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Getting From Here to There

Our expert helps one sales associate set solid career goals.

Ellen Holder
Call it beginner’s luck or just being in the right place at the right time, but real estate rookie Ellen Holder achieved her first-year sales goal so easily that she doesn’t quite know how she pulled it off. “My [commission] goal for the first year was $30,000, and I didn’t even realize I was doing it,” says Holder, a sales associate with United Country Music Realty in Lake Wales. “Even though the market is slow, I’ve done fairly well,” she says. Her company specializes in rural properties, farmland and vacation homes as well as residential and commercial properties.

Holder would like to aim higher this year, but since she doesn’t have a business plan, she’s finding it difficult to figure out exactly where to go. “I don’t want to set the world on fire,” Holder says, “but I’d like to have the tools to do better.”

For starters, she’d like to earn more without having to work 24/7. “My husband is a mortgage broker who works when lending institutions are open. I can easily work all week, weekends and holidays, so finding time together is often a problem,” she says, adding that she and her husband are musicians who enjoy performing around town. (He plays guitar and keyboards, and they both sing.) “We have a lot of fun,” she says. “That’s how we met 41 years ago. But I’m reluctant to take bookings when I might get calls to show listings. I don’t want to put off a potential buyer when I stand to gain so much if I make a sale. I think to myself, how am I going to exceed my first-year goal if I don’t [put] more hours into the business?”

Bring in the Expert
Holder sought advice from real estate trainer Jay Barber, who recommended an easy-to-follow methodology that he devised to help his clients figure out what they want to accomplish in their career. Called GOSPA, an acronym for Goal, Objective, Strategy, Plan and Action, the approach is based on training he received at IBM during the 1970s. “I can’t set your goals or objectives for you, Ellen, but my GOSPA plan can help you,” says Barber. “Is there a guarantee of success? No. But the likelihood of being successful is much higher.” Here are his recommendations:

1. Clarify Your Goals
A practical way for Holder to begin, says Barber, is by writing down realistic goals for her career. “For example, your goal could be to make X number of dollars and be known as the go-to person in your area,” he says. “Or, maybe you want to double your income. You’ve got to believe in what you’re writing down, and you’ve got to set your ego aside.” He recommends that Holder set attainable goals that aren’t too broad, and that she revisit them at least once a year to determine whether or not they need updating. “You might talk with top producers to see what they’re doing,” Barber adds.

2. Outline Objectives
Next, Holder will have to come up with a list of objectives that she must fulfill if she is to achieve her goals. “Objectives are what I call end states because when they are completed, the desired condition has been satisfied,” says Barber. “There may be multiple objectives that support reaching and attaining your goals. They may be numeric, or they may involve other types of things. Let’s say your goal is to make $100,000 a year. You know what your commission is and the average selling price of a house in your area, so just figure out how many houses you’ve got to sell to meet your revenue goal. Another objective might be to become better known in the area by gathering an additional 50 contacts, for example, or whatever the case may be.”

According to Barber, once goals and objectives are set, they generally don’t change. “When you start messing around with them, it’s an indication that you don’t know what you want to do,” Barber says.

3. Set Strategies
The third component of Barber’s technique involves coming up with the steps Holder will have to take if she is to carry out her requisite objectives and ultimately meet her goal.

“People get strategies and objectives confused,” Barber says, “but strategies are the ‘How you do it’ of the whole thing (e.g., I’m going to go to more networking events, or I’m going to join this organization or that club in order to meet more people). Then, as far as the revenue side goes, it may be that if you have listings now—as a lot of people do—but not a lot of buyers, your strategy could involve devising ways to make those listings more desirable. Your strategy could mean getting the seller to drop the price, setting up a video tour online, sending marketing fliers or a number of things. All of these strategies lead to meeting those objectives that you’ve outlined.”

Holder explains that the “music” connection between her company name and her hobby is just a coincidence. Her broker, Sandra Music, founded Music Realty and later added “United Country” to the company’s name after she became affiliated with United Country Real Estate. But, of course, callers do hear country music when they’re placed on hold,” jokes Holder. “People chuckle about that.” While performing helps boost her confidence for real estate sales, she says she hasn’t met very many potential clients or customers through her music hobby. One of her strategies, however, could include implementing ways to reach this untapped group.

4. Make Plans
The plan phase of Barber’s GOSPA system is where Holder will map out how she’s going to accomplish or support her strategies. For example, if her strategy is to build her contact list within the next 30 days, she’ll need to draw up a plan that delineates the actual tasks she’ll need to get done if she is to implement that strategy. “Those things change quite often,” says Barber. “Every one to three months, lay out your plans and under that is a whole series of actions that you will undertake to accomplish those plans.”

5. Take Action
Finally, Barber wants Holder to figure out the activities she’ll have to carry out to put her plans into action. For example, if Holder’s goal is to be a top-producing sales associate in Lake Wales, her objective would be to sell X amount of real estate, followed by a strategy to work in a specific niche. She could then support her efforts with a plan to target specific neighborhoods within the area, and her actions might include talking with a certain number of people within a specific time frame.

“Most people jump into actions without thinking about what those actions will accomplish,” says Barber. “Their plan of attack is ‘Today I’ll do this; tomorrow I’ll do that’ without any forethought. They start at the bottom, but I’m suggesting that you start at the top. Once you know why you’re doing something, people can’t second-guess you or talk you out of doing it. If someone asks why you’re doing it, you can confidently say it’s part of your plan.

“Ellen, on the other hand, if you can’t tie a plan or an activity to a particular strategy or objective, then you need to step back and ask yourself why you’re doing it,” continues Barber. “It may be that there’s a hidden objective that you didn’t realize. If not, you might want to discontinue the activity.”

This column, designed to provide advice from industry experts to real estate professionals who need help with technology, business or marketing issues, won the Bronze Award in the 2006 Best Column category from the Florida Magazine Association.
•  No concrete plan for career growth.

•  Goals and objectives, and a precise plan and a set of actions for following through with them.

GOSPA at a Glance
There can be only one goal. Once a goal is set, it should be fine-tuned each year; however, it isn’t likely to change unless a major life event such as a divorce or death in the family occurs. One example of a goal would be to become a top-producing associate in a specific geographic area.

Objectives: Steps that you must take to support your goal. Anobjective expresses an “end state,” such as a time when something is completed and the desired condition has been satisfied. For example, if the individual’s goal is to become a top-producing associate in a particular area, one objective could be “When I sell X amount of real estate, I’ll meet my goal.”

A strategy is a plan of action for achieving specific objectives and the goal that those objectives support. For example,if a sales associate wants to become a top producer in a specific area, he or she will need to work that specific part of town and become successful there.

The “map” you’ll follow in order to carry out your strategy. For example, a strategy for becoming a top producer in a specific area could include isolating certain neighborhoods or niches and becoming a specialist there.

Actions: Activities that must be carried out in support of your plan (i.e., talking with a specific number of people within a certain time frame, etc.).

Meet the Expert
Jay Barber is president of Heron Bay Group in Fort Lauderdale, a firm that trains real estate professionals on ways to improve their communications. A graduate of the Florida Association of Realtors® (FAR) Instructor Training Institute, Barber has more than 30 years of sales, marketing, management and consulting experience. He developed and conducts workshops through local Boards from the FAR Continuing Education (CE) Express program.