Business has been slow, and that gives me time to think and plan and clean out some drawers. In fact, I don’t think my home has ever been as clean as it is right now.

As I was cleaning my office I found some star-shaped stickers that reminded me of how I got started selling real estate. I had been laid off and could not find suitable employment, so I decided to think outside the box.

By some convoluted logic, or maybe out of desperation, I decided to become a real estate agent. It seemed like a good idea at the time.

It is never easy to start all over again. It was a humbling experience and it took me way outside of my comfort zone, which is where I want to stay. Anyone who says selling real estate is easy has never done it.

Working on a 100 percent commission basis as a primary means of support is not for wimps, and the failure rate is much higher than the success rate.

The first few months were traumatic. I could not sell a house to save my life. In real estate school I was regaled with tales of how agents would get their licenses on a Friday, do an open house the following Sunday, and get their first sale.

It didn’t exactly work that way for me or for anyone who I know personally. It was just a story, but I believed it.

I got my license in March and it took me until May to find a buyer who would work with me. It wasn’t until the end of June that I had my first closed sale. At the time, those few months without an income felt like years.

Nothing seemed to work for me in the early days of my real estate career, and I needed to find a way to keep going and to stay motivated and not give in to the terror that I was starting to feel.

I bought a blank calendar — the month-at-a-time kind, with a square for each day and a bunch of stickers. My goal was to stay focused on what I needed to do each day and to stop worrying.

Every time I did something to prospect, I wrote a little note on the square with the date and I put a blue star by it. An open house or a mailing was worth a star. I would give myself a star for talking to neighbors and for going door to door with fliers offering a free comparative market analysis or consultation. I made rules and set minimum limits for what it would take to earn a star.

At the beginning of each month I penciled in my activities, and when I actually did them I got a star. If I failed to do them I would draw a picture of a frown with a red marker. My mother was a schoolteacher, and for me red pen is the universal sign of disapproval.

If my activities led to an appointment, I would note it and put a green star by the appointment. If the appointment resulted in a listing, the listing was represented by a red star on the date listed.

If I wrote an offer on a home, that was a gold star. If a closing was scheduled, that was a big round yellow sticker with a smiley face on it. I stopped thinking about income and concentrated on the colorful foil stickers.

I sold 11 homes that year, which isn’t bad for a rookie. The calendar was a visual reminder, and it showed the relationship between prospecting and sales, and the relationship between prospecting and closed sales.

At a glance, I could see how much time and effort I was putting into prospecting and I could see that when I spent more time prospecting there were more smiley faces on the calendar page the next month. I could easily tell how many appointments I needed to get one listing.

I don’t remember when I stopped using those calendars. Even though I prospect in different ways than I used to and my daily activities are a little different, nothing has changed. I still need to prospect to get business, and it is still consistency and persistence that lead to income.

What we do each day is so much more important than how much technology we throw at our jobs or how smart our phone is. Real prospecting — either in person or online, and on a consistent basis — leads to business. Low-tech prospecting works as well as high-tech prospecting.

My system made it easy to see the relationship between the prospecting activities and the appointments, and between the appointments and the listings and the offers I wrote and those yellow smiley stickers that represented a successful closing.

If you are a new agent or an agent who has lost her way, go buy a calendar and some stickers and give it a try. Keep the calendar on your desk and open to the current month, and don’t ever stop prospecting.

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