Have you ever wondered what lands some people at the top of their industry? In real estate, why do some agents find huge success while others, despite working just as hard, fall short?

We’ve all heard about the importance of goal setting, managing our time better, thinking positive, dressing for success and being professional. Albeit cliche, there is truth to these sentiments, but is there not more to it?

Are we to believe that top agents are just exponentially better at time management than other agents, or perhaps more in-tune to the latest fashion trends? I think not.

The playing field is not equal

Some people are top performers mainly because they started out in a position of great advantage. Think of successful movie stars who achieved celebrity-status because one of their parents was a famous director or producer or that wealthy business mogul who inherited a family fortune.

It’s true in real estate as well. Many of us know agents who are successful, in large part, due to inheriting the family brokerage or entering the real estate world from another successful venture with loads of money to drop on advertising.

It’s no doubt people in this category have skills, but they also started out with a strong upper hand.

So, the question is this: “Is there a single principle that any real estate agent can incorporate into his or her business to increase his or her chances of being a top performer?”

The answer is: “yes.” It’s a principle known as the aggregation of marginal gains.

Understanding the aggregation of marginal gains

Up until 2002, Great Britain’s professional cycling team “Team Sky” was discouraged. You can’t blame those cyclists. They had virtually no record of success. In fact, in their 76-year history, they only had one gold medal to their name.

In 2002, Team Sky hired Sir Dave Brailsford as its new general manager, and British cycling would never be the same. Mr. Brailsford had a tough job. He was tasked with making Team Sky a success.

Wikimedia Commons

His strategy was a bit unconventional, however. He challenged each member of the cycling team to do everything 1 percent better. Yes, everything.

Including using different pillows to improve sleep quality, new-and-improved massage gels and better methods for hand-washing, he and the team searched high and low for ways to improve everything 1 percent.

Brailsford’s belief was that small, marginal gains would add up to produce remarkable improvements. He called this principle the “aggregation of marginal gains.”

His strategy worked. From 2012-2015, Team Sky went on to claim three Tour De France victories, and in the 2012 Olympic Games, Team Sky won 70 percent of the gold medals.

Applying the aggregation of marginal gains to real estate

The story of Team Sky is inspiring, but how can this be applied to real estate?

The incredible power of this principle is not unique to British cycling; it can work with every facet of life, including real estate, by following these three steps:

Step 1: Uncover your podium principles

The principle of marginal gains is relatively simple, but where do you look for marginal gains in your real estate business?

In a 2015 interview with Harvard Business Review, Brailsford was asked to explain the process he used for identifying opportunities to apply this principle, to which he replied: “We had three pillars to our approach, which we called ‘the podium principles.’ The first one was strategy. The second was human performance; we weren’t even thinking of cycling, but more about behavioral psychology and how to create an environment for optimum performance. The third principle was continuous improvement.”

I find it very interesting that the general manager of a cycling team wasn’t thinking of cycling. I think I know the reason. Better cycling was the expected outcome of making marginal improvements in other areas.

Let’s apply this to real estate. As agents, if we are focused solely on the outcome, say selling x number of houses, but we ignore the means to achieving that outcome, not only will we likely not hit our goal, but we also will quickly get burned out and lose motivation.

Team Sky’s podium principles were strategy, human performance and continuous improvement.

Step 2: Identify areas to achieve marginal gains

With three podium principles in mind, it’s time to find areas within each principle whereby marginal gains can be achieved. I won’t go through each of the principles above, but let’s just focus on the first one mentioned: strategy.

Strategy can encompass many different areas. One such area would be prospecting. Prospecting can be further broken down into different areas like cold calling.

Furthermore, you can break cold-calling down. Think about all that goes into cold calling. You’ve got your list, your phone, your script, etc. However, there is much more than that. What about your tone, posture, environment, call quality and even your mood.

There are many different things that will “marginally” affect your cold calling, subsequently affect prospecting and strategy and ultimately affect your long-term goal of selling x number of houses.

Step 3: Measure the results

Measuring and observing your marginal improvements will keep you motivated and focused on achieving bigger more long-term goals like selling x number of houses.

You first need to establish a baseline from which you can measure your progress. Continuing with the cold calling example, what is your call-to-appointment ratio? Let’s say it’s 1 percent. Wouldn’t it be exciting to see this percentage jump to 2 percent by marginally adjusting your tone, script, calling equipment, etc.? Sure it would.

The process from cold-calling to selling a property involves many steps. If your focus is just on closing more deals, you won’t even be thinking about marginal gains, won’t see and get excited about incremental improvements, and as a result, you’ll likely get discouraged and burned out quickly.

Aggregation of marginal gains is a principle that involves making many small, incremental changes that, collectively, result in big improvements. It’s a proven principle that will help you, as an agent, become a top performer. This post will help you identify a plan to incorporate this principle into your real estate business.

Brandon Jones is a licensed Realtor, real estate investor, and the founder of RealEstateHacks.net. He resides near Springfield, Missouri, with his wife and two sons.

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