What’s it like to count athletes, actors and business moguls among your clients? For perennial RE/MAX Diamond Award Club member Jordan Cohen, it’s just another day at the office
By Deborah Kearns
You might expect a man who sells some of the most exclusive and expensive real estate in the world to wear power suits while making the rounds among Hollywood’s elite. But Jordan Cohen is more of a sweater and jeans kind of guy who prefers hanging at home with his family. He has a straightforward way of talking and is a charismatic joker who always has a positive game face.
But behind his frank exterior and easygoing charm is a real estate success story that’s as impressive as it is inspiring. Working from the bottom up, the perennial Diamond Award Club member with RE/MAX Olson & Associates in Westlake Village, Calif., has gone from selling $150,000 homes in his early days to closing an astounding $120 million in sales volume in 2013. (And he did it with a single assistant, no less.)
When he thinks back to his humble beginnings, Cohen can’t help but chuckle ruefully.
“I was young, straight out of college,” says Cohen, a RE/MAX Circle of Legends honoree. “I remember failing on my first listing appointment. It hit me then and there that I needed to be better than the competition.”
Cohen wasted no time. He jumped into training and education with a vengeance, soaking up strategies from dozens of seminars featuring all the top coaches. He created his own language for listing presentations instead of following the canned scripts; it felt more natural that way. Eventually, it all paid off.
According to Cohen, the key to real estate success, hands-down, is “winning 10 times out of 10 on listing presentations.”
HIS BIG BREAK
Cohen had a natural talent for business and sales. He started his real estate career in 1992 with an independent brokerage run by Todd Olson, a seasoned real estate practitioner who had been in the Los Angeles area for decades. When Olson converted his brokerage to RE/MAX in 2000, Cohen was happy to follow him.
“Todd was my mentor for years, and I consider him a close friend,” Cohen says. “My loyalty to him made the decision to join RE/MAX easy. I also love the freedom I have with RE/MAX to run my business my way. I don’t have a corporate structure to answer to.”
Olson shares a similar loyalty to ensuring Cohen’s success. When Cohen was starting out, Olson says he’d accompany him on listing and sales presentations to help him hone his skills.
“Jordan has natural selling skills, and he’s a likeable person,” Olson says. “He has one of those personalities that’s high-energy and fun to be around. I admire that he’s hands-on in every single one of his transactions. He’s become a technician at listing presentations because he spent years practicing and perfecting them.”
It didn’t take long for Cohen to get the big break that catapulted him into luxury listings for good: a $1 million buyer referral to work with NBA player Don MacLean. The transaction went smoothly, and Cohen’s confidence in his ability to tackle the high-end market soared.
He then made a decision that would change his life.
“In order to position myself to sell the multimillion-dollar homes, I moved my family to Westlake Village,” says Cohen of the exclusive planned community, located in the ultra-posh Conejo Valley area of western Los Angeles. “I had never worked that area before, and I had to start from scratch. It was a chance I just had to take.”
That leap of faith, combined with farming a geographic area of exclusive neighborhoods, quickly led to more listings – and more high-profile clients.
Cohen’s tenacity isn’t surprising to Olson, who saw his entrepreneurial spark from the beginning.
“There’s no stopping Jordan when he wants a listing,” Olson says.
WINNING IN A COMPETITIVE MARKET
Never complacent about his success, Cohen kept fine-tuning his listing presentations as he took on more luxury listings. In particular, he pumped up his emphasis on showing his aggressive marketing approach.
Marketing is where Cohen invests a majority of time and money, ensuring that his most exclusive listings appear in luxury publications such as Unique Homes, Dream Homes International, the duPont Registry and Homes & Land. He spares no expense when it comes to getting exposure for his luxury properties – something other agents must be serious about if they want to break into the niche.
“Trying to save a buck is not how you become successful in luxury sales,” says Cohen, adding that he gets around three calls a week from RE/MAX agents asking for career advice. “By investing in your listings and your marketing, you’re really investing in yourself.”
With his winning formula, Cohen earned referrals to work with NBA star Kobe Bryant, Hall of Fame football player Marcus Allen, tennis great Pete Sampras and action movie star Sylvester Stallone, to name just a few. Cohen says that despite their enormous wealth and fame, these clients really aren’t all that different from other clients.
The one thing that is different, however, is the greater lengths required to protect their privacy – a feat made difficult in today’s celebrity-obsessed climate.
“It’s a challenge when I represent a famous buyer, and a seller thinks he or she can take advantage of my client’s fame and wealth,” Cohen says with a slight edge in his voice. “I take every precaution I can, including getting all parties to sign nondisclosure agreements and many times issuing ‘no comment’ statements to the press. I pride myself on protecting my clients as best I can.”
‘YOU HAVE TO BE YOURSELF’
One of the most striking – and surprising – things about Cohen is that he hasn’t let the prestige of working with wealthy clients go to his head. In fact, Cohen says he’s more grounded than ever.
“I haven’t gone and bought myself an over-the-top house or a flashy car. And I don’t wear the expensive suits; I hate suits, actually,” Cohen says. “I don’t try to be someone I’m not. Clients choose to work with me because I have the skills to get the job done – and I deliver.”
His success in real estate has made room for plenty of fun, such as annual family trips to Hawaii, Lakers and Dodgers games, and a guys-only sports trip each year. He also recently became a partner in a men’s designer underwear line, Kings and Jaxs, which is sold in more than 200 specialty stores nationwide.
Finding a balance between business and his personal life is something Cohen juggles well, but not without help from his full-time assistant, Kristi Dougherty, who has worked with him for eight years.
“She does everything aside from list, sell, market and negotiate,” Cohen says. “I don’t use social media much, but I dig Twitter – that’s pretty fun.”
For her part, Dougherty says Cohen makes working with high-stakes transactions fun by infusing his infectious sense of humor. “But he knows when to get down to business,” she says.
When it comes to time at home, Cohen’s just as committed. He is always clear about one thing: His family – Becky, his wife of 21 years, and their children (Cameron, 18, and Cassidy, 15) – always comes first. And because he makes himself available for every showing appointment, he keeps that balance in check by carrying no more than 10 listings at a time.
“I’ve coached every sport my son has played in, and I’ve never missed a practice or game,” Cohen says. “I rarely do evening listing appointments for a reason. My clients don’t expect me to work around the clock. They expect me to get the job done.”
Follow Jordan Cohen on Twitter @jordancohen21
How to List Like a Pro
Make note of Jordan Cohen’s best advice for making sure your listing presentations are winners
+ Invest in high-end marketing.
Show sellers samples of what you do. If you’re trying to win a multimillion-dollar listing, your samples need to convey sophistication and luxury. Bring only your best materials to the table.
+ Establish your credibility.
Make sure, from day one, that the seller understands exactly what you’re going to do to market the property from beginning to end.
+ Show properties in their best light.
Your marketing should include individual property websites with high-end photography and sleek web design. Sellers want to see how you’ll market their home, and the web is a key platform after print advertising.
+ Explain what you offer.
In luxury sales you don’t get as many showings, so I make myself available for every single one. I assure my sellers I’ll be at all of them.
+ Personalize the presentation.
Be prepared, know what you’re going to say and do your research on the sellers before the appointment. Wealthy, successful people appreciate someone who’s direct, knowledgeable and succinct – and, of course, confident.
+ Discuss price in the beginning.
Give your presentation, spend a lot of time explaining your marketing and service, and then tackle the pricing discussion at the end. If you prove that you’re the agent for them first, you’ll have an easier time discussing pricing later in the appointment.
+ Talk too much about your office or company.
You have only so much time to convince sellers of your ability to sell their home and get them the most money. Spend that time wisely by talking about your productivity and results.
+ Get into personal issues or idle chitchat.
When I work with affluent businesspeople and celebrities, I stick to business. If they bring up small talk, that’s fine. But I keep the conversation on track. Focus is key.
+ Make your photo the central focus.
On your business cards, brochures, listing slides, etc., your photo should be tiny or nonexistent. You’re not there to promote yourself. Instead, focus on promoting your ability to market and sell listings.
+ Be too hokey.
Don’t give out pens, notepads or pumpkins. Luxury clients don’t expect or need that kind of stuff. Keep it simple.