The Biggest Mistake New Salespeople Make

Just knowing enough to pass the licensing exam isn't nearly enough.

September 1, 2002

Why isn't the success rate higher for new salespeople? Many salespeople wash out and go inactive, most in their first year. One reason--lack of preparedness--may be the answer. Don't fall into the same abyss as others. What you know in advance can help you ride out the rough spots better than your peers who turn their licenses in after they find real estate sales more difficult than they bargained for.

Many people earn four to seven-year degrees in higher learning institutions to become professionals, such as accountants and attorneys. Yet the real estate industry, with few exceptions such as Colorado, turns out salespeople representing real estate fiduciaries (brokers) with just a few weeks or months of education.

To understate the situation, you have to appreciate that there’s a reality gap between what salespeople learn to pass their licensing test and what they really need to know to make a living.

If you are a new salesperson, one of the first realities you have to face is that you won't have enough time to get the experience you need before committing serious, costly errors. Consumers will test you to your resources' limits. They will use your time, money, and gas to look at homes, or ask you to prepare a marketing plan, when all they want is data so they can buy or sell a home without you. Murphy's Law will take it from there and a variety of problems will interfere with your transactions. Everything from a seller’s disclosure oversight to an insurance company that refuses to insure a home due to your buyer's credit problems can put the kabosh on what should be a smooth transaction. Even if you are lucky enough to close a home, you might be hauled before an MLS committee and told you have to give up your commission, because another salesperson showed the home to your buyer before your buyer bought the home with you. Or your buyer sues you and your broker because the seller didn't disclose mold in the home... And so on.

That means you have to have more in your arsenal besides your real estate license. You have to develop experience as well as a sixth sense for things that can go wrong, because between the time you meet a new client and get him or her to closing, a million different “little things” can go wrong. Your job is to prevent problems and expedite the sale while protecting your client's rights, the rights of others, and keeping your broker and yourself from liability.

That's what the job really is. It's not sales, it's not helping people with the American dream. You just got a license to handle explosives--so your job is really about damage control. Whatever education you got to obtain your license isn't going to be nearly enough. You will need further training if you are going to be good at getting deals to closing and keeping your broker and you out of court.

To manage damage control, you'll have to develop many skills including the following:

  • Using scripts, learning to overcome objections, and studying body language gives you a better shot at getting the listing contract or buyer's agreement and knowing when to talk and when to be silent.
  • Learning to price well earns you credibility with buyers and sellers.
  • Managing your time to take advantage of shortcuts and avoid time wasters.
  • Developing contacts gives you backup, so that you have mortgage bankers, fix-it people, and others who will help you make the sale.
  • Educating yourself on the run gives you the flexibility to put together resources that allow you to find information quickly on topics that impact your sales.
  • Finding and identifying cost-effective ways to market your services, listings, and buyers' needs to consumers and other salespeople
  • Learning contract negotiating techniques, so deal points don't become deal breakers
  • Self-defense and personal safety techniques, as you will be dealing with the public and with strangers

This brief list gives you an idea of what isn't covered in real estate education classes, but these skills and many more will be as important to you as anything you learned to pass your real estate licensing exam.

There are only so many hours in the day, and if you are lucky enough to report to work on your first day with a contract to sell a home in your hand, you still won't be paid a dime until the home closes in four to six weeks, if it closes on time. All of your working activities that first day and thereafter have to be balanced between getting new business and retaining the business you have--keeping the deal you're working on from falling through.

While you are dividing your day into getting new business and keeping the business you have, make time for continuing education. Take classes, read articles, attend meetings at your MLS or association, hire a coach, and ask questions of other salespeople and brokers by the water cooler.

Learn not just by asking for help, but by offering to help. Offer to sit an open house for a top salesperson in exchange for some pointers or letting you shadow for a day. Offer to baby-sit listings for salespeople who want to take a short vacation. Offer to take buyers out to look at homes for salespeople and offer the salespeople referral fees for business they don't want or can't get to.

You can devote a little time each day to rounding out your own list of what you need to do to get and keep business, but be sure to make time for some of the items listed above. Then you'll find that your new real estate career is easier to balance, and balance is the key to keeping you off the inactive list.

(c) Copyright 2002 Realty Times. Reprinted with permission.

Blanche Evans is a writer/editor and CEO of evansEmedia. Formerly, she was a senior editor with Realty Times, where she was named by REALTOR® Magazine as one of the most influential people in the real estate industry.

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