Successful Real Estate Brokers Start With Why

Why do some real estate companies, especially certain real estate brokerages, achieve things others can’t? The ones that seem to defy all of our expectations?


These are questions many real estate leaders ask. If it’s something you too find yourself pondering, might I suggest you seek the wisdom of Simon Sinek. In his famous TED Talk, this bestselling author explains why companies like Apple have been able to achieve such extraordinary success while others, with the same resources, have failed.


He explains it through his idea of “Start With Why.” And as it turns out, his findings have important implications for real estate marketing too.


Before I can address how this famous TED talk relates to your real estate brokerage, let me first summarize the philosophy behind “Start with Why”. To learn more about Simon Sinek, you can check out his website.


Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Action

According to Sinek, the fundamental difference between the “Apples” of the world and everyone else is that they start with “why.”


To explain this concept, Sinek has developed what he calls the “Golden Circle.”


  1. Why – This is the core belief of the business. It’s why the business exists.
  2. How – This is how the business fulfills that core belief.
  3. What – This is what the company does to fulfill that core belief.


Sounds simple, right? But what Sinek points out is that most companies do their marketing backwards. They start with the outer circle (their “what”) and then move inward to the “how.” But then they tend to stop. Most companies neglect to mention their “why” all together. More alarmingly, Sinek suggests many of them don’t even know why they do what they do!


To better illustrate this point, he imagines if Apple started backwards by creating a marketing message that started with “what.”


“We make great computers. They’re user-friendly, beautifully designed, and easy to use. Want to buy one?”


While these facts are certainly true, are you sold? No. You want to know why they’re user-friendly. Sinek points out Apple has figured this out over the years and knows better. He showcases what a real marketing message from Apple looks like.


“With everything we do, we aim to challenge the status quo. We aim to think differently. Our products are user-friendly, beautifully designed, and easy to use. We just happen to make great computers. Want to buy one?”


See how different that feels? Because Apple starts with “why” when defining its company, it’s able to attract customers who share its fundamental beliefs. As Sinek puts it, “People don’t buy what you do. They buy why you do it.” Starting with “why” makes Apple more than a computer company selling features, and that’s why their products have flourished while their competitors’ products with similar technology and capabilities have often flopped.


But enough about Apple. Simon Sinek’s “Start with Why” philosophy isn’t just for billion dollar businesses. It also has implications for real estate brokers running any sized business. Let’s take a look at some of the key marketing takeaways from the “Start With Why” philosophy.


3 Key Takeaways for Real Estate Brokers

1.  Take a step back and use “why” to think about your own business.

Do you know your company’s “why”? (Hint: It’s not to make money.) Think about the core purpose of your brokerage, and then think about how you market your real estate services. Are they aligned? Having a loyal team of agents and repeat clients is all about attracting the people who share your fundamental beliefs. Remember: People don’t buy what you do. They buy why you do it.


Yes, this might seem obvious, but it’s a critical step that is often overlooked. If you were (or are) the founder of your business, are you a daring enough leader to take a step back and define that “why” behind your business? Do you want to become one of the “Apples” in the real estate industry? Or just another “me too” in the sea of brokerages out there?


Understanding “why” is essential to knowing how to communicate the “how” and share the “what.” Which leads me to point number two…


2.  Incorporate “why” into your marketing.

The idea of starting with “why” is also a marketing content best practice. The next time you write an email, a blog post, create an Instagram reel, or a property description, start with your “why.”


“Why” explains the underlying value of what you’re promoting. Consider these two opening sentences to a hypothetical new listing email:


“Check out our new listing. 3 bed, 2 bath condo with great ocean views.”




“It’s no secret that the pandemic has impacted stress levels. And family travel plans. More and more families (61% in fact!) are seeking the peace a multi-day vacation to a family beach house brings in 2022.


Shorewood Real Estate understands the sanctity of family vacations and property ownership. Our mission is to provide quality vacation rental houses and condos in various price ranges to family groups throughout the year. On our website, we just listed three new multi-bedroom condos right on the beach with your much needed annual family summer vacation in mind. Check it out!”


We’ve found the second type of email copy leads to a significantly higher click-through rate. Communicating the value (aka the “why”) from the start sparks the reader’s intrigue, at which point all you need is a few more details (“how” and “what”) to close the deal.


3. Redefine your target niche.

It bears repeating: People don’t buy what you do. They buy why you do it.


With that in mind, think about your clients. You may be targeting buyers and sellers based on a set of basic characteristics or different variables (which, by the way, a CRM is excellent tool for!) like life stage, income, career industry, hobbies and community connections (schools, sports teams, etc.) and so on. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with knowing baseline traits of your target audience. But can you tell from this data alone if they’re the kinds of people who might share your core values? No. You need more. What is it that drives them to choose you over “the other guy” and remain loyal over a long period of time?


You may not know the answers yet, and it’s okay! Adding more context to who they are and how they identify with your “why” will get you to start thinking about the internal motivation that goes behind their decision to work with you. Once you know that, you can start connecting your brokerage to the final experience, or what your target audience is looking to gain by working with you – the “why”!


Perhaps you’re a small mom-and-pop brokerage with large competitors and your clients are loyal to you because they like to support the little guy. Maybe you’re volunteering your time every week at local homeless shelters or building with Habitat for Humanity, and clients love you because they believe in your cause of building a better future. Whatever the reason, redefining your buyer personas to match your “why” is critical in creating marketing that inspires them to continue working with you.


Sell the hole, not the drill

So, in summary, what is it that separates the super successful brokers from the measly ones? Their ability to know, share and market their “why.”


But in case I haven’t beaten that point to a pulp yet, I’ll reframe it one last time for the guy in the way back.


One of the most famous quotes in marketing comes from Harvard Business School professor Theodore Levitt: “People don’t buy a quarter-inch drill, they want to buy a quarter-inch hole!” In other words, they don’t buy because of your “what” and “how.” They buy because your “why” fits what they’re ultimately looking for.


Sell the hole, not the drill.

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