“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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.