As we come to the end of the year I hope all of you are taking a look back at what 2011 has delivered, and are thinking about what might be around the corner in 2012.
Was 2011 a good year for you … or something you’d rather forget? Are you looking toward 2012 with a sense of dread and wondering if you should leave the business? Or are you excited by the possibilities a new year can bring?
December is the perfect time to plan for the coming year! I’ve always made planning a priority in my business. When I was an agent, I didn’t just hope that business would come my way – I strategized about the most effective ways to build my business. It’s only with big vision that you get big results.
Creating results begins with creating a plan. Notice that I said “creating a plan”, not “determining a goal”.
What do I mean? Well, I’m not implying that you don’t need a goal – you definitely do.
But your goal is simply the starting point for your action plan. So if your goal is, “In 2012 I want to earn $100,000,” your plan must support that goal. Without the plan, the goal is meaningless. In fact, it might be worse than meaningless … because without a plan to support it that goal simply floats in space like that frustrating feather you can never quite catch. Each time you reach for it, it floats further away.
You may have heard me talk before about “reverse-engineering” goals. Reverse-engineering is a commonly used term in many industries. It simply means that you start with the goal, then work backwards to create the structure you need to achieve the goal.
And that structure must contain action items – steps and activities that you can accomplish to move you toward your goal. Here’s a good real-life example, and one I’m sure you’re familiar with:
“I want to lose 20 pounds in 2012.”
Great goal – we should all work toward being healthier! But simply articulating the goal gets you nowhere. Creating support and structure (the action items) will move you toward success. So in this example your plan might include walking 20 minutes three times per week, increasing your intake of fruits and vegetables, reducing your intake of carbohydrates by 35%, and eliminating caffeine. Those are the mini-goals that support your overall goal – and those mini-goals are action-related and achievable.
Back to real estate … first, determine your commission goal for 2012. And don’t forget to look at what you want your net income to look like. A gross commission goal may not be very meaningful if you don’t have your arms around your “net” – what you’re really taking home at the end of the day. Most agents are pretty surprised at how little they are really earning when I have them dissect their gross commission. A goal of $100,000 may sound great, but if that equates to net commission of $12,346 is that really what you’re hoping for?
Next, determine goals for lead generation. Without a constant stream of leads, you won’t have any business. Let’s assume you have tracked your past production and know that for every ten people you reach out to you have three people end up in your sphere … and one of those people buys or sells within nine months at an average commission to you of $3,575. You can do the math pretty easily to determine how many new people you need to add to your database. But that’s not enough! Here’s where you reverse-engineer. Rather than saying, “I want to add 42 high-potential clients to my database”, you would also devise action steps to find those people. That might look like this:
- Attend two networking events per week, and connect with two people each week
- Hold an open house each week, and connect with four people at each open house
- Begin contact expired listings each week, and connect with three sellers each week
And so on. Of course, within each of these categories you will have to have goals that help you meet the overall goal. Although a goal of adding 42 high-potential clients to your database might seem overwhelming, the key is to break your goal into a series of small and manageable steps so you don’t become overwhelmed.
Follow-up / client care goals are necessary to support your income goal. You’ve all heard the old adage about how expensive and time-consuming it is to continually find new clients? Well, it’s definitely true. Now in real estate you always do need to find new clients, but the fewer of them that you need to “replace”, the better. One way you can take steps to ensure that your past clients will become your clients again in the future is to deliver great follow-up and client care.
Again, it’s not as simple as saying, “I’m going to keep in better touch in 2012”. Instead you’ll need to create action items to support that. So perhaps your list might include mailing
- A real estate-related newsletter each month
- A market update each quarter
- A real estate “year in review” update at year-end
- A real estate forecast at the beginning of the new year
Or perhaps you prefer live interaction … so your action items might include meeting with each client for coffee one time during the year, or holding two client appreciation events.
And there are three other areas I need you to focus on, and create goals for, to support your income goal: tracking your potential income, work-life balance, and branding.
It’s a fact that when you focus on something, you’re more likely to have results. But I’m constantly surprised at how few agents really track potential income – income from those clients who have said they’re going to buy or sell in the next year, but aren’t ready today. Because we’re busy with “today” business, these potential clients often fall through the cracks. And yes – they do buy or sell! Unfortunately, it’s often with someone else, because they weren’t on our radar.
A potential income tracker like the one we have in our Club Zebra program is an excellent tool that can help you get your arms around that “someday” business. Make that list of someday clients – but don’t stop there. Take action to deliver to everyone on that list something of value that might help them with their future buying and selling plans. That might be market updates, neighborhood analyses, or information on interest rates. And please trust me when I tell you that the key to success with people on your potential income tracker is not to simply send them new listings from your MLS. That might have worked ten years ago, but buyers and sellers today can access that information on their own. Instead, position yourself as a non-salesy expert by sending them information that would be difficult for them to find on their own.
As you’re planning the steps that will take you to your commission goal, don’t forget goals for work-life balance, or “quality of life”. Too many agents are giving up their personal lives as they race madly for the money. You need to build time for yourself into your goals. And before you tell me it’s not possible – that you have to chase every potential client because you need the money so badly – I am going to tell you that’s not true. I have many clients who have put rules around their business … and rather than losing money those rules have improved their business, and increased their income. In 2012, don’t simply say, “I’m going to take more time for me”. Instead, plan for time off – each day, each week, each month by creating a goal such as,
- I will not work Wednesdays
- I will not work the weeks my children have spring break
- I will not work Saturday evenings after 7:30
Finally, you need to include branding in your 2012 plan. Hire a professional to help you develop a business brand. Yes, my company does this kind of work, but that is not why I include it in your goals plan for 2012. The simple fact is that branding solves problems in your business, and allows you to differentiate yourself. Done well, it communicates – instantly – who you are and attracts clients to you. A good brand works for you 24/7, and a good brand can save you time, energy, and money. While your overall goal in this area might be, “Develop a business brand”, you can easily dissect this goal into:
- Determine your brand “design style”
- Research companies who provide branding
- Hire the company that is the best fit
- Determine which branded tools meet your needs
- Create, then use, those branded tools
Your 2012 plan should be a living entity. What do I mean? Simply that you need the flexibility to adjust your plan if it isn’t helping you reach your goal. I’m not saying that if you find you aren’t taking action you simply delete the step or decide that your plan is a failure. You must commit to taking action. But let’s say you need to meet four new clients per week at open houses, and you’ve set aside one Sunday per month for that. However, you are only meeting two to three new clients at that open house, so you need to change your action steps. You either need to add a second open house … or you need to come up with another activity to help you get the numbers you planned on achieving with open houses. That’s the type of flexible thinking that will help you achieve your goals.
Are you ready to start determining goals for your business in 2012? Remember – begin with your commission goal, and then create a series of action items that support that goal, incorporating lead generation, follow-up/client care, tracking potential clients, work-life balance, and branding.
To help you plan for a great 2012 I’m making my “Big Vision Big Results Real Estate Goal Setter” available to you … AND IT’S ABSOLUTELY FREE! This amazing tool will help you plan for a better 2012 – even if you’re one of the thousands of agents who hate making business plans. It’s simple to understand, simple to use, and it’s simply free!
Don’t let even one more day go by in 2011 without starting on your success plan for 2012. Remember – your big vision could yield the big results you deserve … but only if you take the steps needed to make that happen.