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Have you created a business strategy for 2014? If not, then you need to pay attention. Hoping for success isn’t going to produce the results you’re looking for, but planning for it will. During the Homes.com webinar “Plan for 2014: Hope is NOT a Strategy”, Jackie Leavenworth highlights different strategies that real estate professionals can use to help track their success and reach their goals in 2014.

Leavenworth has been in real estate for 25 years, so she’s no stranger to the obstacles that everyone inevitably faces during their career. During this time she has become an international speaker and coach for real estate professionals who don’t exactly have a well thought out or effective business plan. Jackie travels around the country every year to share her 5 step business plan with real estate professionals, providing a foundation for creating an intentional future and a profitable business.

Jackie explains that it’s not a question of “if” brokers are helping their agents, because most of them do. Rather it’s “how” they are helping that determines whether the agent will find success or failure. Leavenworth explains that when she was first starting her career in 1984, she was trained “backwards” because she was only provided with ways to market herself.

“It’s a reverse business plan. We market ourselves and hope that marketing (a picture on a shopping cart, back of sports jerseys) attracts buyers and sellers we can work with and then turn into sales and get paid enough to pay our bills and run our business and have money left over to see the profitability in our life,” she says. “Marketing should be the last thing we do, not the first thing we do.  I would like for everyone to be very intentional about their life and business, which leads to marketability. It’s going to be easy, just backwards from what we’re used to.”

Jackie’s 5 Steps to Success

Leavenworth has found that her 5-Step Plan will give any agent the opportunity to reach their goals, allow them to be happy and most importantly, run a successful real estate business.

Step 1: “Plan Your Life”

“It’s hard as adults to dream. We spend more time planning our vacations that we do our life,” she says. “Planning your life takes dreaming and thinking ahead. Real estate is a business that should support our life and not the other way around.”

Step 2: “Determine Cost of L&B”

It’s important to balance your cost of life and the cost of business, so that one doesn’t outweigh the other. Don’t let work keep you from enjoying your life, but don’t let that leisure keep you from being successful at your job. By balancing these aspects of your life, you’ll be able to get the most out of both.

Step 3: “# of Units”

Leavenworth stresses that the only way to live comfortably is to determine how many units you must sell per year. Set a monthly or yearly goal that will provide you with the financial stability you need and work towards it, instead of just hoping that the number of homes you’ve sold will support your lifestyle.

Step 4: “Identify Sources”

Leavenworth considers this to be the most important step because it’s where an agent has the opportunity to grow their business.

“We throw our money at the wall in marketing hoping that people come to us. What we don’t necessarily intentionally target is where we’d like our business to come from,” she says. “It’s important to figure out where you want your money and business to come from and act on those.”

Step 5: “Market to Sources”

This is kind of a curve ball for many real estate professionals that have become accustom to taking the shotgun approach for marketing their business. Rather than breaking the bank on reaching as may people as your dollar will allow, Jackie recommends a more organized and direct approach. Start identifying where you want your business to come from because it will not only save you money, but will reduce any confusion down the road.

“Choice, not chance, determines our destiny” is a phrase that Jackie uses to sum up her 5 steps to success and that this is where one should take their business to heart.

The FORD Principle

During the post webinar discussion, Leavenworth provided valuable suggestions on how to make the most of every phone with your sources. “The whole call should revolve around the person you are calling and not you.” she says. “Ask open-ended questions. Tell them you were showing houses in their area, and thought of them—that’s how you can bring up real estate. Humans are very reciprocal, and if you ask them about their job, they will most likely ask you.” In a nutshell “The FORD Principal” is a how-to for agents to ask the right questions during conversations with clients and prospects. Look at the strategies you currently use and ask yourself “Am I really getting the results that I want?”, if not then it’s probably a good idea to take Leavenworth’s advice into consideration.

For those of you that are wondering the FORD acronym stands for Family (How is your son doing in high school?), Occupation (What’s new at your job), Recreation (What are you planning for fun this weekend?) and find out what D stands for and how you can create your goals using these 5 steps by visiting Homes.com’s blog dedicated to real estate professionals.

Also, join Homes.com as it presents more informative webinars in the new year, beginning with Katie Lance, CEO and owner of Katie Lance Consulting, who will reveal

How to Leverage Photo-Driven Social Platforms for Your Business” on Wednesday, Jan. 22; and “Gary V.” (Gary Vaynerchuk), co-founder of VaynerMedia, who will deliver “How to Tell Your Story in a Noisy Social Media World” on Wednesday, Feb. 19.