50 Great Ideas

Here are some ways to save time, make more money, and build your business. So what are you waiting for? Dig in.

February 1, 1999

If you’re experiencing the midwinter doldrums and need a way to zip up your business, weave come to the rescue.

These 50 great ideas came from a variety of sources (see "Thanks to the Idea People" below). They won’t all appeal to you--how many of you will really take the time to laminate your goals?--but one may be all you need to spice up your marketing, dazzle your prospects, buy yourself a few more hours, or put more money in your pocket.

Take Control

1. Get to no. Saying no is one of the greatest time management techniques.

  • Say no to sellers who want you to overprice their house.
  • Say no to unqualified buyers.
  • Say no to volunteer groups in which you have no interest.

Trick: Wear a headset at your office. People never know whether you’re involved in a phone call.--Domb

2. Hire help. If you have 20 to 24 listings, you have the skills to be a big earner. Hire an assistant so that you can focus on expanding your business.--Bohlen

3. In the same vein, delegate, delegate, delegate. In corporate America, if you’re not good at something, you delegate it. If you make more than $30,000, a personal assistant can be a profit center for you.--Mowrey Sheets

4. Take back your nights. Do listing appointments during the day. You'll cut out some of your nighttime hours, and you’ll get to inspect the property when most buyers will be seeing it. If you tell sellers why it’s important, they’ll make the time.--Wolborsky

5. Plan a daily hour of power. Have a staff meeting each day with your team and plan out the next day’s activities--calls, appointments, mailings, and goals. Hold all team members accountable for what they’ve done every hour of every day.--Mowrey Sheets

6. Make every minute count. Here's how:

  • Prioritize the five most important responsibilities or projects you have each week.
  • Give yourself a day each week to follow up on all the work you’ve generated on the other days.
  • Hold as many meetings as possible on the phone or at your office to reduce travel time and avoid delays.
  • Combine activities when possible. Listen to audiotapes while exercising; review your goals while you’re in the shower (laminate your goals and post them in your bathroom); take several clients out to lunch together rather than individually.--McGrath

7. Don't hire bad blood. Bring only positive people into your organization. A negative person can cancel out five positive people.--Herman

8. Plan price reductions. At the time of a listing, get a commitment from the sellers to reduce the price by 3 percent for every 30 days it’s on the market.--Roberts

9. Spread positive vibes. What do people say when you ask how they are? Often it’s something negative, right? Instead of giving them a chance to complain, greet people with "Tell me something good." That will force them to be positive and start out on the right footing.--Barrett

Put Technology to Work

10. Get your area’s top salespeople working for you. Get E-mail addresses for the top 50 salespeople in your area, then distribute your new listings to them first. Tell your clients, "The average salesperson depends on the MLS, but I'll market your home to the most successful salespeople in the city. They'll have your listing even before it’s entered in the MLS.--Barrett

11. Help surf-savvy clients. An added-value service for buyer’s representatives: At closing, give your clients a list of Web sites to help them get settled in their new home, such as those of furniture and appliance retailers and decorating and landscaping services. --Barrett

12. Take your business card into the next century. Instead of a traditional business card, give out CD business cards. Contact information can be printed on the surface of the CD. Recipients can insert the CD to access video testimonials from your customers, an entire color marketing brochure, product listings, and more.--Young

13. Make a technology loan. Buy several fax machines and lend them to sellers who don’t have one. When an offer comes in, you can fax the necessary paperwork to your clients and discuss the offer immediately. When you sell the house, don’t forget to retrieve the fax machine.--O'Connor

14. Dial for dollars. In this age of high-tech, the telephone is still the best method of follow-up. I call sellers a minimum of every two weeks to talk about the status of their listing, even if it’s just to leave a voice mail message.--Domb

Mind Your Money

15. Make tax-paying simple. Put 20 percent of every commission check into an account earmarked just for taxes.--Bird

16. Build your retirement on real estate. If we don’t have enough confidence in our industry to buy property for our investment portfolios, how much credibility will we have with our clients?--McGrath

17. Ask, What service would you like me to eliminate, Mr. Seller? Make a list of 100 things you do for sellers. Then, when they try to renegotiate your commission, go through the list with them and ask which of the items on the list they’d like you not to do for the sale of their home.--Lee

18. Squirrel away for rainy days. Read The Richest Man in Babylon by George Clason. I read it and immediately began putting 20 percent of my income into an account, which I use to invest in real estate. Too many people have years of success in this business but nothing to show for it at the end.--Aitkin

19. Make the new tax law your new friend. With your market knowledge, you’re in a great position to capitalize on tax law changes enacted in 1997. There are nuances in the law that impact how it’s applied, but there’s effectively no limit on the number of home sales for which sellers can claim the capital gains exemption, as long as they own the house as a personal residence for at least two of the past five years. You can buy a house every few years, sell it, and keep the gain tax-free.--Bird

20. Show them the money breakdown. If prospects argue that you’re making too much money, show them how the commission figure is divided--a percentage going to the other practitioner, your split with your broker, your advertising expenses, and your business expenses. After the number is sliced and diced, it shows you’re not making buckets of money on each deal.--Lee

21. Say au revoir to lookers. Charge $25 per hour to drive buyers around and show them houses. The tactic eliminates Lookey-Lous, and serious buyers won’t waste time lingering at houses that don’t fit their needs.--Lee

22. Sell bundles of service. To try out the fee-for-service approach, start by bundling several services and selling them as a package. Charge x amount for a basic package that includes a CMA, a For Sale sign, an MLS listing, and an open house. For an upscale package, include all the items in the basic plan but add services--a staging analysis, 24-hour phone answering, four weeks of newspaper ads, and one home magazine ad. Give prospects a choice and tell them you’re willing to work with them in the traditional way or through the fee-for-service plan.--Lee

23. Insure your future. Plan for your financial future today. Call 800/NAR-5233 to learn more about Realtor Benefits Plus, the benefits package designed exclusively for REALTORS®.

24. Cut business costs. Save money on business and personal purchases by checking out the discounts that are available to you through REALTOR RewardsTM. For more information on the REALTOR RewardsTM program, call Information Central, 800/874-6500.

25. "Incentivize" your assistants. Don't pay assistants only on a straight hourly basis. Add an incentive per closing. That way, when you win, they win.--Wolborsky

Market With Style

26. Attract customers--don't "sell" them. Selling is convincing. Marketing is attracting. Look at all the great advertising that attracts--the milk campaigns, for instance--and incorporate those concepts into your campaigns.--Hobbs; Herder

27. Don't extend bad print campaigns. Taking bad print materials and putting them in other media--on postcards, on the Internet, or into cable TV ads--will be bad in those areas, too, and will fail.--Hobbs; Herder

28. Put yourself on CNN. Cable TV advertising--and not during real estate-specific shows--is cost-effective per exposure and is the ultimate credibility generator. TV spots combine sight, sound, and motion into dramatic presentations that let your personality shine through. Such spots can be had for as low as $2,500 for production and $70 to $100 per 30-second spot on your local cable station.--Hobbs; Herder

29. Listen, then sign them. I do a one-step listing appointment. I usually spend the first 45 minutes letting people talk about their needs and motivations, and I walk out with a signed listing contract wite alan hour.--Wolborsky

30. Remind clients you’re still here. To boost your referrals, think up some personal ways you can show appreciation to past clients.

  • Rent your city’s botanic gardens one weeknight and invite all your clients.
  • Call your best clients and invite them to your house to watch a big sports game.
  • Buy blocks of tickets for concerts and plays and do periodic ticket giveaways. It's an excuse to call your clients and ask, for example, "Would you like me to put your name in the hopper for our office's ticket giveaway for Cats on x date?"--O'Connor

31. Ditch the sales pitch. Instead, offer prospects something of value. Ask for a five-minute appointment and tell them you’ll show them how to improve the value of their property by up to 5 percent. Now you’ve got your foot in the door, and you can do a walk-through and point out items that owners may want to repair or update before they consider selling their home.--O'Connor

32. Point out good investments. Prospects who aren’t interested in selling their home may still be a source of business. Ask them,üé w that you've seen how real estate has appreciated in the last couple of decades, do you wish you’d purchased more real estate 20 years ago when prices were lower?" Tell them there are still low prices to be found and ask whether they’d mind if you contacted them twice per quarter to update them on what's available in the investment arena. Now you’ve established a relationship, and the prospects have given you permission to call regularly.--O'Connor

33. Ask, don’t tell. Use a detailed form to gather information about prospective sellers--their plans, motivations, needs. You'll get more listings with a question-based presentation than you will with one that just touts your skills and accomplishments.--Herman

34. Create standout advertising spots. Why advertise where your competition advertises? Make yourself stand out by being the only one in publications aimed at specific groups--teachers, CPAs, and police officers, for example.--Hobbs; Herder

35. Try kinder, gentler selling. We used to say, "Find a way to call yourself No. 1." Now the customer doesn't know what No. 1 means. It's better today to use ads that focus on the customer’s needs and use customer testimonials.--Roberts

36. Never again hear "Sorry, I've never heard of you." Keep your name in front of your potential customer base. Prospects have seen my advertising over the years, so my cold calls become warm calls.--Herman

37. Penetrate new markets. If you’re trying to break into a new geographic area, blanket the area with your materials repeatedly. Name recognition doesn’t happen overnight.--Domb

38. Expand your network. Build relationships with other professionals. Lawyers and accountants can be your best source of referrals.--Domb

39. Market, market everywhere. I once slipped a brochure in with a check to a waiter in an Atlanta restaurant. It turned out the waiter was planning to buy his first home. I got the referral--and I sold homes to two of his relatives who happened to live in my market area near Detroit.--Roberts

40. Send a kid to college. Offer a college scholarship to a high school senior. It doesn’t have to be a huge amount of moneyù$1,000, for instance. Advertise your offer around the community and ask to present the check at an honors ceremony.

41. Warm up your vocal chords and customers. Call your customers on their birthday and sing "Happy Birthday" to them.

Pick Your Niche

42. Tap a fluctuation-free niche. The senior niche is a valuable one to develop because it isn’t subject to general market fluctuations. If a health problem or financial crisis means a senior has to sell, it’s not likely to matter whether it’s a buyer’s or a seller’s market. The person must sell.--Corliss; West

43. Remember that seniors can go home again. Even if you’re not in the Sun Belt, you can develop a niche among senior buyers. Many relocate in their 50s but return 20 years later to their core of family and friends.--Corliss; West

44. Teach seniors a lesson. One way to develop a niche with seniors is to offer free seminars targeted to their interests. For example, ask your local mall manager for permission to offer free programs to the seniors who do morning mall walking for exercise. Then hire a registered nurse to give free blood pressure checkups once a week for a month. Get business cards printed with spaces for recording systolic and diastolic blood pressure on the back. People will hang on to the card because it shows them whether their pressure has changed.--Corliss; West

45. Forget the generic approach. Target one niche with quality materials that will attract its members. A generic marketing approach that attempts to appeal to everyone is the surest way to minimize the effectiveness of your plan.--Hobbs; Herder

46. Make buyers' dreams come true. Specializing in buyer agency? If the buyers' dream home doesn’t exist, talk to a builder or two and see whether you can help create it for them.--Hansen

Grow as a Pro

47. Go to diversity university. Take advantage of the immigration boom and become a recognized diversity expert in your area. NAR offers two programs that’ll help: the Certified International Property Specialist designation and the "At Home With Diversity" course.

48. Find out what’s happening online. Haven't yet tried out the brave new world of the Internet? Ask a friend to show you a few of the more than 1 million listings at Realtor.com.

49. Never bumble another speech. Giving a speech, preparing for a sales meeting, or needing some stats for a client presentation? Start at the One Realtor Place Virtual Library. It's a searchable, full-text database of more than 1,000 business and industry periodicals--and it’s free to members.

50. Imitate: It's the highest form of flattery. Identify colleagues you admire and ask to shadow them to see how they work.--Roberts

Thanks to the idea people

Many of the great ideas were culled from conversations and education sessions during the 1998 REALTORS® Annual Convention & Trade Exposition in Anaheim, Calif., Nov. 6-9. Where possible, the ideas have been attributed to those who offered them. REALTOR® Magazine thanks all the speakers whose tips we used. They include Shane Aitkin, Christchurch, New Zealand; Bill Barrett, CRS®, Bill Barrett Seminars, Rochester Hills, Mich.; Christopher Bird, Professional Tax Seminars, O'Fallon, Ill.; Bob Bohlen, CCIM, Prudential Preview Properties, Brighton, Mich; Tim Corliss,CIPS, CRB, CRS®, GRI, RE/MAX-Westside Properties, Santa Monica, Calif.; Allan Domb, CRS®, Allan Domb Real Estate, Philadelphia; Jay Hansen, ABR , RE/MAX-Ideal Properties, Medford, Ore. (from Today's Buyer's Rep newsletter, August 1998);Greg Herder, Hobbs Herder Advertising, Santa Ana, Calif.; Phil Herman, CRS®, GRI, RE/MAX-Real Estate Specialists, Dayton, Ohio; Don Hobbs, Hobbs Herder Advertising, Santa Ana, Calif.; Michael D. Lee, CRS®, GRI, Realty Unlimited, Castro Valley, Calif.; John McGrath, McGrath Partners Estate Agents, Paddington NSW, Australia; Eleanor Mowrey Sheets, Coldwell Banker-Paula Stringer, Dallas; Jack O'Connor, CRB, Moore and Co., REALTORS® , Englewood, Colo.; Ralph Roberts, CRS®, GRI, Ralph R. Roberts Real Estate Inc., Warren, Mich.; Buddy West, CRS®, RE/MAX, Greenville, Del.; Phyllis Wolborsky,CRS®, Howard Perry & Walston-Better Homes and Gardens, Raleigh, N.C; James Young, The Jamesan Group, Carlsbad, Calif.

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