Sales roles aren't always what you would like them to be. You might settle into a solid career trajectory in the field only to struggle to find meaning in your day-to-day responsibilities or professional future.
If you find yourself in that position, you might wind up racking your brain for other options — and for a lot of disgruntled sales reps, a career in real estate can look like a solid choice. But attractive as the option might be, making the shift from sales to real estate is easier said than done.
It takes a lot of thought, time, energy, careful planning, and specific action to make that transition. Here, we'll take a look at some of the key steps a sales professional needs to take if they want to shift fields and start a productive career in real estate.
How to Transition from a Sales Rep to Real Estate Agent
- Get your real estate license and sort out other qualification-related elements.
- Make sure you're in the right place financially.
- Refine your real estate skills with continued education and training.
- Identify your niche.
- Network thoroughly and productively.
- Try starting part-time to ease your transition.
- Start figuring out marketing and lead generation strategies.
1. Get your real estate license and sort out other qualification-related elements.
If you're seriously considering a career shift into real estate, you probably already know this, but it bears repeating — you can't be a real estate agent without a real estate license. If you don't address this point first, literally nothing else on this list matters.
Familiarize yourself with your state's real estate licensing and education requirements. Apply for and pass your state's real estate licensing exam. And ultimately, apply for your real estate license.
Now, these parts of the process are probably the most straightforward. One area where a lot of new real estate agents run into trouble is finding a brokerage — particularly if they're working part-time. Most states require you to work with a broker who essentially sponsors your first few years as an agent.
As we'll touch on later in this article, you'll probably work as a part-time agent as you transition from your sales career into real estate. And unfortunately, many brokerages aren't quick to bring on agents who can't commit full-time.
So a significant part of your transition might be dedicated to being patient and proactive in reaching out to and finding brokers willing to bring you on board. But once you have all of these requirements squared away, you can really start to set your career change in motion.
2. Make sure you're in the right place financially.
This step is one of the most crucial on this list — but many sales reps transitioning to real estate often don't put enough stake in it. If you're planning on making this shift, make sure you've saved enough to sustain yourself while you get your new career off the ground.
There's no guarantee that your real estate career will be profitable, right off the bat — even if you start closing deals early on. You're essentially starting a business as soon as you hit the real estate market, and virtually every business is subject to growing pains when it first gets going.
Real estate can be finicky and volatile, and new agents can't be expected to understand its nuances and weather that kind of turbulence immediately. That's why you need to make sure you have the requisite funds to both pay your personal bills and float your new business until you've settled in.
If you're not in the right place financially, this kind of career transition will be way more high-stakes and delicate than it should be.
3. Refine your real estate skills with continued education and training.
Real estate isn't a practice that lends itself to complacency. If you want to have a successful career in the field, you need to constantly develop and refine your skillset. Identify learning opportunities and resources beyond your pre-licensing training.
The National Association of Realtors (NAR) offers courses and certifications that are accessible to newer agents. But the education you pursue to further your new career can extend beyond conventional real estate training. Courses on marketing can be valuable to aspiring agents — the same goes for sales and customer service.
A good real estate agent is constantly evolving and open to expanding their professional repertoire. If you want your transition from sales to real estate to be as seamless as possible, make sure you're willing to learn as much as you can while you get your bearings in the field.
4. Identify your niche.
Specialization can make your career in real estate much more straightforward and ultimately profitable. If you don't pick and master a single lane, you're inevitably going to sell yourself short. Having a niche will help you lock in on relevant education, allow you to develop as focused a skill set as possible, and let you frame your brand more effectively.
Specializing in something like luxury homes, commercial properties, or apartments will give you a clearly defined market — allowing you to tailor your messaging and shape detailed personas that will ultimately guide the sales and marketing sides of your business.
If you want to make the most out of your transition from sales to real estate, make sure you land on a niche you're comfortable with, able to understand, and enthusiastic about. Being a jack-of-all-trades doesn't lend itself to success in the field.
5. Network thoroughly and productively.
As a new real estate agent, establishing a robust, diverse professional network is in your best interest. Other, more experienced agents can be excellent resources for mentorship and advice as you get started — but your network should extend well beyond your industry peers.
If you're dealing with smaller properties, see if you can connect with maintenance professionals like plumbers and electricians. If you're in commercial real estate, you might want to reach out to civil engineers or city planners. And no matter what your field is, connecting with brokers, financial advisors, and attorneys is always best practice.
These connections might prove invaluable when it comes to resolving issues that you, your clients, or the properties you're dealing with might run into. They can also be excellent resources for lead generation, down the line.
One way or another, get in touch with a wide range of people that can help you out in some way, shape, or form. A broad, active network is an asset in virtually every field — and real estate is no exception.
6. Try starting part-time to ease your transition.
As I mentioned earlier, you're probably going to want to set your transition from sales to real estate in motion by starting your real estate career on a part-time basis. It might go without saying, but you run a lot of risk by quitting your job and diving headfirst into a field where you have extremely limited experience.
If you're currently settled into a sales role but hoping to ultimately pursue a full-time career in real estate, you're probably best off dipping your toes into the practice before abandoning your safety net and staking your livelihood on your new pursuit.
Life as a part-time real estate agent can be tricky and demanding, but it can give you a solid picture of what to expect going forward, afford you valuable experience, and let you determine whether you like the practice enough to pursue it full-time.
Of all the challenges that come with this step, timing is one of the most pressing and difficult. But if you can set and commit to a hard, well-structured, viable schedule that allows you to make time for your clients without undermining your current professional responsibilities, you'll set yourself up for an effective transition from sales to real estate.
7. Start figuring out marketing and lead generation strategies.
Marketing — specifically as it pertains to lead generation — is the lifeblood of any successful real estate career. Clients don't fall out of the sky and into your lap. You have to find them or have them find you.
You need to put yourself out there — whether that be through proactive outreach, working existing listings, asking for referrals, advertising, or conducting any other marketing activities that can put you top-of-mind with potential clients. Also, developing and sustaining a solid online presence is an absolute must for any new real estate agent.
If you want to make the most of your transition to the field, you have to make social media profiles for your business and remain active on forums relevant to your space or region. And putting together a visually appealing, informative, accessible website for your practice will be a big help as well.
Should you transition from sales to real estate?
If this list is any indication, transitioning from sales to real estate is a massive, exhausting shift that warrants a lot of thought. Though some of your skills will carry over from one role to the other, even qualifying for a career in real estate takes considerable time, energy, patience, and persistence — all of which will probably have to come while you're on the hook for your current professional responsibilities.
So should you transition from sales to real estate? The answer to that question hinges upon how much you're willing to commit to this new pursuit. If you don't have the confidence or interest necessary to ultimately go all-in on a career in real estate, you might be better off leaving the field alone or sticking to part-time.
But if you have the resources, ambition, and sincere desire to make a new career in real estate happen for yourself, taking the steps listed above — among others — could lead you to a much more gratifying, lucrative professional life than your current one.