Bianca Denham: Don’t skip past laying the foundations for success

There’s an interesting, and somewhat surprising statistic about the career trajectory of a real estate agent – most will peak at around year five and then move into decline.

It doesn’t make sense when you consider that agents who have been operating in their marketplace for that amount of time will have greater skills and more customer touch points than newer agents, but it is an unfortunate fact.

As I have written about previously, much of this can be mitigated by taking a business-minded approach, having an investment strategy and working on your leadership skills.

In this article, I will approach it from the opposite end of the equation, from the beginning.

This article will talk about the critical foundational pieces that must be laid to maximise your growth curve.

Before I get into the nuts and bolts, I’d like to highlight some perceptions that can lead new agents off track as they work through the testing, early months of their career.

Setting your mindset around what to expect can be of great benefit for pushing through to a consistent number of listings and sales.

Be clear on what your job is

If you were to write down the definition of what a real estate agent does, you could be forgiven for stating that it’s to sell real estate.

Of course, the monetisation of our day to day efforts may be in the eventual transaction of a house, unit, piece of land or retail development, but when you look at the average number of sales per head across our network it can be sobering to realise where our time is really spent.

On average, a productive real estate agent in Australia and New Zealand will sell about 25 properties per year.

That means selling about two per month, and that would equate to something in the vicinity of 15 hours of actual work per month (give or take based on geography and market conditions).

When you look at what you spend the remaining 150-plus hours per month on, there are a multitude of tasks that don’t involve open homes, negotiations and signing of contracts.

The reality is that the job of a real estate agent is foremost a relationship management role as much as it is a sales role.

That fact means there are a multitude of daily tasks that must be completed for the business to run at its optimum level.

The way you utilise your time is one of the most critical pieces to success in your role.

Be clear on your priorities and the tasks that will result in more sales opportunities in the future.

Remember what lane you’re in

You don’t have to look far for inspiration in our profession.

There are talented, successful sales agents in most real estate agencies, and these people serve as great motivation and guidance as new agents start their journey.

Just remember, while their success may be your goal, they were once in your shoes too, on the starting blocks.

Many new agents may be derailed by watching an experienced agent operate – receiving lots of ‘call-ins’, deals closed over lunch or coffee dates and long hours spent out of the office may give a false impression of what has gone in to, or continues to go into, building what may seem like an easy-to-replicate business model.

It takes years and countless successful real estate transactions to build the type of repeat and referral business that may look easy to come by.

Behind each one of those successful agents, to whom listings seem to manifest from vapour, are countless phone calls, demoralising door-knocking sessions, consistent and considered marketing campaigns and hours upon hours of hard work.

If you’re starting out, it’s likely no-one will know you, nothing will come easily and it may seem at times like all you hear is the word ‘no’.

However, if you lay the foundation of building meaningful relationships with as many people as you can and consistently provide valuable information, the success you seek will eventually come.

Back yourself in

Some of the fastest growing and most highly rewarded agents and business owners seem to have a mentality of having no plan B.

A blind faith that their career will continue to drive forward and a fearlessness about investing in growth.

If you’ve made the decision to be in this job, be fully in it.

Don’t hedge your bets, don’t keep your hand in another job ‘in case it doesn’t work out’, and take heart in the fact that thousands of agents have walked the same path before you and made incredible careers for themselves. 

The beauty of our industry is that it’s simple and easy to replicate, don’t let your self doubt get in the way of inevitable success that is waiting for you if you just give it your all.

So now that your head is right, let’s talk about the mechanics of setting up a market-proof business.

As you probably know, it all starts with people.

Build your database based on a core-market focus and plan to love it forever 

Mic drop, sort of.

Without trying to over-simplify it, this is the most important thing you can do to build a lasting business.

I’m not saying there aren’t other elements such as skill, marketing and doing the right thing by your clients, but many try to skip this step and there is no proof that without a database of people who know and like you, that you can have a scalable, long-term business.

If you are in the early data building stages and short on listings, enjoy the time available that you can dedicate to solely building a clean and healthy database.

There is so much that you can’t control in this job, but the quality and pace of your database is down to you.

I’ve had the pleasure of overseeing hundreds, possibly thousands, of new agents starting their career and I’m always surprised by the variation in rate of data growth between different agents.

Certainly some geographies are easier to build data in than others, but undoubtedly the biggest criteria for variation is the agents themselves.

Agents who try to rush ahead to just finding listings will often find themselves frustrated in the medium-term with a lack of consistent pipeline and listing leads.

Lay the foundation right and love the process when you’re in this stage of career growth.

Start with a simple marketing and communication framework

One of the biggest gripes from consumers about real estate agents is the old ‘over promising – under delivering’ trait.

I’m sure everyone has the best of intentions when promising the world, but nothing will damage your growing business more than saying you’ll do something and then failing to follow through.

When it comes to building a funnel of leads, map out your year, think about not only data growth, but also data management.

You might be able to grow rapidly in the early days, but if putting more homeowners into your database comes at the detriment of staying in touch with those who are already in the database, you need to take a pause on growth until the management piece is working properly.

If you say you’ll call quarterly, do it.

Once you are on top of what you have, you can then look to add more data, or more touch points with your data.

This also applies to buyer follow up.

Undoubtedly the most ignored customer segment in our world are buyers, certainly with no ill-intent, but the volume of activity here is beyond the capacity of most agents.

If you can commit to being the agent who does what they promise, you’ll win hearts and minds everywhere you go.

If you promise to call back after an inspection visit, do it.

And better yet, don’t just do it once.

After you make a mid week or sold follow-up call to an already vetted buyer, you’ll start to hear the delight with comments such as ‘you’re the only agent who has called me back!’

After that, those buyers may reveal that they have other opportunities for you to explore such as homes to appraise or investment properties that need new management.

Take a long-term mindset 

If you imagine yourself doing business in your community for the long-term, it may alter the way you conduct yourself in the marketplace.

Firstly, you’ll give your customers a better experience.

If you think someone may be in your world for years, not weeks, your approach will be totally different and so much more satisfying for your customers.

You will create communication touch points that offer genuine value and leave the door open for future interactions.

Trust is built over time and you will find that these well-treated customers will keep coming back and start recommending you to their trusted circle.

This also extends to your competitors.

There’s nothing worse than seeing other agents in your marketplace as a temporary annoyance to be removed or ignored.

Vendors do not enjoy hearing agents talk badly about each other, and it will move you down the list, not up, when you’re vying for business.

But remember, things change in real estate.

The person you are competing with today could end up being a colleague, an employer or an employee in the future, treat everyone with respect and that will be returned in kind.

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Bianca Denham

Bianca Denham is the Head of Performance and Recognition for the leading property group Ray White