Just like in sports, working in real estate requires constant practice and collaboration, especially in times of hardship. So, here’s a thing or two agents can learn from professional athletes.


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Right now, business is far from usual. However, that doesn’t mean that as real estate professionals we should stop working on our craft. Like professional athletes, it’s important to stay on top of our game through consistent practice and evaluation of what’s working, what’s not and how to adjust accordingly.

In fact, there are quite a few lessons from the world of sports and professional athletes that are applicable to real estate during times of growth, prosperity and hardship. It’s especially true now that we’re going through a difficult period and have some time for reflection and professional development. Adversity, after all, is a major part of sports — and business.

As a former high school and collegiate athlete, I was in awe of athletes and fellow teammates who never “looked” the part but were still able to outperform their competition.

Watching professional sports, we can see some of those same examples of athletes at the top of their game who shouldn’t necessarily be there but have found a way. They’ve all found something inside of themselves — something that we have, too. So, since we are in real estate together and are majorly missing sports, let’s make some parallels!

Practice. Obsess. Repeat

Buying or selling a home is one of the most emotionally charged, monumental occasions in a person’s life. Sellers are entrusting you, their agent, with one of their most important assets — their homes.

As an agent, you can put together the best listing presentation a seller has seen, and they will still have questions for you. Can you do this for less? How will you market my house under NAR’s new pocket listing policy?

The best of the best agents won’t fumble over these questions. But that’s not due to luck, chance or charisma. No, the best agents will confidently and seamlessly answer these and other tough questions because of one thing: preparation.

My college baseball coach used to say, “Preparation leads to execution.” I never really understood the concept, ironically, until I was in the business world.

Like the best athletes who take 5,000 free throws or field goal kicks before the game even starts, best-in-breed agents practice, practice, practice for any possible conversation or situation they may encounter with their clients so they’re prepared when the moment arises. As an agent, you should always be a reliable, level-headed and confident expert in a situation that’s often fraught with emotional ups and downs.

There’s only one way to ensure you’re prepared for the expected, the unexpected and everything in between, and that’s by practicing endlessly for any given scenario and truly obsessing over your craft.

It’s the little things

There are 18,000 Realtors in the Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area’s MLS system, which is where my brokerage conducts business. How do we stand out? How do we keep clients coming back?

It’s the little things. By and large, two years after a transition, clients won’t remember the cash-to-close they needed or the net sales price their agent secured. Something our clients do remember? Every time an Engel & Völkers Minneapolis client closes on a home, we wrap the front door in a signature red bow.

Our clients will remember how they felt when they walked up to their house for the first time, and in five or 10 years when they’re ready to move somewhere else, they’re that much more likely to call us again specifically because of their memory of that feeling.

The reality is that very few agents do the little things that keep clients coming back. What are you doing to separate yourself from other agents in your market? Let’s use another sports analogy. Remember, Jerry Rice wasn’t the fastest wide receiver there ever was, but he figured out how to cut his routes better than anyone else in the game. This allowed him to go on and achieve the all-time most catches of any player in the league.

As agents, we need to constantly be evaluating what we’re doing within our own marketplace to stand out, specialize and separate ourselves from the rest.

Challenge the leadership

One of my Engel & Völkers colleagues in Colorado has a zero-tolerance “no gossip” policy. This is a great example of brokerage leadership embodying the culture they wish to cultivate. However, it only works if all of her agents buy in and uphold that policy as well.

I’m willing to bet that all of us in the real estate industry know some agents who instantly boost the energy when they walk into the room and some who, well, don’t. And it’s not just in real estate. In any industry, when faced with a challenge, some employees will work collaboratively with their colleagues and leaders to find a solution, and others will just complain without taking any action to better their scenario.

Do you embody a leadership mentality within your brokerage?

What would happen if during every huddle, Tom Brady started complaining about the coaches to his teammates? All of his teammates would begin to think the same thing as Brady, and perhaps even develop their own resentments toward the coaches.

Before long, a rift would form between players and coaches. I guarantee that regardless of your football allegiance, a divided team would not go on to achieve a record as impressive at the Patriots.

I’d guess that because Brady is a great leader, he doesn’t foster discontent within his team. Instead, he brings good ideas to leadership for implementation, which ultimately makes everyone more successful.

Embrace the team

Real estate is notoriously individualistic. Agents believe they have figured out what works for them, and they don’t want to share their “secret sauce.” However, there’s not a lot in life that you’re supposed to do alone, and real estate doesn’t need to be one of those few things.

Your team is going to help you be better at your craft and vice versa. As the saying goes, a rising tide lifts all boats.

As a broker, I’m better at what I do because of every single member of the Engel & Völkers network, from my team in Minneapolis to the hundreds of shops we have across the Americas to the thousands of shops we have across the world.

When one of us does something great, it reflects back positively on all of us and helps all of us within our own marketing efforts. Wayne Gretzky, Michael Jordan and Joe Montana would all agree that without harnessing the talent around them, they would never have had the careers that got them inducted into their respective halls of fame. If you aren’t confident in the team around you, it’s time to start seeking out trade negotiations.

During these times, real estate professionals may have more time than usual to reflect on their business and their team. Use it wisely. Now is the time to be honing your craft and evaluating how to function at a higher level, both as an individual and part of the greater team and community.

Geoff Bray is a license partner with Engel & Völkers in Minneapolis. Connect with him on Instagram.

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