Driven to Succeed: Top Agent Charges Ahead at All Times

Neil Weichel
By Scott Marshutz and Deborah Ball Kearns // Photography by Tara Rochelle

The most important life lessons Neal Weichel has learned  weren’t taught in a classroom. They came from three summers of  going door-to-door in Pennsylvania and New York, selling books while  he was an undergraduate student at UCLA.

The experience, he says, changed his life. It taught him persistence. It  taught him to accept the harsh sting of rejection. And, most importantly,  it taught him that he was pretty good at sales.

Weichel took those lessons to heart in the corporate  world, where he was sales manager for an oil company.  Eventually, he became disenchanted; he felt like his  personal growth and income had reached its limit. That’s  when a friend suggested, in 1991, that he sell real estate.  Weichel gave it a shot and became hooked.

Twenty-one years later, Weichel is a top-producing RE/MAX  star. His team, which ranked No. 36 in the world – and No.  16 in the U.S. – in 2011, is on track to close more than 160  transaction sides this year. From the moment he entered real  estate, he realized it would involve some ups and downs.

“It was tough when I started,” says Weichel, a RE/MAX Circle  of Legends member and Diamond Award winner with RE/MAX  of Valencia in Santa Clarita, Calif. “Large companies were  packing up and leaving town, we had a major earthquake, the  Rodney King riots were going on and things were shaky all  around. None of that mattered, though, because people were  still buying and selling; I just had to work hard to find them.”

Neil Weichel

Taking off 

The Santa Clarita real estate  market of 1992 was fraught with  perilous conditions, but that didn’t  deter Weichel from hitting the  ground running. He aggressively  farmed neighborhoods day in and  day out. When he wasn’t going  door-to-door looking for potential  leads, he worked the phones with  just-listed or just-sold scripts.

“It was tough when I started and things were shaky all around. None of that mattered, though, because people were still buying and selling. I just had to work hard to find them.”

The effort paid off. In his first year, Weichel closed 66  transaction sides and became the No. 2 agent in the area.

“I worked six days a week prospecting, and on the  seventh day I held open houses,” Weichel says. “I built my  business up quickly by working in a constant mode of run, tackle and block, and I made a lot of contacts. I was driven.”

Weichel had his eye on RE/MAX from the beginning,  but he sensed he wasn’t ready. RE/MAX was known as the  home of top producers – the kind of environment Weichel  wanted in a brokerage.

He worked tirelessly to prove himself. By December 1993,  he was sitting face-to-face with John O’Hare, Broker/Owner  of RE/MAX of Valencia, and wondering whether he should  make the move. O’Hare was anxious to have him.

“Neal was exactly the type of person we look for,” O’Hare  says. “He had a burning desire to succeed.”

Perfecting his approach 

Weichel realized early on that delivering fast, efficient  personal service and being a problem-solver would set him  apart from a sea of mediocre competitors.

“A lot of us forget about the fundamentals that helped  us get going,” says Weichel, who sticks to a strict schedule  every day. From date nights with his wife, Kim, to his son’s  high school basketball games to family getaways in Hawaii,  Weichel focuses 100 percent of his attention on the events  in his schedule. This approach has allowed him to pursue  his passions, including basketball, regular workouts and  traveling the world to see his favorite band, U2.

“It doesn’t work for everyone, but scheduling things keeps  me organized and on top of everything,” Weichel says. “It’s not  difficult to be successful in real estate and do things we need to  do. You just have to be willing to work and honor the commitments  you make in all aspects of your career – and your life.”

His clients get his undivided attention, too. Weichel  builds on the credibility of the RE/MAX brand by doing all  the little things that make a big difference. He returns calls  immediately, he lets clients know how much their business  is appreciated, and he encourages feedback when he or  his team – two buyer agents and four administrative staff  members – isn’t living up to expectations.

In fact, Weichel invests so much time in client care and  appreciation that he doesn’t spend much on traditional marketing.  Instead, he focuses on maintaining a reputation for  getting things done, which ultimately leads to profitability.

“If I had $10,000, I’d put it into a huge client-appreciation  party rather than buying bus benches,” says Weichel, who  blogs about market conditions frequently and gives clients  items of value throughout the year. “My greatest marketing  tool is having a sold sign on my listings. That’s why I care  about having a great team who shares my vision; when I’m  not around, they represent me.”

Weathering change

Weichel understands that real estate  markets are cyclical, and he stresses this to  clients constantly. From 2003 to 2005, sales  activity was red hot, and prices in the Santa  Clarita Valley reached all-time highs. So did  Weichel’s business.

But it all came to a screeching halt in 2007,  with the housing downturn. It was like déjà  vu for Weichel. He remembered his early  years in real estate and how bad market  conditions could be. By 2008, the valley was  flooded with REOs, with inventory rising too high. Prices  dipped as much as 25 percent.

Weichel didn’t panic. Instead, he heeded the advice he  heard from Dave Liniger during a California tour – to get  distressed-property training so he could work REOs and  short sales.

He also created a national agent mastermind group to  brainstorm ideas, best practices and solutions for working  REOs. The group had monthly strategy calls and traveled  together to REO conferences around the country. It turned  into a gold mine of information.

Neil Weichel

“Put on your game face and treat all your clients like they’re the best you’ve ever had.”

“It was essentially a crash course, and everyone I invited  was more than willing to contribute and share ideas,” says  Weichel, who believes he attended more conferences in the  initial two years of the downturn than he had in the first 17  years of his career. “I got ahead of the market early and also  worked on my relationships with big lenders like Bank of  America and Wells Fargo. It took me two years to get an account  from Wells Fargo, but I kept calling; kept prospecting.”

Weichel’s efforts paid off. He closed more than 100 REO  listings in four years. Though initially reluctant about short  sales, he eventually dove in, trained a staff member to negotiate  with lenders and conducted “upside-down” consumer  seminars to educate distressed sellers about their options.

These days, short sales comprise a third of Weichel’s  business. And he’s a better agent for it.

“I made a business decision that if we were going to do  short sales, we had to do them well,” Weichel says. “That’s  my philosophy about everything I do.”

Reaching out

The decline in his market is over, but Weichel  now faces a new challenge: low inventory. He has  plenty of buyers but not enough properties to  show them.

Weichel also sees a trend of low appraisals acting  as deal-killers – frustrating buyers and sellers  alike. He blogs about it extensively to explain the  various avenues people can explore to achieve  their real estate goals. Weichel sees his blog as  one of his best tools for delivering great service to  clients. (And it costs him next to nothing!)

He sometimes uses the blog to motivate others  to do their best.

“Our business doesn’t have the reputation it  should, and it’s because of a small percentage  of agents who don’t do things the right way,” Weichel says.  “As Realtors, we have a huge impact on people’s lives. There  will always be market changes and reasons people will say  you can’t sell homes. So put on your game face and treat  all your clients like they’re the best you’ve ever had. They’ll  use you again and again, and you’ll be as successful as you  want to be.”

Weichel’s Words of Wisdom

 Get educated
“Education has been central to my success. I’m a huge fan of Mike Ferry seminars, and I strongly believe in the power of mentoring and having a coach to keep me accountable,” says Weichel, who’s regularly invited to speak at Mike Ferry events. Says Ferry: “I ask Neal to speak at my events because I want people to see what a professional salesperson is supposed to look like — physically, mentally and emotionally.”

Do your homework
“Study your market like you would study for an important college course. What are the demographics? Where are the areas of highest turnover? What are the builders doing?” Plan for success “Have a business plan and an accountability partner — a coach or a mentor. The whole idea is to be able to start and grow your business. I think a lot of new agents expect business to just land on their doorstep.”

Use the web to sell
“My team redesigned our website about three months ago with all kinds of extra information, such as a client Q&A, REO and short sales resources, city-specific data, market news and trends. The site sells me when I can’t be selling me. That’s also why I’m on YouTube.”


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