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This week’s “Ask the Expert” column features Martin J. Rueter, President with Weichert Real Estate Affiliates, Inc.

Q: With so many moving parts in the real estate industry, what would you identify as the most important piece or pieces an agent should focus on if they want to truly succeed in this business?

A: Too often, I meet people in real estate who want to focus on things that will never help them grow their business. Too many agents think success can be achieved through self-promotion, or a bigger social media presence. These are important, but long-term success comes by sticking with the fundamentals. That may sound cliché, but it’s a business truth that continues to prove itself every day at Weichert®.

You can’t prosper at anything without a strong foundation. In real estate, that means knowing your market inside out; having solid selling skills (i.e., prospecting, closing); and adhering to business practices that have passed the test of time. People around me hear it over and over: A house built on sand quickly topples over, but one built on solid rock will endure several lifetimes. “Majoring in the basics” is a credential all of us in real estate ought to have—one that’s helped the Weichert organization grow from a single office to one of the most successful real estate brokerages in the country. Weichert didn’t always have the national presence it enjoys today, yet we’ve grown and profited every single year since Jim Weichert opened his first office in 1969. He did this the old-fashioned way—by recruiting agents, training them, and showing them how to succeed through daily activities, and employing great tools and systems.

Jim’s “stick to the basics” approach has been a highly effective strategy for each of Weichert’s 18 related businesses, including our real estate franchise company. Very few of us are naturals at real estate. Most have to learn how to become successful. We also need a track on which to run. This we call “the Weichert Way,”—organized, repeatable systems, steps and procedures for marketing and managing people and transactions. For a lot of folks, the word “systems” translates into bigger, better, faster technology. Weichert’s “people first” philosophy has proven otherwise. Jim says it all the time: “People buy people before product or service.” Yes, technology is an important tool, but it’s even more important to get to know your clients, their needs and motivations, before telling them what you think their house is worth, or showing them a bunch of houses. Systems ensure what needs to get done always gets done, no matter which agent is working the customers. But it’s good people employing those systems that may matter even more.

Once everyone’s grounded in the fundamentals, success becomes a matter of focus and targeting. At Weichert, our focus is on the local marketplace, on securing the most listings. We still believe that listings are everything—that without them, there’s no reason for buyers to call. Every top agent, every leading company I know has a huge storehouse of saleable listings. As listings dry up, so do buyer inquiries. Unfortunately, most new agents automatically gravitate toward buyers when they ought to be chasing after listings. It’s normal, I suppose, since new people lack the experienced resume to go up against a top listing agent. But with the right approach and superior value proposition, any agent, new or seasoned, can ensure they’re on at least one end of every sale.

So, know your market, practice and internalize your professional skills, focus on listings, perform daily activities. Pretty simple, but maybe not as techie as some would want. It’s worked great for us.

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