In 2003, Eric Bramlett was living the life.
The 23-year-old Realtor spent his days enjoying the Austin scenery, hitting the waves with his wakeboard…and occasionally selling a few homes.
But the coasting came to a screeching halt in 2008. “I got into real estate in 2003 but I didn’t decide I wanted to be in real estate until 2011,” Eric laughs.
When the housing crisis hit, 50% of the agents in his area went out of business. It was a reality check he’ll never forget.
Today, Eric and the team at Bramlett Residential Real Estate are on track to hit $150 million in annual transaction volume. We sat down with Eric to find out how he went from a twenty-something solo agent to the leader of an award-winning boutique real estate team.
“Everything was pretty easy before 2008. But in order to survive post-2008, you had to get serious,” recalls Eric of the early days.
The freewheeling Realtor had applied to law school and planned to start at the University of Texas in the fall of 2009. Only problem was, he had a load of back taxes to catch up on.
For Eric, the life lessons were piling on hard and fast. But he wasn’t about to throw in the towel.
“I cut out all distractions and made production my #1 priority. I became obsessive about lead gen, follow up and tracking.”
And the growth followed. In 2010, Eric had officially beaten the odds and hit around $10 million in transaction volume. By 2012, he had founded a new brokerage in with one agent focused 100% on his own production. And by 2013, he had broken the $20-million mark.
In 2015, Eric and his team did $50 million in sales and have stayed consistent at $100 million and over ever since.
“When I started focusing on tracking and lead gen, that’s when it all changed. In the past, we had done a lot of monkeying around with SEO and different lead gen avenues but I wasn’t looking at it from an ROI perspective. When we increased our investment in paid advertising, it finally clicked,” Eric explains.
Eric quickly realized that $500 per month could turn into a lot more. “The switch for me was when I wasn’t just investing my time, which is hard to quantify—I was investing my dollars,” he says. “Focus on the numbers and results. Everything else is noise.”
Today, the team’s paid ad budget ranges between $30,000 and $40,000 per month—and it’s always ROI-positive.
“We’re able to look at which campaigns are working and which ones aren’t for that specific lead source and trim down around that,” says Eric.
Eric and his team track everything through Follow Up Boss, looping in a variety of data sources via Zapier.
“I’ve always been into analytics, figuring out what’s working and what’s not. The more you track stuff, the more you realize what’s driving your business,” he explains.
According to Eric, lead follow up is half of any winning equation.
“When I was in my twenties I asked Russell Shaw, ‘I want to be rich. How do I get more business?’ and he was like ‘That’s easy. Look at where you’re getting your business and do more of that.’ It’s Mr. Miyagi advice, but it’s the best advice anyone has given me,” says Eric.
Eric uses a super simple Action Plan to deliver a weekly follow up reminder to his agents.
“It helps make sure no leads fall through the cracks. It’s definitely an integral part of our business,” he says.
And losing leads is a dilemma he’s all too familiar with.
Back when Eric was doing 25 to 30 deals per year, he had zero system to speak of.
“The CRMs we tried just didn’t work very well. I would sign up for it, set everything up, use it for a week, find no value in it and then just stop using it. Just the simple fact that you didn’t want to use it was probably the biggest issue with any of the CRMs we tried.”
Eric was over it. He ended up using the automatic emails provided through the MLS client gateway as an ad hoc lead management system. It was messy.
“I would weed through all those emails and look to see who’s logging in and follow up with them if I couldn’t remember who to call next,” Eric says. “I was basically using email as a CRM, which is not an efficient tool.”
“We wiki everything, so we have processes for everything everybody does. Our agents have a daily process where they log into Follow Up Boss then they go to ‘People’ and then ‘Follow up today’ and they just start running through the list,” says Eric.
Every lead comes in with a weekly action plan by default. But Eric encourages his agents to use their own discretion to determine at what frequency a lead should be followed up.
“If a lead’s better off with bi-weekly or monthly or quarterly follow ups, the agent can go and adjust it. On the flip side, they’ll see the email chain they have with these leads so they can easily check and see where they last left off and whether they can really just check that task of their list,” he explains.
“On the follow up side, we use a really simple system and we assume that people are smart and can make judgments as they go,” laughs Eric.
And Eric’s trust-based approach for holding his agents accountable seems to be doing the trick.
“With Follow Up Boss, our average conversion rate is around 15% on assigned leads. If I wasn’t using Follow Up Boss, I’d have no earthly idea what our conversion rate was,” he says.
These days, about 70% of Eric’s inbound leads come in via phone call.
The team uses WPForms to integrate lead contact info into Follow Up Boss, CallRail to track inbound calls, and a zap to keep it fresh and up-to-date. His receptionists enter inbound callers’ info into WPForms, that then feeds to Follow Up Boss, and Eric’s agents are assigned trackable leads as a result.
“When we loop CallRail into Follow Up Boss and we tag it with whatever the lead source is, that allows us to see where our business is coming from,” explains Eric. “Whenever that lead turns into a deal, I can just reference it and say, ‘Okay, that’s where the call came from so that’s where the revenue came from.”
Eric and his team then use an internal tool to quantify exactly how much revenue they’re earning from each lead source and optimize accordingly.
A couple of months ago, Eric decided to bump up the spending on one of their lead sources 3X from $10,000 to $30,000 per month. With the help of some super smart tracking, they were then able to trim that investment down to hit the sweet spot of $20,000 per month, while bringing in the same amount of revenue.
Want to know Eric’s best lead sources?
So did we. But for Eric, the best play is the one where you attach yourself to ROI—not lead source.
And as you might expect, he’s all about testing to find out what works.
“Your best lead sources vary from market to market. We’re constantly testing and trying stuff out,” he says. According to Eric, if they test out 10 lead sources, nine of them usually don’t work.
But you’ve got to be in it to win it.
“That’s why it’s important to track. If you’re just barfing money everywhere and you’re using your gut to tell you if it’s working or not, it’s not very accurate,” says Eric.
To find his overall ROI, Eric runs the standard formula looking at how much the team spent last year on lead gen and how much the company took in.
Beyond that, he also considers how much his time is worth and how much effort each lead source requires.
It’s a proven system adapted from the e-commerce world.
“You can look at your return on ad spend (ROAS) to come up with your bid and say, ‘I want a 3:1 or I want a 2:1 or whatever’. But you have to know what your threshold is. You have to know what your costs are outside of marketing so you know whether a deal is worth it or not,” Eric explains.
Eric and his team have a super efficient business infrastructure so they can afford to go up to $2,000 per deal and still stay ROI-positive.
When an agent on Eric’s team enters a deal, they get a drop down asking if it’s a company lead or their own lead. His agents get different splits based on their answers. “Whenever we look at ROAS, we’re only looking at company deals,” says Eric.
Eric looks at at how much money they take in on the company deals and how much they spend, and most importantly: Is it profitable?
If not, it’s time to change something. That’s when Eric will break out the magnifying glass and take a closer look at the numbers on a per lead source basis.
“If you track everything and you really know where your business is coming from you can then say, ‘Okay, how much time or money am I spending on this source? Am I getting a return?’ It always works.”
“We grow really, really slowly,” says Eric.
With only 1 to 2 spots to fill per year, he doesn’t have to do a ton of recruiting.
The team currently has 11 members (including Eric) and he trusts all of them to work their leads to best of their abilities. It’s an unusual model in a market where most teams have around 30 to 50 agents. But even with a lean team, Eric produces more revenue than most larger teams.
“We don’t require anybody to come into the office but we do track how quickly they’re following up—because following up with somebody quickly is the most important thing you can do. And the biggest thing we track is the conversion rate. As long as they keep converting at our minimum, they keep getting leads,” he explains.
With a strong reputation for customer service (including more than 600 5-star Zillow reviews), Eric’s not willing to take chances on inexperienced agents.
“You can only maintain that kind of a reputation if you are extremely focused on quality control,” he explains.
Eric has no interest in training which means he needs people who not only care about customer service but also know what they’re doing. Usually, these are agents who already have their own book and just want to grow it.
“I’m producing less these days than I used to but if I’ve worked with another agent and I’ve been impressed with them, I might reach out, show them the numbers and ask if they’d be interested,” says Eric of his super simple recruitment process.
After that, it’s all about making sure they have the right level of expertise.
“Competence and experience is the first thing—and then it’s caring. You have to know that this is the biggest transaction this person has ever done in their life and it’s super important to them. You have to be willing to understand that, even when they call you at 7pm on a Saturday,” he explains.
Eric’s had his own experiences in franchise-based teams and decided it wasn’t the model for him.
“My job is to provide good systems, which I’m very obsessive about. That, and leads. We’re hiring people that are already very good and they’re coming into a team that cares a lot about that—so there is a brand. But primarily it’s about us helping with lead gen. If somebody comes to us and they’re already doing $5 million per year, they’ll do $10 million with us, no question about it.”
Eric makes sure that the leads he hands his agents turn into ongoing referral sources, helping to compound their commission growth year after year.
“At that point, it just depends on how much they want to work. There’s nothing wrong with saying, ‘I want to be a $10 million producer and that’s it. You’ll be able to watch your kids play soccer and go on vacation—that’s a great life. Then there’s people that want to do $20 to $30 million and we can help them get there, too,” says Eric.
Because Eric and his team are great with marketing (and spreadsheets) they’re able to bring experienced agents great leads, who then become raving fans and send them more business.
It’s just another simple model that works.
And he provides his team with the business foundation they need to build the lifestyle that works for them. “If you’re trying to manage more than three clients at a time with email, it’s not going to work. With Follow Up Boss, you can manage 15, 20, 30 clients at different stages of the sales cycle and you’ll be able to save your sanity and know where everything is.”
These days, the tech hype is real.
But according to Eric, “You can’t replace the agent with a system because this is the most important transaction in someone’s life. You need to be sympathetic to that.”
“Technology allows more efficiency, which means you can either work more efficiently and produce more or produce the same and work less. If you look back to the ’80s when there was no email and no internet, you could close 12 or 15 deals and probably be a top producer. Technology is what allows a single agent to do 20+ deals a year and still have a life,” Eric explains.
These days, Eric produces less and always makes it to his 5-year-old son’s soccer games every weekend. “With Follow Up Boss if I happen to be out of town, I can look at our reports and say ‘Yes, everything is dialed in and working.’ Then, I can breathe easy.”
Still, he has no plans to slow down.
“We’re going to do around 300 deals this year and to try and do anything even close to that level without a solid system, you just wouldn’t get there. And if you did, it would be so chaotic that you wouldn’t be able to have much of a life.”
Clearly, a watertight system is a top priority for this top producer. But in the end, his advice mirrors the words that once changed his life, “Track everything. Do more of what works and less of what doesn’t. If you do that, you’ll continually improve.”