12 Principles of Highly Successful Real Estate Agents
By Carin Nguyen
“People Don’t Care How Much You Know Until They Know How Much You Care.”
When I got my real estate license a decade ago, I expected to get some direction on how to be a successful real estate agent. It took me a few months to realize that was not going to happen, so I hired a coach. It was the most strategic decision I made. It provided me with structure and gave me a preview of success before the market tanked in 2006. The switched flipped and I found myself surrounded by underwater homeowners and what seemed like an overnight change in my business. I quickly learned about BPOs (Broker Price Opinions) and REO/foreclosure sales. I combined that knowledge and the skills learned from coaching and built an REO empire. I started with only a part-time assistant and rapidly grew to a team of 18 selling 896 homes in my best year. Along the way, a culmination of events happened that would lead me to open my own real estate brokerage. As the market worsened, more and more agents fled from the business. I was perplexed by the reduction of services provided to agents from both existing and start up brokerages, so I decided to go the opposite direction and do all I could to offer as much I could to the agents. The most valuable tool would be coaching and we would not be a “virtual” office. I wanted to bring accountability into our industry and specifically into our brokerage. Accountability became the cornerstone of our business model. I thrive with change and believe me, I know I am in the minority. Versatility is a must as the market is constantly in a state of change. I expect that my business will grow with every shift. Each time we have experienced a severe swing or shift in the market, I have been forced to react and think outside the box. The more I embrace the changes, the faster I grow and the more successful I become. I am on a mission to teach others to embrace change along with the other Principles of Success listed below. Let’s dive in so you can experience success too!
Principle 1: The Learning Process is Never Ending
The more you know, the more you can control. If you have the desire to succeed at a very high level, you must be consumed by learning and mastering your craft. You too must remain relevant. You must keep up. The real estate industry is ever changing. No one will ever know all there is to know because it changes fast. You have to learn to move with it! For me, this is one of the most appealing aspects of the business.
While most of the obvious sources provide traditional industry information and education, they generally lack creativity and relevance. I’ve found the most valuable are real estate agents who are already succeeding at a high level (within as well as outside your market), and seminars outside of the real estate industry. Many of the most effective ideas I have ever implemented in my business are a direct result of masterminding with other top agents. Sadly, I did not discover that goldmine earlier in my career. Looking back, I was probably too proud and too intimidated to pick up the phone and ask a competitor. Now, I get calls from agents across the country as well as in my market asking me for help. Top producing agents are usually pretty giving of their knowledge, so if you have not already, swallow your pride and ask for help from someone that is doing more business than you.
The second goldmine is engaging outside the industry. If you have been to even a handful of real estate seminars or workshops, you know that most are repetitive. Other industries face similar challenges when it comes to marketing, leadership or general business operations. It is exciting to venture onto their turf to hear and learn about how other industries are addressing some of our same issues I encounter. Do whatever it takes to gain as much knowledge as you can as fast as you can, and never stop the thirst for knowledge.
Principle 2: Gain Experience
Many “How to Find the Best Agent” articles mention the importance of experience. I agree that experience is by far the #1 trait to look for, but be careful not to confuse experience with tenure. The value of an agent comes from how many transactions they have completed and how well they know the market, contract, addendums and overall process. As with any trade or skill, you begin to master it after thousands of hours of practice. You need repetition, not just time.
The dilemma is how to gain the experience if you have not closed a large volume of business yet. It’s a ‘Catch 22.’ You need the experience to gain the business and you need business to gain experience. The way to gain experience quickly is to shadow a top-producing agent or join an established real estate team. By shadowing an agent or joining a team, you will be exposed to the entire process many times over. They will already have a steady stream of business that you can begin working with immediately. With this immediate volume of business, you will gain experience at an exponentially faster rate than the average agent. Eventually, you will reach a point that you can break away from shadowing or working on the team and establish your own self-sustaining business.
Principle 3: Be a Professional and Always Keep Your Cool
This may sound like an obvious one, but I can tell you from experience that emotions run high more often than not. Nothing good ever comes from drama or high emotions and this behavior is not limited to one particular group. It will come from your clients, lenders, escrow officers, attorneys, cross sale agents and inspectors. If you are not an even-tempered person by nature, you must quickly learn the skills of how to keep your cool and remain professional. Your response will dictate the outcome. Your calm and professional approach will be the Super Glue that keeps the deal together. Everyone within the transaction has the same end goal…to close the deal. Many times, we are viewed more as “opposing teams” since we may each represent a different side, but we need to remember “the win” is the same for both sides. Keep your cool while you keep your focus.
Here are some deal-saving tips to try when a problem or challenge arises:
a) Do not call your client and tell them about the problem. Now, I am not saying to withhold important information from them. What I am saying is that you want to problem solve on your own first so that you can come to them with a solution. Avoid the emotional roller coaster. They are already stressed enough as it is. I have lost several deals because I was too quick to involve my client. I inevitably found a solution on these deals, but because they were mad or frustrated with one of the other parties, they cancelled.
b) Exhaust all of the options. Brainstorm for a resolution and if you are unable to come up with one, ask your broker and peers for suggestions. Sometimes an unrelated party provides immediate clarity.
c) If it is a lending challenge, call other lenders to see what options might be possible.
Most objections and issues that occur can be resolved, but we throw in the towel too soon or we create more drama. I am often told by my clients that my job looks easy. This used to upset me, because I know the job is far from easy. I took on the drama they never saw, so everything appeared smooth and easy to them. I then realized they were paying me a huge compliment. I made it look easy and that wasn’t a bad thing.
That was my job! Now I strive to hear them say I make this look easy! It means that I have done my job well.
Principle 4: Understand and Know the Numbers Intimately
All top producers look at the statistical data of their local market daily and keep abreast of stats in their state and the country. Why is it so important to know market stats? Besides the obvious reason to monitor supply in order to gauge demand, you are looking for trends that will affect your clients as well as your business. You must also know the numbers within your own business. You need to track what works and what does not. Constantly look for changes in the trends so you can immediately implement changes in your business. Being proactive versus reactive will have an immediate, positive impact on your success.
Principle 5: Listen More Than You Speak
Listen intently with the intention to understand, not respond, debate or defend. It is imperative to fully understand the end goal of the homebuyer or seller. If we are not intentional in listening, we will miss their true wants and needs. By nature, when we listen to someone speak, we tend to only hear select words because we are busy formulating our response. As a result we miss the entire message of what was said. This “selective listening” can cause us to make false assumptions. Get out of assumption and into understanding! Always ask questions. This is the ultimate sign you care and are focused on the end result for your client. There is no such thing as asking too many questions. Once the deal is over, the questions should not stop. Don’t forget to ask for feedback. One of the most powerful feedback questions is, “On a scale of 1-10, please rate … (the quality of service, etc.).” On anything less than a 10, ask what it would take to make it a 10.
Principle 6: Fanatical Follow-up and Outstanding Customer Service
By far, the #1 complaint about Real Estate Agents is lack of communication and follow up on their part. The process of buying or selling a home is usually not a familiar one for the buyer or seller, and because of the amount of money at stake, they want and deserve constant contact and information. Invest in a powerful CRM (Customer Relationship Management) system to keep organized. For consistency, automate any parts of the process that you can. But also be sure to pick up the phone frequently. Do not assume the clients know you are “working.” Communicate the activities you are doing on their behalf and once they are under contract, increase your contact with frequent updates. You can never update them too often. Even when there is nothing to report, report that. By having a process and system in place to constantly communicate with the client, you give them incredible peace of mind. In exchange for the peace of mind you give, you have now earned the trust and confidence of your client.
Principle 7: Versatility
My mantra since I started in real estate has been, “get comfortable with being uncomfortable”. We are faced with changes in the market, the economy, our brokerages, with technology, our clients, contract terms, etc. Change is inevitable and you decide how you will respond to it. The harsh reality is the more you resist change, the faster you will fail. That’s right, fail! I wonder where the agents that refused to use the Internet are now. They are out of business since all listings are posted to the MLS online. What about the agents who buried their heads in the sand when the market shifted in ’06? Do you think they survived the last seven years? Probably not. Are you noticing a pattern? If you can embrace change and become very versatile, you will be far more likely to succeed. Technology is the area that seems to change most often. Just as you learn one new system, the next best thing comes along. Consumers have spoken and they want tech-savvy agents. Not to mention, using technology makes your job easier. You should be able to obtain electronic signatures, scan, resize and email documents. You also need to have a smart phone and know how to send and receive email and text messages on it.
Principle 8: Have a Business Plan & Set Goals
Who opens a business without a business plan and goals? Real estate agents, that’s who! When you obtain a real estate license and “open” for business, no one asks you for your business plan. The “goal” is usually to pay this month’s bills. The Successful Real Estate Agent, however operates like a business owner with a written plan and written goals and they refer to them often. Your business plan should include the specific tasks you need to accomplish to hit your goals. Your goals should be written, very clear and specific, and broken into long-term and short-term goals. Determine the annual goal and then work backwards. If you want $X in profit, how many transactions will you need to close this year, each quarter, each month? How many contracts will you have to write, appointments will you need to go on, and how many calls will you have to make, etc.?
Something very powerful happens when you write down your goals. A study of Harvard graduates found that after two years, the 3% who had written goals achieved more financially than the other 97% combined. Visuals also assist us in reaching our goals. They keep us excited and motivated. Print out a photo of the new car you want, or the vacation spot you want to visit once you hit your goal. Make several copies and plaster them on your computer, refrigerator, bathroom mirror, television, etc. You want the constant reminders so you can stay motivated. It will inspire you to do what you do not like to do especially on the days you do not want to do it!
Principle 9: Negotiation Skills
An agent who is highly skilled in negotiation can ‘net’ their clients thousands more than the average agent. Conversely, it can cost them thousands if the agent is not experienced. A good negotiator is always poised and confident and has the ability to read people. In negotiation, you can push too hard and lose the deal altogether. If you can accurately assess your counterpart, you can come out ahead. The agent that yields the most money for their client will always be better at asking questions. You would be surprised what agents will say. Sometimes they answer without any hesitation. Others will present more of a challenge, and you will need to re-formulate the same questions in several different ways before you can get the answers you are seeking. The bottom line is that you never want to be the one to leave any money on the table. Also, remember that you negotiate for other items and terms that are important such as closing date, possession date, contingencies and earnest money.
Principle 10: Powerful Marketing Strategy
According to NARs 2012 Member Profile, more than half of real estate agents gross less than $35,000/yr. Why is this an important statistic? Marketing is expensive so if an agent is not closing a high volume of business, they simply cannot afford to market their listings. Do not fall into this category. Put aside 10% from every closing and apply it to your marketing strategy. As you close more deals, you will have more marketing dollars to invest in your growing business.
Principle 11: High Ethical Standards
You should always adhere to high ethical standards and morals. I could write an entire book on the subject, but if you follow three simple commandments, you will always maintain high ethical standards:
1) You must always put your client’s needs over your own.
2) You shouldn’t do business with those that do not have equally high ethical standards.
3) Make the commitment to always be honest, no matter what. Sometimes this will be difficult because you do not want the client to be upset with you, and you will have to tell them things they do not want to hear, but they will respect you for being honest.
Principle 12: Power in Numbers
Running a highly successful business is almost never a one-person operation. We all start out that way, but as we apply the previous principles listed, the success and growth will occur. As it does, take note of your weaknesses and hire to compensate for those first. There are other people that can perform those tasks better than you. Once you can fill in your weak spots with competent people, you will find that you will have more time to grow your business and a growing need to hire more people.
Carin Nguyen takes the business of real estate very seriously and she has the track record to prove it. She has been ranked the #1 REALTOR® in AZ multiple times and The Carin Nguyen team has been ranked as high as #2 in the US, and featured in The Wall Street Journal.
Carin has been in the real estate industry for over 10 years full time, having honed her expertise during years in the finance and mortgage industries. She has sold over $200 million in real estate and completed over 2200 transactions. She has owned a real estate brokerage, coached and mentored top-producing agents and knows what it takes to succeed in the real estate business. A rich resume built with a tireless commitment to her clients and agents, undeniable proven past success and an uncompromised vision for the future, create the recipe for continued success.
For coaching or public speaking information on Carin, please visit: www.FireItUpNow.com
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