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Recently, while sitting on the beach in California, I watched several surfers try to catch one of the rolling waves that would give them an exhilarating ride to shore. Some of the surfers sat on their boards and just waited for the perfect wave to come to them. Others paddled hard, but couldn’t quite catch the wave. But what caught my attention the most were the few seasoned riders who would start paddling ahead of the group, working like crazy while the others watched, and then all of a sudden—after significant effort—they’d catch the wave and enjoy a well-deserved ride into shore.

Salespeople across the board run their business like one of these three groups. Many put on their wetsuits, paddle out and sit on their board and wonder why the waves—aka business opportunities—don’t find them. Others make a lot of noise splashing around pretending to prospect. But the superstars get up early, study the environment, and when the time is right, get out in front while everyone else sits by in awe of their accomplishments.

To catch the next wave of business, which is surely coming, here are my top 5 keys that will help you master the sport of real estate sales:

1. Get up early and study your market. Know where the transactions are happening and put yourself in the middle of those areas. Farm, prospect, work open houses and participate in community events. As you work hard and put yourself in the middle of the activity within these actively selling communities, you will catch and ride this next wave of sales.

2. Hang out with the top agents. Whether they’re surfing or selling, those who know the terrain—and how to ride—can help you get there faster. Join active top agent groups, both online and offline, ask questions and join in the conversations of the elite. You will become more like the company you keep. If you hang out with average agents, you will have average results.

3. Master your time and focus on life balance. “Hang loose” is a term used by Hawaiian surfers that means relax and enjoy life. The same is true in real estate sales: You have to find time to hang loose and relax if you’re going to have the energy to take on the challenges and stress that will be required as business picks up. Focus on your most important tasks and don’t get distracted by the small, insignificant distractions that pull you away from your wave.

4. Automate with systems. The technologies available for managing our clients, including CRM, lead generation and transaction management, make a huge difference in our ability to compete. Technology is often the differentiator that allows you to even be in the game for the big business that is out there.

5. Diversify and differentiate. Don’t wait around for that one aspect of the business you like the most to come back around. You must have multiple streams of income if you want to stay on top. Luxury properties, REOs, short sales, buyer specialists, etc., all provide more than one path to being successful. And set yourself apart from the competition. Do your job better and more professionally. As you do so, you will find that there is more than one wave to catch.

Just like with surfing, in real estate, we each have a choice to make: Either get on a wave and start paddling like crazy, or get out of the way because there is another agent working harder and smarter who is paddling faster than you.

Verl Workman is a speaker, coach, business consultant and president of the Top 5 in Real Estate Network®. To hire Verl to speak, consult or work with your company, email or visit for more information.