Successful real estate agents, like many other professionals, struggle to balance their professional and personal lives.
Time pressure can be even more intense in a commission-based career that depends on providing essentially unlimited customer service. That “unlimited” service is where some agents go wrong, suggests Clara Capano, real estate agent in Lafayette, Colo., business coach and author of Find Your Focus: 52 Weeks of Clara-ty.
“One of the first premises of the Ninja coaching program I teach is that you stop selling to people and you focus on serving them,” says Capano. “While the Ninja program is customer-centric, it’s also about developing a personal mastery of yourself and your life.”
Capano, who frequently trains real estate agents who sell new-construction homes, recommends the following seven steps to success:
7 Steps for Better Balance and Professional Progress
1. Serve yourself first.
Capano says that the best way to serve others is to take care of yourself first. “It’s better for your clients if you have a schedule that you can communicate to them,” says Capano. “Realize that people in other professions, such as your doctor, don’t let you switch the timing of your appointments on a whim. Your clients should respect your schedule, too, and should understand that you sometimes need to work with other clients or spend time with your family.”
2. Plan your life and your business.
Capano suggests planning your life first and working your sales business around it. “I put in family time and workouts into my calendar so I can legitimately say to someone that ‘I have another appointment’ if the timing doesn’t work,” says Capano. “Before I move anything, I ask myself what that will do for my business. I used to do 4,500 transactions a year, which gave me an ulcer and meant I hardly spoke to my family. That caused issues in my marriage, too. You need to take control so that doesn’t happen.”
Capano says taking control of her schedule garnered better feedback from clients, who had sometimes complained that she was always busy and didn’t always have the information they needed. Setting aside time to do her research and another period to return calls made her more productive and helpful.
3. Establish a process.
For clients to understand what you will do for them, you need to communicate to them how you work and when they should hear from you. “If you tell people that your goal is to respond within three hours and that you don’t respond immediately because you want to be present with other people, that sets the expectation upfront that you will be responsive to their needs, too,” she says.
4. Be flexible.
It may seem contradictory to the above advice about planning your schedule, but Capano says it’s important to know when to drop everything. For example, if relocation clients who are ready to buy contact you, it may be worth scrambling to help them.
On the other hand, it may not make sense to help buyers who are just scouting the area and may not buy, but want to spend three days touring with you. She suggests limiting the time with those buyers to a day of getting them acquainted with communities that fits into your schedule.
5. Have a buddy.
One way to keep your schedule is to partner with another agent and coordinate your time so that each of you has a few evenings of family time or can fill in for last-minute appointments, Capano suggests.
6. Build in flex time.
Capano keeps 30 minutes free every morning and 30 minutes open every afternoon so that she can address issues that have cropped up during the day or just allow an appointment to take a little longer without stress.
7. Lead with action, not goals.
While setting financial goals is an important element of a sales career, Capano says it’s best to break down those goals and determine the skills and daily habits you need to achieve those goals. She has a 12-month business plan, as well as monthly and weekly goals, that she adjusts every 90 days.
Successfully Selling Newly Built Homes
To increase your business with new-home sales, Capano recommends:
• Make room for education.
Visit sites and talk to builders to understand the process of building new homes and to understand the differences between builders. Find out when new homes or new lots might be available so you can match the timeline with customer needs. Preview both existing homes and model homes. Visiting model homes and comparing them to other inventory can make you a more valuable resource to buyers.
• Befriend sales associates.
Visit the models when they’re not busy and get to know the sales associates at various communities. You and the sales associate can form a team to support your clients.
• Address your clients’ fears.
Capano says buyers have a fear of missing out, a fear of something being wrong with the house they buy and a fear of overpaying. She says agents should directly address those fears when discussing new construction, make sure they understand the process and that you will work with them to avoid overpaying.
“Everyone has to accept that the time you spend doing anything is a choice,” says Capano. “Whatever you are doing means you’re not doing something else. You have to have the courage to say no sometimes and to take control over your time.”
Michele Lerner is an award-winning freelance writer, editor and author who has been writing about real estate, personal finance and business topics for more than two decades.
She writes for regional, national and international publications in print and online for a variety of audiences including consumers, real estate investors, business owners and real estate professionals.
Her work has appeared in The Washington Post, The Washington Times, Urban Land magazine, NAREIT’s REIT magazine, National Real Estate Investor Magazine and online at Bankrate.com, HSH.com, The Motley Fool, DailyFinance.com, Insurance.com, Fox Business, MSN, Yahoo, Investopedia.com, MoneyCrashers.com, GetRichSlowly.com and in numerous state and local realtor association publications.