Between social media, a national obsession with online shopping, and a record number of people working from home, it’s fair to say that technology is what makes the world go round. But while some people are embracing tech like never before as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, real estate agent Kenny Truong has always known the value of technology – and he largely credits it for making him the hugely successful realtor he is today.
If you don’t know who Kenny is, you might know him by his brand #FASTAGENT. Or if you’re local to his Bay Area stomping ground, you might have seen #FASTAGENT written in bold block letters on a bus stop bench. Or perhaps you’ve stumbled upon his very active Twitter or Instagram profiles. The point is, Kenny knows how to market himself.
It’s that marketing (along with his unmatched work ethic and constant goal-setting) that has led Kenny to be one of the most successful San Francisco area agents out there. We’re delighted that he took the time to speak with us today about how he does business and what’s next for him.
Kenny, it’s great to meet you! You’ve come a long way since you first entered the real estate world. Walk us through how you got started in the business.
I kind of got into real estate randomly, actually. I was hired as an assistant, so I did that for a year until I got my license. Before doing what I’m doing now, I was at Climb Real Estate for five years, and a small boutique firm called Michael James Real Estate for about four years.
You’ve since created quite the brand for yourself, with #FASTAGENT and #TEAMFAST. Tell me about those.
Well the brand I created for myself is #FASTAGENT and last year I built the brand #TEAMFAST. I’ve also created a boutique, indie brokerage called Fast Real Estate brokered by eXp Realty. I started off with about 12 agents on my team and I’m at 51 agents right now. We have six office locations, we communicate with each other on Slack on a daily basis. We’ve had over 40,000 messages on Slack this year, so we’ve built a large resource library.
We’re mostly in the East Bay but we have sales all over right now, in places like Moran, Modesto, and Vallejo. We’re also going to be expanding into cities like Gilroy, San Francisco, and LA pretty soon.
Between pending and sold homes, we’re at about 110 listings right now. So I think we’re going to end up doing about 160 deals or so this year. My goal for the next three years is to be a Top Five team in California.
I know you partly credit your success to your smart use of technology, especially in the early days when most agents weren’t fully utilizing the power of the internet. Tell me about your love for tech and how it’s helped you along the way.
When I first got started in real estate, I immediately saw how behind the industry was when it came to utilizing technology. So I very quickly saw opportunities there to brand myself and create business opportunities.
For example, I was one of the first agents to start using hashtags, or to post actively on Instagram. I created the brand #FASTAGENT in my third year of business, and that quickly became how people knew me, and that’s what I’ve used on all of my marketing materials for the better part of my career.
I also started running a ton of Facebook ads which drove traffic back to my Facebook business page. I built a following on social media by just being more authentic and being out there, a little ahead of the curve of other people.
You also used technology to make your day-to-day business run more smoothly in the early days, didn’t you?
Yes. I was able to sync up a lot of different tools and systems so they would support each other. I connected my Zillow account to my RealScout account and I used Zapier to connect to Mailchimp. Just small tweaks here and there. And then I added a spreadsheet program to check my leads. So I kind of hacked a lot of tools together to build out my business where it was automated, and that’s what I was known for. And then in my third or fourth year as a solo agent, I was actually the #1 buyer’s agent in Oakland, able to work really efficiently with a lot of people.
All of this led to you winning Inman’s “Most Innovative Agent/Broker” award in 2015. That’s awesome!
Yeah, that was a few years after Inman said in 2011/2012 to be careful on social media, that you didn’t really want to focus your time there as an agent!
What if you hadn’t used technology in those early days? I imagine your success would be a fraction of what it is today!
If I didn’t use technology, I think I would be just like every other agent out there, an average agent doing a couple of deals a year.
Speaking of technology, I know that you also use HighNote. How do you like it?
HighNote is one of the reasons I’ve been able to scale so fast, because I have a pretty cool pitch deck to showcase everything our team offers and does. The main way I use it is for the pre-listing presentation, which digitally shows all my assets. It has my Zillow reviews, testimonials, examples of marketing postcards, it shows that I won an award from HomeLight for ranking in the top 1% of agents in the area for making my clients more money on home sales. It also has a comparative market analysis (CMA), a sample listing agreement, and a link to one of my blog posts which really breaks down how to read the listing agreement.
So we can send this to every single seller we talk to or meet, and that has truly increased our chances of winning the listing. I’ve probably used HighNote at least 120 or 130 times since last year. We have about an 85% to 90% win rate, and having a really great presentation is a big part of that.
Another great thing is that a HighNote presentation allows a seller to sit and digest the information at their own pace. It’s much better than pitching to them in person for an hour, because it’s really hard for them to remember what they saw and heard during that time. HighNote lets them study everything that we do and everything that we offer. It really fits our brand since we are a very high-tech, consumer-friendly brand.
And it’s so easy, because there are only two parts in the presentation that need to change for each seller – the CMA report and the one-page spreadsheet analyzing the property. So this lets me work really efficiently. But since it’s such a polished product, clients think we spend a ton of time making the presentation for them.
I don’t dive into the analytics very much, but I know that my clients are saying “thank you” for the presentation. And for me, that’s enough.
I imagine marketing yourself in this way is extra beneficial in the Bay Area, where competition is fierce!
Competition is really fierce. We operate in the tech space, around Silicon Valley, San Francisco, Santa Clara, San Jose. People here are really smart. They know how to research their agents a lot more before they meet them. So everything you can do to enhance your brand will make an impact.
In our area, the median price for a home is close to $900,000. So clients at that level are usually pretty savvy. They’re looking for agents with a track record for that price point.
What other technologies do you really love and use on a daily basis?
First and foremost, we couldn’t live without Slack at our company. We have thousands and thousands of messages every month going through Slack. We have multiple channels and groups, for instance between me, an assistant, and a team member, so nothing gets lost. We have a channel for training, tons of market updates. Slack really is our company’s brain, it holds everything.
CallAction (powered by Altos Research) is really great for 30-day market reports. It shows you days on market, price percentage decreases, and price per square foot, and it’ll break down the size of the house and lot size into four sectors. So when you’re speaking to someone it really helps you talk about the price the way you want to talk about it.
We use Airtable as an organizer for our lockboxes, open houses, and listings, and for tracking what leads come in. Chime CRM we’ve been using for five or six years, it has every single lead I’ve had in that time.
Sisu has been a big deal for us, it focuses on productivity tracking. Our agents are inputting how many calls they made that day or week, how many appointments they went on, how many showings, how many hours they worked, information about offers, and then we have a scoreboard so we can brag weekly about our best agent.
And we also use Asana. For every listing we have a huge checklist of every single thing that needs to get done, and Asana helps us keep all of that in one place. If there was one tool that we couldn’t live without, it would probably be that one.
The market is constantly evolving, especially now in the middle of an unprecedented pandemic. What’s your forecast for the future of real estate agents?
I feel that agents need to up their game. If they’re not ready, they’re dying out. I’ll give you the best example: Zillow just announced they’re launching a brokerage, so they will be listing their own homes that they buy; agents are already being slowly phased out naturally by the market.
I’m lucky enough to be an UpNest partner agent and they gave me eight San Francisco seller leads just last week. That’s an insane amount – most people don’t get that number in a year. And then I’m a HomeLife partner agent and a Redfin partner agent and we spend a lot of money on Zillow. So the future of real estate is that if you don’t stand out with your brand, and you’re not really good at keeping close to your past clients to get referrals for your business, you’re going to be paying these platforms referral percentages for their leads. But the problem is that these companies are only working with the top 1% in the market – and there can only be a couple of people in the top 1%. The other 99% of people won’t be able to get leads from these websites – and if they’re not marketing themselves, I just don’t see room for them to thrive.