The requirements to become a real estate agent are pretty minimal. Just about anyone can become an agent. Succeeding in real estate is another matter. A large percentage of new agents never make it past their second year. Before you launch your career in real estate, try to have enough income set aside to support yourself for two years. This will give you time to get your business going.
Getting your license is the first step to successfully launching your real estate business. It requires taking a few classes and passing an exam. After that, you should consider joining NAR (National Association of Realtors®) to become a Realtor®. While being a Realtor® isn’t required by state regulations, it opens up opportunities, gives you more credibility, and may be a requirement for joining your local MLS (Multiple Listing Service) as well as certain brokerages.
Make a Plan
You’ll want to have a business plan and goals in place before starting your real estate business. Just be sure to keep them up to date so they will grow and support your current business, not the one you hope to have or used to have.
Goals and milestones – Without goals and milestones, it’s easy to drift along, chasing one transaction after another. Set specific, attainable, measurable goals that include a start and end date and use milestones to track how your business is growing and improving over time.
Business plan – Your business plan should outline your vision for your business and the steps you’ll take to realize it. It should help keep you on track and may be a valuable tool if/when you want to recruit a partner, team, or hire employees.
Elevator pitch – When someone asks “What do you do?” or “What makes you different?”, be prepared. Write, practice, and use your elevator pitch to briefly explain who you are, what you do, and why someone should work with you instead of other agents in your area.
Real estate agents are expected to know all the answers, but starting out, you may not have them. Your first source of help will be the brokerage you join. Look for one that offers ongoing training, a good support system, a mentoring program, quality support tools, and a proven conversion process. Don’t be afraid to ask for help figuring out what goals you should be setting, transaction details, recommendations for CRMs, branding, or anything else you may be struggling with. You can also join a peer or mastermind group for help you when you run into trouble.
Build Your Business Base
A large part of building a successful business happens behind the scenes. Your clients will never know what CRM you use and won’t care who hosts your website, but choosing the right company now can save you a lot of time later on. Don’t focus solely on now. Think about how your business will grow and search for options that can scale with your business so that five or ten years from now, your tools will still fit your business.
Online presence – Listing your business on high-traffic websites like Google MyBusiness, Facebook, and Homes.com is a great way to build your online presence and increase trust in your brand. These days, if someone can’t find you online, chances are they won’t find you at all. Write a good agent bio, take a professional headshot, and start building your presence in online directories and social media.
Website – Your website is a powerful real estate resource that can support all of your branding, marketing, and advertising efforts. Look for a mobile-friendly website that’s compatible with your MLS so it will syndicate all area listings to your website. Pay extra attention to creating good home, about, contact me, and local pages. These are typically some of the most visited pages on a real estate website. Your local content pages will also help your SEO.
SEO – Although a lot of your website traffic should come from people typing in your website’s address, traffic from search engines is another invaluable source of potential leads. Build your SEO by creating and posting information about the area on your site. This local content is a great way to naturally introduce keywords that will attract buyers and sellers. Back links to and from other local businesses can also help. Form partnerships with local lenders, contractors, and other businesses and write articles or resources for their website that will link over to yours. For more SEO tips, download the free SEO Simplified guide.
CRM – A good CRM that lets you set up automated emails, track important dates, and record notes is one of your most important business tools. CRM, which stands for “Customer Relationship Management”, is how you keep track of your leads, clients, and business contacts. Organize your email lists in a CRM from the start to get more repeat business and keep in touch with cold leads who may eventually be ready to transact.
*Homes.com’s CRM is a free tool available for all real estate agents. Import your leads and contacts from any source, add notes, and take advantage of our free email services, including a free monthly newsletter, drip email campaigns, and custom email-lists.
Once you have these basic components in place, you can start evolving your brand into something that will really help your business grow. Some of the more advanced branding tactics include building a quality reputation, geographic farming, and positioning yourself as a local expert.
Reputation – Work on cultivating a good reputation from the start to minimize the fallout that could result from an unfavorable review down the road. Collect short video testimonials from happy clients and use them on social media and ads or transcribe them to use on flyers, presentations, and other materials. Don’t forget to set up and monitor your business on online directories to make your business easier to find. Ask each client if they’d be willing to leave you a review on those sites, too. As your online reviews grow, ask new clients to leave a review on a specific site to create a well-balanced testimonial presence.
Geographic farming – This technique is dependent on you positioning yourself as a certain area’s real estate agent, largely by getting to know the residents and maintaining a consistent marketing presence there. When you find the right neighborhood, one with a good average sale price and at least a six-percent turnover rate, geographic farming is a great way to generate consistent leads. For details on choosing and setting up a geographic farm, check out this blog: Money Doesn’t Grow on Trees. It Grows in Geographic Farms.
Local expert marketing – Being the local market expert is all about presence in the community. Creating a talk show, posting live videos around town, making and printing top ten lists, checklists, and other resources (all with your consistent branding and contact information)…The idea is, if you’re already there providing useful information about what’s happening in your area and which businesses people should visit or parks they should try, you can leverage them to find leads. For more tips on becoming a local expert, download your free Be the Local Expert eBook.
Playing the Long Game
Probably the two biggest reasons most new agents don’t succeed are lack of leads and poor lead conversion skills. Make sure you have at least three or four lead sources set up and remember that even if a lead isn’t ready to buy or sell right now, if you use your CRM to keep in touch with them, you should eventually be able to convert many of them.
You can find real estate lead generation sources anywhere, but finding and working consistent real estate lead sources is a bit harder. Here are a few of the best lead sources for agents who are new to real estate. Find a list of 12 Proven Real Estate Lead Generation Sources here.
Listing portals – Listing portals pull listings from across the country into a single website. Because they serve the whole country, they attract a lot of traffic. Find out which portals always send you leads from your listing (like Homes.com) and set up a profile to get greater exposure for your business and listings. Other programs like Homes.com Local Connect can put you in front of buyers and sellers looking for homes.
Social media – Pretty much everyone is on social media these days, so why not take advantage of that? Choose which social sites you want to mine for leads, but don’t set up more than you can handle. Abandoned or poorly monitored social sites are a great place for other agents to poach leads. Once you decide which sites you want to use, set up your profiles and establish a content strategy. Be sure to include offers for eBooks, guides, checklists, consultations, or anything else that may get people to click over to a landing page where you can capture their lead information. For an in-depth guide on using social media to generate leads, click the link.
Social media ads – Unfortunately, it’s getting harder and harder for businesses to show up organically in social media. Social media ads, which are guaranteed to show up a certain number of times, are more reliable. Some important things to remember about social ads: first, likes and shares mean nothing; you want clicks and conversions. Second, send people who click on your ads to a landing page, not your website, so you can capture leads. Finally, take advantage of the sophisticated ad targeting capabilities available by creating different ads for different groups. Target first time buyers separately from buyers who are upsizing, downsizing, or relocating, for example.
Landing pages – Landing pages are simplified website pages with a short introduction/offer, a call to action, and a lead capture form. According to lead generation specialist Jason Wardrop, landing pages can capture ten to twenty-five percent of visitors, compared to the approximately one percent of visitors most real estate websites capture.
Regardless of which lead sources you choose, you’ve got nothing if you can’t convert. Here are some proven techniques to convert leads.
Follow up quickly and persistently – Your chances of reaching a lead drop dramatically if you don’t call them within the first five minutes. That said, according to Chris Smith’s book The Conversion Code, you can reach 93% of your leads if you attempt to reach each one six times.
Keep in touch with all leads – Don’t let buyers and sellers who are still a year or more from a transaction slip through the cracks. You may prefer a lead who’s ready now, but given time, a good percentage of leads will mature and need an agent. If you don’t stay in touch, they won’t think of you when the time comes. Note when each lead thinks they’ll be ready to transact in your CRM, then contact them a few months before that date. If they’re delayed again, make a new note and reach out again so that when the time comes, you can get ahead of other agents who will be vying for their business. While you wait for your leads to mature, add them to relevant drip email campaigns, to your Facebook page, send them birthday texts, holiday cards, and do whatever you can to get them closer to hiring you.
Work all your leads – Some agents don’t consider rental leads, trailers, or anything worth less than $100,000 a real lead. Those agents probably don’t convert a lot of repeat or referral business. A lot of renters eventually buy. A young couple who buys a small condo this year may upgrade to a house in a few years when they’re ready to start a family. Don’t take any leads for granted.
Creating Your Own Brand
In most states, you need to work under an established brokerage for about two years to gain the experience you need to run your business independently. Once you have that experience and are ready to strike out on your own, you need to decide what your business will look like. If you do it right, your brand can help build your credibility and make buyers and sellers remember you when they start thinking about hiring an agent. Some of the main brand features your leads and clients will see are your company name, logo, and colors.
Company name – Most real estate agents use some variation of their name for their business name. That’s worked out very well for companies like Keller Williams and the Corcoran Group. Other companies, like RE/MAX, base their name on real estate terms. When choosing your name, keep in mind that you may want to sell your company someday and a name that someone else can operate under may make your business more appealing.
Logo – Your logo is going to show up all over the place: on business cards, your website, your stationary. Make sure it looks good. If you’re not a graphic designer, check out sites like Fiverr.com, Freelancer.com, or Upwork.com where you can hire a designer on commission to make your logo.
Colors – Choosing a bold color and a neutral color is usually a safe bet. You can also use color theory to find colors that go well together. Pull up a color wheel online and either look for colors that are directly across from each other, or ones that form the points of a triangle. Theoretically, these colors will look good together.
Also remember that you aren’t “just” a real estate agent. You own a real estate business. That means you have to register your business name, apply for a federal tax ID, get the required licenses and permits for your area, and buy liability insurance. A real estate attorney can help you figure out what needs to be done to set up your business correctly in your area.
Real estate, technology, and the market are constantly changing. Your strategy should too. Find ways to keep up with the latest news and trends and incorporate them into your business. Reading blogs and articles, watching webinars, and listening to podcasts is a great way to do this.
One of the best webinar series out there is the Secrets of Top Selling Agents webinar. Each month, a different expert shares their advice on everything from lead generation to time management to video marketing. Barbara Corcoran, Chris Smith, Tom Ferry, Bob Corcoran, Dave Liniger, and dozens of other top agents have been on the show. Find the entire library of webinars for free at SecretsofTopSellingAgents.com.
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