In these post at the end of the year, I’ll be featuring business planning strategies. Watch for  checklists, processes, and systems--ready to use, too.

You’re a successful real estate agent, but you’d like to step to the next level. You know your business is really now your business, and you want to maximize every dollar. Here are three areas of your real estate career, that, with small adjustments, can pay huge dividends.

1. Where’s your money been going? It makes sense that the money you invest in your career  should be giving you pay-offs equal to your investment. Unfortunately, many agents don’t know where they spent the bulk of their money last year. Go back over the past four months.

Add up the moneys you’ve spent to generate business in each of your ‘target markets’–those identifiable groups of people that you build programs around to get business (geographical farm, first-time buyers, etc.) Where are you spending most of your money? Are you getting a good enough ‘return on your investment’? From working with agents in my business planning course, I’ve observed that many agents don’t build a business plan around their best source of business: ‘sold’ customers and clients. Marketing surveys show that it costs six to nine times as much to get a new customer as to keep an old one. So, if you spend more money on your best source, and less on your other sources, you’ll optimize your investment.

2. What are your ‘success’ ratios? Most agents don’t know this one: What are your ratios of listings taken to listings sold? How many of your sellers are you making happy? How many of those sellers are so delighted with your service that they will refer more people to you? In my opinion, a good agent should target  a 80-90%  success ratio in this area. Why? We all know we need to promote ourselves. The most successful, believable promotions are based on our success records–what we’ve done, not promises. If you have a sign on your desk that says “If you don’t list, you don’t last”–tear it up. Instead, put up a sign that reads, “If your listings don’t sell, you don’t last. Small adjustments, big dividends. (Plus you’ll save lots of marketing dollars.)

3. How ‘delighted’ are your customers? Most so-called ‘business plans’ in real estate merely are goal-setting grids. Focusing only on the ends suggests that the ends justify the means. However, the consumer sure doesn’t think so! These goal setting grids alone lead agents to miss the point of the decade: Top-flight customer service begets more business. That is, not just what you do, but how you do it.

What level of customer service are you providing? Is it just good enough to get through the transaction? Or, is it so great that your customers and clients are thoroughly delighted? (Delighted consumers refer business to you–less cost and more effort equals big pay-offs, right?)  What can you build into your business plan to assure that you’re regularly delighting those you work with?

One of the agents in featured in many of my books, Rick Franz, now provides surveys weekly during the time he works with buyers and sellers. He wants clients to know he cares how they feel about the service, and that he’s dedicated to providing the best service they’ve ever had. Pretty competitive, yes?

Although there are dozens of areas to scope in your plan, just taking one hour out of your day now to assess these three areas–and plan adjustments–will assure you make more money this year–and create a better, more pleasant long-term career.

For more revealing statistics and habits to review in your business plan, see The Business Planning System for the Real Estate Professional, with special pricing and bonuses through December.

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