What is the Plan?

It’s that time of year. The mad dash to the end. Maybe to make up for a lackluster performance year to date or to try and eek out a few more sales in the hopes of achieving that next award level.

The real focus should be whether or not you are on track with your plan.  Your business and operating plan, that is, and, is it in alignment with your “why”.  This is also an excellent time of year to start thinking about how you want next year to unfold.  The best way to do that is to start with your vision of what it would look like in its most successful form.  Too many Realtors approach the business planning component of their careers from a numbers point of view first and not the “why are we here” or “why do we do this” approach.

The numbers all take on a lot more meaning if you have a vision, an underlying “why”, and can be achieved on a regular basis notwithstanding what challenges are thrown your way.

The best way to go about this, if you are stuck, is to start with your life list. Put another way, your reasons for living. An excellent example of this is the famous “real-life Indiana Jones” John Goddard.  An excerpt from the book Chicken Soup for the Soul describes how his life list came about: “One rainy afternoon, an inspired 15-year old boy named John Goddard sat down at his kitchen table in Los Angeles and wrote three words at the top of a yellow pad, “My Life List.” Under that heading he wrote down 127 goals. These were not simple or easy goals. They included climbing the world’s major mountains, exploring from source to mouth the longest rivers of the world, piloting the world’s fastest aircraft, running a mile in five minutes and reading the entire Encyclopedia Britannica.”

To view his actual list go to the John Goddard website: http://www.johngoddard.info/life_list.htm and start with this process.  Break it down into four areas; To Have, To Be, To Do and To Give.

Next week we will move on to discussing your “Financial Goals” and how to best approach this.

Be an Expert

I have to admit, this is a bit of a pet peeve.  Ask a Realtor what they “specialize” in and often you’ll get an answer that goes something like this; “I sell residential condos but I also sell detached homes, townhouses, cottage property – but only if my clients ask, oh, and I also do commercial!”

Not sure where the specialization comes in quite frankly.  Luckily I was fortunate enough to start my career in the commercial real estate field, specifically in Office Leasing.  It became clear very quickly that there was no way I could offer advice on some of the other main commercial fields like retail, industrial, hotel properties or land.  The two main firms I had the good fortune of working with had clearly identifiable “specialists” who knew what they were doing in that area and often had training to go along with it.

So why is it that so many Realtors try to come up with an answer that they think will impress, or better yet, might lead the potential customer to blurt out that they have a need that falls in that list of services?

What is much more impressive, effective and infinitely more profitable is an answer like “I only work in the central core area of Toronto with buyers and sellers of detached family homes”, or, “I specialize in the waterfront condo sales market and refer everything else to a Realtor who is a specialist in the area the client needs!” This does not even have to be relayed verbally but can be part of your own internal dialogue.  More to follow on this topic.

What?

…..do we do?

Last week we tackled the “Why do we exist?” question.  A significant issue for most leaders, including Realtors.  This week we are reviewing the “What do we do?” question which for most Realtors (and other professionals) might seem straight forward enough but when asked, the answer is often less than inspiring and not always convincing.

According to Patrick Lencioni in The Advantage, this is an “organization’s business definition.” He also suggests that this should be short, i.e., one sentence, and be crystal clear to the entire team.

What I’ve found helpful for most people who might struggle to really get across to customers what they are really offering is to go through an exercise developed by Michael Porter in his book, “Book Yourself Solid” how to build your own elevator speech.  On page 51 of his book he reviews the following five questions to assist the reader in arriving at a summary of “what” they are really offering:

  1. Summarize your target market.
  2. Identify and summarize the three biggest and most critical problems that your target market faces.
  3. List how you solve these problems and present clients with unique solutions.
  4. Include the most dramatic results that you or your clients have obtained.
  5. List the results and deepest benefits your clients receive.

Once you have completed the exercise above, the next task is to write a short paragraph (it may be two to start) which encapsulates the most important points from each question.  I found that it took some effort and a lot of crumpled paper but in the end the result is a much clearer and more inspiring dialogue.

Why do we exist?

This is the first of six questions that Patrick Lencioni poses in his book The Advantage. This is an excellent read and tackles the leadership conundrum, something that is sorely lacking in most of the real estate organizations throughout North America.

However, this is also very pertinent to Realtors and should be on your list of “required reading”. Something that most agents fail to undertake as part of their business planning exercise (if they even do this) is a vision clarity exercise.

Examining and putting into one short sentence what your core purpose is, beyond making money, is not the easiest task. Currently, The Toronto Real Estate Board has over 45,000 members and more are joining every day.  As someone who interviews at least two to three of these new Realtors on a weekly basis, I find that very few can answer the “why are you getting in to real estate” question with anything other than, “I’ve always been interested in real estate” or “I love people” or “I thought I would give it a try because my friends all ask me for advice”.  Not that there is anything terribly wrong with these statements but they don’t come close to being anything like an enduring core purpose that would provide the fuel and impetus to push someone to build a successful real estate sales practice.

Hellen Keller was once asked, “can you think of anything worse than being blind”, to which she famously answered, “yes, being able to see but having no vision.” In other words, the vision comes first, the how to will follow.