It’s been a goal for four years for me. All I’ve wanted is to be 100% again. Although I know I will never truly be 100%, it is the number itself I’ve accomplished. However, that number is so small in comparison to what I’ve learned over the last four years. While this accomplishment marks a moment for me in my career, the journey that brought me back has changed my life and my business. I’m 100% again not just because of my hard work, but because of the friends I’ve surrounded myself with. The mentors who lifted me up. The coaches who kept me on track. The tribe that supported me. Let me explain.
I had a goal. We all talk about our goals, especially in January of the new year. We set our sights on the prize and say, “That’s it. That’s my goal!” Whether it be losing weight, making more money or being a better spouse. We all have the greatest of intentions. But more than likely we drop these goals before we even make it out of the first month of the year.
My goal has been in the works for four years. Four very long years.
What was it? To make it back to the 100% Club. It’s a mark of success put forth by RE/MAX, my corporate office. It means I’ve made $100,000 to $249,000 in gross commissions for the year. It was my goal to return to this club.
Now it may not seem like a huge number to some. Heck, some real estate agents make that before January is finished. Some may be surprised I wasn’t in it in previous years. I don’t mind. The judgment doesn’t matter to me. It was my goal. I did reach it once before. It was the worst year of my life, 2015. The year my son, Sawyer, passed away.
That year was horrid as you might imagine. We lost him in March. Prior months leading up to it we were in and out of hospitals, doctor’s offices and endless testings. Everyone trying to figure out what was wrong with our little man. Then the last trip to the hospital. Being told he wouldn’t be leaving with us. The fear of what all this meant for my family and me. I didn’t know if I would make it to the end of 2015 let alone my business.
I remember meeting with my then mentor, Alan Hardy, just after Sawyer’s passing. He told me it might be best for me to keep my eye on work. “This business we are in,” he said, “we have to keep after it or we will lose it all.” Looking back he was worried about me. He wanted to help me. He wanted me to have a focus. It did. I took his advice and threw myself into my business.
I did more business in one year than I had ever done before. 40 transactions that year! I didn’t have my eyes on the prize then. I didn’t even know what 100% club meant. I just saw each transaction as one more deal to be done and on to the next one. It meant I was alive. I was working. I was functioning. I was helping to support my family. I was making it through the worst year of my life.
Another man entered my life that year. It was actually just a book written by a man. I wouldn’t actually meet him for another three years. His name is Gary Vaynerchuck. The book? “Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook”. A book on how to dominate social media marketing. I had been playing around with social media. Mocked by friends, family, co-workers for what I thought this ‘new’ platform could do for our business. I had been rocking the boat prior to Sawyer leaving us. Then I read Gary’s book and jumped out of that proverbial boat and started rocking the waters beneath it. I devoured every piece of content I could find from Mr. Vee. He became my life coach. I started to own my excuses and my life. Nobody cares that my son had died. Only me. My business doesn’t care.
I know it sounds harsh. I know people did care. However, there is truth to the statements. You do have to own your story and decide if you will win or lose this fight. Your business is predicated on you. No one else. You have to make the decision to get up and fight.
And I did. I used my anger in grief to learn everything I could about social media marketing. I had been following this woman Katie Lance, a social media expert. I dove into her content and absorbed everything I could. “Get Social Smart”, is her tag line (and her book), and I did just that.
She lead me to a group that would become my tribe. People I wouldn’t meet, in real life, for another year. The Snappack. Yes, I met my tribe on SnapChat. These people helped me as I recreated myself. They guided me and taught me 100% of what I needed to know about social media and building a brand. They would go on to be some leading experts in the field over the next four years, perhaps you know some of them? Jason Frazier, Chelsea Pietz, Dustin Brohm, Michele Bellisari, Sonia Figueroa, Shannon Mulligan to name a few.
Why was I recreating myself, building my brand? Other than the obvious reasons there was another one. After losing Sawyer we (my husband and I) decided it was time for a full change and moved our two children three hours away to start anew. In the real estate business that’s crazy and that’s what many people told me to my face and behind my back. “I will never make it,” seemed to echo throughout my soul. I heard it when I awoke in the middle of the night. I heard it in the shower where I sat crying and praying for my son. I heard it in every sigh out of every mouth around me. I hated it. I wanted to prove them wrong. My Snappack group helped keep me afloat. Believed in me. They told me to have patience. There’s the power of building relationships through social media right there.
As 2016, rolled into view and I left behind the worst year of my life personally and my most successful in business I kept my eye on the goal. Make it back to 100% Club. “If you can do it in your worst, you can do it again,” I told myself. In the next few years, I dug into my brand, “Pinky Knows Naples”. The irony, how can I know Naples if I’ve only just moved there. (Yep, I heard that one from the arena people as well.) But I pushed myself out of my comfort zone. I didn’t care. I went for it. Head up and Facebook LIVE on. I shared my experiences in front of the camera on another new platform. I toured downtown Naples, I dug into history, I took a trolley tour. At one point, my husband’s friend asked me if I was a travel agent or a real estate agent? There was no money in it. But it kept me busy and kept me sane. That year, I was given an award, not for the amount of business I had done, but for my videos. My peers and industry leaders from a group called BombBomb recognized me as #2 real estate video influencer in North America for my LIVE videos. That meant the world to me. I clung to it as recognition I was doing something and it mattered.
Video has been my forum for more than eight years now. Long before Sawyer and much more intensely after. I’ve tried to learn everything I can on the topic. Katie Lance introduced me to two amazing mentors, Michael Thorne, and Jesse Peters. Leaders in the real estate industry and in video. I reached out and asked questions and they answered. I became friends with these men. I felt kismet to Jesse, he too, was just fun and crazy in front of the camera and, he too had a son named Sawyer. This friendship leads me to my first R4 convention for RE/MAX. I went early before the convention and took their video bootcamp class. I learned how to shoot a video, edit a video, and take my videos to the next level. Again, I still wasn’t making money. I was spending it, learning how to be better at my craft and be more relevant in my industry.
Over the next few years, business slowly trickled in. Many times I would go to my guru’s and say, “What am I doing wrong?” Sonia Figueroa an agent out of Chicago I met through Periscope, told me, “You can’t expect to create one post and the business will come. Patience my friend, patience.”
I waited. I learned. I perfected. Then something odd happened. People, others in my industry, wanted my advice on social media. They wanted my advice on video. It was bizarre to me. I wasn’t some top-selling agent. I wasn’t rolling in the dough. Why would they want to hear from me? My close friend Ruth Albrand (another connection from Katie), turned to me at another RE/MAX convention and told me quite simply the answer, “You know video. Share it Pinky, share your knowledge with everyone.” So I did with some help from my friends across the country.
I started to travel. One event leads to the next. I did a summer of trips, dubbed “The Pinky Tour”. I drove from Florida to Ohio and stopped along the way at various brokerages and businesses, teaching the power of video and social media. Then a call came I wasn’t expecting. The top real estate news organization wanted to know if I would speak in San Francisco about starting over in a new market. Inman News? They wanted to hear my story? Again, I’m nobody. I’m barely getting by. My husband thinks I’m bit crazy as I’m traveling across the country in my pink beetle with my two kids for the summer. Well, he thought I was really nuts when I said yes and went for it.
WATCH: How video can help you start fresh in a new city
After an unimaginable tragedy pushed her to relocate, Realtor Sue "Pinky" Benson used her business and social media…
The end of 2018 came. I had reached Executive level in my business. $50,000-$99,999 in gross commissions. Again, not much in the scheme of business, but for me it was. It was triple what I earned the prior year and double the number of transactions. That’s a step in the right direction. The speaking gigs started to come in as well. People wanted to learn more about video and I could help them. I could teach them what they needed to know to up their game in real estate. I was starting to feel 100% certain I was headed in the right direction. I put my goal down last year and said I wanted to double what I did the year prior. That meant the 100% Club was the gold star.
2019 started really bringing the business in. In fact so much so that my husband has joined me. We are now more of a team than ever. Which by the way to all the cynics behind our back at the funeral wondering if we would make it, we have so far, thank you for asking. We celebrate this victory together as a team. We reached the 100% Club.
Over the past four years and my travels I’ve met so many amazing leaders in the real estate industry. The CEO of RE/MAX Adam Contos, who even spoke to my husband and gave him some advice over the phone on how to stay focused in this business. Tom Ferry, the #1 coach for agents, took time to do an interview with me. I shared the stage with Chris Smith, Jeff Lobb, Leigh Brown and so many other amazing people who inspired me to keep going. I’m so thankful for those moments.
All this said, I hope you can see the 100% is not just a number to me. It’s so much more. It’s so many numbers. The number of times I was told I couldn’t do it. The number of times I said I would. The number of times the doubters talked about me. The number of times I put my head down and ignored them. The number of buyers and sellers who decided not to work with us and the number of clients who we helped find their perfect home.
So many numbers. Some important, some not so much. And while it may be a representation of the number of business we’ve done this year, it, more importantly, represents the number of people that have supported us as we’ve worked to accomplish it. A group of 100% of the greatest people in the world, that I’m blessed to know and surround myself with each day. You share in this moment with me, with us. While I’ll never be 100% again without my Sweet Sawyer, these people have made we 100% better. Together we are 100%. Thank you so very much.
Sue “Pinky” Benson is real estate agent in Naples, Fort Myers area of Florida. A national speaker on video and social media marketing. Winner three years in a row of the BombBomb Video Influencer. Multi-Million Dollar producing REALTOR. RE/MAX agent for more than a decade. For more information go to www.PinkyKnowsNaples.com