New Year's Surge

While many practitioners take off during winter, Erica Ramus is ready for her business to take off, and she's finding that the sky's the limit.

January 1, 2010

In the fall of 2001, during her first year as a licensed practitioner, Erica Ramus, now a broker-owner with Realty Executives of Pottsville, Pa., began to notice other salespeople slowing down for the expected holiday freeze. "They whined and moaned about how nobody buys houses in the winter. So they took time off," Ramus explains. Lots of it.

Although November through January is typically a slow time for real estate, she decided to commit to working more—and harder. When other associates skipped floor time, she was at her desk answering queries, even on Christmas Eve. That year her sales volume totaled over $1 million in an area where the average home sold for $60,000. Even better, her elbow grease paid off and produced an excellent January. She was one of the only associates in the office to have any closings that month (she had four).

Ramus wanted to ensure that her success wasn't a fluke, so she committed to developing an annual routine that she tweaks as needed to make sure January is always one of her strongest months. More important, she believes her plan helps to make her business model less cyclical and creates a steady stream of leads and referrals throughout the year. Each October, Ramus starts what she describes as "a sprint" to the end of the year, launching an intense activity each week. In years past she's quietly dubbed these high-energy periods "Race in '08" or "Score in '04" among other self-motivating mantras. She's even inspired other associates in her office to follow a similar plan. In recent years more than 50 percent of her annual business—amounting to at least $2 million in sales—has come between October and January.

Here are highlights of Ramus' end-of-year sprint, which starts in early October:

WEEK 1:  Spiff Up Your Contacts

Ramus begins by updating her database. She opens her day planner and adds the names of anyone she's "touched" in the past year including new and past clients, contacts she's met at cocktail parties and business meetings, and friends. Ramus switched to using the Top Producer contact management system after she found the functions of Microsoft's Outlook to be too limiting.

WEEK 2: Analyze Current Data

As the year comes to a close, Ramus spends time reflecting on the goals she set for the year and how close she's come to meeting them. She uses a yellow pad to set up columns at the top of the page and then lists the details of each sale that year: address, sales price, commission, and buyer or seller. She further analyzes where these clients came from: friends, neighborhood, church, newspaper ad, Internet lead, or other channels. She zeroes in on which methods are making her the most money and increases her budget accordingly, while cutting in poorly performing areas for the coming year.

WEEK 3: Set Your Goals

Ramus notes the number of transactions she would like to have each month and how many listings at a time she can carry effectively. She also writes down what she'd like her annual income to be and divides that number by 12. She looks at the average sale price from the previous year and calculates how many closings she'll need to bring home that figure. From there, she decides if she'll focus more on buyer appointments or getting listings. Ramus also cues up her so-called 10–10–10 plan: She calls or e-mails 10 past clients, 10 current or prospective clients, and 10 people in her sphere of influence every day to see if anyone is interested in buying or selling a house.

WEEK 4: Give Thanks

Starting the first week of November, Ramus writes brief, handwritten notes to everyone who has helped make the year a good one. She adds a personal update, whether it's news that she's moved into a new home or completed a commendable athletic feat. She'll finish with a simple P.S. that she's always grateful for referrals.

WEEK 5: Feed Souls Who Feed Your Pipeline

Ramus takes a look at her pipeline and makes a list of the top 10 individuals who referred business to her, inviting each of these helpful folks to coffee, breakfast, or lunch over the next two weeks to show her thanks. If they don't have time, she offers to deliver some treats to their home. For the top three local groups, such as the Welcome Wagon or the local Kiwanis club, she makes a donation, takes out an ad, or brings sweets for their next gathering.

WEEK 6: Final Burst of Speed

She loves to buy 25 small pumpkins and personally deliver them to people who've helped her business in the last year, such as her dentist, hairdresser, and minister. The week before Thanksgiving she repeats her 10–10–10 plan. She then sends a 2010 postcard calendar to her entire farm of over 500 people.

WEEK 7: Savor Your Accomplishments

She's ready to enjoy the holidays with the comfort of knowing she's headed for a bustling January.

Katherine Tarbox is a former senior editor with REALTOR® Magazine. Previously, she was editorial director for Washington Life. She is the author of the international bestselling book A Girl’s Life (Dutton, 2000) and has made hundreds of media appearances including The Today Show, The Oprah Winfrey Show, and CNN.