Do You Have What It Takes?
As with most any hobby, sport, business, or career, not everyone is cut out to become a successful real estate agent. On the other hand, there is no real limit on the different types of people that can succeed in real estate. Some people may excel at only a handful of the key factors needed to succeed as a real estate agent, and yet they may be so truly exceptional in these few areas, that they are nonetheless perfectly capable of building a successful multimillion dollar real estate business. Most people will find they are strong in a few areas, weak in other areas, and average in the remaining few—and that’s okay (as long as you’re not lacking in integrity). You can focus on your strengths and find other ways to compensate for your weaknesses (e.g. hiring an assistant or working with a team, utilizing software, technology, apps and tools, and leveraging systems). With all of that said, based on my research into the key characteristics of successful real estate agents, these are the 7 factors that matter most.
#1. Successful Real Estate Agents are Likeable.
If you genuinely like people and they like you, this is a huge plus in the real estate business. I’ve never met a grumpy, irritable real estate agent that was super successful (though I do know a few that get by). And though you would assume that extroverts excel in real estate, I have also met a surprising number of introverts who excel in real estate. The fact is real estate is very much a people business. Consider, for example, this list of people real estate agents interact with on a monthly, if not a weekly or even a daily, basis: potential home buyers, potential home sellers, their brokers, colleagues, team members and assistants, home maintenance and repair people (air conditioning, heating, refrigeration, roofers, painters, landscapers, etc.) advertising and marketing people, website and technology people, bankers, lawyers, training and development people…the list goes on and on. The people real estate agents interact with most commonly, however, are simply people in the community—people who the real estate agent has no idea if they can help or vice versa. This process of continuously meeting new people and prospecting is, in fact, an indispensible key to your success as a real estate agent. Regular networking is a critical component of building and maintaining a successful real estate business. The fact is you have to meet lots of people in order to sell lots of homes. Unfortunately, the process can break down in the middle if, when people meet you, they don’t like you. This doesn’t mean you have to be their new best friend. And it doesn’t mean that everyone has to like you (which is impossible anyway, so don’t try). It just means leaving an overall positive impression. Here are a few quick tips: (1.) Smile regularly. (2.) Spend more time listening and asking thoughtful questions (at least 60 to 75%) rather than talking. (3.) Remember people’s names—and use them! (4.) Be genuinely interested in others (key word: “genuinely”). (5.) And look for (appropriate) things that you genuinely admire about them, and tell them so. If you need more help in this area, I highly recommend Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People.
#2. Successful Real Estate Agents are Honest, Trustworthy People.
A critical part of being likable is being trustworthy. Most people can smell a rat a handshake away. You don’t want to be that guy or gal (please!). Being trustworthy includes being transparent with your clients. If you think hiding things from your clients is a good idea, you won’t be successful in real estate. It can take years to build up a reputable business, but it only takes one incident for a client to find out you were dishonest or less than forthright to ruin your reputation. It’s just not worth it. Yes, telling the whole truth can be uncomfortable at times. It may even cost you a little money. Nevertheless, in the long run, operating with integrity is not just the only way to run a successful real estate business, it’s the most prosperous way. Having integrity is easy when you have your clients’ best interests at heart. In the words of Anthony Hitt, CEO of Engel & Völkers, “To be successful in real estate, you must always and consistently put your clients’ best interests first. When you do, your personal needs will be realized beyond your greatest expectations.”
#3. Successful Real Estate Agents Enjoy Learning.
The best real estate agents are continuously learning (even beyond the official requirements for Realtors®). They seem to always be looking for ways to improve some aspect of their real estate business. Again, the best real estate agents, also stay on top of market and business trends, as well as changes in zoning rules, infrastructure development, and tax laws. This also includes learning about new applicable technology, software and apps. It helps to be naturally curious (which, of course, is different than snooping, prying or being meddlesome), but the key thing is to see learning as a lifelong pursuit. New real estate agents should also be on the lookout for potential mentors! A great book on this topic is Mastery, by Robert Greene. Another excellent book for your own learning as a real estate agent is The Millionaire Real Estate Agent: It’s Not About the Money…It’s About Being the Best You Can Be! by Gary Keller and Dave Jenks. (Yes, I do work with Keller Williams, but this truly is an amazing book—just check out the reviews on Amazon!).
#4. Successful Real Estate Agents Are Good Problem Solvers.
You might be surprised to learn about all the unusual problems that come up in the process of running a real estate business. No two days are alike (which is a big part of what I love about this business!). What that means, however, is that you may be encountering a number of problems for the very first time. This is why being good at solving problems is good for business. Of course, you can always call a colleague, a mentor, or your broker for advice. But time is money and, therefore, in the long run you want to be able to come up with good solutions on the fly. Naturally, for real estate agents, this includes negotiation skills. As with solving problems, good negotiators start with understanding the situation and people involved. You have to have a clear understanding of the needs and wants of the different parties, as well as the alternative options available that will lead to beneficial outcomes. An outstanding book on this topic is Roger Fisher, William Ury, and Bruce Patton’s Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In.
#5. Successful Real Estate Agents Are Not Afraid of Hard Work.
There is no way around it: Succeeding in real estate means being a hard worker. Sometimes some agents will complain about working 12- to 14-hour days, for at least 6 days, maybe even 7 days a week. And that is certainly possible (it’s not like there is ever a shortage of things you can do). But the reality is that these agents are doing one of three things: (1.) They are doing any number of time-wasting tasks that are not actually adding much if any value to their real estate business (driving 3 hours away to see a house, spending 2 hours on a photograph for their website, etc.) For more information on this topic, check out “Pareto’s principle” also known as the 80/20 rule (which roughly states that 80% of the results come from 20% of the activities), (2.) Other real estate agents that complain of super long hours are “out” working from early in the morning to late at night, but they are doing all kinds of non-real estate related activities in between their work tasks (taking a 3 hour lunch, playing a round of golf, etc.). (3.) The third group includes those real estate agents who are working intelligently and with focus. Yes, they too are working long hours, but they’re also killing it! They’re making millions of dollars a year and they’re loving every minute of it! These tend to be the people that are addicted to what they do. Of course, it’s possible to make millions in real estate without working ridiculous hours by setting up systems (more on this later), outsourcing as much as you can, and putting together a high-performing team that creates synergy by building on each other’s strengths. But these people tend to be doing so well that they just don’t see the need to do it any other way (and, if they’re happy—and their loved ones are happy too!—then maybe they’re right!). In fact, this is one of the things I love about being a real estate agent: The harder you work the more money you make. It doesn’t work out exactly like that every time, but there is absolutely a direct relationship (i.e. a high correlation) between the two. What’s more, unlike lawyers and doctors who have limits on how much they can charge per hour or per procedure, there is no real limit on how much you can make in real estate (just ask Donald Trump)—provided you are willing to invest the time. In the words of Ivanka Trump, “Real estate is my life. It is my day job, if you will. But it consumes my nights and weekends, too.”
#6. Successful Real Estate Agents Enjoy Sales and Marketing.
If you don’t like sales and marketing, real estate is probably not for you. You do not necessarily have to handle every aspect of the sales and marketing processes yourself, but some things are essentially unavoidable, including meeting new people, and telling them about your real estate business. This does not, however, mean that you have to be great at everything. In fact, former real estate agent Barbara Corcoran, from ABC’s Shark Tank, once said, “It’s rumored that doing well in real estate is to be able to close a deal. I did not find that to be the case for myself, I was probably the worst closer out there and I didn’t find that was true of my top super stars either.” There may also be some hope if you are either (a.) willing to put in the time and effort to get so good at it that you do start to like it (most people don’t like things primarily because they aren’t yet any good), or (b.) you have sufficient income to outsource some of the least satisfying work.
#7. Successful Real Estate Agents Are Action-Oriented.
This is actually one of the reasons so many real estate agents are inspired to leave the typical 9 to 5 job in a cubicle to land a spot with a broker: They are action-oriented, initiative-taking people that love the idea of getting out of the office to get things done. Yes, there is a fair amount of office work to be done, and technology makes it easier to get things done without leaving the office. But the other beautiful thing about being a real estate agent is that you are your own boss. You don’t have to wait on someone to get your hustle on, regardless of whether that hustle is buzzing around the neighborhood (or the entire state!), or whether it’s kicking back in your sweats in your home office while you work the phone, your social media presence, or your real estate blog!