- Accountability partners, 'time-blocking,' talking clients into not buying homes and treating first year as 'grad school' among tips from vets.
Phil Faranda’s brokerage, J. Philip Real Estate, might not have survived the housing bust, which struck just two years after he launched the company, if he’d chosen to start his career at a brokerage just for its brand or commission splits.
If he had, he might not have learned the important lessons and business tactics from the top-producing team he chose to join instead — knowledge that has been key to helping him weather the real estate slump, said the Briarcliff Manor, New York-based broker.
“Choose your mentor, not your letterhead name or split,” Faranda said.
That’s the no. 1 piece of advice Faranda has for new agents. Drawing on social media comments, we’ve compiled a list of other pointers for greenhorns. Contribute your own in the comments section and we’ll add them in.
1. Find a mentor
This seemed to be the top tips for new agents given by vets in Facebook conversations and online chats with Inman.
Faranda joined a brokerage for the mentorship he knew he would receive. If you don’t already have a mentor lined up when you join a firm, make tracking one down at your office a priority.
“Don’t think you are too smart because you are not,” said Danville, California-based agent Rama Mehra in a conversation on Inman Coast to Coast. “Operate like a business, get a mentor who will teach you the ropes and lay out the foundation for an honest and clean business.”
2. Shadow or study top agents
Studying the business practices of successful agents — perhaps those inside or outside your firm — could be the next best thing to finding a mentor. You might also use the tactic as a way to supplement direct mentoring.
“Find the best broker in the area, take notes and implement their blueprint,” said Love Lester, a Burbank-California-based agent. “Don’t recreate the wheel, success leaves clues.”
3. Interview at many firms, and consider negotiating on commission splits
Sussing out a variety of real estate brokerages is key to locking on to a firm that will nurture you.
“… ruling out a place is just as important as considering,” said Noah Schnieder.
And while it’s important to show humility to people you want to hire and nurture you, that doesn’t necessarily mean you have to automatically settle whatever commission split they offer you. You might want to consider demonstrating your ability to drive a hard bargain from the get-go.
William Harris, a Philadelphia-based Realtor, says not to accept a 50/50 commission split just because you’re a new agent, “Especially if they don’t offer you many tools for your success.”
“Negotiating will be the #1 skill you must learn early,” he said.
That said, as Faranda and others agents advise, new agents shouldn’t prioritize compensation over training and mentorship. So carefully weigh the potential costs and benefits of pushing for a higher split before going through with it.
4. Talk buyers out of purchasing homes
This is one way to think about what should be the aspiration — and is often the legal duty of — of all agents: to put a client’s interests before your own.
Many agents pay lip service to this rule, but “unfortunately sometimes the reality in the industry” is that agents push their clients to take actions that will produce the best outcomes for the agents, but not necessarily their clients, said Realtor Michael McClure, an admin of Raise the Bar, a real estate group devoted to promoting higher standards in the real estate industry.
If you’re sometimes talking clients out of buying homes, there’s a good chance you really are putting their interests before your own. And though this is not the end goal of serving clients selflessly, it doesn’t hurt that it can also pay off financially in the long run.
“I’ve never had to develop much of a lead gen strategy because of the steady stream of referrals I have consistently received over the years,” McClure said.
5. Use tried-and-true lead-generation techniques
While not every lead-generation tactic is right for every agent, new agents ought to consider testing some time-proven methods.
These include hosting as many open houses as possible (perhaps on behalf of colleagues), getting as much “floor time” as possible, and regularly calling many potential buyers, sellers or referral sources — whether they be acquaintances or strangers, such as people who have listed now-expired listings or for-sale-by-owner listings.
Largely left to fend for themselves, real estate agents can sometimes fall into the trap of floating randomly between activities. That can chip away at the time they spend on tasks that are most important to growing their business.
Time-blocking, which involves adding appointments to your daily, weekly, monthly and annual calendar, is one way to counteract this tendency, said Phillip Simon, a Washington, D.C.-based agent.
The technique hinges on carefully adhering to whatever schedule you’ve laid out for yourself. For instance, if you’ve time-blocked 9:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. on Monday and Wednesday for calling contacts, then you should only schedule meetings outside the time.
And if you end up “erasing” a time-block, then you must replace it.
“So for instance if I end up with a dentist appointment during my normal 9-11am calling, I must replace those 2 hours somewhere in my calendar,” Simon said. “It’s about holding yourself and time accountable and being extremely purposeful with your calendar.”
But time-blocking doesn’t mean saddling yourself with business tasks 24/7.
“Make time for you and your family,” said Mara Gillott, a Dublin, Ohio-based agent. “This job is time-consuming but at the end of the day it is still a job and they are still your family. Schedule days off. Stick to them.”
7. Use a customer relationship management system right away
Start building a database right off the bat to ensure prospective clients never fall through the cracks.
“Use a CRM and start your database YESTERDAY. Work your sphere and continue to grow it daily,” said Daphne, Alabama-based agent Sean Gibbs. “Develop systems for everything you do.”
8. Be wary of vendors and ‘lead with revenue’
Greenhorns may be the most susceptible to the seductive pitches of the many vendors peddling the latest and greatest silver bullets for real estate agents. If new agents aren’t careful, they could run up their expenses buying products that don’t deliver as advertised.
“Don’t fall for the ‘you just need one or two transactions to pay for it’ sales pitches,” said Allentown, Pennsylvania-based agent Joe Corcoran.
Keeping a lid on your wallet is important since market conditions can shift abruptly, notes Steven Elliot, a Cary, North Carolina-based broker.
“Realize the business is cyclical,” he said. “Keep your expenses low so when the market turns you can turn on a dime.”
So if you are thinking about shelling out for that high-octane CRM or batch of online leads do your research and make sure other agents like you are benefiting from them.
“My biggest advice is lead with revenue. Meaning don’t invest any money into websites (your own or zillow/r.com [Zillow or realtor.com]) or other lead gen until you get going in the business,” said Ken Pozek, a Northville, Michigan agent.
“When I started I was broke. I called banks to sell their reo properties, attorneys for referrals, did open houses, and focused on building a database. That first year I closed $4.7m and 38 deals.”
9. Get an accountability partner or coach
Accountability partners help keep you on track towards achieving your daily, annual and life goals, said Roy Cooper, a Raleigh, North Carolina-based Realtor. You share your aspirations with accountability partners, and they hold you accountable to them.
“An accountability partner helps provoke other thoughts that my simple one-track mind missed,” he said. “Finding someone that’s on the same path, or has achieved what you’re wanting to do is ideal.”
If you have the cash to spare, you may also be able to inject more accountability into your life by hiring a real estate coach. They’ll crack the whip; but they can also teach you various business strategies. Heck, they can even serve as therapists.
Coaches are expensive, though, so if you’re going to hire one, make sure she comes highly recommended.
10. Never be afraid to ask for referrals
You might feel uncomfortable asking contacts to direct you to potential clients, but agents say mustering the courage do so can pay huge dividends.
11. Read a real estate book, or two
The Millionaire Real Estate Agent, written by Gary Keller, founder of Keller Williams Realty, is largely considered the bible of real estate, so maybe give that a gander. Keller’s One Thing and Shift and Shift were cited as must-reads in Lead Gen Scripts and Objections.
Yeah, so those books are all by the same person. What else should new agents add to their reading lists?
Maybe even check out some of these real estate movies.
12. Think of your first year as “grad school”
In addition to making a habit of staying in touch with your contacts — with the help of a CRM — “don’t sweat how much business you do in the first year, focus on learning, setting up systems, laying the groundwork for your business,” said Lockport-Illinois-based agent Amy Curtis.
One way to stay focused on learning is to think of your first year as “grad school,” offers Michelle Poccia, a Saratoga Springs, New York-based agent.
“This is your year to make certain that you are at the right brokerage and submit yourself and your services to an ethical, solid business minded, mentor,” she said. “Consider this “grad school” for one year.”