Once upon a time (32 years ago this March), I was a newly licensed real estate sales agent. I was young, and full of energy. I was also very naive.
Playing the Real Estate Game
I made a boatload of mistakes “playing” in real estate. How I didn’t get sued was beyond me. It had to have been the grace of God. I guess I didn’t conduct enough transactions for it to happen. Yes, I received a nice plaque recognizing my efforts to close $1-2M in transactions in 1986. I also learned real quick what “feast and famine” meant in this business. In my short career I experienced more of the latter.
While there may have been successful agents who were willing to impart wisdom how to go about “the business,” I didn’t stop to listen. Training was probably offered. If so, I don’t remember attending any. I wish I had.
Without a plan, and without focus, I took stabs at what I thought was the right way to make a living helping people buy and sell homes. The old saying keeps ringing in my head: “Those without a plan, plan to fail.”
Real Estate in the Days Before the Internet
In the days before the Internet, I cold called. I knocked on doors and gave out my brochure. I took advantage of floor time, and I ran print ads for the few listings I had.
After about 3 years of playing in real estate, I
needed had to get a real job. I sucked at “my job.” I now know why. Real estate was just that… a job. A way to make a buck. And a fast one, I thought. I didn’t think of it as “my business,” from an entrepreneur’s point of view.
By the way, don’t feel sorry for me. I’m not looking for your pity. I learned many valuable lessons from my past. And I’m glad for that time in my life. There was a reason for my time as an agent. It was a preparation for where I am now.
The point of this post is to sound an alarm to all real estate agents, new and old. My hope is that this will be your “wake up call.”
You are an Entrepreneur of a Startup — Think and Act Like One!
With many hot markets, some new agents are entering this business with the idea of making a quick buck. If you are one of those wide-eyed new agents, you need to realize this. Chances are money will not come quick. Here’s the mindset you need to adopt: You are an entrepreneur of a “startup business.” It’s not a hobby! Don’t play at real estate! Take it from me, it doesn’t work.
If you are one of those wide-eyed new agents you need to realize this. You are an entrepreneur of a “startup business.” It’s not a hobby.
What Does It Mean to be an Entrepreneur?
A couple of years ago I was asked to travel to Erie, PA to speak to Marsha Marsh Real Estate Services team. Broker/Owner, Ms. Marsha Marsh wanted me to help remind her team what it meant to be an entrepreneur. In case you need to be reminded, entrepreneur is defined as “a person who is willing to help launch a new venture or enterprise and accept full responsibility for the outcome—good or bad.”
Even if you are a veteran agent, you should ask yourself if you still that entrepreneurial mindset. Do you have the following qualities every entrepreneur must possess and display?
- Be passionately focused on your business. Love what you do or else get out.
- Persevere when things get difficult. Be tough-minded but soft-hearted. Challenges will come. Learn from your mistakes and also learn to overcome objections. Develop the skill to turn a “no” to a “yes.”
- Be resourceful. Be willing to be mentored. Be willing to be trained. Maybe learn the ropes as a buyer’s agent on a team. Tap into your network and surround yourself with smart positive people.
- Be a reader. Sales leaders are readers. Download your favorite feed reader app (mine is Feedly) and devote some portion of your day to reading your favorite blogs. These topics should be on your radar: sales, marketing, SEO, time management, entrepreneurship, business management, customer service, and technology to name a few.
Yes, I said you are a salesperson. Successful real estate pros know how to prospect and qualify individuals in their database. If you don’t have a database, build one. I can help you with this.
You’ll also need to learn how to sell yourself and tell your story. Your story needs to be told on your website. Better yet, let others tell your story for you by serving others. Great ratings and reviews will follow. It always helps to ask for them.
Advice I Wish I Had Followed
- Entrepreneurship is much more than a 9-to-5 job. That doesn’t mean you should abandon a work-life balance. Simply replace time wasters with strategies that advance and grow your business.
- Build your business with sweat equity. Entrepreneurs aren’t lazy. They are doers!
- If you have an idea turn it into a reality. You’ll never know the outcome if you don’t give it a try.
- On a practical level, do what you say you will do. Be a promise keeper, not a promise breaker. Some of you guys from the 1990s remember a movement by that name.
- Create a business plan and set goals. Then measure your results.
- Don’t chase shiny objects, throwing money at unproven marketing strategies and wonder why things don’t generate business.
- Want more business? Answer your phone.
- Become a powerful networker. Develop your trusted list of business partners to increase your referrals. Your list of business partners will need to be added to you website in your business directory.
- Establish your marketing budget.
When creating your marketing budget, be sure to categorize those expenditures that are one-time expenses and those classified as ongoing costs of doing business. Some marketing strategies will be categorized as both including the initial set up of a website/blog and IDX, along with the ongoing costs associated with these must-have tools.
Fees, Fees, Fees!
Here’s some additional sage advice: Unless you are well funded, your ongoing marketing dollars might be sparse. There will be fees. Lots of fees! Those fees might include, but are not limited to:
- MLS fees
- NAR fees
- Errors and Omissions insurance fees
- Possibly “marketing fees” charged by your broker in charge/firm/franchise
- RE license fees including continuing ed fees
- Dakno solution monthly fee
- Possibly a small Facebook Monthly Ad budget (there is considerable debate whether new agents should pay for leads)
Connect with the Experts
In addition to your managing broker, your trainer, and your marketing partner, you would be wise to connect with a financial expert and your attorney to discuss which is better — sole proprietorship, partnership, corporation, or LLC.
Know Yourself, Know Your Stuff, and Know Your Audience
Understand who you are and what strengths and weaknesses you possess. Next, be a sponge. Learn everything you can about your craft. This includes building your knowledge base about sales and marketing. Learn the distinct difference between the two.
Next, build your knowledge based about your geographic market. Study trends in your market. Develop a deep knowledge of the dirt and everything that is improved on it for the area you want to target.
Next, figure out who is your target audience. Develop your buyer and seller personas. Be targeted. Avoid having eyes bigger than you can stomach for the market you desire to cover. I’ve been known to say this next statement a lot: “Be the whale in your pond instead of the guppy in the ocean of your competition.” Passionately select a niche you can sink your teeth into and work it.
Begin Building Your Brand
Speaking of tools, before business school students graduate from college, they are advised they must have the following tools set up for their business.
- A branded but lean, mean website/blog marketing machine (with an indexable IDX property search)! Do not spend a boatload of money on a design. Don’t forget, your website must be mobile optimized.
- Content that shows value to your audience. Because a lot of what was mentioned above is about content, get this into your head right now: You are a media outlet and you are what you publish. Part of this is a direct quote from Gary Vaynerchuk and the second part was stated by David Meerman Scott. Now act like a media outlet and a publish content that shows value to your audience, and positions you as the subject matter expert. If you will do that, you will be different!
- Get accustomed to being in front of your video camera on your phone. Want to be a purple cow? Leverage live and pre-recorded video, and not just for your listings.
- Show you are a local expert by creating content for your neighborhoods, condo buildings, and communities. Your content should be text-based content, image-based content, and video-based content.
- Leverage email marketing to reach the masses in your database.
- Create a BIG digital footprint. We’ve been preaching this for years. Optimize every single free profile there is. That includes all the social media platforms, as well as a profile at about.me, Zillow.com, Realtor.com, your Google My Business profile, your Yelp business page, your web directories profiles, a profile on Medium.com, Slideshare.net, list.ly profile, and many more. Work the heck out of every FREE marketing resource you can and make all of them 100% complete.
- Become an expert in a niche!
- Join like-minded peer groups and tap into free resources offered like listing presentations, sales scripts, and followup techniques.
- Avoid selecting silo-based marketing tools. This means making sure the marketing system you choose includes your CRM (contact or client relationship management system), your website/blog CMS (content management system), your email marketing system, your integrated IDX, your followup reminders, your contact to-dos, a system that alerts you to return visitors on your website, inclusion of a lead’s social media bios, and so much more.
Now It’s Your Turn!
What advice would you offer new agents just getting started in real estate?
Thanks for the comments and feedback!