'A salesman my whole life'
July 6, 2012By Jenny Callison
Bob McWaters has been in sales all his life. In the late 1970s, he opened the region for RE/MAX real estate, and eventually settled in Wilmington with his wife. Since 2006, when he sold the region back to RE/MAX corporate, McWaters has continued to be active in sales and sales coaching. Here’s an edited version of a recent conversation he had over coffee with the Greater Wilmington Business Journal’s Jenny Callison.
I’m the nomadic type. I’ve been on the move ever since I was born. I had lived in seven states by the time I was 7 years old because my father was in the construction business.
After high school, I joined the Marines and traveled some more. Then I got a job in the sales business; was hired by probably the greatest sales trainer there ever was, a guy named Bernie down in South Georgia. After three years, I was ready to go do it on my own, and I hit the road and have basically traveled [in sales] since I’ve been married – and that’s been 50 years. About 10 years ago, we decided that Wilmington was where we wanted to end up.
That was an easy thing for me. At that point I had been traveling the Carolinas, selling RE/MAX franchises, for 25 years. So in 2004, we moved to Wilmington where I had a big RE/MAX operation plus 150 franchises all over North and South Carolina.
Years ago, RE/MAX published these nice books. Each page featured a leader in RE/MAX. My son Brad wrote the article about me, and called it Carolina Dreaming. He talked about the time when I was in my 20s and 30s and was traveling all over the East Coast in sales. All that time I was dreaming about what would be the perfect job. Fast forward about 20 years, and I had that perfect job. I owned a RE/MAX region, and I could run it the way I wanted to.
In sales it all boils down to three things: supply and demand and financing. That’s what makes the whole world go round. Without sales, the whole world stops. What we discovered in the last five or six years is that a whole lot of businesses were dependent on the real estate business continuing to thrive and grow.
What I saw happening in Wilmington, close up, was that real estate agents and their buddies in the mortgage business could get a loan for anybody. It didn’t make any difference if they had a job. I knew there was going to be an end to it – I just didn’t know when. Fortunately, I sold my RE/MAX region just in time, but I had missed the sign [that sales were starting to decline] so I turned around and invested my money in commercial real estate.
Now we’re back to the basics of supply and demand. For a while, there was no demand. Nobody could get loans, and everybody was afraid to move. There were millions of extra houses, way more than we could sell. It all had to work itself out. Now we’re well on our way, and financing is where it should be.
I bought a piece of property in Leland years ago – thought it would be a good investment, which didn’t work out, as we know. So I use it to sell these little storage sheds that are built by a company called Graceland. They look like a house, but they’re portable. It’s the most amazing thing I’ve been involved in since all that growth in RE/MAX. Everybody can use more storage – the demand is always there. Graceland has 10 factories, and they’re kicking these things out like a cat having kittens.
Graceland does a rent-to-own program, which is almost reminiscent of the heyday in the real estate business. They’ll rent one to anybody. You don’t have to have a job or credit, and there’s no down payment. If you make a couple of payments in advance on the rent, they will bring you a building. Keep paying rent, and you can keep it. Make 36 of them and you own it. Or you can call them anytime and say you don’t need it, and they will come pick it up.
My lot is the top performer in our factory’s division, better than No. 2 and No. 3 combined, and one of top in the whole country. We do about $100,000 a month, and this year we’ll do $1 million.
Most of what I’ve been doing in last two or three years is training those people how to do this business at our lot.
There’s a reason we’re doing twice as much as the competition
is – that others don’t go after it like a professional salesman who’s been No. 1. I know how to generate leads. There is no sale if there is no lead.
I have been a salesman my whole life. It doesn’t matter what you are selling. It all boils down to supply, demand and financing.