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We’re kicking off a new blog series that features stories, tips, and expertise from the Cloze community. We’ll bring you the real-world experience of your peers in growing their businesses through practical advice and their use of technology.
We’d love to hear your story too. If you’d like to participate please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll line up your interview.
Shirley Yoon, Real Estate Broker
Sotheby’s International Realty Canada
To get things started we spoke with Shirley Yoon, a Real Estate Broker and Certified International Property Specialist (CIPS) with Sotheby’s International Realty Canada, and one of Toronto’s top Realtors. Shirley has a diverse 15-year career in real estate investment, sales and property management, and has consistently ranked among the top Realtors in Toronto. She has a passion for art and culture, with a degree in Art Criticism & Curatorial Practice from Ontario College of Art & Design University. Shirley is a founding member of Open Kitchen Toronto, a not-for-profit dining series promoting women within the culinary industry and benefiting the OKTO endowment at George Brown College.
Shirley is based in Toronto, which has experienced immense growth over the past decade or two. Toronto is now the 4th largest city in North America with a metro population just shy of 3 million people. That’s made it into an incredibly interesting market throughout the time she’s been in the business.
Below you’ll find the highlights of our interview with Shirley. We’ve also broken down the full interview into clips so you can skip ahead as needed.
- Early roots in real estate
- A subtle approach to relationship building
- Defining her sphere of influence
- Every touchpoint needs to provide value
- Finding the perfect CRM
- On Cloze: “It has changed my entire business”
- Shirley’s daily routine
Early Roots in Real Estate
Shirley’s start in real estate came from her early immersion in it as she was growing up. Her mother used real estate as an investment method.
“I got into it because I was sort of immersed, not in the sales aspect, the investment side of it. I grew up watching my mother buy sell, hold, all kinds of real estate,” she said. “I think from a really early age, I just caught the bug and here I am.”
Shirley’s initial jump into becoming an agent was to help herself with her own, personal investments. “It was more to get a full picture, the know-how, of how the industry works, the selling, and the representation side.”
She was lucky enough to have a great mentor who taught her how to navigate the industry and set her up for success. “It started out self-serving and then now I’m serving clients instead. It’s a great full circle.”
“Commercial just fell into my lap. A lot of realtors are hesitant or weary when navigating the two different sectors.”
“It’s really managing client expectations. You have to look at the numbers and have that be your driving force.”
She explained, how she enjoys the contrasting differences between the emotions of residential real estate as compared to the analytical side of commercial real estate.
“I just sort of loved the differences between the two,” she lit up explaining her early days in the industry. With residential, she said, “you have one side that’s completely emotional, and it’s driven by emotions. What you’re trying to do is temper those emotions and make your clients be a little bit more rational. Then the swing side in commercial is, it’s completely rational. It’s all numbers-driven. It’s a good mix.”
Forging Lasting Relationships is Essential
Shirley sees relationships as the foundational element of her work as a realtor. To her, after working with people for months, you form friendships that last long beyond any sale. In part, that’s due to her good-natured personability, but it’s also because she approaches all her clients on a human level.
“I never walk in with a listing agreement on the first meeting. Ever. I just go in for the conversation. The way I frame it is, ‘I’d love to come for a tour of the home.’ My view on that is, if they’re calling me, they already know they want to sell,” she said. “It’s all about giving them that information, seeing their home, and seeing why they love that home. Just getting a feel for them, talking with the sellers, and getting that really good rapport. The paperwork comes after.”
It’s in those first moments, where she meets the client and sees the space, that she lets her creativity run wild. Shirley has a love of culture that lets her see beyond the walls in front of her to the possibility held in the storefront or office space the client wants.
“I think when you come from a place of thinking really big. For me, it’s about thinking as big as you can, don’t limit yourself in the thought process or in the inception period of your creativity. When you think that big, anything is possible and anything is achievable,” she said.
Shirley puts relationships at the center of her business. Rather than spreading herself too thin, she focuses on truly understanding her clients’ needs and building lasting relationships.
It’s about building your relationships and really, really focusing on relationships to fall into this really big picture.”
She explains that her role as a Realtor is to be their trusted real estate advisor—guiding her clients through the entire process (even after the transaction has closed). Her goal is to give them the information and confidence to see their goals through.
“We serve our clients. That’s the basis of everything we do, and what we do is really provide strategy and industry knowledge and know-how. We work with the clients to make them feel really great about the process and confident.”
A Subtle Approach to Building Rapport with People Empowers Her to Grow Her Business
Having a willingness to talk to people goes a long way towards earning clients, Shirley says. She shows her knowledge and communicates her value, simply by speaking with people when the moment arises.
Shirley takes a subtle approach towards selling herself and allows the communication to flow naturally and organically.
Be selfless for a moment. People don’t necessarily want to be hit over the head with “I’m a Realtor, I’m a Realtor, I’m a Realtor”, but people love real estate. It’s an easy conversation starter. You just need to step in have a conversation in a really informal way rather than being loud about it.”
A deep focus on her sphere of influence
Sphere of influence (or simply sphere) refers to individuals in your network who provide the highest probability of generating business. This sphere includes clients who have some sway. It can also include clients with whom you have transacted, those who have provided referrals, and those who rely on you for your expertise, to name a few. It is recommended that you keep your sphere of influence to 200 or fewer individuals.
Shirley has a very focused sphere of influence of roughly 50-60 people that yields the bulk of her business.
This core group of strong relationships in her sphere recommends Shirley to their network any time someone needs a Realtor. While Shirley certainly doesn’t know all of the same people her sphere knows, they know of her as the go-to person for all things related to real estate—and therefore this network of the people her sphere knows do the most to grow her business.
At social occasions and networking events, the friends of her sphere are often the people she introduces herself to as a Realtor. Having the confidence to tell people what she does goes a long way, she says. People are drawn to that energy. And of course, her sphere is always speaking highly of her too.
“At the end of the day, it just goes back to relationships,” she said.
It’s funny because I have people in my sphere that have never bought real estate from me and they’ve never sold real estate from me. But they keep referring me.” She laughs, she’s confused by this, but then she says. “If you keep referring me, it doesn’t matter if there’s been no sale or buy, you’re still in my sphere.
But that’s a testament to her approach, she believes, since it’s a judgment on her character and personality without having worked with her during a transaction. It feels good, she says, since it means that her connections run deeper than just her work output alone.
On defining her sphere of influence
The way I define my sphere are past clients or friends that I would be thrilled to go out and have an epically long dinner with. And just have an incredible meal and incredible wine and just laugh our heads off. To me that’s my sphere because those are the true relationships.
Her sphere of influence turns to her as their trusted expert for all things real estate—and even in emergencies.
“It could be something has happened to their house or with a tenant and they just call me in a panic. ‘I know you got a guy. You always have a guy’.
Shirley expands her sphere of influence from this core group to her As, Bs, Cs, and Ds.
This includes a broad outer “sphere” that she breaks down by….
- A – High-level clients (past clients, but have not elevated to being part of her core sphere)
- B – Her broader network of acquaintances who know her as a realtor
- C – People she knows causally personally or professionally
- D – People she is trying to get to know
Building lasting memories through food
Many realtors bring gifts to their clients at closing, but Shirley has always tried a different approach to that.
“Instead of having that big basket of goodies, like a lot of agents do, my gift has always been we’re going to have a ridiculous dinner. Because it’s such a pleasure. I think part of that too is when you provide a really good memory for people, that just lasts for them. I think that really good memory comes from experiences.” she said.
“When you strip away these roles of realtor or client, and step back and be people, you can really nurture solid, solid relationships. It just brings people together. Things are things, but memories are really precious.”
Every Touchpoint Needs to Provide Value
The pandemic has made that incredibly challenging for her, since that’s always been one of her biggest touchpoints. She’s had to pivot because nobody can gather, they can’t celebrate immediately. She’s changed her strategy somewhat, but her focus is still on being helpful and bringing value to her clients.
Therefore, her newsletter has become an essential way to communicate during the pandemic.
Shirley notes that simply sending stats or listings is the baseline of what she has to include as a realtor. “You always want to provide value to your clients”.
She’ll add advice or news, like how restaurants have switched to making meal kits, and send those to her clients where they’re relevant.
Using Cloze has helped her stay on top of communications with clients during the pandemic. Cloze helps her find and quickly follow-up with new leads from realtor.ca, along with adding all the necessary information about the new leads into Cloze automatically, so she has all the info she needs right at her fingertips. To do this Cloze uses AI to automatically create leads from emails by capturing the information found in the body of the email. This ensures leads never slip through the cracks.
Importantly, Cloze helps her keep authentic communication with the people she’s worked so closely with.
With Cloze you can use a feature called Next Steps to help you keep track of what you’ve done and what you have left to do for each type of relationship.
Think of Next Steps as a repeatable checklist that you can write once and reuse. After the transaction closes Shirley uses Cloze’s built-in post-transaction follow-up plan to stay close to her clients and build on their already established relationship. The client had a great experience, so this is the time to strengthen the relationship.
Tip: This game plan is included with Cloze’s standard Real Estate configuration so you can jump in and start using it with zero setup required. Click here for a webinar replay that goes into more detail post-transaction follow-up.
Shirley’s game plan looks like this:
- Immediately: Invites the client to dinner at a top-tier restaurant for a night of fine dining
- Two-day Follow-up: “How is everything?” “How’s the home?” ”Is there anything you can help with?” “I’ll reach out to you in a week to see if there’s anything else you need.”
- Two-week Follow-up: “Are you unpacked? “Is there anything you can help with?” “How you doing? Packing, mover scheduled? Great!; I’m still here. I’ll check back in.”
- One-month Follow-up: Check-in, offer local recommendations – anything of value like a neighborhood guide. Offer reliable plumbers, handymen, electricians, decorators, repair and remodel contractors.”
- Three-month Follow-up: How is the home working out? Is there anything you can help with?
- Home Visit: Let them settle-in and then set up a home visit
- Six-month Follow-up: she makes this call each year.
- Anniversary of Closing: she makes this call each year.
Cloze automatically reminds Shirley to reach out for each step in her plan.
I think one of the biggest things is putting your clients on a post-close automation campaign that actually feels authentic and driving that authenticity,” she said. ”You can put them on a drip campaign, but you’re like, I worked with these people for months. We broke bread together. I can’t put you on a generic drip campaign.”
Shirley has a deep love of art and culture. She has a degree in it, after all, and that makes her connection with Sotheby’s incredibly important to her. This affiliation provides an opportunity to include content in her newsletters from Sotheby’s that aligns with her own personal brand. She recommends connecting with clients around your passions and interests because it creates a higher degree of authenticity.
“The affiliation with Sotheby’s is huge, in that capacity for me. Just the legacy of the auction house. That bears a tremendous significance with me, even though we’re just affiliated with them. I always try to include something related back to Sotheby’s. Something of interests. I think just a month ago, they used Matterport to do a virtual tour of one of their galleries for their auction in London. I love that. I love how it’s just compounding the two.
Shirley’s Journey to Find the Perfect CRM
As a realtor and investor in a high-value industry, she relies on technology to help her business. She took that task incredibly seriously and did a trial phase for all the key CRM software.
I have tried a lot of CRMs,” she said, laughing. “I tried a whole bunch of tried and true industry standards, some non-industry specific ones. I’ve tried all the big ones.”
Shirley, over a period of several months, did the trial phase for many programs, which brought her on her circuitous route to Cloze. She had a vision of what she wanted her system to be, but finding the right fit was challenging. Like many Realtors, she tried using a spreadsheet or living off just her email inbox, but things would slip through the cracks.
“I bought a month. Once I dived into it, it saved so much time. It has changed my entire business.”
“It Has Changed My Entire Business”
Cloze’s features help keep her organized, but that in and of itself doesn’t set the program apart. Shirley points to the artificial intelligence (AI) features that Cloze offers to help stay on top of her email, by pulling the most important messages forward onto the Cloze Agenda.
These AI features include:
- Smart Reply Reminders – Cloze’s AI finds messages in your inbox that you would usually reply to — if you haven’t it adds them to your Agenda. Learn More.
- Smart Action Items – Cloze’s AI detects action items in the email you send (e.g., “I’ll get back to you on Friday”) and adds them to your Agenda automatically. Learn More.
- Smart Deadlines – Cloze’s AI detects deadlines in emails you receive too (e.g., “Please review and get your comments to me by Friday”) and adds them to your Agenda automatically. Learn More.
I think it’s the AI you guys have developed and continued to refine it is mindblowing. That compounded with not having to enter any data is huge, huge, huge. It’s so smart. It will update people’s contacts. Again, just by scanning your emails or scanning the data.”
Cloze works with the apps you use today, to automatically keep track of everything related to your clients — your email, phone calls, text messages, meetings, documents, and more, from dozens of other services like Google, Office 365, Evernote, Dropbox, Calendly, Dotloop, Zillow, DocuSign, MailChimp, and ActivePipe. This gets rid of all the busy work so you focus on your clients and not data entry.
One of her favorite features is how it sends her reminders about emails she hasn’t responded to. Cloze’s AI learns her usual response times and finds messages she missed, then reminds her about them.
“I love that it’s constantly moving. I love seeing it constantly shifting what it believes you should be doing at that moment.”
Her Days Begin and End With Cloze
The daily email briefing Cloze sends her is crucial for getting her day started and staying on top of her work. The Cloze Morning Briefing email is a summary of the various items on your agenda for the day—people to get back in touch with, meetings, tasks that are due, reminders, emails you might have missed, and other items.
“I’ll have coffee, a few minutes for myself, and get ready for the day. But usually with my coffee, the automated email comes to me,” she said. “I literally just sit and go through that. I look at that email and what’s top line, high level to deal with that day. Then I get the day going and ready, and after that I look at Cloze on my screen at my desk and jut chip away at the agenda.”
“But I live off it. I don’t even open Gmail. Everything I do is in Cloze. Everything, even on my phone. I don’t send a single email out through Apple Mail on my iPhone. Everything is through Cloze,” she said. “I love it. I love seeing the data being imported and clicking on a contact and seeing every touchpoint. I love using the little hack we have for viewing, meeting, or showings. It’s wonderful to be able to pull up a client’s name and see all of the meetings or showings I’ve done with them, it’s fabulous.
I’m letting the AI do it. There will be moments when I get a notification in the Agenda or on my phone and I’m like ‘oh that client!’. I love those moments. Those are the nuggets you want.”
“I Preach About Cloze Non-Stop”
“It’s just how intuitive it is mindblowing. I preach about Cloze non-stop,” she said.
And it’s true, she does. She tells her other colleagues about how helpful Cloze is and convinces them to use it too.
The first thing I show everyone is the agenda. I’m such a fan of Cloze. I’m like a diehard Clozer,” she said. “I can’t say how much it’s changed my business.
“We’re always on top of our current clients, what we’ve got on the go. What’s hot and what’s in contract. I’ve never felt so on the ball of not just leads, but my past clients. That’s made a huge, significant change to my business.”
Whenever Shirley’s colleagues have an issue, or ask her for advice, she tells them to try Cloze. Once they’ve tried it for 2 weeks, they call her back to talk about it. She’s become known as a Cloze guru and can help them learn new features or solve small issues.
“It’s pretty funny. I’ve onboarded a number of other colleagues at the office, preaching how amazing it is. I’ve sort of become this de facto tech support for the really small things,” she said. “I’ll have colleagues or other peers shoot me a message or an email saying I’m trying to figure this out and it doesn’t work.”
Cloze Continuously Grows so Your Business Can Too
What makes Cloze unique is its belief in reinventing itself. And that’s something Shirley really appreciates.
“The other part about it too that sets Cloze apart from everything else is your continuous innovation. I think a lot of platforms perfect what they want to do, and they’ll tweak it,” she said. “Or they’ll update it to what they need to, but they’re not necessarily rolling out massive new updates that are huge, if you will. Or significant updates to a platform. That’s the other thing that I tremendously value that you guys are doing.”
“I really view Cloze as the Swiss Army Knife that I needed. It’s so robust. It captures everything that I wanted.”
Have you tried Cloze?
Cloze is a smart CRM (customer relationship management) platform with a built-in AI personal assistant that gets rid of data entry and helps you close more business with your leads and your sphere of influence.