Every business has its own set of characteristic mistakes, some common, some uncommonly embarrassing. My husband, for example, is a professional orchestral trombonist. His mistakes aren’t the shove-in-a-dark-closet-and-never-speak-of-them kind. If he misses notes, especially in an exposed solo, his boss isn’t the only one who notices. Fortunately, real estate agents’ mistakes often aren’t as exposed or embarrassing. And fortunately, they don’t often hurt others. However, the most common mistakes real estate agents make often hurt themselves… and their business. If you’re wondering why your business isn’t thriving or why you’ve been run so ragged, we’d like to humbly suggest that there may be an identifiable—and completely solvable—reason. Below are some common mistakes real estate agents make. If you can identify with any of them, you’re not alone, and you’re not doomed. Many of these mistakes are quick fixes that take care of themselves with awareness or acceptance. See for yourself how easy it can be to turn your business into a happy, healthy endeavor for the sake of your clients first… and then yourself!
Without further ado, help yourself and your business by avoiding:
#1) Taking on more clients than you can manage
Believe it or not, you’re not doing anyone—including your clients—any favors when you say “yes” to everyone and everything. Sure, that nice newlywed couple needs someone who cares about their situation, but if you are already stretched too thin, then at best you are running yourself into the ground to help them, and at worst, you’re running yourself into the ground and still not able to provide the time or attention they require. Make sure your caseload is something you’re comfortable managing. If you’re too stressed or too busy, your clients will know it, and your work will suffer. Also, as generous as you are and as tempting as it is, saying “yes” to every client’s request to lower your fee means that, at the end of the day, you can’t afford what you need to most effectively help them. Instead, make sure that you are worth your fee by providing exceptional service… even if that means saying “no” sometimes.
#2) Not having an effective social media presence
Your clients are looking for you online. If you’re not there, well… then they can’t give you their business. And that’s all there is to it. It takes almost no time and no effort to set up a website, Facebook page, and Twitter account—and these are the basics. The more your face and your listings show up online, the more your client list will grow, period.
#3) Not taking time off
Don’t think this is counterintuitive. Sure, you can’t make money while you’re not working. But you can’t make money if your work is slipshod or rushed because you’re too busy and too stressed, either. Taking time off helps you to prioritize your family, your health, and even your hobbies, and this is truly best for your business. If you want to engage with people on Monday in a genuine, friendly, chipper way, take Sunday off. No one wants to work with a strung-out agent popping gas station end-cap packages of energy pills or downing Starbucks shots.
#4) Not effectively communicating
If you aren’t answering your email and phone queries within the hour on most occasions, then you aren’t communicating as effectively as you could. Don’t have time? Then perhaps you have too large a caseload. Effective communication isn’t always about the right word (although this really helps!). It’s also about a timely word. Clients want to know that you’re listening, and the best way to show them is to get back to them right away.
#5) Not preparing for dry seasons
Ah, no one knows better than real estate agents that that frustrating old adage “It takes money to make money” is true. Lack of funding is not just inconvenient, it’s business-crippling. We assume that you have taken out all the money you need to begin taking real estate clients, but are you continuing to invest in your own business? Most real estate agents bite the dust in the “dry season,” those inevitable pockets of time in which the market dips and the fish aren’t biting, because they fail to put aside money to ride the tide of this capricious industry. Creating a nest egg is critical, and having a passive income from investments is even better. Ideally, you should have savings that can carry you at least 3-6 months without another contract. If you don’t have such a nest egg, no worries—but do start saving now.
#6) Not having a business or marketing plan
Everyone who goes to the bank for a business loan has to have one, and real estate agents who go into business for themselves are no different. You must have a business and marketing plan to lay out your goals if you are to have any hope of reaching those goals. Too many real estate agents’ businesses go the way of the dodo merely because they don’t know how to measure their own progress. Your goal numbers don’t matter as much as setting some. As long as you have a direction to head, you can keep your business from heading into the ground.
Note: just because you have a marketing plan doesn’t mean you’re using marketing effectively. Often, agents pump money into the wrong sorts of ads for their preferred clientele. Take time to consider your market niche, and tailor your advertising to your potential customers. We’re willing to bet that, no matter who they are, they’re going to want to see your information and your listings online!
#7) Not using available resources
Are you a member of the National Association of REALTORS? Are you reading a real estate blow or newsletter each week to stay current on market trends? Are you looking to find more successful agents in your niche and asking to be mentored? If not… why not? Another great way to grow in this business is to take advantage of the millions of agents and brokers who have come before you. Let their experiences and expertise be your guide, and watch your business acumen (and thus, your business) grow!
#8) Not actively engaged in professional development or continuing education
Speaking of business acumen, there’s simply no better way to develop professionally than to involve yourself in… you guessed it… professional development. Training and specialty classes are a dime a dozen, but the valuable information you learn there, especially in an ever-fluctuating market, is not. Take advantage of the glut of classes offered online and in person that can change the way you see your clients, yourself, and your listings. Being open to new, fresh ideas and insights can be just the shot in the arm you need to boost sales.
#9) Not learning from your mistakes
This business is for, by, and about people. At the end of the day, none of these people are perfect, and we’re guessing you’re no exception. You may have unintentionally offended a client or mislabeled a listing. These things happen, and they’re not the end of the world—unless you don’t learn anything. The only real trouble that comes from a mistake is being reckless enough to repeat it. As long as you make the appropriate corrective actions, sincerely apologize, and plan for future success, you should be able to write off mistakes as true learning experiences.
#10) Expecting instant success
We’re mostly talking to the new agents, here, but even seasoned agents have expectations about how the next quarter should statistically go. But, although you can make educated guesses, you can never bank on what the market will do next. Thus, it’s a best practice not to rely on any scheme, plan, or idea to make you rich overnight… or even to guarantee you a single contract. Your clients are all unique individuals who require (nay, demand) time to search for the perfect house, and you should be willing to go along for that (sometimes loooong) ride. It will pay off in the end. However, don’t expect the end to be a fat check the day (or even the week or month) after the contract is signed. Getting paid takes time, too, so be patient, and give yourself plenty of financial wiggle room to weather the storms.
Even if you’ve made every mistake in the book, we hope you’ll see that, with a few minor adjustments to your attitude and your business plan, you can hop right back on the ol’ horse. We’re certain that, if you’re willing to learn, there’s a glorious sunrise on your horizon, and at the end of the day, a glorious sunset into which you and your horse can ride with confidence.