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Get Leverage: How to Utilize Real Estate Systems to Produce Predictably Exceptional Results

Real Estate Systems to Gain Leverage
“A good system shortens the road to the goal.”
—Orison Swett Marden

Systems are critical to building a successful real estate business, and they are absolutely indispensible to building a multi-million dollar real estate firm. In fact, systems are one of the little-known secrets of entrepreneurial success.

Real Estate Systems Defined

But what really is a system? And what are the systems that you need to succeed as a new real estate agent?

The concept of a system is simple (which may help to explain why they are so often underutilized). In the words of Gary Keller, author of The Millionaire Real Estate Agent, “Systems are simply the repeatable processes that allow us to duplicate magnificent results easily.”1

Perhaps the simplest example of a system is following a recipe to bake a cake. Not only is there a specific process that you go through, but there are specific ingredients, exact amounts of each, and there is a precise order that you must follow every time. There is also a cooking time and temperature, an ideal environment in your kitchen, temperature of the room, and likely a few idiosyncrasies to your particular oven, pan, and the utensils you use to get the job done. This is a system.

The Goal of Real Estate Systems

Systems allow you to cut costs, improve quality and productivity, and ultimately stay competitive. The goal, in essence, is to get your real estate business to work like a Swiss watch. Think of yourself as an engineer, working to fine-tune every aspect of your real estate business—from marketing and prospecting to building your network, from working with clients to closing the deal—to be quick, efficient, and virtually identical. The reality is that for you to have a reliably successful real estate business, you have to separate it into systems that you can predictably replicate over and over and over again. This is one of the secrets of real estate success. “There is no alternative to systematizing your business,” writes Michael Port, author of Booked Beyond Solid. “There is no alternative to eliminating waste in your business and life. Simply put: If you don’t do this, you don’t move on.”2

Collect Your Real Estate Systems

Your objective as a new real estate agent is first to start thinking about your real estate business in terms of its systems. Rather than doing things haphazardly, the idea is to learn to think and work in systems—precise, step-by-step details of how you do things in your real estate business. “Not only is winging it unsustainable over the long term, but when you take that kind of approach, it is hard to bring other people into your business, or to outsource, or, in fact, to leverage yourself in any way.”3 With systems, however, everything works more smoothly, efficiently, and predictably. As Port writes, “Haphazard is not a process and will lead to breakdown and likely to client dissatisfaction.”4

Begin by collecting systems for your real estate business. For example, writes Gary Keller, “You may create a listing-appointment checklist or a ten-point marketing plan for your listings.” These are examples of systems. “Whatever the case, it will be defined by your standards and repeatable by others.”5

Of course, a system is often more than just a list. In fact, to be most useful, it’s important to get down to the nitty-gritty details. This is why scripts for cold-calling and door-knocking are so powerful. In fact, experts tell us that it is very often the emphasis on a specific word, or the pause after a particular question that really helps to knock the ball out of the proverbial park.

Categories of Real Estate Systems

Naturally, any significant business will have different categories of systems, some more important than others. For a real estate business, the following are the primary categories of systems: (1.) lead generation systems (2.) marketing systems (3.) client support systems (4.) learning and development systems (5.) administrative and financial systems.

Rather than attempting to systematize every part of your real estate business all at once, take a client-centered approach, and begin by creating systems in those areas where you can add the most value to your clients or make the biggest difference. Then, as Gerber writes, “The question you need to keep asking yourself is: How can I give my customer the results he wants systematically rather than personally? Put another way: How can I create a business whose results are systems-dependent rather than people-dependent? Systems-dependent rather than expert-dependent?”6

Document Your Systems to Optimize Your Results

One of the critical factors of using systems effectively is to document the entire process so you can ensure the ideal and identical outcome every time. Do not underestimate the importance of documenting your systems. And make sure it is clear. “If you can’t document what you’re doing so it’s understandable (i.e. apparent) for other people,” writes Port, “then you don’t know what you’re doing. A system needs to be apparent and documented to be effective, even if you are the only one using it.”7

As Gary Keller writes in his book, The Millionaire Real Estate Agent, “Systems are about documenting your methods.”8 In other words, if you’re doing it differently every time, then it’s not a system. And if you’re not doing it the same way every time it will be far more difficult, if not impossible, to know where exactly your process is breaking down. If your real estate business is taking off, you may blow off this advice without realizing how much revenue you’re leaving on the table. But if you’re struggling to survive, this information is invaluable—you must know which system is failing, and where exactly it’s breaking down.

Perfect Your Real Estate Systems

The end goal is to perfect your systems. Ultimately, you want systems in place that you can replicate—and have others replicate as you grow into a multi-million dollar real estate firm—thousands and thousands of times. If you knew you had to bake a hundred cakes in a row, you would begin to learn which steps, if any, could be eliminated, which steps could be combined, and which could be carried out simultaneously. You would also figure out how to avoid some of the common mistakes, and which steps required more of your concentration or skill. In short, with a little effort, you could perfect your cake-baking system. These same principles apply in real estate.

Once you have decided on a particular system, follow these steps to get it just right.

  1. First, document what you’re doing in detail, including the outcomes of each process, and its overall effectiveness. Also, pay attention to time, order, delivery or execution, and any other relevant details you can identify. This step alone usually helps to bring a number of problems to the surface.
    Keep in mind that a good system will have contingencies built into it. If, for example, a FSBO homeowner offers this particular objection, you share that particular statistic. If an open house attendee shares this particular comment, you are prepared with that particular response. The idea is basically to map it all out. “The object is to account for every possible workflow scenario in your business. A workflow chart, or process map, should be created following a very specific format so you can detail (and ultimately improve) workflow and execution.”9
  2. Second, look for ways to improve on the system. Look for inefficiencies, redundancies, or steps that can be eliminated. Think about what you’re doing, and ask yourself: Is there a more effective or efficient way to do this?
  3. Third, thoroughly test each new system out in the day-to-day operation of your real estate business, including each of the steps and processes, exactly as you have documented them. Continue to customize it and refine it so that it works best for you.
  4. If you then find that a system you’re using is not getting the result you want, modify the specific part (or your delivery or execution of that part) that you think needs to change. Then run it again to test it out. And, if necessary, continue tweaking it until you get the desired result.
  5. Fifth, update your systems document to reflect any changes you’ve made.10
  6. Finally—and this is where the power of systems comes in—execute on each of these systems relentlessly, and with precision, until you get the ideal results you desire. Remember: In order to make systems work for you, as Michael Gerber writes in The E Myth Revisited, “you must be willing to go through it the same way every time. Using the same words the same way every time…By doing it the same way every single time,” Gerber continues, you end up with “a completely predictable technology for producing formerly unpredictable results.”11

Real Estate Mastermind Groups—Questions for Reflection and Discussion:

  1. How do you see systems working in your own real estate business?
  2. What do you imagine might be the most important advantage or benefit of using systems in your real estate business?
  3. What systems do you think are most important to the success of a new real estate agent?
  4. What prevents you from starting to adopt a systems approach now? And what thoughts or ideas do you have about how you might overcome that resistance?
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  1. Keller, Gary (2004). The Millionaire Real Estate Agent: It’s Not About the Money…It’s About Being the Best You Can Be! Pg. 83.
  2. Port, Michael (2008). Beyond Booked Solid: Your Business, Your Life, Your Way. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley and Sons, Inc. Pg. 120.
  3. Ibid. Pg. 116.
  4. Port, Michael (2008). Beyond Booked Solid: Your Business, Your Life, Your Way. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley and Sons, Inc. Pg. 125.
  5. Keller, Gary (2004). The Millionaire Real Estate Agent: It’s Not About the Money…It’s About Being the Best You Can Be! Pg. 83.
  6. Gerber, Michael E. (1995). The E Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It. New York: Harper Collins. Pg. 100.
  7. Port, Michael (2008). Beyond Booked Solid: Your Business, Your Life, Your Way. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley and Sons, Inc. Pg. 115.
  8. Keller, Gary (2004). The Millionaire Real Estate Agent: It’s Not About the Money…It’s About Being the Best You Can Be! Pg. 87.
  9. Port, Michael (2008). Beyond Booked Solid: Your Business, Your Life, Your Way. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley and Sons, Inc. Pg. 124.
  10. Ibid. Pg. 129.
  11. Gerber, Michael E. (1995). The E Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It. New York: Harper Collins. Pg. 247.

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