Brittany Ryan

Brandon Grass is the king of cold calling. 

With only two-and-a-half years of real estate experience, he's already called over 25,000 leads.

And he's been on over 80 listing appointments so far this calendar year—all from cold calls and follow ups.

But it hasn't been easy. 

From clocking in at 3 am to bake pastries to scraping grease out of kitchen floor tiles, Brandon spent more than a decade working way harder than most. "I've seen stuff that you wouldn't even believe," he says (and he's not kidding).

Then, something awesome happened. Brandon became a dad.

This is the story of how one solo agent built a business on his terms, without a single Zillow lead or even a degree.

Table of contents

  1. High school dropout with a masters in mindset
  2. A "humbling" launch into real estate
  3. Keeping track of it all as a solo agent
  4. What's next?

High school dropout with a masters in mindset

During his first year as a father, Brandon spent a total of nine months traveling. "We were like, this is not going to work," he recalls.  

See, Brandon is a self-described "operator". 

He likes to execute down to the finest details to make sure every job is 100% perfect. "The big hotels were huge contracts but also a huge time commitment. So you know, Fairmont would have probably taken three months for me to be there on the ground getting everyone trained because I'm putting my name on the line and I want it done perfectly. It just never would have worked."

Brandon and his family wanted a business that would fit their lifestyle, not the other way around.

Problem was, Brandon didn't finish his Grade 12 (the equivalent to senior year of high school in  US terms) and he wasn't sure where to move next. 

Years earlier, Brandon's mom had mentioned real estate as something she thought he'd be great at. And luckily, it's an industry where a piece of paper saying you graduated has zero impact on your ability to win.

College isn't for everyone

With a hefty price tag and increasing dropout rates, the university promise simply isn't worth it for a lot of people.

But Brandon's parents, particularly his father, didn't see it that way.

"My dad was very old school like very stern and just said you know, if you're not going to go to school, you're working."

And that was it. Brandon's dad "conveniently" found him a weekend shift at a local bakery. His hours were 3 am to 11 am. Of course, Brandon realized later that his dad had specifically chosen the most hard ass boss he could find in the hope of snapping him out of this slump and getting him on the straight and narrow.

But hard work wasn't new for Brandon.

Growing up, he watched his dad work three or four jobs at a time. So, he did what he was taught to do and jumped in feet first. "Seven hours went by like that. I loved it," he chuckles.

As planned, his boss at the bakery, an "intense individual" named Alex, was just as tough as Brandon's dad had hoped. "Working with Alex definitely changed me," laughs Brandon.

Maybe that's why when it was time to buckle down and get his real estate license, Brandon had no problem hitting the books.

"I locked myself in a room and studied for six months." 

And he kept studying, right up until the day of the exam when he realized there was one thing he hadn't prepared for. "I walked in ready to take the exam and then the light bulb goes off. 'Oh my gosh, I don't have a passport photo for the ID requirement.'"

Brandon high-tailed over to Walmart, begged the security guard to open the photo studio and miraculously got them to print off a rushed selfie, bedhead and everything.

Despite the chaos of exam day, Brandon was confident he'd passed. 

"I had to wait three weeks for my test results, so for three weeks I was like, 'Yeah, no worries. I got like 90%. No problem."

Brandon's actual score was a 65. 

And the minimum score required for passing? You guessed it: 65.

"They actually changed it the following year to 70%, so that would have been a fail. But you know, I haven't met one client who wanted to know what I got on my real estate exam."

For Brandon, the good old-fashioned combo of elbow grease and beginner's luck would take him much farther than textbooks and enrollment fees.

"It's hard for me to say high school wasn't for me. I mean, I enjoyed it. I had great life experiences and great friends, but for me, it wasn't about learning. These days, I probably spend four hours a day reading or doing sales training in Grant Cardone University. If I'm not role playing, I'm practicing or going to the gym, just...getting better."

A "humbling" launch into real estate

After passing his real estate exam, it seemed like Brandon had finally taken that crucial first step toward a business that would get him out of the grind and into a lifestyle that would work for him and his family.

"I got into real estate a little overconfident, well, maybe a lot overconfident, because I was coming from the peak of one industry," he admits.

But even as the leader in the cleaning industry, Brandon never really felt like himself. 

"I was the guy who walked in and presented my proposal dressed up all fancy. But in reality, that wasn't me. I was always more of an operator. So when these executives would ask, 'Who's gonna be in tonight to start this cleaning contract?' And I'm like, 'It'll be me. I'll be back here in shorts and a t-shirt scrubbing away'. They'd be like 'What?'. It was very bizarre to them, but that was just me. I mean I've always done things myself," he explains.

And by now, you're probably not surprised.

Opportunity strikes...with one expired

After six months of moderate progress as a solo agent, Brandon decided to reach out to a neighbor in property development. "I kind of just said, 'Hey by the way I'm a Realtor now if you need anything.' And he decided to give me a shot."

Of course, it didn't hurt that the man had multiple expired listings. Brandon promised to do better marketing, better promotion and no matter what sell those properties.

Only problem was, it was December in Canada. "Snow's on the ground and, you know, the market is very slow."

Despite the odds, they got multiple offers the first day on the market—a first for Brandon's seller.

Needless to say, Brandon became his "guy"—the person charged with helping liquidate his entire portfolio of twelve units. "I got 12 listings, basically one every month. That really helped me pay the bills that first year."

Brandon's next stroke of luck happened when an agent from Coldwell Banker reached out asking if he'd work her leads in exchange for a referral fee for any closed business. 

He ended up doing 16 deals, easy peasy.

"I was like, well now I need my own website. Big mistake," laughs Brandon. Like many new agents, he'd jumped too far, too fast.

After getting dropped by his partner agent, Brandon's pipeline was dry. He needed a way to breathe some life back into his database.

"I had heard about this guy Ricky Carruth. Email is his big thing and at first, I was like that's just spam, that's not going to work. But the more I paid attention, the more I realized there was something there. I eventually joined his Zero to Diamond Facebook group and I started seeing all these people having success like, 'Oh, this is working. I made 20 calls or whatever and I got one listing.' I was like I could do that, no problem."

In November, he made the commitment to get his first 5,000 calls.

It's been a game-changer.

Brandon has been on over 80 listing appointments so far this calendar year, all from cold calls and following up.

"There have been times when I've said, 'Nope that's OK, I will not list your home at that price. Let's stay in contact, now is not a good time.' Then there are some that it just hasn't been the right time for, so I'm following up with them. I've got seven or eight under contract right now, but they all came from calls made between January to now."

He's working just as hard as he ever was—but from his home and on his terms.

"Back when I was selling someone else's leads, my average price was like $300,000 because she had skimmed off all the premium listings. Now my listings are usually around $600,000. I've got 11 active listings and I think all 11 are from Circle Prospecting," he explains.

Keeping track of it all as a solo agent

5,000 calls is a killer for anybody.

Brandon knew he'd need some type of system to help track his progress.

"The majority of people would say, 'Why would you spend $90 a month on a CRM? You can just use an Excel spreadsheet.' But you know, at this stage of the game I have so many people in my database that aren't necessarily in my sphere of influence or anything like that. I have about 15,000 people in there. There's no way on God's green earth I could keep track of it all. I need a system."

To be fair, Bradon still has tons of notes on his desk (not to mention a wicked whiteboard his wife made him and a sign that says, 'Sell Or Be Sold'). But he's not bogged down by the crippling overwhelm that comes from not knowing what to say or who to call next.

"With a CRM, all my notes could be lost and I still wouldn't be starting from ground zero."

You're probably wondering where a solo agent would even get 15,000 leads, right?

"That's the best part. Telephone lists look spammy, but mine's legit. You can download 5,000 numbers via postal code, city or area for 99 US dollars. That's it. So I don't know what that is per lead, or per whatever, but it feels like free money," laughs Brandon.

Brandon exports the leads as a CSV file and adds them straight into Follow Up Boss. He tags the city, whether it's a circle prospecting lead, and the date the lead was uploaded.

In terms of nurture, Brandon follows Ricky Carruth's system of touching every lead once, before moving on to follow ups.

"I've basically called all of West Kelowna where I live. Whenever I couldn't reach someone, I left a voicemail and I actually got some callbacks on those," says Brandon.

He's a master cold caller, for sure. But according to Brandon, it's easier than it seems when you have a sleaze-free sales script.

"That's really my whole spiel like, 'Hey Brandon here. I'm with RE/MAX. Just calling to introduce myself and see if there's anything in the world I could do for you.'"

No cheesy sales lines. No asking cold leads for referrals. 

No bull.

"You know, wherever the conversation goes is fine. If they're interested in the market, I tell them I'll help keep them up-to-date and that's it."

Turning cold leads into quality leads

Sounds easy enough, but we'll be honest: Brandon is busy.

"I don't want to be messing around on my phone all day so I go from number to number to number using the dialer. I do get a lot of bad numbers but now I can just wipe those out right away. It's not like I have to go to my phone, hang up, then go to the computer to delete it, etc. It's just one seamless, systematic process and that's what I love," says Brandon.

Qualifying thousands of leads might sound like a lot of work, but for a solo agent who's already worked their SOI but isn't ready to shell out thousands of dollars on leads, it's a simple, ROI-friendly way to build a robust database filled with quality prospects.

That is, if you have a system to build it on.

"If I've got notes on a lead, they're right there. If they give me an email address, boom. Right there. For example, I was doing some past client follow up and an email had gone out where it went orange, telling me the email address wasn't correct. And I said, 'While I've got you on the phone, can I get your correct email?' I updated that and boom. Now I've got a good email."

Right now, Brandon's market is down by about three or four hundred units per month, and that's in a market where there are roughly 15 listings per month. So while everyone else is slowing down, Brandon is hitting the gas hard on follow up.

"If I'm out on the road and I make a cold call, if I have their email and mobile number, I can hit them three times: leave a voicemail, send a text and send an email. Then I set a reminder for two or three days if I haven't heard from them. So all of a sudden, I can be way more productive in that short period of time. I can actually listen to an audio book or music when I'm in my car because I don't have to do those little things that stretch out your day," he explains.

"In June, I had like 64 tasks in one day and I was like 'What the heck is going on?' They were follow ups from a day in November when I had done 400 dials and had like 200-and-something conversations and all these people wanted to keep in touch or get an update on the market."

Personalizing your follow up (when you're just one person)

It's an awesome problem to have, but there's no way Brandon can remember the buying preferences, family headcount and favorite pet's name for that many people.

"The first thing I do is go in and type their name into Follow Up Boss and then I can see everything. That's why I love the communication history, you can see every single thing. And the fact that you can record a call is a game-changer. I'm a bad multitasker so instead of trying to take notes on a call I'll just listen to that seven-to-nine-minute conversation so I know exactly what we talked about and they think you're an expert."

It's a level of personalization that, according to Brandon, most new agents can't seem to get their heads around.

"You know, as a new agent you're blindsided by a million other things. You just need to talk to a lot of people and get over the fear of cold calling. I've had over 25,000 calls so far this year and only one guy told me where to go, and not a very nice way. You move on. Because you also get so many people that love that you called and genuinely want or need something. My biggest listing this year came from a cold cold I made on January 23rd. She initially said, 'No, we're not interested.' I went by and dropped off a simple thank you card and that changed everything."

That's another secret to Brandon's success as a solo agent. He takes the time to add something tangible to the sales process.

"I just write a handwritten thank you card like, 'Hey Jill, great talking to you. Thank you so much for your time. I look forward to the opportunity to work with you.' And then I put my business card in there and seal it up. One woman actually called me saying, 'I've got three friends that are looking to sell. I need more cards.' She's like, 'I've been in sales all my life and anyone that does this deserves a shot at my business.'"

At $1 per card, that's some pretty sweet ROI.

"It's incredible how much this stuff matters right now in this age of full-on automation where you don't know if it's a robot or a real person calling you half the time."

What's next?

Looking back, Brandon has zero regrets.

"I don't know why high school was such a miss for me because I'm at the point now where I've read more books in the last two years than I have in my entire life. The question then is, if someone had handed me a Grant Cardone book when I was 17, would that have changed things? Maybe."

But however winding the path, Brandon's grateful to be where he is today. 

"I didn't graduate, so I took a job where I wasn't making enough money. I needed more money, so I became a cleaner. I cleaned for a guy that had a restaurant cleaning company, so I became an industrial cleaner. And that's what eventually launched me into starting my own business, growing all over Canada and learning sales out of necessity," he says. 

"All of those things have led me to be in real estate, helping people like I've never been able to before and loving something more than I ever have before. This is my calling. There is no doubt in my mind that this is my calling. So you know, had all that not happened I wouldn't be here today. And that's really what it's all about. As cliché as it sounds, you are who you are because of what you've been through."

Brandon's goal is to be at over 450 transactions per year, within the next five years. And if history is anything to go by, we know he's going to kill it.

Follow Up

After our interview with Brandon went live, he went onto Ricky Carruth's ZTD Show - you can watch the interview below:

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