$170-million originator: Building a strong brand takes toughness, consistency

In part 2 of Power Originator’s interview with Shashank Shekhar, the top originator shares more from his journey to best-selling author

$170-million originator: Building a strong brand takes toughness, consistency

From books to radio to TV, Shashank Shekhar has mastered every media platform, and it’s paid off with huge dividends. Shekhar’s strong personal brand – particularly has reputation as the go-to expert on first-time homebuying – fuels his $170-million annual loan volume at Arcus Lending, the San Jose-based company he founded in 2008.

In this second half of his interview with Power Originator, Shekhar shares more about his decade-long journey from struggling blogger to number-one best-selling author.  

Power Originator: You went from blogging to writing books and decided it was important to have a physical paper product, rather than an e-book.
Shashank Shekhar: If you can hand a customer a physical copy of your book, those leads are not going anywhere. What I’ve seen is that people will Google your name even if they were referred. When people see that you’ve already written a book or 100 blog posts, those people stay with you. My conversion ratios on referrals throughout my career has always been 90%, which is extremely high for the industry. Later in my career, I also focused on getting new leads, but I have always focused a lot on conversion because those people are already half sold. If your conversation rate is only 50%, you need to do something different.  

PO: After your first book, First Home Buying 101, you went on to two more books that have raised your profile even higher.
SS: Yes, the second book, Real Estate Unleashed, was co-authored with Carole Rodoni, a famous real estate personality. She was the past president of two really large real estate companies. It was written for real estate professionals, and she was able to sell 20,000 copies. That got my name out to a ton of real estate agents, partly by association with Carole, who has a really strong brand. The newest book, My First Home, came out last year. It turned out exactly as I would have hoped, and it has done amazingly well. It was a number-one Amazon bestseller. The critics have called it the best book ever written for first-time home buyers.

PO: You also regularly appear in major media outlets like The Washington Post.
SS: Often you aren’t even trying to find these things, but people find you because you have created so much content on the web. That’s how I have gotten some of the best opportunities of my life. The Washington Post found me on BankRate.com where I am quoted frequently. The biggest TV network for South Asians decided to create a full TV show around me on the topic of mortgages. You may feel like nothing is happening for two or three years trying to create all this, but then suddenly everyone finds you.

PO: You’ve had an amazing trajectory from your first blog post to a best-selling book. Clearly you really put in the work to build your brand and it paid off.
SS: It did. I don’t know how many people who started a business around that time made it into MPA’s $150 million list last year or had the kind of production I’ve had in a relatively short time in the industry. And I knew three people in the entire country when I stared – in the worst year of the financial crisis. You put all that into the background, and it did really pay off, but through a lot of commitment. If you read my first blog posts and then read my new book, you’ll think these are two completely different people. That also happens with public speaking. I remember the first time I sponsored a real estate event, I was supposed to speak for four minutes. I practiced that 81 times over three days. Now you can give me five minutes’ notice to speak on any topic, and I can do pretty well.

PO: What advice do you have for people who want to build a strong media presence like you have?
SS: It is very difficult, that’s one thing I would want to start with. If you are willing to work on it, the return on investment is very high. It has all about consistent commitment to a strategy and keeping at it. My advice is to pick a platform that works for you like writing or speaking. There is actually very little competition in the industry. You can have a lot of success if you stick with it.

Read the first part of Shashank Shekhar’s story here: