September 30, 2009

Happy New Year....Seriously!

Welcome to 2010!

I know, I calendar hasn't officially turned yet either but I highly recommend that your mind starts pretending that 2009 is already gone.

I am a firm believer that your success for each year is determined by what you do in the previous year's 4th quarter. That begins today!

Break Your Year Down By Quarters...But Begin October 1st

October 1 begins the "Planning Quarter" when you get all of your goals, schedules, marketing plans and systems in place for the next year. Take a moment to review the current year and ask yourself this question - "If I had it all to do over again, what would I do differently?" Now, put those answers into writing and begin to act on them.
  • What direct mail campaigns will you put into action in 2010? What day of each month will you deliver the mailing to the post office? What vendor will you use? Just think - ordering now insures you get 2009 prices for 2010 business.
  • How many open houses can you plan to hold? Do you know your vacation schedule already? Get those Sundays blocked out now and it won't seem as overwhelming as now when you decide to do Open Houses three days in advance.
  • Sit with your manager or coach and "do the numbers." How many closings are you aiming for in 2010? How much total income? What will your marketing and educational expenses be?
Now when you see Dick Clark and Ryan Seacrest welcoming the actual new year, you'll be entering the second quarter of your year - The "Action Quarter."

Imagine hitting the ground running less than 36 hours into a new year? Most people don't even think of starting until the spring thaw. If you've been in the real estate business for more than 3 years, I'm willing to bet that your best year ever also included your best 1st quarter ever.

April 1 kicks off the "Momentum Quarter" and that's no fooling. Because you were all planned out and had your systems in place, you didn't waste the first few months waiting for business to come to you. You went after it. Opens, FSBO's, Expired Listings and a focused effort on your sphere of influence. The people who waited for the real ball to drop will be just getting out from behind the ball that wrecked their business when then turned their back on it as the days got shorter and the excuses got longer.

July 1st will kick off your "New Records Quarter." Then, with just 3 months left until your 2011 planning mindset, you're firing on all cylinders. You won't have to wait for the summer market to hit, you'll create it. Power-priced listings, buyers who are motivated to buy and referrals from those FSBO's and Expireds you have been helping relocate means that your gross commission income will already be surpassing 2009 and you still have almost half of the 2010 calendar year to go!

Other tips for your "New Year"

* Learn a valuable lesson from Auld Lang Syne on what not to do - "Should old acquaintance be forgot and never brought to mind." I hope that's not your strategy for success in 2010. Those "old acquaintances" could keep you enjoying the champagne all year long. Develop a plan to identify and follow up with your best past clients, family and friends that compose your sphere of influence. Personal notes, phone calls, email and in-person visits will lead to more appointments. Just like you can't plan what you'll wear to the ball until you have been invited, you need to have appointments before you make any sales.

* Resolutions are always easier to follow the first few months. Goal planning and schedule planning that is completed in October can become habitual by the time January rolls around. Don't delay - Make things happen immediately and that will prove to be the best "wait loss"plan you'll encounter.

So raise your glass to the possibilities of a record breaking 2010. Why not make it your best year ever!

Too bad there are no bowl games on tomorrow!

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

September 13, 2009

Monday Morning Match - Quality

Do You Aim to Deliver Quality?

Quality can be defined as "a degree or grade of excellence or worth." Most people know quality when they see it...or experience...or feel it...or taste it. But can you put your finger on quality when it's your turn to provide it?

I came upon a very interesting website the other day that is chock full of material that could be utilized by sales agents, sales managers, leaders or anyone who might be looking to grow themselves or the people they work with or for.

Tom Peters is considered one of the "gurus" in management and leadership development and understanding. His website has so much information in it that no matter what field you may be in, you're sure to find something that you can use, implement or refer to to build your business or better achieve what it is you seek to achieve.

On Peter's website, you can access many of the most creative, forward thinking blogs as well as much of his own thoughts, works and insights or those that he finds relevant to today's world. I would like to encourage you to visit the site and be sure to check out the link for "Free Stuff" on the left hand tool bar.

Among that list of useful, thought-provoking material, you'll find a down-loadable report called "Quality & Excellence: The Quality 136". It is Peter's list of "One Hundred Thirty-six Random Thoughts on Quality, Emphasizing the Elements That Are Often Missing in Conventional Quality Programs."

While the entire list will make you think about your business, your company, your industry and how you are approaching each and every relationship you have, here are a few of my favorites:

  • #2 - Quality is the enthusiasm of the receptionist's greeting (As an independent contractor, how does your greeting make your customers and clients feel)
  • #21 - Quality is getting to a meeting, every meeting...early!
  • #45 - Quality is Very Simple systems
  • #128 - Quality is religiously learning one new thing every day
  • #133 - Quality is making mistakes when you try new things

Visit the website, download this free report in its entirety and let me know which areas of quality you're going to work on this week.

Until my next post...keep building relationships...solving problems... and having fun!

September 9, 2009

Are You Delivering FAB Service?

"Ladies and Gentleman...The Beatles"

Way back in 1964 Ed Sullivan welcomed a new generation of music to the American public with those five short words. The Beatles, a.k.a. "The Fab Four", became superstars. So it's fitting that we talk about them on a day when their new The Beatles: Rock Band is released to video game fans everywhere.

In sales, the attention should be focused on five other short words...

What's In It For Me?

It's the rallying cry of all customers everywhere. What will a product, service, company or organization do for the customer who is buying, enrolling, ordering or participating?

Sales 101 says that the first thing a good salesperson should do is build rapport with their customer or client. After that has been done, the next step would be questioning and probing for motivation. Once a person's wants and needs have been identified, now is the time when product knowledge and sales skills will actually begin.

It's a simple to follow process called F-A-B

  • What is a "feature" of your product or service?

  • What are the advantages of this product or feature?

  • How will it benefit the customer or client?
An easy way to remember the difference between a "feature" and a "benefit" is this simple little rhyme ~ "features tell and benefits sell."

I challenge you to think about what it is you do and how you are handling your FAB presentations at every opportunity? I care a lot less about how my television works and more about is the game I'm watching coming through clearly. I don't need to know how my watch works, as long as I know if I am on time for an important meeting. How a steak is cooked is a lot less important to me than how it tastes when I eat it.

Below you'll see a new commercial that will be airing this fall from the creative folks at Southwest Airlines. It's a great example of how you can deliver FAB in 30 seconds or less.

September 8, 2009

Wednesday Morning Match

"Shine like the Sun"

Okay, I apologize. I got a little bit behind with the long holiday weekend but I didn't want to miss out on providing some weekly encouragement. I just completed reading a classic book that all people involved in any branch of sales should read. It's by legendary salesman and author Og Mandino and it's called The Greatest Salesman in the World

I don't want to give away the story but it is a very simple to read book with a very sincere message. I think the following passage from Chapter 16 is especially meaningful for an industry like real estate.

"I will remember the lesson of the firefly who gives of its light only when it is on the wing, only when it is in action. I will become a firefly and even in the day my glow will be seen in spite of the sun. Let others be as butterflies who preen their wings yet depend on the charity of a flower for life. I will be as the firefly and my light will brighten the world.
"I will act now."

What actions will you take this week that will allow the world to see your light?

September 7, 2009

What Realtors Can Learn from College Football

Are You Ready to "Tackle" Your Way to the Top?

Thankfully, the college football season kicked off this past week. As a huge sports fan, this just may be my favorite time of year. Between college football, professional football (kicking off this week), baseball pennant races, the PGA and NASCAR playoffs and hockey training camps, the Fall is a great time to be a sports fan. It's also a great time to be a Realtor.

In the same tradition of my November 2008 blog post about What Realtor's Can Learn from Black Friday, let's take a look at What Realtors Can Learn from College Football:

Proper Expectations are Created During the Recruiting Process

When you became a Realtor, what were your expectations? My guess is no one gets started hoping to be "just average." Maybe you didn't necessarily want to be the superstar but you certainly wanted to be on a great team and have a chance to earn playing time.

College programs look for players with the right skills, work ethic and personalities that they can combine with the players they already have and the systems they run to continue to work towards a championship season. It also helps to understand a team's "system" so they can make sure the players that are recruited will fit in nicely. They promise to train, coach, provide maximum exposure to the best tools available and welcome you to their school and family of alumni, fans and supporters.

Real estate brokers should be doing the same thing, especially in today's ever-changing landscape. If you're with a full service company like Coldwell Banker, you probably met with a Branch Manager or Recruiting Coordinator who discussed how the company can help you get to where you want to be with substantial training, coaching, maximum Internet exposure and national branding.

Training Camp - Turning "Role Play" into "Game Play"

I have never heard of many players who look forward to the grueling days of pre-season training camp. Sure, they are excited to be back with their teammates, back on campus (their "home away from home") and just weeks away from starting another season. In August, everyone starts with an equal chance of hoisting the National Championship trophy at the end of the season. But unless they love pain, they're never looking forward to two-a-day practices, wind sprints and coaches in their faces for three weeks.

It is clearly evident once the season kicks off that the players (and teams) who give 100% effort in this phase of their season will earn the biggest payoff once the games begin. As the old saying "practice the way you play" infers, the more you can put yourself in "game situations," the more prepared you'll be.

Does your company offer a thorough training program? Do you take advantage of training opportunities such as scripting sessions, skill building workshops and on-line educational opportunities? Do you have a written business plan showing how your "season" is going to play out? Are you "lifting weights" by practicing scripts, learning about contractual changes and studying market inventory so when you're in a game situation, you'll react accordingly?

Just like most football players don't like the sweat equity required in August, they know it will help them in the trenches of a close battle with a equally prepared conference foe late in the season.

Will you be ready when face-to-face with a Seller who has a tough objection? Will you be confident when a co-op agent send you a counter offer and tells you you're in "multiple offers"? Will your training help you "act" like a skilled professional instead of "react" like a Rookie when it counts?

Preseason Rankings Matter...But That's Why They Play the Games

Do you ever wonder how people who are part of those pre-season rankings determine who gets their votes? Do they base it on the number of players returning each season? Do they look at the schedules of each team and try to determine the number of wins and losses each team will have? Do they vote for their favorites or perhaps their alma mater?

It certainly helps to start the season towards the top of the rankings because if you do what you're supposed to do (i.e. win games), you'll be at the top when the season ends. If you lose however, you'll need to climb back over people...sometimes with victory and sometimes with a little pizazz and P.R. for good measure.

Much of a team's pre-season rankings can be attributed to their reputation. Can the media (or those voting) count on you handle the pressures of a big game or will they assume you'll choke in a pressure situation? Many people didn't think BYU could beat Oklahoma during opening week but a untimely injury to Oklahoma QB Sam Bradford and a determined effort by Max Hall and his underdog BYU Cougars led to the first big upset of this season.

What does your personal marketing say about you? Will people have a preconceived belief about you before they meet you? Are you playing for one of the "big names" in town or will you need to have a few "upsets" to start becoming known as a challenger?

One thing is for sure - people love an underdog, so don't worry about your pre-season rankings. A skilled, confident and determined agent can deliver a quality presentation to any Buyer or Seller with the proper preparation. Just don't get caught reading your own press clippings and start believing how good you are. All it takes is one slip up to dramatically affect a season. Treat each client as if they are the only "game" on your schedule and deliver the services you know you can with enthusiasm, energy and service.

League championships and individual awards can't be won in week one but that can be lost. Titles aren't given out during the season just like commission checks won't be earned during a deal, so always be prepared for fourth quarter comebacks and pre-closing obstacles. Until the clock strikes zero or the HUD-1 statement has been signed, remember that the ball is still in play.

Your Schedule Plays a Big Role in Your Success

It's been said by many "experts" that Florida's schedule this season sets up well for the Gators to return to the National Championship game at the end of the season. As a Florida alum (Class of 1991) I am very proud and excited for our chances but will certainly reserve getting too excited until they arrive in Pasadena in January 2010.

In many cases, these schedules are determined years in advance, usually before any of the current players were even a candidate for recruitment. College players don't get to choose who they will play but once that first ball is kicked off in early September, play the games they must.

No questions asked, no excuses about "not being ready," and certainly a team would never just not show up.

A Realtor will be much more likely to succeed when they prepare and follow a consistent schedule. There are basically two sets of activities that should be on most Realtor's schedules: Business Development and Business Support.

What area do you think most agents spend their time on? That's support. Where do you think they should be spending most of their time, effort and energy? You got development.

You see, business support activities will never tell you "no!" Business support activities are easier and usually don't involve any self-esteem impacting events. But it won't take the business-saavy agent long to realize that without business development, there will be no "business" to support.

In addition to the weekly business meetings that will keep you updated with your office, company and industry, a schedule should involve prospecting activities (lead generation calls, follow up visits to FSBO's and Expired listings), listing appointments and buyer counseling sessions, showings and closings. It will also require time for coaching, training, script practice, follow up, inspections and computer research.

Just like a balanced team will need to practice offense, defense and special teams, a good Realtor should be sure to include personal activities into his or her schedule including things like church, children's activities and appointments.

Avoid the Big Injury

Just like Oklahoma will need to proceed without their Heisman Trophy winning QB Sam Bradford for an undetermined portion of their schedule, making sure you stay in "playing condition" throughout the season will be a huge key.

Be sure to find some time in your schedule for physical exercise, maintain a healthy diet and listen to your body. Until you've been in this business for a while, you never realize how exhausting the role of a Realtor can be. Don't succumb to the fast paced, fast food filled world of real estate. One sure way to avoid exhaustion is to drink plenty of fluids.

Buy In to What the Coaches Say...and Don't Believe What the Media Might Say

In football and in real estate, your coaches/managers are looking out for your best interests. Magazines, reporters and web sites are looking to sell papers or gain subscribers and readers.

Good coaches and managers will help hold you accountable to the activities needed to achieve the levels of success you desire or expect (see above). They will strive to show you how your actions can positively affect your future.

The media will usually provide detailed accounts of what wasn't done and who was negatively affected.

Only you can choose who you will listen to.

Play with Emotion...Play to Win

No matter how loud the crowd cheers or no matter how good the band sounds playing the fight song, the success of a team will be determined by how well it executes once the whistle blows. Don't winning teams play with passion and enthusiasm? Don't winning teams execute each and every play as if it determines the outcome of the game? Don't winning teams have leaders who step up and challenge their teammates, encouraging them to give it all they've got?

The same philosophy applies to Realtors. No mater how shiny your name tag, what type of car you drive or who designed your suit, it still boils down to how well you know how to deal with people. Are you excited to help people achieve their goals? Are you confident in your ability to help people solve their real estate problems? Do you believe you are the best person for the job?
It's Game Time
So there you have it...a few things that Realtors can learn from college football. As the cool temperatures of Fall arrive and people break out their college sweatshirts to cheer their schools on, think about the "big game" you're facing in your real estate career right now. We're just a few ticks away from the 4th quarter - where games are often won or lost. Will you be ready to execute when your number is called?

Good luck to you and your team as you move through the season.