10 Survival Skills for a Cooling Market

Sharpen your skills, reconnect with the consumer, and 'kick it up a notch.'

August 1, 2006

As the old adage goes, “All good things must come to an end.”

Yes, the real estate market that boomed for the past several years is slowing to more regular, consistent pace. Mortgage rates are rising. Prices are cooling. Buyers are no longer racing each other to open houses.

But there’s no need for wringing your hands and wailing. Sure, some practitioners who didn’t have their heart in the business will drop out or find it too hard to compete in a more challenging environment.

However, as anyone who has worked in the real estate business during a slowdown can attest, there’s always demand for skilled real estate practitioners. After all, people don’t stop buying and selling just because the market cools.

That doesn’t mean that you can thrive by doing business the same way you were a year ago, or even a month ago. Rookies and industry veterans alike must sharpen their skills, reconnect with the consumer, and — as my favorite chef, Emeril, would say — “kick it up a notch.”

To stay at the top of the game in your changing market, follow these 10 tips:

  1. Focus on relationship-building. Work hard on developing customer relationships that will provide you with downstream business for years to come. Although we are light years advanced from 10 years ago when it comes to database management and communicating with clients, real estate is as much of a relationship business today as it ever was.
  2. Work an extensive mailing list. Even if your business slows down a bit, don’t stop contacting prospects and past clients, either by e-mail or snail mail. Plan to make 12 contacts per year for everyone on the list. Build your list to 1,000 or more and watch that list generate 10-15 transactions additional yearly.
  3. Invest in marketing. Reinvest 20 percent to 30 percent of your gross revenue on personal marketing and advertising that will get new clients and customers to come to you. Your message could emphasize your experience working with buyers and sellers in tough situations.
  4. Use technology to your advantage. Take a look at the technology that you are using to communicate with clients and co-workers, organize your business, and manage each transaction. Evaluate whether it makes sense to upgrade your tech tools to boost your efficiency and deliver a higher level of customer service. However, don't let technology stand in for face-to-face meetings and networking.
  5. Make sure the price is right. Become masterful at pricing right the first time. Don’t add to the problem of oversupply and increased absorption rates. Every time a home is priced to “expire,” you increase the number of FSBOs on the market. How? When a listing expires, it’s not uncommon for the owner to get mad at the whole real estate profession. They might just try selling on their own the next time around.
  6. Welcomes objections for what they are. Don’t get mad at objections. Instead, recognize them as valuable market signals and become masterful at handling them in a relaxed, but serious way. Learn from what buyers and sellers are telling you. For example, if a seller objects to a list price you suggest, maybe that means you must do a better job at educating clients on market conditions. Also, know what the most common buyer objections are and practice your response so you are confident and prepared to respond.
  7. Strengthen your community ties. Build your community involvement in a variety of ways: little league sponsorship, networking groups, charity events, volunteering as a big sister/brother, and so on. The more you’re out there and visible in the neighborhood, the more opportunities you create to reinforce your expertise as the local real estate expert, ask for business, and get referrals.
  8. Embrace continuing education. The market keeps changing, and you must know how to change with it. Stay up to date on new technology, risk management, and hot marketing techniques. Participate in every educational opportunity that comes along. While it is keenly important not to be one of those agents who is forever getting ready to get ready, it is critical to “sharpen your axe” when it comes to staying ahead.
  9. Hire a coach. Invest in the single most effective thing you can do to rouse the superstar within. A good coach aligns his or her goals with yours and is there for you every step of the way. By learning from an outside expert, you can refine your business plan, respond to challenges, and open your eyes to opportunities that you may not have otherwise seen. That’s an asset worth its weight in gold.
  10. Don’t just sit there! When all is said and done, there will never come a time when sitting on one’s haunches or doing things “the old way” will be an acceptable way to do business. Make it your mission to adapt to changes and be open to new ideas to propel your business.

Mark Leader is a national speaker, author, and founder of Leader’s Choice, a real estate training and coaching company. Over the course of 20 years, Mark and his team of trainers and coaches have helped tens of thousands of sales professionals raise their production and increase their revenues by hundreds of millions of dollars. As a sales professional, Mark averaged 93 closings for eight consecutive years. Learn more about Mark at www.leaderschoice.com.