To illustrate the differences between working from a tactical perspective and a strategic one, I'd like you to envision the following: Think about a set of Lego blocks. When you purchase a Lego set, you open the box to find hundreds of various-sized blocks and miscellaneous pieces that can be shaped into just about anything your imagination will allow. But also inside that box is a booklet with step-by-step directions on how to build whatever you see depicted on the front of the box, whether it's a red Ferrari F430 or an entire town.
The option of which path you choose is entirely up to you. In both cases, you're playing with Legos. But only one of those approaches comes ready-made to be approached from a strategic perspective - the one in which you follow the directions and build what's on the box.
Defining the Difference
By definition, a strategy is a plan of action for attaining a goal. Tactics, on the other hand, are the individual methods or activities by which you carry out your plan. Strategy is the big picture. Tactics are the minutia. So when it comes to your real estate business, you must first establish your strategy or big-picture goal setting before you can determine the tactics you'll use to achieve your goals. The key is to always make your tactics serve your strategy. In other words, make sure every action you take is part of a larger plan. Individual tactics should never be performed without fitting into a grander scheme.
Here's another analogy to help you better understand the difference between the two. Working from a tactical perspective is like standing at the heart of downtown. Everywhere you look, your view is obscured by giant skyscrapers, limiting your ability to see very far in any direction. Working from a strategic perspective is like getting in a helicopter and flying over the tops of those buildings with clear skies as far as the eye can see. It's a big-picture view without any limitations. The higher elevation you rise to, the more strategic and less tactical your perspective becomes.
Real Estate Tactics
Examples of tactics used by real estate agents are making cold calls, holding open houses, asking for referrals, sitting floor time, using sales scripts - the list could go on and on. Unto themselves, these activities might generate some business, or they might only waste your time. But once you begin to view them from a strategic perspective and with a clear intent in mind, you can modify your individual tactics to serve your overall real estate marketing strategy.
My concern is that I feel like lately I'm seeing way too many agents working from a tactical perspective rather than a strategic one. Most of the real estate training out there focuses solely on tactics, so it's no wonder that many agents end up focusing all their energy on tactics rather than the more important, big-picture strategy. My goal with this article is to get you thinking strategically, and in turn, make your efforts more productive and fruitful.
What Are You Trying to Accomplish?
On a daily basis, you can ask yourself "What should I do today to make money?" It's a good question but there's no good answer, because it all depends on what you're trying to accomplish. If your strategy is to survive another day in the business, virtually any tactic will suffice. If your strategy is to look busy, you can do paperwork all day and consider yourself successful. That's why the first step to approaching your career strategically is to define what success means to you.
When defining your vision of success, get specific:
"Success is working 35-40 hours a week, having my systems in place in order to generate business in excess of $200,000 in gross commissions annually. I will take four entire weeks off at various points throughout the year and never work more than six days a week. I will take one three-day weekend every month and will not call the office or check my messages when I'm not working. I will get a new car every 24 months and devote at least 15 working days per year to attending seminars and the overall betterment of my business."
The Strategic Open House
Once you have established your definition of success, it's much easier to define the tactics you need to get there. But the strategic vs. tactical debate extends further into areas that you might never even think of. Open houses, for example. For most agents, open houses are necessary evils. The homeowner demands that you hold an open house, so you agree and end up sitting on a bar stool for four hours reading the paper while a few neighbors and lookyloos stop by. This typical scenario is holding an open house from a tactical perspective.
When you approach it from a strategic perspective, everything changes. If you decide to conduct an open house, you may as well make the most of it and make it part of a larger strategy. For instance, you can use an open house as part of a strategy to build name recognition, establish yourself as a local expert and make a positive impression on the homeowners surrounding your listing. Once you have a strategy, then your tactics follow course. You mail a series of invitations to the neighbors up and down the street where your listing is located, making an "event" of the open house. You ensure your signs are visible throughout the neighborhood on the day of the open house. You have your brochure and other valuable information assembled in packets to give to the people who attend. You also create a follow-up plan to ensure you add these people to your direct mail farm and are able to keep in touch with them after your initial, positive meeting.
Or maybe your strategy is to use an open house to get a price reduction on the home. What tactics would you employ to achieve that objective? Here's one: when a prospective buyer walks in the door, hand him or her a flier about the house as well as an anonymous questionnaire. If you ask them to complete the questionnaire as they tour the house, it will focus their attention and provide you with valuable information. The most important question you can ask is "At what price would you be likely to buy this house today?" The likely response you'll get is that the price needs to be lower before they would consider buying the house. Even five or six responses that are lower than your current asking price can be used as ammunition to initiate a price reduction that is so essential in today's market.
Open Yourself to New Possibilities
When you begin to look at your career strategically rather than tactically, you avail yourself to all sorts of new possibilities. You need to step outside your day-to-day tactics and really take a look at what you want to accomplish and what's possible. Step outside your box and determine what it is you really want to do.
The key is that once you get an objective in mind, you need to determine which tactics to employ to achieve your goal. Even floor time can be approached from a strategic real estate marketing perspective. Rather than sitting in the office answering phones and hoping for that "jackpot" call, you can devise a strategy to follow-up with each person who calls you. Ask them if you can send them a copy of your personal brochure and a valuable special report you've created that you think might help them in the process. Suddenly you're engaging the caller and helping solve their problems while building your brand and name recognition in the process.
It all starts by asking yourself the simple questions:
• "If I'm going to do a tactic such as floor time, how can I do it in alignment with my overall strategy?"
• "How will I follow up with each caller?"
• "Do I have a special report or something else I can offer them?"
• "What can I do to make floor time better and more productive?"
The Bottom Line
The bottom line is you're trying to sell properties. You can approach this objective differently every day, you can try to use the "tactic of the week" approach, or you can devise a strategy that allows you to continually progress in your career. I want to encourage you to adopt a strategic view of your career and to start asking yourself how everything you do fits into your big-picture plan. You might find that your tactics do not change too radically but the results from your tactics will be vastly improved.
Exercise: Try to think of everything you did yesterday and determine whether or not your actions were in alignment with your long-term career objectives. I'd love to hear that you are on track, spending much of your time working on your business instead of in it. But I suspect that is not the case for most. At any rate, it's a valuable exercise that can help inspire you to work more strategically in the future.
If you find this useful and want to learn more, please visit Greg Herder's website. Greg has written numerous articles in a variety of publications, including REALTOR Magazine, Real Estate Business, WCR Connections, Florida Realtor® and Texas Realtor®. He also authored the innovative "How-to" manual, Satisfaction Guarantee—100% Satisfaction Guaranteed or Your Money Back, which ushered this unique concept into the world of real estate service.