posted April 16th, 2013
Face Time with would-be customers, or what I call face-to-face Marketing is the pinnacle goal of all your technology, websites, SEO, and web services. You hear everyone say that the internet and technology are changing everything, yes but they are not changing the Fundamental Rules of Business, especially in Real Estate – the major focus of a successful Real Estate Practitioner is, and always will be ‘The Getting of Good Marketable Listings!’ Another Rule of Business that has not changed is: ‘Your Customers Expect Good Communication;’ the form may have changed since the advent of Smartphones and Texting; but Communication has remained a top complaint of customers about Real Estate Agents – you can do better. The internet, SEO, and related technologies are but tools to create the best bridge of communications with your customers; look at your website and ask yourself whether you are using it to facilitate customer care; or are you over-focusing on Lead Generation?
Real Estate Agents must have a multi-layered Internet Marketing Bio, and even when they learn how to put one together, and where and how to post it in the multiple Channels of Visibility, they come to face a type of Paralysis - The Fear of Loss. No they are not afraid of losing something they have, or a market share they have already gained – No; they are afraid of losing market share they don’t have. I usually put this way: Real Estate is one of the few industries in which Agents are afraid of losing business they don’t have. This is akin to Ford Car Salesperson, working at Ford Auto Dealership, who wakes up in the middle of the night worried that he has not sold enough BMW vehicles. This paralysis in Real Estate Agents stems from the fact that they earn Real Estate Licenses at the State Level, and are able to work with Buyers and Sellers throughout the whole State; but they are true experts usually at the local neighborhood level, not all the counties of the state. This local expertise is valued greatly by both Sellers and Buyers, but agents are afraid or mentioning a narrow expertise in their Marketing Bio – this fear leads them to talk about the about the Real Estate Business in General. They miss this important fact: Real Estate SEO is driven by localities NOT States.
The Mundane and Tedious Activities in your Daily Business, those you take on with Attention and Intention will reveal your true passion for succeeding as an entrepreneur versus counting the hours as a hired help. Getting through your day is not a Goal; it will happen whether you choose to demand form it your best, or linger until the hours vanish. There is one simple question you must confront daily if you wish to truly live the successful life of an entrepreneur: ‘Am I doing today what you know I am supposed to be doing?’ I challenge you to confront that question with courage; I will also remark that some of the success that may have evaded you was less because you don’t know what to do, and more because you did not do what deep down you know was important. So go for it; trust not only that you know what you need to do - trust that you know each step in the ladder of your success – then start climbing it!
Today is Session 9 to 20 of the i-FAStTRAC Real Estate Training Program and I will be focusing on Part 1 of The Fundamentals of your Web Containers. Real Estate Agents and Brokers purchase websites willy-nilly and for the most part by just focusing on the lipstick or what the salesperson tells them is going to be good for them. Few bother to have the practical knowledge of the fundamental elements that make websites great marketing tools, as well as visible vehicles for both Real Estate Buyers and Sellers. There are 12 top necessary ingredients for Hands On Websites – I will be covering 5 today and the rest tomorrow; but the heart of my training today is: Should Real Estate Agents bother to get a website? There is not a one size fit-all answer, and there are 4 avenues that agents can take – all of these ideas will be clarified and it is up to you the Real Estate Professional to make the best decision for yourself.
Many groan, and at times rightfully so, that there does not seem to be enough time to get everything done during the day – what if we started understanding Time slightly differently?: Try this ‘Time is the way Nature helps our events from occurring all at once!’ If all of our meetings, activities, and interactions were not spaced out in time our brains will short-circuit. This leads to a simple Truism: What if ending the day with everything done on our to-do list is Unrealistic? What if we are always bargaining with time to do those thing we must accomplish and try to squeeze out a few more things for good measure? No matter your profession you have ‘must-do’ tasks every single day – your approach to them is simple: Get these ‘Must Tasks’ done and do not bargain with Time – work on them right away. These tasks are so fundamental to your job that putting them in your calendar is superfluous, and normally you have 3 or 4 to manage in your day. The rest of your daily activities support and enhance your business endeavors and must be managed in time and must be driven by strong calendar presence. The worst Calendar Manager you can use is your brain/memory – don’t try to remember what you are going to do; let your calendar do its job and make sure it syncs with your Smartphone.
What is the purpose of an Internet Marketing Bio? The internet has allowed Real Estate Sellers and Buyers to use the internet as a Gatekeeper between them and Real Estate Professionals; a very empowering feeling. But the internet also offers Real Estate Professionals their ability to get to be known as well – ponder this idea: What if your ‘would-be customers’ wanted to meet before they meet you? Think about that! What would they use? Well; the internet! In Session 7 and 8 of I-FAStTRAC I will be training our Agents and Brokers on the best ingredients for a dynamic Internet Marketing Bio for Real Estate Professionals. Here is the description of today’s session: ‘What is a Marketing Bio and how do I deploy one? Your Presence on the Internet needs to be multifaceted and Googleable; Your clients will Google you behind your back to validate you – How do you create an Internet Presence beyond Social Media? What should you include in your Marketing Bio? and what does Google Look for and how long should my Bio be?’ Hope to visit with you at the Training.
In today’s session of i-FAStTRAC Real Estate Training I will concentrate on Spiders, also known as Web Crawlers, Indexers, and sometimes Bots. These little critters are released by Search Engines (Google) to feed on web information, index it, and then run it through the Search Engine Algorithm that generates the Search Results Rankings. So what do these fuzzy lovable critters feed on? Does your Real Estate Website offer the right nourishment? but more importantly – what can you, The Real Estate Agent, do about it as the person in charge of Marketing and Prospecting? Internet Marketing does not belong to programmers, it must become a natural part of what agents offer their customers in a thoughtful practical manner. The first step is removing the cloud of non-sense that sometimes is wrapped around SEO, and get the heart of the matter of Internet Marketing – from there must come good habits and methodical implementation.
Session 5 of i-FAStTRAC Real Estate Training will have two main topics – Kevin will start the agents on The Fundamentals of Real Estate Prospecting, and I will be weaving through that topic The Psychology of Search Engines. In order to learn the proper ingredients of Internet Marketing, SEO, Web Services, and Internet Lead Generation Real Estate Agents must come to understand the Psychology of Search Engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo. The description of the event is: ‘Your Buyers and Sellers have embraced the Internet and they have learned to use Search Engines to seek information and Solutions; and it is this fact that forces you to get into the Thinking of Search Engines? How do you start building the right thinking to attract them to you?’ Kevin and I look forward to adding new ways of thinking about your Real Estate Business and nurturing your successes.
The Business of Real Estate is Local, has been Local, and will continue to be very Local for the foreseeable future; so maybe we need to stop thinking we know everything about our local areas and try re-discovering them. Many divorces occur because one spouse takes for granted that they know the other spouse well enough and stop seeing them in a new light. What if we stopped going to work the same efficient direct way and started driving longer ways through neighborhoods we thought we knew? Will that get us a bit late to the office? Sure; but the business of Real Estate is Local knowledge, and new opportunities to work with Sellers in their local market – Take the long way home and you may discover new Real Estate Opportunities; Eat in different parts of your town for the first time; Buy your groceries in different neighborhoods; and why not take your dry cleaning a mile further – not efficient – true; but it will force you to map out new Real Estate Opportunities. Yes, some of you think the world of the internet allows us to see Real Estate from a mile up – but the nature of the relationship we have with local Sellers is the Bread and Butter of our industry!
As the channels of information have exponentially increased it is now a fact that every single endeavor can be done better; yet there is one commodity that cannot be stretched more than it already has, and it is Time; well at least the time that each one of us has. It is easy to buy time – it’s called hiring employees, virtual assistants, or partnering with colleagues – but the time that one has is limited – therefore you need to know when to end your projects. You can choose to work on a project, say a listing presentation, for a long time, and continue to make it better by incorporating ever more information – and yes the more you work on it the better it will seem to get, but if you do not put an end to the preparation and tackle the appointment you will never reap the fruits of your labor. Time is your dancing partner and you will need to allocate it to your projects in a thoughtful manner – but you must know when to stop and move on to the next project – Perfectionism is not always your ally.
Anxiety over all of the work you have to do is absolutely understandable at times, but it does not empower you to become effective – it causes you to not think clearly and neglect to prioritize. Anxiety over your workday is simply a sign of lack of control and to remain in that state of being only adds to your stress and truly accomplishes nothing; you will not gain more hours nor more sympathy – you will simple add to the possibility of compounding your mistakes; so what one to do? 1. You need to remember that you already know how to do everything. 2. You must remember that the few tasks that are on your list that are not part of your expertise should never have been placed there in the first place, and it is high time you return those tasks to their original sender. 3. You need to allow yourself the reality that ending your workday with everything done is a myth; and that striving to prioritize and then accomplish calmly and effectively is who you are. Mark Twain said it this way: ‘Drag your thoughts away from your troubles... by the ears, by the heels, or any other way you can manage it.’
What is productivity? Many think that the concept of productivity relates to the ability of getting more tasks done within the same period of time; and I will slightly disagree and offer another way of looking at it – Productivity is the reduction and streamlining of input to generate the highest possible output. Let’s think of an example that a Real Estate Agent can use to reduce input and increase output – take your Smartphone and make sure that your calendar on both your computer and in your phone are syncing; this is simply done by using a Gmail Account. When you sync the proper information on all your devices you are reducing input and therefore your responses are optimizing your output. Let’s look at another example: ‘Deletion’ – if you are saving every email you receive you are increasing your input of data; and no NOT all of your email are worth saving – the fear of loss is crippling your movement; some emails are worth saving, but if you are not deleting processed emails on a regular basis you will end up drowning under a mountain of input, and it is of your doing!
One of the obstacles some Real Estate Agents must overcome is not the ‘Not Knowing’ of what to do; an abundance of good Real Estate Trainings are available to them – it is The Not Liking of Doing what they know they ought to be doing. They learn for example that Prospecting is a MUST in growing a solid Real Estate Business; they even learn the scripts of what to say and how to say it; yet some linger in the office trying to find busy work rather then confronting the beast of Prospecting and Tackling it! The ones that view their business plan without attaching too much emotion to whether they like or not like some activity tend to do the best; they are more systematic and approach their activities with determination. How you feel is important in your life, but if it becomes the main gauge by which you take on your To-Do list then you are bound to be quite unhappy. Confront what you know you must do, white it down, and then ask yourself: ‘Am I up to implementing this plan no matter how I feel?’ It is possible that for some the answer is negative, and that the Real Estate Business may be too much of emotional Roller Coaster for them – you have to find out!
Going about your business day and getting things done is in essence an investment of your energy and time, and as an entrepreneur you do not get paid for that; all of the calls you take; all the emails you dispatch; all the travels you undertake are not rewarded by a check, but they should get you closer towards your Real Estate deals closing. Some of the tasks are not fun and some can be enjoyable, but what saps your energy and efficiency are your loose ends, activities or tasks you know should have been done and keep floating in your mind with mental reminders and nags – the take away is ‘what’s not done’ can consume a lot more energy than the doing of it, and will start building stress in your life. Get in the habit of grabbing your ‘mental floating not done tasks’ and anchoring them to your To-Do list or Calendar and/or acknowledge to let go the ones you know you are not going to complete, and you will start regaining your energy and passion for your business.
The Business and Work of an Entrepreneur needs to be structured and outlined properly; either by the entrepreneur herself, partners to the venture, or the desire for entrepreneurship was flawed to begin with. The Real Estate Business lives in the realm of Entrepreneurial Endeavors, but sadly for many the ‘Work’ is not structured, methodical, implementable, and repeatable – in fact for many it is emotional and driven by the feeling of the day. Here is an example of structure that Kevin Ahearn asks Real Estate Agents to perform every week: ‘I will sit down every Sunday and plan for the upcoming week!’ This is a very simple task, it does not require any type of technical proficiency, but it does require the commitment for blocking and structuring that time. This simple weekly task is so powerful; it reveals broken agreements early on; allows you to have a say on how your prospecting will take shape; and invites opportunity and efficiency in your business. PS: Planning your week does not mean time-blocking every single minute of the upcoming week - Planning your week means you are taking responsibility for your activities, and taking charge for the execution of said activities.
The huge benefits of being early to appointments, especially Real Estate Sellers’ Presentations are not limited to just looking good and reflecting a strong professionalism; they give you the ‘breather time’ to center yourself, collect your thoughts, get a good feel for the neighborhood, and develop sales strategies for the location. In fact I will go even further and say arrive earlier so you can drive around the neighborhood; this will allow you see the Real Estate Signs from the competition, get a feel for any For Sale By Owner Offerings; Rental signs; and any big changes in the neighborhood. This type of understanding and knowledge will help you be more fluid in your Sales Presentation, and give you comfort and true organic connectivity to the Homeowners – they are the ones deciding whether you are worth picking or not! Time ticks passionately for those who respect its boundaries.
Today is Session 4 of i-FAStTRAC Real Estate Training Program that Kevin Ahearn and I are teaching to our participants via the Live Interactive Training System. I will be focusing my portion today on Inbound Marketing and its relationship to Internet Marketing, Search Engine Optimization, and Social Media Graphing. I will also take on the topic of integrating Gmail and Business Emails in order to achieve a harmony between all devices and Sync them organically. Kevin will continue his great focus on Time Management and some ideas on how to catch the Time Robbers and engage the Time Savers. Kevin and I have also introduced simple End of Session Electronic Quiz in order to enhance participation and comprehension. It is really satisfying to see how engaged the participants are with these classes, and how serious they are about their Real Estate Business.
How do you choose to succeed in the Real Estate Business? This question is important to you because you are an Entrepreneur first, and you are completely responsible for the business you generate. Well, you have the choice of being Reactive or Pro-Active towards your daily business, and one of the ways of measuring what kind of person you are is how early you wake up in the morning to be slightly ahead of your day. If you can be 20 to 30 minutes ahead of your business day, meaning having those minutes to plan your day rather than getting into the reactions of your day, then you are Pro-Active Entrepreneur. You must start to affirm that you will have a full restful night, every night, so you can wake up slightly ahead of your day so you can be in charge of your day! Being Pro-Active means being a Planner – and being ahead of your time means having the early hours to shape your day!
The Appointment in Real Estate is the most important customer presentation you will have whether working with Sellers or Buyers; and many Real Estate Agents do a decent job managing this process – Yet some keep committing a huge sin; ‘Talking to the person who desires the appointment and is talkative; and not being aware if all the decision makers are attending and participating.’ Unless there is a compelling reason for not having all decision makers physically present; talking to one person will not always advance your chances of getting a listing or a Buyer’s Agreement. The purpose of an appointment is to walk away with a listing; or at least get 95% of that target – and even if you do a good job with the one present, you may not get a chance to compete because the concerns of the other person were not addressed by you, through no fault of yours. Use your thinking to solve this dilemma if one of the decision makers is not able to attend; Set up a Conference call and place your phone on speaker mode so they can interact; Use your computer and/or Webcam to bring them in if they happen to be in a different location so they can feel involved. However way you do it make sure you are talking to both the husband and the wife, or all the parties involved in the ownership in the first place – any other way and you are asking for heartache.
Never Stop Educating yourself on your Local Real Estate Market; Yes the Internet helps offer lots of information to Visitors about Real Estate, and all kinds of Statistics are offered online – but the Experienced Knowledge of a working Real Estate Professional is Golden. Being in the trenches of your local market enables Good Real Estate Agents to become an invaluable resource to their Sellers and Buyers, but that knowledge sometimes becomes stale because it has not been nurtured on a Global Basis. Make an appointment with yourself for about an hour weekly and look-up The Real Estate Reports in your MLS. You should familiarize yourself with all the listings that are happening in your Farm Areas; it you do it regularly it will only be 10 to 20 New Listings; Get to know who listed the properties and keep an eye on how they are farming in your area. Look-up up and tackle Expired Listings as they come online; and even if you do not work Expired listings try to formulate a reason why the property did not sell. Look up your Global Statistics for the whole area you work in and see where turnover has increased; from time to time certain areas start seeing faster sales and that could help you decide on an additional or better farming area. Look-up up your statistics for Days on Market as well the Median Home Prices in your area; these numbers will help you with your listing presentation – and you will not have to guess. Make an appointment with yourself to Nurture your local Real Estate Knowledge – it is a great investment in your career.
Structures that work for the long term must have strict parameters and constrains; Cars will be useless without Roads; Trains a heap of metal without Rails; Planes wandering metal birds without Airports; Yes Structure creates reliability, predictability, and opportunity. There are many entrepreneurs who think that building a business structure will stifle creativity; and yes some overdo the rigidity of their work habits; but if you look at Google, SAS, and Facebook and think that because the employees and engineers have the ability to play Ping Pong, get a massage in the afternoon that there isn’t a Structure you would be misled. Every Business Endeavor needs Rails, you can paint your rails pink to feel good about the decor, but they are rails nonetheless. Those of you who drive a lot on multi-lane highways are unconsciously grateful for the the little dotted while line that help us stay on track and not wander; your business needs those little dotted lines to keep you on track – your Business Plan; Your Activity Log; Your Yearly Agenda; and hopefully colleagues who hold you to account.
Every job, every endeavor, every project is made up of Big Ideas motivated by a powerful Vision; but it is only when you break them down into their realizable activities that you will be able to fulfill your vision and get the job done. Writer and Futurist Alvin Toffler shared: ‘You’ve got to think about big things while you’re doing small things, so that all the small things go in the right direction.’ Many stop at the water’s edge; they take their big idea or project and never reduce it to measurable practical steps and activities. The world around you is in constant motion and your competitors are not waiting for you to get your business plan in motion, they realize that some activities are a Zero-Sum Games, and as such every Real Estate Listing they get, is one you did not get – and that consumers pile on; simply put they give their listings to those who have lots of listings in their local market. Is your plan of action today clear and driven by a large vision? If you can imagine yourself as a great success 3 years from now, and you have achieved the highest pinnacle of your vision – what would you do today to get you there? and finally this is a question you must not be afraid of confronting: What balance is currently missing in your life that is preventing you from being all you truly desire to be?
The Power of Intention is not about your capacity to know everything – The Power of Intention is galvanized by your desire and determination to never ever quit. I have worked with lots of wonderful and thoughtful Real Estate Trainers and Brokers, and I have learned so much from them – the central component of success that they all have in common is the urge and determination that their success in never in question, and that they will muster the courage to confront every new barrier with persistence and certitude. Real Estate is a mental and emotional endeavor, and some quit a bit too soon; they never learn that ‘No’ is not always directed at them, but simply a natural human condition. Good Brokers and Trainers will tell you that you need to hear about 10,000 No’s before the sting wears off, yet meanwhile your sales are growing because for ever 25 to 30 No’s you will get a Yes, and all you need is 20 Yes’s a year to make it in this wonderful industry. Today is the day you assert that you will not give up on yourself or on your dreams; today is the day you also commit to playing a meaningful role in the success of others.
Does your right hand know what your left hand is up to? This simple benign question ought to reveal how much of a control maniac you are, and how you may be chocking opportunities from appearing in your company – you are probably trying to over-control everything in your business, and if you are in the business of people then… oh my! The power of being a Business Owner and an Entrepreneur is the Joy of being able create the future as you see it; but many such entrepreneurs start over-controlling every aspect of every endeavor because they start over-relying on their judgment and doubting the judgment of everyone else. The questions you want to ask yourself are quite simple: What are you afraid of? Has someone let you down in the past and now you have painted everyone as a potential let down in your life? But the most important question you must confront is: Why are you lying to yourself; by first admitting that you need to hire managers and decision-makers; and when you put them in those positions you question and choke every decision they make? – Were you lying to yourself in the first place? Control is not Power – Collaboration creates Opportunity!
The main purpose of designing Goals is that they allow you to alter your Present (Your Now) to fit and mold your desired future – ponder this thought for a little while. If your definition of the future is you flow with whatever happens then you do not need have any goals – just flow dud! You are not trying to Change the future by looking at the future – you are trying to change your ‘Now’ so your future becomes the way you have designed it! The truth of the matter is what some call Goals are at best called Wishes and Hopes; they are imaginations that have no thread to the present or to reality. Real Goals will force you to look at yourself anew, push the boundary of your comfort zone, and force you to live a more authentic life then you have so far. The thread that connects the results of your future Goals, with today’s Habits are your planned activities, followed with review and assessment. Are you planning methodically or are you hoping the future is a poker game you play in a Vegas Style Casino, crossing your fingers for a killer hand?
Without a true understanding of ‘Why’ a Property Owner wants to sell their home your Real Estate Marketing will fail. Experienced Agents will tell you that the ‘reason for selling’ will reveal not only the motivation of the Property Owner, but also the time you have to do your job. The National Median Days on Market is between 70 and 100 Days and since 95% of all properties go through at least one price reduction, it means that you have 3 months to have a strong Marketing Strategy, but most importantly a Skilled Pricing Strategy. There is, and always will be, a gap between what Property Owners view as the value of their Property, versus the reality of what the market will bear; and this is why you are the Real Estate Professional. You will not be able to do your job until you clearly delve into understanding why the Seller wants to sell; you need to find a way of bringing up the topic cleverly several times during your presentation; you want to get to know what their future plans are; and even find a way of having them share what they plan on doing with the money once the closing occurs. This next statement will shock a few of you but your Sellers do NOT tell you everything, they even, in some occasions, will lie to you – you see they have construed in their mind that if they tell you they must sell, that you will under-price their property.
There are incomplete tasks and delayed conversations that become nagging Incompletions and they throw the center of your business, presence, and happiness out of balance. Let me share with you a useful definition of an incompletion: it is a task that you have been putting off that finds a way to pop in your mind and linger in a caustic fashion. Usually these are tasks that you have been trying to avoid because they are either unpleasant, and/or tasks that involve some kind of confrontation. The problem with these incomplete tasks is that your mind does not like to let them go – they swirl just below your consciousness, and every time you wish to focus on the job in front of you, they pop up to remind you: ‘Hey, we are here, deal with us…’ They also color your relationships with colleagues and clients because that which is not said create an aura of heaviness and missed workability. You have to grab these incompletions and deal with them; Write down what is bothering you and define the incompletion clearly; Seek a friend or trusted colleague to help you work through your thoughts; and finally get to the belly of the actions that need to be taken and take them. Poet Mark Van Doren writes: ‘There is one thing we can do, and the happiest people are those who can do it to the limit of their ability. We can be completely present. We can be all here. We can give all our attention to the opportunity before us.’ So why not choose to be present and seek Opportunities!
According to NAR Research the Median Income of Realtors in 2011 was $34,900, and those with years of experience, 16+ years, had a Median Income of about $50,200. The top earners, 6-figure income and up, were 17% of all Realtors or little over 160,000 such agents. Obviously experience is a great asset and must be earned; the challenge in getting new agents to that level of experience as quickly as possible, requires boxing them in with a plan of action, and a mentorship program that the broker of the Office must strictly enforce. The amount of freedom Real Estate gives new agents is their worst enemy; and they end up developing bad habits and their income suffers as a result – they start chasing deals rather than developing the habits of prospecting, following up, and nurturing long terms relationships. The first 2 years of a Real Estate Career are crucial to the long term success in this business and many of our new breed of agents are on their own, making it up as they go along. We must also admit that the barriers to entry in this business are low, and the high compensation splits from the get go have not left brokerages with enough income to pay for mentorship, and for paying Brokers in Charge Salaries to nurture new talent. My question to our brokers is: Do you have a ‘New Talent’ Plan of Action that you trigger every time you hire a new agent? if Not, it’s best that you only hire experienced agents.
We all have have heard of the expression being ‘in The Zone’ and most of us have experienced that feeling of cohesion, oneness, and ease of accomplishment. Can we cause this feeling to occur more often in our lives? The biggest culprit that keeps us from experiencing the ‘in the zone’ type of accomplishment is us, more precisely our inner worries; we all have a voice, an inner monologue, that chirps about all the things that weren’t finished; that reminds you of upcoming meetings you failed to place in your calendar; that stirs up the fear that there may not be enough money to pay the rent; and on and on – it can’t help it, but you can do something about it. Your ‘Inner Worry’ Mind needs some time to play, let it; commit every worry that pops in your mind to your notepad or evernote (if you have a tablet); basically write down your worries as they pop, example: I am worried my closing tomorrow will not happen because I have not heard from the Lender. Two things will happen when you commit your worries to paper; a nugget of action will occur to you, and you must listen to yourself and write down that action in your To-Do list or Calendar, and act on it at the appropriate time; the second things that will occur is a temporary silence from your ‘Inner Worry’ Mind about that specific concern, and it will move on to the next one – which is exactly what you want. Repeat the process and you will be amazed to notice that most of your worries come with action, therefore you can do something about them – and the moment you take action on all your worries a powerful and serene side of you will emerge – and I promise you you will like that person!
A lot of Real Estate Agents, during this time of year, focus on Expired Listings and it is important that you remember these basic ideas: Home Sellers who have just experienced an expiration of their listing are undergoing swings of mixed emotions; 1. Relief that they are no longer working with Agent A at Brokerage B; in their mind the sale did not occur because they were let down by that agency and that agent – other true facts do not matter to them. 2. Anger that others were able to sell but that they could not get their property sold, which they blame on the listing agent who did not do enough to bring them the ‘right’ buyers. 3. Resentment towards the whole brand the agent works for, as well as the whole industry. Of course they are going through all kinds of emotions of failure and rejection; your job, if you are going to get the listing from them, is to find some time at the appointment to let them vent without appearing to side with any of the circumstances; in fact the more they vent and share their anger and resentment the calmer you should remain. The worst mistake you can ever make is to take on their complaints about Agent A at Brokerage B and amplify them; discuss your strategy and your plan to sell their property without putting down anybody out there – return them to their commitment of selling their home, and find out why they wanted to move/sell in the first place.
Nurturing and Developing your Inner Creativity is one of your most significant business assets, and as such I want you to consider this 30-Day challenge for the month of January 2013: Read Actively for 20 minutes a Day. Reading Actively is the process of sitting down at your office desk with a book, reading a few pages with a notepad or tablet next to you, and taking notes on the thoughts that are being triggered as you read. It is best that you do this early in the morning with complete silence and no distractions. The first thing you will notice when you start Actively Reading is the dislodging from your mind of activities, commitments, and of your pressing to-dos - Don’t ignore them, jot them quickly in your notepad and later on add them to your Calendar/Task List. But as you stick with this reading daily New Creative Ideas will start popping up; ideas that will help you grow your business, and it is your job to capture them; frame them within the context of your daily routine; and then act on them with intention. The kind of books you ought to consider are in the genre of Motivational and/or Business – Not novels and pleasure readings (those are good at night.) Here are some examples: The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey; The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership by John C. Maxwell; Getting Things Done by David Allen; How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie; The E-Myth Revisited by Michael E. Gerber; etc. Remember the goal is not to finish the book in one sitting, but to read 4 to 5 pages daily that become nourishment to your mind – if you stick with it daily, problems will seem easier, your actions will seem more purposeful, and you will be filled with lots of energy and insights. Happy New Year!
How much of your day is yours? More importantly: How much of your day should be yours? Of course I am talking about your Business Day; Believe it or not, you only need to control two hours a day in order to become highly effective. The Business of Real Estate is the Business of Conversations – good agents talk for a living, and the levers that trigger those conversations are your customers. In order for you to derive the most out of your day you must have clarity of purpose for each day, for each week, for each month, and for your whole year. That Clarity is reinforced by the work you do on your projects, and on your own, every single morning, preferably before your phone starts ringing or your text message start piling up. You need a Solid hour to 90 minutes each morning to mold your day into shape; and you need 30 minutes at the end of each day to acknowledge all your commitments and craft them into a cohesive whole. Many agents over-rely on their capacity to remember and waste so many opportunities. Try it, you will never have to suffer from the demon of procrastination!
The Decisions Home Sellers make when they pick you as their listing agent have a lot to do with who you are and the energy of expertise and know-how you ooze during the appointment, than the pure information you share. You can see this in every Real Estate office; Brokers and Agents using the same script, the same commission, the same presentation, yet a few end up with more listing contracts than the rest. You may think that the decisions Real Estate Sellers are making are purely numerical and that would be erroneous. This is why you never ever discuss your commission or the length of the contract over the phone or via email – you do it at the appointment; and most preferably at the home site. Let’s be clear, sellers want to know your marketing plan, the reach of your brand, the special things you do that go beyond what the norm is – yes they want to hear you justify your commission; but the elephant questions in the room are emotional: Can I trust what they are telling me? Are they experienced? Are they knowledgeable? All of these questions are about you, and the appointment is your chance to reveal your expertise. So always be prepared; Know your Listing Presentation by heart - not by remembering it but by going on lots of appointments (Prospecting); and finally you must know that you will be Googled when you leave the appointment and the breadth of your internet presence connected to your career will either validate or invalidate everything you said!
Integration, or the ‘i’ in i-FAStTRAC Real Estate Training, deals with the reality that Marketing in Real Estate is no longer divided into neat boxes of traditional versus Internet based; or that the activity of Prospecting in person is detached from the activity of Blogging in one’s website. It is the illusion of this separation of activities that keeps forcing our agents and brokers into buying more and mores services rather than looking at the whole and strategizing to generate more listings and more sales. The Consumer Online is no different than the consumer in person, but the way our Real Estate Agents interact with them requires an understanding that the Incubation Stage (web based) is gentler than The Deal Stage (in person), which is frantic. Kevin and I launched the i-FAStTRAC Training, a 60-hour course, to address not only the fundamentals of a Successful Real Estate Career but one that is properly layered with the most important concepts online such as SEO, Internet Marketing, Web Services, Landing Pages, Blogging, Squeeze Pages, Video, Social Media, and Mobile and Tablet Integration. PS: This coming Thursday, the 3rd of January at 1pm EST, Kevin and I are holding a Get to know i-FAStTRAC; here is a link to request your invitation – hope to see you there.
Understanding the important difference between the Median Price and the Average Price in Real Estate is crucial. The Median Home Price measures a gauge of affordability in a particular community or city; as well as the health of a local Real Estate Market. Let me first give you the definition of the Median in Mathematical Statistics: The Median is the value or quantity lying at the midpoint of a frequency distribution of observed values or quantities. For example if I take the following 7 values: 162K, 110K, 173K, 165K, 250K, 159K, 560K and wish to find the Median Value, I would sort them out from lowest to highest: 110K, 159K, 162K, 165K, 173K, 250K, 560K and the quantity that lies at the midpoint is: 165K; The Median price of that series of values is 165K; whereas the average (which is found by adding all the values and dividing it by 7) would yield: $225.6K. One of the take aways you should start understanding is that the Median Home Price is more stable and cannot be skewed easily by large Sales or very small values. Imagine I gave you a list of all the single family homes that sold in say Lexington South Carolina in the past 12 months and you calculated the Median Home Price (which is $145K) that gauge will mean that half of all homes sold for less that $145K and the other half sold for more than $145K. This number is not only important in terms what a family can afford in Lexington South Carolina, but it also tells sellers what to expect to sell if they have a typical home in a particular town or community. The Median Home price is very meaningful when Real Estate Agents are farming a particular subdivision; they ought to keep up with it via their MLS – which offers such statistics just for the asking. PS: When you hear that Home Prices nationally or regionally are stabilizing (which they have) what you should take out of it is that The Median Home Price is not going down but it is in fact increasing ever so slightly – it went up nationally by 4.3% as of November 2012.
In order to develop the tact of Real Estate Salesmanship you need to cultivate a better relationship with the Questions you ask of your would-be clients. In fact the first questions you ask new potential clients must lead to building a relationship, and getting to know them; Not a series of Yes and No Questions that feel like an interrogation. Take the example of a meeting a Seller for the first time, you may inquire about where they plan to move to once they sell their House. This type of question has two ingredients that help build a relationship; it is a positive question because you are affirming that their house will sell, and second you are asking about their lifestyle with an open ended question. The same process is true when designing squeeze pages (forms) in your website; the first questions you ask should never be about their contact information such as name, phone number and email – focus on multiple choice answers that have built-in to them positive messages. An example would be: Have you thought of owning your home? and the choices would be: ‘Yes, I can’t wait’; ‘Not sure, Need to Learn more’; ‘No, Not sure how to get started.’ Instead of a Yes/No that reveals nothing and build no relationship you are offering a way to share a little of themselves, and you are also giving them an out: ‘No Sure’ is an out: it is an opening that leads to a conversation – the first step towards a successful Sale.
Our Brains play an important role in our emotional and grounded balance in business, and are affected by external stimuli. Our Optimistic or Pessimistic outlooks are nourished in our brain and are affected by our environment, and are enhanced by the visuals and sounds in our homes and offices. If you desire to jolt in your optimism surround your workspace with optimistic happy pictures; photos of your family; photos from your vacations; beautiful scenery pictures or art that you love. You should also be aware that our brains store images and create ‘object blindness’ when objects have not moved – so move your visuals around every couple of months, and add and change them as well. Add to your list a group of positive people that you enjoy chatting with, and make a point of reaching out to them; their optimism will rub off on you and that will jolt your inner energy to accomplish more.
Charlie Chaplin was quoted saying ‘A Day without Laughter is a Day Wasted’ and I could not agree more; many of us have enough challenges and important tasks in our lives that at times we set aside laughter and joy, but they are as important as bread and water. It is how we react to the world that makes us who we are, and we are not always at our best; we can’t help but be human – but adding laughter in a genuine authentic way breaks barriers, makes us more approachable, and sends challenges on a vacation, at least temporarily. Today is Christmas and I would like to share this quote from Ecclesiastes 9:7 ‘Go, eat your bread with joy, and drink your wine with a merry heart, for God has already approved what you do.’ Merry Christmas!
Philosopher Kierkegaard remarked that: ‘Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.’ Kierkegaard was actually talking about Business as well, in the sense that Reflection shapes the Future. It is very hard to reflect on your business on your own, in fact most Brokers and Business Owners require a nudge from Coaches or Regional Business Developers to push them out of their comfort zone. This same principle applies to Real Estate Agents, and the natural person to nudge them is their Broker. Our Brokers, Owners, and or Managers must embrace Quarterly Reviews that are constructive and designed to enhance the success of our agents. Good Managers and Trainers know that the independence of Real Estate Agents turns into a curse at times, and if the enemy of the agent is the agent themselves then engaging them in honest constructive planning, with methodical Plans of Action is the right thing to do – Not once a year, but closer to 3 to 4 times a year.
The Real Estate Business is centered around appointments; the real action of Real Estate begins with Methodical Prospecting and must flow to Appointments. The Appointment is where the agent shines or fades. With our local Sellers effective appointments take place at the Seller’s Asset, their Home. You must remember that Sellers view their personal lived-in property differently than their investment rental properties, and your approach and conversations must adjust accordingly. How about Buyers, what are their appointments? Well, it is no longer a physical one, or at least it has been reduced dramatically to the avoidance of meeting with agents. The best next option to in-person meetings you can hope for to start truly working with someone authentic is their Cell Phone Number, more precisely their Text Messaging System. You must learn to incubate your Buyers’ Relationships via Text Messaging – in essence the initial emails must first lead to their Text System; once you are texting back and forth and conversing you have a chance at a sale.
Not only is Failure an option, perfection is an illusion and, unfortunately, a delusion of grandeur. Nothing important is ever accomplished if you do not allow yourself to experiment, and my definition of experimentation is ‘Failure many times followed by Success.’ Michael J. Fox, who is fighting to find a cure for Parkinson’s Disease and has been diagnosed with it, says: ‘Fail Faster!’ I love this! I interpret him this way: Waiting until you line up all of your goodies to get working on something hard will sometimes paralyze you. You Must first have a Clarity of Vision; Second Know your Commitments and Goals; Third Gather your Assets, tools, and Ideas; Finally jump in – yes, take a stab at those ideas and commitments because now that are tasks that require your implementation. Don't you dare wait for the rising moon on the east and the perfect breeze in the afternoon – you know what you need to do, and you must get to it!. Listen to Michael J. Fox and Fail Faster!
The Transactions of Real Estate are fraught with lots of emotions, and from many sides; Sellers, Buyers, Agents, Brokers, and throw in the vendors in the industry. The Business brings out the best in many, as well as lots of tears and anger in many others; it is also a business that requires an understanding that negotiations and compromise are the key to making deals work; but one must also understand that Sellers want to Sell as high as possible and only see the home they are offering and think of it as ‘absolutely’ unique; Buyers wish to pay the least possible and at times over-negotiate and place deals in jeopardy; and let’s not forget some agents take each deal personally, way too personally, and at times become combative with other agents and clients. You throw in this many people into a deal and conflict will arise. You the agent cannot fix or alter the feelings of any participant to a transaction, but you can stay Calm, collected, and remind people of what is most important to them; the more grounded you are, and view the transaction from a higher plain, the easier it will be to let people calm down and see what is in their best interest.
When you ponder about Real Estate think of Baseball, well; at least in terms of Statistics; Real Estate is a Numbers Game. The 2012 Baseball Major League Batting Average was .254, which simply translates to: the best players in baseball hit once for every 4 trips to the mound (at Bat.) What some people miss is the fact that in baseball you miss more than you hit, and that is ok; you just need to show up more often to the mound and work to connect once in four attempts and you are a major league baseball player. I know, this is an oversimplification, but you must think of Prospecting in terms of Statistics; you are not looking to get a Yes from every person you talk to; in fact you are supposed to get a lot of No’s; and if you manage to stick it out with good scripts – One Yes for every 20 No’s, you will become the top listing agent in your town; that’s right 1 Yes for every 20 No’s and you have created an amazing lucrative career in Real Estate; think about that!
Taking courses; Spending thousands on Seminars; Organizing your outgoing emails; Hoarding your Scripts; Listening to Motivational Speakers; and even enjoying the company of Real Estate Trainers who inspire you will NOT make you a cent – in fact it will cost you money. So you either get in the ‘Doing Mode’, and then the spending on the above is a Great Investment; or you are wasting away money wishing for miracles that don’t exist. The above trainings and tools help you increase your skill level - NOT close deals; being face to face with clients helps you close deals. Think of the Skill Level you acquire when you attend trainings and lectures as a way of going from closing 1 deal for every 100 prospects to 1 deal for every 30 or 50; In essence you are learning to double or triple your potential – but it is the activities of Prospecting and Door Knocking, and Calling, and Mailing, and following up that create the conditions for Sales – NOT Trainings!
Today I deleted my Instagram Account, and ‘No Instagram and Facebook, you Do Not Have the Right to Sell my Photos!’ An article yesterday in cNet referenced a new policy change from Instagram that states that they have the perpetual right to sell users’ photographs without payment or notification. For me this is a stunning Policy Shift; remember that Instagram is owned by Facebook; will this be the fate of our content on Facebook as well? The Policy takes effect January 16th and if you have an account you will be automatically Opted-in. Some will probably like their pictures showing up in a Restaurant Ad paid by Restaurant chains to Facebook in which they appear laughing and enjoying themselves; but I don’t. If you do not delete your account before January 16th, and decide to do so later on you may have granted them the right to all the photos you have already uploaded – they keep this fact gray. I have a strong feeling that the backlash to this policy is going to upset a lot of users, and many are going to find a new place to share and interact with their photos on other platforms.
No… The Concept No… The Word No… The Idea ‘No’ sting; and for many viscerally. Rejection does not feel good, and many have abandoned Prospecting for new business, because they heard a few forceful No’s and have internalized them. Emotional rejection will never feel good; but the No’s of someone not listing with you should be placed on a different plane than someone liking you. Human Beings are Social Beings, we may not groom each other by picking fleas from each other hair, but we do seek acceptance and being part of social group. Picking up the phone on someone who will hang up on you hurts; having the door of a Homeowner slammed shut in your face will make you cringe; Being told to never call back or knock on someone's property will feel devastating; yet the business of Real Estate is Prospecting Not Processing Deals. Teach your agents and yourself to handle ‘No’ with class and move on to the next door without any residual feeling, and you will become a successful Listing Agent!
A good number of agents in the Real Estate Business get caught off guard, from time to time, by not having enough business – some are new to the business and it seems understandable, others have a lot of experience, yet the same happens to them – the culprit, 9 out 10 times, is a Lack of Prospecting; or a Reduction in Prospecting Efforts. You can learn everything there is about SEO, Marketing, Smartphone technology, developing great procedural systems, writing contracts; negotiating, and on and on – but if you neglect Prospecting then you are neglecting your Real Estate Business. Let’s put in starker terms; reduce your Prospecting Game Plan and you will reduce your income; especially if you are a Brokerage. We are not just in the business of servicing the clients we have, we are in the ‘acquisition business’ of new business. Write a Prospecting Plan you can follow and act on it as soon as possible!
Who you are and your vision must never be reduced to one agent or one participant in your business. Real Estate is a wonderful endeavor, and it is driven by big pay rewards at times, and this fact, on it own, creates ‘Huge Egos’ and entitlement from the few agents you think are succeeding for you. This blog post is for Brokers/Managers; I have two simple questions to ask of you: If some unfortunate life terminating act happens to one of your superstar agents; does this mean that your business is over? Will Real Estate in your market stop functioning because of the demise of one of your, or other, local superstar agents? If your answer is ‘Yes’ to either to these questions then you are Not a Real Estate Brokerage, and your Business Plan is weak and lacking of a grand vision. You are the Leader of your office, and as such, must nurture new talent to grow and succeed in your office; if the ego of one of your superstars starts interfering with the growth of your business plan then stop being a Real Estate Brokerage and get yourself a regular job – sorry :(.
Real Estate Success requires of you to be organized, and your finances need not only be accurate they need to be audited. An easy way to track your expenses is to dedicate a Credit Card just for your Business Expenses and not to commingle it with your personal expenses. The habit that you must acquire is not just to pay your Credit Card on time, but to audit all your expenses once a month; you have to accept that you will have recurring bills once a month, like MLS Dues, Websites, Marketing Software, etc… but sometimes many of you pay the bill and are not sure why that charge is appearing on your Statement. Some shady vendors count on you being distracted or busy to charge you recurring expenses sometimes months and years after you have stopped using their service. Ask Questions and Audit everything! PS: The best time to prepare your expenses and your taxes is at the end of each month!
Real Estate is a demanding Business, and few ever truly thrive and excel at it, and this is why your family must be involved in your vision. Many share the complaints and frustrations of their daily battles in Real Estate, but few ever share their vision, goals, aspirations, and future rewards with their spouses. When you walk into a Real Estate Career you have agreed, for many of your beginning years, to work longer hours than those who have so-called regular jobs; 60 to 80 hours a week are not unheard of; weekend toiling in your garage or shopping with your family are rare; your phone ringing late at night or waking you up early in the morning is almost the norm; it simply means that Real Estate does not have a boundary in your office – it goes with you wherever you go! Let your family in on your Goals and Vision; and do share the positive progress you are making – and don’t feel obligated to vomit every single problem and tribulation you undergo; they care about you and may start interpreting that your Real Estate Career is hurting you.
Your physical space affects how you feel and work and one of the best ways to re-energize your spirit is to re-arrange your office once a year, some even do it every six months. Don’t be afraid to think of painting your space, adding artwork, moving your furniture, or even changing the whole orientation of your office. You have to remember that you are a ‘feeling being’ and you are affected by energy, and your surroundings do affect your mood. Ask a Family member, friends, or even get a decorator to help you rethink how you engage your physical space. One thing you will uncover as you start tackling your workspace is what you will find hidden in some pile of paperwork, deep inside drawers, or full of dust behind a desk or filing cabinet. Nurture your office, cubicle, work desk, and who you are with sounds and sights that allow you to love what you do and why you do it!
A large number of new agents to Real Estate never develop an eye towards ‘Property Values’ because they have failed to adopt the habit of Previewing Listings. New Agents must add to their weekly to-do list the task of physically Previewing Listings; no, not on the computer, but in person. Learning the value of properties in your market area is an important skill that customers value, and I have come across many in my trainings who make up numbers and pretend they know – when they truly don’t know! Our Brokers must put all our agents on a regiment that requires the development of such a fundamental skill, both Buyers’ Agents and Sellers’ Agents. The value of your agents is in the advice they give customers based on sound fundamentals and grounded knowledge; push them to acquire these skills – they may not thank you now; but they will do so in the long run!
There are 2 types of Real Estate Agents; those who need Motivation and those who have transcended Motivation… You need to know where you fit, and be honest about it – there is no right or wrong about each way of being. If you are in the kind of agent who enjoys Motivation let me share with you a daily trick you can use to keep yourself going: Get yourself a to-do list in which you add no less than 10 things to-do each day; just find a way to connect these tasks to your Real Estate Business; Second get yourself a highlighter. Every time you accomplish or finish a task just highlight it on your to-do list. At the end of your day focus on what you have accomplished by looking at the highlighted items; then transfer the tasks you did not finish to the next day; and repeat the process the next day. Don’t over-think it; just make sure you have 10 Real Estate Tasks daily!
If you are the type of Real Estate Agent who has gotten to a place that transcends Motivation do the following: Get yourself a task list and a black sharpie; every time you finish or accomplish a task scratch it off; and at the end of the day focus on the items you did not complete and ask yourself why you placed those unfinished items on the list in the first place; Move the unaccomplished tasks to tomorrow’s list and start over – your list must be longer than 10 items per day. Motivation does not work the same for everyone; but finding that which works for you is the most important daily activity!
Knowing where you stand at all times and the progress you are making are crucial to the growth of your business, and in the building of your ongoing confidence. Know your Real Estate Inventory and Know your Buyers’ Leads! If you create a way to visualize where you are right now, you will be able to do something about it; many of you continue to misuse your brain and rely on it for information storage, and when you are asked how many listings do you currently have, many make up a number that is close enough – this way of being is hurting you and you are not even aware of it. Know your numbers exactly, and create a visual representation of them that you will confront daily. In this blog I will focus on your listings: Get yourself a small writing board or print a large excel spreadsheet that forces you to look at your listings – it should include addresses; Listing#; current price; and Date listed; and anything else you deem important. Confronting your inventory daily and knowing the stages of progress will force to know when it is time to prospect (Hint: it is daily…) But it also will force you to confront the most important conversation with your Sellers – Pricing Strategy. Bring some sunshine to your business model and you will create opportunity and diligence!
What is NFC? NFC (Near Field Communication) has been viewed by many as a way of using your Android Smartphone to pay by bumping them using Apps like Google Wallet, MasterCard, or by having 2 NFC devices share information when they are nearby. NFC is actually much more than that! NFC enabled devices work with magnetic induction to extract programs or instructions when they come in contact with NFC Tags which are outfitted with a radio chip connected to an antenna and a small memory and no battery; the induction process (from the phone) causes electricity to flow through the NFC Tag and activate (very cool.) You can order NFC Tags from Amazon at $2 a piece and then program them. If you have a Nexus 7, Galaxy S3, or NFC enabled Smartphone you can get started. Buy yourself a few NFC Tags, and download the App NFC Task Launcher (it’s free) which will allow you to program your NFC Tag to do what you when you tap it. iPhones do not come equipped with NFC capability but I guarantee that the next one (say the 5S) will be NFC enabled. Why is this exciting? The technology is in its infancy but the capacity to have devices interacting in Near Field with the Physical world, and Programmed by us humans will open a world of Productivity (multiple steps reduced to one compact program) we have yet to imagine. Here is a great article with a video to help you get familiar with NFC http://goo.gl/Ftzfn)
Why is it difficult to build a book of business working with just Real Estate Buyers? Let us all be clear there are a few good Agents who are doing very well being strictly Real Estate Buyers’ Agents, and they work hard, very hard to earn that income – and God bless them. But let us talk about what happened 6 to 9 years ago; during the heady days of Home Prices skyrocketing every year, if you worked with a Buyer then, you were almost guaranteed a second bite at the apple of Salesmanship; they were going to either become ‘flippers’ and a buy a second house and they gave you a chance at that; or their house went up in value so fast than within 3 years you were getting a call to help them sell the house they recently bought from you. It was insane! Let’s now look at today’s reality; The average length of stay in the same house has moved from about 5 years to more than 9 years; and that simply means your second bite at the ‘sale apple’ may have to wait a decade or more; and with technology changing so fast 10 years is an eternity. Throw in the mix of your business ‘Prospecting’ for Listings and your Real Estate Career will balance out much better; when you work with sellers you open yourself to being visible to their neighbors as well; and if you learn the right way to canvass your book of business will always increase.
As you get deeper into December and start planning for 2013 you may want to have a better picture for what it means to Plan; Think of Planning as the reaching into the guts of the Future and bringing them forward to today; inspecting what you see; creating what you want; and then doing something about it today! You can choose to haphazardly walk into tomorrow satisfied with what each day may bring; or you may choose to claim your reality by painting the future with the shade of pink you are desiring! (substitute pink for your own color.) Planning starts with clear measurable goals that are refined to Quarterly, Monthly, Weekly, then Daily Activities that must be accomplished so the whole is stronger then the parts. Once you have clarity about the full range of your activities you can proceed and start reviewing your results on a weekly basis; and they will either produce the results you anticipated or you need to be trained at accomplishing those tasks better.
Ground your business around Activities and realize that all of us will face procrastination at some point. If you are hanging in your office spending hours rearranging the files on your desk, and you do that way too often, then you are not prospecting enough. Real Estate is about stirring the pot and causing conversations; and on those days when the phone is not ringing, leads are not flowing to your mailbox, maybe you put on your badge, grab lots of business cards, and start canvassing your neighborhoods. You should probably design a better long term plan of action, but sitting on your couch, or at the office lamenting the lack of business will NOT advance you a bit. The more you choose to be active and engage others about their Real Estate Needs the more business will find its way towards you. Keep this simple quote in mind: ‘People love chopping wood. In this activity one immediately sees results.’ – Albert Einstein.
Stop driving yourself insane – you will not always finish all the items on your To-Do List… and that’s ok! For many the problem with Time Management is not the fact that they are not driven to accomplish, but their twisted desire to have a perfect record. This way of being leads to stress and needless agony. Say you have 10 items on today’s to-do list and you must accomplish all of them, and you know that they will take you 6 hours to do them all – guess what: because you are busy the universe is going to reward you with leads and new business, and you must chase those leads and new business – will that cause you to drop 1 or 2 items from your to-do list? Yes, but that’s ok! Call the recipients of the work you needed to do and apologize and reschedule when you can get them the info you said you will give them. So yes you will drop some items and not get them done, but it is the way you connect with others responsibly that is going to be the mark of your true professionalism.
Think of a better description for the concept Time Management; what if a more correct way of approaching Time was to tackle Yourself, as in: Personal Management. Rearranging the seconds and minutes of time is not within our developed technology, but rearranging the self is within our control. From the moment you wake up to the moment you fall asleep you are making decisions about what you are going to do or not going to do, and the more clarity you bring to this Personal-Management paradigm the more Time will become your ally. Because you have chosen to work in Real Estate you must prepare yourself to spending a lot of your day in Reactive Mode, meaning dealing with the requests, wishes, desires, and agonies of others. Your salvation will come in the form of you setting aside some time during the day driven by Proactive Actions with a clear agenda. You will not control all of your day and that is fine, but if all of your day is controlled by others and by reactions, then you will burn out and start hating this wonderful industry! Think Personal-Management Not Time-Management!
Your December 30-Day Challenge is about becoming an effective Real Estate Agent with your Sphere of Influence. One of the worst habits you can develop is to enter into a customer relationship using scraps of paper and never entering the person in your Sphere Database. Let me explain; as you grow your business you are going to need multiple databases but they do not all serve the same purpose; this post is not about all of the databases you should have but about your core Sphere Database, the one that syncs with your Smartphone, Tablet, and Computer. Let us say you have a Gmail Account, well it comes with a Contact Manager and the ability to take notes about your contacts and your conversations with them. Your Challenge for the month of December is simple – as soon as you enter into a talking or emailing relationship with a potential client or colleague, go to your contact manager; enter their contact information; add their picture (they are all online on Facebook); Categorize them – Placing colleagues and potential clients to categories is crucial; finally write a time-stamped note about how you came to know them and what major ideas you should remember about them. When you do this right you will have at your fingertips all the necessary data to nurture those with whom you are Talking, Texting, and Emailing and generate more business. Try it for 30 Days, you will be amazed how you were able to function without this simple idea.
Today is Session 3 of my Series Real Estate Web Strategy Success; I will be focusing on three concepts: 1. The Verbs of the Internet, also known as Hyperlinks; 2. The concept and creation of Dynamic Landing Pages; and finally 3. Squeeze Pages and their importance in generating new leads. Real Estate Agents and Brokers must learn to go beyond getting a Website, putting some lipstick on it (CSS) and hoping for the best; Our Agents and Brokers need to develop Web Strategies that generate Organic Traffic but that are also sticky. Your Website needs to become your ally when you are prospecting; it needs to help you bridge the gap between your outbound Marketing and help it generate organic Inbound Marketing. Look forward to visiting with all of you today
Today you woke up with a dream; a good dream; a dream you are going to honor and make real! Today you will make that dream grow wings and fly, because it is your dream and you have to be true to you. Today you woke up with a dream and the work you will toil through is good! Today you woke up with a dream and everyone who knows you must know your dream! Zig Ziglar told me something about your dream: ‘If you can dream it, then you can achieve it. You will get all you want in life if you help enough other people get what they want.’ So today you woke up with a dream and those around you will get their dream too!
The challenge of Time Management most Real Estate Agents and Brokers face lies deeper within their Passion than the physics of time itself. The river of Time flows equally for all of us, but there are some who infuse their day with passion and desire, and this fuel has them accomplishing much more than those who only tackle tasks robotically. If you Door Knock with the attitude that you don’t want to be there, guess what you will get? People will not talk to you and then you will conclude that Door Knocking doesn’t work. If you attend a training because someone forced you in the room you will gain very little, and of course you will conclude that Trainings don’t work. I can go on, but you get the picture… The enthusiasm with which you create your goals and work on them daily, will lead you naturally to the steps and tasks you need to get closer to achieving them. Yes your heart matters if you wish to master you daily activities and become an efficient Time Manager.
Taking actions consistent with your commitments is the true measure of going from having a dream to making it come true. I hear Real Estate Agents say things like I love helping Home Buyers; and I say: Great; Show me how you do that! And their answer is almost always the same: Give me a Home Buyer ready to buy and I will show you what I can do! Unfortunately consumers want to be convinced before they sign anything with you. Here are some good questions you ought to ask your self these next few weeks in order for you to build a strong Plan of Action for 2013: What is My Social Media Presence Footprint? If I Google myself does anything come up that is helpful to consumers? Have I offered thoughtful videos that help Buyers and Sellers understand the market I service? Does my Website or Broker Website contain testimonials than can sway visitors to choose me to work with them? Is my current Web Picture consistent with the way I look today? Can Visitors discern my specialty and my commitments when they visit me online? Do I offer Real Solutions on my website or is it just a a glorified Business Card? Yes some of these questions are tough, but they are necessary for you to confront and build a lasting Professional Presence Online – remember: You are online not because you want to but because you have to; the consumers have voted and we must listen to them!
A new breed of Successful Business Professionals is emerging, and one of their secrets is stunningly simple: The Capacity to remain focused and shun Distractions. Sometimes in business all you need is to be a bit better than the rest, and believe it when I say you can achieve this by reducing the amount of distractions in your life. Let’s be honest, every ding in your life, every Facebook zing, every email dang takes your mind away from the task at hand. The stretches of time you control in order to complete tasks that you have identified as activities of business generation must be allowed to play out; you are at your best when you take on activities and run through the arc of their completion; in fact you feel a jolt of accomplishment. Ask yourself the following questions, then try to come to terms with who you wish yourself to become: Am I easily distracted? If I had to be honest with myself would I fess up and say that I like being distracted by my text messages, Facebook Notifications, and email vibrations of? Has most of my Business Day been consumed by the distractions of being Social with little time for Real Estate Prospecting? You must come to terms with the truth about your capacity to remain focused and shun distractions then seek a colleague to hold you accountable about your daily activities – your business will thank you for it!
Robert Louis Stevenson, the poet, was speaking to Real Estate Professionals all the way back in the 1800’s; well, he was writing for all of us, but I think this quote truly captures the spirit of long term success in this tough industry we call Real Estate: ‘Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap, but by the Seeds you Plant!’ I will paraphrase my understanding of it and invite you to the same: The Seeds of a focused Real Estate Professional are the activities of Prospecting for Sellers and Buyers; the harvest is obviously clear. It is the seeds of prospecting that create the future, yet many of our agents sit on the sidelines looking for business to land in their lap - The skills of Door Knocking; Direct Response Marketing; Direct Call Marketing; Drip Campaign Follow Ups, are more important today than ever. None of your marketing in today's age can exists without a direct thread to Internet Visibility. So choose of nurture your day with prospecting activities; take classes and seminars that will help you develop the habits and skills of prospecting; and the seeds you toil to plant today will reap a bountiful harvest!
The Best friend of Real Estate Professionals is Accountability; the Worst friend of most Real Estate Professionals: unfortunately themselves. For some reason Mediocre Agents tend to hang out with other mediocre ones; while the smart and savvy agents surround themselves with a network of driven professionals – why is that? When you boil down the day to day activities of Real Estate Agents you will notice that those activities must be undertaken by the agent themselves, no one tells them what to do; in fact they don’t like to be told what to do, which leads many to plan and execute their prospecting plan alone. Prospecting is really grueling, those who have mastered it have come to understand that the No’s you get are necessary steps to the few great Yes’s you need to succeed in prospecting; but No’s sting the heart and resemble rejection – so many end up stopping their prospecting which destroys their source of new business. Accountability to others forces the agent to stop answering to themselves, and start keeping their word with others – it is bizarre but true: Most people will do what they say when told to others, but fail to do the same if told to themselves.
An old definition for the word ‘integrity’ is quite revealing about Real Estate. The current meaning that most of us are familiar with is: ‘The quality of being honest and having strong moral principles.’ Yet, early on, integrity was associated with the transfer of property between people in a fair manner; think of it this way: as a property changed hands the fair process of doing so was defined as ‘the integrity of the deal.’ This integrity is expected of all the parties involved: Sellers, Buyers, and all those who support the deal. Listening then becomes one of the best asset a Real Estate Professional can develop when supporting their clients; many a deals go sour because the agent failed to truly absorb what their clients where telling them; sometimes agents don’t prod enough and start hearing what they want to hear. As the Professional you are the main advisor, coach, and guide; and your job will get easier as you commit yourself to listening and taking good notes!
Today has and always is a special day for me; Thanksgiving is the most inclusive holiday in America, and when I read the postings from my friends in Social Media I can tell how grateful and happy they are to be in the presence of Gratitude. Today I am Thankful for my sister Fay who weathered Hurricane Sandy with grace; I have on my thoughts all those who have lost family and treasure; I pray for all military families especially those in harms way and say thank you for protecting us; I am grateful to all my business colleagues who have trusted me and hired me to work with them; I thank you especially Rene for working with me virtually, you are really awesome; and I am thankful for being alive and surrounded by friends and family, and to live in the greatest country ever – Thank you America!
Many Real Estate Professionals, especially new ones, think of the industry as a Sales Business; and that would be a limited way of truly seeing the big picture. Real Estate is driven by Service, better yet by a kind of Coaching/Advisory relationship between consumers and agents. The entities doing the Selling and Buying are the Home Sellers and the Home Buyers; and of course the one doing the coaching and advising is the Real Estate Professional. How would you then increase your value as a Real Estate Adviser/Coach? This is an important question; your value and your long term success depend on it. Let me share with you what makes for great advisers/coaches: The ability to understand what people want and why they want it, then assisting them get what they want. This understanding must be grounded in local knowledge, statistics, and local changes to the Real Estate Market. As you put your business plan together for 2013 add the above question to the mix and your long term goals will become clear!
The most powerful ingredients in the Real Estate Business are first and foremost Personality and Attitude followed by Skills and Proficiency. When you learn a Sales Dialogue you are acquiring the skills of Selling but it is your Personality and Attitude that will either lead to a Sale or Not. You can give the same words, the same emails, the same sales scripts to two agents and one will close Sales while the other struggles to get a call back. The connections you try to illicit in customers are rooted in your beliefs about selling, money, and real estate. So continue to learn new ways of Selling so you can build up your confidence, and that in turn will enhance your attitude. To paraphrase one of our founding fathers, Thomas Jefferson: ‘Nothing can stop a person with the right mental attitude from achieving their goal; nothing on earth can help the person with the wrong mental attitude.’
A major hurdle faced by Real Estate Agents and their Lead Management Systems is the implementation of ‘Intentional Patience.’ The Internet, The Economy, and your Local Market Conditions have extended the time from initial Home Search to consummation of deals from about 3 months to a period hovering between 10 to 12 months. The pouncing on deals and buying on impulse has nearly disappeared, and has been extended beyond the capacity of Real Estate Agents to remain focused on such long term leads. It is like being an Olympic Sprinter who is asked to first run a Marathon before finishing with a fast sprint; the waiting is grueling. The Real Estate Professionals who design patience and a long term view are the ones being rewarded today; they have come to understand that you cannot rush the decision making in the first few months but the moment the fuse is lit the Buyers are ready and they want you to hurry and work faster - You have to know when to be the Tortoise and when to turn it on and run like the Hare!
Prospecting creates method; Knocking on Doors creates method; Role Playing your Scripts creates method, etc. And, you all know what ‘method’ is because you practice it daily; take riding a bicycle or driving your car – before the method was down and fully understood you were focused on learning how to ride a bicycle; but once you learned you were able to start enjoying the scenery and the ease with which you were flowing through the wind… Well, your brain loves method and is not so enamored with being used as a storage container. Practice, repetition, and application of learning lead to method; which frees your mind to delve into mastery. Please continue to learn about your business, and continue to develop the structure of success – but please accept that application leads to mastery; not just learning!
Being Nice is not only a choice it is also a habit; it is an infectious habit that spreads with intention. Disagreement is wired into the day to day management of any business, but choosing to remain nice as one goes about resolving conflicts is a mark of a long view, and grounded being-ness. I would add that being ‘Nice’ is also a great remedy against Stress, and there is plenty of it around – William James wrote: ‘The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another.’ Today is a good to be nice to those around us...
The assumed ‘givens’ of your ideas will, at times, get you in trouble with your business colleagues and clients. What you assume is a priority for you in running your business, may not be fully appreciated or shared by say your administrators, agents, or even managers. Lots of Brokers and Managers have a loose bond with their business teams and rarely discuss how the business is being run; they get into the mode of assuming how everyone should behave, and end up confronting major breakdowns because assumptions are not reality. Your Business Priorities should not be presumed as understood, they need to be shared, they need to be clear, and they need to be simple; Dee Hock put it this way: ‘Simple, clear purpose and principles give rise to complex and intelligent behavior. Complex rules and regulations give rise to simple and stupid behavior.’ Get to know your ‘givens’ then share them with passion with your team!
If you want to capture the history, misery, and spirit of America during the Dust Bowl of the late Twenties and Thirties Ken Burns does a magnificent job bringing it to life. The farmers that care for the breadbasket of America in the plains suffered so much; but what I love about this documentary is how Ken Burns brings their voice to life, and to see how much in common we have with them. if you can catch this documentary on your local channel you will be glad you did – it will speak to you!
As Real Estate Professionals grow into their career they come to terms with the inevitability of developing the skills of ‘Conflict Resolution’; Real Estate is driven by emotion on every side of the transaction; Sellers want to sell at prices sometimes beyond the reality of their market and are still emotionally attached to their property; Buyers want to low ball every deal because they saw some show on TV making them believe that’s the way to negotiate; Real Estate Agents sometimes stake their hills too deeply in their relationships with their clients; that’s before anyone is really talking about whether the appraiser and loan officer are going to agree on all the numbers being thrown about. Real Estate causes emotion and sometimes leads to conflict; one of the best trait a Real Estate professional can acquire is the ability to remain calm; overreacting to every little wave causes more problems at times. Letting people cool off is always best; but there is a major ‘No No’ that agents need to keep a watchful eye on – resolving conflicts via email or text are a deal killer; if a nasty communication or event has arisen it is always best to pick up the phone; emails do not convey intonation and care and leave open the other parties to interpreting your intentions.
Albert Einstein was quoted saying ‘Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.’ One can see how in the field of Quantum Physics one can have such beautiful insights, but I see this saying more in line with what we commonly call values and core beliefs. It is this part of the human condition that is most challenging, and one has to accept that many will not share your values, and sometimes will go against them. The passion with which you live true to your values is the only guide you will have at times; so nudge yourself and get to know what it means to be at your best; take a pen and a pad, or your tablet and finish these two sentences: 1. ‘I know I am at my best when…’ and 2. ‘My company is humming at its best when…’ start writing and don’t you dare stop… write, write, write… The truth about your values and your core leadership values will emerge naturally. if you abhor writing, record yourself (your smartphone has a built-in recorder.) You know how to become your best self!
When you find yourself enforcing way too many rules in your office, rest assured that your principles have not been embraced, and the one who needs to embrace them the most is probably You - the leader. A fair amount of Brokers and Leaders live by the rule of ‘Do what I tell you; not what I do!’ – those are the Rule Makers and Rule Enforcers, they require authority to function, and sometimes fail to lead by example. Principles are driven by Values and Shared Vision, and if you must create rules for your business to grow make sure they are aligned with sound principles. Some Owners find it hard to delegate because they wish to control by making rules, therefore those they work with are not empowered to make Decisions, and everything has to end up on the plate of the owner; they then complain that they work too hard and no one really helps them at work. Enforcing Rules is easy, empowering others through sound principles is Leadership.
The coming year will be the year when Google Plus Local will cause some Real Estate Brokers and Agents to have major conflicts. It has already started but I predict it will be more pronounced in the coming year – so what’s the problem? Many Real Estate Agents tend to be savvier about Internet Marketing, SEO, and Social Media than their Brokers; so when they notice something happening on the internet they tend to embrace it more quickly. Google has launched an initiative in which its search results will be peppered with local Real Estate Business Locations, in effect the 10 results per page has been expanded to 15 to 20 results, with a strong mix of Local Businesses. Savvy agents have been going online and using the ‘Google+ Local Business’ to claim those spots and verifying their location and placing their website rather than the Business website. The conflict arises when another agent at the same location notices that has happened and demands his/her website be the one to be displayed, and the broker of the business location is caught trying to undo something that should have had the Business Location and the Broker Marketing information in the first place. Expect lots of pain! Further the aggregation of data that Google Maps (local), the old Google Places, and the new Google+ Business Local are a mess, and it will take Google engineers months to cohesively connect all three in a logical smooth manner – but Google is known for solving such big challenges, and this one is big.
If you have come to trust your business systems and your numbers are suffering, then it is time for an external force to move you towards your desired goals. Every model will fail or experience headways at some point; think of the model embraced by Circuit City – it worked really well until it didn’t; How about the model espoused by RIM Blackberry? All of you are familiar with many of these mega businesses that were not nimble enough to adapt to change. Let external, well selected, influencers nudge you out of your comfort zone; seek those who are grounded around metrics but are not driven by seeking your approval.This time a year is a great time to review your business plan, don’t do it by yourself, seek professionals and share with them your grand vision.
Google Search Results have been updated with a simplified display; Google has been pushing an important initiative called ‘The Knowledge Graph’ in order to include important Search Results that are Scientific, Historic, Geographic, Biographic, etc… When you Google ‘Albert Einstein,’ you will notice the normal list of websites on the left, and to the right a panel with a short Bio, Books on Einstein, and related people search results; you can even give Google feedback about the information if you think something is wrong. Further, if you click on a picture of one of the related scientists, say Sir Isaac Newton, you will be presented with a ribbon of scientists and thinkers related to your knowledge graph so you can dig deeper in your understanding of your scientific or biographical search. The other cosmetics changes in the search display are the search tools have been collapsed from being on a column to the left of the list of search results, and moved above horizontally under one link, which cleans up the display of results.
The power of ideas is not focused on the ideas per se; it is the connection of your commitment to said ideas that nurtures the fruit of ideas. Each time you choose to interact with your business in a new way, you force the power of your ideas to guide you closer and closer to what your core tells you is right. The worst enemy of creative ideas is fear, especially irrational fear; What are you afraid of? Why are you not pushing yourself to be honest about your fears and accept that most of your fears are irrational? You may be asking how does one conquer fear? – simple: Preparation. Every time you create and review your business plan you tackle fear face to face; your business plan must always be bigger than you; and your vision must be grounded for the long term!
Have you ever attended a meeting ran by a committee and nothing gets done because no one is really in charge? Well, have you ever experienced the same thing about yourself?, namely that each one of us has a committee of selves (our many identities) that conflict and push and pull in this direction and the other, without the ability to arrive at a decision? We are an amalgamation of selves, and it is hard at times to align them around a common goal. You have to watch the ‘distracted self;’ it loves being on Facebook, chases every text on your Smartphone, and engages in chit chat because it is fun! Your Work self is saying: ‘Hey can we first finish this task?’ yet the other says: ‘It will only take a minute; let me see that text from Linda!; Oh my, she changed her status to it’s complicated; is she breaking up with John?’ Your many selves form a committee that rarely focuses on the big picture; and it is this internal committee that causes you Stress in the form of: ‘I know I should have done this today and it did not get done; what’s wrong with me!’ Let your Inner Boss take charge, and trust that you know how.
Responsibility is never delegated it is always assumed; in the world of business results it is always best to know who is the one person who assumes that responsibility. The easiest way to create a blame culture is to create an organization with Shared Responsibility but without the clarity of leadership. Who is the skipper of your organization? The following paraphrased quote from Robert Copeland puts it best: ‘To get something done, a committee should consist of no more than three people, two of whom are always absent.’ Yes this sounds flippant but it goes to the heart of decision-marking, and the ability to receive information, review it and making active decisions in order to produce results. Real Estate Agents and Brokers who wish to grow their presence in their local market must assume responsibility for prospecting; both direct (Door Knocking and direct calls) and passive (emails, mailers, marketing flyers, etc…) The skipper of your organization will create success for all if he or she pushes for the acquisition of new business day in and day out!
November and December are excellent prospecting months! Hibernation in the Real Estate Business during this time a year is rampant; yes the number of deals agents work on dwindles, which means it is the perfect time to prospect for listings for the coming Year. Have you identified your Farming Areas? Have you setup your door knocking schedule? Have you designed your mailers to your database? Have you reviewed your marketing material, from Business Cards, to local print, to craigslist postings? Have you blogged your services and solutions? Have you identified past clients to call and generate leads from? There is fundamental truth in Real Estate that only the pros understand deep in their gut: ‘No matter how long you have been in Real Estate, or awards you have won; when your prospecting work slows down so does your income!’ Prospecting is not difficult but getting started mentally and gearing for it is most challenging at the beginning; it is a habit like any other – learn to prospect and you Real Estate Business will always thrive!
Running your Business is the running of multiple related and connected projects; so what is a good definition for projects? A project is a result or outcome you and your team have committed to that is made up of multiple actions or tasks. In essence a project is not really a ‘project’ until you know the steps, actions, tasks, and order of execution of said actions. Many projects are fruitless not because the commitment is lacking, but because very few spend the time listing the tasks, actions, and order of implementation. But one must acknowledge that the biggest mistake committed in managing projects is the ‘assumption’ that those who are tasked with the project know the steps and actions they must take; it is these assumptions that make managers feel discouraged by the performance of their team. Why not spend some time designing your projects clearly; list all the steps, actions, and time necessary; then delegate said actions to your colleagues – the time you spend thinking will ensure success!
Thinking and Doing are not always united logically, in fact for many there is a forest without a clear path between them. Lots of managers and professionals struggle threading ‘Thinking’ with the right ‘Doing’ and on the flip side, many get into the doing mode without clarity of what they should be doing. Peter Drucker puts the role of a manager this way: ‘A manager is responsible for the application and performance of knowledge.’ Good managers design or are given well crafted job descriptions that have been clearly defined (Thinking) and it is their role to implement the job at the highest performance possible (Doing.) The challenges in the Real Estate Industry is that our Brokers and Agents are not only responsible for performing well, they are also responsible for crafting their job descriptions – and some of them have a vague notion of what their job is. They fail to work on the ‘thinking’ required that defines their role as a Real Estate Professional, and start working with the assumption that their job is selling Real Estate. We need to help our Brokers and Agents design powerful job descriptions (Business Plans) that will help them thrive using their talent, experience, and entrepreneurial skills.
An organic truth has emerged in the past few years, with the advent of Social Media, and it is the following phenomenon: ‘Take your Business Seriously, but don’t take yourself too Seriously!’ In order to balance these two forces you have to realize that Social Media is about interacting with friends and colleagues that have been added to your sphere of influence; Facebook calls them ‘Friends’ and Google+ calls them your ‘Circles.’ Well, the first rule of being Social is to be friendly and accessible, which is the point of ‘not taking oneself not too seriously;’ this way of being allows for your fun personality to come out, which increases your likability. If you must sell a service or product get in the ‘giving business’ first by educating and sharing useful tips and ideas. But most of all, you must interact with your colleagues content by commenting, liking, +1ing, etc… and do so authentically not with an eye to leverage tenuous relationships. Keep in mind that you do not control your likability, but you can control your authenticity – and as shocking as this may seem, some will not like you… oh well!
The type of thinking you bring to the internet as a Real Estate Professional is an important asset to the growth of your business. The tools of the internet are varied and they keep changing as Internet Marketing becomes more and more sophisticated, but there are some fundamentals to this Internet Madness that once understood help you navigate and grow organically with them. Think of this way; as a kid you were introduced to language and to the fundamental building blocks of using verbs, adjectives, nouns, adverbs, conjunctions, pronouns, etc… in other words the elements of Grammar and Language. Once you had a rudimentary understanding of such elements you were able to build complex thoughts and understand more complex ideas. Web Marketing, SEO, Blogging, Social Marketing, Websites, and Mobile Presence are connected by the thread of Internet Fundamentals – you must commit yourself to not only understand how these building blocks work together, but then to leverage them for the benefit of your clients. This has been my commitment from the get go – I empower agents and brokers get the fundamental understanding of so-called complex internet systems, then offer my participants plans of actions they can trust to grow their long term success on the internet.