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Op/Ed

Every successful real estate pro has these 10 skills

(EDITORIAL) Not every real estate agent is amongst the pros just yet. Here are the 10 skills the most successful among us share.

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Two women looking at a laptop representing leaders talking about work-life balance.

“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 the 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

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

Kakeibo: What we can learn from the Japanese art of spending wisely

(EDITORIAL) If regardless of how much money you make, it seems like you’re always short a buck, take a hard look at how you are spending. It could save you a lot.

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control your spending

Raise your hand if you have cash in your wallet.

What is a wallet you ask?

I jest. I know you know what a wallet is. (I hope.) But, sometimes I wonder if cash will go the way of the rotary phone. Seems most folks I know use debit cards, Venmo or their phones to pay for things nowadays.

Ever notice when you go to the store and have a debit or (worse) a credit card at your disposal, your plan to spend $20 ends up more like $50-$100. For example, anyone who shops at Target knows that when they ask you at the checkout, “Did you find everything you needed,” the answer is “ugh… Yes, and then some.”

Living in a plastic economy has made us less cognizant of how we spend money. But, leave it to the Japanese to have a system for putting the thought into buying. It’s called Kakeibo (pronounced kah-ke-boh) and it translates to “household finance ledger” and it’s something most Japanese folks learn to use from the time they are wee children.

The system began in 1904 and was “invented” by a woman name Hana Motoko (also known as Japan’s first female journalist), according to an article on MSNBC. The system is a no-frills way of approaching finances, whether personal or business.

Now, some folks are great at keeping a budget and knowing where the money is going. My mom, for example was the best bookkeeper. Unfortunately, her skills with money didn’t pass down to me. So, I actually purchased a Kakeibo book to try and get my finances in better shape.

You don’t need some special book (save your money), though you can find lots of resources online, including these downloadable forms, but in actuality all you need is a notebook (preferably one to take with you) and a pen. No Technology Required.

If you have been spending money and not knowing where it is going, then it’s going to take some work to change your habits around money.

In her article on MSNBC, Sarah Harvey says what makes Kakeibo different than using an Excel spreadsheet or budget software is the act of physically writing purchases down – it becomes a meditative way of processing spending habits. “Our spending habits are deeply cemented into our daily routine, and the act of spending also includes an emotional aspect that is difficult to detach from,” Harvey says.

As a business owner or entrepreneur, it is also easy to get sucked into believing you have to have new technology, systems and bells and whistles that maybe you don’t need – just yet. Spending goals for a business, just like a personal budget, are important if you plan to stay on track and not lose sight of where your money is going. Lord knows the money flies out the door when starting any new project.

Based on the Kakeibo system, there are some key questions to ask before buying anything that is nonessential (whether for your home or business):

  • Can I live without this item?
  • Can I afford it? (Based on my finances)
  • Will I actually use it?
  • Do I have space for it?
  • How did I find the item in the first place? (Did I see it in an IG feed? Did I come across it after wandering into a store, am I bored?)
  • What is my emotional state today? (Calm? Stressed? Celebratory? Feeling bad about myself?)
  • How do I feel about buying it? (Happy? Excited? Indifferent? And how long will this feeling last?)

For Harvey, who learned about Kakeibo while living in Japan, using the system forced her to think more about why she was making purchases. And, she says it doesn’t mean you should cut out the joy of buying, just possibly making better choices when needing retail therapy on a crappy day. She found the small changes she was making were having a positive impact on her savings.

How to be more mindful when spending:

  • See something you like, wait 24 hours before buying. Still need it?
  • Don’t be a sucker for sales.
  • Check your bank balance often. Can you afford what you’re buying?
  • Use cash. It’s a different feeling having that money in your hand and letting it go.
  • Put reminders in your wallet. What are your goals? Big trip. Then, do you really need new headphones, a bigger TV, a new iPhone, etc.
  • Pay attention to what causes you to spend. Are you ordering every monthly service because of some Instagram influencer or, because of some marketing you get online. Change your habits, change your life.

Using the Kakeibo system of a notepad and pen or a Kakeibo book for the process can help you identify goals you have for the week, month and year and allow you to stay on track. Remember, cash is still king.

This story was first published here in January of 2020.

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Op/Ed

What we can learn about leadership from other cultures

(EDITORIAL) There are those who enjoy “being in leadership” and then, there are those that are more interested in actually leading. Let’s break it down.

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Women typing on laptop representing leadership.

I don’t believe in leadership… really!

In my experience, more often than an example of someone exhibiting a worthy strategy for advancing the goals of an individual or group, I’ve found “leadership” to be a buzzword translating roughly to a skeevy sales pitch that sounds something along the lines of: “Concerned you lack both ideas and skills? Don’t worry! Here are social strategies you can use so no one will notice your absence of merit until it is far, far too late.”

At best, it’s a marketing term used to take advantage of insecure people who actually do have good ideas or solid skills.

At worst, and let’s be honest here; when I wrote my little screed about leadership, how many of you immediately had a face and/or name of someone in mind?

Possibly more than one, even?

It’s OK.

This is a safe space.

Egalitarianism and hierarchy

Imagine my surprise, therefore, to come across a piece on leadership with real value.

Over at the Harvard Business Review, Erin Meyer has built a useful metric for leadership styles. Her purpose is to establish the different expectations that exist for business leaders in multiple cultures (though the metric is applicable as a trans-cultural concept as well).

The two-axis of her graph is “egalitarianism” and “hierarchy.” “Egalitarianism” tracks the degree to which employees expect involvement in the decision-making process.

“Hierarchy” reflects the degree to which employees defer judgment (and responsibility) to their organizational superiors: think top-down vs. bottom-up.

The intersection of the two creates four strong categories, all of which need to be in a good leader’s repertoire, which I’ve listed for you below:

High egalitarianism: top-down

I start with this one because I’m from the USA, and this is us. American employees on the whole expect to be involved in decision-making, especially when the decisions involve them.

That said, for all our open-plan offices and open-door policies, let’s be real: we’re a top-down bunch. Ultimate responsibility still rests with El Jefe, who makes the call and takes the consequences thereof.

In that environment, employees (should) get input, but once the call is made, they’re expected to go along with the decision and adjust to its consequences. A good leader in this setting makes sure everyone is involved in the process.

The cutoff in responsibility that occurs when the decision is made can lead to discontent if an employee feels insufficiently involved since they’re expected to live with consequences of a decision they don’t feel they were part of t. Conversely, depending too much on employee input can give employees an impression of “weakness” on the part of the leader.

Low egalitarianism: top-down

By the heading, this probably sounds like the widely admired “Do What I Say, peon…” approach to leadership.

It isn’t, really.

Rather, it reflects a different distribution of responsibility, one that places a distinction between decision making, which is seen as the sole responsibility of the designated leader, and implementation, which is what the employees are for.

Meyer memorably cites an American company working with a Chinese one in which the management was shocked to learn their egalitarian management style had led to them being perceived as not just incompetent, but arrogant, since what they saw as open-minded suggestion-box management, their Chinese employees perceived them as failing to do their jobs, then acting as if they’d done their employees a favor. Meyer also sorts major business cultures like Russia and Brazil into this category.

Obviously, in a setting like this, a responsible leader has to make clarity a priority. The process is vital: here’s where your responsibilities fall, here’s where my responsibilities fall. In addition, obviously, no leader can function without input.

Incorporating contributory opportunities into a rigorous decision-making process avoids misplaced egalitarianism while still involving workers with the changes that will affect their lives.

High egalitarianism: bottom-up

It’s a decision by debate, more or less. In this environment, the leader does less “leading” in the “buzzword” sense and more facilitating, encouraging everyone involved with the decision and likely to deal with its consequences to make their voice heard.

Meyer notes that this tends to be the decision-making process that takes the longest (go figure), but also one that can lead to high employee morale and a clear sense of involvement.

A successful leader in this setting does their best work making sure every view is heard and, as decision-making time nears, everyone is on board.

Good news for would be leaders: this business culture is characterized by the least pushback after a decision is made.

Low egalitarianism: bottom-up

This is characteristic of business cultures where high regard for formal authority interacts with an involved, informed, worker culture.

Authority still rests with the person at the top of the perceived structure, but the decision itself is made in groups, with the authority figure implementing and taking responsibility for the decision reached by consensus.

This can be a tough environment for would-be leaders, combining as it does a high degree of responsibility with comparatively little control. The best leadership strategy in this setting is a “first among equals” approach, guiding discussion without dominating it and taking responsibility, and exerting influence when making the decision and managing its consequences.

Erin Meyer’s work is a masterclass of serious assessment of leadership in the workplace. It’s an analysis, as well as a how-to, and repays a close look by anyone who is less interested in “being a leader” and more interested in actually leading.

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Op/Ed

4 categories your business needs that contribute to a winning culture

(EDITORIAL) Achieve a winning business culture by checking in on four important categories that are time-tested and proven to improve your company.

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Woman writing in journal representing working on a winning business culture.

When it comes to the term “business culture,” we all have a tendency to throw it around without a precise definition that fits our respective companies specifically. It can be argued that some type of culture will form, regardless of the emphasis you put on it – that’s just human nature. But, how can we check in to make sure that the business culture we’re exuding is an effective one?

A few months back, I was told about a simple way to test your business culture, in a method developed by Franklin Covey. In order to have a winning culture, a culture must have organizational focus and execution shining from great leaders and effective individuals.

With this, there are four categories that contribute to a winning culture. These include: distinctive contribution, engaged team members, loyal customers, and sustained performance.

You may be reading this and going, “well, no duh,” but let’s think about this for a second. Even if you can explain the factors that would make up a strong culture, does that mean that your company has them?

In terms of distinctive contribution, it’s important to look past what your company does on a day-to-day basis and see what you’re doing to make a difference in the world. Does your company give back to the community? Does your team feel proud to work for a company that does good for others?

Speaking of your team members, do they seem to be engaged? So many people go into work with a lackluster attitude and that has a poor effect on their output.

Are you doing things within your culture to make your team feel engaged and productive? This can range from weekly meetings designed to brainstorm and hear everyone’s opinion, to programs that award hard work with fun incentives.

When you have team members that are engaged and hardworking, they will display this to the public and will likely help in attracting loyal customers. Customers can tell when a company and its team are being genuine, and that carries so much weight in terms of retention.

This leads to the final aspect of sustained performance. You must be present and consistent with your customers in order to give them repeated satisfactory performance time and time again.

It’s likely that our business cultures can all enhance in one or more of these categories.

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