By Michele Lerner
Whether a REALTOR® is a newly minted sales professional or has been in the business for a decade, the components of success tend to be the same: build a strong network of contacts, provide excellent service, maintain a professional and cordial relationship with other REALTORS®, and stay in touch with your clients and prospective clients.
Don Coughlin, an associate broker with Re/Max Leading Edge in Winchester with 26 years of experience, says he believes his use of snail mail to reach at least 1,500 people per year is a big part of his success, but he also relies on technology and social media to market his listings and to connect with other REALTORS®.
“When I mentor young agents, some of the kids laugh at me for using snail mail, but I tell them ‘I’m doing what you’re doing, so you should be doing what I’m doing to reach buyers and sellers’,” says Coughlin. “Remember there’s more than one way people find a REALTOR®. Sometimes that changes by their demographic.”
Coughlin calls himself a chameleon because he changes his mode of dress as well as his communication method depnding on the age of his potential clients. “I’ll wear colored jeans and a jersey if I’m meeting someone under 40, but I’ll put on a suit and tie if I’m meeting someone over 60,” he says.
Lynn Findlay, a REALTOR® with Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage in Belmont who has been licensed for one year, says her success comes from connecting with people. “I’m constantly looking for unique or interesting things to share that can open a conversation with a prospective client,” says Findlay. “Once I have a client, I try to make the process as easy as possible. I have a soup-to-nuts approach so I can immediately provide my clients with moving boxes, referrals for an electrician, anything they could need.”
Tracey Smith, a REALTOR® and vice president with Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage in Boston who has been licensed for more than 19 years, says staying in touch with clients is one of the most important steps to success for a REALTOR®. “I try to reach out three or four times per year to every past, current and potential client,” says Smith. “I send handwritten notes to people on the anniversary of when they bought their home.”
Ryan Cook, a REALTOR® with RE/MAX Real Estate Center in Foxboro with less than three years of experience, initially got his license in order to handle his real estate investments and then decided to become a full-time REALTOR®. “I called successful REALTORS® around the country to ask them for advice and they all told me that prospecting is the most important part of the business,” he says. “I spend at least three hours a day prospecting, starting with calling For Sale By Owners and expired listings and other contacts each morning.”
Cook credits his organizational skills for helping his business grow quickly. He wrote down his goals, affirmations, and vision and then established a time blocking system to reach his goals. “I think every REALTOR® needs an excellent client management tool and needs to learn how to use it to automate things,” he says. “Mine tells me who to call, who to email, and
when to send a note to someone.”
Christina Martinez, a REALTOR® with Weichert REALTORS® Briarwood Real Estate in South Easton with 11 years of experience, says consistency is extremely important. “A lot of REALTORS® will mail things a couple of times and then stop, but I make sure I send quarterly mailings to every farm and marketing area,”
Martinez says. “I pay for an extensive five to 10 year follow-up plan that keeps my face and interesting information in front of my clients every three months with things like new mailing labels or other items.” Additionally, Martinez embraced social media early in her career and uses it to attract tech-savvy clients. “I like to jump in on any new tech site because clients love it even if they don’t understand it,” says Martinez.
Kate Devito, also a REALTOR® with Weichert REALTORS® Briarwood Real Estate in South Easton who has been licensed for one year, says the motto in her office is follow up. “We have a call night every Tuesday in the office when each REALTOR® calls at least 10 people to touch base,” says Devito. “I also email, phone, or send a handwritten note to at least 10 or 20 people every week.”
Connect with other REALTORS®
Smith says building a solid rapport with other REALTORS® is as important as building a good relationship with clients.
“I keep a trade database of about 200 REALTORS® around the country, which is great for referrals,” says Coughlin.
Devito says the team environment in her office has been extremely important to her initial success.
“My broker and the other REALTORS® in my office are always available for me as mentors,” she says. “The best thing I do is to go into the office every day. You get a front row seat to learn what other REALTORS® are facing and how they handle problem solving.”
Findlay says she found a mentor in her office right away and has made herself available to more senior agents by volunteering for open houses, home inspections and other tasks.
“The more you can learn about the process of real estate from experienced agents, the better it is,” she says. “It’s important to be part of the team in your office and establish a collegial environment.”
Devito says when she earned her real estate license, she told everyone she comes into contact with, from her hairdresser to her mail person and from acquaintances to family members. She meets new clients by holding open houses for other agents in her office and has used both a business page and a personal page on Facebook to expand her sphere of influence.
“Old-fashioned face-to-face meetings will be around forever,” says Coughlin. “I’ve built my business on word-of-mouth referrals and by staying active in my church, my community and my country club. I used to be ‘room mom’ when my kids were younger, which was always a great way to get some attention because it’s unusual to have a male room parent.”
Collin Bray, a REALTOR® with Century 21 Cityside in Boston with more than eight years of experience, who played basketball in college, plays the game in several leagues and makes contacts with the other players.
“It’s important to be part of your community if you are a REALTOR®,” says Bray. “I’m active in the Neighborhood Association of Back Bay and get to know people that way as well as learning about neighborhood issues.”
Smith says new REALTORS® must be proactive and contact every single person they have had any contact with in their lives in order to begin building a network of potential clients.
“REALTORS® should volunteer for community service, because the more people you meet, the more business you’ll get,” she says. “You have to be pushy in a good way because business won’t just come to you. You need to reach out to people.”
Advice for Rookies
Experienced agents like Martinez say that treating everyone the way you would like to be treated can go a long way to build a successful career.
“I highly recommend that new agents spend a lot of time in the office and volunteer to help other REALTORS® with anything, especially to sit at an open house for them,” says Smith. “I shadowed people when I first started in the business, did cold calling and sat in the office just to listen and absorb information from other REALTORS®.”
Establishing a database and reliable systems right from the start are also valuable steps for a new agent.
Bray set up a schedule on his computer with reminders to follow-up with things like an email on the anniversary of each settlement and to check-up with a landlord nine months after a new tenant signed a lease to see if the home will be available again.
“I credit a lot of my success with my emphasis on goal setting,” says Bray. “I set daily and monthly goals for things like how many calls I’ll make and how many face-to-face meetings I’ll have. But the follow-up is also extremely important, so every REALTOR® should establish a database with contact information.”
Advice for Seasoned Agents
Not all seasoned agents want to use technology or social media, but Bray suggests that all agents need to embrace the benefits of both.
“All REALTORS® need to use a contact management system to retain clients and to be on Facebook to solidify your presence as a professional in our field and to bring in new business,” says Bray.
He also suggests that REALTORS® connect with the excitement that new REALTORS® share.
“Experienced agents sometimes lose that passion and energy that rookie REALTORS® have,” says Bray. “You need to try to sustain that momentum by being committed to your clients, to the REALTOR® lifestyle and to having fun with it.”
While REALTORS® naturally compete with each other, they can also learn from each other and should treat each other with respect.
“There’s an experienced agent in my office who wants to see everyone else be as successful as she is, and that should be how all REALTORS® think,” says Findlay. “There’s an opportunity for everyone if you’re willing to work hard.”