Make Them Customers for Life

A closing is not the end of your relationship with your clients. All successful sales associates know that it is only the beginning of a long and fruitful relationship that results in referrals and a continuing stream of business over the course of your career.

The following are some tips to establish customers for life once that first closing is complete:

  • Call within 24 hours of the closing to congratulate the client on the sale or purchase.
  • Send a thank-you note one week after the closing to emphasize what a pleasure it was to work with the client.
  • Send a binder to the client containing copies of the transaction paperwork, including appraisals, inspection reports, warranties, and settlement statements. They'll remember you when they refer to this information at tax time.
  • Send a customer satisfaction survey form two to three weeks after the closing to get feedback from your client on your performance.
  • Ask your client for an endorsement or testimonial letter that you can use in your listing presentations and on your Web site.
  • Find out if the client has any friends, family, or business associates who might be interested in receiving a free comparative market analysis of their home. —Walter Sanford, Sanford Systems, Kankakee, Ill.
  • Create a file that includes personal information on your client, such as names, birthdays, ages, pets, and family hobbies.
  • Establish a follow-up system for all your clients. An effective follow-up system includes occasional phone calls or visits, newsletters, e-mail, cards, and small gifts. It’s important to keep in mind that your contacts with past clients need to adhere a number of federal anti-solicitation laws, such as the National Do-Not-Call Registry and CAN-SPAM Act.  If you are unsure about how the new rules will impact your telemarketing activities, it is recommended that you consult with your attorney before taking action.
  • Choose a unique gift to send to past clients and referral sources each year—a special cake, a Halloween pumpkin, a spring flower arrangement—then repeat the same gift for several years. People will come to expect the gift and associate it with you in their minds.

The Importance of a Career Plan

Where will you be in five, 10, or 15 years? How successful will you be? Will you be making tens of thousands in commissions, or hundreds of thousands? If you're a little uncertain about the answers to these questions, you might not be taking the proper steps to ensure your success in the years to come, according to career-planning professionals.

Just how important is it to have a well-thought-out career plan? "Very," says George Selix, chief learning officer for Century 21 Real Estate Corp. in Parsippany, N.J., citing a 25-year study of Harvard Business School graduates. "The study showed that those who had a formal career plan and followed it earned more than 100 times those who had no plan or one that wasn't very specific."

Fred Peterson, director of educational services for RE/MAX of California and Hawaii, agrees. "Having a good business plan can mean the difference between having a great career or just a few good years," he says.

A good career plan should be focused on more than earnings, according to Lennox Scott, chairman and CEO of John L. Scott Real Estate, which serves Washington, Oregon, and Idaho. Scott has a life plan that keeps his business and personal life in balance and a coach who helps him stay focused on his plan.

Whether you call it a career plan, business plan, or life plan, the important word is "plan," says Selix. It should be specific and it should be on your desk or computer for periodic review and not put away in a drawer.

"There's a big difference between someone who has a plan and sticks to it and someone who wings it," says Selix. "Sooner or later, the difference reveals itself in results."

Establish a Career Plan

Hard questions and honest answers are essential to a good career plan, starting with fundamental questions to determine whether you're even in the right line of work. Is sales the field for me?

  • Do I have the drive, motivation, and flexibility to accept rejection?
  • Can I control my fear of failure until I learn the skills needed to succeed?
  • How many calls will it take to get an appointment?
  • How many appointments to achieve a close?
  • How many closes to achieve my financial goal?

Once you've addressed these basic questions, you can then focus on your financial goals. Include a realistic assessment of where you are now financially and include projections of where you want to be in five, 10, and 15 years,

You also should consider:

  • What are my current household expenses?
  • Does that include cash reserves?
  • Does it include risk management?
  • What happens if I don't close a deal?
  • What happens if I have an auto accident?
  • Do I have disability insurance?
  • What's my current debt?
  • How much is that strangling my family's cash flow?
  • How am I going to put my kids through college?

"By the time we finish asking and answering all the questions, someone who thought they could live well on $100,000 in commissions may find they really need $200,000,"

In all your financial analyses, don't forget the bigger picture, Lennox Scott, chairman and CEO of John L. Scott Real Estate, says. "It's worth taking extra time to figure out what's important to you. When you say it's important, it becomes important. If you don't make this effort, you find yourself working to meet someone else's expectations rather than your own."

Peterson believes that good mentors are essential to career success. "Sometimes a mentor is not even someone in real estate but someone who is willing to listen to you, listen to your dreams, pat you on the back, and hold you accountable," says Peterson. "This kind of person is the difference between making it and not making it. It's not the information the person provides that makes the difference; it’s the inspiration. If you have the motivation, you can find the resources you need."

Six-Month Game Plan to Grow Your Sales

If you want to start off your real estate career with a bang and achieve a high level of success, the following six-month plan will help you get there:

Month One

  • Assess your present situation: how well are you meeting your financial goals?
  • Seek advice from others in the field.
  • Calculate the impact that adding one or more assistants would have on your sales.
  • Consider the impact and responsibilities of recruiting one or more salespeople to form a team.
  • Estimate the costs involved in providing office space and equipment for your team.
  • Determine how many transactions you'll need to cover your costs and yield sufficient profit.
  • Consider all tax implications.

Month Three

If you decide to form a team:

  • Write a mission statement for your team.
  • Develop a marketing plan and calculate its cost.
  • Set sales and financial goals for one, three, five, 10, and 15 years.
  • Hire an assistant.
  • Recruit additional team members.

Month Six

  • Whether or not you’ve launched a team:
  • Calculate your operating costs to date.
  • Calculate total revenues vs. expenses to date.
  • Develop financial projections for next two years based on number of transactions completed.
  • Evaluate marketing efforts and adjust if necessary.

Improve Your Negotiating Skills

Depending on your personal preferences and/or skill set, negotiation may be an aspect of real estate that you love or one you dread. Yet, almost every part of the real estate transactions—from establishing a commission rate with sellers to reaching the final terms of the purchase contract—requires negotiation. Whatever your current abilities, improving your negotiating skills will help you to better serve your clients and get them the best sale price or purchase price possible.

Here are some practical tips to help you beef up your negotiating skills:

  • Make a list of what you and your clients want to achieve from the negotiation. Then rank those goals from the most to least important.
  • For each negotiating point, determine what ranges you can work within, including minimums, targets, and maximums.
  • Determine in advance what concessions you can make, based on your clients’ ranking of goals. With each concession, ask for a tradeoff (“If we can come down by $3,000, then will you remove this contingency?”).
  • Try to anticipate what negotiating demands the other party might make, and prepare and practice your responses to those requests.
  • Maintain a demeanor that is calm, pleasant, and unflappable. Concentrate on creating an atmosphere of joint problem-solving that focuses on the benefits to all parties.
  • Learn as much as you can about the situation, issues, and the participants and learn all of the participants’ needs.
  • If negotiations stall, point out what the other side has to lose if you’re not able to come to an agreement.
  • Make sure that your body language, tone of voice, and words convey the same message. You won’t be believable if you’re giving an ultimatum but you shuffle your papers nervously. At the same time, observe the body language and tone of the other party during the negotiations to determine what’s truly important to the other side and how they feel about your offers.


Find Your Niche

You can’t be all things to all people. After a year of working in real estate sales, you might find that you really like engaging with a particular segment of your market or that the bulk of your referrals are coming from a particular niche. You may realize that in order to expand your client base and grow your sales, you need to focus on the small, well-defined segment that’s responsible for most of your sales.

If you’re serious about pursuing a particular niche, there might be opportunities to obtain additional training and become designated or certified in that niche.

If you don’t already know what that niche should be, then consider the following niche markets:

  • Seniors. People over age 50 represent about a third of the U.S. population, but control about three-quarters of the country’s wealth.
  • First-Time Homebuyers. New buyers represent 37 percent of all home sales, according to The 2017 NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers.
  • Multicultural Buyers. The U.S. Census Bureau projects that minorities will comprise nearly half of the U.S. population by 2050.
  • Luxury-Home Buyers. In the third quarter of 2017, 8.4 percent of new homes sold for more than $500,000, 
  • Baby Boomers. This is the largest generation in the country’s history. Born between 1946 and 1964, it numbers roughly 81 million people, including some 40 million household heads.
  • Generation X. The country’s 44 million Gen-Xers, now in their mid-20s to early 30s, are emerging as the next major homebuying group. They're affluent and educated, and they buy homes at an earlier age than the boomers did.
  • Internet-Empowered Consumers. The 2017 NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers shows that 88 percent of home buyers use the Internet to search for homes.
  • FSBOs. According to The 2017 NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers, 37 percent of FSBOs cite commission cost as their primary reason for not using a real estate salesperson. If you can convince this segment of buyers and sellers of your value proposition, you can tap this FSBO market and make it a lucrative niche.

These are only a few of the major niches possible in real estate. You can decide that your particular niche is a small town or neighborhood. You might want to target golfers because you love golf. Or you may want to target soccer moms. The more creative you are in establishing a niche, the more likely that you will not have as much competition as you would in the more established niches.

Your niche should be large enough to provide a strong pipeline of business but small enough for you to have a big presence. It should relate to you personally in some way, although you don't have to be a member of your own niche group. Experts recommend that new practitioners focus on one niche early in their careers.

Why and How to Get Involved in Your Community

It’s understandable if you feel too overloaded to consider volunteering. The first few years in real estate can be hectic and command much of your attention. But you should consider the potential benefits of volunteering. Getting involved in your community can be very rewarding. Volunteering can create opportunities to network with other real estate professionals and potential clients, build relationships in your local business community, and find an avenue to express yourself outside of work.

Familiarize yourself with REALTOR® Magazine’s Good Neighbor Awards to learn about the inspirational work being done by your fellow practitioners around the country and how you can get involved.

How to Get Started

Your first step is to discover an area of service that you find fulfilling, and this may not be what you originally expected. Some people start working with the elderly only to switch to assisting poor families or the homeless, while others work with children or the disabled.

Many volunteer organizations hold one-off events such as fundraisers, field trips, or building renovation projects that only require a one-day commitment. These are good opportunities to see if you are well matched to both the organization that’s involved and the people it serves.

Once you determine how you want to get involved in your community—perhaps by tutoring a new immigrant in English, being a mentor, or delivering meals to local elderly citizens—make sure you don’t overestimate the time you have to offer.

During these first years in your career, don’t worry about the amount of time you volunteer. People will be more impressed by your consistency than they will be by the volume of your aspirations. Real estate is local, so the totality of your actions in the community will contribute to your reputation as a reliable businessperson and upstanding citizen.

The Benefits of Volunteering

Here are some of the many benefits to volunteering in your community:

  • Community involvement establishes that you care about your town and its residents. They will see you as more than just a service provider. The same people skills that help the less fortunate in your town are those that you use to sell a house.
  • Volunteering puts you in contact with other community-minded people, who are often the movers and shakers in a town. They aren’t simply future clients, but people who can teach you the crucial business issues impacting the community (e.g., employment issues, zoning issues, etc.).
  • You'll benefit from whatever free publicity the group receives in newspapers and other media. Also, these experiences can offer you the opportunity to learn skills to work with press releases and handle telephone calls or can entail public speaking opportunities with local media. This is practical experience for your real estate career.
  • You'll feel great about yourself. Many of REALTOR® Magazine’s Good Neighbor Awards winners cite their community service work as a major source of stress relief and personal pride