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Today’s “Ask the Expert” column features Marty Rueter, President of Weichert Real Estate Affiliates, Inc., the franchising arm of Weichert, Realtors.

Q: Looking back on the past few years, what are some of the most valuable lessons you’ve learned in regard to the challenges within the real estate market?

A: We have survived the recent economic downturn, and for that we have much to be thankful. With even rosier projections for housing in 2014, I have eagerly taken on a bigger, brighter year—both stronger and a whole lot smarter than ever.

You see, I have taken many lessons away from the recent challenges in the real estate market. I’ve thought long and hard about which changes should be permanent, and which ones we hope to never see again. With revenues and recruits returning, there’s a tendency to forget what happened yesterday and think only about tomorrow’s potential.

While being optimistic is great, we must also remember everything that led us to this point. For many, getting “back to normal” means a return to real estate during its bubbly hey-day, when revenues, mortgages and advertising flowed like confetti. Frankly, many real estate professionals didn’t have to work that hard. The business often came to them.

History repeats itself if we’re not careful. So before amnesia sets in, I wanted to memorialize some valuable “lessons learned.”

The downturn proved that well-executed systems can overcome the most treacherous economic storm, ensuring more predictable performance and results. With fewer calls (and deals), we tightened up processes, to the benefit of our clients. We posted better photos, improved our Internet marketing and worked on pricing homes to sell. I’ve heard from many within the Weichert system that this helped them better understand and appreciate the tools and resources available to them.

But good systems and technology aren’t enough. Good people are also needed, which brings us to a second lesson. Sales associates must be coached, measured and held accountable. This includes experienced agents who began during the “bubble” days or those who were never formally trained. Our business cards may say “counselor” or “associate,” but deep down, we’re salespeople. It’s imperative that we elevate our role (and value) beyond regurgitating MLS data, showing up at the house, unlocking the door, and hoping the prospect likes it.

Real estate salespeople are experts at marketing, qualifying, capturing, negotiating and closing, all while knowing every nuance of their local markets. Systems drive the business, but great people drive the systems and ensure consistent performance and professionalism—for every customer, by every agent, with every transaction or interaction, every time.

This brings me to the most important lesson: the need to provide leadership to every member of our team, regardless of seniority or employment status. Good agents desire clarity of purpose and direction. In fact, they thrive on and expect it. They want to know the organization’s values, vision and aspirations. While agents may have different personal goals, an effective leader is one who aligns them into a coordinated effort that drives both the company and the individual’s business forward.

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