Thats Right Today You Definitely Get Organized

If you have been a successful businessperson, particularly in a commissioned sales job in which you worked with the general public, you know what it takes to do the job. One of the most immediately successful of my former students was an intelligent, personable, hard-working woman who made the transition from Avon Lady to real estate sales. If you've had sales experience, whatever worked for you before will likely work again. However, real estate is just different enough to make it worth your while to consider some of these ideas. If you have had little or no previous work experience, or none in sales, you will want to pay particular attention.

Pick a Partner

In every office there seems to be at least one agent who is exceptionally well organized. She always has the latest information on interest rates and loan programs, better property files than the local multiple listing service, and a personal data card for every person with whom she has ever done business. Her closed-deal files are masterpieces of organization, showing who said what to whom, and when. Find out early who this is in your office, and ask if you can look over her system.

Generally, someone like this takes a great deal of justifiable pride in how her work is organized, and she will probably be happy to share the information.

Even if your office does not have quite the paragon of virtue I have de scribed, any established agent will know more about the practical aspects of administration than you will, so pick the person who seems to be the best qualified and with whom you are the most compatible. Some offices have a formal buddy or mentor system that pairs off each newcomer with an experienced agent, so the contact might be made for you. Others might have a structured coaching program in which you agree to pay for the personalized tutoring. Naturally, that's one of the things you'll make certain you're clear on before you sign on. No matter what the system, make sure that you find out how the official office files are maintained and learn how to locate things for yourself. You will become popular if you can find what you need without always asking for help.

Fishing for a Mentor

Let me relate a quick personal story to illustrate my suggestions for finding a model agent whom you may emulate. As a youth my first experience at fishing with my dad was a disaster. He neglected to tell me that when you take a catfish off your hook there is a specific procedure you need to follow to prevent getting a serious injury. After that I only went fishing when required to as a family event, and never developed the slightest skill as a fisherman. Fast forward a few decades and I'm taking my son fishing for the first time. We're on the riverbank and he's next to me as we both cast our lines. I'm getting nothing. He's getting nothing. Down the bank about twenty yards was an older man who was pulling a fish about as fast as he could bait his hook. I left the bank for a quick trip back to my car for some water. When I returned my son was about ten yards from the man, observing his every move. It worked. He started catching fish. Fortunately, the gentleman seemed honored (and slightly amused) that he was chosen as a model. Moral to the story: choose your mentors wisely. Make it someone who has clearly excelled in meeting the same challenges you are about to face, and someone whose business philosophy and ethics are compatible.

Organize Your Work Space

Whether you have a private office, a cubicle, or simply a desk in a common area, you should arrange your space to be efficient and to reflect your personality. Often you will need to locate something in a hurry while someone waits on the telephone. You'll become frantic if you need to sort through piles of unrelated information in the classic paper shuffle. The familiar, "I'll have to get back to you on that one," is the inevitable result. As a start, set up three or four desktop file baskets, each reserved for specific types of material. When your "action pending" basket starts to exceed the volume of all others combined (it will happen—it's a rule), you need to discipline yourself to act on items immediately. The file drawer in your desk (or a file cabinet, if you are lucky enough to have one) should be used for folders of individual clients, customers, prospects, and closed transactions, arranged alphabetically. Be optimistic: Reserve a big drawer for "closed deals." Of course, there are computer software programs now that incorporate much of what we're discussing and make it much more convenient to organize your affairs. Bottom line is, do what works best for you and watch carefully how the successful "old heads" do it.

If you have walls on which you can post personal material, the display of city and county maps will be useful to you and to those who visit your office, many of whom will be new to the area. After you close several transactions, you might wish to indicate each property with a pin on the map along with a small card to identify the people involved and the type of property. With different colored pins, you could show your current listings. After a while, it will be impressive. I developed this kind of display (after I moved up to an office with a non portable wall), and when prospects visited for our initial interview, that was inevitably the major focus of their attention. If you can locate a relief map of your state (the kind showing actual topography), your out-of-state visitors will find that particularly interesting.

On a professional note, frame documents showing your Realtor affiliation, membership in other professional organizations, and your diplomas from major real estate courses. If you receive any special awards, don't be bashful, display them. The first year you qualify, hang your Million Dollar Club emblem on the wall. One of my survey correspondents had "Three Million Dollar Agent" on his business card. There is no point in being modest.

Organize Your Information

One of the greatest practical problems of organization that new agents traditionally face is keeping all the information about one transaction or one person in one place. If you make separate notes on different pieces of paper for each telephone call or contact, you will invariably misplace one or more of them, and you will spend many panicky moments searching. One solution is to prepare an all-purpose form for each client, customer, or prospect on which you make a chronological record of all contacts and all pertinent actions. Again, this can be done on a computer with appropriate software or your own design. This type of organization accomplishes several things, in addition to giving you a single-source reference. There are times when disputes arise as to who took what action, when. Unfortunately, these disagreements sometimes result in litigation. If you have a formal record of your actions made at the time they occurred, you will be in an infinitely stronger position than would be the case if you simply assert, "To the very best of my recollection ..." You will also find that months or even years might go by between contacts with a particular individual. It will be comforting to you, and impressive to others, to be able to recount past contacts accurately. Your office may have a form or software program for keeping these records, but the format you use is not important—the discipline to use a one-source system is.

Organize Your Time

It's easy to get carried away on this subject and you could spend most of your time organizing your time. But since 72 percent of the respondents in my survey indicated that an inability to plan and manage time was very important or important in causing real estate agents not to succeed (see Appendix A), it is apparent that time management is a serious matter.

There is general agreement on the basics. First, you need to organize your schedule each day in some fashion; second, you need to establish priorities. There are all sorts of calendars and planners on the market. You need to get one with which you are comfortable, have it with you all the time, and use it religiously. When the year is over save them. Never throw one away. Ever. Again, you can use the computer to aid you in this task, but I'm the old-fashioned type who carries my planning calendar everywhere I go.

Each evening, or very early in the morning, you need to formally plan your day in writing and identify those items that are the most important. My suggestion is to put at the top of your list tasks necessary to close a transaction (buyer and seller have agreed to terms, but things such as title check, removing contingencies, loan application and approval, pest inspection, and so on are yet to be done). These are paydays ready to happen, but Murphy's Law (whatever can go wrong, will go wrong) is alive and prospering in real estate. Approach each pending transaction with this question: "What could possibly go wrong with this deal today to keep it from closing, and how can I prevent that from happening?" (Quick note: I once used the word "deal" in an article I wrote for a Realtor publication and got a very indignant e-mail from a reader. I found that some in the profession consider the word beneath the dignity of a true professional. You've been alerted.) Your job will be to avert the dreaded "fall through"—a term with which I hope you will not become too familiar.

As you establish priorities on how to spend your time, keep in mind the way you earn money in real estate. Forgive the repetition, but the only way you are paid is for one of your listings to sell or for you to sell a property. It is remarkable how much time some real estate agents spend on fringe activities. The fact that I advocate a high degree of professionalism should not obscure the fact that I also believe passionately that the only really happy real estate agent is a well-paid one. That is not to say that you should not perform community service activities, help decorate the office for the Halloween party, keep your individual space looking impressive, or engage in enjoyable hobbies. Just remember how the bills are paid.

Set Goals for Yourself

Again you can spend an inordinate amount of time deciding what it is you want to accomplish. For most people, the first few months are best spent learning the profession and becoming aware of the various long-range opportunities. The more you know about what is available, the easier it will be to establish short-term and long-term career goals.

Some folks simply opt not to establish formal goals at all. If you don't really care where you're going in your career, then I suppose they are not necessary. Others may have goals but have rather unique methods of achieving them. Those with a more mystic bent put pictures of expensive cars, lavish mansions, and sleek yachts on their walls and have faith that positive thinking will make it so (although as far as I know, the young bachelor in my office who put a picture of a voluptuous young Hollywood starlet on his wall has yet to hear from her.)

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