There are as many ways to build a real estate business as there are brokers — but in my experience, people achieve the greatest success when they invest time into executing a well-thought-out business plan that emphasizes their expertise and talents.
Here at the Baird & Warner Lincoln Park office, one of the first things we do with all new agents is sit-down with them to strategize how they want to build their business. In our office, our management team spends as much time as necessary with new brokers to help make sure their business plans and goals are ambitious yet achievable. Our management team also schedules regular check-ins throughout the year to help new agents closely monitor their progress toward their goals.
What goes into a real estate business plan? Simply put, this is the outline for what your business is going to look like, including your goals for the next year — perhaps even on a quarterly basis.
As a new-to-the-business broker, there are going to be five main things to consider when putting your plan together:
1.) Starting to Build Your Business With the People You Already Know
In real estate, leads ultimately come from two main pools: people you already know, and people you don’t know. It really is that simple when you break it down. There are people you know, and people you don’t know — and you have to have a plan to reach both.
As a new broker, one of the most important steps you can take for building your business early on is to engage the people you already know with your new business.
Who is already in your database, and how are you going to reach them? Is it going to be phone calls? Are you going to send video, text, and email messages? Are you going to send letters and direct mail pieces? Should you target your contact list with an email newsletter? Could you set up an educational virtual webinar? All of these are great strategies to talk through with your Managing Broker.
In my opinion, the most important thing in the very, very beginning is to simply pick up your phone and start calling people, letting them know that you’re in the real estate business. Let your sphere know that you’re excited, and don’t be afraid to let your passion show! You don’t necessarily need to press your friends and contact for leads immediately; instead, let them know you’re available to help and that you have Baird & Warner’s industry-leading support team behind you.
Leveraging social media is also an important part of reaching out to people you already know. Prospecting has changed a lot, and you need to fish where the fish are. Today, that includes social media. Establish a presence for your real estate business online through the major social media platforms. Start sharing what you’re doing with your business, whether it’s touring homes or working through training sessions. Share market updates and local data, as well as “just listed”/”just sold” media once you’ve started generating that kind of activity. And don’t be afraid to let your personality shine – people want to know who they are working with, and a glimpse into your life builds connection and rapport.
Ultimately, it’s all about building up your credibility with the people that you know. Chances are you came from another industry, so your contacts might know you as a professional in a different career path altogether. Show them why you are the qualified real estate professional that they can and should trust to help them and their friends and family moving forward.
2.) Generating Leads from People That You Don’t Know (Yet)
At the same time that you are building up credibility with people you do know, it’s important to reach out to begin developing relationships with the people that you don’t know.
A great way to get started meeting new people, especially right now when there are so many face-to-face restrictions from COVID, is open houses. Real estate has been deemed essential in Illinois — and as long as open houses are still allowed, they will continue to be a great way to meet people who are often serious about looking to make a move in the near future. I encourage new brokers to be sure to have lots of open houses on their schedules.
Farming is another big thing you can do. We view that as a multi-tier approach, which might encompass:
- Direct mail. Send out letters and postcards on a frequent enough and consistent schedule that it will have an impact and start to create some brand recognition for you in the markets where you want to be working.
- Getting involved in the community. You could showcase local businesses with videos on a YouTube channel, like interviews with small business owners or taste tests from a local restaurant. You could also host a food or clothing drive, or hand out coffee from a local brewery at the neighborhood dog park. Find a way to connect with your farm face-to-face (but safely!).
- Online ads. Use the targeting tools that you can, and write good copy that will catch the attention of people in the areas that you are farming.
- Networking. There are lots of ways to find different groups that you can get involved with to meet new people, including many virtual networking opportunities. Networking is a great way to meet new people and other professionals, who often work off of a referral business model as well. Those can be great relationships to have. Plus you’ll often get to build your network of professionals who might be able to help your clients down the road, like home inspectors, attorneys, or financial planners. You might have to get a little bit creative, but look for those opportunities and start preplanning for a post-COVID world. Look for local opportunities through resources like Meetup.com, Facebook events, or BNI.
- Volunteering. Find a cause or organization that you’re passionate about. We always say that real estate is more than a career, it’s a lifestyle — so the things you are already doing in your life can support your business and vice versa. If you’re passionate about a cause, finding a way to volunteer with a group will not only give you an opportunity to feed your soul, but an opportunity to meet new people. Win-win!
- Webinars and seminars. Hosting a webinar is a great way to show your credibility by providing valuable information to your audience. You could host webinars on important real estate topics, like whether to rent or buy or how the homebuying process works. Eventually, when we’re allowed to do more things in person again, those can transition into in-person seminars. Even then, I feel that webinars are uniquely useful for lead generation because you can leverage one recording across multiple channels.
3.) Getting to Know Your Market
It’s incredibly important that you understand the market where you’re going to be selling real estate, and you should build time to learn into your daily schedule.
- Take some time on a daily and weekly basis to read real estate articles from trustworthy sources like Crain’s, Inman, and Keeping Current Matters. There are plenty of different resources out there where you can get good, local, real time information that will be highly relevant to you and your clients.
- Utilize the different sources of data that we have in the MLS, such as our InfoSparks tool. Research the market with data from MRED, ShowingTime, and Baird & Warner’s ALTOS report, which is updated on a weekly basis.
- Get involved with training opportunities that the company provides. In addition to corporate-level training opportunities, our office regularly holds meetings and training sessions where we discuss the economic forecast and analyze the market. It’s always beneficial to keep learning as much as you can!
- Review the hot sheets every day. Look for what new listings came up on the market in certain areas, what new properties are going under contract.
Bottom line? You really need to be in the MLS and studying what’s happening in your local markets on a daily basis, so that you can not only speak to it credibly but also truly be an advisor to your clients.
4.) Managing Your Online Presence
Getting a handle on your online presence is absolutely essential in today’s world.
Often, when we think about conducting business online, we think first and foremost about social media. That’s certainly super important — but there are even more opportunities out there!
Facebook and Instagram are very popular platforms, and LinkedIn offers some remarkable opportunities that are often underutilized in my opinion — including free blog posting, videos, and paid advertising.
Know what your brand is, know who you are and know your value proposition, and express that on social media. Keep in mind that potential clients are going to see it. Let them see the real you, but keep it professional at the same time.
Take time on a regular basis to keep up with the simple things, which can go a long way. For example, make sure you have a nice, clear-cut bio that showcases why someone should hire you. Have an up-to-date, professional photo, and keep it consistent across all your social profiles.
Other Online Opportunities
Remember to think outside of the (Face)book! In addition to the major social media platforms, there are lots of other places where you can and should be active — including your Zillow profile, your realtor.com profile, your Homesnap profile, and your Baird & Warner website.
The internet is forever; remember that when you post content. One of the first things that someone is going to do when they meet you at an open house or their friend refers you is to Google you, to see what they can find out. Make sure that what you want them to find out about you is what they’ll actually see!
5.) Putting Things Into an Actionable Schedule
When are you going to do your lead generation? When are you going to do your marketing? When are you going to do your market reviews and stay on top of what’s happening in your local marketplace? When are you going to sit open houses? When are you going to set appointments with clients? All of these things take time — and it’s important to put them into a schedule!
- Prioritize lead generation. Without clients you don’t have a business. Build out your schedule so that you spend a few hours every morning blocked off for lead generation — before your day gets busy and you get off track.
- Create a calendar. If it’s not in your calendar, it doesn’t exist — so find a way to record everything! I personally love Google Calendar because it’s always on my phone, and I can get notifications and make changes quickly and easily. If you’d prefer to use a paper calendar, that’s great too! Whatever your method is, just be sure to put your schedule into a calendar so that you can develop a routine.
- Give yourself structure. A lot of people come to real estate from careers where they had to be in the office from 9 to 5 and they had to work for someone else. When you do first start working for yourself, you’re bound to find yourself with a lot of time and not sure what to do. Often, just having a set schedule to refer back to will help you stay on track and stay focused on building your business. Our Managing Broker David Bailey has a great post on building a daily schedule that works for you, here.
- Make time to check in with your Managing Broker. Your Managing Broker is here to help accelerate your success, so be sure to engage with them as often as you need to — even if it’s just a monthly check-in to see how things are going and what adjustments you can make to the activities that you’re currently working on.
- Build in a little bit of time for yourself. You should be prepared to hustle and grind in the beginning. After all, you’re going to be building a business, and that’s going to take a lot of time; you may be putting 50 or 60 hours in early on if you really want to see desirable results. But you need a little bit of time to regenerate as well! When you create your calendar, make sure you’ve got a day in there, or even half a day, for unplugged time off when you can do what you need to do to relax, regroup, and recover.
Remember to go in with the understanding that some of these things can take a long time to get going! It’s important to think beyond that first quick paycheck, and take time to do those activities that are going to help you build a long-term pipeline — and a thriving, sustainable business.
Ready to Keep the Conversation Going?
Interested in learning more about yearly business planning? Check out an interview our Managing Broker David Bailey recently gave to Inman on planning for 2021:
Want to talk about your real estate career in more depth? We are here for you! Please click here to submit your information so we can start a conversation!