What lessons have you learned during 2010? More importantly, what will you be doing differently in 2011 based upon those lessons? To have a banner year in 2011, it’s not only lessons learned — it’s what you put into practice that will make or break your business.

Education: the foundation for top production

At virtually every real estate conference or seminar, the top-producing agents are typically seated in the first or second row of the audience. Managers often repeat the same refrain about this situation: "All my top producers are here. The agents who really need this training didn’t bother to show up."

Top-producing agents constantly seek new strategies, systems, and technologies that can give them a competitive edge. The best way to spot new opportunities is to attend seminars, webinars, read books, and to network with other top performers. Their attitude is, "If I learn just one new thing that I can add to my business, it’s worth my time and effort."

Education alone, however, is not enough. Some agents are education junkies yet never do any deals. What’s missing for them is the practice piece. They may have the knowledge, but they have trouble putting what they know into practice.

If you’re struggling with how to move from education to action, here are eight tips to help you make the transition.

1. Get out of the box
Begin by opening up and reading (or rereading) any training materials you have purchased. Most are packed with excellent ideas. Identify the ideas that appeal to you most. If you’re too busy to read all the material, read a single chapter.

2. Small steps over time lead to big results
If you have ever worked with a sports coach, you know they normally work on one skill at a time. When it comes to your business, focus on taking small steps rather than trying to do too many things at once.

Once you master one skill, move to the next one. If you’re stuck, remember that taking baby steps is the best way to get unstuck.

3. Work on your strengths, not on your "shoulds"
Yes, you should be calling on for-sale-by-owner sellers, prospecting expired listings, and door-knocking. Just because some expert says you should do something, however, doesn’t mean it will work for you.

If you hate doing certain activities, you will be unable to sustain them for any length of time. Instead, identify the real estate activities that you enjoy doing. Make these the cornerstone of your business.

4. Expand what is working
Rather than searching for a new idea, why not expand what is already working? If you’re doing a considerable amount of business from your geographical farm, consider expanding it to an adjoining area.

If your business is predominantly with buyers, focus on being the best buyer’s agent you can be. It’s easier to expand what is already working than it is to initiate an entirely new approach.

5. Focus on "right now" business
The term "right now" business refers to people who are likely to transact in the next 30 days. It also references the key types of leads that are most likely to transact quickly. This includes for-sale-by-owners, owners of expired listings, plus client referrals. By maintaining a "right now" business focus, you will close more transactions.

6. Don’t wait for the business to come to you
Passive techniques include any real estate activity where you wait for the business to come to you, i.e. floor time, open house, or farming by mail with no personal contact. Open house and/or mailing, when followed up with phone calls or an in-person contact, are active. The key is to take charge of making your business happen rather than hoping it will come to you.

7. Stay in regular contact
It takes five times as much energy to generate a new lead from cold sources vs. generating leads from your past clients and sphere of influence. A simple way to start is to call five of your past clients today.

Follow up with a handwritten note thanking them for supporting your business as well as a quick reminder that your business is built on referrals. Regularly contact this group in person at least four times a year. Contact them monthly with an e-mail newsletter or some other information that is useful to them — not just your listing and selling activity.

8. Be an early adopter
The early bird gets the worm, or at least that’s how the saying goes. Get in the habit of trying something new each month. If it works for you, continue to use it. If not, dump it. For example, this month’s idea might be changing your business cards so they have testimonials from clients or pictures of your listings.

Next month might be trying a new technology such as Evernote or Dropbox. The key with any new activity is to practice until it is second nature.

Ultimately, education plus practice translates into more business for you now and for years to come.

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