Being a new agent in real estate is a bit daunting for most people. There's all these little fees, acronyms, office chatter, and advice from peers and colleagues that begins to turn into noise after the first few days. Where to start? Let's assume you've got your license --maybe you're about to get it. Either way, it's your first month in the business (full-time). What are you gonna do? Here are my suggestions...<!--more-->
1. Start your LIST.
You're asking, "What's my list?" I'm going to answer you with, "Everything" then slap you in the face for emphasis. Begin compiling a list of contacts for potential business immediately. Make sure to include:
- Your Sphere (people you already know, friends and family)
- Your acquaintances, your family's acquaintances, everyone you or anyone around you knows. One thing is for sure... everyone buys or knows someone that buys or sells real estate.
- Professional service providers - dentists, doctor, lawyer, accountant, painter, etc, etc.
Add everyone to your list. Now put them all in a database of some sort... a professional CRM (that Customer Relationship Management) application would be the smartest solution. Top Producer, Zoho, ACT, and some other come to mind. If you don't have some way to keep track of your list now and forever, you're already doomed to a long, hard road down real estate lane.
2. Create Systems
Every good agent has a system... a way of doing things. If you don't have a system in place to follow up with a lead professional when they contact you through your website, email you, or call you, then you're already at a disadvantage. Plan out what systems you need and what you need to implement them. At the least, come up with a plan (system) for the following:
- Prospecting - the lifeblood of your business. How are you obtaining future closings? If you say desk duty you can stop reading now, I can't help you. My suggestion is to specialize in web presence, direct calls, door knocking, FSBO's, Expireds, and social networking or a combination of a couple of things. Forget traditional magazine and newspaper advertising... get with the times. Less than 3% of people purchased a house they saw because of a print ad in 2009. It will be less than that in 2010.
- Follow-up - If you don't do anything else, plan your follow up to the letter. This is the most mismanaged part of 99% of agents' business and the reason that we are two rungs below every other kind of professional in the eyes of the public. Use a good CRM, contact early and often, and never drop a lead until they are listed, have purchased, or are deceased.
- Tracking - Don't fly by the seat of your pants. Track who you talk to and where you get business. How well do you convert cold calls, appointments, and networking events into $$. What's your average commission? Tracking these things from the beginning will help you take a good first year and quadruple your business in year 2.
- Appointments - I never met a Realtor who got new business without going on an appointment. Plan out and train for what you are going to say at a listing appointment. Know what you are going to tell buyers so that they don't run you all over town and never buy anything. Have professional presentations either on paper, powerpoint, memorized, or a combination of all three and then plan how to deliver those presentations effectively during an appointment. You'll increase your conversion rate through the roof and make all those tedious hours of prospecting worthwhile.
- Marketing Strategy - This is a biggie don't you think? You need to plan out a modular, Comprehensive Marketing Strategy for your selling clients. Plan it step-by-step and have your CRM software remind you when it's time for the next step. Include your follow-up within your marketing strategy. Remember: you are not only marketing the property to the public, you are continually marketing your excellence in service to your client who can pull the listing or give you a referral. It all depends on how they perceive you.
- Escrow Strategy - This is the most delicate time of a transaction. You've done all this work now you're going to get paid for it. Have a plan to ensure the transaction goes as planned. Head off problems early just like you would do preventative maintenance on a car. You need to have a plan to do this. Remember: People remember the beginning and the end of all things. Make a good first impression, then create a stress-free closing and give away a thoughtful closing gift. It will go miles towards referrals and future business.
3. Invest in Training
I'm going to lay it out for you. If you've been in real estate for less than a few months, you don't know jack. If you've been in for a few days you already know you don't know jack. But there's hope! There's truly remarkable training available to EXIT agents and to Realtors in general. There is of course...
- The Exit Pro itself. A great source of quality training material helpful to any agent. Head over to getting started if you're not signed up yet.
- Then there's EXIT's international trainers. I highly recommend taking their classes anytime the come within 200 miles of you.
- The National Association of Realtors has some great training... most of it, not all. Ask us if you're unsure of what to take.
- There are a number of independent sites, MLS boards, brokerages, and lead companies that offer training that's really great.
4. Get Schooled
But Ben, you just said invest in training!? What gives? When I say get schooled I mean become aware. Good agents know their market inside and out. They know how national trends and events affect their local economy and marketplace. They have sources for demographics, tax records, mortgage rates, vendor lists... you name it. With all of the information available to buyers and sellers today a real estate agent can easily find themselves 'outmatched' by a know-it-all client. This can be inevitable when someone focuses on one specific neighborhood or area but remember that you are the expert. You should know a great deal about your area of expertise and a fair about about local developments, schools, demographics, and more. You should also keep up with national real estate news. You can do much of this by using a feed reader and subscribing to our list of "Get Schooled" websites and blogs... a compilation of some of the best content the real estate industry puts out. You can find the Get Schooled document in the resources section of our site if you are a member.
5. Use Technology
I completely agree that technology has not replaced many of the 'old school' systems of prospecting, selling, time management, networking, and the rest of the real estate agent's repertoire. Whether you're tech savvy or not, you can use technology to become more professional and efficient. A piece of technology should either save time or money, or give you a competitive edge. If it doesn't, don't use it. Here are some of the basic systems you should be using:
- Email - I'll talk much more about email in another article but you need to make sure you've got a highly usable email system whether it's outlook, gmail, some self-hosted email service, or something else like a comprehensive CRM. I'd tell you not to use hotmail or yahoo because they don't have all the capabilities a good agent needs but if you're using it now, you're probably not going to stop. Also, make sure you have a professional email address. Mine is Ben@TheExitPro.com (among others)... yours should have your name, your company name, or your website address... not some random string of family birthdays, numbers and hobbies.
- Efax - This saves so much time and effort it's truly silly for you NOT to be using it. Efax is affordable and pays for itself time and time again.
- CRM - Have I mentioned this yet :-). A good Customer Relationship Manager is worth your client's weight in rare titanium alloys. If you're not sure which one to use try checking out Gary David Hall's site The Real Estate CRM Broker where he lines up every CRM in the industry and gives you the pros and cons of each. Remember, it's worthless if you aren't going to use it to generate business.
- Website - There are too many web vendors to count. We think we do a pretty swell job if you'd like to talk to us about a custom online marketing strategy but there are others out there that do a great job too. Here's the beef... if you don't have a pretty decent website then you're probably not a very decent Realtor. Good Realtors know the power of a good web presence and leverage it to their advantage.
- Social Networks - Again, a whole other subject. You should at least reserve yourself a facebook and twitter username. If you aren't using it now... you will be. At the time of this writing, Facebook had 300 Million + users. That's a decent client base. Get in the game.
- Smart Phone - If you don't have a smart phone... please see my comment two sentences ago. You need one to be on top of your game and information in this business. Have your email pushed to your phone. Be able to browse your MLS. Pictures are even helpful, especially when you are in the process of building and maintaining a stellar CRM with client photos and information. Try an Iphone if you're with AT&T, a Droid if your with someone else, maybe even one of the new Palms if that's your style... just get one.