If you had met Fredrik Eklund when he was 25, you would never have guessed that he would soon be the top real estate broker in New York and a star of Bravo's Million Dollar Listing television show.

After dropping out of business school in Stockholm in 2004, Eklund arrived in Manhattan with little more than a pair of beat-up sneakers to his name. He then moved into a one-bedroom apartment with three fellow Swedes and sold paninis to tourists, squeaking by on just $40 a day.

When a friend mentioned that he thought Eklund had the right personality for the real estate business, Eklund took the advice to heart and enrolled in a real estate licensing class at NYU.

After completing the course and earning his license, his first impression of the market was that it yielded "an obscene amount of money for something this fun." That first year, he sold more than $50 million worth of property.

Since then, Eklund has become the top producer at Douglas Elliman New York, started his own firm in Sweden, and inked deals for a total of $3.5 billion in apartment sales. This past January alone, he closed more than $200 million. He's become New York's broker of choice for celebrities, closing deals for the likes of Alec Baldwin, Jennifer Lopez, and Justin Timberlake. His background also includes appearing in adult films, which he told the Huffington Post had not hurt his real-estate career.

Here's how he did it.

Be Friendly, Be Accessible, and Look Sharp

Eklund got his start at a boutique agency, where he spent early mornings and late nights memorizing the details of every listing and neighborhood in the company's portfolio.

An outgoing personality--or at least a solid attempt to engage potential buyers--was instrumental for Eklund's early days. He closed his first sale after chatting with a casual passerby who had paused to peruse the listings posted in his office window.

In Eklund's book The Sell: The Secrets of Selling Anything to Anyone, he explains that being successful in sales is more than just technique and tenacity (though he does say that those are important).

True sales prowess requires a perception of the world as one full of opportunity and a perception of yourself as the best facilitator of opportunity for your buyers.

In line with this worldview, Eklund's most idiosyncratic sales tactic is that he always closes deals face-to-face.

If you can convince your buyers that you've got their best interests at heart, they'll probably feel pretty comfortable when it comes time to sign their name on the dotted line. As you might have guessed, in-person negotiations and apartment tours are great ways to demonstrate your commitment to your buyers' satisfaction.

Another tip from Eklund: "Spend 10 percent of your salary on your wardrobe." This is a great follow-on to the "dress for success" adage, as a potential buyer's first impression will likely have a significant impact on whether he or she ends up doing business with you.

Eklund also insists on finding yourself a tailor, if you can afford it: "You can make a $400 suit like a $4,000 one with the expertise of the right tailor."

The Most Important Sale? Yourself

In addition to his life on television, Eklund also regularly speaks to large audiences, and his events in Australia, Sweden, and the U.S. routinely sell out the day tickets go on sale.

On TV and in print, Eklund attributes his success to one simple tip: Just be yourself.

"When you're new to a workplace," Eklund explains, "the biggest mistake you can make is copying the people around you. Be the unique, crazy, eccentric you that your friends and family love, and people will gravitate toward you and trust you."

As a salesperson, your personality is one of the most powerful tools at your disposal. Eklund notes with not-insignificant distaste how, at the beginning of his real estate career, he restrained his vibrant personality and attempted to copy the sales techniques of others.

Importantly, he recalls, "The more I pulled my guard down, the more successful I became; [...] to feel successful, you have to present yourself in an honest way." As any salesperson can tell you, feeling successful (and presenting yourself as such) is a mandatory step toward actually realizing your true potential.

Eklund's personal "authentic trademark"? His high kicks, his colorful appearance, and his natural energy. Of course, your trademark won't be exactly the same, but if you can pinpoint what makes you unique and use it to your advantage, you're already on the right track.

Note: This column has been updated to note that Eklund had appeared in adult films.

Published on: Nov 29, 2016
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