April 30, 2009

Don't Just Sit There - Get "S'Movin"

"Write it on your heart that every day is the best day of the year."
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

We all have an opportunity to choose our attitudes. Every day, every hour, every minute.

Here's a great video and connected web site that I think you'll enjoy. Do yourself a favor and visit Smile & Move and I'd even suggest ordering a copy of the book.

For less than two double espresso mochas at Starbucks, it might be the best dose of "attitude" you'll get this week.

Enjoy the video below...

April 29, 2009

The American Tourist and Mexican Fisherman

A lesson about understanding whether you are following your business plan or not.

A boat docked in a tiny Mexican village. An American tourist complimented the Mexican fisherman on the quality of his fish and asked how long it took him to catch them.

"Not very long," answered the Mexican.

"But then, why didn't you stay out longer and catch more?" asked the American.

The Mexican explained that his small catch was sufficient to meet his needs and those of his family. The American asked, "But what do you do with the rest of your time?"

"I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, and take a siesta with my wife. In the evenings, I go into the village to see my friends, play the guitar, and sing a few songs... I have a very full life."

The American interrupted, "I have an MBA from Harvard, and I can help you! You should start by fishing longer every day. You can then sell the extra fish you catch. With the extra revenue, you can buy a bigger boat."

"And after that?" asked the Mexican.

"With the extra money the larger boat will bring, you can buy a second one and a third one and so on until you have an entire fleet of trawlers. Instead of selling your fish to a middle man, you can then negotiate directly with the processing plants and maybe even open your own plant. You can then leave this little village and move to Mexico City, Los Angeles, or even New York City! From there you can direct your huge new enterprise."

"How long would that take?" asked the Mexican.

"Twenty, perhaps twenty-five years," replied the American.

"And after that?"

"Afterwards? Well my Friend, That's when it gets really interesting," answered the American, laughing. "When your business gets really big, you can start selling stocks and make millions!"

"Millions? Really? And after that?" said the Mexican.

"After that you'll be able to retire, live in a tiny village near the coast, sleep late, play with your children, catch a few fish, take a siesta with your wife and spend your evenings doing what you like and enjoying your friends."

And the moral is:

Know where you're going in life...
you may already be there.

Take it from Whitesnake

Whitesnake was a popular 80's "Hair Band" that delivered big hits such as "Still of the Night" and "Slow an' Easy." Led by frontman David Coverdale, this band may be best remembered for their rock video for the song "Here I Go Again" starring the sexy Tawny Kitaen. That song starts out with the lyrics "I don't know where I'm going but I sure know where I've been" and I think the same thing when I look at many Realtors out there in today's world when it comes to their business plans.

Think of a business plan as your "Triptik for Success." Are you a member of the Automobile Association of America (AAA)? Remember getting Triptiks for the old family vacation? You'd follow your course that showed you the highways, speed traps, construction zones and tourist attractions between your home and vacation destination. That Triptik was nothing more than a "business plan" for your trip. And the best part about it...you didn't need to order a new one for your way back home. You just had to follow the original one in reverse.

If you didn't follow your Triptik, what happened? You got lost or maybe needed to figure out another route - possibly costing you time, energy and money. Reviewing your Triptik every now and then really helped to keep you on the path to arrive at your desired location.

When was the last time you reviewed your "Triptik for Success" called your Business Plan?

  • Does it still have meaning?

  • Is your "destination" still a point of interest?

  • Have you encountered some "construction zones" that put you behind schedule?

I encourage you to sit down with your "AAA Consultant" - a.k.a. your manager/coach - and review the route again. The destination is still there if you are ready to hit the road. Have fun and enjoy the trip.

April 25, 2009

Seven Keys to Boosting Business in 2009

I came across a very simple, succinct video from NAR Past President Dick Gaylord on http://www.realtor.org/

In it, Gaylord shares some simple ideas to build your business. When you're done watching it, be sure to visit the website. There are some great tools on there as well as plenty of useful information that you can use in your blogs, newsletters or everyday conversations about real estate with customers and clients..

April 15, 2009

Show & Tell

Remember back in elementary school how excited you were on days when you had "Show and Tell"? Maybe you got to bring in your newest video game or maybe a "magic rock" you found in your back yard. Perhaps it was photos from your trip to Grandma's house or, if your teacher was cool, you got to bring in your pet turtle, frog or hamster.

By sharing something, you always seemed to take a lot more pride in whatever it was, didn't you?

That is the same philosophy I hold when it comes to the third part of a successful Business Plan - Share it with a manager or coach.

The first thing it does is it challenges you to put your Business Plan into a legible, easy to understand format. It should be a document that others can look at and they instantly see what you are trying to accomplish and how you hope to do it.

Secondly, it begins to build another level of accountability. When you tell people what you plan to do, it makes it that much more important that you accomplish this task, activity or series of events. Depending on your relationship with your coach/manager (and that may also include a spouse, child or parent) you will not want to let them down so you'll try even harder to deliver on the promises you made in your Business Plan.

That "accountability" will end up working both ways. Anyone who has taken the responsibility to serve as your manager and/or coach should do everything within their power to help hold you accountable. Encouragement, support and guidance are all ways to do that. Some coaches will be tough while others will be lenient or passive. Determine how much accountability you expect from your coach early in your relationship. Like any other relationship, this will evolve as time goes on and you each get to know each other.

I used to say to agents I would work with in coaching scenarios, "You can always expect to feel my hand on your shoulder. Sometimes, I'll just be patting you on the back letting you know you've done well. Sometimes I'll be keeping you from straying off the path. And sometimes I will be pushing you, reminding you where you want to go and helping you keep moving in the right direction."

Do you feel your coach's hand on your shoulder? If you do, congratulations. You have someone who has made the commitment to help you achieve your goals. If you don't, that's okay. Find someone today - tomorrow at the latest. Then turn your face towards your goals and believe that your coach will be behind you, hands on your shoulders, guiding you towards success.

April 5, 2009

Looking for Things to Do?

In my last post, I said I would share some activities and/or tasks that you could build in to your daily, weekly and monthly plans. See how many of these activities you are currently doing and then think about how many of them you could add.

Clear Voice Mails and Emails - Sure, we do this all day long but that is where we get into trouble quickly. If we don't have a scheduled time to check our messages, we can be drawn into a reactionary position instead of a position of control. Doing this first thing each day (sometimes before you arrive at the office) will allow you to determine the proper priorities for the coming day. Remember, not every thing is urgent and not every thing is important.
Time Needed: 15-30 minutes three times a day

Idea: Some people swear by the idea of updating your voice mail daily and letting callers know when you'll be returning their calls. It allows you to be in more control and also let's your callers know that you will reply. Now, the pressure is on to make sure you do what you say you're going to do.

Current Client Research - You should have a scheduled time to do basic searches in the MLS for any current clients you are working with. That means looking for new listings or price reductions, potential builder or interest rate updates for your buyers and a market snapshot around any of your current listings. This is also when you would complete any CMA's you may need.
Time needed: 60 minutes per day

Current Client Updates - Did you know that one of the biggest complaints from consumers about their Realtor is lack of communication? So what do you do to assure that you and your clients communicate regularly? I recommend that you schedule weekly calls to update all of your Sellers about your findings from your Client Research efforts. These should be 15 minute calls, scheduled at the time of the listing paperwork being signed. It is a great way to set expectations of "truly remarkable service" from the beginning of the relationship.
This is when you discuss new listings that have hit the market, price reductions of competing listings, anything that has gone into contract, was withdrawn, expired or sold and any "market specific" news that may affect the Sellers (Buyer activity, financial changes, school/zoning issues). Each time you contact your clients, you need to get a re-commitment on their motivation for selling their house - "Do you still need to be in Chicago by the 4th of July?" I recommend that these happen at the same time each week and then after three calls, a face to face meeting would occur so you can review an updated CMA.
Time Needed: 15-20 minutes per active client

Use the Prospecting Pyramid - We'll discuss this more in future posts but for now, are you reaching out to your sphere of influence each and every day? You should be using a combination of email, phone calls and hand written notes.
Time Needed: 20 minutes max for every 120 names in your sphere of influence

Other Prospecting Activities

Expired Contacts - During your "Current Client Research" you probably were accessing the MLS. How many listings, or should we say "market rejects," have expired today, this week or in the last month? Those are home owners who at one point had a desire to sell and move. Do you have a system in place to reach out to them? Do you feel that you have a the skills and level of professional service that can help them? If so, what are you waiting for? Go out and knock on their door. If they're not home, then you can call them and leave a message. Please just don't add them to a mailing list and start sending the propaganda and other crap about how great you are. They haven't asked for anything from you yet and just stop and think for a second how many other agents are just going to "mail it in" as well. Be different and show them what you do differently.

I once spoke to a homeowner whose listing had expired. She estimated that within the first week, she received over 70 pieces of mail from agents interested in obtaining her listing. Most went directly in the trash because it wasn't addressed to her - just her address. She got about 8 phone calls from Realtors (and several more who called and never left a message) and just 1 agent actually knocked on her door and introduced themselves. Out of 7000+ members in our local board just one agent went the extra mile. What does your efforts say about your service?
Time Needed: 1-2 hours per week from research to personal visits. (Plan ahead and these could be worked around your client appointments)

For Sale By Owners - The Three F's
  • FSBO Finding - Drive around and identify homes that are for sale by owner or spend time on FSBO sites or even look in the want ads of your local and community papers. Yes - you know that buyers don't look in papers much anymore to find homes but most FSBO's don't know that.
  • FSBO Facts - Do your research and learn about the neighborhood, their original mortgage balance (if available through MLS or other tool), how long they've lived there, etc. No need for a full blown CMA now - they haven't hired you yet. Just learn enough to discuss their situation and current market conditions.
  • FSBO Follow Up - Schedule an appointment. Once again, you could take the easy way out and mail them something, you could call them or you could stop by. You'll find that when you actually make the extra effort and have done your research, you will have a better opportunity of getting an appointment with the Seller and you will have begin the process of showing them that there is a difference between brokers. It's easy to throw a mailer away and it's easy to hang up on a telemarketer but it is much harder to slam the door in someone's face.
Time Needed: 2-4 hours per week

Business Meetings- If you're associated with a full-service company, there's a good chance you are expected to attend weekly or bi-weekly Business Meetings. These are great opportunities to learn what's going on in your office, company, board, local community and other items that may help you provide better service to those you will work with. They also usually present you with an opportunity to network and personally promote your current clients to other full-time Realtors.
Time Needed: 1-2 hours per week, depending on office

Coaching Appointments - It's all about personal accountability in this business. Take advantage of the opportunity to have someone help hold you accountable for the things you need to do so you can accomplish the things you want to. These should be weekly for newer agents and anyone doing less than 12 transactions a year; bi-weekly for agents closing between 13-24 transactions; and monthly or bi-monthly for those of you doing 25+ deals a year. Many of the top agents in the world have a full time coach to assist them, help them stay focused and on task and provide additional encouragement.
Time Needed: 15-30 minutes per session

Community & Board of Realtor Events - Real estate trainer and national speaker David Knox has for years been talking about the importance for Realtors to "be there" if they want to succeed. It's not always the best agents who get the deal, it's the ones who are "there." Are you an active member of your local board of Realtors? Your children's PTO? Your Home Owners Association? A local charity that would love your help? Many of these activities will reap two rewards - you'll feel great about helping others and you just might start building relationships with people who could help build your business.

Note: I know of many people who ask why I would want to get involved in my local or state Board of Realtors when none of those people are never going to buy or sell a house with me. I guess I always had three good reasons:
  • It gave me an opportunity to learn from those Realtors who had "been there and done that." Agents from all different companies from all parts of town who all do business in different ways with different people. If you can't learn something from them (even if it's the way you don't want to do something), you're just not a good listener.
  • It lets you feel like your helping to support the organization that helps support you. Stop for a second and think of all that you get for the small amount of dues you pay to these organizations.
  • The next time you're negotiating a contract with a fellow Realtor with whom you've built a relationship while serving on a committee or attending a local function, you'll be glad for that prior opportunity to get to know them and for them to have known you.

Appointments - Other than "talking to people," this is what our focus should be on each and every day, week and month. Without appointments, we'll never get to the closing table and a commission check. Preferably these appointments should be listing appointments and Buyer Counseling Sessions but you may also have walk throughs prior to closing, builder appointments on new construction transactions, home inspections and hopefully closings.

Time Needed: Ideally 50%+ of your time should be spent in appointments that will get you closer to a closed transaction and a commission check.

Tech Time - Maybe you're very skilled with the computer and you've figured out ways to maximize your time and energy on line. Perhaps you have implemented systems and have software that helps you stay in touch with customers, current clients and past clients. Good for you. Keep it up.

For many of you however, actually scheduling some time each day, week and month to get on-line is a great idea. First, it will help you avoid getting "lost in the sea" of the world wide web, especially social networking sites like Facebook, LinkedIn and YouTube. I speak to so many agents who are on Facebook but they are never "on" Facebook. Schedule 15 minutes into your calendar each day to jump on and update your status, connect to a few friends and see what some of your friends are up to. This information will come in handy if you would happen to run into them at a grocery store or kids sporting event.

How about exploring or keeping up to date with blogs? There are some fabulous blogs about real estate, negotiating, general sales, personal health and motivation and much, much more. Build in dedicated time to stay up to date on blogs. You could also subscribe to them and save the reading until your next open house or phone duty time. It's better use of that time than reading Cosmo or filing your nails.

Does your company have an on-line learning system? Could you improve your skills on some aspect of technology? Think of how much more confidence you'll have when you can learn how to better utilize the tools in your own "Realtor's toolbox"?

Time needed: 5-30 minutes per day for social networking (at different times throughout the day). 1 hour per week for technology classes.

Personal Time - Why are you in this business in the first place? My guess is your answer isn't "to work 85+ hours a week, be ready to go at the snap of my client's fingers and make enough money so I can spend time with my kids after they have grown up and moved away," is it? Start putting your own needs into your calendar. What time does your kid have soccer practice and games? What night is your golf league? Do you try to attend church regularly? Are you the kind of spouse or partner who has a "date night"?

Time needed: this one is up to you? How much do you need?

Don't compromise on these times because that helps you be a better, more focused agent when you are "at work." It also allows you to forget about real estate every now and then. One of my favorite quotes for us workaholics is this"

"The work will wait for you to look at the rainbow but the rainbow won't wait for you to finish the work."

I hope this list has given you some good ideas to build into your business plan and daily, weekly and monthly schedules. What else do you have on your schedule that helps you be a better Realtor? I want to know so I can share with others. Please leave a comment one your scheduling habits.

Until next time, keep building relationships...solving problems... and having fun.