Simply giving people the time of day has paid off figuratively — and literally — for Rob Citrullo’s real estate business.
The RE/MAX Professionals agent and former music promoter has turned just saying hi and genuine conversation into a network of about 5,000 Facebook friends. This has translated into a spate of RE/MAX sales awards — with less than four years in the business.
“Five thousand Facebook friends help, but you need something to feed off of that,” says Citrullo.
“Just posting things on Instagram without people knowing who you are doesn’t matter. But since I have such a big network from shaking hands, when I post something it means something to people.”
It also meant something when Rob sat down to talk to us about how he got his start, why he never had to cold-call, and why after years booking dates for artists such as The Weeknd and Hardwell, he decided to book open houses instead.
What got you into the real estate business?
I had done sales before. I had done university rentals before I was even in real estate. Between that and the fact that my family owns seven apartment buildings and a few factories … I used to help rent out those places, so it was just the logical jump for me.
What do you like most about the business?
I like getting the deal done. I get a certain charge out of somebody getting more for their purchase or getting more than their home is worth on the selling side. That’s what drives me to be honest.
Now that you’ve become a name in the industry and have won a number of sales awards, what do you think are the keys to your success?
Before I was in real estate, I would give everyone the time of day.
I would shake everyone’s hand, I would care about them and want to know about them. I’m a total people person. I was in the music business before. Because I treated everyone — whether they were famous or not, rich or poor — the same and gave everyone the time of day, that really helped me network with people.
So when I started in real estate, I never had to do the cold-calling. I didn’t do the door-knocking. Everybody I do deals with know me on a first name basis.
Every so often someone reaches out and says, “Hey, I need to buy something,” or “Hey, I need to sell something.”
They trust me and it’s not even an interview process. Ninety per cent of the time it’s just like, “Hey Rob, I need you to do this for me,” and I’m like, “Okay, I’d love to.”
That’s how the business has grown organically — just from giving people the time of day.
What did you do in the music business?
I used to book international artists and DJs and throw concerts and festivals.
So you’ve worked with a lot of famous artists people would know?
In addition to a passion for real estate, you have a passion for electronic music?
I wouldn’t say just electronic music, I would say all music.
I’m always listening to something. And when it was my business I was obsessed with it. It’s just like now, I obsess over real estate.
I believe to be successful in any field you have to have a passion for it and you have to obsess over it. If you don’t, you’re not going to be the best. And if you’re not the best, how can you sell yourself to your friends, your family and clients you do business with?
Why did you switch careers?
As much as being a real estate agent isn’t a normal life, it’s still a little more normal than working in the music business.
There’s a big risk-reward factor in throwing concerts and stuff. You have to invest a lot of money and it gave me a huge drive. But I wasn’t spending time with my friends and my family. I was working 80 hours a week sometimes and it just got too much.
I was very successful at it, but I knew it wasn’t my true calling. I knew there was something else out there for me. And with less than four years in the business, I’m doing really well and winning awards.
I joined a golf course so now I can golf. Now I can go to my cottage and hang out with my family and friends. It’s still a very stressful business. But when you’re a natural at it, you don’t feel as stressed out as you would when you’re forcing things along.
Some people actually say they don’t see their friends or family as realtors. But it sounds like your life as a realtor is way more balanced than it was as a music booker. How did you achieve that balance?
It is way more balanced. When I have something on the go I won’t sleep until the deal’s done. But if I don’t have something on the go, I’m not stressed out to the max trying to get somebody’s business.
Maybe I should be but … I’m into a more organic approach. I don’t want to be that in-your-face guy. I don’t want people to think every time I’m calling them I’m trying to sell them something. When I’m calling someone, I want them to think, “Hey Rob’s calling me … I wonder what’s up? Maybe he wants to grab dinner, maybe he wants to grab lunch or maybe he wants to go golfing …” Whatever the case may be.
I find that so many agents in this city are so in-your-face. It’s not natural or peaceful.
There are 55,000 agents in this city. You have to set yourself aside and apart from everybody else. I’ve never been the “follow the rules,” type of guy my whole life.
When you get into the business they tell you to call everyone. But I took a different approach. Instead of overly selling to people, I was just an honest and trustworthy person.
When you do that along with having the natural ability to predict numbers and understanding values, while really getting what your clients want out of certain things.
You have to be a people person. But you also have to be a good negotiator. And who better to negotiate for you than someone who is used to dealing with some of the top talent agents in the entire world for booking fees?
When you compare that to real estate, real estate is a breeze.