Business August 31, 2023

Master These 3 Skill Sets to Outlast a Down Market

Soft skills, hard skills and more: It takes a lot to get your mindset right and grow your real estate business as a new agent.


As a mentor and coach to countless real estate agents over the years, I have always been a proponent of personal growth as a path to success in real estate business. All the real estate skills training in the world cannot guarantee success. 

In my experience, success depends on the mindset, so I spend a lot of time helping agents develop a professional mindset for working in the real estate industry. I like to break the process of developing a professional mindset into three elements: communication skills, hard skills and soft skills. 

Communication skills

I recently read a report about a survey of recent college graduates entering the workforce. Approximately 70 percent believe their technical skills are more important than their people skills. 

Business leaders and human resources directors report just the opposite: 90 percent believe employees with strong people skills deliver a better impact.

In real estate, communication skills couldn’t be more important to long-term success.

And adopting a professional mindset means agents must believe that, too.

Things that clients appreciate and will remember about their real estate agent’s communication and people skills include: 

  • Responding in an expedient manner
  • Communicating proactively and looking ahead to minimize challenges
  • Building cooperative relationships
  • Demonstrating market knowledge and providing market reports 
  • Being respectful and kind
  • Providing thorough explanations
  • Dressing appropriately: “Dress for success and dress for respect”
  • Remaining objective and neutral
  • Listening to clients’ needs 
  • Being authentic 
  • Always putting the client first and taking the high road whenever challenged
  • Being calm and peaceful
  • Keeping the ego at home and being respectful to all involved in the transaction

Hard skills

Real estate training tends to focus on hard skills, including forms, disclosures, reports and even lead generation dialogues.

But here are some other elements that I consider hard skills in real estate:

  • Written goals: Goals are your dreams or aspirations with a time target, in written form and placed somewhere they can be regularly viewed.
  • A thought-out plan: A plan consists of written steps to accomplish your goal within the time target. How do we get to the moon?
  • Systems and processes: Written systems and processes are the backbones of your business. What do I do when this or that happens? Here are the steps I take when I receive a listing or buyer referral.
  • Structure: Structure ensures the right things get done in the right order with priority.

Soft skills

Many of the soft skills that contribute to success in real estate come from experience. But that shouldn’t deter agents from aspiring to these qualities in their work.

Here are some examples of an agent’s soft skills at play in the real estate environment:

  • They collaborate well in a team. Being a team player in a real estate transaction is key to the transaction’s success. Focus on working together with the team that forms around the transaction — your client, the other agent, their clients, lenders, escrow, inspectors, etc. Support and nurture a team environment. 
  • They are adaptable. The ability to adjust to change signifies good self-management. Change happens in real estate transactions. Adapting to those changes, counseling your clients for the change in direction or strategy while listening and remaining open-minded to the best solution or ideas (which may not necessarily be your ideas) are all key.
  • They interact easily with dissimilar people. You never really know who your next client will be, so learning to interact with different people is critical for a professional real estate agent. The simple key to this is expressing genuine interest in others, listening and steering the conversation away from topics of conflict and toward common interests. If you listen hard enough, you’ll find common ground with anyone. 
  • They can reason under pressure. This requires a mix of self-awareness, focus and quick stress recovery. If you replace the words “difficult circumstances” with “a real estate transaction,” you are on your way to understanding the mindset needed for a professional agent.

Putting it all together

Launching a career in real estate can be daunting. The logistics of prospecting for leads, cultivating strong relationships with clients, negotiating the sales process and guiding a transaction smoothly to the closing table are considerable. 

But I encourage all of my newly licensed agents to create a solid foundation for their new business endeavors by working hard to adopt a professional mindset. The combination of communication, hard and soft skills will go a long way to distinguish an agent in a competitive market.

Gavin Payne is the broker-owner of Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate HAVEN Properties in San Luis Obispo, Morro Bay, Paso Robles and Santa Maria, California. Connect with him on Facebook.