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Sales & Real Estate - Plan To Succeed

Ever notice how some new licensees seem to make fewer false starts than others? Old timers in the business are often astounded by the ability of some newly licensed individuals to generate business, learn the necessary computer programs, and generally get off to a much faster start that they did back in the day. What do these early bloomers know that the rest of us did not?

Today's new licensees know they have to hit the ground running if they are to survive. Gone are the kinder, gentler times when the relatively low cost of getting and established in the real estate business provided a fairly long period of time in which newbies could find their ideal market. Many of today's industry leaders will admit to less than stellar beginnings, and twenty years ago it was possible for newcomers to survive a three or six month period without generating much income.

The thought of today's newcomers taking such an extended time period to become profit centers strikes terror into the hearts of brokers who are faced with mountainous operating costs. It is equally as frightening to the newcomers themselves who are also faced with the high costs of becoming licensed and establishing a clientele.

Most successful brokers have developed business plans that optimize their resources and minimize their risk. Salespersons, however, seldom think of themselves as a business and it follows that they do not envision the need for a business plan. When it's necessary to generate a good bit of income in a relatively short time in a business that is largely unknown to the worker, having a business plan might be a very good thing.

While all business plans tend to have similar areas of concern, each salesperson should develop a plan that is personalized to his/her own resources and goals. Answering the questions below realistically and honestly will result in the beginnings of a business plan.

Keep in mind that a business plan is a work in progress that will never be perfected. Individuals grow in experience and knowledge and change interests, and business plans should reflect the individuals. The most important feature of a good business plan is flexibility.

Can you describe the business you want to cultivate?

It is impossible for a person to succeed over a long time period in a business that he/she does not understand. Almost all practitioners begin using the scattergun approach - taking their best shot at all available business and hoping to hit on some. The scattergun approach to real estate sales has the advantages of being intuitive and traditional, but it and real estate sales careers lose appeal when no income results.

Each salesperson must develop a clear picture of the business he/she will pursue and the efforts it will take to make that business happen. Failing to grasp that essential of the business may be the factor that contributes most to the eighty-five percent failure rate of newcomers within the first two years of licensing.

Clearly defined work and reward goals should be formulated. There is a reason that work and reward are considered together; without work rewards will not be realized, and without rewards work becomes meaningless. With this relationship in mind, a salesperson should identify the rewards desired and make a realistic assessment of the work that will be required to attain the reward.

For example, if the reward desired is achievement of a certain sales production level, then the work description should include daily or weekly estimates of the specific jobs that will have to be done in order to hit the level. Salespersons wanting to achieve a specified sales production level without work plans for making it happen are involved in a business fantasy, not a business plan.

The great coach and motivator, Vince Lombardi, said that luck is what happens when planning meets opportunity. Most successful practitioners in any field report that the harder they work, the luckier they get, and the real estate sales field is no exception.

How will you market yourself?

Identifying the type of business to be pursued and the time, effort and resources the pursuit will require lays the foundation for a marketing plan. A workable marketing plan always begins with identifying and locating the target population from which clients and/or customers will be selected.

Since it is possible to convert customers to clients, pinpointing sources of customers is the most logical starting place. The tried-and-true methods for locating customers dictate that salespersons wishing to sell residential property will probably have good luck locating buyers through such activities as holding houses open and attending first time buyers' seminars while if selling commercial property is the salesperson's choice, he/she may have better luck at meetings of civic organizations. Obviously, salespersons that generate original sources of customers are a step ahead of the competition, but working the conventional sources while waiting for inspiration is usually the most productive approach. As long as no laws are broken and ethics remain fairly high, where customers are found should be between the customers and the salesperson.

Once customers are found the second part of the marketing plan, finding salable properties, comes into play. Newcomers may not have a large number of personal listings to offer buyers. Luck and pluck and not too much knowledge are often easier to sell to buyers than to sellers. After all, the sellers have already experienced a real estate transaction and may be wary of licensees who have not. Members of multiple listing services are able to offer to prospective buyers all listings of all brokers belonging to the same service.

If a broker insists that new salespersons must at least try to capture listings, there is no better bait than the availability of a group of qualified buyers. (Note: many agents choose not to represent both buyers and sellers. Those who choose to represent only buyers are known as Exclusive Buyer Agents, or EBAs)

Having located sources of both qualified buyers and salable properties the last ingredient of the marketing plan, personal marketing, enters the scene. Personal marketing plans come in as many forms as there are individuals on Earth. A personal marketing plan can be as simple as a letter of recommendation or as complex as the major promotional efforts required to elect a politician. Whether simple or complex, the principal requirements of any personal marketing schemes are that it be legal, ethical and that it must work.

Everyone who wishes to succeed in real estate sales must be involved in personal marketing at all times. This means that every single contact with another human being whether face-to-face or through a distance contact medium such as telephone or email is a personal marketing situation. Successful real estate salespersons understand this and accept that they must put their best foot forward in all public and semi public places. If your personal brochure has a photo of you flashing a giant smile, you must also smile at two am when you are in the express checkout at the supermarket clutching lunchmeat for the next day's lunches. While within your target market you will never again know the luxury of letting it all hang out!

Is the competition for business fierce?

Sure it is. If real estate sales were easy, everyone would be doing very well. Instead, about twenty percent of the sales force is doing about eighty percent of the business. To become part of the twenty percent rather than the eighty percent requires plenty effort and creative use of resources.

The smart newcomer will devote the necessary time to studying the competition, noting what the heavy hitters do to distinguish themselves from the crowd. The really smart ones know that doing exactly what the superstars do will only make them pale imitations. Studying many high achievers rather than focusing on one will almost surely lead you to the realization that while they have some things in common they also vary widely in others. One common characteristic is that they are extremely hard working and persistent. Ways in which they vary are infinite. In fact, the one way in which the infinite variety among superstars is always the same is that they have found ways to use their unique characteristics for effective networking.

When you're brand new at the game it may take a while to realize which of your unique characteristics will help you make the giant leap from mediocre to stellar. This time is best used to develop the strong work ethic you will need when you do discover yourself. Don't be too surprised if hard work and persistence are enough to set you apart from the rest of the "medium" hitters! Your chances of finding a client are much better at an open house than in the break room in your office - no one there is going use your services to buy or sell anything.

There's no one to tell me what to do! Hooray?

When real estate brokers are in recruiting mode they often flatter prospective new hires by observing that they look like real "Self Starters." When brokers and motivational speakers use the term "self starters" what they really mean is that there will be no direct supervision. To many wage slaves that sounds like the good news, and to a certain extent it is. There will definitely be no hovering boss telling you exactly what to do every minute of the day. There will also be no one to tell you how to avoid trouble and what to do when you find yourself in it with both feet. Keep in mind the old sales rule of thumb - if you're not in trouble with somebody, you're probably not networking a large enough consumer pool.

So what do you do when you find yourself in need of information, support, gratification or a couple of aspirin? Take a page from the local undertaker's book and face up to these unpleasant facts on a pre need basis. Always be on the lookout for folks in the business who can handle adversity with style and/or grace. Be very nice to those folks. Do as many favors for them as you can. In your time of need at least one of them will be able and willing to help you out.

This is a single process that you can have in place for trying times. It is also a good idea to have in place processes for handling contracts and all the various paper created by real estate transactions. You should have a process for: keeping on hand all the blank contract forms you might need, contact information for potential clients and customers, contact information for networking, licensing documents, and so on. If you have no processes in place you will spend a huge portion of your time and energy searching for people and/or paper. This is time that is much more profitably spent networking for buyers and sellers.

Can I afford this job?

That actually should be the first question rather than the last, and only you can answer it. If you haven't already made this discovery you are about to learn that it can be very expensive to be in the real estate business if you're not generating income. Before quitting your odious and hated job to go into real estate, you should have made a detailed list of all the costs you'd have to bear in your first six months. To the total of those costs you should add the income you will lose by not having your salaried position. Note: you may want to have a brown bag handy if you tend to hyperventilate.

If you can't afford to cover all your costs without income for several months you might want to re-think going into real estate sales. The stress level in the business is always pretty high and adding money worries is almost always a recipe for personal disaster.

That's the bad news. The good news is that if you work very hard and very smart for thirty days you have an excellent chance to bring home a commission from one transaction that is greater than a whole month's pay at the odious, etc. job you quit. To quote Coach Lombardi again, the only place where success comes before work is in the dictionary.

I think I can!

If you find that you can afford to attempt a real estate sales career you might just find the life you've always dreamed of. No, you can't actually make your own hours unless you stumble on the only clientele in the history of the world who value your time above theirs, but someday you may be able to hire an assistant (or several) to work some of the hours (and clients) you'd rather not. With a plan all things are possible.

by Carmel Streater

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