10 reasons you will fail as a real estate agent

Success requires a particular mindset, especially when life throws you curve balls

A version of this post by Matthew Coates was originally published on LivingChandler.com

I’ve worked as a real estate agent since 2007, and during that time I’ve had the opportunity to watch what successful agents do, and what unsuccessful ones do. It’s night and day, folks.

Here is what I can tell you — there is one thing, and one thing alone, that will cause your success or failure. And that’s you. And more specifically, your mindset.

So ask yourself: What comes to mind when you think about your business? Is it fear, uncertainty or confidence?

Since mindset is a fuzzy subject for most people, here I dive into 10 mental roadblocks that will keep you from finding success in real estate over the long haul, and how you can overcome them.

1. You won’t prospect.

Prospecting conjures up big time fear for many. We’ve been conditioned to associate the word “no” with rejection, failure and pain. I can’t remember the stat exactly, but I have heard that by the time we’re 18 years old we have heard the word “no” 250,000 times vs. “yes” a mere 10,000 (apologies if I don’t have the precise numbers, but I do know they are worlds apart).

So you have subconsciously learned to associate “no” with not getting what you what. It’s normal — don’t feel badly about it — but you have to start getting back on track and re-associating “no” with what you want.

Real estate is a numbers game — no matter how you slice or dice it. I hear a lot of real estate agents say they aren’t in sales, that they just want to help people. There’s nothing wrong with that, but if you want to increase your business and help lots and lots of people, you have to work through the numbers.

And please don’t hear what I’m not saying — I’m not saying that people, clients, etc., are numbers. I care about everyone I talk to on the phone and don’t treat them like a number. You have to be interested in the situation and looking for a way to help them out — assuming they want help. I’ve talked to plenty of people who just don’t want to be helped, and you know what? That’s OK.

If you are going to have success in real estate, you have to prospect. There are about a million ways to prospect in real estate — I won’t go into specifics because that isn’t what I’m after here, but get to it!

2. You won’t follow up.

Follow-up is everything in real estate. How many times have you talked to somebody for the first time and immediately hear, “Yes, I want to buy or sell a home immediately! Where do I sign up?”

Yeah, almost never.

You can’t build a lasting, concrete, sustainable business that way.

Many agents give lip service to follow-up and tell people they’ll call, but fail to set up a follow-up task to do so. It fascinates me how many people I see in the business world (not just real estate) who say they are going to call me at such and such a date, or do something for me, only to find out it doesn’t get done! It’s actually more normal than abnormal, and that’s not OK.

In my business, nothing is left to chance or falls through the cracks. Ever.

If you want to last in real estate, simply be a person of your word. Everyone admires someone who does what they say they’ll do.

3. You’ll let one bad experience throw you into a downward spiral.

This one is huge!

As humans, we tend to enjoy drama. All you have to do is turn on the TV and find all of the great reality shows out there (sense the sarcasm), and you know what I’m talking about. We love to wallow in how bad a situation is and give it all of our time and energy.

Stop it!

I know it’s hard, but you have to train yourself to do it. Otherwise, you’ll end up broke, depressed and unhappy.

So what do you do when something bad happens in your business, such as:

  • You lose an escrow
  • A client suddenly says she is going to work with another agent
  • You get a letter from the local department of real estate
  • A client yells at you

Is your stomach turning yet?

Here’s the secret: Keep moving. Deal with the situation, and do the best you can to remedy it, and if you have given everything you can into turning it around or finding a solution, move on and do something else that’s productive.

Don’t let it suck you down to the bottomless pit of anxiety. Compartmentalize your thoughts and actions. It’s crucial for your business success (and life success, really). What I mean by this is don’t let the bad feelings you have from one problem bleed over into other parts of your life. I see it all the time.

4. You’ll think the business is too hard, when the truth is you just haven’t made the decision to be great yet.

I’m sure I might get some backlash on this, but I believe it’s important to speak the truth. Real estate is not a complicated business. You find people who want to move from one place to another, and assist them in that process. Simple.

I didn’t say it was easy — it’s just not complicated. If you talk to (the right) people, be genuine in your approach and have a proactive plan of follow up, you’re going to do well. You just will.

What makes real estate hard is your perception that it is hard. There are so many excuses people make up why real estate is hard — because of the economy, the market is bad, too much competition. And all of those reasons are true — for that agent. 

Instead, focus on what you’ll gain when you do well; it’s a more empowering perspective and one that is likely to yield substantially better results.

What does it take to be great? Your mindset, of course, but underneath that you need discipline, stamina, determination, a personable attitude, the ability to ask people the right questions, a do-whatever-it-takes mentality, perseverance and the skin of a rhino (as Hector LaMarque of Primerica would say), among others.

5. You’ll say it’s too competitive.

Notice that I didn’t say “because it’s too competitive,” I said “you’ll say it’s too competitive.” Big difference.

I work in Phoenix, Arizona. If you look at how many agents there are in relation to the population, it’s one of the worst areas in the entire United States to be in real estate. And that’s a fact. Just look at the numbers. Everyone here knows probably five to seven Realtors. No joke.

But so what? If you are great, clients are going to find you. Focus on building your skill base, cultivating relationships around you and associating with other like-minded professionals, and the competition is going to be virtually nonexistent.

Now, do I go on listing appointments and leave without the listing? Absolutely! All the time. But I walk out of there knowing I did everything I could to set myself up for success.

6. You will keep making the same mistakes over and over.

Let’s go back to my listing appointment example: When you don’t take a listing, do you ask the person why you didn’t get their business? I bet nine out of 10 agents don’t.

Why don’t we? Because it’s painful and uncomfortable and means we are less than perfect. But that’s OK. By asking “why,” you are humbling yourself to see what you could do differently next time to alter your results.

Maybe it’s something you were completely unaware of that would make all the difference in the world. So the conversation goes like this:

“Mr. Smith, I understand you aren’t going to list with me and that’s fine — can you tell me what led you to that decision? This way I don’t make the same mistake with the next person I sit down with to list their home (or buy a home with me). I’d really appreciate it.”

Express thanks for the seller’s openness and honesty, and extend your best wishes for the transaction.

7. You’ll choose comfort over success.

I start my day on the phone. I will make anywhere from 10 to 50 calls depending on the day. When I first starting doing this, the phone looked like it weighed 100 pounds.

If you make the decision to be disciplined and just get it done every day, it gets easier — just like any positive habit you are trying to develop. Because it’s at the start of the day, I want to get all discomfort done and over with as soon as possible. That way I can better “enjoy” the rest of the day and do things that don’t require as much mental focus.

I’m not saying that this is the way you need to do it, but understand the concept — usually when we do more comfortable activities (cleaning out the garage, updating people’s contact info in your database, working on paperwork for an escrow, etc.) we find that the uncomfortable tasks tend to grow more ominous in our mind the more we postpone them. Often, we don’t end up completing them, which ironically ensures our failure.

Also, it’s a must to connect with people to succeed in real estate.

8. You won’t make it a team sport.

There are many people involved in a real estate transaction, and if you don’t have the ability to work well with others (if you are overly demanding, indifferent, rude or unresponsive), you aren’t going to do well.

Although the Realtor is “top of the food chain,” so to speak, in the transaction, treat people badly, and things won’t get done, or they will get done slowly.

You are the central hub of communication, and it is vitally important you keep a level head at all times.

9. Your outlook is too shortsighted.

Most agents are looking for the next transaction to close to put food on the table, and this can cause you to cut corners or make decisions that aren’t in the best interest of your business long term.

Bottom line: Do the right thing all the time, and you’ll never have anything to worry about, even if it is a little painful for you in the short term.

10. You’ll focus on your expenses instead of growing your sphere and level of influence.

We all have bills to pay. They aren’t fun, but they’re a necessary part of life. By getting overwhelmed with your financial responsibilities, you are diminishing your effectiveness in business.

I once heard a speaker talk about going out and buying a big house, a fancy car and all the “stuff” that success is supposed to be in the eyes of the public.

Horse rubbish.

All that does is stress you out and keep you up at night because you have no idea how you’re going to pay for everything.

Instead, keep your expenses (especially personal ones) at a minimum. You don’t need all that crap right now. I never once had a client ask me what kind of car I drive. It’s a good car, reliable, but it’s no Lamborghini, I assure you that!

Focus on how you can provide a solution to clients’ challenges, and you’ll always have a good income.

I hope you’ll take these points in stride — often the best medicine is that which we are least receptive to because it doesn’t necessarily taste good.

Editor’s note: This story was originally published in 2014 and has been updated. 

Matthew Coates is a real estate agent specializing in Chandler, Arizona, and the surrounding valley area of southeast Arizona. Reach out to Matthew on Twitter.

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