Meet the 2017 The Thousand: Don Wenner
2017 REAL Trends The Thousand, as advertised in The Wall Street Journal
By Tracey C. Velt
This year’s The Thousand all have one thing in common—they are passionate about people. Find out more about these savvy professionals.
No. 9 Teams by Transaction Sides
No. 55 Teams by Transaction Volume
Don Wenner, CEO of DLP Realty
Likes: Leadership experts Jim Collins, Verne Harnish, John Maxwell and Gino Wickman
Motivated by: “I love taking an idea, putting a plan in place, setting goals and achieving them.”
Claim to fame: posting listings to craigslist at a time when no one else was doing it yet
In 2006, Don Wenner accidentally got into real estate. “I was a college student at Drexel University, studying finance and marketing,” he says. He thought he would be a wealth manager, when a friend persuaded him to work for ADT Security, knocking on doors and selling systems. “I was 20 years old and the money was good, so I took the job not knowing what it meant. I sold alarm systems, and my very first paycheck was $5,218 for two weeks. That was the worst paycheck I earned with ADT,” he laughs. The man who owned the ADT franchise was also a real estate sales associate at a local Keller Williams office. “He persuaded me that if I was so successful selling alarm systems, I would be successful at real estate,” says Wenner. He took his real estate classes at night while still in college, got his license and upon graduation joined Keller Williams in Pennsylvania. “I didn’t have my first sale until six months later. “At the end of the year, I had sold 67 homes. The following year, 2008, I sold 339 homes and went on to break records each year.”
Now Wenner runs a 45-person team of specialists. “We break everybody down into specialist roles—inside sales specialists, buyer success managers, showing specialists, listing specialists and more,” he says. There is a sales manager who oversees the sales team.
Early on, when he started, he says, one of the biggest reasons he was successful was that he realized that he needed to make the phones ring. “Nothing else mattered until we could get the phone to ring, so I focused on generating leads, and that was a huge challenge. To generate leads, I needed to do something different from my competitors. I needed to innovate and have a lot of capital to invest in marketing,” he says. He says he used craigslist to market his listings. “Nobody was using craigslist for real estate then. I was posting 20 or so ads a day. I attribute at least 30 of the 67 homes I sold that first year to craigslist.”
He also came up with the Guaranteed Sale Program. “Your home will be sold in 68 days guaranteed, or we’ll buy it. We’ve had that exact same unique selling proposition (USP) for 11 years,” says Wenner. He also started a No Risk Home Sale Program and another program he called the Immediate Buy-out Program, which is a cash offer, as-is, no contingencies. “These programs generated leads.”
Of course, be careful what you wish for, laughs Wenner. “The leads started rolling in, and the biggest challenge became lead conversion.” From there, administrative support and getting the right processes in place to handle the volume of activity were his biggest challenges. “Once I filled the administrative needs, our focus turned to hiring. As we started growing the number of agents we had, we focused on strong training programs; then it was technology. Once we got the foundation shored up, it was time to innovate again and continue our growth,” he says. Wenner has now stepped out of the day-to-day business, hired a sales manager and put other leaders in place to oversee the team and drive results.
He works hard to balance life outside of work. “I have two young boys who are four and five years old. I’m home for dinner with my wife, Carla, and the boys four nights a week and finish up Saturday midday so I can spend the rest of the weekend with my family,” he says. “I live in St. Augustine, Florida, so we spend a lot of time at the beach. We’re also focused on church and active in a few ministries.
“I believe that you can have multiple obsessions. I am obsessed with my companies. I am obsessed with being a great father. I am obsessed with making a positive influence on my church and community. Knowing that I can make a difference in the areas in which I am obsessed makes it easier to get up in the morning and harder to go to bed at night. And that’s great,” he says.