A major reason that most agents fail is they don’t master the fundamentals — and then build on them throughout their career. Similarly, veterans have dips in their businesses because they lose focus on the basics. If you’re new to the industry or find yourself plateauing after years of practice, refocus on the basics. Start here.

With more than 1,000 Inman posts, Bernice Ross is a long-time contributor whose weekly column on real estate trends, luxury, marketing and other best practices publishes every Monday.

For many years, the top producer in my office had “BAK2BSX” as the license plate on his Mercedes convertible. When it comes to being a highly successful real estate agent, the basics always matter.

So many new agents don’t make it past their first year or two of business. A major reason that most fledgling agents fail is that they don’t master the fundamentals of the business — and then build on those fundamentals throughout their career.

Experienced agents often run into dips in their production for a similar reason: They get too busy and forget to stay focused on the fundamentals that led to previous successes. If you’re new to the industry or find yourself plateauing after years of practice, refocus on the basics. Here’s where you start:

The first 3 fundamentals every new agent must master first

When you’re a new agent, there are three basics you must master immediately. After you truly master these three, you can move on to the the six that follow them.

1. The contracts

Your clients are counting on you to understand the contracts. If you can’t fill out all the required transaction contracts (agency, purchase agreement, listing agreement, disclosure documents, etc.) without assistance, start practicing filling them out until you can do so alone.

You must also be able to explain the various terms of the contract including how initial deposits are handled, the difference between the down payment and closing costs, why your company does or does not recommend signing an arbitration provision, how the dates for contingencies work, how transactions are closed, etc.

If you haven’t learned how to do all these things, it’s time to review your sales licensing training and/or sign up for additional training on these topics.

2. The inventory

The top producers know the inventory cold. They can walk into a home and price a property without even looking at the comparable sales.

When you’re new, if you’re not studying contracts or conducting lead generation, see as much of the inventory as possible. Track what you see using Evernote or Google Docs.

When you walk into a recently listed house, estimate what you believe the selling price will be. Track it to see how close you came. If you can’t see certain properties in person that are in your market area, check out the MLS photos so you are at least familiar with the exterior and interior of the property.

As part of the process of learning the inventory, your clients will also expect you to be able to do the following:

  • Accurately price their property, market it successfully, and close the transaction.
  • Name the types of properties available in each price range including the price of entry-level homes.
  • Identify the best-priced properties in each area.
  • Explain how much it costs to purchase a typical three- or four-bedroom home in your area as well as a typical one- to three-bedroom condo.
  • Know who the builders are, their reputation, the quality of homes they build and the price ranges they offer.
  • Know the various subdivisions including the current prices and characteristics of each area.

3. Contact database

Whether you purchase a real estate customer relationship manager (CRM) — which is a necessity in my opinion — or simply use an Excel spreadsheet, it’s important that you organize your contacts and leads in one place. To check out your options, visit here.

The next question is, “Which one is best?” The answer is simple — the one you will use!

Now that you’ve mastered those, focus on these 6

In addition to three basics above, all agents also need to master the following:

4. Market statistics

Are you in a seller’s market (less than six months of inventory with upward pressure on prices), a flat or transitioning market (six to seven months of inventory) or a buyer’s market (eight or more months of inventory with downward pressure on prices)?

Today, most MLSs can provide you with this data. Also, be sure to watch your sales board in your office as well as tracking MLS statistics. Once you have this data, here’s what to do:

  • When inventories decline, prospect for listings.
  • When inventories increase, prospect for buyers.
  • If you can afford it, use the WeissAnalytics tools for predicting this data down to the individual market area. This tool is probably the best listing conversion tool available in the marketplace.

5. Nothing happens until someone generates a lead

Lead generation is as important as going on a listing appointment. The reason? If you’re not feeding your pipeline with leads, there will be no listing appointments, buyer showings or closed transactions.

Determine where you get the most leads (geographically and from what type of prospecting), and focus your lead generation efforts there. Make prospecting for leads a priority every day.

6. First responders get the business

Many agents generate leads from signs, open houses and print advertising, but never follow up on them. This is especially true for online ads where estimates range from 50 percent to 75 percent in terms of how many these internet leads go unanswered.

There are plenty of options for quick response including Referral Exchange’s new “Live” program, Opcity, as well as the new chatbot technologies.

7. Face-to-face appointments win the day

The 2018 NAR Profile of Buyers and Sellers shows that 75 percent of the sellers who list their homes only interviewed one agent. Ben Rubenstein, the founder and CEO of Opcity, found a similar pattern — 90 percent of their agents who closed an Opcity lead met with the client face-to-face within 12 days from the date the lead was generated. Get face-to-face with as many potential clients as possible.

8. Stay in regular contact with your sphere and past clients

Do you stay in regular contact with your sphere and your past clients? If not, a simple way to achieve this goal is to identify the top 150 people you know (sphere, family, friends, past clients) who are most likely to send you a referral.

The secret is to interact with at least five of them every day of the month (that’s all 150 in 30 days), by posting a response (not just a “like,”) on what they post. “Touching” them at least once monthly is one of the best ways to stay top-of-mind.

If you haven’t been in contact with someone for a long period of time, here’s a great get-back-in-contact script that you can use by phone, text or instant messaging:

Hey John — way too long since I’ve seen you. Would love to buy you a cup of coffee and get caught up. Does Saturday at 2 p.m. work for you?

9. Referrals are still the name of the game

Year after year, study after study, referrals continue to be the primary source of closed business for both new and experienced agents.

The three best times to ask for a referral are when you first start working with a client, when you place a property under contract and when you close the transaction. Also, don’t forget to ask those past clients who loved your services if they know someone who is thinking about buying or selling a home.

The great thing about the basics is most only take a little time and effort. You don’t need to spend tons of money on marketing materials or web leads — just focus on being you, connecting with people you care about and giving them such great service that they will happily refer you to their friends and acquaintances.

Bernice Ross, President and CEO of BrokerageUP (brokerageup.com) and RealEstateCoach.com, is a national speaker, author and trainer with over 1,000 published articles. Learn about her broker/manager training programs designed for women, by women, at BrokerageUp.com and her new agent sales training at RealEstateCoach.com/newagent.

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