By George E. Zanette

Recently I interviewed a number of managers and salespeople, asking them what are the most common reasons real estate salespeople fail. Here are the most common responses:

1. Lack of cash flow.

This seems to be the most common reason for failure, since the highs and lows of commission-based income are a real challenge. Most salespeople do not plan for this and do not save enough when times are good. What makes things worse is that most salespeople are inconsistent with their lead generation strategies and applications. There is no magic bullet and no easier, softer way. The daily commitment to build a business requires perseverance, consistency and competence.

2. Lack of good coaching and training.

Many salespeople fail to see that the greatest investment they can make is their own training and coaching. There seems to be great reluctance to pay for good training and worse, a lack of engagement when their brokerage offers speakers and sessions about specific topics.

3. Lack of consistent prospecting.

This is the No. 1 difference between successful and unsuccessful sales reps. You don’t have to be the smartest or the best looking, or drive the nicest car! However it is essential to have a system that you work every day to add new prospects to your database. Many people ask me what’s the best system……the one you use, Charlie Brown!

4. Fear of rejection.

Get over it, or go get another job is what my first broker told me! I had experience with this previously when I was in the life insurance industry in my early career. Once I got through my friends and family, I was stumped and the phone weighed 10,000 lbs. If you believe you have something of value to offer, what’s the fear?

5. Not understanding they are a business.

It still amazes me how many new salespeople show up at my first class and don’t have any form of a business plan. If they were going into any other business they would have to have one to convince a lender to fund their new venture. Starting your own real estate business is no different. You may not be in business by yourself but definitely for yourself.

6. Lack of implementation.

So you go to a seminar or training program, buy the book and the CDs, get all excited and then do exactly what you were doing before. I have a whole wall of books, tapes and CDs from past seminars and coaches, but over the years I did put it all together in a system that works for me.

7. Lack of commitment.

There is a big difference between being around the business and being in the business. I received some great advice in my early career. Get up, dress up, show up and talk more to the public than other salespeople. Choose wisely when talking to other real estate sales reps. Stay away from negative Nellys. You will find the busy ones won’t have time to chat!

8. Lack of time management.

Most people love the flexibility of being their own boss, but nothing is more of a problem for a new salesperson. No one is telling you when you have to work or come to the office. The best way to deal with this is to set up a plan of your ideal day and ideal week, focusing on the highest priority activities; prospecting, follow-up, listing appointments and showings.

9. Lack of clear goals and plan.

Even if you have a business plan, many people do not drill down to the hourly and daily activities required to successfully meet their goals. The most insightful advice I ever heard about this is to focus on the right activities, not the results. The results will take care of themselves if you are consistent. Right Action = Right Results.

10. Lack of support from the brokerage.

When I’m in a recruiting appointment with a new salesperson, I just love when their first question is, “How much are your fees?” It’s the same as the listing appointment question, when the client asks what your commission will be before they even ask what you offer. The industry has changed a great deal and with the race to the bottom, many brokerages just don’t have the time or money to invest a great deal in training their salespeople. A new sales rep especially should always ask, “How can you help me succeed?” as their first question.


  1. Good article George.

    Based on my 45 years of full time training real estate agents, I believe the Single Greatest Reason that sales agents fail is that they do not learn what to say fast enough to survive or well enough to get past eking out a living.

    Lack of Cash Flow is a direct result of not making sales.

    Early in my career, I met an agent in Toronto who told me it took him 10 contacts with By-Owners to get an appointment, five appointments to get a listing, and three listings to get one to sell. No one had told him how to price listings so he took listings at whatever price the owner suggested.

    Do the math; that’s 150 contacts to get a paycheck. That doesn’t count the calls made or doors knocked where there was no answer. Few agents can survive that.

    That agent took my course and memorized it so well his broker called him Jerry Bresser Junior.

    Within six months he made 10 By-Owner contacts, got six appointments, 5 listings and 4 closings. The four closings gave him $16,000 in commissions.

    He then said he made $1,600 every time he rang a By-Owner door bell, whether they listed or not.

    I also believe that the Single Greatest Reason that agents get stuck at an income level less than they desire is because they have not learned what to say completely enough or well enough. It’s not just what we say, it’s how we say it.
    One agent I know took my listing scripts to a voice coach and learned how to present the words with authority and confidence. He quickly averaged almost 100% success on every listing opportunity.

    • Hey thanks jerry! I agree scripts and dialogue are important too! I nice to hear from a legend in the business!!

    • Jerry

      Historical – Carolyne

      The City of Brampton, at its extant, is only a hundred square miles. In 1980 only a population of 150,000. Now well over a half million. Yes, that translates to a misshapen vision of ten miles by ten miles, including its outreaching city boundary.

      In “how to write a half million dollars annually, repeatedly, in commission,” I mention the square mileage size because not only did I stay within the city perimeter, but I worked an amazingly confined “my” personal (farming) boundary, mostly, with only a rare exception.

      I triggered a tax audit in the early 90’s due to with such high volume I ONLY spent 800-900 dollars annually on gas, driving a full size high end vehicle, creating another anomaly. I was told “that’s simply not possible! Agents who write only ten percent of your earnings claim thousands in gas expenses.”

      Those agents must be the ones who show uncommitted buyers 30-50 listings and never construct a transaction. (So that’s my problem? Apparently yes.) Thus triggering the audit. Of course they found nothing amiss.

      And when I explained that I never left the city boundaries to do business I got called up short: “why did you buy gas and claim it as business expense, then, at a station near Yorkdale Shopping Mall? Many miles outside Brampton.”

      I provided a copy of the offer confirming my trip to have my seller (a divorce situation) sign his offer acceptance on the marital home, while he was at work as a school teacher at the then, Spadina Expressway and Lawrence Ave. West.

      Proof! They wanted to see my credit card statement for that day to see if I purchased anything at Yorkdale; I didn’t. I had the sub-agent in the passenger seat. We had to get back to Brampton and I’m sure Max was not interested in a shopping expedition with me.
      Because the public generally speaking doesn’t know what they don’t know, and in reality doesn’t know what you don’t know either, they sometimes can easily be led to think you know more than you do, and that you would know more than they do. Don’t go there. Always refer them to an expert in the arena within the industry that makes the other person the expert. This decision makes you smartest of all. Not just because of the liability involved, but truthfully the world is spinning at such a rapid rate, there is simply no way to be all things to all people, and the risks can put you in a place where you are an accident just waiting to happen.

      This history came back, triggered when I was recently explaining my “narrow” career to someone in the mortgage field, who had trouble believing I never got involved in explaining mortgaging, personally giving advice outside my area of expertise, as many colleagues who get involved in that arena do, prequalifying buyers; never had them fill out an income statement (I didn’t want to know how much money my clients earned, many even self-employed), even when they were my sellers, about to buy, but I always had written prequalification commitments in my hands to provide if and when needed, (that’s all I needed to know, and have in writing), and I knew therefore who was in fact providing the funding; they did all the questions asking, not me.

      And “I” needed the commitment so I knew how to direct and advise my buyers and sellers to the most likely perfect property information, that specifically applied to each, individually, enabling me to help them make “appropriate relative property-related decisions.” Didn’t waste their time or mine. I did ALL the homework. Offers for my buyers COF only needed a few days to tidy up loose ends, always.

      And more than once I refused to show properties to would-be buyers who didn’t deem it important to have written commitment prequalifications in hand, first. And I never understood agents who brought COF offers on my listings, and no one even knew what bank or mortgage company would be providing that buyer with financing. WOW!

      Those agents obviously weren’t around in the 70’s and the 80’s when a mortgage “commitment” formed part of an offer. Or mortgaging details were explained in absolute, finite terms in an offer. It was a “requirement” in those days, proving to the seller that the buyer could afford the purchase.

      But to elaborate on my discussion as to the narrowness involved, I explained in my recent discussion that I could count on the fingers of one hand, in 35 years the number of apartment condo property I sold, or helped someone buy, back in the beginning. .

      Likewise only several condo towns; and even less semi-detached. In 35 years, never wrote a rental, no POS, (but yes, I did estate sales and corp relo contracts), no investment property. I elected to take the ICI course and made my best course marks, and really enjoyed the course. I have previously recommended to students to position that course last on your list of courses taken because it needs the background of the support material of the other courses in order to get the greatest benefit.

      After the first year or so in dabblings, trying to be all things to all people, as we had been taught to do, since we were licenced to serve the whole province, none. See raised eyebrows. I turned down boatloads of business that I knew in my heart I was neither trained to do, nor felt qualified to advise. Always sent those transactions to an expert in that arena. I didn’t want to put anyone in danger, least of all, me.

      I largely concentrated on single family detached residential (in all price ranges from the bottom of the market to the top). All within a narrow map field. I referred out business even to certain locations within the city boundaries, allowing me to concentrate on my chosen locations, and certainly referred to colleagues in adjacent contiguous domiciles, where they were the local neighbourhood experts. That was actually a good idea at RLP; working in other agent domiciles was forbidden. Must refer; I was already doing that without being told. Many agents didn’t like it, or abide by that rule.

      The referring agent often would say, “but we are only an extra half hour from you, why don’t you just handle it?” They truly didn’t understand sometimes; they worked that location on a regular basis. I obviously did not. I wanted the best representation for my buyers and sellers. Period. That alone contributed to years of often 35 incoming transactions annually “referred back in, to me.” The law of reciprocity.

      To be truthful I didn’t plan it that way, to only work detached, initially; it just happened. But when I saw it happening, I concentrated on it, marketing in kind, reaching out to specific locations that my charts and graphs told me were worth my time and expertise.

      That’s how I came to be known as the local neighbourhood expert within that specific market. A truly blessed fishing expedition, that built a career history the likes of which others sought to replicate, over the years.

      And people still have difficulty making it compute (they just cannot bear to send business elsewhere – they don’t understand it’s not about affording to do it); and then we have the historical double ending, that accounted for about sixty percent of my 24% market share business annually, repeatedly.

      The big secret to my success was couched in its narrowness. And no one complained except a few colleagues who from time to time told the Board I had to prove such outrageous claims.

      One fellow was so upset that his neighbour had just listed with me that what appeared to be lime appeared all over the seller neighbour’s front lawn, and my lawn sign disappeared.

      The seller blamed his neighbour agent, when he awoke and viewed the overnight surprise. The front yard looked like snow had fallen, out of season. The agent had just complained to the Board that I couldn’t possibly be doing the kind of volume I advertised. Just not possible. And the piece de resistance was that he said I made him and others appear lazy, and he said I could afford to do big advertising and that he couldn’t, so he wanted the local Board to prevent me from such type advertising, leveling the playing field for him to have a better chance at rising to my success level, if true. HUH?

      Another bigger name agent, one time years earlier a local Board president, complained that my brochures, in very tiny print under my photo noted my RLP corp success status (not in big flashing lights). His complaint said I had to be made to prove it, that I just couldn’t, willy nilly, describe myself as the corp number one area rep. The Board told him, that corp I.D. “was” the proof. If memory serves me, his background had been a career selling girdles.

      New agents should come prepared for such criticism, if they stumble upon any kind of success. Know that you are not the problem in such incidents, should they ever occur; hold your head high and keep your nose to the grindstone. Such people are to be pitied if they get their jollies tearing other people down.

      You have to know, understand and acknowledge what you don’t know, (because this is as important as what you do know), and defer to others whose expertise will complete and compliment yours. And a combination of all these things will open untold numbers of doors for you, unfolding amazing career possibilities.

      Carolyne L 🍁

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