January 30, 2011

What Could You Do with 46,000 More Clients?

"Where can I find more a few more leads?"

I hear that all the time in some form or fashion from agents. Hard working, full-time Realtors are always looking for new clients but most people stop searching beyond their sphere of influence, open houses and telephone duty.

Sure, some work For Sale By Owners and others might work the expired listings. Corporate relocation referrals are always a nice source of "found business" but where else can agents look to identify home owners who might need an agent to help them sell or potential home buyers who need representation in the purchase of a new house?

Well, between December 31, 2009 and December 31, 2010 there appear to be almost 46,000 new places to look. And the actual number of potential leads could be much higher.

According to the National Association of Realtors Membership report, there were 45,987 fewer members heading into 2011 than there were at the start of 2010. (1,112,645 down to 1,066,658)
Now let's be honest, a large portion of those leaving the membership probably never did a single transaction last year but it's difficult to assume that there weren't a few very successful agents in that lot that just decided that it's time to call it quits. There might be some twenty to thirty-year veterans who closed hundred of deals in their careers who have just had enough of this challenging market.

So what happens to those clients who are living comfortably in their homes today that was lucky enough to work with one of those 45,987 people (or, in some cases, unlucky enough)? Who will they call for help? Who can they rely on to provide market updates? Who will be the recipient of their personal referrals for years to come?

Why not you?

If you're an agent who is looking to grow his or her client list, a great place to start is by searching for those "orphaned clients" of agents who no longer have a real estate license. Many of these former agents got in when the market got hot, sold a few homes, closed a few deals and then as the market cooled down, just like that, they're out of the business.

Search your MLS by Agent ID. Ask your branch manager or broker for a list of former agents who have left the business. Take a veteran agent in your office (or company) to lunch and ask them about some of the "old timers" who used to stroll up and down the hallways. Trust me, "there's gold in them thar halls."

You could contact any of those "orphaned clients" and simply introduce yourself. What have you got to lose? Your call might go something like this...

"Hello. I am Sean Carpenter with Coldwell Banker.

"I specialize in the area and while researching your neighborhood, I noticed that the agent who helped you buy your home back in ______ is no longer in the real estate business. Were you aware of that?

"I understand you may not need any real estate services at this point but I would hate to know of any homeowner who didn't have a friendly contact to help with any questions or concerns about their home or local real estate market .

"I'd be honored to be your new point of contact should you have any needs between now and when your plans may call for a housing change."

After making some contact, drop a hand-written note in the mail, include a few business cards and depending on how long they may have lived there, perhaps an updated overview of the market might be in order. By exuding confidence, displaying competence and delivering consistent and relevant information, you might be able to earn their trust and their precious future business and referrals.

Once you've established contact, you can add them to your everyday mailing and contact list. The stats don't lie. Most home buyers, when surveyed by the NAR, state that they "definitely would" (65%) or "probably would" (22%) use the agent who sold them their house again when they go to sell yet the actual number who do use the same agent when they go to sell is a much lower number (23%). Agents leaving the business is a huge reason why this is true. (Poor follow up is another...but that's a whole different blog post).

So what are you waiting for? It's time to put on your detective hat and start seeking out those "orphaned clients." They're going to eventually call someone. They just won't know it's supposed to be you.

Unless you tell them.

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

11 Ways to Sharpen Your Saw in 2011

What is your plan for growth in 2011 and beyond?

What will you proactively do to improve your skills?

How will you boost your confidence levels to continually push yourself outside the comfort zone where the "status quo" lives?

Here are 11 things you can do to improve your skills, systems or services this year. Read through the list and pick one to start this week and then add one each month of 2011.

Daily Affirmations - Positive, self statements that you say (or think) to yourself daily. They should always be stated in the present tense. Adding a feeling or sensation will help you "feel" them coming true. E.g. "I deliver truly remarkable service to every customer and client I encounter" or "I weigh 170 and I feel great."

Download and Listen to PodCasts - Think of how much time you have sitting in a car, exercising or waiting at appointments. Utilize that time by listening to podcasts that you can find on iTunes or even check out the Books on Tape section of your local library. You don't have to listen to real estate or sales related content all the time. You could mix in motivational or spiritual messages, leadership lesson or interviews with other successful people.

Webinars - Like a podcast, these on-line classes allow you to listen to some brilliant people deliver presentations on topics that can help you with a specific actions (skill-based), help you learn about a new way of doing business or introduce you to new people in your industry. You can "attend" these session "live" or on demand and depending on the content and instructor, you'll find a mix of no-cost sessions (Freemium) and cost-based events (a.k.a. Premium content). Does your broker, company or board offer any recurring session or have a library of "on demand" topics you could listen to?

Mastermind Groups - Gather with other agents in your peer group to "idea-share" or even invite people at the level of business you might aspire to achieve to join you for some mentoring opportunity. No one wants to attend these sessions without sharing valuable content so it really challenges everyone to bring their best efforts. You can create a Mastermind Group in your office or in your company or even go outside the industry and gather other like-minded entrepreneurs who are seeking to reach new levels of success in 2011.

One-on-One Coaching - Does your manager or someone in your company offer one-on-one coaching? The accountability you get when you are challenged by a coach is a great factor in your success. Top athletes all have them because the extra set of eyes and ears can really see more ways to help you achieve your goals. Coaches will provide you with guidance and support and serve as a sounding board for many of your ideas, allowing you to isolate the worthwhile ones and convert them into action.

Dialogue Practice - Show me a sales agent who is confident in what to say, no matter the situation, and I'll show you a successful agent. Dialogues should be delivered naturally so don't focus on "memorizing" what to say; instead, "internalize" what needs to be said and before you know it, the right words will be rolling off your tongue with the exact right intonation and emphasis.

Office Training - Take advantage of any training opportunity you can, especially when it happens right down the hallway. have you ever attended a session and there was only a few agents who showed up? That's a bonus for you because you're learning something new and just may have a leg up on the competition. Always open your mind to new learning, share what you can with the fellow students and figure out a way to begin applying what you learned within 24 hours. If you're part of an office that doesn't offer and training, you owe it to yourself and future clients to seek out a branch or company that does. This career is too hard and too demanding to "learn as you go."

Company Training - Are you part of a company that brings in events outside of the branch level? If you are, you're lucky and need to take advantage of them. Arrive early and sit towards the front row. Take plenty of notes and be open to new ways of thinking. You don't need to buy the speakers materials if you don't see any value but any good speaker/trainer should be offering plenty of great ideas for the cost of admission (which is usually FREE).

Seminars - I think it's a great idea to get out of town every now and then (or at least across town) to attend seminars or designation-related types of training. It's even wise to think about attending events that aren't real estate related. You can always learn something new and you just might develop an interest in something that could help you build more relationships, solve more problems or have more fun down the road. Grab a peer from the office, contact one of your friendly co-op agents from Slippery Slope Realty or contact one of your clients and ask them to join you. It might be the best day or two you've had in a while and it will get you fired up to return to work "full steam ahead."

Read More Books and Blogs - I used to joke that for a long time I was a great book starter but a horrible book finisher. I loved to start a book but my attention span often waned and the newest title or author had me off starting a new book. My shelves were littered with half-started books.

Then a few years ago I started focusing on my discipline and said I would quit starting books until I finished the one I was on. Now I have a system that helps me avoid jumping to the newest, shiniest, trendiest new book until it's time.

I have four piles of books; Sales, Leadership, Biographies and personal interests. If someone suggests I read a book and the topic, title or author interests me, I will add that book to the bottom of the specific pile it belongs to. I will not start it until I have completed the books above it. This allows me to always be focused on something new but helps me learn about things and people that interest me and also keeps me focused.

As for the blogs, don't try to read too many but there is certainly some fabulous material out there on the web to digest. You might consider subscribing to an RSS feed and saving the posts to a reader or setting up the blog posts you read via email to be filtered into a specific mailbox for reading at night or over the weekends.

Customer Surveys - Another great way to "up your game" in 2011 is to find out what the people you serve like or dislike about your services. Don't take the negative feedback personally. Take it as constructive criticism and determine if you can eliminate the issues or actions that people don't like. It's also important not to listen to much to the positive statements and start resting on your laurels. Many people would rather pass along mushy positive feedback just because they don't want to hurt feelings. Never settle for good when great is still possible. You can use services such as SurveyMonkey or Zoomerang or the old fashioned was of gathering feedback - asking for it in person.

What about you? What will you be looking at to help you become better in 2011? Leave me a comment below and tell me which of these 11 ideas you plan to focus on this year or add something I left off the list?

Maybe the Ants Have the Answer

Monday Morning Match is a short post - maybe a quote, inspirational story or idea - intended to spark some motivation inside each of you so your week gets off to a fantastic start on Monday morning.

Another week ahead of us and this week, we welcome a new month. That means a new beginning for some. A clean slate. A fresh start.

One down and eleven more to go. We can keep the momentum we built in the first 31 days and propel ourselves to great things this year. Heck, even if we lost January we can still win 7 of the next 11 and finish with a winning record, right?

I urge you to continue to do the little things it takes to achieve your desired levels of success. Spend time early each day focused on business development activities and then you can spend the rest of each day focused on business support activities

Follow up with every current client and set the proper expectations for what will occur this week to help move you closer to a successful closing. Place these tasks in a high priority position on your daily "to do" lists.

Make time every day for lead generation activities. Remember - you must focus on scheduling and attending appointments before you can expect to have any clients, sales or closings.

Continually review your goals and plans, allowing you to stay focused on those activities that will help you achieve success.

Just keep doing things, every day, one small step at a time...

"All the best work is done the way ants do things - by tiny but untiring and regular additions."
~ Lafcadio Hearn

I hope you have a wonderful week

January 28, 2011

Be Sharp - Think CARP

If you're like me, I know that you're amazed we're already almost 1/12th of the way through the new year. It won't be long before we're decking the halls and wondering what 2012 will bring us.

If you had great plans to keep in better touch with your sphere of influence, clients and potential new customers this year but have been spending the first 28 days of the year "getting ready to get ready," it's time to get into action. Here's a simple plan of attack for you to increase your "keep in touch" efforts for the rest of 2011.

Who? Anyone who you have "built a relationship" with in the past. Anyone who might have a "problem to be solved." Real estate or non real-estate, it doesn't matter. You are the kind of person who can help them find a solution. Anyone who you have "had fun" with in the past or hope to in the future.

What? Keep it simple - think of the acronym CARP. Your message should be...

  • Consistent - Do you have or use a slogan? Mine was "Nobody Knows Homes Like a Carpenter" and people saw it on all of my printed materials and they hear it on my voice mails.

  • Anticipated - Will people be expecting something from you like they expect to see Sports Illustrated in their mailbox each Thursday? Do you have a planned delivery schedule for your newsletters or post card campaigns? Will people get your market update at the beginning of each quarter or whenever you get around to it?

  • Relevant - People today don't have time for nor appreciate getting "spam." Make sure your message provides them with some value.

  • Personal - Is this something they can tell you took time to create yourself? Is the message to the "masses" or is it directed at them personally? You have a much better chance of them reading and acting on your message if it speaks to them directly.

When? On a regular basis. There are some built in dates like birthdays, anniversaries and special occasions but you should be touching base with these people at least 16 times a year (4 in person or "voice to voice" and 12 times via soft touch.)

Where? It doesn't matter the medium of communication with your followers - hand written notes, email messages, Facebook, Twitter or texts. Just start communicating. Now.

Why? That needs to be answered by you but my guess is you have a business plan for 2011 and beyond that involves helping more buyers and sellers make good decisions. One way you can be their "Realtor of choice" is to make sure they think of you when they need a Realtor.

What are you waiting for?

Start building relationships, solving problems and having fun today!

January 24, 2011

Study Hard

Monday Morning Match is a short post - maybe a quote, inspirational story or idea - intended to spark some motivation inside each of you so your week gets off to a fantastic start on Monday morning.

"The difference between school and life? In school, you're taught a lesson and then given a test. In life, you're given a test that teaches you a lesson"

~ Tom Bodett

January 23, 2011

Feeling at Home Away from Home

I am a big believer in the power of great customer service. I always enjoy receiving excellent service and I am guessing that you do too. I always do my best when I am the service provider to make sure my guests, agents or audiences feel that when they were in my care that they received my best - both in efforts and attitude.

When you receive great customer service these days it is usually the exception and not the rule which is probably why it usually stands out as such wonderful service. Sadly, we don't get a chance to recognize the people for making us feel special much more than a "thanks" on the way out or a few bucks extra in the tip jar.

For my loyal readers of The Realtor's Toolbox you know I like to use this blog to spotlight people or companies when I feel they have surpassed the bar of what is expected and really made me feel special. I've written about Bar Louie and The Goodie Shop , The Island Cow and just last fall I told you about a real-life Fred Factor at Thrifty Airport Parking. Today, I want you to know about my friends at The Courtyard by Marriott in Union Centre, Ohio.

My job as the Director of Training for the Ohio NRT Companies (Coldwell Banker King Thompson in Columbus and Coldwell Banker West Shell in the Greater Cincinnati area) keeps me moving. I am usually either in Columbus or Cincinnati and on occasion I have the privilege to get out and speak to other groups of agents or companies. When I venture down to Cincinnati, if I have to stay overnight, I certainly have lots of choices on where to stay. For the last two years, I have been choosing to stay with my friends at The Courtyard.

The Sales Manager of the hotel, Sheri Howard, really earned my repeat business by looking at her guest list over a period of time and realizing that I had spent more than a few random nights there as the hotel is just a block away from our CBWS Union Centre office. Sherri reached out to me to thank me for being a loyal guest and arranged for a corporate price for my stays, helping save me (and my company) on each stay. (Certianly a nice way to insure "repeat and referral" business)

I think the "rack rate" is certainly a nice perk. But it's the outstanding service I consistently receive that earned my loyalty to Sheri and her team of customer service superstars.

I am excited to always be greeted with a smile and a friendly "Welcome Back, Mr. Carpenter" by Lana and the others at the front desk. Lana is a lovely lady who came to the United States from The Ukraine and every day she's at work she seems truly excited to be there and help the guests have a better stay.

Of course upon arrival, there's always a plate of delicious cookies. Sure, I am partial to the chocolate ones but after some days of teaching and travel I will even force down a few oatmeal raisin cookies (even though I have to pretend the raisins are really chocolate chips).

When I pass through the lobby in the evenings as I head out to dinner the team members behind the counter always ask me how my room is and if they can help make my stay more pleasant. The rooms are always clean and comfortable and the modern updated features (huge desk space, flat screen televisions, free wireless Internet and large couches) are a wonderful benefit for a business traveler who usually still has some work to do before bed time.

One of my favorite people at The Courtyard Union Centre has got to be Sandy. Sandy works the third shift so not many guests probably get to meet Sandy but if they do, they know they'll always be greeted with a huge smile, a cheerful voice and a helping hand. Many a night heartburn has had me up searching for a Tums or a glass of water and those next mornings, you know who is the first to ask me how I feel? Yep - Sandy. She reminds me of that favorite Aunt or Uncle who used to magically make dollar bills appear behind your ears when you were a child.

Before you start your day, it's nice to enjoy a warm breakfast and that's what the crew in the restaurant in the hotel do each day. Cheryl and Laura see me coming and get my diet soda ready. Michael behind the counter is prepared to make a fresh omelet and there's always plenty of crispy bacon on the buffet. Seriously, I had you at "crispy bacon," didn't I?

I love chatting with Cheryl about her children because she always asks me about mine. We compare notes of their activities even though hers are adults now. She reminisces about their youth and we share similar stories. Just this past visit, I found out that Cheryl was good friends with many of the stars of The Cincinnati Reds before they were the Big Red Machine. She was close with Tommy Helms, Pete Rose and even went to Johnny Bench's wedding. That's stuff you just don't get from the counter girl at McDonald's is it?

I love what I do and I am lucky to have a wonderful family who supports me in my efforts. It's not always easy to be away from home as much as I am (and compared to some business people, sales persons or OTR truck drivers, it's not that much) but if I have to be out, it's nice to know that Bill Marriott and his family of hotels will probably have a place for me to stay.

I usually get good service from almost every Marriott property I have stayed at and as a new Platinum member of the Marriott Rewards program, I have stayed at a few. I just don't know if they will be as friendly and welcoming as my friends at The Courtyard in Union Centre.

Thanks Sheri Howard and the entire Courtyard Union Centre team for making me feel at home when I am away from home.

January 16, 2011

Start Sneezing on People in 2011

Monday Morning Match is a short post - maybe a quote, inspirational story or idea - intended to spark some motivation inside each of you so your week gets off to a fantastic start on Monday morning.

Late January seems to be the ideal time for people to pick up something viral. A cough? A cold? A sore throat? The flu?

Are you ready to "go viral"?

Looking back over your career - whether it has been one year or has lasted a quarter of a century - are there any moments that people are still talking about? What did you do in 2010 that made people stop, take notice and tell others? What will you need to do this week to get people talking about you?

Viruses are usually passed "mouth to mouth" but in today's viral world, you want to be talked about "mouse to mouse." Have you impressed a client enough so that they will leave you a positive review on LinkedIn? Will they talk about what a fun transaction they had with you on Facebook or Twitter?

Can you create a video that gets "hits" from people outside of your family unit?

There are still over 340 days left in the year to make something amazing happen. What are you going to do? You can either wait for something to happen or you could take charge and make it happen.

Get out there and build relationships, solve problems and have fun. Do it with passion and enthusiasm and create incredible experiences for all the customers, clients and other people you interact with. Get them talking to others in person, in writing or on-line.

Trust me...that passion and enthusiasm is contagious.

Get out there and find someone to sneeze on this week. (Not really, but you hopefully know what we mean)

What are you going to try in 2011 to generate some "viral buzz"?

January 15, 2011

Social Nation - A Toolbox Book Review

"How to harness the power of social media to attract customers, motivate employees and grow your business."

That is the sub title of Barry Libert's new book, Social Nation but it could just as easily be a question being asked by hundreds of thousands of people trying to balance their business world with their personal world with their social world.

Libert is the Chairman and CEO of Mzinga, the leading provider of social software, services, and analytics that improve business performance,. He has published five books on the value of social networks and human interaction. He is a regularly featured keynote speaker and has delivered speeches to audiences of 20,000+ globally.

I had the chance to interview Libert a few weeks ago via our CBOLT system (Coldwell Banker On Line Training) about why he wrote the book, how this book may apply to members of real estate's "Social Nation," and what REALTORS can learn from his stories in the book.

Here are some of the questions and ideas we explored during this interview. A link to download the interview can be found below.

  • When it comes to Social Skills, is there a difference for a corporation, a small company or an individual agent?

  • We had a neat discussion about the four major forces driving the shift towards a more social business world;

    1. Today’s changing workforce
    2. Open business models
    3. Emerging technologies
    4. Social monitoring and measurement tools

  • The evolution of skills and strengths;

  • Our parent's parents thrived in the "Physical Age" where brute force was required to succeed. The hard work and tactical execution of a day laborer or assembly line attendant was a different skill set that today's businessman.

    The "Informational Age" was built around organization and the dissemination of knowledge.

    We then entered the "Emotional Age" of creating relationships that brought mutual benefit and value. People demanded personal attention, benefited from flexibility and shared the rewards that came from a communal environment.

    Today in the "Social Age," leaders are defined more by their listening, sensitivity and emotive skills that help create the thriving communities - both physical and virtual that we see in today's society.

  • What skills and competencies do you possess? Click here to take the Social Quotient Test?

  • We spent time discussing how REALTORS can successfully blend their own individual culture with that of the company and the industry while learning to successfully balance the public vs. private side of social networking.

  • Libert and his staff look at some of the "quintessential guidelines for success in the social environment. Among them, "Be on time" and the basics of "Say please and thank you."

  • There are some fabulous real-life anecdotes in the book of companies that understand how to build, support and grow a social nation around their product and it's followers. Among the great examples in the book – Webkinz, Mountain Dew and Apple

  • Libert's company Mzinga’s has three "Tips for Creating a Socially Intellectual Organization"
    1. Pick and audience to follow
    2. Know why you are listening and what you want to learn
    3. Be ready to change

    If the ideas I've shared with you in this post intrigue you, scroll down and download the interview. Or, you could click here and pick up a copy of the book. Social Nation: How to Harness the Power of Social Media to Attract Customers, Motivate Employees, and Grow Your Business

    Click here to download my interview with Barry Libert, author of Social Nation. (Download times may vary depending on your computer and internet connection)

    A final thought from the book which should resonate with all of my real estate industry readers -

  • "Marketing is an expensive undertaking and the most cost-effective way to stay competitive is to retain existing clients. One way to achieve this is to anticipate and understand the needs of these customers so you can reach them before they even realize they have an unfulfilled need.

    Community adoption is especially critical in building social businesses because fans and followers can leave at any time they’re not happy with what you are offering them."

    Thanks for reading. Now get out there in-person or on-line and continue "building relationships, solving problems and having fun"

    January 14, 2011

    What Do You Do with a Calamity Day?

    It was reported that this past Tuesday, there was snow in 49 out of 50 states. Only the residents of Florida - aptly named The Sunshine State - didn't have any of the white stuff fall to the ground that day.

    Some places got trace amounts of snow while others were covered with inches or even feet. Friends I have in Northern Alabama and the suburbs of Atlanta were excited by a snowstorm that dumped anywhere from 4" to 10" of snow because it is a rare occurrence for them and many of the children in the area had never had a chance to see that much snow, let alone play in it.

    "Snow Days" are when school or work is closed because of the snow. They are also called "Calamity Days." Depending on what part of the country, the number of "Calamity Days" your school district or local government allows depends on the local climate. Here in Central Ohio, schools are allowed to have three days out of school due to weather. But they don't cash those in when it starts to flurry. It's got to be pretty deep or treacherous conditions before they'll consider letting the kids stay home.

    As most could imagine, when a snow storm hits the South, the cities and towns aren't equipped to handle the plowing and snow removal needed to ensure safety of the residents. Schools and businesses shut down instantly when a few flakes more than a snowball hit the ground. At the other end of the spectrum, my friends in Minnesota or Montana pretty much need a blizzard of biblical proportions to get them out of school or work.

    Kids live for snow days because they can sleep in and then they get to go out to play with friends out in the snow - skiing, sledding, building snowmen or snow forts or having snow ball fights. Or they could stay in their pajamas all day and watch iCarly, Wizards of Waverly Place, Good Luck Charlie or some other parent-repelling show on Nickelodeon or Disney Channel.

    Here's the questions to you. How do you spend a "Calamity Day"?

    What would you do if you suddenly had 24 hours off? You didn't plan on it, it just happened?

  • Would you keep right on working because technology has allowed us to stay tethered? Would your iPad or iPhone allow your work to happen?

  • Could you catch up on your blogs you follow?

  • What's the book you're reading right now? Would you be able to curl up and finish it off?

  • Would it be a good time to clean out your emails and get your inbox down to zero?

  • Could you contact 10, 20 or even spend the entire day reaching out to clients and people you know just to "build relationships" or see if you could help "solve problems"?

    • We all seemed to pray or dream about "snow days" when we were kids so we could do whatever we wanted. Now as adults, we seem to eagerly anticipate the weekend but even then, our agendas are usually full of activities and obligations - many times work related.

      Think about what you could get done on your next "Calamity Day."

      The forecast is calling for cold temperatures with a good chance of snow. Are you ready?

      January 9, 2011

      Quiet on the Set...Ready...Action!

      Monday Morning Match is a short post - maybe a quote, inspirational story or idea - intended to spark some motivation inside each of you so your week gets off to a fantastic start on Monday morning.

      The holidays are officially over. It's time to take action.

      Don’t mistake “talking” or “planning” with “taking action.” When you look up the definition of "action" in a dictionary you may see:

      - The state of being active

      - Something done (usually as opposed to something said)

      So it's time to stop your talking and start the walking that will be needed to get you to your desired destination in 2011.

      President John F. Kennedy once said, “There are risks and costs to a program of action, but they are far less than the long-range risks and costs of comfortable inaction.”

      I'll refer to my favorite book
      here again, QBQ! The Question Behind the Question: Practicing Personal Accountability at Work and in Life. Author John Miller said,

      "Even though there are risks involved in taking action, the alternative, inaction, is almost never the better choice:

      • Action, even when it leads to mistakes, brings learning and growth. Inaction brings stagnation and atrophy.

      • Action leads us toward solutions. Inaction at best does nothing and holds us in the past.

      • Action requires courage. Inaction often indicates fear.

      • Action builds confidence; inaction, doubt."

      Anyone who is reading this blog should have a great idea of what direction they are heading, why you want to go there and what needs to be done to achieve the desired results.

      It's time to stop talking and stop planning. Make this a great week of taking action.

      January 8, 2011

      It's Not a Sin to Have Nothing In Your "In"

      They're gone. They're all gone.

      My email inbox is empty. I have no emails left over from 2010. I don't even have any from 2011. Sadly, I am guessing that some of you reading this probably have emails still in your inbox from 2009 or earlier, don't you?

      Please don't get me wrong. There's nothing wrong with having old emails somewhere on your computer. I have quite a few "Congratulations" emails from years back when I was promoted to my current role and I have an entire folder called my "Positive Vibrations" folder where I store all my "feel good" notes, letters and comments from various classes, workshops and events.

      But there is something cathartic about cleaning out that Inbox every once in awhile. I'm not talking down to a hundred or single digits...I'm talking empty. Zero. None.

      The white screen just looks at you and shows "There are no items to show in this view," almost mocking those of us who live and breathe to receive and reply to emails.

      The 3D Approach to Manage Your Inbox; Do something, Delegate it to someone else, or Delete it.

      Do Something - Many emails we receive need to be acted on. In order to maintain control over your Inbox, determine if the email sender deserves or requires an immediate response. If so, respond as necessary and then delete the original email or save it to a folder. I'll discuss this more later.

      If the email requires some action on your behalf but isn't needed to be acted on at that time, add it as a task or calendar item for the designated time that is appropriate. Once it has been moved to the calendar, feel free to delete it from your inbox. (If dragging to your Outlook Calendar, the entire body of the email will be in the newly created calendar appointment).

      You could also use a service such as Nudgemail to schedule the emails to be resent to you as a reminder.

      Delegate It - Admit it. You can't do everything. Many times the email is requesting information that an assistant could handle or perhaps it needs to go to an affiliate, vendor or someone else in your office? Hit the "Forward" button, add in a quick note to the new recipient and then remove the email from your inbox.

      Delete It - Hopefully you have a good spam filter to protect your inbox from junk mail but if something does get through (and assuming you're not interested in enlarging any body parts or helping secure the financial inheritance of a Sudanese Prince) hit the "delete" button immediately.

      If you can't "do something" with it and you can't "delegate" it, then it needs to be deleted. Do so with confidence.

      Know When to Hold 'Em, Know When to Folder Them

      Depending on your email program you should have the ability to create folders and sub folders. Some obvious folders for a typical Realtor would be Sellers, Buyers, Marketing, Training, etc. If you really wanted to be detailed, you could create folders such as 2010 Sellers, 2011 Sellers, etc.
      Inside each of those folders you could have folders by clients name or address.

      As an email comes in from a client or about a specific transaction, it should be dragged and dropped into that folder and can then be comfortably deleted from the inbox.

      I currently have 45 folders and 15 of those have sub-folders or multiple sub-folders within them. I narrowed this number down when I spent New Years Eve afternoon deleting many old, un-needed folders and their contents.

      Am I worried about losing something important? Not really. Sort of like parting with that old shirt you haven't worn in years, if I haven't needed it in the last few years, chances are I won't this year.

      What about those blogs, e-newsletters and industry articles?

      I get those too. In fact, I probably receive about 10-15 different blogs a day via email but instead of them clogging up my email Inbox, I have created "rules" for certain emails that I know I will receive almost every day. These "rules" in Outlook allow me to send these designated emails directly to a specified folder so I can read it when I have time - in the evenings, while waiting for classes or meetings to start or for you, perhaps at a slow Open House?

      Sometimes I don't get to these blogs until the weekends or later, but that's okay. The sender won't know if you've read it or not.

      Eliminate the Social Meeting Notifications

      Do you really need to be alerted in your inbox each time someone re-tweets you, or tags you in a Facebook status update? Can you check Linked-In at a pre-scheduled time to see who wants to connect with you? I think updating your profiles in Twitter, Linked-In, Facebook and any other social networking site might be called for today in order to have a more productive 2011.

      And if you are afraid of feeling forgotten by the world, remember the Doritos commercials of a few years back that said, "Don't worry. We'll make more." I know before the night is through, I'll have something in my Inbox. Tomorrow when I wake up, there will be more. And then more, and more and more after that.

      I guess cleaning out your inbox is kind of like washing, waxing, vacuuming and detailing the interior of your car. You are so proud of how shiny it looks and how "clean" it feels that you promise that you won't eat or drink in the car - ever again! Before you know it, you've got more McDonald's wrappers and empty Diet Coke bottles in you backseat than you remember throwing away in the first place. That's how you know it's time to clean it out again.

      What's your strategy for maintaining an efficient email inbox? How many emails are currently in your inbox right now? Please add your comments below.

      Until the next Realtor's Toolbox arrives in your inbox, keep building relationships, solving problems and having fun.

      January 5, 2011

      Need a Success Tip? Ask a Successful Person

      It really shouldn't be too hard to learn something new or how to do something better in today's high tech, high touch world.

      It's not like the "old days" when you had to go to the local library, dig through the card catalog to find a book that probably wasn't even on the shelf once you found the right stack using the "Dewey Decimal System."

      Today you don't need to wait for the mailman to deliver Time Magazine or Sports Illustrated to find out what happened over night, overseas or over on the other side of town.

      It's easier to find information or find people who have skills that can make you better. You're just a phone call, text or website away from getting what, or who, you need to help you become better.

      Or a blog?

      If you were going to learn how to build a bookshelf, wouldn't talking to a carpenter be a good place to start?

      Want to be skinnier? Talk to a trainer...or at least talk to someone who is skinny.

      If you want to be a better blogger or a better blog reader, you must read this post by John Jantsch. John Jantsch is a marketing consultant, award winning social media publisher and best selling author of the books Duct Tape Marketing and The Referral Engine.

      I have been reading Jantsch's blog at Ducttapemarketing.com for the last few years and always get something from it. While it's geared towards small business owners and their marketing efforts, ask yourself what a Realtor really is? Aren't we all just "small business owners who need to focus on our business and the marketing that can direct more repeat and referral business"?

      If you aren't currently reading a new book this year (or need one for your 2011 "must read" list) I would highly recommend Jantsch's The Referral Engine: Teaching Your Business to Market Itself. I'd be willing to bet you'll make back your investment in the book (and shipping and handling) by the end of the second chapter. I can comfortably say this was my most dog-eared book of 2010.

      So if you're looking to build more relationships, solve more problems and have more fun in 2011, and I am guessing you are...Duct tape just might be the answer?

      January 2, 2011

      Let's Go, You've Got Seeds to Sow

      Monday Morning Match is a short post - maybe a quote, inspirational story or idea - intended to spark some motivation inside each of you so your week gets off to a fantastic start on Monday morning.

      The holidays are over and the new year has begun. I hope everyone enjoyed their time away from the business and used it to rest up, revive and get re-focused.

      Now, it's time to put on your overalls, work boots and hard hats and make things happen. These next few weeks are when the heavy lifting really needs to happen.

      Remember the powerful success advice shared by Jim Rohn -

      "You must get good at one of two things: planting in the spring or begging in the fall."

      Now, I would like to add in a small piece of advice to Rohn's statement; Don't wait until spring. Start planting today, tomorrow and the next day.

      There will be people who find out about a job transfer or promotion this week. There will be some lucky couple who finds out they are going to have a new baby later this year. People will need to buy and people will need to sell. There are people out there who wanted to make the move last year but something or someone told them to "wait until next year."

      Guess what?

      Next year is here.

      Start building relationships, solving problems and having fun today.