(Part 2 of a four-part series. See Parts 1, 3 and 4.)

The National Association of Realtors has 1 million members. In five years, more than 800,000 agents will leave the business because they lack what it takes to succeed. Some lack basic business fundamentals, but others fail because they lack systems and organizational skills.

The real estate business requires agents to organize transactions, but few are effective in organizing their businesses. This lack of organization is a primary reason so many people leave the business. What do you need to organize in your business?

1. Start with a Real Estate Database Program

Be honest. Do you have all of your appointments, open-house leads, prospecting leads, present and past clients in a database, such as Sharper Agent or Top Producer? Or is your desk covered with leads from Sunday’s open house, unfiled documents, and slips of paper with names and phone numbers? To run your business as a business, you must have a way to track leads, stay in constant contact with your referral database, follow-up with past clients, as well as effectively generate and manage transactions. Without an organized system, this is virtually impossible. Most agents rely on Outlook, ACT, or their PDA as their database management tool. These systems lack real estate-specific support, such as an Internet marketing, geographical farming tools, and pre-written notes and letters. While Top Producer is the “grand daddy” of the real estate database programs, my personal favorite is Sharper Agent. In fact, my Virtual Assistant likes Sharper Agent so much she recommends it to other virtual assistants as well. Both Top Producer (online version) and Sharper Agent allow access to your data from any computer. Thus, you and your assistant can both work from the same database no matter where you are. Both programs also have comprehensive online marketing, as well as traditional marketing materials. Once you enter the names in the database, you can divide the database into different groups and tailor your marketing to each group. After that, marketing is as simple as “point and click.” If you tend to procrastinate about entering the data, hire someone to do it for you.

2. Your Time

Most agents function in “reaction” mode. They devote their days to responding to whatever happens in the moment. They intend to prospect, but “things” get in the way. The result is they are busy, but not effective. To organize your days more effectively, identify the three most important things you must accomplish each day. At least four days per week, lead generation and lead follow-up should be at the top of the list. Accomplish your three top activities before pushing on to less important activities. When an emergency occurs, handle the emergency first and then focus on completing your three core activities. Avoid being seduced into answering the phone, chatting with other agents, or doing other non-revenue producing activities during the time you have allocated to completing these three core activities.

3. Your Leads

Do you have the phone number of every single person who called on your ads? Do you have the e-mail address of each person who visited your Web site? If not, you are throwing away a good portion of your advertising dollar. To change this, sign up for an 800 Call Capture system that will accurately capture 100 percent of the phone numbers of people who call you. In terms of gathering e-mail addresses from your Web site, use free reports, e-mail coupons, and complimentary CMAs (Competitive Market Analysis). The more sophisticated Web site providers include these in their Web packages. Excellent examples are the Web sites from Z57 and Advanced Access.

4. Your Transactions

Closing a transaction requires a multitude of tasks. Whether you use a checklist or a transaction management platform, you must be able to track contingency expirations, missing file documents, service providers, etc. If you elect to do this manually, print out a list of each item normally required to close a transaction. Make copies and staple this inside each transaction file. Check off the items as you complete them.

A better solution is a transaction management platform. These online platforms allow the agents, service providers and principals to track every aspect of the transaction. These systems also dramatically reduce the amount of face-to-face or telephone communication because everyone involved can post his/her reports or requests online. The least expensive resource I have found is the Settlement Room program offered through www.RECyber.com. As part of your $149.95 annual fee, you not only receive the Settlement Room platform, you also receive a free agent Web site, three interviews per month with industry experts, as well as a host of other useful resources.

You can have great business systems and great organization, and still fail in the real estate business. Personality factors have a huge impact on real estate success as well. See next Friday’s column to see if you have “the right stuff” to succeed.

Bernice Ross is an owner of Realestatecoach.com and can be reached at bernice@realestatecoach.com.

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Send tips or a letter to the editor to newsroom@inman.com or call (510) 658-9252, ext. 124.

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