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2007-10-01 15:00:00

Staying in the Game

It seemed like the market would always be strong, like prices would continue to go up forever. There are agents with successful real estate careers who have never worked in any other kind of market. It was a trend that lasted so long it became a fact.

But now the market is changing and there are a lot of agents who are experiencing panic. A friend told me last week that 25 agents had left her office in the last couple of months – some for other companies, some for other jobs.

So now what?

If you plan to keep your career going and stay in the major leagues, you have to learn how to deal with the new market conditions. If it sounds difficult, it’s not. It’s really a matter of getting back to basics – things that are understood by agents who worked through, and thrived in, these market conditions the last time around.

If I can use an analogy here, every day when you get up and go to the office, you’re a baseball player coming up to bat. You can stand there and swing wildly at everything that comes your way, or you can prepare, stay light on your feet, watch the pitcher, keep your eye on the ball and adjust your swing accordingly. You won’t get a hit every time, but your averages will be much better than the ‘wild swing’ approach.

So what does it mean to prepare? In baseball, it means studying the other team – their strengths and weaknesses, their record in this stadium, their pitching lineup, and everything else about them. Players also have to study the playing field and the weather, know their teammates, and of course they have to prepare themselves physically and mentally.
In real estate, it’s not much different: 

  • You have to study ‘the competition’ – and that doesn’t mean just agents from other companies; it means every single agent who might compete with you for the same client. Studying them means looking at their website, advertising and other marketing; listening to what other people (both agents and clients) say about them (their reputation); and examining their target market, their track record and their personal style. (A note here: the goal is find a way to reinforce your competitive strengths, not to ‘bad-mouth’ their weaknesses.)
  • You have to stay absolutely current on the market. This goes beyond reviewing the sales board and the MLS; it means also learning something about the Big Picture: money markets, interest rates and consumer confidence. You need to be informed about national and international concerns that might affect your local market – things like climate change, political scandals and the fallout from sub-prime lending.
  • You must prepare physically and mentally. This is a big one, and it’s often the last thing that agents do, or the first thing they drop, when the pressure mounts. You need to eat well, get some exercise and get plenty of sleep (did you read recently that studies show there’s a connection between obesity and lack of sleep?). You need to practice your negotiation and presentation skills (think of those batters practicing their swing with two or three bats) and challenge yourself to come up with answers for the hardest questions you can think of. You also need to have a positive mindset – a ‘can-do’ attitude that conveys confidence to your clients (think of the Olympic pole-vaulter who visualized himself vaulting the bar, over and over, before he moved an inch). Mental preparation also involves thinking outside the box, coming up with creative solutions that will put your clients in a position of strength.
  • You have to know your teammates. What resources do you have? Are you taking advantage of the knowledge, skills and experience of your manager and your peers? Look around: are there agents in your office who have worked through previous changing markets? Can they offer some expertise? Do you have a co-worker or a coach who can support your efforts to build your business, develop the skills you need and refine the ones you already have? 
  • Finally, there’s the ‘light on your feet’ part. Staying light on your feet means being prepared for everything, including surprises. It means not relying on just one thing  for your success (often some technological wizardry), but having a whole bag of tricks – different stances, different ways to hold the bat and different swings, depending on the pitcher and the pitch.

These things may not sound like much, but they are the actions that define success – in sports and in real estate. For years, maybe for your whole career, you’ve been able to get by with one or two swings, or even the swing-at-everything approach. Just showing up with bat in hand was enough. But in this new game, you’re going to have to try something new: become an artist of swing. Get back to basics. Learn the things you would have learned if you started your career in this new market instead of the last one.

One other note: Are the recruiters knocking at your door? In a changing market, companies take advantage of agent doubt, panic and discontent to tempt agents to switch. With promises of higher splits, private offices, unlimited staff support and plenty of wining and dining, they make it sound like the new market conditions will be unnoticeable – the merest blip on the radar. If you were unhappy with your office or company before the market started to change, switching companies may be worth considering. But think it over carefully. Switching is expensive – redesigned ads, lost calls, new marketing materials, informing all of your past and potential clients, perhaps losing some of your closest friends and colleagues from your old company, etc. – and the costs could easily offset the advantages promised by the recruiting manager.
Plus, in spite of what the recruiter’s song-and-dance routine might suggest, no matter how big the signing bonus, you will still have to adjust your swing to stay in the game.

(Patti Kouri, GRI, Accelerated Performance Coaching, is a Master Coach who works closely with executives, managers, and real estate sales professionals. She offers dynamic and innovative techniques to help people achieve their goals and specializes in breaking through limits. “I work with people with big visions for themselves who want to make a dream into reality or create more meaning in their lives.”  She is the co-Creator of The Real Estate Game®, and hosts the annual JumpStart Workshop.)

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