Every real estate pro makes these errors at one point or another. But you have to learn how to prevent them in the future to keep your business viable.
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Even the venerable Leigh Brown, a prolific real estate speaker and broker-owner of One Community Real Estate in Concord, N.C., has experienced dry spells in her business. Surely, you have, too, and it’s at those moments that you need to shift sales strategies. “I’ve spoken with agents in four countries and 49 states, and the story is the same,” Brown told attendees Friday during a session at NAR NXT, The REALTOR® Experience in Orlando, Fla. “All REALTORS® are entrepreneurs, and they think they’re doing things differently and better when, in reality, they’re all making the same mistakes.”

Brown called these pitfalls the “7 deadly sins of sales”—business errors that every real estate professional makes at one point or another. However, these mistakes can be remedied. Brown presented a roadmap for correcting them.

Sin Number One: Ego Over Substance

Referencing Instagram posts in which agents share photos of their many awards with a caption that states how “blessed” they are in the industry, Brown noted that this kind of “humblebrag” isn’t endearing to the consumer at all. “Every time you do this, you’ve told the consumer that you care more about yourself than you do them,” she said. If you wouldn’t say it at the closing table or the listing appointment, don’t say it in an email or a social media post, she advised.

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Instead, make your marketing about what the consumer wants and needs as well as how you’re the agent to help make their dreams a reality. “You differentiate yourself through your own substance,” Brown said. Remember that for most people, buying a home isn’t about making money or investing; it’s about building memories and having stability. Brown also said that before you make any kind of social media post, ask yourself: “What’s my desired outcome from this post?” Determine whether or not the post aligns with your goal.

Sin Number Two: Lack of Value in Yourself

Before you can communicate your value to consumers, you must first believe that what you bring to the table is valuable. The first step is to treat yourself and talk about yourself as a person of value and worth, Brown said. “Let the customer know that your value lies in everything you’ve done to prepare yourself as a professional: the certifications, the education, the vast network of local experts and the memberships. Rather than make the job look seamless, articulate what you’re doing to ensure the process runs smoothly for the client. They are paying you for the depth that you bring. You’re hurting yourself by making your job look easy. Use transparency instead.”

Sin Number Three: Abandonment

In a relationship business like real estate, your customers often become your friends. Organic bonds are created in the trenches of the home search and the transaction. “You love your clients while you’re working with them,” Brown said, “but then what happens when the transaction is over?”

It’s easy to fall out of touch. Then, five years later, when you see that your customers have enlisted the help of another agent to sell their home and find them another, you feel betrayed. “Clients have lives. They have aging parents and children. They’ve all gone through the same pandemic that you have,” Brown said. It’s important to make regular, consistent follow-up an integrated part of your business practice so that you stay top of mind when the need arises. “Pick a CRM, get trained on it and use it. Figure out how you want to follow up.”

Sin Number Four: Ignoring the Phone

It may be easier to send a text or email than to call a client—but it shouldn’t be. In fact, Brown said, picking up the phone is one of the easiest things you can do to show you care and to market yourself. “Be yourself, and be professional,” she said. When you answer the phone, state your first and last name as well as your company name, Brown suggested. That way, when you’re out in public, say, at a grocery store, members of your community will make the connection.

There are, however, a few instances when it’s OK not to answer your phone:

  • When you’re in front of a potential customer who you’re hoping to convert a client.
  • When you’re out on date night with your significant other or during planned time off.
  • When you’re with a client with whom you’ve built a relationship, only answer the phone if you need to address an emergency and only if you’ve asked your client for permission to do so.

Sin Number Five: Living Paycheck to Paycheck

The real estate industry isn’t known for financial frugality, which can cause personal and professional issues. Brown suggested putting money away in four separate accounts based on a percentage breakdown:

  • 40% goes into a business account where business expenses are paid out.
  • 30% goes into a personal account, which is used for paying bills like your mortgage and car note, buying groceries, eating out with the family, etc.
  • 20% goes into an account dedicated to paying quarterly taxes so you’re not surprised with a huge tax bill in April.
  • 10% goes into an account for charitable contributions to organizations and causes that you want to support. “If you wait to contribute until you ‘have the money,’ then you’ll never contribute,” Brown said.

This is just one of many approaches to financial wellness, which is necessary to weather market changes and create financial stability. No matter how you approach your finances, Brown said, it’s important to hire a bookkeeper, make a plan and track where your money is going.

Sin Number Six: Cherry-picking

In a changing market, there’s no room for being picky about which types of clients you’re willing to work with, Brown said. Plus, doing so might put you in danger of a fair housing violation. One way to ensure you’re not implicitly weeding out clients is to standardize the way you collect information. Use an intake sheet for each and every inquiry. Start conversations with the same questions. This way, everyone starts on the same footing when they reach out to you. If you’re not taking on certain kinds of transactions because you don’t know what they entail, use your network. Find the expert in that kind of home sale and leverage their knowledge.

Sin Number Seven: Inverted Priorities

Yes, you’re a real estate professional, but that’s only one small part of what’s important to you in life. “In the last three years, you’ve worked 24/7. Now you have to dial into an entirely different set of market and economic conditions. Put the people in your life at a higher priority than the transactions,” Brown said.

In a relationship-fueled business, we often forget about the relationships we cultivate with those closest to us. “Put your phone in airplane mode. Look people in the eye. Go on vacation with your family,” Brown suggested.