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Are You a True Top Performer…or Just a Pageant Winner?

Sep 04, 2023

by Steve Shull, Founder & Head Coach


Every summer, the Wall Street Journal publishes its rankings of top real estate agents and teams across the country. Agents love to make a big deal about it. The ones who make the list brag about it ad nauseam for the next 12 months, while everyone else tries to suppress their envy.

What you should all really be doing is ignoring it.

These rankings do not tell you who is truly a top performer because they only measure one aspect of an agent’s business: gross sales. There’s nothing in there about quality of service or profitability. There’s no accounting for the difference in property values across markets. Plus, the numbers are not immune from manipulation by people who know how to game the system.

It’s just a beauty pageant. 

And guess what? Only the agents care who wins. Your clients do not. Your clients care about having a smooth, stress-free experience guided by someone they trust. 

They want a real top performer, not a pageant winner.

Here’s what the true anatomy of a top performer looks like.

➡️ 24+ closings per year…

No one does this many deals by accident or by winging it. It takes consistent engagement and effectiveness. That’s why it should be your benchmark. A top performer does at least this amount of business regardless of market dynamics, even in a bad year.

➡️ …for 5 consecutive years

If you can do 24+ deals a year for 5 years in a row, that demonstrates true consistency, not just luck. In any 5 year span, you’re guaranteed to have some ups and downs in the market. A top performer keeps closing deals throughout the business cycle.

➡️ 2.75% minimum average commission (between sell and buy side)

On the listing side, you should get at least 3%, ideally 3.5% or more. On the buy side, you should get 2.5 - 3%. This means you’re not discounting your fee and not giving money away to make deals go together. Top performers are full fee agents, and that’s non-negotiable.

➡️ 1+ day off every week

Top performers do not work 24/7. They have cultivated work-life balance, which means they can take at least 1 day fully off each week or more—no phone, no email, no nothing. Otherwise, what’s the point?

➡️ 4+ weeks off a year

Top performers take vacations. They have set up their business systems and support team so everything can run smoothly even if they go off the grid for a whole week or longer.

➡️ Expenses at 35% or less of net commission income

In other words, if your net commission income (after paying your broker) is $100k, you should be able to put at least $65k in your pocket. Top performers track their numbers and budget properly to preserve a healthy profit margin, so they can grow their wealth instead of just treading water financially. 

➡️ 50%+ listings

Listings are the name of the game in real estate. Buyers are more time intensive and less profitable, and you don’t control the commission. Top performers focus on listings and don’t necessarily actively seek buyers.

➡️ 70%+ repeat and referral business

Top performers focus on repeat and referral, not lead generation and conversion. Leads don’t compound over time—relationships do. The higher your repeat and referral rate, the easier it is to scale, and boosting that rate requires a high level of service and consistent nurturing of your relationships.

➡️ Running off your calendar, CRM, and checklists

Top performers do not live in chaos every day. They do not wing it or rely on personality. They run a process-driven business that has structure, organization, and purpose. 

➡️ Little or no stress on daily basis

Top performers can live without stress because they focus on the process, not the result. They do not chase. They do not come from a place of scarcity or fear. They understand the business, they do what is proven to work, and they accept that the rest is outside their control—the result will be what it’s going to be.

Hit all these benchmarks, and you can call yourself a top performer.

Forget about the rankings. They put the emphasis in the wrong place, on the results instead of the process. Worrying about them will only make you miserable and distract you from what truly matters.

Don’t be a pageant contestant.

Be a top performer.


Have a great week!


Steve Shull

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