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Op/Ed

The 10 skills every successful real estate pro shares

(EDITORIAL) It isn’t slick business cards that make a real estate pro successful, it’s a constant striving for improvement. Here are the 10 skills the most successful among us share.

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“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” -Winston Churchill

Churchill’s quote may be shared with lame inspirational imagery on Facebook in an effort to make people think the poster is an inspiration, but his words are timeless and a universal truth. People enter the real estate profession with big dreams and expectations and are often met with the brutal reality that it is a lot of grunt work.

Once in the industry, what separates the successful from the failures? There are 10 skills every successful Realtor shares, no matter their expertise:

1. Education level

Successful real estate pros continually educate themselves, and not just in the “I have 6 hours of legal updates to take before I renew” way, but through webinars, earning designations and certifications to refine expertise, continuing education, and so forth.

Resting on laurels is never an option for successful pros, because they’re constantly seeking the competitive advantage. Further, they are educated enough to educate people around them, be they consumers or fellow agents – the skill to effectively convey a message is a sure sign of being educated.

2. Negotiation skills

Those at the top of the food chain can negotiate well, and we’re not talking about haggling at a rug bazaar, we’re talking skillfully navigating the transaction from start to finish, knowing the laws and processes so well that they aren’t just worried about their bottom line, they’re taking their fiduciary relationships with clients ultra seriously.

It’s not about being cutthroat, it’s about being extremely knowledgeable and being able to get the best deal possible (and convey that to) a client, who in turn refers to them because of their wicked value proposition.

3. Communication skills

Real estate agents are famous for not calling anyone back. It’s true, let’s be real. But those at the top not only have the systems in place to handle calls when they’re unavailable or funnel leads through the most effective pipelines, they treat their clients like gold. Which means communicating at every phase of the transaction. No one at the top lands a client then just shows up at the closing table, it just doesn’t work that way.

Emails are routed properly, social media connections are groomed effectively, and systems are in place to deal with incoming communications. Further, they are able to communicate complex legal terms simply and concisely to clients, and they make the process look easy. They’re very hands on.

4. Tech-savviness

The most successful in the industry aren’t necessarily programmers, but they’ve vetted the endless systems they have working well together to get consumers from point A to point Z effortlessly. Many are left behind, duct taping together old crappy technologies, while the successful agents tend to be ahead of the curve and are thirsty to always improve (see #1). This doesn’t mean they’re Twitter experts and want to come talk to your office about the benefits of tweeting, it means their site won’t look like it was half-assedly built in 1999, they aren’t using outdated tools, they’re pushing technologists to serve them so they can better serve their clients.

5. Marketing skills

If you ask someone that is successful about their toolbox and methods, you’ll be in for an hours-long conversation. Marketing is second only to negotiation skills when it comes to a Realtor’s value proposition, so they don’t just slap up a flyer in a yard, they have endless digital analytics in place, they (and/or their team) follow up on every single opportunity not only for leads but feedback. They tweak. Then they tweak again. And again. And again. Marketing skills isn’t just knowing what a modern logo looks like, but what a good ROI is on a specific type of ad, which listings require a re-shoot, expertise on a farm area like school ratings, and so forth. It’s a science and an art that separate the successful from the others. By miles.

6. Problem solving

The most successful in the industry are creative and think well on their feet. When problems arise, they can confidently offer an immediate and effective solution, which requires experience and education (which yields refined judgment). If a sale is falling through because the buyer wants the hot tub to convey, but the seller plans to take it with them, they know when to let go of the damn hot tub and when to hold on, as well as what to offer each party to create a win-win.

This also applies to knowing when they’ve expanded too quickly or too slowly and need to add team members and navigate those waters of operating a business to scale.

7. Team building

Speaking of teams, there is more team building to a successful agent’s tale, no, it takes a village – relationships with all types of vendors they can call in a pinch, title professionals that are effective, photographers that are skilled, and so forth.

The most successful in the industry are networkers with a purpose that have refined their pitch (and they know “I help people buy and sell homes” is forgettable, but “I specialize in luxury properties on the north shore” yields more referrals), and know that their team expands far beyond their four office walls.

8. Leadership

Successful real estate pros are typically quality leaders. They know how to motivate every actor in a transaction, motivate their team, and get everyone to work toward a common goal. To be honest, these qualities are often natural when you combined the aforementioned skills.

9. Risk takers

Most people don’t think of Realtors as risk takers, but inherent to success is a refusal to settle. Even if there is a market area dominated by a successful Realtor, they know that the pipeline always has room to grow. They’re the first to try new technologies to speed up a transaction or better serve a consumer, they’re the first to add or subtract an offering to refine their methods, they’re willing to try out new agents that show promise.

They also know how to balance risk for the sake of success versus risk for the sake of taking risk. In real estate the “fail faster” mentality of Silicon Valley tech doesn’t make for a successful veteran agent or brokerage.

10. Advocacy

What most outsiders don’t know is that most successful Realtors are advocates for homeowners and homeownership, often involved at the local, state, or national level with volunteer efforts. They serve on committees, they communicate the importance of homeowners’ rights to politicians, they volunteer at places like Habitat for Humanity and are typically deeply involved in a non-superficial way in their community.

The takeaway

Real estate is a profession that anyone can enter if they can pass a basic test, but the most successful are those that know resting on laurels and refuse to stop growing, stop pushing, stop educating themselves and others, and they refuse to stop advocating. That’s what makes the industry so wonderful, and why we will always advocate for those in the trenches.

#REsuccess

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Lani is the Chief Operating Officer at The Real Daily and sister news outlet, The American Genius, and has been named in the Inman 100 Most Influential Real Estate Leaders several times, co-authored a book, co-founded BASHH and Austin Digital Jobs, and is a seasoned business writer and editorialist with a penchant for the irreverent.

Op/Ed

10 small things you can do for your business while Netflixing

We know the holidays are a time to relax, but before normal working hours have returned, you can still do things for your business in between episodes on Netflix. Here’s 10 simple things that won’t cut into your holiday.

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For many real estate agents, the holidays can slow business down. It’s time for some #ProductivityAndChill.

Instead of spending all day binge-watching Hulu or Netflix, in between every episode take 10 to 15 minutes to do something for your business. Here are some great ideas for things that don’t take long, but provide some long-lasting benefits.

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Productivity and chill

1. Get inspired by your favorite websites. Where do you like to shop or get your news information? Browse through their site with one purpose in mind, to see why it draws you in and how you can implement their methods into your own business.

2. Catch up on the news. Read some articles here or at The American Genius that you might have overlooked or passed by because you thought they didn’t pertain to you. Keeping up with various industries can benefit you.

3. Use your social media tools to set up posts on Twitter or Facebook.

4. Improve your webpages by writing new product descriptions or to optimize images for SEO.

5. Go through the App Store to find new apps which can help make your life easier.

6. Learn to use a new social media platform to reach out to new customers.

7. Go through your social media feed. See what people are talking about and what’s trending. Make notes when you get inspiration.

8. Clean up the documents in your laptop. Organize them more effectively so you can always find what you need.

9. Clean up your email. Unsubscribe from newsletters that you don’t ever look at. Delete messages that are old. Set up folders to save information that you may need at a later date.

10. Customize your email. Set it up to pre-sort emails into different folders to allow you to work more productively when you get back to work after the New Year.

These little tasks can eat away at your time when you’re busy trying to get things done, but when you’re relaxed and just want to feel more productive, take a few minutes to do something that won’t overtask your brain, but needs to be done to keep you more organized throughout your week.

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Op/Ed

A negotiation strategy successful people always use

(OP/ED) Successful people didn’t wake up one day in a leadership role, they used this negotiation strategy every day to win.

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One of my earliest lessons in the art of negotiation went down at home, as the youngest child trying to get the one up on my older brother. It was the mid 90s, Pepsi was rewarding loyal customers with Pepsi Points hidden in their 24-packs. I don’t think either of us knew what the hell we would even do with the Pepsi Points, but we both knew we wanted them. So for hours we negotiated.

There was yelling. There was name calling. Finally, my dad came in with a pair of garden scissors and proceeded to cut the Pepsi Points voucher in half. We were speechless. Our dreams of amassing a wealth of Pepsi Points turned into a lose-lose scenario.

Sadly, our negotiation experiences today end up following a similar pattern. Long, energy draining negotiations end in lose-lose scenarios. My own pattern of negotiations gone wrong only began to change when I became a community mediator in college. I learned from leaders in business, law, and social work negotiation skills that have helped me in both my professional and personal life.

A good starting point to any negotiation scenario is understanding negotiation motivators. Some of the obvious motivators are money and resources. These obvious motivators are at the tip of the iceberg. In negotiations, these motivators are often written or verbally communicated. However, there can be a handful of other motivators hiding beneath the surface. These motivators represent the hidden, yet powerful underside of the iceberg.

Here are some common hidden motivators to keep in mind: respect, accountability, safety, and power.

Seeking clarity involves slowing down the negotiations and proactively checking in with the other party to ensure you’re understanding points of agreement or disagreement correctly.

Often, this looks like simply taking time in the negotiations to summarize progress. For instance, negotiating with the head of another department about the use of meeting rooms. A summarizing statement on when and why each party needs the meeting rooms can be critical in correcting assumptions earlier on rather than later. It also helps ensure objectivity.

I’ll be totally honest and admit to times when I’ve been tempted to turn negotiations personal. In my head I’ve said things like, “Sally wants the meeting rooms all to herself” or “accounting is always trying to hold me back.”

Seeking clarity by summarizing key points helps keep us grounded in reality, and ensures that we are working towards each side’s true needs rather than the needs we assume in our heads.

We hear this term in sales pitches, business seminars and relationship workshops. But how can we create win-wins the midst of negotiations that are often stressful and complex? Well, let’s break down the win for both sides.

First, we create the win for ourselves by coming into our negotiation meetings with a clear picture of what our goals are both long and short-term.

In negotiating a purchase, I may want monetary savings now, but in the long term I’m willing to pay more if a product can meet my long term goals of reliability and convenience.

Ensuring a winning scenario for those on the other side of the negotiation table involves creating buy-in. This doesn’t mean stating your solutions and getting the other party to begrudgingly agree. It’s about asking open-ended questions and giving the other side a chance to craft their ideal solution. Sometimes, simply asking the other party what their ideal solution looks like can give you a head start in reaching a mutually beneficial scenario.

The most important step in creating a win-win scenario is to embrace creativity. Click To Tweet

We do this by focusing not just on WHAT the needs are, but HOW those needs are met. Think outside the box. For instance, what are some non-traditional ways of structuring payments? What are some non-traditional employee benefits? What are some non-traditional services you can add to a contract?

Negotiating is one of life’s necessities. Unless you live in your own self-sustaining plastic bubble, eventually you’ll need to practice the art of effective negotiation.

Don’t be like my Pepsi Point obsessed eight-year-old self, slipping into a lose-lose scenario due to lousy negotiation skills.

Practice seeing the other side of the iceberg, seeking clarity, and embracing creativity. These three negotiation skills can quickly turn a lose-lose scenario into a mutually beneficial one for both parties.

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Op/Ed

The music you’re listening to may dictate your productivity levels

(EDITORIAL) Whether it’s a podcast, news, or music, most people are listening to *something* while at work – so what makes you the most productive?

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music for productivity

For some, productivity requires a state of concentration that can only be achieved in silence. But workplaces are seldom so quiet, and truth be told, most of us prefer to have some background music playing while we work. Some people swear they can’t work or study without it.

Personally, I find music helpful for encouraging productivity and creativity. It distracts the part of my brain that would normally be chattering away – the voice in my head worrying, wondering, and daydreaming. I find that music neutralizes this inner voice, freeing up my brain to focus on the task at hand.

More and more research backs up what many of us experience – a state of enhanced calm, focus, and creativity when we listen to music while working. Deep Patel at Entrepreneur.com has a list of the best types of music to serve as the soundtrack to your workday.

Typically, music without lyrics is best for working or studying, since lyrics tend to catch our attention. Research has so consistently shown classical music to boost productivity that the phenomenon has it’s own name – the Mozart effect.

But other forms of wordless music can work as well. Patel recommends cinematic music for making the daily grind feel as “grandiose” as a Hollywood epic. Meanwhile, video game music has been specially designed to help gamers concentrate on game challenges; likewise, it can help keep your office atmosphere energized. Soothing nature sounds, such as flowing water or rainfall, can also help promote a calm but focused state.

Music with lyrics is okay too, as long as it doesn’t turn your office into a karaoke bar. Cognitive behavioral therapist Dr. Emma Gray worked with Spotify to identify the characteristics of music that can actually change our brain waves. She found that music between 50 and 80 beats per minute can trigger the brain an “alpha” state that is associated with relaxation and with being struck with inspiration.

Really, any music will do, as long as you like it. Research from the music therapy department at the University of Miami found that workers who listened to their preferred artists and genres had better ideas and finished their tasks more quickly.

What styles of music help you focus during your workday? I myself enjoy the collection of “lo-fi” or “chill-hop” playlists on YouTube. This music has a consistent beat that is engaging without being distracting, and the accompanying video generally features an adorable cartoon character to keep you company.

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