Are you ready to learn the five words that can forever alter your success in the real estate business?

Are you ready to learn the five words that can forever alter your success in the real estate business? The phrase, “Let’s make a list now” may be the most important strategy for both listing success as well as the key to helping you be more effective in every aspect of your real estate career.

Since the early 1990s, I’ve trained thousands of agents to open their listing presentations with the following phrase. “I would like to make a list now of all the things that you have enjoyed about living in this property.” As you listen, take notes on the sellers’ responses. When the seller pauses, ask, “What else can I add to my list now of all the things that you have enjoyed about living in your property?” If the sellers have trouble coming up with more than a few items, ask them about upgrades that they may have made, especially if some of those upgrades are not apparent when walking through the property. You can also ask about the neighborhood or other items that may assist you with marketing and advertising. Writing down what the seller says sends a nonverbal message that what they have to say is extremely important. This forms a solid foundation for a lasting relationship. When sellers and buyers feel you have truly heard what matters to them, you build connection. This is the basis for a successful, sustainable business.

While these five words — “Let’s make a list now” — are important on listing presentations, they are even more important when it comes to how you judge the success or failure of your real estate career. If you judge your real estate success by the number of closed transactions or by how much money you make, you have set yourself up to lose on a regular basis. For example, if you closed 100 transactions in the last 12 months and worked 250 days, you “failed” on 150 days. Shifting how you evaluate your success can help you reap huge rewards for years to come.

When someone is confronting burnout or is coping with grief, psychologists recommend making a list of activities that you can check off. Burnout often results from being overwhelmed with a tremendous amount of work. Quite frankly, most of us could fill a 24-hour day with real estate activities with little or no effort. The challenge in this case is that there is always something else to do. As a result, we often suffer from fatigue. We complain that we don’t have enough time and constantly fight stress. More importantly, we never feel a sense of completion. The trap here is that we are measuring success not by our daily activities, but by how often we cash a check. This is akin to taking a driving vacation across the country and only being concerned about getting to your destination. The real value of the trip is in what you encounter along the way. Shifting to focusing on what you need to do each day to complete the next leg of your journey can create profound differences in your level of success.

Many trainers suggest making a list of key activities or focusing on your “big rocks.” This approach requires you to outline the key activities that you must complete each day. Check off or draw a line through each activity as you complete it. This gives you a sense of how much you have accomplished. It also helps you to avoid becoming overwhelmed since you have identified what you need to do each day. Once you have completed the key activities for the day, you can go home or do something fun rather than continuing to grind at other less important activities on your to-do list. The one thing you should do before you head home, however, is to make your activity list for the following day. Once you finish writing out the items, prioritize them by what is most important. Brian Tracy in his book “Eat That Frog!” suggests that you take the biggest, ugliest “frog” from your activity list and put it at the top of what you will accomplish tomorrow. Always “eat that frog” (complete that activity) first. Again, when you complete all the activities on the list, you are done for the day. If something comes up that keeps you from completing those activities, move them to the top of the list for tomorrow.

Consequently, the most profound shift that you need to make in your business is “to make a list now” of the core activities that you must complete each day to keep your real estate career on course. Rather than focusing on the by-products of your business (i.e. transactions closed or commissions earned), focusing on activities completed on a daily basis lets you win every day. Transactions closed or commissions earned are only a partial snapshot of your success. Instead, it’s the daily activities that you complete that determine whether your real estate career will be a long-term success or failure.

Bernice Ross, co-owner of, has written a new book, “Waging War on Real Estate’s Discounters,” available online. She can be reached at

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