As a manager and past owner of my real estate business, I am often asked, “What does it take to be a success as a real estate agent?” As you might know, this is a deep subject; however, my first three tips are as follows:

1. Do not be a secret agent.

You must build a database, and it should at least be on your computer. Better yet, it should be in a CRM (customer relationship management) program so that you can better track and keep current with tasks. You need this so that you can perform well in conversations and build your business by increasing sales.

Start by considering who you know now, and think about who they might know? This brainstorming is a form of networking, and it is a valuable strategy to have in your toolbox to increase your income.

There’s an old saying: “If it’s not written down, then it doesn’t exist.” I personally have seen how that applies here. Build that database and start off by making good notes on each person on how you know them.

Add in names of their family members (be sure to ask how they are), and add any details from your previous conversations, so that you can refresh your memory before talking with them next time. Don’t forget to include what they see as important. Things like being a fan of a particular sport or where they work are excellent topics for conversations later.

After living in the same city most of my life, I even went as far as reading the white pages of the local phone book. I did this three different times. It almost put me to sleep each and every time. There were plenty of days involved, and I slept so well those nights.

It amazed me how many names I found. I came across people that were old friends, past associates in my former career, good contacts from my childhood, schools, sports and social life. I had forgotten about every one of them.

Never stop building your database. Making your database is a career-long task that ties directly to your income level. It is likely the most valuable part of your business, so stay on it always.

2. Connect with something of value.

This is especially true when you are reaching out to someone you don’t know well or haven’t talked with in a long time.

It is always best to have something that they will see as valuable. You need to share it with them. Ask yourself, “What makes me valuable to others even when they are not buying or selling a home?”

Another item to consider and determine is: “What makes me unique that makes me different and memorable to others in my marketplace?” This, too, should be directly tied to something of value that you offer potential clients.

Another strategy is to have something that will interest them when you call. Bring that into the conversation at the appropriate time.

This detail could be as simple as an article in a magazine that you read. Perhaps it reminded you of their young son who wanted to be an NHL hockey star someday.

You could start your conversation off with something like this: “I saw an article in the (name of magazine) this morning, and it made me think of you and your son, Johnny.” Then state, “I thought I should give you a call — how is Johnny doing anyhow?”

First, this will give you a valued reason to call them, and second, it will show them that you care about them. In this case, it was their son. Why is that so important? It shows them that you remember what is important to them.

Be sure to ask how both he/she and Johnny are doing, and offer to send them a copy of the article. Do not use this type of conversation to sell your services. Be a caring human being, a friend — not a pushy salesperson.

Remember that “business is built on relationships.” Ensure that you build that relationship. It works better once it includes a level of trust before you try to sell them anything.

Think about what makes you unique and of value in the eyes of others. I say this because, after all, what they think is what counts. Our thoughts and ideas on this are useless if they do not see it the same way.

Using one or more means of communication helps you to stay in touch with the people in your database. Make sure to always have something of personal interest to them and something of value. Try to automate this as best as possible to save yourself time. Automation is a form of a system. In business, systems are valuable tools for you to incorporate.

Everything you do should be done with the mindset of converting it at some point with a face-to-face meeting. That is your goal. Meet with as many people face to face as you can. Concentrate on ones who are well-connected because of their personality or through their work or hobby. People who know lots of others can be priceless to your business.

In fact, consider building an A-list. The people in this list are either very well-connected, willing to help or perhaps thinking of a move in the near future. Pay attention to these people, and be generous with your time in this area.

Focus on the ones who might be considering a “lifestyle change.” It might be a career transfer or a move. It could be a conversation where something such as retirement, divorce, moving to a lodge or even death. People often move when the children move out of the nest, too. The closer you stay in touch — the better.

This way, you hedge and leverage your bets on being in the know at the right time, which, in turn, can mean future business. After all, your primary purpose is to help solve other people’s problems in this area, so don’t feel bad about knowing about it in advance, and stay in touch.

Social media, newsletters and mail can be good things. However, take notice that they are no replacement for the telephone conversation and face-to-face meetings.

When you get the meeting, make sure that they know you care about their current situation. Never sell to them unless you know that they are in the market for your services.

On the other hand, do not be afraid to invite business either. When you are in a conversation, find the appropriate time to ask if they know of anyone who might be in the market to buy or sell a home. Those words include them, as well, but you are directing the question at people they know.

Not asking this question means you could be missing out on tens of thousands of dollars in referral-based income each year.

Stay in touch on a regular basis without becoming a nuisance. Don’t be afraid to ask for permission to do this. If you are using email then beware, as approval is becoming a requirement in some jurisdictions. Be professional and make sure you are not breaking the law in your market or pestering someone who does not want to hear from you.

3. You are the CEO of your own business.

You must treat your real estate practice as a business. In fact, I would go as far to say when someone asks, “What do you do?” to reply with “I own a real estate business.” The more you talk like that, the more your inner self will realize it, and then you will begin to act confidently like the business professional that you need to be.

Many times, I see Realtors treating their careers as a job. This is a mistake that you do not want to make.

If you treat your business like a job, you might as well go and work for someone else and get an hourly wage that you can always count on — even if it’s nowhere near what you might make in real estate. To be successful, you must understand early on that you need to work on your business, not just in your business.

On any given day, I would say that most successful agents spend at least 20 percent of their time working on their business, and sometimes much more. This is because one needs to build suitable systems and strategies to become successful and then stay successful. If you think of yourself as an employee, you will likely spend your days acting within the “Fire Hall Principle.” This is a reactive mindset of only putting out fires and trying to keep up with the work that others dictate to you. Sound familiar?

If you are running a business, you are in more of a preventative mode. You will take responsibility for ensuring the top income-producing tasks get done first. You will choose to learn. You will build systems and strategies to build the business and make it efficient within its budget. You will serve your clients’ needs before they even ask, and you will begin to “wow” them.

A business is a professional entity, and in real estate you have a lot of competition. Start properly, and do it with the right mindset out of the starting gate if you can. If you are already in the business and need to make changes, consider these tips first.

I have only skimmed the top of these important issues. There is a lot more involved, and future articles will dig deeper into the reasons, the methods and the strategies.

I love business, and I love real estate. More than anything, I love helping others to become successful, and I look forward to sharing more with you in future articles. Feel free to connect with me anytime.

Jim Messner is the business coach and manager of business development at
Royal Lepage Integrity Real Estate located in the Greater Calgary, Alberta, area of Canada. He loves networking — follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Email Jim Messner.

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