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By John Voket

RISMEDIA, Jan. 8, 2007-What should your first order of business be this year? What business habits can you leave in 2006? Here, an interview with Buffini & Company ClubNetTM Coach Karie Kaufman, who shares insights on how to start the new year off right in your business.

What should the first order of business be for agents in the New Year?
Have a plan. If you don't already have specific, written goals, block time out to create some. A few hours per week to work on your business will save you days and weeks of lost production because you are lacking focus throughout the year. The key to creating a business plan is to keep it simple. Remember, you're not filing an IPO-your plan should be simple enough for you to execute it on a daily basis. Make sure it includes goals for the year, action steps on how you're going to get there, job descriptions for yourself and anyone else on the team, and a budget for how you're going to fund the plan.

Once you have a strategy in place, begin executing it immediately. Sometimes we talk ourselves out of making phone calls because we convince ourselves that other people are too busy, and they don't want to hear from us. Don't sell yourself that excuse-call your database and wish them a Happy New Year. Let them know that you're taking inventory of your blessings as you look to the year ahead, and that you're thankful for them and the value they represent to your business. This is also the perfect way to reconnect with those people in your database with whom you may have lost touch. Let them know that your New Year's resolution is to keep in better contact with them. That way you've planted an expectation that you'll be around to serve them and their referrals throughout the year.

What are some of the less-effective business habits that agents should relinquish?
It's true that a lot of people get results through traditional marketing techniques, but our Coaching clients have found working by referral is a much more effective (and less costly) way to run their business. The National Association of Realtors reports that a majority of home buyers seek out a referral when they need a Realtor. That means passive marketing techniques can consume a majority of your financial resources in pursuit of a minority of available clients in your market. This industry rewards action. And you track your action by measuring the results. Keep track of how much time and money you invest in a particular type of activity (i.e. advertising, paid leads, contacts to your sphere of influence, etc.), then track the results. If you're not getting a strong return on your investment, stop.

How can agents build stronger client relationships this year?
The fastest way to generate referrals while deepening relationships is through face-to-face contact. In your business plan, outline the types of face-to-face activities you want to do with your database throughout the year. For example, set a goal to: send at least three handwritten personal notes per day; to take one client or business vendor to lunch each week; and to Pop-By everyone in your database once per quarter, etc. Every time you call someone, ask yourself, "How can I serve this person today?" Consistently giving of your time and resources will deepen your relationships-and keep you top of mind when your best clients have a friend or family member that's thinking about buying or selling.

How can agents maintain good lead-generating habits throughout the year?
"Habit" is the key word. Lead generation needs to become a routine-not just something you do when you don't have any leads. The best way to create a daily lead-generating habit is by scheduling it into your calendar. Block out at least two hours per day to do proactive activities, like calling or visiting people in your sphere of influence. And it's critical that you protect this time-don't schedule any appointments over it, and limit interruptions by placing a sign on your office door that says "Power Hour in progress. Please do not disturb." Also, one of the most overlooked resources for generating leads is your current client database. Make it a habit to educate or remind every one of them about how you run your business, and ask them to give you a call if they come across anyone who is thinking of buying or selling a home. We need to train ourselves that we are actually in the lead generation business. Developing good habits is the first step in changing your mindset and paving the way to a consistently more profitable business.

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