When I first entered the business, there really wasn't that much support or training on how to actually run a business. I still laugh at the "success kit" I received in my first month: I was trained on "legalese" (so I could properly to write up contracts), I got a free box of business cards, 5 free "For Sale" signs, and a "Good Luck Gregg". Out the door I went...
Everyone kept telling me, I needed to "make contacts to get contracts." How the heck was I supposed to do that at 22, with a limited (read: no) budget? Over time, it did start to make sense. Sometimes it was a numbers game, sometimes it was all about patience. Today there is more help, many companies run programs on getting started and running a business, but all too often, at the end of the day, we're still on our own.
What did I learn in my first few years?
Lesson 1: Give buyers and sellers the chance to get to know you - not just your sales record- by reaching out through friendly, social environments. Given that I didn't have a sales record to point to when starting out, my character what the most important thing I brought to the table. Today, social networking tools like Twitter® and Facebook® offer easy ways to connect, and they are the perfect extensions of time spent in person or on the phone following. (Fortunately, today's Top Producer 8i manages all those elements... Social media, phone conversations, listing presentations. It's come a long way since I started in the business).
Lesson 2: Don't disappear, even if it seems like your clients may have. I realized pretty quickly that the responsibility to reach out to prospects and clients was mine. I promised never to be a REALTOR who met someone at an open house, provided a CMA, or offered fantastic client service during a sale... and then is never heard from again! I planned to be a REALTOR for the long term, and I wanted to guarantee repeat and referral business. In the 80s and 90s, I would draw market trend reports with a highlighter (of all things) to show where the market was going, and since there was no IDX, I would photocopy homes from the back of my MLS book, and send these oh-so-beautiful mailers out monthly. The important thing is, the value of staying in touch on a regular basis, long before or after a sale, has never changed - it's just that the tools we have now are far superior.
Lesson 3: Inform first, sell later. My approach was to save the sales pitch and instead take the time to empower potential buyers and sellers with facts and market information. I would provide free materials on the buying or selling process, as well as regular, factual updates on the real estate market now - and reap the rewards of business later. The upside was (and is) that the information often led to transactions based on what was happening. For example, if prices were low, maybe it was a good time to invest; or maybe it was time for our children to get in the market ...
Lesson 4: Make it automatic! (Or "Systems, Systems, Systems"). I quickly realized it would become virtually impossible to actively stay in touch with hundreds of people without a systematic approach. It literally meant leaving staying-in-touch to chance. If you haven't already, invest in marketing systems that makes it easy and automatic to reach out to your contacts - or at least provide you with gentle reminders to reach out. As you know, I'm a big believer in Top Producer 8i and Market Snapshot. Top Producer helped me (and now, tens of thousands of realtors) stay in touch with every contact until they were ready to buy and sell, and Top Producer Market Snapshot automatically delivers customized, interactive MLS property updates, packed with LIVE market information and community information.
There is no magic bullet for growing our business... it's done day after day, call after call, transaction after transaction. But if we make a habit of being visible in everything we do, it goes a LONG way to showcasing our value, and hopefully growing our business for the future.
What do you wish you'd been told to grow a successful business as a REALTOR?