Instead of waiting until January of 2011, why not set your goals for next year right now and skip the production lows that normally come at the end of the year?

On Monday we examined Michael Gerber’s concept of "working on" your business as opposed to "working in" your business. "Working on" your business means taking time to analyze market conditions, evaluate your marketing efforts, and make adjustments to capitalize on market fluctuations. It also means creating a written plan.

1. The power of written goals
Research has consistently demonstrated the power of writing down your goals. Mark McCormack, in his book, "What They Don’t Teach You in the Harvard Business School," reported on a study that followed Harvard students who graduated with a master’s degree in business administration from 1979-89.

At the beginning of the study, only 3 percent of the graduates had written goals, 13 percent had goals that were not in writing, and 84 percent had no goals whatsoever. Ten years later, the 13 percent who had goals were earning twice as much as those who had no goals at all.

What was astonishing, however, is that those who had written goals were earning 10 times as much as the other 97 percent put together. Subsequent research has also demonstrated that writing down your goals and sharing them with someone increases the probability of your success even more.

2. Set your income and closed transaction goals
Assume you have closed 20 transactions so far this year and that you would like close 40 transactions next year. If you double the amount of time that you put into your most profitable real estate activities (i.e., by eliminating what is not profitable), most agents easily increase their closed transactions by 50-100 percent.

3. Lead generation is the name of the game
As a rule of thumb, about one out of three solid leads ends up closing a transaction with us. This means that if you want to close four transactions per month, you must have 12 well-qualified leads each month.

The issue is how to generate these leads. For example, if your conversion rate for Web leads is 1 percent, you must generate 1,200 website visitors to generate 12 solid leads and four closed transactions.

If you convert 25 percent of your expired listing leads, you must call on the owners of 16 expired listings per month to close four transactions. If you convert 10 percent of your open house leads, you need 120 open house visitors per month to close those four transactions.

4. Ask for high-probability referrals
In a slow market, solid referrals are more difficult to obtain. Target your prospecting to groups with the highest probability of creating a closed transaction. Since the first-time buyer market may be your best source of business, use this script to locate potential first-time buyers:

"Do you know anyone who is currently renting who may be interested in lowering their monthly payments? With the current low interest rates, many renters can actually buy a home for what they’re paying in rent."

5. Evaluate your progress weekly
At the end of each week, evaluate whether you have hit your lead generation goals. If not, clear your schedule and continue to prospect until you hit your target. Better yet, make lead generation your top priority the first thing each morning.

Do nothing else until you hit your lead generation goals each day. Completing this one simple step will determine whether your business prospers or fails.

6. Use the 3-2-1 approach on a daily basis
Once you have created your business plan, ask the following questions at the beginning of each day:

  • What are the three business activities I absolutely must complete today? Complete these first before doing anything else.
  • What two self-care activities will I choose today to keep me balanced mentally, spiritually, emotionally and physically?
  • What is one activity I can complete today that will help me have business tomorrow?

The challenge for most Realtors is that they allow less important activities to intrude on their "top three" priority items. Treat these appointments for self-care and creating new business with the same priority you would attach to a listing appointment.

7. Use the 4-3-2-1 approach each month
Schedule at least four days off each month; at least three nights each week where you have dinner with either family or loved ones; two days per month where you spend a full day with friends and/or family; and at least one day completely for you where you play golf, get a massage, or do whatever you need to do to recharge.

8. Track market conditions
Market conditions are constantly shifting. Use your "working on" sessions to determine which parts of the market are the most active. For example, if the high-end market is quiet and the first-time buyer market is active, make first-time buyers your focal point for the upcoming month.

If a given subdivision has plenty of open house traffic, hold open houses there, even if it means holding open another agent’s listing. The key is to adapt to market conditions and maximize the probability you will generate leads.

9. Track your results
Experiment with this approach for one month and then evaluate your progress. If your sales are increasing, stay the course. If not, look at what could be altered to improve your sales.

10. The real secret of success
Review your business plan including your income and transaction goals at least twice a day. Keeping your goals in front of you constantly is the secret to achieving them. Envision yourself fulfilling your goals and have your best year ever in 2011.

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