By the time a real estate agent has a few years of business under their belt, they've got it mostly figured out.
They no longer wonder who will handle their escrow documents or who to call for a home inspection at the last minute. They can list a house for sale, handle a property search, and discuss mortgage rates as offhandedly as other people talk about the weather.
No, the problem for experienced agents is not knowing what to do. The problem is that they get too busy to take care of the next level of systems needed to grow and sustain a high-volume business. They keep handling their business, but not putting in place the systems and processes that will make their business more peaceful and profitable.
Here are five areas of opportunity where experienced agents can tune up their business, gain a more solid foothold, and eventually have a more consistent flow of clients and money:
1. Having a CRM and using it effectively
A CRM (Customer Relationship Management or Client Relationship Manager or other variations) is a database. For example, Outlook is a basic CRM. In the world of real estate there are dedicated real estate CRM systems, such as homes.com, realtyjuggler.com, and topproducer.com, among others.
The point of having a CRM is this: When you collect names, contact details, and notes from hundreds of prospects over many years, you need a way to maintain consistent contact with them. You not only keep them close, you look more professional and referable when you stay in touch regularly.
You also need a way to search for people by various characteristics, such as anniversary of purchase dates, past clients, leads, buyer vs. seller, etc. A good CRM will populate your calendar with call-backs automatically, and should allow you the ability to handle automatic email drip systems, including sending anniversary cards and newsletters. Regular contact with a robust circle of influence is the hallmark of successful agents.
Finally, a database makes a great exit strategy for some years down the road. A CRM database full of people with whom you've built referral relationships, kept in consistent contact, and done business, will result in a sellable product when you retire -- that's genuine passive money.
2. Having and using a real estate marketing plan
A marketing plan is more than a simple list of things you'd like to do to get more leads. To create a brilliant real estate marketing plan you would start with a review of what has already worked for you in the past. Those would be some of the first areas to enhance going forward.
Next you would explore untapped opportunities in the "hard work" categories, such as door-knocking, cold-calling, and visiting For Sale By Owners and Expireds. Unless you have a ton of money, you will have to do the work of canvassing to generate more business.
These days, your marketing plan should include some form of internet marketing, which is discussed below.
And finally, your marketing plan would be a written document that included a schedule of your marketing programs, a budget, and goals for each marketing effort. You should be able to predict to some extent how many transactions will result from your efforts.
3. Investing in internet marketing appropriately
Real estate agents, like any good business person, want to see ROI (return on investment) before shelling out $400/month or more on things like pay-per-click, banner ads, placement on high-profile sites, and even decent website design.
However, half-hearted measures simply won't work in the internet marketing arena. If you are not appearing on the first page of Google for home searches in your area, you will get little or most likely no business.
Perhaps the next best thing to trying to get your website ranked on the first page of Google is to invest in one of the top real estate search portals (homes.com, zillow.com, trulia.com, reltor.com) that have already gotten to the first page of Google. They have many options for buying placement that sends buyers and sellers to your website directly.
4. Learning sales skills
Agents might resist being called salespeople. However, the best agents are usually excellent salespeople, so it stands to reason that improving your sales skills might improve results. Take something as simple as stopping to talk with a For Sale By Owner. It can either be a fear-inducing activity, or in the hands of someone with good sales skills, a simple sales call that results in a listing.
Perhaps the challenge for many agents is in defining the term "sales skills." There are many different methodologies and thoughts about selling, and with a little research, you can probably find a consultative selling methodology that works for you.
5. Diversifying income sources
In 2007, real estate agents got a cold, wet slap in the face when the market took a nose dive. Several years later, those who were still around often had other sources of income than residential real estate sales. Perhaps they handled investors or invested themselves, or managed rental homes, had marketing companies on the side, retooled themselves into REO specialists, bought into stable companies, or had family income to support and sustain them through the rough patch. The agents who struggled or failed altogether were those who relied 100% on their income as residential real estate agents.
You can prevent this from happening by diversifying your income sources. Invest your profits rather than living high on the hog. Consider working different kinds of real estate markets instead of putting all your eggs in one residential sales basket. Become a property manager and handle rental homes. Think about selling commercial real estate.
It's really a case of being able to see the forest beyond the trees. Each of these areas of advice take a little more time up front, a little more risk to do something new, and a little more forward thinking beyond getting the next client. The goal is to run your business instead of letting it run you.
Be consistent. Be bold. Be smart. Linda Schneider is a real estate business coach for smart real estate agents who want to be more powerful in their business. Drop by RealEstateBusinessCoaching.com for more about selling skills and real estate marketing ideas to take your business to the next level.