Keep Your Sales Pipeline Full

Take inventory of your strengths and weaknesses to keep that business flowing.

February 1, 2005

For a variety of reasons, we all hit the wall at some point in our real estate careers. It can happen to new salespeople or those with several years in the business. New practitioners assume that the phone automatically starts ringing with business and soon discover it doesn’t. Experienced practitioners find that a growing industry population, personal issues, or a slowing market can affect their business and wonder how to jump-start a once thriving real estate practice. The most important task practitioners should do every day is to keep their business pipeline filled. Sales pipelines are most commonly derailed by time-intensive transactions, personal distractions, and a lack of ongoing personal marketing.

Take Inventory

To get your business back on track, you should first evaluate your current business practices to determine if you are inadvertently getting sidelined by your own actions.

  • Don’t get too personal. While real estate professionals are hired to help consumers fulfill their housing needs, clients today are looking for a business professional to advise and guide them through their real estate transaction. Becoming emotionally involved with clients and their families might color how they perceive you. Are you their new best friend or a trusted professional like their accountant, attorney, or doctor?
  • Check your office efficiency. Do you go routinely to your real estate office to get out of the house or to conduct business? The next five days that you’re in your office, track how much time you spend working on your business. It’s easy to go to the office to socialize or wait for the phone to ring, but does it really drive your business? Think about your office as a place where you only go to administrate your transactions and spend the rest of your time on appointments to establish relationships with those who could refer you business, such as attorneys, mortgage brokers, home inspectors, relocation coordinators, and housing centers. Spend your time drumming up business and contacts at social functions, community events, business clubs, and meetings.
  • Focus on the client, not yourself. Remember that your job is about the client, not about you. Dominating or interrupting client conversations and using offensive language can be a turn-off to clients of yours or others. Being consistently late for appointments, or not returning e-mail or phone calls can drive prospective clients to seek another practitioner. Excessive hairstyles, clothing, jewelry, body perfume, or smoke odors can override all other attributes in the consumer’s perception of a practitioner. Don’t feel compelled to talk all the time; clients appreciate the quiet time to take in a property.
  • Build your skills. Are one or two skills that you don’t have limiting your business? Weak organizational or time management skills can drive clients away. Do you fixate on current transactions without focusing on what you’re going to do once your current transactions close? Technology and the Internet are a necessary part of today’s real estate business. If your clients want you to e-mail listings and you don’t know how, find out. If you’re not creative but need to formulate a marketing plan, hire a marketing consultant or college marketing student to help develop your real estate marketing.
  • Don’t let your personal life permeate your business. Are you in a difficult relationship with your significant other, children, or parents? Consider the impact your personal life could be having on your real estate business. Low self esteem and self confidence can contribute to your lack of success. Evaluate if these behaviors could be derailing your client relationships.

Give Yourself an Annual Business Review

You should take your self-evaluation to a concrete level by also giving yourself an annual business review, just like you would receive if you were an employee of a corporation. As part of this business review, do the following:

  • Contrast actual closed transaction sides vs. your goal. Is your goal realistic?
  • Determine where your clients came from.
  • Assess whether there are patterns in your client demographics. How can you market more effectively to these demographics?
  • Find out when you close the most business—the spring market or other times of the year? How can you develop marketing for these other times to help drive additional business?
  • Audit your marketing programs to determine which marketing channels provided the most commission income compared to marketing costs. Is a certain niche growing in your business and should you spend more marketing dollars to grow that niche?
  • Evaluate your Web site to see if it needs to be improved to attract more closed clients.
  • List what your top two successes were for the year and the two business skills you need to improve for your next business review.

After this intensive review, look to others around you to provide constructive feedback on your skills. Your managing broker is a good person to go to for advice and constructive criticism. Have a monthly meeting with your managing broker to set goals, fine-tune a marketing plan, and discuss successes and failures. Also consider finding a mentor in your office to help keep you on track. Look for another practitioner who has worked full time in the business for at least five years and would be considered a mid- to high-level producer for your market.

Create a Plan to Jump-Start Your Business

The final step to getting your business back on track is to develop an attainable business plan. You have to have a plan to be successful in real estate sales. With increased competition and educated consumers, your business mindset needs to be proactive. Ask your managing broker or visit your local library to find resources on business plans and develop one for your business. Start by:

  • Developing a marketing plan to reach a minimum of 25 new potential clients per month. Track responses and fine-tune new-client marketing.
  • Having funds available to spend on marketing from Day 1 of implementation of the business plan.
  • Being open to new ideas, procedures, and skills. Evaluate the effectiveness of your floor time, Just Listed/Sold postcards, and traditional farming methods. According to the 2004 NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers, 74 percent of all buyers used the Internet in their search for a new home. Are you in that consumer path?
  • Assimilating new prospecting and qualifying tools into your business.
  • Learning from your managing broker or mentor how to separate those clients who are really going to buy or sell from those who are wasting everyone’s time.
  • Exploring cost-effective ways to be visible in your community, such as becoming a member of a non-profit board of directors, volunteering for community outreach programs, or developing a market-specific newsletter. Consumers need to know that you exist before they can request or refer business to you.
  • Attending motivational and sales training seminars and contacting your local, state, or national REALTOR® association for appropriate training opportunities.

Ultimately, you must take concrete steps to get your business out of a rut and get new business and closings on your calendar. By re-evaluating your strengths and weakness and improving your marketing skills, you can maintain a consistent pipeline of business and reinvigorate your career to reach the next level.

Mark Nash is the author of Reaching Out: The Financial Power of Niche Marketing and The Original New Agent’s Guide to Starting & Succeeding in Real Estate. He is a broker associate with Coldwell Banker Residential, Central Street Office, in Evanston, Ill. He can be reached by e-mail at mnash@coldwellbanker.com.

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