Selling Soulfully with Jennifer Allan


How Do You Think Your Current (and Future) Clients Might Feel About Your 80/20 Plan?

There was a featured blog here in the Rain a few weeks ago advising agents to devote 80% of their time prospecting for new business and 20% dealing with current business (i.e. active buyers and sellers). This isn't the first time we've seen this advice and it won't be the last; in fact, most Big Name training programs proclaim that a real estate agent's primary job is to prospect; that agents should vigorously resist the temptation to abandon their daily prospecting when clients call with pesky, administrative, non-income-producing problems to solve. Salesperson

But I can't help but wonder... If a real estate agent's primary job is to prospect... and if the job our clients have hired us to perform for them can be done in a few hours a week... how on earth do we justify charging fees in the thousands and thousands of dollars?

Hold that thought while we return to the advice to devote far more time to prospecting than to serving...

Let's say that all this focused prospecting is paying off, and an agent is gathering an impressive book of real estate business - 5, 10, 20, 40 active buyers and sellers. Bravo! 

But, hmmmmm, just because the agent now has more clients to serve doesn't add hours to the day, so if he insists (as he's advised to do) on sticking to his 80/20 plan (because it's working so well!), his current clients are obviously going to be receiving smaller and smaller slices of his care and attention.

"But," the Power Prospector protests, "if I don't make prospecting a priority in my business and I do focus on my current clients, down the road I'll find myself with an empty pipeline and I can't have THAT! So, even if I'd like to do the job I promised to do I'd prefer to provide great service to my clients, I can't because I need to ensure that I always have new business coming in."

Well, um...

I'm guessing your current clients wouldn't think much of this argument, especially as they're feeling more and more neglected by the agent who promised them the world in service - and isn't delivering. I'm guessing they aren't singing his praises around the water cooler or at yoga class. I'm thinking that if they knew his business model was predicated on spending the vast majority of his time searching for, preparing for and pitching to his future clients instead of taking care of THEM, his current clients, they might have thought twice about hiring him in the first place.

Here's the thing. Taking proper care of your clients takes time. Your need for a full pipeline doesn't change the fact that you made promises and commitments to the buyers and sellers who believed you would take great care of them and their real estate needs. Believe me, they did NOT hire you because they were impressed by your prospecting prowess; they hired you because you assured them you'd take better care of them than any of the other agents they considered honoring with their business.

The bottom line is that if you can't handle more than X number of active buyers and sellers without sacrificing your service to them, then I guess you shouldn't be looking for more business when you already have as much as you can properly take care of.

Now let's go back to the first concept in this blog - if you're only devoting a few hours or even a few minutes a week to your clients, don't you think they might start to wonder what on earth they're paying you so much money for? And IF WHAT WE DO FOR OUR CLIENTS IS SO EASY THAT IT ONLY TAKES 20% OF OUR TIME OR WE CAN HAND IT OFF TO A $12/HOUR ASSISTANT, are our services really worth the fees we charge?

You can't have it both ways. You can't say, on one hand, that client care is simply a collection of administrative tasks that can be handled in your spare time or by an assistant, and THEN in the next breath declare that your client-care services are extremely valuable and should be well-compensated.

For the record, I don't believe that what we do is easy and I do believe we deserve to be well-compensated... as long as... we're doing the job we were HIRED to do and giving it our full attention.

I'll continue this soon, but please share your thoughts with me!

If Real Estate is So Easy, How Do You Justify Your Fee? 




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Comment balloon 94 commentsJennifer Allan-Hagedorn • November 29 2011 07:14AM


Great job and great blog. Good luck this year and happy holidays as well

Posted by JOSH EVANS *JoshEvansHomes 516-655-5000 (Village Properties of Mineola, LLC) over 8 years ago

I'm fortunate to do 20% prospecting and 80% with current business because I HAVE business.  Property managers frequently just hope for the phone to ring OR an e-mail contact to ding their e-mail box.

Property managers need to prospect for GOOD rental properties to lease and manage.

Posted by Wallace S. Gibson, CPM, LandlordWhisperer (Gibson Management Group, Ltd.) over 8 years ago

Featured Post Silent Majority - This post is now featured in Silent Majority Group of Active Rain!

Posted by Broker Nick, Broker Nick Relocation Broker Service (South Florida Real Estate & Development, Inc.) over 8 years ago

Completely agree.   The focus in this industry on prospecting makes me queasy.   Do a great job, be responsive, responsible and honest and you won't have to chase business constantly.

Posted by Coral Gundlach, Real Lives. Not Just Real Estate. (Compass) over 8 years ago

Jennifer, I'm not sure about that ratio (unless you really don't have much biz), but there's no doubt that we can't afford to get complacent about prospecting. Otherwise you wake up one morning with nothing to do!

There are a lot of different ways to prospect.

Posted by Robert Smith, SRES, Search for Homes Brighton-Howell-SE Michigan (Preview Properties, PC - over 8 years ago

It sounds like this "80/20 plan" is being promoted by the big box brokerage firms.  Of course, they're hungry for new prospects.  I heartily agree with you that excellent customer service comes first and without it, we cannot justify what we earn.

Posted by Eric Kodner, CRS, Madeline Island Realty, LaPointe, WI 54850 - (Madeline Island Realty) over 8 years ago

Eric - It's just so hard for me to understand how anyone can feel any other way! But it's rampant in our industry, unfortunately.

Robert - My follow-up to this blog will be about how to reverse that percentage to a 20/80% biz... stay tuned!

Coral - Queasy - I love it - ME TOO! I'm literally sickened at times by what our industry preaches as acceptable business practice.

Nicholas - AWESOME - thank you!

Josh - and to you, too!

Wallace - thanks for the reblog and congrats on a much more professional business model.

Posted by Jennifer Allan-Hagedorn, Author of Sell with Soul (Sell with Soul) over 8 years ago

Thank you, Jennifer. I wanted to rant about the posts myself, but couldn't find the words to make it sound right. Suggested.

Posted by Chiara Petro, Your KEY to Home Sweet Home - Knoxville TN (eXp Realty - Angie Cody Team) over 8 years ago

Good morning Jennifer,

Great post and so true, many of the big box brokers push for quantity and forget that quality should be the paramount consideration.

Posted by Lisa Von Domek, ....Experience Isn't Expensive.... It's Priceless! (Lisa Von Domek Team) over 8 years ago


I am much better with Wallace's reverse numbers - 20% marketing and prospecting and 80% doing the jobs we've said we will do!  I can only be so busy:-)

All the best, Michelle

Posted by Michelle Francis, Realtor, Buckhead Atlanta Homes for Sale & Lease (Tim Francis Realty LLC) over 8 years ago

I just started reading a book by Brian Buffini called "Taking care of business", and he agrees with you that taking care of current clients should come first. He equated it to a 3 legged stool. One leg customer service, one leg our business's financial health and one leg sales and marketing ( that would be prospecting).

 If any of the 3 legs are out of balance, the business will crash! And an 80/20 split is definatly out of balance. 

Posted by Ann Cordes, Home Ownership is Not a Distant Dream (Century 21 Randall Morris and Associates, Waco) over 8 years ago

A good, successful agent should understand that this is a sliding scale.  As you begin (or renew, refocus or start another niche) an 80/20 plan prospecting/current business works.  As your prospecting starts to pay off and you get more business, the plan should scale to 60/40, 50/50, etc, until you get more inline with a 20/80 plan.  In fact, if your prospecting is truly successful, you should have to focus very little time on it anymore.

Not only should you be getting referrals from your clients at that point, but you should have developed a prospecting system that can function without alot of active input on your part at that point, as well

Posted by Roger Johnson, Realtor - Hickory NC Real Estate (Hickory Real Estate Group) over 8 years ago

Well said Jennifer. Concentrate on giving fabulous service and your pipeline will take care of itself.

Posted by Mollie Wasserman (Your Move Made Simple) over 8 years ago

We're doing business planning right now and so were talking about this yesterday. As we look back over the year, many of our agents have a higher number of transactions and a lower average price. Some of this is driven by rentals can take just as much showing time and paperwork. In any case, we're having a soul-searching conversation about level of service that we can provide if we are doing more transactions but making far less money (say compared to five years ago). When you layer in the number of listings of perfectly good houses that just won't sell, buyers who fall apart at the end, short sales that take a long get the picture. We are working with more clients, and, distressingly, more unhappy clients. We tend to be a high service/high value model, but our personal lives and pocketbooks are suffering. I've never even broken the 50/50 model on prospecting vs. client work...can't imagine 80/20.


This may turn into a post....I'll link back.

Thanks for a good, thought provoking post.

Posted by Leslie Ebersole, I help brokers build businesses they love. (Swanepoel T3 Group) over 8 years ago

In my opinion, the client should feel like they are your only client. I'm learning that I have to be selective in the number of clients that I take on, so I can provide that level of service. Naturally I have to earn a certain amount of money in order to pay my bills and make a profit, so I have to be selective in the markets that I serve as well as the number of clients.

While I know that rental clients, while they bring in very little income, will, or should, bring those clients back as buyers in the future, I also know that they can take up a lot of my time that should be freed up to spend with my current buyers.

As a consequence, in the past few days I have had to turn away 3 prospective new clients in order to better serve those I'm currently working with.


Posted by Bill Travis, Broker/Owner (Captain Bill Realty, LLC) over 8 years ago

Great post and reminder.  I believe that sometimes we do spread ourselves too thin and do not give proper and promised attention to what we have already.  I think the 80/20 would be difficult for me, I as I prefer to spend the time with current clients and business. Suggested.

Posted by Mary Stewart, Wilsonville and Surrounding Portland Metro Areas (HomeTrust Real Estate, LLC, Homes for Everyone) over 8 years ago

This IS an excellent post. I have always believed the real estate agent has two jobs. One is to service the real estate needs of our clients, and the second is lead generation. BOTH are critical to long term success in this business...but I absolutely agree that 80% of your time and efforts devoted to future business will keep you having to continue to search for future business...because the clients you gave 20% of your time and effort to aren't going to be sending any. The two MUST be done, whether you do them yourself or leverage other people or systems to get them done. However, I can't imagine just giving 20% to those that you already have a relationship with is a sound business practice. 

Posted by Ken Brandon, Camp Lejeune, Jacksonville, NC (Coldwell Banker Sea Coast Advantage (Jacksonville, NC)) over 8 years ago

Great post, Jennifer!  I just cannot fathom only devoting 20% of my time to my clients.  Seriously?  That, to me, seems like such a disservice to my clients.  My job, first and foremost, is to provide exceptional service.  How am I supposed to do that if I spend 80% of my time prospecting?  Suggested.

Posted by Kimm Cloutier, Realtor - Agawam, MA over 8 years ago

Jen, I very much agree that current clients must come before prospects.  However, it's balancing the need to prospect for future clients while servicing current clients that needs to be addressed with more specificity.   We cannot all set ourselves up to be solely referral-only businesses.  It would be nice, but could be detrimental to our business planning and survival to solely rely on one source.  I also, do believe, that we should schedule (time-block) our days.  Even when I was in undergrad and planned my days this way, I was far more successful.

Posted by Former Agent (None) over 8 years ago

Jen,  I believe we all fall into different percentages based on our plate.  Sometimes we need more prospecting time while other times we don't, but always keep in mind that the clients should be #1 on our list.  Without them there is no business.  Some weeks I'm at 60%-40%, while other weeks I'm at a 40%-60%.  We need to know how to balance our workload while still prospecting.  Great post.

Posted by Luis Iniguez, Search Inland Empire Homes For Sale - Short Sale Agent (Option One Real Estate) over 8 years ago

This was a great post and the comments were all very good as well. One thing I didn't see mentioned is that an 80/20 situation can be more evenly split for seasoned agents who already have a pipeline in place by the proper use of systems to better efficiently manage the administrative side on current and future clients. There are many good CRM tools and prospecting tools available today that make our job a bit easier in the marketing and prospecting line.  I also feel that the employment of an assistant can be applied to marketing tasks more easily than client care, although my assistant handles many of the silent client care issues (listings in the computer, thank you cards, closing gifts, etc) while I am free to be on the phone actively serving my clients and their needs.  I liked the comment about the 3-legged stool.

An additional thought I had is that agents in this high-tech environment must wear so many hats proficiently. I never feel that I'm not earning my fee, because I feel that I'm always learning new skills and technologies that my clients and future clients expect me to use on their behalf. I'm also frequently available at almost any hour to address emergencies and questions.  In closing, I'll look forward to the next post. This was a great blog.

Posted by Jason Gracey, Re/Max Vintage (Re/Max Vintage) over 8 years ago

Great post! I definitely fall into the 20/80 plan (notice it is backwards!!).  I spend 80% of my time enhancing and marketing my listings and answering questions for buyers and sellers regarding my listings.  I dont spend a lot of time trying to get new business.  I have found if I market aggressively and effectively, sellers call me to sell their home because they want THEIR home to be showcased like the ones I am marketing now.  So, in my case, doing the current job well that I have been hired to do, creates more new business than anything else!  I would never think that someone who hired me to do a job should only get 20% of my time or effort. No way!

Posted by Teresa Tedder (Carolina Realty of Wilkes Inc) over 8 years ago

I like to think that I'd be honest with myself and if I am so fortunate to see my business grow to a point where I can't provide the level of service my clients deserve, I'd start to refer future clients out. But I love the idea that you "prospect" by doing an awesome job that ensures your present clients future referrals.

Posted by Pamela Pagayonan (Jumptools Inc.) over 8 years ago

Thank you all for such great comments and support of the for-some-reason-controversial opinion that our current clients should take priority over our future ones! Any other viewpoint, in my opinion, is just dead WRONG and to be honest I believe that all the 80/20'ers out there do a lot of damage to the reputation of an industry that does not need ANY MORE bad press!

Besides, y'know what? If ALL OF US, especially those who do have a lot of clients to serve (or not serve as the case may be) would REFOCUS on taking care of clients (particularly sellers), I believe with all my heart that houses would start selling and our economy would improve exponentially. Because WE CAN AFFECT the outcome of our clients' real estate adventures and it only makes sense that if we devote our attention to getting the jobs done we were hired to do... well.... houses would actually SELL instead of SIT!

Okay, getting all worked up... but I love this stuff...


Posted by Jennifer Allan-Hagedorn, Author of Sell with Soul (Sell with Soul) over 8 years ago

I wanted to comment on Roger's (#12) observation that you pretty much just wrote my follow-up blog for me ;-]. I'm sure I'll come up with a few WOW's (words of wisdom) to add, but yeah... what HE said!


Posted by Jennifer Allan-Hagedorn, Author of Sell with Soul (Sell with Soul) over 8 years ago

Jennifer - BRAVO!!!  WHOO HOO!!!  I couldn't agree with you more!  Furthermore, I can't stand working with the 80/20 Realtor because they will pawn off all of their customer service to some unlicensed flunkie peon assistant.  SERIOUSLY???  I am so glad that I am not the only one who sees something terribly wrong with this picture.

Posted by Donne Knudsen, CalState Realty Services (Los Angeles & Ventura Counties in CA) over 8 years ago

Donne - I thought you might like it ;-]

Posted by Jennifer Allan-Hagedorn, Author of Sell with Soul (Sell with Soul) over 8 years ago

What a great topic and discussion!!  I am content with doing the amount of business I can really do well, without getting that spread WAY too think feeling - at least most of the time.  It seems like 80% devoted to prospecting might only be practical if you had a team with one person fairly devoted to the prospecting, but others to do the actual service to clients.

Posted by Nancy Conner, Olympia/Thurston County WA over 8 years ago

I whole-heartedly agree. Great post, and thanks for sharing your thoughts.

I spend the vast, vast majority of the hours in a week concerned about my current clinets, and activities related to them. Of course, my manager tells me repeatedly that I need to spend more time prospecting, but that will have to wait until the more quiet days of the winter.

Posted by Bill Dandridge, GREEN, ABR, GRI, EcoBroker (MKB, Realtors) over 8 years ago

Amen, sister!  I hate the seminars that promise to double your business.  I won't if it means sacrificing service.  I have been fortunate to have barely noticed the downturn in the business because I have a solid, satisfied client base.  Yes, listings have been harder to sell, lending qualifications are tougher, but those people I took care of (some of them 20 years ago) are providing my pipeline today because I worked my butt off for them back then. 

Posted by Jeanne Gregory (RE/MAX Southwest) over 8 years ago


Its almost even as I see it, If buyers walk away 75% of the time and the agent does not get paid for their time or effort, then they have to prospect more than 75% to make up for it.  A 30,000 mile view would say there is a 5% profit in Real Estate.  80% prospecting - 75% wasting time... Wow what a model.

Posted by Glenn Freezman (Family Abstract, Inc.) over 8 years ago

It's not always easy to find a balance between prospecting and service.  I believe to prospect a majority of the time, you do have to have a sound support system in place.  For instance, I always attend my buyers inspections to go over the report with the them and the inspector.  I believe this is one of the things my clients are paying for, as you previously mentioned.  However, they generally seem to care less if I have another agent sit there for the first three hours while the inspector does his thing.  They're happy as long as I'm the one advising them on what to ask for, and drafting the response.  There are many tasks we can sub out, so we can spend more time on lead-gen.  But I do agree that we need to make sure our clients don't feel neglected.  Thanks for the post.

Posted by Tolin Peterson (Preview Properties, Inc.) over 8 years ago

Jennifer, most of my business comes from referrals.  So, therefore, I must concentrate on the clients I have.  I do work to get new business, but the referrals are my bread and butter.

Posted by Don Sabinske, Sabinske & Associates Inc. (Don Sabinske, Sabinske & Associates Inc.) over 8 years ago

I can understand both sides to the arguement here.  Keeping active with new buyers will lead to consistent business, but not at the expense of who you are already working with.

Posted by Eileen Hsu, LICENSED REAL ESTATE SALESPERSON (Douglas Elliman Real Estate) over 8 years ago
I had this argument with myself about a year ago and I hired an assistant to help my business be able to grow. I have her handle the mundane tasks and I handle my current clients as well as prospecting phone calls but he handles all of the mail outs and other prospecting. My business is very healthy and yes, everyday, I have to ask myself of I have served my clients to the best of my ability and most days the answer is YES!!!
Posted by Denise J. Storm, Broker Associate - Durango Colorado Mountain Homes (Re/Max Pinnacle) over 8 years ago

Roger's comment #12 pretty much said it all for me...I dunno...I believe in taking care of my existing clients and don't really worry too much about where the next deal comes from.  Somehow, though, that attitude of putting my clients FIRST works for me, 'cuz the phone keeps ringing.  Amazing how much business a satisfied client will send your way!

Posted by Susan Haughton, Susan & Mindy Team...Honesty. Integrity. Results. (Long and Foster REALTORS (703) 470-4545) over 8 years ago

It makes me SO happy to see so many supporting comments here. On the blog that inspired this one, I was one of the few (if not the only) out of over 100 commenters who disagreed with the notion that an 80/20 plan was a great way to run a business. So, thank you my friends, for restoring my faith in what our industry perceives to be a GOOD real estate agent! It's NOT about being a Power Prospector!!!

And YES - if you treat your current clients like gold and they know beyond a shadow of a doubt that they are your top priority, as Susan says, you won't ever have to worry where your next client will come from. Seriously - it really does work that way.


Posted by Jennifer Allan-Hagedorn, Author of Sell with Soul (Sell with Soul) over 8 years ago

So many different ways to get the job done effectively and efficiently.

Good post, thanks for sharing it.

Posted by Anthony Daniels, SF Bay Area REO Specialist (Coldwell Banker) over 8 years ago

From what I have read, the 80/20 prospecting methodology usually relies on a team approach once a critical point is reached, allowing the team leader to concentrate on lead generation and presentations.  With a good team I can see how this would work.

Posted by Chris Lewis, I want to SELL your home, not LIST it! (Gracious Living Realty) over 8 years ago

Jennifer - one can only handle so much on their own I don't see the 80/20 rule working here unless you have a team or the numbers are reversed. I do think it pays to have someone who is helping you fill that downline and there are many ways that can be done by others for you.

Posted by Kathy Clulow, Trusted For Experience - Respected For Results (RE/MAX All-Stars Realty Inc. Brokerage) over 8 years ago

Jennifer, I think I have worked with at least one of these and the experience was ABOMINABLE! And SLOPPY! And the agent didn't have the decency to show her face at closing after she had told her sellers she would be there. Watch out when reputation architecture goes full tilt and some of these agents are going to find their 80/20 isn't working so well.


Posted by Sharon Alters, Realtor - Homes for Sale Fleming Island FL (Coldwell Banker Vanguard Realty - 904-673-2308) over 8 years ago

Jennifer, this might explain why some agents go to the lead selling firms.

Posted by Patricia Kennedy, Home in the Capital (Redfin) over 8 years ago


My current clients receive my full attention.  I have given them a list of things I will do for them and I am committed to sticking to the list and doing what I have told them I would do.  I prospect too, but not to the exclusion of my current clients.  They are my first priority.

Posted by Evelyn Kennedy, Alameda, Real Estate, Alameda, CA (Alain Pinel Realtors) over 8 years ago

Prospecting, Selling, Serving... they're all important to our success.  'Gotta be juggling some of each at all times.

Posted by Margaret Woda, Maryland Real Estate & Military Relocation (Long & Foster Real Estate, Inc.) over 8 years ago

Its a juggling act.  I will probably write a blog on this.  Right now so many buyers are wasting my time that I have no choice but to do more prospecting than servicing.   26 buyers and only two bought.  Sadly, that's common in our area and the result is that if don't spend more time prospecting we are going to go broke.   This is a problem created by BROKERS not agents.   Its also created by the public who thinks there is nothing wrong in spinning our wheels.  Don't get me wrong, I've always been service oriented.  But this year I had to get very hard-nosed.   I didn't want to but the behavior of buyers and sellers forced me to look after me more than I would like.

Posted by Ruthmarie Hicks (Keller Williams NY Realty - 120 Bloomingdale Road #101, White Plains NY 10605) over 8 years ago

Hurray Jennifer. So glad you wrote this post. Super servicing our clients should always be the main focus of our energies - and if we do that job well, the rest falls into place. But, I am also glad for Roger's comment #12 - because obviously, there are times, when prospecting efforts need to be high gear to drum up clients. Common sense...that's all it is...

Posted by Debb Janes EcoBroker and Bernie Stea JD, REALTORS® in Clark County, WA (ViewHomes of Clark County - Nature As Neighbors) over 8 years ago

Thank you, Jennifer: Very informative blog. I like knowing different perspectives that would work for me.  As it stated above, 80/20 have been pushed in so many ways. At the same time most of us think, prospecting would be a breaking point to make it in Real Estate.

However, what you stated in the 20/80 and from all the comments above, building the Trust and the opportunity to build our business with our clients that help us referrals are essential for long term survival. So, I appreciate your confirmation, "Taking proper care of your client's takes time". So, for me, to "Serve" will take care of "Prospect". The other way around is questionable for most of us.

Posted by Aklile Mariam, e-PRO Realtor (Lic. DC, MD & VA) (Long and Foster Real Estate - CAPITOL HILL) over 8 years ago

Jennifer, that's why I left a big box brokerage. All they talked about was lead generation. Never taught me a thing about properly servicing my clients. Fortunately, I'm a people person and that part came naturally to me. Needless to say, I probably have these numbers flipped.

Posted by Tammie White, Broker, Franklin TN Homes for Sale (Franklin Homes Realty LLC) over 8 years ago

IMO, if an agent is spending 80% of their time prospecting, and with all their new clients, 20% of the remaining time won't be enough to give their clients proper service. I agree with you that we make a promise when we take on clients to serve them first, not future prospects.

Posted by Pamela Seley, Residential Real Estate Agent serving SW RivCo CA (West Coast Realty Division) over 8 years ago

Thank you Jennifer.  This is spot on.  Something that also always irks me is when I am in a transaction with a lender or title company and they are focused on trying to get me to coffee with them or out to lunch so they can "talk about building a business relationship" with me but when I try to connect with them on our current deal it's like pulling teeth to get information or things done.  I just want to scream at then that I am not going to choose to continue to do business with them because they take me to coffee, please focus on this business we are doing now, do a great job and I will want to work with you again, coffee or no coffee!  I think it's the same thing with our clients and as one of the commenters mentioned, we are a referral business, so doing a good job with our clients is part of the future pipeline...ugh.  -Kasey

Posted by Kasey & John Boles, Boise & Meridian, ID Ada/Canyon/Gem/Boise Counties (Jon Gosche Real Estate, LLC - over 8 years ago

Kasey - THAT's how a lender or title company will get my business - they can coffee me to death, but if I can't depend on them to be available (cause they're out coffee'ing!) when I need them, no amount of coffee and chit-chat in the world is going get referrals from me. DO a good job and I will refer you. It's that simple. Here's a blog I wrote a few years back about "how a lender gets MY business:"

Sharon - The funny(?) thing is that the agents who don't hold up their end of the deal because they're out prospecting are probably the ones who think the management of a real estate transaction is easy and therefore perfectly acceptable to be delegated to an assistant. So, um, their clients are paying thousands of dollars for something that's so administrative they could probably do it themselves? As I say in the "RELATED RANT" linked to in the blog, anyone who thinks the details of a real estate transaction are easy either isn't doing much business or someone ELSE is doing all their work for them (and is not happy about that!)

Posted by Jennifer Allan-Hagedorn, Author of Sell with Soul (Sell with Soul) over 8 years ago

I could not imagine only spending 20% of my time on current clients. Current clients desrve as much time as possible to be able accomplish a goal of selling their home or assisting them in purchasing their home. One can not set boundries as some times more time will be needed than others during the transaction. I would think 80% on my current clients and 20% if available to prospect for new clients.

Posted by Scott Godzyk, One of the Manchester NH's area Leading Agents (Godzyk Real Estate Services) over 8 years ago

I think if we drop the ball on our current clients we lose the race to give great service and earn referrals the best way

Posted by Cheryl Ritchie, Southern Maryland 301-980-7566 (RE/MAX Leading Edge over 8 years ago

Jennifer, I agree. If you spend 80% prospecting you will spend your career working with total strangers. If you devote time with clients, going the extra mile, being honest and really helping them then your business will come from people you already know that you've worked with in the past and their friends and framily.

PS If i had to prospect 80% (except blogging) I would hate real estate. It would be no different than selling light bulbs.

Posted by Mitchell J Hall, Lic Associate RE Broker - Manhattan & Brooklyn (Compass) over 8 years ago

All my business comes form online marketing and online marketing is what i do 100%

Posted by Israel Rothman - ( over 8 years ago

Couldn't agree more.. even though it flies in the face of my company's mantra.  I've always found that if you spend your time giving stellar attention/service to your clients, you don't have to do much of any prospecting at all... your satisfied clients happily send a steady stream your way!  Good, thoughtful post.

Posted by Chris Jenkins-Sarasota Realtor, "Expect Success" (PalmerHouse Properties) over 8 years ago

Sorry to steal the thunder, Jennifer, but glad we're thinking alike! :)

Posted by Roger Johnson, Realtor - Hickory NC Real Estate (Hickory Real Estate Group) over 8 years ago

This year, my sweet little outspoken direct  opinionated helpful self flew off the handle at two separate transaction coordinaters who had the social skills of a baboon.  Actually, a baboon has better skills. At least they pick your lice.

I'm sure their agents were out prospecting when they couldn't take the time to handle their own transaction.  It isnt just PAPER.  It's the meat and potatoes of our transaction.

Get me on a roll, and I'll bitch about the agents who only return thei phone calls between blah and blah each day.  Really?  When our escrow threatens to blow up in between your hours, and you are out prospecting, what are we supposed to do?

I 100% agree with you that if you give good service in the course of your escrows, you will get your referrals. And the prospecting part should be 20%.

You can prospect by setting up issues of American Lifestyle magazine that goes out quarterly and only takes 15 minutes each quarter to write a cover letter. That's how I stay in touch with my peeps.  That and a yearly calender with a personal  note. Then I give good service, which will have brought me 30 transactions this year.

You go, girl!  and Donne - you as always, are a peach.


Posted by Sally Dunbar, Fair Oaks Realtor - Fair Oaks Homes for Sale (Lyon Real Estate, Fair Oaks CA (Sacramento Area)) over 8 years ago

Customer/client first.  I prefer to devote my time with the clients I know because they are the primary source of my business and referrals. 

Posted by Denise Watkins, Realtor Serving DC and MD (Samson Properties) over 8 years ago

Wonderful post Jennifer and I agree with you 100%.  I never take on more clients than I can properly service do I don't spend alot of time prospecting - I am blessed enough to get the majority of my business from referrals.

Posted by Terry McCarley, REALTOR, SRES, CDPE - Cape Coral, FL (REMAX Trend - Cape Coral FL) over 8 years ago

If you could spend 80% of your time prospecting you would make so much money that you could Hire as many assistants that were needed to- still WOW your customers and exceed their expectations.

That's usually how the Really Big Hitters do it!

Good Post!

Posted by Ben Yost - 303-587-4297, FHA, VA, Conventional - Mortgage Loans in De (First Time Home Buyer, Mortgage Rates, Pre-Approval) over 8 years ago

Jennifer - I couldn't agree more.  When I first joined ActiveRain, I was on a webinar where the leader (who I won't mention by name) supported this 80/20 idea, saying things like, you shouldn't be WASTING your time going to home inspections or doing follow-up showings of a property your client is buying.  Send your assistant or ask another agent in your office to do it, or better yet, ask the listing agent to do it.  EXCUSE ME?  If I ever got a phone call from a buyer's agent asking me to attend the home inspection for their client because they don't have time, I'd tell them to go pound sand.  If you can't use the hours you have available to you in a week to properly service your existing clients as well as prospecting for new ones, then you're either too busy, or have poor time management skills.  You never, ever, sacrifice service to your existing clients in order to prospect for new clients.  Chris (#59) is correct.  If you do a fantastic job for your existing clients, you'll have plenty of referrals coming in.  For crying out loud, we're helping people buy and sell houses here... we're not used car salesman (not that there's anything wrong with that...)  And don't even get me started on agents who take a listing, and that's the last the client here's from them until closing, because their assistant takes care of everything until then.  I blogged about that recently:

Posted by Brad Baylor (ERA Coup Agency) over 8 years ago

yes often the best kind of prospecting is treating your current clients right, but there are other online methods of prospecting that take very little time once they are set up

Posted by Adam Todd (LeadTrader PRO) over 8 years ago

Bravo - your words have been banging around in my head for years and it's nice to see them written down so nicely.

The only method I use for prospecting is with websites, and for several years I used 20 different websites for that purpose.  It resulted in a pipeline too large for me to manage professionally.  Phone calls weren't returned by the end of the day, I couldn't sleep at night because my head kept thinking about all the stuff I needed to do that day that didn't get done, and clients weren't happy.  Today I only use one website, my pipeline is much smaller, but everybody receives the attention they deserve, and I sleep well at night.  And my income has improved by over 50%.  I'm a firm believer that if you take superb care of the customers you currently have, you won't have any problems getting more customers in the future. 

Posted by Raymond Denton, Veteran Friendly Realtor® (Homesmart / Evergreen Realty) over 8 years ago

Jennifer- This is a great post. I hear the 80/20 "rule" more and more to the point that I'm sick of hearing it. If you aren't servicing your clients and giving them a "WOW" factor it isn't going to matter how much you prospect your reputation is going to end up down the drain. Buying and selling real estate is such a huge transaction clients work with someone because they trust and have a relationship with them. If service is lacking so is the relationship. Congrats on your feature, well deserved!

Posted by Amanda S. Davidson, Alexandria Virginia Homes For Sale (Amanda Davidson Real Estate Group Brokered By eXp Realty) over 8 years ago


A "home run blog" again as usual! Congrats!

My question is this. How in the WORLD can ANYONE spend 80% of their time marketing/prospecting for new business???? Seems impossible to me. In a 40-hour week...that would be 32 hours of prospecting and only eight hours taking care of business?? That doesn't even sound feasible.

We do business with over 1,000 agents and I don't know ANYONE who falls into that ratio equation. Almost the only thing I can think of is when an agent actually walks their farm. But I've always had mixed emotions about that. It takes forever, and after hitting 25-50 homes, most people call it a day. Next Saturday, they'll hit another 25-50, but at that rate, it will take a very long time to try and hit 1,000 homes (our recommended farm size). The better answer? Personally (this will be no surprise)...I believe in direct mail, but that's a whole other blog.

What else are people spending so much time on as far as prospecting?? Sending something out to their sphere?? That should take about two hours a month, and nothing more. Is it attending social functions??  It's hard for me to categorize that as prospecting, really. And it shouldn't be consuming 32 hours a week anyway! Blogging or website stuff? An hour a day, maybe.

So, although I love the blog topic...I'm just having a tough time understanding how an agent could even get close to spending 80% of their time prospecting and 20% taking care of business. I think if truth be told, we're not really talking about prospecting. We're talking about time-wasting. 

Prospecting, when done right...should take no more than 2-4 hours a week. It should target 1,000 homeowners, and net 5-10 transactions per month. And if an agent wishes to pay a transaction coordinator $12.00/hr. to handle the more mundane, clerical tasks, more power to them. That frees them up to give plenty of time, attention and guidance to current clients in active transactions.

Just my two cents (or possibly two and a half!!)

Great post!


Posted by David Daniels (Owner of FlyersToYou, Inc. and former Top Realtor) over 8 years ago

Jennifer, I have so wanted to write a blog on this same subject.  We often compare our profession to doctors, lawyers and accountants, and complain that people don't take us seriously as a profession.  I think one of the reasons is the crazy marketing and prospecting.  I'm pretty sure that no one is telling these other professions to prospect 80% of their working time!  By giving clients outstanding service, you can be assured that your pipeline has a fair amount of referral prospects.

Posted by Ann Wilkins, Oakland, Berkeley, Piedmont CA (Golden Gate Sotheby's International Realty) over 8 years ago

Excellent post. We are a service business...if we don't serve our clients how can we justify staying in the business?

As others have said, taking good care of existing clients means they will refer you.

Posted by Deb McNeill, Fort Worth Real Estate (Flying M Team Small World Realty Fort Worth, Tx) over 8 years ago

Excellent post and I agree, The bottom line is that if you can't handle more than X number of active buyers and sellers without sacrificing your service to them, then I guess you shouldn't be looking for more business when you already have as much as you can properly take care of.

Once you know how much income you want to earn, you'll know how many types of properties you'll need to produce that amount of income, so choosing the target market and client profile with an action plan to secure your performance level is simply hard work, knowledge and attitude.

Posted by Kimo Jarrett, Pro Lifestyle Solutions (WikiWiki Realty) over 8 years ago

Totally disagree & there are plenty of others out there also shaking their heads. I'm the only one that put in a comment as such .......

Posted by Lyn Sims, Schaumburg Real Estate (RE/MAX Suburban) over 8 years ago

Most top trainers that I follow recommend 1-2 hours per day for prospecting. 80% of you day is way too much. We must service our clients, educate ourselves, and attend networking events. We could never do that with 20% of our day.

Posted by Randy & Nancy Selby (The Woodlands,TX Connect over 8 years ago

I really like this post.  I often say smaller brokers and agents can be an excellent service provider.  Sometimes those with big names have no service.  

Posted by Gene Riemenschneider, Turning Houses into Homes (Home Point Real Estate) over 8 years ago

Jennifer--Great post.  I agree that client care is the number one aspect of this business.  The referrals from a job well done can fill the pipeline for an extended period! 


Posted by Tamara Perlman (Referral Network Inc.) over 8 years ago

For me, this  dilemna is solved by refusing to have more than 5 buyer clients at any time. The response of a new potential buyer being told that they would have to wait for an opening is usually an increase in  their wanting my service. As one (or sometimes more) of my existing list has cooled, usually we can defer on them & serve the newbie - if we can obtain the suspension of an active agreement. This approach leads us to motivated buyers, who know they will get great service and deserved attention, while at the same time, will be quite appreciative of our efforts. 

I feel certain that this would work with sellers as well, probably in larger numbers


Posted by Peter Van Deusen (Riverview Properties) over 8 years ago

I'm too busy looking after my current clients to prospect, but my phone always rings. Maybe it should be 80% client service/20% prospecting and prospect AFTER you've looked after your clients...


Posted by Karen Salmon, Okotoks Real Estate Agent (Royal LePage Benchmark) over 8 years ago

I just can't see how it would be possible to give your current client s20% of your time and no more. They would have an awful experience and never refer you to anyone they know. Especially if you are working with first time home buyers who need a lot more hand holding. I didn't see the blog you were referring to but can't imagine anyone can do this unless they have a full time partner in real estate and that person is spending 80% on the current clients and 20% prospecting.

Posted by Elisa Uribe Realtor #01427070, Opening the Doors to California Homes -East Bay (Golden Gate Sotheby's International) over 8 years ago

So many good comments, and I'm being 100% sincere when I say that all the support I'm reading here for making client service a priority over prospecting has restored my faith in our industry, which, frankly has been shaken lately by featured blog after featured blog that celebrates everything the general public already finds distasteful about us... And more discouraging than the blogs themselves were the dozens and dozens of enthusiastic comments that followed, many of which virtually oozed disdain for the people who make our careers possible, our clients.

Hey, everyone is entitled to their opinion... anyone is welcome to run their business the way they see fit... and there ARE many paths to success... but it makes me very happy to see so many here choosing the path that puts our clients where they belong - our top priority. Not only is it the RIGHT thing to do, it's also a dandy business model for success!


Posted by Jennifer Allan-Hagedorn, Author of Sell with Soul (Sell with Soul) over 8 years ago

If the majority of the time I was engaged in "sales" then I would be in another field. I devote a lot of effort and energy into making my clients happy and sometimes I feel like I'm in the counseling business, but this works out well for me and my clients.

Posted by Jill Sackler, LI South Shore Real Estate - Broker Associate (Charles Rutenberg Realty Inc. 516-575-7500) over 8 years ago

Hi Jennifer,

This is a GREAT blog. Prospecting is important in any business, but so is client care and reputation. If your clients feel neglected, then they absolutely won't recommend you to anyone they know who needs a real estate agent. Business through referrals is a powerful tool, and if you're good enough at pleasing your current clients, then you can bet that you'll get even more business because of their recommendations! Prospecting is a priority, but it shouldn't be above your dedication and commitment to your current client base and home sales. The administrative tasks that assistants do is only part of the effort...the rest comes from your communicating with the client and making them feel taken care of. Thanks for posting this! It sheds a light on what you should be focusing on as a real estate agent.

Posted by RealSupport, Inc., - Virtual Real Estate Marketing (RealSupport Inc.) over 8 years ago

I think the 80/20 rule is pushed to those who want to be selling machines. I'm in this business because I enjoy taking care of my clients. In some ways that counts towards prospecting based on future referrals. But clients first is always my goal.

Posted by The Derrick Team - Indy Metro Realtors, Your Pet Friendly Realtors (Carpenter Realtors) over 8 years ago

Jill - y'know - you really nailed the essence of the debate. Someone who has any desire to prospect 80% of the time is a true salesperson who probably should be working in an industry that doesn't require so much "service after the sale." I got into real estate because I truly enjoyed the process of managing a real estate transaction, not because I wanted to look for buyers and sellers all the time. I wanted to SERVE buyers and sellers, and the time I had to spend finding those buyers and sellers was an inconvenience, not what I got up in the morning rarin' to do!

I, like you, would have quit after a month if, to make a decent living, you had to sell, sell, sell 80% of the time!

Posted by Jennifer Allan-Hagedorn, Author of Sell with Soul (Sell with Soul) over 8 years ago

In my humble opinion, 80/20 is too slanted towards prospecting.  But, I think that agents expecting to build a big business should spend more time prospecting than servicing.  Roles change.  When you get to the point that you have more business than you can handle, you need more agents.  Competent ones at that.  You become the rainmaker.  You pass off deals and take a smaller cut and continue to prospect.   That's the way to grow a very substantial business.  If you want to work with the clients forever, you won't be growing a seven figure business (at least in most cases).  

Posted by Kate Akerly, Manhattan Beach Residential Sales (Kaminsky Group) over 8 years ago

Whoa Jennifer,  Excellent post and question.  I thin the 80/20 also boils down to dealing with the 20% that must be done and NOT the 80% of just holding a customer's hand who for example is a chatterbox.

Posted by Bob Miller, The Ocala Dream Team (Keller Williams Cornerstone Realty) over 8 years ago

Hi Jennifer...I'd hate to think I paid money to hear that kind of advice.  For someone is just starting out with only one or two clients this might make some sense.  For the rest of us, no way.  I don't work hard to get clients only to shortchange them.



Posted by Kate Elim, Realtor 540-226-1964, Selling Homes & Land a (Dockside Realty) over 8 years ago

Jennifer, I'm not surprised that this post engendered so many thoughtful comments.  I am more in the 20/80 camp with you, however, if one views providing the exceptional service to our current clients that so many have referenced in their comments here as a form of prospecting in and of itself (really, aren't happy satisfied clients the source of new ones through referrals?) then much of the time devoted to that exemplary service could be somewhat attributed to time devoted to prospecting too.  And if that were the case, then much more time would be prospecting since we'd be viewing servicing current clients especially well as prospecting!  Does that make sense to anyone but me?

Posted by Allyson Hoffman, Making Today's Dreams Tomorrow's Reality! (RE/MAX Villager (Chicago North and North Suburbs Real Estate)) over 8 years ago

It's hard for me to fathom how anyone could disagree with you. I missed the post(s) recommending that agents spend the majority of their time looking for new business instead of taking care of current business.

It's true that many real estate tasks, such as posting a listing to MLS or putting up a sign, can be delegated, but so can many prospecting tasks. In fact, much of an agent's prospecting can be automated.

Meanwhile, a client who has chosen you deserves your attention.

Meanwhile, to Allyson (#88)... Yes, that makes sense. Customer service IS a form of prospecting.

Posted by Marte Cliff, Your real estate writer (Marte Cliff Copywriting) over 8 years ago

Ann, comment #70 - here's a blog I wrote my first year on AR back in 2007 about how we compare ourselves to doctors and lawyers, but... um...

Marte - Now THAT made me laugh - so much of traditional real estate "salesmanship" is really a series of administrative tasks that can be automated and definitely delegated! And it's also hard for me to see how anyone could disagree that taking care of clients as a first priority is a bad idea, but trust me, agents and trainers say that EVERY DAY, out loud even! Blows my mind.

Allyson - I did a teleseminar show a few years back about providing exceptional client service and I made the statement that I worked 60 hours a week sometimes taking care of my clients, but "you know how many of those hours were spent prospecting? NONE. Or, maybe I should say, ALL." Because it's true - if you devote your full attention to your current clients and thrill them with your service, they WILL notice and they WILL take care of you.

Mike - I believe that it might be a respectable business model to have a rainmaker on the team who is solely focused on finding clients that his or her partner then services. But the partner is just that - a PARTNER, not an assistant or transaction coordinator. It's the notion that what we do aside from prospecting is somehow insignificant and inferior to the activities of the rainmaker that really bewilders me.


Posted by Jennifer Allan-Hagedorn, Author of Sell with Soul (Sell with Soul) over 8 years ago

I understand how important prospecting is, and I spend a lot of time doing it, but you have to balance that time to meet the needs of your clients and do a good job for them. Afterall, we get a lot of referrals from past clients, too!

Posted by Sylvie Stuart, Home Buying, Home Selling and Investment - Flagsta (Realty One Group Mountain Desert 928-600-2765) over 8 years ago

First let me say that a client is someone your firm and you represent, whether seller or buyer. Then and only then, do you have the fiduciary responsibility to take care of the Clients best interest. Having said that I couldn't agree more with Jennifer on all points. The reasons for the "Industry Mind Set" are too many to list but the Business Model is broken and needs "front end alignment" with today's Marketplace. Ya think? Under the Old model getting the Listings was the key to doing business. I believe that is changing. There are many options for sellers and they all offer choices on services and fees. What a novel idea! The concept of REPRESENTATION has never been defined, taught or enforced by real estate commissions, principal brokers or NAR. The emphasis is on DOING BUSINESS (PROSPECTING/LISTING ETC. CONTROL) The how and why is not important. However, todays consumer is more educated (not just formally) and knowledgeable and sees the ROLE OF AGENTS as assistants to make appointments, show houses etc. Most buyers think the agent they are working with is representing them and therefore expect too much from the agent. When I taught real estate I clearly defined the difference between Representation and Compenstion. this is something that should be taught/promoted/enforced. Back in the Day, the one who paid you was who you represented. NOT ANYMORE. The Client relationship is much more serious than most agents are taught to believe. this is a people business not selling real estate. the better the agent takes care of their Clients and assists other consumers the better their business will be in the long run. A good analogy is the CEO who makes decisions today to look good this quarter to please Wall ST and does not consider the effect on the company's future position or the stockholders. first you have to under stand what you are really doing and why you do it. I blame the industry in its entirety for the Mind Set of most agents and the only way to fix it is for each person to start from scratch and rebuild from the bottom up. My grandfather taught me a long time ago that if you really care about people and take care of them the business will succeed. Maybe we need to look back to go forward. Education and Training is only good if people want to do the right thing for the right reasons. thanks

Posted by Rick John over 8 years ago

My clients know we give great service, and they also know they might hear from me or my assistant throughout the transaction. Many times they will call me, and I will have my assistant call back with the answer. She always asks if she has answered their questions fully, and would they like me to call them when I am free. 99% of the time, clients are satisfied with her calling them back. Frees me up to prospect!

Posted by Liane Thomas -Top Listing Agent, Bringing you Home! (Professional Realty Services® International ) over 8 years ago

The most effective prospecting I have ever done was to take of the client at hand.  I try to make every client believe they are the only one.  It works for me.

Posted by Marge Piwowarski, Phoenix AZ Horse Property, LLC (Phoenix AZ Horse Property) over 8 years ago

Here's my follow-up... finally!

Posted by Jennifer Allan-Hagedorn, Author of Sell with Soul (Sell with Soul) over 8 years ago

You will have a tough time growing a successful business with that mentality.  Just about every large, successful business has 80% of it's activities handled by $12 an hour clerks, while they make billions in profits.  You act as if there is no way to provide examplary service that is worth a premium commission without being hands on 40 hours per week.  You are missing the boat big time, and need to go read Gary Keller's Millionaire Real Estate Agent. 

An inventor may spend hundreds of hours on his invention, but once it's done and gone to market...he may never work another day in his life, yet his invention is still worth lots of money to the consumer because of the service it provides, regardless of whether he is handmaking them himself any longer.

As an agent, I could spend weeks on an unbelievable marketing plan, the best in the business, one that produces a flood of buyers for my sellers, and top dollar for their home.  I could spend thousands paying for copywriters to write compelling ad copy that I use in my marketing, and train an assistant to implement my strategy on every listing.  If it produces RESULTS, then it's worth the commission...regardless of whether I am hands-on with the process any longer.

My job, now that I have created this incredible process/system that produces results and demands a premium commission, is to spend 80% (or more) of my time getting the word out (prospecting) so that others can experience the same success that I have created for other customers, and feel passionately about helping others with as well.

Posted by Matt Robinson, (Professional Investors Guild) almost 8 years ago

I appreciate your point. It is very hard to maintain prospecting activities when you actually have business to complete.

Posted by Wayne B. Pruner, Tigard Oregon Homes for Sale, Realtor, GRI (Oregon First) almost 8 years ago

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