Analena Mandlsohn of HomeLife Optimum Realty: “Don’t be reluctant to gift your book”

I needed something to give me a competitive edge. Something that was different to what everyone else seemed to be doing at the time. There were tens of thousands of realtors on the Toronto Real Estate Board, but not even 0.5% were published authors on the subject. As a part of our series about “How You […]

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I needed something to give me a competitive edge. Something that was different to what everyone else seemed to be doing at the time. There were tens of thousands of realtors on the Toronto Real Estate Board, but not even 0.5% were published authors on the subject.

As a part of our series about “How You Can Grow Your Business or Brand By Writing A Book”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Analena Mandlsohn.

Analena Mandlsohn (nee Rebelo) was born in Mozambique in 1970. A summa cum laude B.A. Honours graduate from York University, Toronto, she also holds a degree in English and Law from the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa.

Analena moved to Canada in 2005. Within two years of initiating her career in real estate in 2012, she became an award-wining realtor, a feat she attributes to writing a book, Getting To Sold — Insider Secrets To Selling Your House Fast and For Top Dollar, which helped her stand out and establish herself as an authority in her field. Today, Analena owns and runs her own real estate brokerage in Toronto.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive into the main focus of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share a story about what motivated you to become an expert in the particular area that you are writing about?

I never chose Real Estate. Real Estate chose me. I had every intention of being a lawyer. Fighting for people and protecting their rights was why I wanted to be a lawyer. And I was determined that one day, I would do that for a living.

The year is 1992. I’m a recent pre-law graduate, waiting to hear if I got accepted to Law School. But back then, I also desperately needed a job. I wasn’t too sure I would be accepted into Law School, and I couldn’t just sit around and kill time. I needed a job to help pay the bills in the meantime.

A friend of my mother’s hooked me up with the owner of a real estate brokerage. I interviewed and got the job. And I was hooked from day one! I got to show properties, negotiate for my clients and draft contracts that protected their rights in a transaction. Everything I loved about law — negotiation and contract — I got to do that as an agent.

But shortly thereafter, I was accepted into Law School. It was a tough call. I loved what I was doing, but being a lawyer was my dream. So, off I went to Law School to follow my dream. However, we were living in South Africa back then, during very unsettling times. As a family, we decided that we didn’t want to live with the violence anymore, so a year away from graduating Law School, we immigrated to Algarve, Portugal. Deregistering from my Law Degree was the toughest thing I’d ever had to do.

Fast forward to 2012. I’m now living in Canada. I have two amazing sons. I’m also a single mom and I have a family to feed. My dream of Law School has long died. I need a job. But every job I apply to, requires Canadian experience. Not an easy hurdle to overcome.

Long story short, I decided my best option was to start my own business and give myself a job. So, I went back to what I knew I loved… Real Estate.

Over the years, I have been blessed to have represented many amazing clients who have become friends. Using the negotiation skills I learned in Law School and my knowledge of Contract Law, I successfully fight to get my clients the most money for their properties, or the best deal on a purchase, all while ensuring the necessary contingencies are in place to protect them. My clients rest assured that I will fight tirelessly for them. They also know that every clause I draft and every contract I get them to sign has been meticulously scanned. Yes, I had set out to be a lawyer when I was young. My dream was to fight for people and protect their rights, and in a way, that’s exactly what I do.

Can you share a pivotal story that shaped the course of your career?

From very early on in my career, year one to be precise, I decided that I wanted to open my own brokerage. Over the course of six years, I worked for many different brokerages, deliberately switching brands, so I got a taste of how things were being done across the board.

One of those brokerages was a Royal LePage office. The Manager at that particular office had a management style that I really admired. He was also one of the most intelligent people I had ever met, and he knew more about the industry than just about anyone. In fact, I learned more from him during the first two weeks of his coaching, than I had during my entire course at real estate college.

One day, after one of our training sessions, I turned to him and asked, “Larry, one day when I open my own brokerage will you be my Broker of Record?”

He looked me straight in the eye and said, “No, you couldn’t afford me!”

Today, Larry is my husband and my Broker of Record. I still can’t afford him, but here we are…

Jokes aside, I wouldn’t be where I am today, if it wasn’t for him. His constant encouragement and support gave me the boost and confidence I needed to open my own office. It was a bold step — one that I didn’t take lightly and certainly wouldn’t have without knowing I have the very best Broker of Record at the helm.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? Are you working on any new writing projects?

I’ve always had a very client-centric approach to my service. For me, it’s always been about offering service that’s tailored to my clients’ specific needs. So, in keeping with that philosophy, I’ve recently been focusing on a niche that is of particular significance to me — empty nesters and/or people looking to downsize.

Combining my legal background with various certifications (among others, I’m a certified Seniors Real Estate Specialist meaning I’m well versed in the areas of downsizing and skilled at helping clients in the 50+ age group), I designed a signature system that I tailored to the empty nester niche. My aim was to make downsizing as effortless as possible and to dilute the overwhelm that often accompanies this transition.

My signature House2Home System breaks the process down into 5 easy steps. It all starts with a “Needs Analysis”, which is geared towards understanding what my clients’ ideal lifestyle looks like to them. This gives us both a clear understanding of where we’re heading and what it will take to get them there. I then map out what needs to happen when. From getting their home ready to sell to finding their new dream home and seeing them settled in — I take care of it all.

As for new writing projects, nothing new at this moment. The designing, planning and marketing of my House2Home System has kept me busy the past few months. I’m a perfectionist by nature, so it was no small feat.

But I never say never…

Thank you for all of that. Let’s now shift to the core focus of our interview. Can you please tell us a bit about your book? Can you please share a specific passage or story that illustrates the main theme of your book?

Written as a self-help guide for home sellers, my book was initially aimed at educating sellers on the selling process. What ended up happening was that the writing process itself resulted in my own education. During the course of doing research for the content, I interviewed over 50 industry professionals. From seasoned realtors who had been practicing for decades to home inspectors, property appraisers, arborists, home stagers, you name it. I left no stone unturned. The information I gathered was priceless. And it’s all in there.

The concluding paragraph of my Foreword sums it up pretty succinctly:

“The truth is that anyone can sell a house, but not everyone can sell a house quickly and for top dollar. In this book you will discover:

• The two reasons why homes don’t sell!

• How to sweeten the deal.

• The best time to sell.

• Which minor improvements are an absolute “must”!

• The cheapest fixes that get you the most ‘bang for your buck’!

• How to create the illusion of space.

• The psychology behind home staging and the importance of creating ambiance.

• Why curb appeal is crucial!

• Whether you should use an industry professional or fly solo.

• Which renovations are worth investing in and which are not.

Successful selling takes experience, knowledge, and dedication — hands-on experience, market knowledge, and a dedication to doing whatever it takes for GETTING TO SOLD. The strategies I share in this book are derived from years of collective experience, extensive market research, and the unfailing dedication for sharing strategies that anyone can follow to replace FOR SALE with SOLD in record time.”

You are a successful author and thought leader. Which three character traits do you feel were most instrumental to your success when launching your book? Can you please share a story or example for each?

I’d have to say that the three character traits that served me best were my perseverance, my drive, and my self-discipline.

  • Most people that I mentioned my book to were actually rather non-supportive. My own manager at the time, Larry (yes, the same Larry who’s now my husband) told me that it was a waste of time. But I’m not one to be easily deterred. I persevered, kept giving my book to as many people as would take it, and eventually the doors started opening (no pun intended).
  • My drive to succeed is what kept me positive in the face of rejection. If there’s one thing we experience an overabundance of in this industry, it’s rejection. I would visit many people who were trying to sell their homes without a realtor — in our industry we call them For-Sale-By-Owners or FSBOS — and would offer them my book. Most never acknowledged my gift — I doubt the majority even read it — but I didn’t allow that to get me down. I would continue to follow up with them and eventually, if they became disillusioned with trying to sell unsuccessfully, they turned to me.
  • Lastly, having an ironclad self-discipline always bears fruit. This trait served me well not only for the writing of the book itself, but also for getting it out there. I followed a schedule every single day and stuck to it come rain or shine, even right through winter. Trust me when I say it takes a tremendous amount of self-discipline for an African to go out door knocking in sub-zero temperatures, but I did it. Every. Single. Day.

In my work, I have found that writing a book can be a great way to grow a brand. Can you share some stories or examples from your own experience about how you helped your own business or brand grow by writing a book? What was the “before and after picture?” What were things like before, and how did things change after the book?

I didn’t grow up in Canada. I didn’t have a huge network of school friends and family. I didn’t have a so-called “sphere of influence”. When I first got my license, I would door knock to try to generate some leads. It was slow going and not the most pleasant way of procuring business. You need to have a very thick skin, as many doors get slammed in your face. Even the nicer people who engaged in conversation seemed to already know a realtor whom they would work with.

I needed something to give me a competitive edge. Something that was different to what everyone else seemed to be doing at the time. There were tens of thousands of realtors on the Toronto Real Estate Board, but not even 0.5% were published authors on the subject. So, the very aim of writing my book was to help me stand out in the midst of a huge crowd of realtors. And it was never so much about selling my book as positioning me as an authority in my field in the eyes of those who could benefit from my services. Revenue came in the form of business generated through my book, rather than sales of the book itself.

Once I got my book published and printed, I visited FSBOS and offered them a copy of my book. When most realtors were badgering them for their listings, I came with a gift. I never asked for their listings. My only request was that if my book helped them in any way, they would consider using me as their buyer agent for their next purchase. It was a great way to establish rapport and a number of them ended up asking me to list their homes anyway. After all, who better to list your home that someone who had done extensive research and published a book on the very subject? So, more often than not, I ended up getting their sale and their subsequent purchase.

Within three years of publishing my book, I had a large enough data base that the majority of my business came from repeat clients or their referrals.

If a friend came to you and said “I’m considering writing a book but I’m on the fence if it is worth the effort and expense” what would you answer? Can you explain how writing a book in particular, and thought leadership in general, can create lucrative opportunities and help a business or brand grow?

Go for it!

But let me qualify that. If you’re thinking of writing it yourself, then 100% go for it. The amount of knowledge you will acquire just from the research you need to do to write anything of value is priceless. But if you’re thinking of paying a ghost writer to do the work for you, then you might want to rethink it.

Personally, I couldn’t pull it off. I couldn’t claim something as mine that I hadn’t written myself. The very aim of writing a book to grow your brand is to establish yourself as an authority. And the only way you can do that authentically is by putting in the time and effort required to establish yourself as an authority. Using a ghost writer, negates the intended purpose of the project in the first place. How can you legitimately claim to be an authority on a subject that someone else researched and wrote for you?

I cannot speak for every industry, but I believe that the real estate industry is starved of authenticity. It’s no small wonder that most people have such a poor opinion of realtors on the whole. And I don’t blame them. With all the bait and switch tactics the unsuspecting public is subjected to, it’s really not surprising we carry such poor reputations.

That’s why it was so imperative for me to do the grind, to put in the hours and deliver something of worth to my readers. When I stand in front of my potential clients and speak about home selling, I speak with conviction and confidence. Confidence that can only come from knowing my subject matter.

Putting in the effort is not only an exercise in increasing your knowledge of a subject substantially, it can also result in an exponential increase in business. It’s no secret that authors are considered to be an authority in their field. When I think back to my days in law school, I always wanted to be taught by the professor that had written the text book on the course. Authorship carries a perception of credibility, expertise and authority. As a published author, you are almost automatically viewed as being the expert on the particular subject matter. And, once published, your book gives you tremendous leverage — it becomes a priceless marketing tool to grow your brand, increase your following and turn readers into clients.

What are the things that you wish you knew about promoting a book before you started? What did you learn the hard way? Can you share some stories about that which other aspiring writers can learn from?

The two immediate thoughts that spring to mind are:

1) Unless you’re a publicist, hire one! That is, if you want maximum exposure for your book.

I still have about 4 boxes of books in my basement that may never see the light of day.

One of the biggest mistakes I made was to believe that I could do it all. I’m a bit of a control freak, which isn’t always a helpful trait. So, while my book achieved its intended purpose at the time, I often regret not promoting it more and getting help with doing so.

In the beginning, I would spend endless hours at events and trade shows trying to promote my book. I had spent the time on research. I had agonized over and written and re-written every single chapter to make sure my book was as close to perfect as it could be. It was only to be expected that people would be trampling each other to grab a copy, right? Wrong!

I knew nothing about marketing, or what I should be doing to get the publicity my book deserved. So, while on the surface it may sound like I did amazingly well from my book, I have to admit I could’ve done so much better. My saving grace is that the market I trade in as a realtor is an extremely good one in the sense that each client my book generated resulted in a very generous paycheck for me. But, I’m well aware that’s not the case with every industry or market.

If you require hundreds of leads or sales to make the writing of a book a worthwhile feat, then I would highly recommend you invest in a good publicist.

2) You need to promote yourself as much, or even more so than your book.

I think that building a strong personal brand is critical if you desire long-term success. When I first started promoting my book, it was with the view of having it become the “go-to” guide for home sellers. I guess my ego was to blame for that. I was so proud of my creation, that I lost sight of the intended purpose for which I had written the book in the first place. Fortunately, I was quick to check myself and switch direction. My aim became for my book to help me become that realtor who had published a book, rather than for my book to become the best book on selling real estate that some realtor wrote. Building my personal brand became paramount.

So, I stopped doing the “trade show table” type of promotion and instead started visiting people who would most benefit from my book, mainly FSBOs. During those visits, I never mentioned my book until I was about to leave. Rather than making my book the purpose of my visit, I simply left it with them as a parting gift.

Once I switched focus from promoting my book to promoting myself, my business tripled.

Based on your experience, which promotional elements would you recommend to an author to cover on their own and when would you recommend engaging a book publicist or marketing expert?

Probably the easiest way authors can promote themselves nowadays is through social media. Actively posting blurbs, book reviews or trailers on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter etc. is a fabulous cost-effective way to self-promote and reach readers. It’s time-consuming, but it’s a relatively cheap and quick way of reaching a vast number of people.

When I first published my book, I did a Facebook Ad that generated a large amount of interest and got me many Page Likes on my Business Page. When you’re starting out and don’t have a huge following, this is a great way to get noticed.

Digital copy giveaways are also a great way to generate interest, get exposure for your book and increase your data base. For example, I have a link on my website to a landing page where visitors can download a free PDF copy of my book. And the best part is it costs me nothing.

For the more heavy-duty kind of promotion, such as getting featured on TV, talk shows, and podcasts, or landing speaking engagements, it’s best to hire a publicist. A good publicist has the kind of high-profile connections and the necessary marketing skills to get authors in front of audiences that they wouldn’t be able to on their own.

Wonderful. Here is the main question of our interview. Based on your own experience and success, what are the “five things an author needs to know to successfully promote and market a book?” If you can, please share a story or example for each.

Some of these I did and they worked for me. Some of these I wish I had done. And some may sound repetitive, but they’re worth repeating:

  1. Know your target audience and where they hang out. If they hang out on Facebook, then you need a strong presence on that specific platform. Start posting about your book even before you write the first word. Share the writing journey with your audience, so they feel complicit in your success. Post regularly. Post consistently. And make sure you drive them to a landing page or funnel where you can capture their information. Your data base is gold and this is a great way to increase it.
  2. Promote yourself as much as, or even more than your book. If you’re using your book to generate business, remember that people do business with people they know, like and trust. Your book is a tool to help generate trust with those that don’t know you well enough to trust you yet. It will help establish you as an expert in your field and therefore, as trustworthy. However, it’s still you that people will want do business with, not your book, so keep that in mind.
  3. Invest in your book. Don’t cheap out on content or aesthetics. Hire a good editor, so that your content reads well. Even though I pride myself on my writing skills, I had an editor review my book. Two pairs of eyes are always better than one. Also, hire a good graphic designer, so that your cover speaks to the content and looks professional. Most people do judge a book by its cover.
  4. Don’t be reluctant to gift your book. Unless you plan on using your book for sales revenue, rather than as a marketing tool to grow your brand and generate business, don’t get fixated on selling your book. I gave away far more books than the ones I sold, and to this day, I’ve generated more business from the ones I gave away than from any I sold. When I visited potential clients and gave them a copy of my book, I practically cemented our rapport and became their number one choice when they decided to hire an agent.
  5. For maximum exposure hire a pro. Abraham Lincoln got it right when he said, “He who represents himself has a fool for a client.” If you want professional results, you need to hire a professional to be your brand strategist and position you in front of an audience that you wouldn’t have access to on your own.

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we both tag them 🙂

Barbara Corcoran would be someone I would love to have a chat with. I really admire her determination in overcoming tremendous obstacles, such as her humble beginnings and a learning disability, to become the queen of real estate.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

The best place to follow me is on social media

Thank you for these excellent insights, and we greatly appreciate the time you spent. We wish you continued success with your book promotion and growing your brand.

Thank you for the opportunity.

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