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SELLING for The Next Dimension

Real Estate Trainer, Property Investor and Entrepreneur Colin Tan of ColinTan Group of Companies is very much at home in the world of bricks and mortar. His reputation precedes him, having climbed up the property rung from a Realtor to undertaking corporate roles such as Group Director of Strategic Communications and Sales at UMLand, and Chief Sales and Marketing Officer of Hatten Group previously.

Having trained and conducted speaking engagements for countless Realtors in Singapore and Malaysia, his training calibre is evident in the pronounced success of top Agents who have gone on to become industry leaders from single start-ups or junior positions.

In Malaysia, many of his top batch students today run their own agencies and are Heads of Departments working for developers or run other businesses.

“I believe that giving back to society revolves around educating and empowering people to become successful,” shares Tan, 50, who hails from the Lion City.

The journey to being on top of his property game though was not easy. Tan relates how during a low period of his life back in 1992, when he was fraught with financial and health challenges, he ventured into real estate as he perceived property as a big ticket item to recover his losses.

However, having been hopeful after taking a property listing, the deal was “stolen” by another Agent, causing him to lose out on the transaction. That experience got him thinking about how another person perhaps, probably in the same circumstance or worse, could have reacted drastically if they didn’t have the sheer will or tenacity to carry on.

Noticing a lack of proper and correct training methods in the industry, Tan vowed that he would one day train Realtors on the proper way to succeed.

“I feel offended whenever people imply that to become successful sales people, you must be able to tell white lies. Therefore, I was filled with passion to transform the industry by teaching people to do the right thing and yet become extremely successful,” he shares.

Having joined the training industry in 1992, he helped out with project marketing at a small agency in Singapore comprising 12 people whereby he would take the initiative to write out his own scripts which he then distributed to his colleagues.

“The scripts actually helped me a many times during new launches that the agency would bring in. Thus, I sometimes closed half of what the company sold in total.”

Creating Real Estate Moguls

Tan disagrees with the Real Estate Negotiator or Salesperson term attributed to Realtors, maintaining that these implications do not do justice to the profession or what the overall work entails.

“Why would you call someone a Real Estate Negotiator? Are you implying that all he or she does is negotiate and not close deals?” questions Tan.

“I view Real Estate Agents as business people providing consultative work and advice to people to make the right decisions in buying and selling properties,” he affirms.

Tan, who has years of experience in property investment in Singapore and Malaysia maintains that he has not lost a single dollar in amassing and then disposing of these properties at the right time since 1997.

He believes in aligning with Governments and investing or divesting according to their directions. He quotes the time when the Singapore Government was transforming Marina Bay as the right time to invest there back then.

“When the Singapore Government or any of the other Governments want to encourage people to invest in an area or industry, they will incentivise investors and prospective buyers to go into those areas and vice versa, penalise those who goes against the flow,” he says.

From the late 1990s, the Singapore Government’s goal was to transform the Lion City, particularly in the Marina Bay area. Hence, investing there would be in line with its direction.

“It has since been proven that at that time, people who invested in the Marina Bay area gained more in one or two years before the sub-prime fiasco versus those who bought in traditional areas like Orchard Road and Bukit Timah,” he says.

After that, the Government of Singapore made it clear that it would curb investments and speculations. As much as many Practitioners said that demand would remain strong and price would not come down, prices dropped for fifteen quarters straight.

“In Malaysia, it’s different. Prices of properties here are at the bottom since the dotcom crash and prices are still low. Once the international community starts flooding into Malaysia in line with the Government’s goal to attract more people  which I believe will happen, prices will start to appreciate.

I have been in Malaysia for the last two years and I don’t think Malaysia is lacking in terms of living standards and quality workforce. Its low cost of doing business is also a big draw,” he adds.

Tan says that Malaysia’s average property price index has been flat for 17 years since the dotcom crash, and was not affected by the sub-prime and Lehman Brothers fiasco.

“There’s tremendous potential for real estate in Malaysia’s emerging market. For mature markets, you have to find the right time to invest as the market always move in economic cycles and anybody who tells you that property prices will always go up is lying,” quips Tan.

“Take a bungalow in London, a city of over 2,000 years for instance. If a property is priced at 500 pounds and you compound it with 2,000 years, it will be worth trillions of dollars if property prices always go up but that’s not the case,” adds Tan.

He advises property investors to buy and invest within their means while always taking into consideration the worst case and not just the best case scenario.

The worse case scenario applies in the case of loss of income, going for long periods without rent and so on which will jeopardise the ability to pay back the loan.

New investors he says, should also do their own research and not merely listen to others or simply follow the herd mentality blindly.

Ultimately, his chosen career path of training Realtors and consulting developers sit well with him.

“Sales is not only wonderful but powerful when done correctly. It is truly a work of art and science. It has a lot to do with mathematics  and psychology too. Perfecting the art of sales and marketing in real estate is akin to being a master of psychology, arts, science, mathematics and economics,” he says.

Before catching his flight to Beijing to meet up with leading China construction companies, Tan took time to impart some gems of insights into the world of real estate, his different approach to training and why not all Realtors are trained equal, hence resulting in soaring sales performances and a rise in portfolios.

Up, Close and Personal with Colin Tan


Please share on your property journey and the role you undertake as Trainer

I ventured into real estate way back in 1992. I discovered that training in the industry was very lacking and hence, there is a massive need for a good Trainer to teach people how to make money and at the same time, do it the correct way.

How would you describe yourself?

Many would say I’m crazy but I’m driven by passion to drive the industry to new levels of professionalism.

What was the impetus that led you to want to pursue a career as a trainer?

I first joined the industry because I came from a very serious struggle, both financially and health-wise back in 1992. I came into the industry after I failed in business. I discerned that in real estate I would be selling big ticket items. Having been undercut for a property listing, I told myself that I would change how the industry operates via training Agents.

How do you get the best traits out of the Real Estate Agents whom you train?

I believe that people only choose to do wrong if they can’t get success doing right. If you give them a way to succeed correctly, then they would want to follow that step and not deviate from doing right. My goal is to train people correctly.

Explain the role Real Estate Agents can play and how do you impart these important lessons to them?

Somehow, the real estate industry has messed up their minds by creating a structure whereby a Real Estate Agent feels like an employee and refer to the real estate agency mentor as Manager or agency owner as “Boss”.

There is no salary, Employee Provident Fund (EPF) contributions nor welfare either so technically speaking, the Realtor is the boss. Why is that important? If Agents think like employees, they can’t earn like a business person. With the structure of the agency and its worldview, one likely joins in as an Agent, works to get promoted along the way or will be made to feel they have Managers to report to.

What kind of business people get promoted or have Managers? Therefore, I actually reprogramme my students to think, act and become business people and free their minds from this trap of being a Negotiator or Salesperson.

How can developers address market demands better?

Having analysed the market situation, I believe developers should start planning for their projects to be built around strong market analysis, data and from the sales angle. I constantly remind developers that developing doesn’t make money but selling does.

I feel that many developers in Malaysia tend to build what they like and not what the market will embrace.

At the same time, I’ve noticed that many developers constantly plan their products to be sold to overseas buyers.

I believe that developers should consider local demand more than overseas demand as in reality, most sales would still come from the locals.Local buyers have a lot less restrictions as compared to foreign buyers and have more end financing and sometimes, the Government supporting their purchases.

I believe this is especially crucial in uncertain times.

How do you train Realtors to successfully close deals?

I teach them how to run this business from the angle of a businessperson. At the same time I help to build up their Strength, Structure, Systems, Strategies and Skills. This is known as ColinTan Training’s 5S Principles to Success.

Explain Your Theory of Flowing With Governments

I’ve shared my strategy of “flowing with Governments”. The problem with property investors I’ve discovered generally is that they tend to look at historical data more than future plans and development or redevelopment plans. If you look at Singapore in the 1990s, it was experiencing what you would call brain drain and population decline.

The Government decided to transform Singapore into a more cosmopolitan kind of city; a little like New York, Hong Kong, Shanghai and Sydney to be attractive for immigration and avoiding the brain drain. A good example is the Marina Bay of Singapore. Up to completion, from 2004 to 2005 and 2006, many of the units there, like Icon Residence, were still unsold.

Why? Because people were saying that this area has no history, etc. I was telling people to invest in that area because I knew what our Government was doing so I was anticipating that in a few years’ time, the area and market would be totally different. In just a couple of years people saw gains of over S$2,000 psf (RM6,220 psf).

Likewise, Iskandar Malaysia is something that will happen in time. It will take time for the Malaysian and Johor Government to start bringing in the population to sustain these properties that are being built.

Anywhere in the world, you will find an oversupply in a transforming region before you start to fill the properties with people. Any responsible Government would make sure that there are more homes before growing its population.

A good Government won’t bring in more people before there are enough homes. Hence, there will always be an oversupply situation in a transforming or growth market.

Iskandar Malaysia has been seeing healthy growth of between 6 per cent and 7 per cent which is three times more than Singapore over the last few years. It’s one of the fastest growing market in the region.

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