9 Key Rookie Mistakes

March 1, 2006

Real estate is harder than it looks, as many rookies learn. But even experienced sales associates can fall into bad habits. Here are some traps to avoid, and ways to spring yourself if you’ve slipped.

1. Neglecting to develop a business plan and then to work the plan. A salesperson without concrete goals and timelines is likely to flounder. Without a plan, salespeople too often allocate funds and time in ways that don’t pay off, says Ruth Marcus, training director with Russell & Jeffcoat in Columbia, S.C.

2. Failing to create a consistent marketing look and stick to it. New associates often waste money on advertising and promotion without focusing on what will really generate business, says Marcus.

3. Forgetting to purchase equipment, such as computers, as a business entity. Buying equipment as a business instead of as an individual allows you to depreciate equipment over a five- or seven-year period and deduct that depreciation from your income taxes. Also, as a business, you can generally access business customer service when you have a technology problem. Often this is much more responsive than tech help lines for consumers, says Terry Watson, ABR®, CRS®, president of Watson World Inc. in Chicago.

4. Putting off prospecting or lead generating. Generating leads should be an everyday task for sales associates. When she’s working with new recruits, Jan Brand, director of career development at Ebby Halliday, REALTORS®, tells new sales associates that they need to make 30 contacts a day, five days a week. Lead generation can include phone calls, handwritten notes, and mailing to one’s sphere of influence, as well as networking.

5. Ignoring the training and other resources your brokerage has to offer. Sales associates need to keep up to date on industry changes and continually work to improve their business and selling skills, regardless of their tenure in the business, says Brand.

6. Failing to work their sphere of influence. It’s much harder to get business from a new customer than from a repeat one, says Marcus, so it’s critical to stay in touch with past customers, friends, and contacts.

7. Having no accountability. Being held accountable helps people stay focused. If you don’t feel as if you’re getting the feedback you need, take the initiative and set up regular meetings with your mentor or broker. Also make yourself accountable to customers by providing written guidelines on exactly what services you’ll provide for them, suggests Frank Cook in his book 21 Things I Wish My Broker Had Told Me (Dearborn, 2002).

8. Being paralyzed by what you don’t know. Marcus says that she sees some new salespeople who worry so much about not understanding every aspect of a contract or a disclosure form that they postpone prospecting. Although education is crucial for sales associates at all levels, rookies should remember that they can rely on their brokers, sales managers, or company attorney for answers, says Marcus.

9. Failing to have enough resources to establish yourself. It isn’t only living expenses, says Marcus. New sales associates also need funds for marketing themselves and any listings they get. She recommends having six months’ income in reserve, more if you don’t have a spouse that works. After each closing, set aside funds to reinvest in your business. And don’t forget to put money aside for income taxes, cautions Brand.

More: Mark Leader’s Red Hot Rookie, available at the Real Estate Bookshelf at REALTOR.org.