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

Even if you have the best training, the perfect personality and the best systems, you still need the right tools and the right plan to succeed in our highly competitive business.

When agents begin their real estate careers, they invest in training, business cards, Multiple Listing fees, association fees and a host of other ancillary costs. Most agents purchase tools but never create a plan for implementing these tools in their business. Whether you are new or experienced, here is a sample plan that addresses how to set up a profitable business.

1. First, identify two or three specific geographical niches you want to service. When you set up your Web site, include as much useful information about the area as possible. The Web site should focus on what your customers want, which is access to current listings and sales. You can provide this through your local board’s IDX or VOW arrangement. For clients who do not speak English well, check with your local Multiple Listing Service to see if they are affiliated with www.Immobel.com, which translates MLS data into other languages. In terms of how you brand your site, focus on what you do, who you do it with and where you do it.

2. To convert Web site leads, offer e-coupons, money-saving reports, an e-mail newsletter or other services based upon your lead’s areas of interest. Use a program like the RealEstateCoach.com “36 Touch Program” to handle lead follow-up automatically, as well as staying in contact with your referral database.

3. To jump-start your business, volunteer to sit open house for other agents who have new listings in prime locations. Prior to the open house, print up brochures and invitations inviting people to attend the open. Spend Saturday mornings knocking on as many doors as possible, inviting people to join you for “refreshments” during your Sunday Open. (Saturday morning is generally the best time to prospect, and this approach works well to generate listings.)

4. To generate additional leads, sign up HomeGain/E-Agent. They spend millions of dollars on Web advertising and their ads are everywhere. Virtually no one has the advertising budget to compete with a major company, but you can afford to pay for leads from one or two specific areas. Draft a separate template letter for sellers and for buyers so you can respond quickly to any leads you receive.

5. Spend your first two weeks in the business learning the inventory by seeing every property you possibly can. Whenever you are in your car, play your training CDs so you totally master the scripts they contain. When you are not looking at property, load your data into your contact manager and determine which marketing campaigns you would like to use for the next 12 months. Next, send a handwritten note with a business card to every single person whose name is in your database. Your note should let the person know you have begun a career in real estate. Offer them a gift of a membership in your 36 Touch Program. This allows you to be in contact with them three times per month simply by typing in their e-mail address.

6. If you choose to have a geographical farm, consider purchasing a Connecting Neighbors Web site for each one of your niches. This serves two functions. First, by sponsoring a neighborhood Web site, you have excellent exposure in a given geographical area at a minimal cost. Second, the site is a great place to refer potential leads to discover what the people in the neighborhood are like.

7. If you want to work with expired listings, consider contacting old expired listings rather than the recent ones. Check with the title company to see if the property has sold, and then use postcards or letters to contact them. You can also use the service from Warnock’s to obtain more recent expireds, as well as to determine whether they are listed on the “Do Not Call” list.

8. Place an 800 number call-capture system on your Web site, your listings, ads and other marketing pieces. Since the system contacts you whenever someone calls the 800 number, no leads would be lost.

Does this sound expensive? The costs are actually less than doing one first-class mailing per month to 500 people. Most of the technology tools listed above run in the neighborhood of $29.95 per month. A smart investment in technology coupled with a smart prospecting plan will generate leads. The question is can you convert and close them? If you can, real estate is a dream profession. If not, this business will frustrate you, cost you thousands of dollars, and leave you wondering why you ever considered getting into such an awful business.

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

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