With 30 years of real estate experience, Jon Salvador, a Burlington, Iowa-based Century 21 Property Professionals agent, is without a doubt and industry veteran. Over the decades, Salvador has honed his business approach and leaned into his people skills to build his book of business. In 2022, Salvador’s approach led him to close 129 transaction sides, totaling over $19.7 million in sales volume, good enough for the No. 147 spot in the 2023 RealTrends Rankings.
RealTrends recently caught up with Salvador to discuss his career and the importance of building relationships in real estate.
This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.
Brooklee Han: Can you tell me about how you got your start in real estate?
Jon Salvador: I started back in 1993 and I looked at it as a challenge, an opportunity to further myself in the business of sales. I have always been a people person, so for me it felt like a natural transition to step into this business line. I also saw other realtors in the area giving what I felt was subpar service and I thought with the kind of commissions we can earn in real estate they should be doing a better job. So, I tried to improve upon what I saw, and I brought in some of my own skills as far as salesmanship goes.
BH: Where had your previously honed these sales skills?
Salvador: I was a retail industry person as the store manager of a thriving toy store and after that I opened a restaurant. So, I always around people and always in an industry of service and if you think about it, this job is all about service. If we don’t give the right service, you are not going to further your business.
BH: With this varied background, what has ultimately kept you in the real estate industry for three decades now?
Salvador: Once you get bitten by the bug, I think it is hard to walk away. Every job I’ve ever had, I’ve always treated as if it was a challenge or an opportunity to better myself, to grow, to learn and for me, real estate is always challenging, and I am always growing and it is always interesting. It never feels like the same old thing every day because every transaction is different.
BH: How do you feel you have grown professionally and personally since you started in the industry?
Salvador: When I first started, a lot of my insecurities came out and my ability to have that air of confidence started to dwindle a little bit because I wasn’t quite sure if this was absolutely the right fit for me, but after being in it for several years and riding some of our ups and downs — you guys have to remember that since ’93 we have gone up, we’ve gone down, we’ve even flatlined — but I built my business back and had to keep reinventing what I was doing to stay relevant.
BH: What are some of the challenges you have faced in your real estate career and how have you overcome them?
Salvador: Well with some of the challenges like the market downturns, we reinvented some of our business model to take care of some of the folks that were in the situation where they had to look at short sales or pre-foreclosures. We had to look at the ability to reach out to our local lenders and servicing our real estate owned companies. By building that REO business, we were able to increase online because if the market crashed and the bubble burst, so to speak, we were still there to help people with their needs no matter If the market if up or down. Our office, our agents and myself, are trained to transition and accommodate those specific fields of the business so that they know that we are here for them.
BH: How have you gone about building those relationships?
Salvador: We started out a lot with email back in the day, but now it has become more of a Zoom relationship. I think people want to see you talking and they want to know what kinds of reactions they are getting. That has been beneficial because people like to know who they are dealing with, plus being a local to my area, a lot of our lenders will come to us because it is a benefit to us to have that connection.
BH: How has building those relationships impacted your lead generation?
Salvador: My business is probably 95% referrals. I built the business from ’93 to earn that. I still get new business but very little because I am not marketing myself necessarily for new business. If I needed to I could, but years of being in the business have given the ability to not have to worry as much as a new agent because I have that book of business established.
Establishing a book of business isn’t as hard as it sounds. It is about following up. It is about connecting. It is about taking care of people to the point that they want to be taken care of by you. If you build those connections, you build your business even faster.
BH: To what do you attribute your success as a top performing agent?
Salvador: I think it is the day in and day out connecting and calling. When I first started, I would start the morning with what I called my hour of power and I would pick up my phone and for the next 60 minutes I would call everybody on my list — friends, family, neighbors — and just have those nondescript conversations about what was going on in their life. I would set the timer for three minutes and I would have three-minute conversations for the next hour. I’d call as many people as I could and just kind of nurture those relationships because real estate is a relationship business. If you can’t talk to somebody, you can’t connect with somebody this is going to be a tough business for you to be in.
BH: Now that you are no longer doing an “hour of power” every day, what are some other things you do regularly that you feel contribute to your success?
Salvador: Well, my new hour of power is an hour of Facebook, where I scroll through and like and comment and wish people happy birthday. I don’t do this every day, but I try to take a lender or an agent out to lunch at least three or four times a week to just try and nurture that relationship. We don’t just talk about the market, but about what is going on in our lives and in town. But now, at different civic functions or business after hours, it is always so funny because I feel like I am a magnet because when I walk in everyone migrates toward me because we have a relationship.
It is kind of funny though because I started back in ’93 and now I am selling houses to the kids of the people I sold houses to in the 90s. So, I want to stay relevant and be that hip realtor who has Snapchat, but I really couldn’t care less about that stuff, but if you don’t embrace it that you are going to be left behind. Everything have evolved and I wonder if all these new things are really for me, but I have to keep adapting.
BH: What is your best piece of advice for a new agent?
Salvador: My best piece of advice would be to further your education. Become a broker associate or a broker. Knowledge is power and those of use that have the brokerage knowledge, that have the information from the further schooling have an advantage, I think it is going to give you more confidence to move forward in the future and take on some of those trickier deal because you have now had experience at least on the knowledge side of things to handle those deals. And don’t be afraid to ask questions of your broker, to spend time with mentors and follow their lead, and to see how they created what they have and emulate them. That is the fastest way to be a top producer.