A closing is not the end of your relationship with your clients. All successful sales associates know that it is only the beginning of a long and fruitful relationship that results in referrals and a continuing stream of business over the course of your career.
The following are some tips to establish customers for life once that first closing is complete:
Where will you be in five, 10, or 15 years? How successful will you be? Will you be making tens of thousands in commissions, or hundreds of thousands? If you're a little uncertain about the answers to these questions, you might not be taking the proper steps to ensure your success in the years to come, according to career-planning professionals.
Just how important is it to have a well-thought-out career plan? "Very," says George Selix, chief learning officer for Century 21 Real Estate Corp. in Parsippany, N.J., citing a 25-year study of Harvard Business School graduates. "The study showed that those who had a formal career plan and followed it earned more than 100 times those who had no plan or one that wasn't very specific."
Fred Peterson, director of educational services for RE/MAX of California and Hawaii, agrees. "Having a good business plan can mean the difference between having a great career or just a few good years," he says.
A good career plan should be focused on more than earnings, according to Lennox Scott, chairman and CEO of John L. Scott Real Estate, which serves Washington, Oregon, and Idaho. Scott has a life plan that keeps his business and personal life in balance and a coach who helps him stay focused on his plan.
Whether you call it a career plan, business plan, or life plan, the important word is "plan," says Selix. It should be specific and it should be on your desk or computer for periodic review and not put away in a drawer.
"There's a big difference between someone who has a plan and sticks to it and someone who wings it," says Selix. "Sooner or later, the difference reveals itself in results."
Hard questions and honest answers are essential to a good career plan, starting with fundamental questions to determine whether you're even in the right line of work. Is sales the field for me?
Once you've addressed these basic questions, you can then focus on your financial goals. Include a realistic assessment of where you are now financially and include projections of where you want to be in five, 10, and 15 years,
You also should consider:
"By the time we finish asking and answering all the questions, someone who thought they could live well on $100,000 in commissions may find they really need $200,000,"
In all your financial analyses, don't forget the bigger picture, Lennox Scott, chairman and CEO of John L. Scott Real Estate, says. "It's worth taking extra time to figure out what's important to you. When you say it's important, it becomes important. If you don't make this effort, you find yourself working to meet someone else's expectations rather than your own."
Peterson believes that good mentors are essential to career success. "Sometimes a mentor is not even someone in real estate but someone who is willing to listen to you, listen to your dreams, pat you on the back, and hold you accountable," says Peterson. "This kind of person is the difference between making it and not making it. It's not the information the person provides that makes the difference; it’s the inspiration. If you have the motivation, you can find the resources you need."
If you want to start off your real estate career with a bang and achieve a high level of success, the following six-month plan will help you get there:
If you decide to form a team:
Improve Your Negotiating Skills
Depending on your personal preferences and/or skill set, negotiation may be an aspect of real estate that you love or one you dread. Yet, almost every part of the real estate transactions—from establishing a commission rate with sellers to reaching the final terms of the purchase contract—requires negotiation. Whatever your current abilities, improving your negotiating skills will help you to better serve your clients and get them the best sale price or purchase price possible.
Here are some practical tips to help you beef up your negotiating skills:
You can’t be all things to all people. After a year of working in real estate sales, you might find that you really like engaging with a particular segment of your market or that the bulk of your referrals are coming from a particular niche. You may realize that in order to expand your client base and grow your sales, you need to focus on the small, well-defined segment that’s responsible for most of your sales.
If you’re serious about pursuing a particular niche, there might be opportunities to obtain additional training and become designated or certified in that niche.
If you don’t already know what that niche should be, then consider the following niche markets:
These are only a few of the major niches possible in real estate. You can decide that your particular niche is a small town or neighborhood. You might want to target golfers because you love golf. Or you may want to target soccer moms. The more creative you are in establishing a niche, the more likely that you will not have as much competition as you would in the more established niches.
Your niche should be large enough to provide a strong pipeline of business but small enough for you to have a big presence. It should relate to you personally in some way, although you don't have to be a member of your own niche group. Experts recommend that new practitioners focus on one niche early in their careers.
It’s understandable if you feel too overloaded to consider volunteering. The first few years in real estate can be hectic and command much of your attention. But you should consider the potential benefits of volunteering. Getting involved in your community can be very rewarding. Volunteering can create opportunities to network with other real estate professionals and potential clients, build relationships in your local business community, and find an avenue to express yourself outside of work.
Familiarize yourself with REALTOR® Magazine’s Good Neighbor Awards to learn about the inspirational work being done by your fellow practitioners around the country and how you can get involved.
Your first step is to discover an area of service that you find fulfilling, and this may not be what you originally expected. Some people start working with the elderly only to switch to assisting poor families or the homeless, while others work with children or the disabled.
Many volunteer organizations hold one-off events such as fundraisers, field trips, or building renovation projects that only require a one-day commitment. These are good opportunities to see if you are well matched to both the organization that’s involved and the people it serves.
Once you determine how you want to get involved in your community—perhaps by tutoring a new immigrant in English, being a mentor, or delivering meals to local elderly citizens—make sure you don’t overestimate the time you have to offer.
During these first years in your career, don’t worry about the amount of time you volunteer. People will be more impressed by your consistency than they will be by the volume of your aspirations. Real estate is local, so the totality of your actions in the community will contribute to your reputation as a reliable businessperson and upstanding citizen.
The Benefits of Volunteering
Here are some of the many benefits to volunteering in your community: