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How To Succeed: In Your First Year / The Essential Tools of the Trade

The Essential Tools of the Trade

Build your business with the right tools. Get started with the essential agent CRMs, marketing platforms, and systems.

Read the transcript

Hi, I’m Whitney Funkhouser, the new agent success coach at century 21 signature real estate. This video will help you get familiar with some of the essential tools, some kinda fancy and others pretty basic that you’ll need to succeed in your first year as an agent. 

I’m going to group the tools into four main categories based on the questions we are most commonly asked. The basics, the systems, marketing materials and social media.

So first off, the basics, and most frequently, what type of car, phone and computer do I need? Well, as far as vehicles go, the pace of the market has changed the way we show homes and it is much more common to meet a buyer client at a showing as opposed to loading them up in your backseat and touring homes all day. Of course, there are exceptions, but for the most part, if you have a clean and well maintained vehicle that gets you where you need to go, you should be good.

You’ll definitely need a smart phone and I’d recommend an unlimited data plan. Again, with the way the real estate market has been changing along with the connectedness of our population, much of our work as agents is done on our phone. From opening lockboxes and  communication with clients and other agents to accessing many of the systems I’ll mention a bit later, you will depend heavily on your phone to do business.

As far as a computer goes, the old desktop you learned to type on isn’t going to cut it! We recommend a laptop no older than 2-3 years old, but as far as software goes, you shouldn’t need much. Most systems you’ll need to access are cloud based and as long as you can access the internet and keep your battery charged you’ll be set.

Another category of tools we get asked about are systems. Since we are in the people business, we need a way to keep track of our people. This is called a CRM or customer relationship management system. A CRM is absolutely essential to your success as an agent. There are numerous options to pick from depending on your budget and how automated you’d like your CRM to be. The brokerage you chose may prefer a certain CRM or even offer a specific product to their agents.

Also crucial to running your real estate business is a transaction management system. This is a system that allows clients and agents to sign documents electronically, a safe filing place for all required documents and personal information and a workflow to keep your transactions moving smoothly. Some of the most common platforms include Skyslope, dotloop, and docusign. Again, ask your brokerage which system they use and determine if their system will work well with your goals!

Finally, in the systems category, many people ask, what is the MLS? And how do I use this system in my business? MLS stands for multiple listing service, or the platform which allows the sharing of information and commissions for all properties listed with a member of that specific MLS. Multiple Listing Services are usually specific to the city or region in which you live and consist of a decision making board of agents. So when you choose a brokerage, they’ll point you towards the local MLS board you need to join as well. It is also an online database of listings available for sale and their history. Within this system you will have the capability to search for properties, schedule showings, have access to market data and comparables. 

Next up in our list of essential tools are the marketing materials. As with the systems based tools, check with your brokerage to see if they provide any of these materials, but first we recommend a great, professional headshot to use on your business cards, yard signs, email signature and any place you’d like to market yourself. Your broker should be able to point you in the right direction with ordering business cards and yard signs, which are available from many different national and local vendors. If you’re planning to do any open houses, make sure you get some directional and open house signs ordered too! You’ll also need marketing materials to use with potential clients, like a listing presentation and a buyer’s presentation. Depending on which brokerage you choose, a template or service for this might be provided or you may be on your own to come up with a design, content and get it printed. Many brokerages provide some level of agent website as well. While your online presence is important, in the first year, we recommend keeping this cost as low as possible. 

And that brings us to the final essential tool category, social media! In the highly connected world we live in, social media is easily one of the best ways to connect with potential clients, market your listings, and keep top of mind awareness with your sphere of influence. Remember that we are in the people and lead generation business and utilize however many social media outlets you need to connect with your people! Much of what is available on social media platforms is free, and there is always the opportunity to invest some of your marketing budget for your business page on advertisements to have your content show up more frequently. 

We’ve included a more comprehensive resource list to help you choose which essential tools of the trade are best for you. Have fun taking inventory and making plans for which tools you’ll need to add to help launch your real estate career!

Meet Our Agent Success Coach


I started my career in real estate when I was 19. I work as the New Agent Success Coach at Century 21 Signature Real Estate. I am passionate about equipping new agents with the tools and systems they need to start building a successful real estate career.


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