By Christopher M. Leporini, REALTOR® Magazine
Real estate is a tough business to break into, but new associates should remember that even their office’s seemingly invincible top producers total gross sales once equaled $0. It takes time to master the real estate game, but the first step is understanding the fundamentals. Beginning salespeople, or laypeople considering real estate as a career, can use Your First Year in Real Estate: Making the Transition from Total Novice to Successful Professional, by Dirk Zeller (Prima Publishing, 2001; $19.95) to gain a ground-floor understanding of the business. It provides rookie salespeople with a field guide to the industry, including advice on how to select a company, develop mentor relationships, and meet sales goals. Brokers can recommend the book to their new hires or skim through it themselves for ideas on how to develop their training programs.
The book picks up at the beginning of a salesperson’s career, suggesting criteria to use in selecting a brokerage, with particular attention given to how much assistance companies give new recruits. The book advises applicants to:
- ask whether the company has a formal training program. A company without a formal program might show less commitment to assisting novice salespeople.
- find out how many salespeople the company trains annually, as well as the drop-out rate for new salespeople. This serves as an indicator of the brokerage’s success at nurturing new salespeople.
- determine how much it costs to hang your license with the company. What annual or monthly fees do you have to pay? Who pays for overhead such as business cards, postage, and advertising?
- look for a company that offers floor time. Floor time, the rotation of salespeople to answer phone calls from newspaper ads and signs, can give beginning salespeople valuable chances to make contacts.
The book also includes advice on what new salespeople can expect at their workplace, with explanations of how to build relationships with coworkers and managers. It particularly stresses the influence that mentors can have on a new salesperson’s development. A mentor can not only help salespeople with networking and developing contacts, but can also offer insights based on their own setbacks and successes. The book cautions against always choosing the company’s top producer as a mentor. Instead, says the author, new salespeople should select mentors who reflect their ideals and goals in terms of work/life balance, hours, and salary.
Once salespeople find role models they want to emulate, they shouldn’t fall at their mentors’ feet and say, “Tell me everything that you know about real estate!” Instead, they should ask focused, direct questions that will help them build their skills, such as:
- What are the essential skills to achieve peak performance in real estate sales? Dig beyond superficial answers such as “being good with people.” Find out the “hows” of mentors’ real estate success. How do they prospect effectively? How do they manage revenue? How do they overcome buyer objections?
- What are some of the obstacles that I’m going to face? In order to meet challenges head on, new salespeople need to know what they are getting into. What roadblocks presented the hardest obstacles for the mentor?
- What resources are available to better ensure my chances of success? Whether it’s a motivational book or a trainer, every real estate professional probably has an informal list of the top books, scripts, or coaches that have influenced their career.
- What expertise did you have in the past that helped you to develop your real estate skills? All salespeople bring their own experiences to the table, and not everyone follows a straight path into real estate. How has the mentors’ background affected them—positively and negatively?
- How can I help you achieve your goals? Sometimes, you can learn more by helping others than on your own.
- Would you listen to my goals? A mentor’s most important contribution can be to act as a voice of experience that helps you evaluate whether your goals are reasonable, and how you’re going to achieve them.
Brokers can also keep these questions as they work with beginning salespeople. These are things every newbie needs to know but might not know enough to ask.
Finally, the book helps guide salespeople through traditional rough spots for new salespeople, such as call reluctance. Many salespeople get into real estate because they enjoy working with people. Paradoxically, however, they get cold feet when it comes to cold calling. The book teaches strategies to overcome procrastination. (This material could also serve as a refresher course for experienced salespeople who find themselves lagging on this essential task.) One way for a salesperson to overcome call reluctance is to treat cold calling as an unbreakable appointment, setting aside a regular block of time to prospect without interruptions.
The only major elements separating new associates from top producers are experience and a lot of hard work. Unfortunately, the real estate profession’s unique demands, including a relentless need for self-motivation, weeds out many wannabee sales superstars. Your First Year in Real Estate gives new real estate professionals a head start to prepare themselves for these obstacles and avoid becoming a drop-out statistic.