The best real estate agents and the people who operate at the highest levels of the industry are not tactical, they are strategic, writes Nick Schlekeway. In part three of his five-part series, he looks at the importance of strategic planning.

One year following the launch of Inman’s The Basics newsletter, our weekly dispatch of must-reads for new agents, we’ll spend the month of August digging deeper into what it takes to survive against the odds as a new agent in a tough market.

This is the third in a five-part series on the pillars that form the foundation of agent success. Find parts one here, part two here and part four here. Part five will be published on Tuesday, Sept. 12.

Last week I wrote about the first pillar to success, personal development. Today, I’m going to talk to you about the second pillar to success, strategic planning. I use the word “strategic” for a very specific and important reason.

Real estate tends to be a very tactical and very short-term industry. People in our industry, unfortunately, seem to have a hard time looking out into the future.

The best agents and the people who run this industry are not tactical, they are strategic. They make decisions based on what they want to happen in the next five years, not the next five months. They look far beyond the next closing or the next sales cycle. They look to the future they want to create for their lives, the vision they see for their family, and the multi-generational wealth they are going to build. 

You’re a business owner, not a salesperson

Salespeople work on transactions, business owners work on their business, and they have a strategic plan for doing just that. While there is certainly nothing wrong with being in sales, most of us got into this industry and went 1099 so that we could build a business. OK, so what is your plan? A dream without a plan is just a damn wish.

The best strategic plan is the one that you understand and that you can follow. It is also the one built on proven models that have been tested in real life. Let’s pause right there because this is critical. Not only do you not have to come up with your own plan from scratch, you shouldn’t. Do not reinvent the wheel, and do not think that you are so special you cannot learn from the mistakes of those who have come before.

The starting point for your plan is to go find people who are doing what you want to do and talk to them about how they got there. The same information is found in books and podcasts covering the habits, systems and stories of successful agents. 

 Here are some (not all) of the most important items to include in your planning:


It’s absolutely critical that you understand some kind of budget, some kind of forecasting. You don’t have to have a spreadsheet with 20 tabs on it, but you have to have some idea of the following:

  • How much money you’re going to spend on marketing
  • How much money you have available to pay your bills
  • How much you want to have available to invest in income-producing assets each year

Most importantly, for real estate agents (especially new ones), how much money do you need to set aside for taxes? The tax man cometh, and one way or another, you always have to settle up with The Man.  

KPIs (Key Performance Indicators)

What are your KPIs and how are you going to use them to drive progress? The most obvious KPI for anyone in sales is prospecting phone calls, but some others include:

  • content pieces delivered (newsletter, social media, podcast, etc.)
  • buyer/seller consultations
  • open houses
  • one-on-one meetings with high-net-worth individuals
  • CMAs or equity updates for people in your farming area

The most important KPI to understand and to track is for every agent to understand how many leads they need to generate each month in order to hit their sales goal for the year, with an understanding that those leads are a result of the activities listed above.  


Speaking of goals, what are your goals for the month, the quarter, the year, and the next two to three years? Yes, sales goals, but also goals for how many listings you want to take vs. buyers, average sale price, specific markets to break into, specific people or groups to start working with, etc.

Your goals should be the benchmarks you need to hit in order to continue progressing in your strategic plan. All of it should be driving you to the future you want to create. Your vision.  


What sales systems do you need to create or rip off and implement in your business to increase efficiencies or customer service? I highly recommend ripping them off since we work in an extremely simple industry, and you likely won’t be able to think of anything that has not already been thought of and implemented by someone else. 

When it comes to systems like preparing a listing for market or moving a buyer through the sales funnel, someone is already doing it at a high level. Just copy them. 

Strategic assets

What strategic assets do you need to acquire in order to execute the long-term plan? This could be your own office space, it could be a specific tool or technology asset, it could be a strategic lead generation asset like building the organic SEO on your website so that it generates five leads a month or building the reach of your social media to the same purpose.

It could be the purchase of all of your own staging furniture (and a designer to place it), or it could be hiring a marketing director to take your marketing to the next level. What are the strategic assets you need to acquire that will help catapult you? 

A quote to ponder

“Strategic planning is worthless – unless there is first a strategic vision.” — John Naisbitt

A good plan should be simple and easy to follow. For me, this means it needs to fit on one or two pages. Maybe you need, or like, a bit more detail, but I would be cautious about getting into the weeds. While we should know where we are going, we never know exactly how we are going to get there, and the route always takes unexpected twists and turns.

One of the biggest tragedies of this industry is the number of agents who failed simply because they were either too ignorant or arrogant to follow the map that successful agents have already drawn. Create your own map and enjoy the rewards.

Nick Schlekeway is the founder of Amherst Madison, a Boise, Idaho-based real estate brokerage. Connect with him on LinkedIn.

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