Companies to Watch: Assist-2-Sell

Buyer, seller teams score big wins

February 1, 2001

Why eye it: By separating sales associates into exclusively seller and buyer teams, co-owner Lyle Martin has almost tripled his productivity and increased his customer service.

What they did: When Martin and his partner, Mary LeMeres-Pomin, established the company in 1987, they immediately built their sales force entirely around the team concept. “It evolved over the years to what it is now,” says Martin. “Think of it as a 100 percent commission office with personal assistants.” Salespeople select which side of the transaction they prefer to work on exclusively. Each salesperson is assigned a salaried assistant who is a licensed practitioner. The office has four listing teams and two buyer’s teams, plus a support group. Five years ago, Martin and LeMeres-Pomin started the Assist-2-Sell franchise and have marketed the team concept to their franchisees.

How listing team works: The listing salesperson meets with the potential seller and handles the listing. The assistant gives feedback to the seller on showings and does routine follow up. But when an offer comes in, the salesperson handles the negotiations. Once a contract is accepted, the assistant drives the process to closing.

How buyer’s team works: The buyer’s teams do floor time, says Martin. They answer the phones and handle inquiries. Once there is a contract, the licensed assistant handles the administration, meets with inspectors, and sees that the process moves smoothly.

Results: Customary office practice shows that without an assistant, a listing agent handles 15-20 listings at a time and delivers mediocre customer service, says Martin. “With the team concept, the listing agents have almost tripled their production to 40-50 listings at a time,” says Martin. “With the team concept, you don’t need a lot of associates to do a lot of work.” The office has averaged about 100 transaction sides closed a month, or about 1,200 in the past year, with sales volume in the stable, steady Reno market at $180 million. An experienced customer service representative surveys all customers after closing, follows up with them, and handles all complaints.

Other advantages: Traditionally, most of a practitioner’s time is spent prospecting. But at Buyers & Sellers Realty, the company does the marketing. That’s had a positive effect on customer relations, as salespeople are freed up to spend more time with clients, says Martin. A hidden benefit is that licensed assistants gain confidence in their abilities and are often moved up to the lead position on a new team.

Drawbacks: Getting sales associates to concentrate exclusively in selling or buying is still difficult. “We have to convince them that focusing on being the best of one or the other will pay off in the long run.” Franchisees are encouraged, but not required, to move toward the team concept.

What’s next: The company is beta testing Internet-based software to improve tracking of transactions.

Advice to brokers: “Stay open to different approaches.”

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