The sheer work ethic of Michael Jordan, the mindset of a Jedi, the adaptability of a chameleon and the dogged humility of a servant — put it all together with a commitment to real estate, and you just might get a top-producing agent.

This spring, Inman is obsessing over helping you to tune-up your listings business, with actionable insights, the best advice from top agents and hundreds of helpful stories from all over the world. This is the first part of a five-part editorial series on improving your listings game (and general success in real estate) this season. Stay tuned for more to be published throughout this week, and view the rest of our “Spring Cleaning” stories here.

The sheer work ethic of Michael Jordan, the mindset of a Jedi, the adaptability of a chameleon and the dogged humility of a servant — put it all together with a commitment to real estate, and you just might get a top-producing agent.

That’s coming straight from the horse’s mouth, i.e., a series of leading real estate agents who shared with Inman their secrets to success.

They demonstrate that top-producer status is earned, not given; it requires a grassroots dedication to learning the business, seeing the long game rather than indulging in grabs for fast cash like high splits and staying ahead of the trends rather than always playing catch up.

A common mistake for agents is thinking they’ll immediately jump the line and find fame and financial rewards. Indeed, many agents are looking for a quick way to the top. The reality is overnight successes are mostly unheard of. Strip away the glamour of a name listed at the top of the sales charts, and you’ll find a path forged with patience, consistency and diligence.

Eye on the deal: Exhibiting unwavering emotion

“The most important trait that a successful real estate agent has to learn very early on, then perfect, is the ability to remain unemotional and separate emotion from fact,” said John Aaroe, who made a name for himself as one of the leading estate agents in Beverly Hills, representing Cher, Diana Ross, Neil Simon, Joan Rivers and countless others throughout his career.

“Successful real estate agents understand that the client has the right to be emotional, if they chose to, but the successful agent has the obligation to remain unemotional, solution-oriented and directed towards finding a path to a successful close,” he added in an interview with Inman. “If you buy into the drama of the close, you’ll never be successful. You’ll get bogged down in a lot of superfluous drama that is completely counterproductive.”

In high-profile transactions, which aspiring top producers hope to facilitate, discretion is of utmost importance. Successful agents serve clients with privileged information. They may not want their friends to know they’re downgrading or upgrading, or what the house sold for — or maybe there’s rare art in the home. That’s their information to share (or not to).

Along the same lines, a larger-than-life ego can get you into trouble, according to Aaroe.

“An agent who is just below the level of what I’ll call a highly successful agent, believes that they are more important than the client, more important than the property, and they publish their sales volume, their transaction count,” Aaroe explained. “They label themselves as no. 1. They use the client, and they use the property as a PR vehicle to trade on and make themselves more important.”

You just have to know more

Beverly Hills Realtor Jade Mills, ranked seventh in the nation by sales volume according to Real Trends, said there’s no magic bullet to accelerate your success in real estate. It’s all about the work you put in, but one of the most important skills an agent can master is communicating clearly. “Nobody likes to be left in the dark,” Mills explained.

She also believes it’s important to amass more knowledge of the industry than your competitors.

“Know your business,” she added. “You are 100 percent ahead of every other agent if you have more knowledge than everybody else.”

Erin Aries, a top New York City agent ranked fourth in sales volume for 2017, echoed a similar sentiment: the real estate market is so highly competitive with a vast number of brokers in each locale vying for the same listings that it’s critical to have a total understanding of your market with regard to inventory as well as the economic, geopolitical and environmental factors that could have an impact on it.

“That means extensive research and analysis so you can give pricing guidance,” she said. “Really applying yourself to understanding what’s going to position your property in a competitive way.”

Associate with only the best

Highly successful agents need to understand the importance of the brand or broker with whom they’re associated, according to Aaroe. It’s not as simple as who will give you the highest commission split — it’s about truly finding the right fit, Aaroe advises.

“Who sits next to you in your office is more important than your split,” Aaroe said. “The culture in the office is more important than your split.”

“I could go to the front door and say [to potential clients], ‘I am the best for you and your property, and I am with the best,'” Aaroe continued. “If you can’t say to your clients that you’re with the best company … then you better find the brand that’s a better fit, and don’t care so much about what the financial package is. You’re going to make more money with the right brand.”

And associating with top-notch professionals must extend beyond your brokerage office. That is, whoever you recommend to your client better be cream of the crop, Aaroe explained. It doesn’t matter if that person is your friend or that person is outside of your company. Surround yourself with the most knowledgeable people who reflect positively on you when it comes to the attorney, accountant, interior designer, banker, mortgage lender or escrow company.

“If those particular talented people aren’t affiliated with your company, go outside of your company,” Aaroe said.

Beating the numbers game

Sometimes it’s just a numbers game. Keep in mind, when it comes to getting your name out there and making connections, the initial math can seem daunting — but determined agents need to overcome the discomfort of picking up the phone and calling people, according to Amanda Le, a Minneapolis agent who earned a “Rookie of the Year” title at Keller Williams. A process-driven agent, Le excels at the sales methods others may consider beneath them: door-knocking, cold-calling and holding open houses.

“In order to hit a certain amount of contracts each month, you have to contact a certain amount of people,” she said. “And based on the numbers, if you’re contacting 20 people a day to set one appointment, and your goal is to close 10 a month, then you kind of have to figure out how many to contact to reach your goals.”

Le has taken Bold — a class Keller Williams puts out twice a year — seven times, and she finds being among peers surrounds her with accountability.

“[Bold] really hones into mindset,” she said. “90 percent of business is mindset, and 10 percent is skills. A lot of people get into real estate and could be excellent agents, but they’re the only people getting in the way.”

Get comfortable with change

What other traits will you find in common among top producers? According to real estate coach Bernice Ross, who wrote about the traits of mega-producers in a column for Inman, leading agents possess the values and behaviors of a winner — meaning they’re often very driven problem-solvers with great people skills; eventually they do what they’re passionate about and delegate the rest; they’re voracious learners, and they give back to their communities.

They also aren’t afraid of change, but rather embrace it.

As Aaroe told Inman: “The less successful push back on changes in the industry, changes in software, in technology, where leads come from and transparency.

“If you are close-minded towards the fact that this industry is in [a state of] big change, understand one thing: it has been facing change for 20 years,” he said.

Email Patrick Kearns

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