One of the many great aspects about the real estate industry is that it has room for lots of different types of people. Whether you want to sell homes, condos, skyscrapers or pastures, there is a place for you. Even in our specific niche of rural real estate, this element of diversity still holds true. There are agents with all types of backgrounds, personalities, education and experiences. And they all reflect a lot of different ideas of what a “successful” real estate agent is.
For the sake of this article, I’ll define success in the rural real estate business this way…
”When the work you put in results in the amount of money you earn, the freedom you have, and the satisfaction you gain to live your life the way you want to.”
Can you see how this definition has room for different things that are of premier importance to different people? A high six-figure income may be the success mark for one person, but another may not view that as his version of success if he didn’t have the time to spend 40 mornings in a duck blind each fall.
I’m going to give you a list of the different traits I’ve seen in what I’d call “successful” land agents. Sure, a lot of these things would work in other areas of real estate but I’m just writing from the perspective of land sales. Some of these traits are from some of my own agents – some are from agents I know with other companies, but I have seen all these traits in the flesh during my time as a broker. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen all these traits maintained at a high level in any one agent, but I believe the best land agents exhibit all of them at some consistent level. Just like anything else, we all have our strengths and weaknesses, and we strive to improve those areas where we are weak in order to develop in our chosen field. Let’s start…
1. They follow up.
Perhaps the biggest complaint from the public regarding real estate professionals as a whole is that “No one called me back.” (…or its no follow-up equivalent). We’ve all heard that and we’ve all said that they are talking about someone else. Let’s face it, we have to deal with more tire-kickers in this business than just about anything I know…and it’s frustrating. However, there are a pile of us who, for whatever reasons – wait for it – just don’t follow up! And the prospect/client just moves on and someone else gets the listing or the sale.
There is no easy button for following up. It’s a function of professionalism and desiring to take care of your business. We have smart phones, email, text, computers, tablets…you get the point. It just takes some discipline and a method for tracking incoming messages, promises made, etc. to know who to contact, when to contact and with what information. Don’t miss another deal because you incorrectly labeled that person or request as just another tire-kicker. They may not merit an hour of your undivided attention, but a quick email may just meet the need and be the beginnings of a future deal.
I don’t think any of us are batting a thousand on follow up. I don’t think it’s possible. The best agents I know, however, carve out time each work day to do it and rarely have business get away because they didn’t care enough to respond in a timely way.
2. They solve problems.
I’ve said this from the very beginning of my experience with real estate. All this business is is solving problems – big ones, small ones – any problem that keeps a deal from moving from point to point until it closes and a check is received and a client is pleased. I think this is one of the top three reasons most people get a real estate license then head back to another line of work within a year. They didn’t realize how often they’d have to plow through the problems to get a check.
In my experience and through the hundreds of deals I’ve seen close with my agents, most – not all but most – problems can be solved to the satisfaction of all parties. I didn’t say the problems went away or that the problems weren’t sometimes tedious, painful, expensive or drawn out. But they were solved.
I can think of two examples with my own company where deals took a total of 8 months on one and 17 months on the other to work through issues and finally close. These weren’t complicated deals, either. Both were straight forward deals that should’ve been reduced to contracts and closed in 4-5 weeks. But this is the real estate business and stuff happens, and happens…and happens! All of the agents hung in there like pros and kept the deals alive. One of the agents was with another respected land firm in our state and represented the buyer. His buyer and my seller were equals in the strong-willed category, but we just kept putting one foot in front of the other until we got the mountain of issues and disputes resolved. The check was a good one and worth the time, but the satisfaction of closing the books on it was just as sweet.
The record length of time from contract to closing for my office – 17 months – was handled by one of my younger guys. He is full-time and makes his living selling land for us. He was the only agent involved and had to juggle attorneys, clients, serious title issues and no-where-to-be-found heirs to get his deal across the finish line. It, too, was a good check but it would have been easy to let it drift to the back burner after say – a year! – and just say it wasn’t meant to be. But this guy had heard me say a thousand times… the real estate business is just solving problems. And that’s what he did.
I’ve joked a number of times saying “If selling land was easy, every Century 21 (or insert your favorite residential company) agent could do it.” No offense to C21 or any other company. The point is sometimes getting deals done is hard. The successful agents at C21 or any other company for that matter know this and look at solving problems as just another necessary step to getting to the closing table.
3. They communicate well with clients.
This seems obvious, right? Well, most don’t do it well. I was eating dinner with a super guy in south Iowa recently. RecLand is getting licensed there and this young man is getting his license to be our first Midwest land agent. He wisely asked the usual question new people ask, “What is the main thing I need to do to be successful?”
I answered by saying that the main thing in all of real estate is solving problems. I then went on to tell him that the best land agents I know are quick to communicate issues with their clients in an attempt to stay on top of the problem and not let it become bigger than it should be. I know I was mixing success traits in my answer to him, but it’s really true. It takes excellent communication to stay on top of real estate problems as well as just staying on top of all the aspects of your day to day land business.
I continued on in my answer to my Iowa friend by saying that it’s natural for most of us to want to avoid conflict. And as a result we often put off making that phone call to the client. We’ve all seen issues that got way out of hand because the call was never made or made so late in the deal that other problems resulted. Successful land agents keep the ball moving down the court by keeping everyone in the loop and alerting parties to issues or needs right away.
In this day and time, email is so easy to use for providing general information, updates and requesting information. But we have to take the time to stay on top of it. Not every client is created equal, either. Some clients want to hear from us often while others just need to know when something changes. It’s kind of like the woman who complained that her husband never says he loves her. He didn’t know why she was so upset…after all, he told her he loved her 35 years ago and nothing had changed!
As handy as email and text are, we all know which clients need for us to pick up the phone or go sit in their office when we have news for them. Do it as timely as the matter demands. Don’t let a problem grow or business slip away to another because we failed to communicate.
By all means avoid this: “The only time I heard from him was when the listing expired and he wanted to renew it.”
Just to clarify what I mean by being good at communicating…I’m not referring to having the gift of gab or knowing how to work the room with a smile and a joke. I’m glad that’s not it! If that were required, I’d never have done a deal or made a dime. I’m certainly not Mr. Personality at all, nor are the couple of agents I have in mind as being great communicators with clients. They simply keep everyone informed, to the degree each client expects it, and they are quicker – not slower – to pick up the phone when an issue pops up.
This article is continued in Traits of Successful Land Agents: Part 2.
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