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How to Keep Your Competitive Edge With Continuing Education

ABC: Always Be Closing. We’re all familiar with that classic sales mantra, but is that hard-hitting approach really the be-all and end-all of success in sales? If you’re always caught up in closing the deal, you’ll never have time to get ahead of the curve. The most successful salespeople understand that, in order to stay competitive, you’ve got to keep your knowledge and skills sharp. By making it a priority to Never Stop Learning, you’ll be better equipped to Always Be Closing.

Going "back to school" can help you stay on top of changes in technology, laws, and regulations that affect your work, and even boost your income. According to a National Association of Realtors® (NAR) study, agents with continuing education designations could earn three times more than their counterparts without special certifications.

But it's not just about increasing your income. It's about staying relevant in an ever-changing professional landscape. As changes in technology and the economy continue to accelerate, a commitment to continual learning can give you a competitive advantage that sets you apart from others.

While you may have required classes to keep your license up to date, there are literally hundreds of organizations, seminars, courses, and other opportunities that will help you grow your knowledge base. Here are some avenues to higher learning:

Required Continuing Education

Certifications and licenses typically require that you obtain continuing education credits or units so that you can renew your designation. Doing so will demonstrate to your clients that you not only possess knowledge and expertise that others do not, but also that you are continually refreshing those capabilities to provide the most up-to-date service possible.

Online Courses

Never say you don’t have enough time to learn. Continuing education — ranging from professional trainers to graduate degree programs at universities — is available via online courses to accommodate the demanding schedules of later-life students. For a start, visit the MIT Open Courseware site, where you can view several real estate-related classes online for free. Next, check out®, which has joined with LinkedIn Learning to provide hundreds of courses in business, design, and marketing. If you’re more of a podcast person, you can start out with NAR’s Center for Realtor Development show, and explore more on iTunes.

Marketing Classes

Finding and targeting your audience these days depends heavily on social media and other fresh types of marketing that you probably didn’t study in college, or even in your first few years on the job. Taking a few courses can mean a world of difference to your business and your bottom line. Explore online classes and even classes offered at your local junior college to get the basics or to take your modern marketing to the next level.

Daily Reading

Periodicals and newsletters are something you should read on a daily basis to keep up with trends, statistics, business ideas, and more. Here are a few standouts for those in the housing industry:

  • Realtor Magazine — from NAR

  • Real Estate Magazine — strategy, business insights, industry info

  • Financial Planning magazine

  • Builder — online industry magazine

  • Top Agent — shares the secrets of the country’s most successful agents

  • Zillow® Research — numbers, news, and stories

  • Curbed, NextDoor, and Patch — for local real estate news and trends

  • Realty Times — daily industry newsletter

  • Eye on the Economy — economic insights from the National Association of Homebuilders®

  • Investment News — industry information for financial planners

It’s also a smart move to keep an eye on your competitors. Staying up-to-date with news and numbers regarding the real estate industry can help you stay ahead of the game.

Seminars, Conferences, Workshops

Corporate training providers such as Dale Carnegie, the Brooks Group, and similar organizations offer courses to improve your sales game. From reaching out to new prospects to presenting solutions to overcoming objections to closing the deal, you can gain new skills and tactics to add to your repertoire — whether you’re just starting out or you’re a seasoned pro. Consider attending with your peers in order to motivate each other and get the most from the courses..

As your knowledge base continues to grow, put your new-found smarts to work by sharing them with others. Hosting seminars is an effective way to educate buyers and gain new business. You’ll increase your exposure to potential clients and referral partners, get a chance to drive more traffic to your online presence, and present yourself as a trusted expert in your field. Who wouldn’t want to work with you after that?!

It’s one of the best things about a career in sales: You never stop learning. By focusing that learning with some continuing education, you’ll continually discover new things about the products and services you offer, your customers, your marketplace, and your industry.

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