’s guest. After only five years in the real estate business, she is already one of the top agents in the Denver marketplace. She was her company’s rookie of the year in her first year, and has been on a steep upward trajectory ever since. And this year, she’s on track to have her best year ever in real estate, which is quite an accomplishment given how big of a year she had last year.

Now, I have to come clean with everybody listening. She’s also one of my coaching clients. Which means that part of my job is to motivate and inspire her to push herself and reach new heights, but the truth is that she inspires me at least as much as I inspire her.

So, Shannon Byerly of Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage in Colorado, thanks so much for being on the show.

Shannon Byerly: Thanks Bob. I’m really delighted to be on today. Thanks for having me.

The Haunted Showing

Bob Burns: Very cool. So I want to start with something that you mentioned in your show prep, and of all of our conversations together, you’ve never mentioned this and it intrigued me. You were on a showing and a ghost turned on a light. What happened there?

Shannon Byerly: Yeah. So, we were looking in kind of the more historic neighborhoods in Denver, and a lot of these homes in the West Coast, our ages are, you know, relative, so 1940s whoo. So we’re going into this home and we were going into the basement and I had an interesting showing note that the agent had in there that said not to be concerned about lights turning on and off in the basement, that it wasn’t electrical.

Bob Burns: Weird.

Shannon Byerly: And, you know, and we were just, so I had this really great woman by the name of Kendall who was super sweet, and she really wanted to find a kind of an iconic home in Denver. We’re going down the basement stairs it’s super dark, it’s more of a cellar at this point. I don’t really know what we would utilize it for, but I needed to check it out. And I’m trying to find the light, and I’m like “Where’s the light, where’s the light switch over here?” and then just “boom” lights go on. I’m like, “Kendall did you turn on the light?” And she’s like, “Nope.” And I’m like, “okay,” and then it was this cool breeze that kind of came by both of us. We both could kind of see a little bit of a white apparition. So I looked at Kendall and I was like, “Okay, let’s go on up to the other level.” I was like, we’re going to go ahead and roll out. So to this day, she’s like, “When Shannon says it’s time to roll out, I know it’s something that we need to get out of here.”

Bob Burns: Wow, that’s crazy, so at least it was a helpful ghost, it was turning on the lights for you.

Shannon Byerly: It was! Honestly. And I gave feedback to the agent, and the agent’s like, “Yeah, we had some issues during showings with lights turning on and off depending on if the ghost per se liked who is touring through.”

Bob Burns: Okay so I take it from the story that Kendall did not make an offer on this house?

Shannon Byerly: No, we did not make an offer on that house, but we did find her a really lovely house later on.

Bob Burns: That ghost must have been so disappointed!

Shannon Byerly: It was great, it was fantastic.

Bob Burns: Really cool but you managed to pivot and sell her a different house instead.

Shannon Byerly: Yes but we would joke along on the next house that we’re looking at, I was like, “And right here is where we can keep the dead bodies.”

How Real Estate Found Shannon

Bob Burns: That’s awesome. Alright, so I’m glad you shared that story. Let’s flip over on to the business side. As I mentioned in the intro, you were Rookie of the Year your first year in real estate, but I want to go backwards from there, and maybe share a little bit about what your thought process was about getting into real estate. Why real estate? This is a really, really hard business and I’m always curious, especially for top performers like you, of what was it that made you decide to do this?

Shannon Byerly: So I had been in oil and gas for just a little over a year and a half, and the price of oil tanked, and I was part of the first round of layoffs. It was one of those times where I just was applying for my similar position which was, and it was very boring, I was a technical writer, and it was just as boring as it sounds. Instead I happened to catch the Today Show, and the Today Show was talking about how nowadays there’s so many people that switch careers midlife at different parts of their life. And they have brought these five women on that had done different things, had gone completely from one aspect to another. One ended up owning a yoga studio at the age of 50 and had always been in IT before that. So, it really made me think about what I wanted to do versus what would have been kind of the normal next step. And, I also really thought about how I was gonna be able to achieve because I’d been a stay-at-home mom. I was in middle management, I was never gonna have the opportunity to really make much more than 3% per year or whatever that the company deemed acceptable. So I wanted to have the opportunity to really create my own wealth or opportunities.

Bob Burns: That makes a lot of sense, and there’s a couple things that I want to unpack about what you said. Had you ever thought about real estate prior to catching that Today Show episode?

Shannon Byerly: So my ex-husband and I had owned flower shops, and we had purchased real estate on the commercial side, and had done executed leases with other businesses, and I just found it so fascinating when we were doing it. But the commercial side, although I dabble in it and I have a couple closings that will be coming up with a commercial partner that I work with, it doesn’t give me the warm and fuzzies. So although I had experience in that part I really wanted to be more on the residential side, because I knew that I would be a better fit for me.

Bob Burns: Okay so you were kind of primed a little bit to be inspired to go down this path of real estate. You had liked real estate and the real estate process, although maybe not as much on the residential. And this kind of thing that you saw sparked you, the right thing at the right time found you.

Shannon Byerly: Oh yeah and you know I, like a lot of people, was watching a lot of, you know some network TV with million dollar listings and everything else, and it looked so fun. You could create your own schedule. So some of this was, as I learned later on, definitely made for TV, but that also did kind of impact me where I thought, “Oh, this looks like fun, I’ll show houses, it will be a good time.”

Bob Burns: Right.

Shannon Byerly: Although I enjoy my work I have come to realize that the TV is very not what a real-life agent does.

Bob Burns: So, absolutely, and I think TV can help us in this business and it can hurt us in this business. We have to realize that it’s a show, and a lot of times it’s scripted, it’s not reality even though it’s put forward as reality TV. So what was different when you actually got into real estate than what you had anticipated? And what was the same?

Shannon Byerly: You know so I took a class, I actually did the in-person class because I just thought that would probably be better for myself learning. And I think the biggest surprise was that really the test, everything else, does not prepare you at all for what you’re going into. So that was probably my biggest surprise in initially just getting started in real estate.

Bob Burns: Makes sense. So what advice would you give someone in your same shoes looking for a career change, wondering if they can do it? They come across real estate, they’re kind of excited but they don’t really know what it’s about. What one thing should a person in that situation be thinking about as they get their license?

Shannon Byerly: I would recommend maybe asking someone to shadow for a day or two, and being specific, like, “Can I shadow you on a listing appointment?” or “Can I shadow you while you’re even showing properties?” Because coming in as a team, it is impressive to any seller or to any buyer, so there’s no downside. And I completely believe in the giving-back philosophy. I sat down with a real estate agent that isn’t with Coldwell initially to talk about her experience, and she was so wonderful and positive. Jessica was like, “You can do this, you’ve got the personality for it, I totally believe in you.” And I try to pay that forward whenever there’s an opportunity of a newer agent, or somebody that’s thinking about getting into the business. I’m happy to sit down and have coffee and chat with them about it.

Bob Burns: I think that’s awesome and hopefully what this conversation is, is just a broad scale coffee chat with Shannon Byerly, that folks can learn from. So fast forward, you got licensed and your person encouraged you to do it, you went through the process that didn’t at all prepare you for the reality of real estate, it just prepared you to pass the test.

Shannon Byerly: Absolutely.

Achieving Rookie of the Year

Bob Burns: So you obviously passed the test, but your first year you absolutely crushed it. What do you attribute that to? What was the magic ingredient?

Shannon Byerly: Well some of it is, I interviewed several companies and Coldwell Banker had just a phenomenal training program. At the time, and it morphs, at the time when I went through is called Star 90, which was basically 90 days until you get your first contract, and it really went through the process of what you needed to do to start to build your business. But even more depth-wise, Andy Sommer, my managing broker, he does weekly coaching sessions, and he would sit down with me and keep me accountable for what I had done that day, how many contacts I had made over the week. We talked about spinning plates, where my business was gonna come from, was it from a sphere, was it from door knocking, was it from open houses, and those weekly sessions helped keep me very much accountable, and also on a path of what to do. So I knew that if I was talking to 25 people each week and giving out my cards, and not being a “secret agent” that I was likely to be able to get appointments, which would then lead to transactions.

Bob Burns: Totally makes sense. And I think you’ve touched on something where a lot of real estate professionals go wrong, and we know that the average realtor spends 18 months in the business before they fizzle out. Something like 80% of people don’t make it the first year and a half. I think one of the differences, and I’d like your opinion on this based on what you just said, I think one of the differences is, yes we’re independent contractors, however, having some directions, structure, and guidance from somebody who’s been here and some accountability I think is one of the difference-makers for the 20% that make it. What do you think?

Shannon Byerly: Absolutely. I also was fortunate in that first year to take Chris Leader’s class. He comes out every two years to our market, and I was new enough to not be afraid of so many of the things that you said to do, too. I was like, “Oh, okay, I’m gonna go door-knock 50 doors, and do a personal invitation to an open house.” It was fantastic to have these items of checkmarks, do this, do this, do this. And if you have the opportunity when you get into the business, make sure you are interviewing several different companies because they are different and they have approaches, and some of them are not really built for the newer agents. So make sure to ask what types of training they have, and how they support newer agents.

Growing When You’re Busy

Bob Burns: That is excellent advice. Now I’d like to shift away from your first year in the business to your current year in the business. You’ve been on this hockey stick-shaped upward trajectory, year after year you keep topping yourself. Talk a little bit about the growth that you’ve seen in your business, and the upsides of that growth is obviously more income and more success and more referrals, the business I think gets a little easier, but there’s two sides to every story. So talk about the good, the bad, and the ugly of all the success that you’ve achieved.

Shannon Byerly:  Right, so I’m fortunate. I’m in a masterminds group of women that, there’s six of us that meet once a month, and they’re fantastic. We did vision boards. I think it was probably three years ago that we started with our vision boards, and that was life-changing. Just really doing the power of positive. And I also took a Ninja course, yeah I’m Ninja. [laughter] So it’s an approach of really keeping positive as well, and having tasks that you have to do. It’s not just thinking you’re gonna do well, it’s also relatable with notes and different things, steps that I had to take to get where I am. So those were really game changers for me, having goals on a board every day that I was seeing, and they were goals from everything, like yoga to traveling; it wasn’t just business. And I think that’s kind of a mistake we can make sometimes, is not really putting our own personal lives in the forefront. We’re very quick to cancel on our loved ones, we’re quick to make plans with people and then change them because we get a listing appointment or whatnot. So I would say the hard part about being busy is trying to keep balance. I try to tell myself every morning that I have exactly enough time to get done what I need to today. I also try to start with some meditation and writing out my goal 25 times on a piece of paper. So all those things probably sound a little hocus-pocus, but it really does come to reality when you can do that part. It was challenging trying to juggle the kids. My son just entered high school, my daughter’s in middle school. It was really challenging this summer to hang out with them. I felt like part of my summer, I felt like I didn’t even see my kids. Luckily I had an awesome person to come in and help. Carly, love you, she’s in college, when she leaves I’m always so sad, but I couldn’t do it without support. My mom supports me, my sister supports me, they’re there to jump in when I can’t be mom. So the hardest part for me is really trying to be Shannon in so many different places.

Bob Burns: It sounds so simple, but one of the most important things to do, I think, is to ask.

Shannon Byerly: Yeah.

Bob Burns: When you need help, ask.

Shannon Byerly: Yes, yes, absolutely, and find ways that you’re still being present. So, when I am at home, I try to be present with them.  Not having your phone near you at the dinner table, you know my kids, they do make fun of me. They’re like, “We know when you’re not listening, ‘cause you’ll be like, “uh-huh, uh-huh.” And I have no idea, they might have just asked me for a vacation and I just agreed to it. But trying to be present and trying to really make sure that the time that I spend with them is quality time.

Breaking Into Luxury Real Estate

Bob Burns: It’s a matter of priorities, and doing things on purpose. Let’s talk a little bit more about this year in your business, because as your coach one of the things that I’ve noticed, is a greater and greater percentage throughout the year of your listings have been in the million plus dollar category, and you seem to be carving out a niche for yourself as a higher sale price type of agent, would you agree with that?

Shannon Byerly: Yes, so that was one of my goals was to increase my average list price. I would say that that has definitely come into fruition this year. And you have to give yourself a little bit of time when you first get into the real estate business. We all want million-dollar listings, but it takes some time to build that kind of credibility with the luxury market, and careful of what you wish for because they’re expensive, you need to have those quality touches, and stay persistent with your clients, and they’re very well-educated people with regards to real estate, so you’re not always the person that they’re going to for advice. Your first-time homebuyer is going to worship you, and they’ll listen to you. In the luxury market you have to be able to really prove your value, and also be great at listening to what their goals are, and what they’re trying to accomplish.

Bob Burns: That makes sense. What about being in this area of the market has surprised you?

Shannon Byerly: The first thing that surprised me was that the contract’s the same. So whether you’re writing a $100,000 offer, or $1.25 million offer, it’s the same. There are some caveats where your due diligence documents are probably a little bit different, you’re asking for more items, you may be bringing architects in and different things that way, but that was probably the most surprising to me at first was just that it really is very similar, and if you can remember that, it’s not as daunting when you’re first getting into it.

Bob Burns: Isn’t that feeling exciting of, you know you’re a little bit intimidated or nervous about it, and then you discover that, “hey wait, I know how to do this!”?

Shannon Byerly: Right, exactly. You’ve already done it a million times, you’re just adding different numbers. And sometimes when you’re asking the universe for things they’ve always said that the universe doesn’t know the difference between a dollar and a million dollars, and neither does the contract. That’s something you have to remember when you’re starting to work with luxury clients.

Bob Burns: I love that, the universe doesn’t know the difference between a dollar and a million dollars. So one of the things you mentioned as you were talking about getting into the luxury market was it’s expensive. What did you mean by that?

Shannon Byerly: So, although the contract is the same the marketing is different. You are going to need to invest more money into the property for marketing. I bring in a stager and that’s a personal preference whether you’re asking your clients to pay for some of this, or whether you’re paying for some of it, or whether you’re paying for all of it, whatever you decide you’re gonna do. But you definitely, staging is very important in the luxury market, as well as even in, I’ve even staged at two hundred thousand to tell you the truth. But at the luxury market, obviously more square footage or higher-end type situations on that. I also spend money on video from the luxury market because oftentimes our clients aren’t in Colorado, so this way I can send out videos to agents to try to pique their interest and that way they can also send it over to their clients so they can get an idea on the property. The Global Luxury with Coldwell Banker has also other tools that you can invest in where you can be seen more into that target buyer that you’re trying to get, because as you get higher in your list price, your pool is really so much smaller that you have to be able to identify who that buyer might be and really try to target-market to that particular buyer.

Bob Burns: That makes sense. And it also, all of the marketing efforts that you’re doing, just based on the price point, the house is likely going to stay on the market longer than a lower price point home, so even the same things that you would do for all listings start to compound because you’re doing them more frequently. Is that the case for you?

Shannon Byerly: Yeah, and you just, I mean, you have them longer so you have to do some refreshing. You can’t just give it a, say, “Okay, well, I already put it into this publication once, three months ago.” So that’s kind of one of those pricing that you just don’t really think about and your client expects more out of you, too, they expect, you know, that your commission, once you successfully close on the home, is very good, so they expect you to also spend the money to market their home appropriately.

Resilience & Dealing with Personal Adversity

Bob Burns: Makes sense. I want to shift a little bit and keep talking about this year, but this is a little bit personal. So your father, who you were very close with, passed away pretty recently, and for most people, for anybody really, something like that happening would have an impact on their business, and I think you and I have talked about that it has. But I think you’ve recovered amazingly. Talk a little bit, if you don’t mind Shannon, about your father’s passing away, his impact on your business, and what that was like to go through that and to try to keep all the balls in the air with with all of your other obligations and still grieve the loss of this very important person in your life.

Shannon Byerly: Yeah, my father passed and January of this year, and it was sudden. Unfortunately it was, he had had a procedure done and ended up having some sort of sepsis and a heart attack. So my sister and I, who are extremely close, we were very close with Michael, though I like to say his name still. My dad, I think it was at the end of January, and my business was a little bit slower than normal at that time of year for me, so I was a little bit nervous already. And then when my father passed it was like time kind of stopped for a little while. But as you know in this business it doesn’t really. So I think he passed January 29th, I wrote a contract two days later. I had a client that called, and they’d found their perfect home and they understood that my father had passed but they really wanted me to write the contract. And looking back I’m surprised the mind can just kind of focus in and do what it needs to do. I had a listing appointment the next week. I think some of that was really good for me, to stay busy and to have these, and I knew that my dad, one of the things that he always was great about was really complimenting me on how far I had come in the business, then he was like my biggest cheerleader on it. So I knew that the worst thing for him would be for me to give up or to take more time than necessary. He was very much, “Hey everybody dies.” He was a police detective for 34 years for Denver. He had a different attitude about death. If I had gone into, just, lump mode he would have been like, “Uh, no, that’s not how this goes. You gotta get up, this is how it is.” So that part definitely helped.

My sister is also my assistant, so not only was I operating on having a difficult time for myself, but obviously my sister was hurting too. So it was like the whole Your Fresh Start Realty shut down. But we got back going. We had to sell his house pretty quickly, so we had to go through his house, and I kind of think about that time is really when my business started picking up, was about two weeks after he passed. Because I actually have two months of this year that I didn’t even have a closing, so it’s remarkable looking back on numbers, and it’s something to remember, too, is just because you have one month where you don’t have a closing, that doesn’t mean you can’t still have an excellent year.

Bob Burns: Resilience is really a lot of what this business comes down to. In a lot of ways, whether it’s personal tragedy or business-related or just bad luck, this business will beat you down if you let it, and you can’t let it. What did Rocky say? “It’s not how many times you get knocked down, it’s how many times you get back up.”

Shannon Byerly: Yes, absolutely.

Bob Burns: And that bore itself out this year in your business and you’ve, I mean, you took a dip as any normal person would do, but you soldiered on, and your dad continues to cheer you on. And that’s a really neat thing that can happen, is to find the love, and to find the positives, and to find the motivators in any situation like that, and it sounds like you really did.

Shannon Byerly: Absolutely, and I’m fortunate. I mean, my office has such a great culture, that everybody was really great about supporting me, too. When I had a contract that came in on my dad’s house I was a mess, totally started crying, and one of my agents was like, “Okay, forward it to me. I’m gonna look at it, I’m gonna call the lender, I’m going to…” We ended up selling it for above list price, which would have made my dad super happy, and the whole transaction was lovely. The agent on the other side was great, and the agent didn’t know. I mean, we disclosed that, you know, that I was related to the seller, but I couldn’t talk without crying at that point about everything, so I thought it was best to try to keep everything okay. But a lovely woman moved into the house and she had written a love letter which I know it had no impact on which offer we selected, but we got to read the letter after they were under contract, and she was moving to be closer to her sister, and it was exactly the type of person my dad would have wanted in the house. So, you know, it’s good.

Customer Service & Listening

Bob Burns: That’s wonderful. And it leads me to what I want to kind of wrap up this conversation on. We’ve covered a lot of ground and I think it’s really, really helpful, but one of the differentiators that you have, and it relates back to that person who bought that house, and I hear it as you and I discuss all of your transactions in our coaching sessions is, your customer service. Now a lot of agents will say that, “My customer service is really good,” but yours, I believe is different. Your relationships with your clients is different and I wanted to talk a little bit about how you do that. You seem to form these really, really close bonds with people through the process of either selling their home or buying a home, and you know, how do you do that? Help us decode that because there’s a lot of folks out there trying to figure that out.

Shannon Byerly: So I think it comes down to just genuinely caring about my clients. I take it just as hard as they do if there’s something that’s going on that’s not going in the direction of what we were trying to accomplish. I also listen quite a bit to them and I want to know more about their family and the things that they enjoy. I started with that, when I was newer, and it was really to kind of… for closing gifts. It was like, I really enjoyed doing these baskets, and I was always trying to personalize that, but it became more.

I’ve always told all of my clients that at the end of it I want you to feel like I’m your friend, I’m your confidant, so what you tell me you know it stays with me. So I keep in touch with everybody through pop-bys, and through social media I think I’ve maintained a good presence with my clients on there, too. It’s not always the phone calls, it’s just really making sure that you’re putting their best interests first. I think Andy was the one that told me, like, “Don’t ever worry about the paycheck, the paychecks happen. You just concentrate on your client and what they need,” and that has been the smartest thing. I don’t even look at a CDA and you should look at that, but I don’t look at them until I’m at closing. But I just don’t, because I feel like it’s a process that will come to a good conclusion as long as I’m doing everything that’s right by my clients. And it can be hard, everybody has challenging clients, I mean, I do, too. But to also remember that it’s really stressful when you’re buying or selling a home, and it might not be their very best self. Sometimes when you’re going through a crisis or when you’re going through a change, you’re just not really, you might take it out on someone else. And so if they do take it out on me sometimes, I try to always take it with a grain of salt that it’s tough, and to remember that, to be kind and to just listen to what they’re really asking for.

Bob Burns: I think that’s a great way to wrap it up, is “just listen.” And listening is hard to do for us sales people who like to, and are good at, speaking. But listening, truly actively listening and using all of the data that the person we’re communicating with is giving to us to help build that relationship and strengthen our level of service I think is so, so critical. So, Shannon Byerly with Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage in Colorado, thanks very much for being on the show, it’s an honor to know you, it’s an honor to work with you, and I’m sure the audience appreciates everything that you shared today.

Shannon Byerly: And a shout out to you Bob, I’m blessed to work with you as my coach, and I’ve referred other people and they are just so happy to be working with you. You really care about us as your clients and we very much know that we are lucky to have you, so, thank you.

Bob Burns: Aw, I’m so glad I recorded that, thanks Shannon.

Shannon Byerly: [laughter]

Bob Burns: Alright, thanks for listening everybody, enjoy the episode, and we’ll talk to you next week!

Shannon Byerly: Bye!

Music: “My Everything” by Roads used under license from Tribe of Noise.

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