A Preview of Clients First: The Two Word Miracle 

Driven to explain their unprecedented success in real estate sales, Joseph and JoAnn Callaway take us on a journey of discovery.

Table of Contents


Part I The Search for Clients First

Ch-1 Mustang Library

Ch-2 Road Trip

Ch-3 Harper’s Restaurant

Ch-4 A Dark and Stormy Night

Ch-5 The Morning After

Ch-6 The Three Keys

Ch-7 The First Key

Ch-8 The Second Key

Ch-9 The Third Key

Ch-10 A Rare Thing Indeed

Ch-11 Giving Up

Ch-12 Timeless

Ch-13 Synergy of the Three Keys

Ch-14 And the First Runner Up Is…

Part II Clients First Makes All the Difference

Ch-15 “Show Me” Said the Missourian

Ch-16 Team First

Ch-17 In Their Own Words

Ch-18 Trial by Fire

Ch-19 The Institutional Client

Ch-20 The Distressed Client

Ch-21 Why Number One?

Ch-22 Going Forward

Part III How to Put Clients First

Ch-23 The Path to Clients First

Ch-24 Step 1 – Make the Commitment

Ch-25 Step 2 – Speak the Commitment

Ch-26 Step 3 – Keep the Commitment

Ch-27 Step 4 – Get Your Self Out of the Way

Ch-28 Step 5 – Set the Monkey Down

Ch-29 Step 6 – Put Your Faith in Others

Ch-30 Step 7 – Trust the Truth

Ch-31 Step 8 – Let the Work be the Reward

Ch-32 Step 9 – Learn to Like People

Ch-33 Step 10 – Turn It Around

Ch-34 Step 11 – Give to Get

Ch-35 Destination Clients First

Ch-36 A Clients First World


Author’s Note

Clients First is the story of our personal journey in real estate. It is a remarkable journey filled with both spectacular highs as the real estate market bubbled in 2005, and heartbreaking lows as the bubble burst creating the worst real estate recession since the great depression. Along the way we made a discovery that changed us and everyone around us. We found a miracle. It was a secret to immense business success, and it made everything easy.

This was more than a miracle that occurs once and confounds the philosophers afterward. This was a practical miracle that could be conjured up at will and replicated not only by us but also by others. It could be passed on to our team, our vendors, our corporate family, our clients and now to you.

It doesn’t matter whether you are the CEO or the newest hire starting out in the mail room, this book can change your life. Clients First may be applied in any endeavor with surprising success.

In Part I of Clients First, a memorable lady in a blue suit asks JoAnn, “What is the real reason for your fabulous success?” Her query prompts JoAnn and me to carefully analyze what we do so we can give the question a constructive response. In the process, and after years of struggle, we identify the three keys that unlock the secret to putting our clients first. We shine a spotlight on each key so you can quickly grasp the who, what, where, why and how of each one. We show how these three complement one another and how they work together to create unimaginable synergy.

In Part II, we examine the evidence and focus on how these two words – Clients First – possess great power. Against the backdrop of a market meltdown we observe how Clients First has the power to save our business, transform our business and grow our business. Remarkably, Clients First is an unchanging calm at the eye-of-the-storm. Clients First makes it possible to stay the course and achieve great success. Clients First overcomes all obstacles and remains unblemished.

In Part III, you learn how you can put your clients first. You are given a powerful path to follow. If you choose to take it, it will lead to your transformation and empower you to thrive in a Clients First world. Moreover, people within your sphere of influence will be transformed, too. There is room for everyone to benefit. Admittedly, this is a mighty promise, but Clients First (as a book and as a principle) delivers!

Chapter One

Mustang Library

She was the third person in line waiting to speak with JoAnn. She wore a proper blue suit, conservative black pumps, and she had her question ready.

We were casually dressed in pressed jeans and comfortable shoes. This was 1999, our third year in the business, and we were known only to our clients. To the 300 real estate agents in attendance we were like ghosts. We never put our photos on our business cards. Our ads were just for the homes we listed. All the public ever saw were our yard signs which displayed the words, Those Callaways. In northeast Phoenix, we had a lot of signs.

Two hours earlier our broker, Marge, gave us an eloquent introduction. She used the crib sheet I had given her.
“JoAnn takes care of the people, and Joseph takes care of the paperwork. Sometimes Joseph takes care of people, but they never let JoAnn take care of paperwork.”

The audience laughed, even though it was a little corny. But then, I guess we are.
We shared the stage with Russell and Wendy Shaw, who were well known. Russell promotes his real estate business through television and radio commercials and is very entertaining. He kept the crowd laughing, and time flew by.

During the presentation, JoAnn fielded several questions and framed all of her answers around how we take care of our clients. How do you get listings? Our clients refer us to their families and friends. Do you ask for referrals? No, we don’t know how to ask. They just come. Why don’t you run ads about yourselves? We run ads about our clients’ homes. That’s what they hire us for. Do you make cold calls? No. Do you call your circle of influence? Heavens, no. Do you have a personal brochure? Never.

The Question

So, this lady in blue was smiling and waiting her turn in the line that formed near the stage after the event. Dozens of audience members wanted to talk one-on-one with the speakers. This woman had been impressed with the panel and was fiercely determined to have her moment with JoAnn.

At last JoAnn finished with the gentleman in front of the lady in the blue suit, and the woman stepped forward. She was in her early forties, perfectly made up, and she explained that she had been in real estate for almost 20 years. Then this vision in blue asked her question. “Tell me,” she said, “What’s the one thing you feel is the secret for your fabulous success in so short a time?” We weren’t used to terms like fabulous. We just felt lucky. We had no clue how we compared to other agents in the Scottsdale and Phoenix market area because you couldn’t access the data back then. We knew who the local legends were and had completed transactions with a couple of them, but we had no idea that over the previous 12 months we had sold more homes than any other agent in Arizona.

JoAnn seemed not to notice the praise and immediately launched into an explanation of all the things we did to take care of our clients. She told the lady in blue that we put our clients first at all times, thus making them feel that to us they are the most important people in the world.

This nice woman waited patiently through it all. She took care to nod at all the correct moments. Then, when JoAnn had finished, with urgency in her voice, she said, “Yes, yes, I understand all that, but tell me, what is the real reason for your success?”

It was our fault

Didn’t she get it? I think if she had, she would have been the one standing on the stage instead of us. She was better dressed. She had worked at least 17 more years in the business. She seemed ambitious and determined. But she just didn’t get it.

This lovely, well-intentioned woman had been searching for years, her lifetime perhaps, for the secret that would make her a success. We’ve met thousands of seekers since that day at the Mustang Library, and they all asked the same what-is-the-secret-of-your-success question and they all dismissed our take-care-of-the-client answer. Were they not listening? No. It was our fault.

We hadn’t found a way to explain that real reason. Our answer seemed too simple, too obvious. We didn’t have charts or a pyramid diagram or a list of rules. We talked about taking care of clients, and people would say, “Oh, we already do that.” Or they would ask, “Is that some kind of customer service thing?” We knew even then that Clients First was a two word miracle that, once understood, had the power to change peoples’ lives, to transform businesses, and to bring about financial security. We just could not explain it.

For the first half of our lives, we had been just like the blue suited woman who persevered in her stylish attire. We were fellow travelers. We had struggled with the same question and were left wanting for an answer. We looked for the secret as though it were something others knew and kept from us. We didn’t discover Clients First until we started to work in the real estate business. Even then, were it not for a dark and stormy night three months into our budding real estate careers, we would still be asking, “What is the real secret to success?”

The Quest

This woman’s question at the Mustang Library that morning set JoAnn and me searching for an explanation. We had found something profound, something that changed us and changed our lives. Yet, we were unable to explain how it worked.

The explanation would be a quest, a marathon. It would come after seven years spent interacting with thousands of clients. We would first sell a seemingly impossible billion-dollars-plus worth of homes. We would live through the greatest real estate bubble and bust in many generations, and we would survive because of something we named Clients First. The answer did not come easily. But when it arrived, it came in a moment of inspiration.

If you have been searching, come along as we seek to unlock closed doors and find a path to immense rewards. You will discover open secrets so hidden that they may as well be buried on a distant shore. You will realize that you don’t know what you think you know and that you know more than you think. You will find answers within yourself, and you will know that you can achieve great success, because, as you come to know us and our story, you will realize how ordinary we are and how extraordinary has been our experience. An experience you can share and use as your springboard to wealth.

This is the promise of Clients First. It will change you. It will change your future. It will last the rest of your life.

In the pages to come, you will learn that nothing is impossible and that everything is possible for you.
But first we must take our journey. We must search for Clients First. We must travel southbound on Interstate 84.

A Preview of Super Agent: Real Estate at the Highest Level

Table of Contents
Acknowledgments xxi
  Authors’ Note xxiii
I  Be a Super Agent 1
  1. Who Wants to Be a Super Agent? 3
  -You do. Double your income then double it again.  
  2.  The Five Super Powers of a Super Agent 13
  —Putting your clients first, motivating yourself and others, communication,
professionalism, and accountability.
  3.  Starting Out Fast 23
  —Cash that first commission check sooner than later.
  4.  Keep Your Golden Ticket 33
  —Don’t lose your license. Five magic rules to stay ethical, legal and reputable.
  5.  Everything You Need to Know about Working with Buyers 41
  —The empowered client, showing property and hot buttons.
  6.  Everything You Need to Know about Working with Sellers 51
  —Getting the listing, the magic question, and getting it sold.
  7.  The ABCs of Making a Deal 61
  —The Art of reasonableness, the Business of winning, and Countering every time.
  8.  Contract to Closing 71
  —Keep your deal while others are losing theirs.
  9.  Keeping Your Client after the Sale 79
  —Wow. This is better than social security.
II  Super Lead Generation 89
  10.  A Steady Stream of Buyers and Sellers 91
  —Guaranteeing your business success rain or shine.
  11.  Prospecting 101
  —How to get a new client before noon.
  12.  Open Houses 109
  —The ultimate form of prospecting.
  13.  Marketing 121
  —Making the phone ring.
  14.  Farmingt 129
  —The ultimate form of marketing.
  15.  Being Digital 141
  —Everything you should know about digital marketing, video, and social media.
  16.  Branding 149
  —Make yourself famous at every kitchen table.
III  Super Time Management 159
  17.  Time Is More Than Money 161
  —Getting the most out of your most valuable asset.
  18.  Allies, Affiliates, and Vendors 169
  —No one succeeds alone.
  19.  Getting Help 179
  —Mission statements, systems, and when to delegate.
  20.  Partnering with Another Agent 187
  —Singles may succeed but duos can be daring.
  21.  Teaming Up 197
  —Join a team or build one yourself.
  22.  The Super Team 205
  —Client ownership, cutting the cord, and selling the handoff.Callaway ftoc.tex V1 – 02/21/2014 9:29pm Page xix
Contents xix
  23.  A Super Life 219
  —It is yours for the asking.
  Appendix A Doing the Most Good: The Salvation Army 227
  Appendix B Real Estate Wednesdays 229
  Contact 231
  Contact 232
  Contact 233
  About the Authors 236

Author’s Note

When we met, it was love at first sight. Only later did we learn that we shared a love for books. JoAnn said that she had read the entire Encyclopedia Britannica by the age of 10. I told her about getting special permission to check out books from the adult section of the public library when I was seven years old. Our conversations during our marriage have been richer for it.

Over the years, we’ve shared countless reads. We read James Michener’s Space and Herman Wouk’s The Winds of War and War and Remembrance aloud to each other. I introduced JoAnn to John D. MacDonald’s Travis McGee, and she gave me Shanna by Kathleen E. Woodiwiss. Today, she has her favorites and I have mine.

Every night, JoAnn reads three newspapers.

Years ago, we dreamed of writing books, and proceeded to put together a collection of reference books on the subject of writing. We’ve owned hundreds of dictionaries, style books, and how-to guides compiled and composed by literary agents, editors, publishers, writers, and writing instructors. This collection has grown and contracted several times during our marriage as we’ve swung from buying sprees to purging resolutions each New Year’s. Few volumes have survived except the books on writing by writers.

These are the treasures, the jewels that we will never part with. We have Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott, Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg, and Stephen King’s small volume titled on Writing. In his book, King imparts the story of his career and then gives his advice on how to write. It is from this one handbook we draw so much.
As we entered the real estate profession, we naturally gravitated to the business section of our local bookstore, where we purchased book after book. We have books on leadership and accounting, as well as biographies of tycoons and business leaders. We have all the Rich Dad, Poor Dad issues. When it comes to real estate, we would presume to claim that every book on the subject published over the past 16 years has transited our shelves, and we have even picked up earlier publications in used book stores.

When our editor at John Wiley & Sons suggested a real estate agent’s bible, we thought back to all those books on writing and how few were actually by writers. As we survey the scene, we see so many fine books on selling real estate but few by active agents working every day with clients.

It is our sincere hope that this modest offering of Super Agent will become your Stephen King’s On Writing, and that it will bring you joy.


Chapter One

Who Wants to Be a Super Agent?

Who wouldn’t want to be a super agent? Super agents make more money, have the respect of their peers, the gratitude of their clients and they work less hours. How do we know? We know because we are super agents. JoAnn and I have been licensed for 17 years and have sold over one and a half billion dollars’ worth of homes. We say this only because it is important for you to know such things are possible. Had we only known in the beginning how incredible this profession can be, it would have saved us so much time, doubt, and angst. We are currently active in the business and continue to serve our clients every day.

Super Rewards

How many super agents are there and how much money do they make? Let’s first define super income. The national average income for real estate agents is currently around $45,000 per year, so let’s say a super agent is someone who makes twice the average. Yes, agent averages vary from Mayberry to Manhattan but the two-to-one relationship is the point. If you are making double the average for your area, you are doing well. We’ll get to the specifics but let me say there are thousands upon thousands of agents who make a six-figure income today, and the upper limits are in the mid-to-high seven figures. Yes, we are talking millions here. JoAnn and I earned over $6 million in our best year and our best month was just short of a million dollars’ gross commission income. Again, we only tell you this because as you come to know us in these pages you will realize how unlikely our success has been and how likely it is that you can do as well or better than us. The rewards that put the super in super agents, however, are often not measured in money. Vendors, fellow professionals, and clients all respect super agents because a super agent does more business, which creates opportunities to serve more clients— that is where the real reward comes. There is no greater satisfaction than closing a transaction and having the client thank you for a job well done. We help clients through one of the biggest moments in their lives and knowing we did it well fills our hearts.

In case you missed it, we said super agents work less hours. That’s correct and sometimes much less. There are many super agents who have achieved such a degree of ownership in their business that the time they labor is spent working on the business, not in the business. Because these agents work on their business, they are able to see the forest for the trees. They are able to innovate and improve. They come up with better ways to get and serve clients. They take weekends off. They take extended weekends. They take vacations. They do all this because they have time to think and that time is the best time you can spend.

Super Profession

So, who wouldn’t want to be a super agent? For that matter, who wouldn’t want to be a real estate agent? Ours is a wonderful profession for several reasons but let’s start with opportunity. Anyone who passes the state test can be a real estate agent. A member of our extended family holds the title. She took the Arizona Real Estate Exam 12 times! We don’t tell you this to embarrass her. We tell you this out of pride. Her eighth-grade teacher told us she didn’t think this girl would graduate high school. But she didn’t let that hold her back. She worked harder than everybody else and graduated. Then she went on to college and got her two-year degree. Then she got a real estate license. Now, at 30-plus, she is just finishing her last classes for a four-year degree. If that girl, whose teacher doubted her future, can be an agent, you can, too.

JoAnn and I know thousands of agents and they are all so different. Real estate is not the Rockettes, all weighing within a pound of each other. What they all have in common is that they have little in common. The best you can say about how they succeed is that there is no one way to succeed. Agents come in all shapes and sizes. They have various talents and some have no talents. They come from all sorts of backgrounds, and only a few could be described as attractive. They are from many cultures and some speak poor English. These are newly arrived to the United States from Southeast Asia or Eastern Europe or some other country of origin and most started with little or no money. They do not operate the same way or practice the same specialty. Our profession led the way in equal opportunity home ownership. Our profession is open to all who ask.

Super Opportunity

The purest form of opportunity is commission income. We are not held back by hierarchy or ceilings or time on the job. Commission is the closest thing we have to a free market. We are free to negotiate commission and we are free to not negotiate. We are free to earn it or not earn it. How much we make, how we make it, and when we make it is up to us. This is opportunity.

Just think about this. We do not need to purchase and maintain an inventory. We get to sell a tangible item without having to buy, build, or produce it. We don’t even have to list it for sale. We can simply bring a buyer and earn a commission. Don’t tell this to the manufacturers or the retailers. Let’s keep this as our little secret. Being a real estate agent is the greatest thing since sliced bread.

For many, one of the early attractions to our profession is the low level of entry requirements. Some jurisdictions have raised standards but most states require anywhere from 50 to 150 hours of classes followed by passing a test. The financial requirements are usually less than $1,000, including school tuition and association fees. Some brokers will even offset a portion of these costs. The time required can be measured in weeks. If you are in a hurry, you can decide to enter the real estate profession one day and only a month later be handing out business cards.

A newly minted agent has many options to succeed. Most brokers offer excellent training and want new agents to do well. Many senior agents give back by mentoring new agents. Wonderful coaches are available. Seminars, conferences, and conventions are plentiful on the calendar. All considered, why do we even ask the question who wants to be a real estate agent, much less a super agent?

Dismal Statistics

Statistics paint a much different picture. The numbers tell us that the average new real estate agent is in and out of the business in less than five years. They earn very little and if they are lucky they sell two or three homes to family or friends before the lack of income drives them to do something else.
Our first exposure to real estate was billed as an opportunity night at the local real estate school. JoAnn and I attended and the elderly gentleman conducting the session gave a similar statistical description of the business and it was another 15 years before I could talk JoAnn into getting a license. He did mention that some agents were very successful but by then we were 45 minutes into his talk and JoAnn was rolling her eyes. We left with JoAnn telling me how stupid the whole real estate license idea was and that she believed that the old guy never met a successful real estate agent in his life. I offered some sort of lame response but I might as well have been defending violence in movies. We had one of our lively discussions all the way home. The fact is we had no idea as to how successful a real estate agent can be and we went on to other endeavors, delaying our success for a decade and a half.

Let’s talk about statistics for a minute. A comic once said, “63 percent of statistics are made up on the spot.” Then he said, “No, maybe it’s 58 percent.” The point is that statistics suffer a great deal of abuse and they should not influence you. Mark Twain said, “There are lies, there are damn lies, and there are statistics.” Don’t lose the next 15 years like we did. I am here to tell you that super agents exist and you can be one of them.

Don’t Be Held Back

What are the characteristics of super agents, what makes them tick, and how can you become one? We’ll come to that, but first let’s talk about what else, beside statistics, can hold you back. Notice that no mention has been made of good looks, youth, sales talent since birth, a fancy wardrobe, a big car, or rich friends. These don’t matter but a person with negative beliefs will say they do. A negative person will say, “But I don’t have savings to last six months before I start earning commissions.” This is because some other negative believer didn’t make a sale for their first six months in the business. Let me tell you this business is so incredible that on any given day, you can get up in the morning, hold an open house, meet a client, write a contract, and open escrow before the sun goes down. You might have to wait 30 days for your money but our first sale in this business was a cash deal that closed in five days.

We could go on to list all the negative statements and beliefs that hold agents back but then this book would weigh five pounds. People fail. They fail and they give up. They fail and they seek company so they help others fail by passing on negative thoughts. But super agents succeed because they don’t listen to the statistics and the failures who want companionship. Super agents believe they can make it. Do they never fail? Far from it. Super agents fail every day, every hour, every minute. Do you think the open house described above was a cakewalk? No, it was filled with looky-loos and travelers trying to decide between your state and the one 300 miles away. But the super agent knew for every failure they were one step closer to success. Every failure is an opportunity to learn from our mistakes. It’s not the one who falls down who matters, it is the one who gets back up who wins.

If you have negative thoughts or beliefs that hold you back, you should probably work on purging them rather than search for a line of work where they don’t matter. Truth is there are plenty of jobs out there where you can be negative and still earn a living. You won’t rise to the top but you can get by. These are jobs where you sell your life for wages. If you stay in school long enough and earn a high enough degree you might even merit a decent salary. Still, in these scenarios, you will be one of the negative ones, the first to be laid off and the last to be hired.

In a commission-opportunity environment, negative thoughts and beliefs have no place. Super agents are positive they can succeed. They believe they will succeed and while the road may be littered with obstacles they are not going to be one of them.

The Three Ds

What does go on in the mind of a super agent? What are the common traits or characteristics that set them apart? JoAnn and I know many super agents. We have spoken to audiences all over the country and in these travels we’ve had lunch or dinner with market-leading agents in many cities. We belong to two separate mastermind groups of 20 top agents each. We meet monthly over lunch to discuss issues in our market.

We know the master coaches and we have conducted our own version of research over the years in an effort to define the field and ourselves. What makes super agents tick? What makes us tick? Although, we could wax on about a hundred forgettable traits, We’ve narrowed it down to the three Ds. Super agents are decided. Super agents are driven. And super agents are determined.


Deciding is where everything begins. You decide to buy a new car before you go shopping. Then the work begins. You have to figure out if you can afford a new car. You have to get your credit up to snuff. You have to clean up your trade-in. You have to go shopping and endure the negotiation process.
Every super agent we know decides. They decide to grow. They decide to hold. They decide to go in a new direction or they decide to stay the course. Everything they do, they do on purpose.

Two years into our careers, we decided to double our income and two years later we did. There was work involved in between but we would have worked during that two years anyway. The key was that we decided first and the result followed. After that, we decided to double the business again and we did. We are now in a recovering market, so we decided recently to double our business once more and this year we are up 50 percent. How much of that is the improving market and how much is the decision, we do not know. We do know plenty of agents who are experiencing no improvement in business because they have simply not yet decided that the recovery is real.

The decision comes first. If you want to be a super agent, do not drift along in the river of life. Decide and the result will follow. Can you decide? Of course you can. You decide everyday, all day long. Life is one long series of choices and you decide on each one. If you want to be a super agent, simply make the decision and then make sure all the decisions that follow are consistent with your first one. That is the beauty and secret of success. You don’t have to make a big move. Success is the culmination of all the little moves, the small choices, the little decisions you make each day. You can do that.


What is drive anyway? Is it like art and you just know it when you see it or is it in some way definable? We’ve heard drive described as motivation but motivation comes and goes and drive is so much more constant. Is it ego? Perhaps. But to be healthy it must be a controlled ego. An uncontrolled ego is arrogance and we have yet to meet a true super agent who is arrogant. In fact, a common thread among the high achievers seems to be humility and gratitude. We often just can’t believe it was that easy. We decided, we worked for it, and we got what we asked for.

Is drive a capacity for work? Most super agents can easily work a 16-hour day and get up the next morning to do it again. But when we get the opportunity to work less, we take it.

We believe drive is wanting what you decide on. Drive is obsession with what you decide you want. Drive goes beyond belief in your goals. Drive is seeing those goals as a reality. Drive is sureness and yes, drive is something you recognize when you see it.

Can you be driven? Of course you can. Remember that puppy you wanted when you were a child? Remember your first crush? Drive is within all of us. To be driven you must simply set yourself free to want again. Be a child without all the limitations put upon you as you grew up. You can do that


Finally comes determination. Super agents are determined to keep going no matter what obstacles or setbacks beset them. Super agents are stubborn. Calvin Coolidge, our 30th president put it this way. “Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan “Press On” has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.” This quote sits on JoAnn’s desk. She looks at it everyday. She has had occasion to read it to a number of people who needed to hear it. Another quote on her desk is stamped into a metalpaperweight. They are the last words Churchill said to the British people as German bombs fell on London: “Never, never, never give up.”
Heroes never give up. No matter what the odds or how many times they are told they cannot win, heroes keep going. Marathon runners, who finish, do not give up. Super agents do not give up.

We’ve all given up at one time or the other. Just look back on your regrets. We all have them and they were all a form of giving up. Oh, we excused them at the time. We rationalized how this was for the best. Since JoAnn and I entered the real estate profession, we have not given up. We have not given up on our dreams, our clients, or our decisions. We have no regrets.

Can you do this? Can you decide? Can you be driven? Can you not give up? Of course you can. Becoming a super agent is within your reach. It is yours for the asking. Who wants to be a super agent? You do