December 26, 2020
Most real estate schools in New Jersey do a great job in teaching you how to get your NJ real estate license. That’s a good thing. After all, isn’t that why you choose a real estate school? The problem is that statistically as many as 80% of real estate agents drop out of the business within a couple of years of earning their new real estate license.
So our message today as we look towards a new year is to offer suggestions on how you will find 2021 to be a year of success, not a year of regrets in your new real estate careers.
“May the REST of your years be the BEST of your years.”
This is a toast often given at weddings, where a person addresses the newlywed couple, both of whom—like newly licensed real estate agents—are convinced that they made the right choice for a future that will be filled with happiness, joy and success. The person offering the toast says, “May the rest of your years be the best of your years,” and then everybody assembled raise their glasses and says, “Hear, hear!”
It is a wonderful thought. Who could possibly argue with that wish? Who could possibly argue with our wish made to every graduate from our real estate school when we say, “Your experience with Garden State Real Estate Academy doesn’t end here; we will always be here to help you throughout your real estate career.”
And yet, just as close to 50% of those beautiful marriages fail, an even larger percentage of newly minted real estate careers come to an end far sooner than the agents had intended. So as you look forward to a new year: a year that could well be the best year in real estate opportunities that our economy has seen in decades, here are some simple tips to truly make it the “BEST of your years” so far in this great profession.
1: Be Proactive.
The first of Steven Covey’s famous “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” (One of the top three business books I have ever read) is Be Proactive. That applies more to real estate agents than any other profession.
You cannot expect business to fall into your lap. You cannot join a broker with the expectation that the broker will deliver to you all the leads you can handle so that you simply need to go out and sell homes to people. You need a plan to deliver your own leads. Lead generation should be your absolutely, positively most important task that MUST be completed every single day.
Real estate is a numbers business. That may sound like a cliché. But it is a truism. Statistically, people stay in their homes 13 years if they own a home, and 1.8 years if they rent. People need to buy or rent another home if they get married, get divorced, get a job transfer, have babies, become empty-nesters, or move to a new city. When people die, their heirs must sell their home to settle the estate. So statistically, if you have 10 people in your contact list, how likely will you be to have one of them need your services as a REALTOR® this year? But if you have 1,000 in your database. . . . ? You have a virtual certainty that several of them will need a real estate professional in 2021 and every year thereafter.
If there is one New Year’s resolution you MUST make it is this: “I will commit myself to lead generation for at least three hours every weekday, not only to find current opportunities but to add those leads to my database.”
2: Commit to Communicate.
A database of a thousand names is worthless if you don’t use it to communicate with the people on that list. You should have a goal to be the first person those people think of when they hear the word “real estate agent.” Think not only of all those people we just considered who might need to buy or sell a new home next year, but now think of all the people on your database who know somebody who will need to buy or sell a home. So a thousand people in your database could mean that 10,000 or 30,000 people will be able to recommend you when somebody at their work or circle of friends tells them of their need to buy or sell a home.
All you need is a simple Excel list with 4 columns: first name, last name, phone number and email address. Then create a monthly newsletter and use it to provide them with helpful information that reinforces your image as THE real estate professional they know.
3: Have a Plan.
Whether you are an agent who was licensed yesterday or a multi-million-dollar producer with decades of experience, you need an action plan to succeed. Remember the old maxim, “If you fail to plan, you’re planning to fail.”
At a minimum, you should have written goals for what you want to accomplish in 2021, such as:
- Your gross commission income goal.
- Your goal for the number of transactions you want to close.
- Your goal for prospecting.
Remember, those goals MUST be in writing, or they are not goals. The word SMART has for years worked well as an acronym for effective goal setting. Your goals for 2021 should be:
- Specific. “I want to make a lot of money” is not specific. “I will earn $150,000 in GCI between January 1 and December 31, 2021” is a smart goal.
- Measurable. We need to measure our progress or we’ll have no idea how we are progressing towards our goal. In the preceding example, if our goal was to earn $150,000 next year and on March 31 we saw we had only earned $15,000 in GCI, we can see we have a problem. 25% of the year will have passed and yet we are only 10% of the way towards our income goal. We still have plenty of time to evaluate how we are marketing ourselves and adjust what we are doing to attain our goal by December 31st.
- Attainable. Enthusiasm is a great attribute, but we must also be realistic. A 300-pound man could set a goal saying, “I want to drop 100 pounds by 30 days from today.” That is specific and measurable, but it is hardly realistic.” A newly licensed agent who sets a first-year goal of selling 100 homes and earning $500,000 in GCI—while that is technically possible—might have set the bar so high as to then make the agent feel dispirited if she fails to meet that goal.
- Relevant. The goal must be relevant to the goal-setter’s values and long-term objectives. For example, an agent may have the long-term goal of having a team, with the first hire being a buyer’s agent. So a goal to add a certain number of transactions that meet both the goal-setter’s GCI goals and also leads towards justifying a buyer’s agent by the end of the year makes sense.
- Time-framed. You must base your goal on a certain deadline for its realization. Back to the weight-loss example: saying, “I want to lose 50 pounds” is not a goal if you leave it at that, because there is no motivation not to eat a half-dozen Boston Cream donuts today!
4: Don’t make it all about you.
This may seem counterintuitive! Obviously, you are responsible for the success of your business. But we should look at our role as being facilitators—consultants, educators, counsellors—to help our clients meet their needs, and not just see clients as commission-generators.
Many of our clients come to use during times of great emotion in their lives. Selling the home where a parent just died, or because of a divorce is one such example. Even a transaction without such traumatic circumstances can be one of the most stressful of all of life’s experiences, and our clients need to see that we empathize with them and are going beyond the norm to help them get through it all with less stress than they could have encountered without us being there for them.
A good exercise is to run every transaction with the mindset of how that client would describe their customer experience with us if they provided a Google Review when the sale had been completed. It will help us to make customer focus a core value that is not just something that looks nice on our website, but who we are as a real estate professional and how our current, past and future customers see us.”
5: Commit to excellence.
One national survey reported that 80% of customers said they would switch companies if they had just one bad experience with a service provider. One of the most enlightening lessons I learned as a newly-licensed REALTOR® 32 years ago was to ask potential clients at my expired listing appointments, “What disappointed you about the experience you had with your last real estate agent?” They all had the same answers!
- The agent overpriced my home to get my listing and then tried to get me to drop the price when we didn’t get any offers—but by that time, we were locked into a listing contract.
- The agent promised me the world but failed to deliver on many of those promises.
- There was no communication—especially after I told the agent how upset I was. I had no feedback from showings, about the market conditions, nothing.
Guess what? Thirty years and 1,000 listing appointments later, those same three responses were still being offered!
A customer-focused real estate agent will always commit to being transparent, truthful and professional. That agent will commit to lifelong learning, not just to let a mandatory continuing education webinar roll on while they are really returning phone calls off-camera. It means having the passion to always want to learn how to be better at what we do, to know more about this complex and exciting profession.
Have an AWESOME 2021, and may your best year be the next year that is about to begin!
Garden State Real Estate Academy is New Jersey’s top-rated real estate licensing school. pre-licensing and broker licensing classes must usually be taken in live classroom settings, we have temporary permission to offer these classes via Zoom. We have both daytime and evening classes that start every two weeks. For more information, go to www.GSREacademy.com
David C. Forward is a licensed real estate broker and instructor and was first licensed as a Realtor® 31 years ago. During his career, David and his business partner sold more than 450 homes in South Jersey. He is now School Director of Garden Real Estate Academy, has won numerous awards for real estate sales, is a much-requested public speaker who has addressed audiences on six continents and is the author of 16 books. David can be reached at David@GSREacademy.com