Roger Pettingell has been with Coldwell Banker Realty since 2002 and was recently named the top-producing affiliated agent in both Sarasota and the state of Florida. This 33-year real estate veteran is also the #4 Coldwell agent in the US. During his career, he’s contracted and sold billions of dollars in property and mastered the ropes of a competitive profession along the way. His working days began as a marketing assistant at a resort in his home state. When the property was acquired by a real estate company, he was introduced to a new industry and would eventually transition from assistant to an agent with the help of his customer service skills.
Today, Roger Pettingell is known for the boutique agency he’s built for his clients and staff. He credits a big part of his success to be as proactive as possible. Whether it’s attending a trade show or having coffee with a broker, the work he puts in and the strategies he employs are remarkably effective. Of course, Roger Pettingell is the first to admit that there are no magic tricks here. He opens up about the progression of his life and what he’s learned from both big and small milestones alike.
How did you get started in this business?
It’s funny you ask that because my original plan was to be a vet! I had to go to college before I realized I might be better off working with people than animals. Starting off as a marketing assistant, I was intrigued when our luxury resort was purchased by a real estate company. It was a serious opportunity in the making.
I saw a lot of parallels between what I was already doing and what real estate agents had to do to generate more sales. You have to be good at reading people and figuring out what they really want out of a transaction, and you have to follow it up with plenty of work to actually accomplish what they’re looking for. I realized I had the talent, motivation, and drive and I was eventually able to convince both my colleagues and clients the same.
How do you make money?
I take a percentage of completed property sales. My focus is luxury real estate in Manatee and Sarasota Counties, a sector that has catapulted in popularity during my time on the job. I’ve been extremely fortunate to break my own record every year, beginning with an annual volume of $50 million in 2012 and finishing 2020 at an unprecedented $175 million.
The jump in sales is partially a product of the economy, but it’s also a testament to my team’s hard work. We’ve managed to build a small empire in the state by offering concrete value to anyone looking to buy or sell.
How long did it take for you to become profitable?
We’ll put it this way: I certainly didn’t expect to hit $2 billion in sales when I first started! Real estate is one of those careers that some people wrongly assume anyone can do. I can tell you right now though that it’s so much more than taking a test and renewing your license.
You have to be willing to devote yourself to the art of sales, which can mean anything from attending council meetings to committing the names of people’s children to memory. I found that talking to successful agents and really picking their brains accelerated my path to profitability. Without them, it might have taken me a lot longer to cement my style.
When you were starting out, was there ever a time you doubted it would work? If so, how did you handle that?
Doubt might be a strong word, but there were times when the road got pretty bumpy. Part of what kept me going was my sincere love for this area and for luxury properties. True waterfront living isn’t how far the marble countertops traveled or how many zeroes are attached to a property’s price tag. I buy and sell experiences that can’t be measured in money.
Sunrises over the ocean, moonlight reflected over the water, palm trees on every corner: how can you not be passionate about this stuff? I know what it’s like to live by the sea, so I don’t have to fabricate or exaggerate. When times got rough, I just had to lean on my love for the area and it eventually carried me through to the other side.
How did you get your first customer?
Roger Pettingell says a combination of consistency and persistence. We all go through the same thought process when we meet young professionals. ‘Why would I take a chance on this person? What do they know? Why should I trust them?’ In an industry like real estate, the stakes are high. Clients want to know they’re getting the best deal that the market will allow and most want a seasoned pro to secure it.
The flip side is that up-and-coming real estate agents bring new perspectives and talents to the table. The good ones are able to take their unique insights and integrate them with the expertise and wisdom of the more experienced professionals in their field. In addition to showing up day after day and putting in the work, I was humble enough to ask for help when I needed it. I ultimately was able to build up a reputation that made it possible to land my first customer.
What is one marketing strategy (other than referrals) that you’re using that works really well to generate new business?
Technology. I’m a technophile and always looking for what’s on the virtual marketing horizon. This obsession has really come in handy over the pandemic. My personal website and virtual showings have made it possible to connect with customers even when I can’t shake their hands.
You know, for as many bus bench ads and billboards as there are, the average person still starts their search for a real estate agent with a generic Google search. They might just idly type in ‘real estate agent in Manatee’ and see what pops up. Half the time they only have vague plans to buy or sell, and they’re just poking around to see what’s what. If I didn’t take the time to cultivate my online presence, then those searchers could easily wind up with a subpar agent.
What is the toughest decision you’ve had to make in the last few months?
I still struggle with the best ways to split my time. I’m actively involved in a variety of local charities around here, including Forty Carrots and the Southeastern Guide Dogs. I’m also a husband and father who can’t shirk my responsibilities at home. When it comes to deciding where I should be, I have to think about how it will affect individual people and how it will affect my overall community. I won’t lie, I don’t always feel like I’m giving people or causes as much attention as they deserve. It’s a lifelong quest to try to balance where you put your efforts, but it’s one that I’ll never give up on.
Roger Pettingell goes on to explain “My biggest hope is that my actions serve as the best possible example for other people so they end up getting involved too. That sounds a little pious, but honestly, I’m not convinced that volunteers don’t get as much out of the interactions as the charities they’re helping”.
What do you think it is that makes you successful?
I’m not afraid to go for it. I truly believe that this is the single biggest thread you’ll find throughout all top producers in every industry. Choosing a competitive field like real estate, selling million-dollar properties, running an agency: none of this stuff is easy. People can come up with a million reasons why it won’t work or why it’s not worth the risk. These are usually valid concerns, and I don’t discount the reality of how much I’ve put on the line. When people try to dissuade me, I don’t think that they’re doing it because they don’t want me to succeed.
But the bigger reality is that I want this and I’m not afraid to try. I give it my all, which can be an intensely scary proposition for many people. Should I fail, I have to take full responsibility for it and own up to the fact that my shortcomings had nothing to do with laziness or lack of desire. That’s just the chance I take.
What has been your most satisfying moment in business?
It’s more a collection of moments than a single crystallizing instant. I can’t get enough of making clients happy. I watch people’s faces light up when they step through the threshold, and I see how strongly they feel about the properties that ultimately represent their future. I’m not going to say that it’s not fun to negotiate a contract or that networking can’t be one of the best parts of my job, but what I really love is just how far my work can go.
Luxury real estate can give people a new lease on life. From sunny bedrooms to neighborhood businesses, the right location can change people’s routines for the better and give them that many more reasons to smile. I might not get to witness all of it, but I know it happens every day.
What does the future hold for your business? What are you most excited about?
Roger Pettingell says that the future looks bright. Home prices are predicted to rise through 2022, and I’m in one of the most coveted areas in the country. I’m most excited about meeting new people and taking my agency to the next level. My goal is to keep giving clients the experience they came for.
This means taking an active interest in what they want, how they feel, and where they’re hoping to go. I’ve found that the ever-changing variables in my work are the key to keeping my days fresh and my negotiations interesting. Maybe I’ll manage to edge out the other three Coldwell agents and become #1 in the US, maybe I won’t. Whatever’s ahead, I’m just glad that I get to be a part of it.
What business books have inspired you?
I loved The Millionaire Real Estate Agent by Gary Keller. It screams wealth right there in the title, but the whole book is about how it really has nothing to do with money. You’re not on a journey to crush other agents, you’re competing with yourself from yesterday. How can you be just a bit better than you were the day before? This isn’t a new concept by any stretch, but it’s one that’s so easy to forget in the midst of the daily grind. The book lays a whole game plan on how to become successful without working yourself into the ground.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
No question: I would remind myself a little more often than I was running a marathon. Early success in someone’s career is less important than their overall trajectory. When I think about the course of the last three decades, I can so clearly see what the building blocks were and how they were implemented at each stage of the way. Every relationship, every sale, every mistake: these were all byproducts of a sincere desire to be better at my job. Even when it felt like a slog, I was doing the right thing. Sometimes, that’s not always easy to see when you’re young.
I’d also tell myself that life is far more than work. From personal friendships to the birth of my sons, there are a lot of experiences out there that have nothing to do with how much money you make. I love my job and it truly does bring me a lot of joy, but the reality is that fulfillment is really both a professional and personal matter.
Are you willing to be a mentor? If so, how should someone contact you?
Of course! I’ve always said that mentorship is the best thing a professional can do for themselves. When I mentor people, I focus on their strengths and help them find the confidence they need to get ahead. I relate my own tales and lessons, but I also ask my mentees about what they’re going through too.
Real estate has changed a lot over the past few decades and there’s no doubt that my career won’t look like theirs. I have to keep that in mind when I’m doling out advice because it would be easy to assume that they’re in the same boat that I was when I first started.
Roger Pettingell says that It’s all worth it though. I consider it an honor to work with the next generation of real estate agents because they have so much to offer. It just takes a little finesse and fine-tuning to get them where they need to be. (It certainly did for me anyway.)