Pamela Dittmer McKuen is a Chicago-based freelance writer who specializes in homes, lifestyle, and travel. Read her work at AlltheWritePlaces.com
One Fantastic Year of Sales Meetings
We’ve rounded up 52 smart and timely topics to keep your agents motivated and productive every week of 2011.
January 1, 2011
The business of real estate is always evolving, but in most brokerages, there’s one constant—the weekly sales meeting. It’s a time to bring the troops together, share timely information, and keep everyone motivated. Even for brokerages where most practitioners are based outside of the office, weekly face-to-face meetings are essential, says Thaddeus Wong, co-founder of @properties in Chicago.
"For us, sales meetings help develop and maintain a community of agents and keep them physically connected to the organization," Wong says. "They also add vibrancy. Discussion, education, and recognition are so much more rewarding when they’re done in an in-person group than online."
Many owners and managers dread those meetings, however. It’s tough to come up with fresh, interesting topics to share with the sales force week after week. But without compelling content to share with the group, attendance will dwindle and dissatisfaction can creep into the company culture.
With 2011 freshly underway, it’s a perfect time to plan for a successful year of motivating meetings. We’ve enlisted the input of several enthusiastic meeting planners and management experts to come up with 52 topics, trends, and themes that you can draw from.
Focus on Hot Topics
Educating your sales team about new concepts and growing segments of real estate will make them more informed and productive, says Adam Kruse, broker-owner of The Hermann London Group in Maplewood, Mo. "That’s the whole point of sales meetings, to teach our agents about problems and situations they may not have been able to learn on their own, at least not yet."
1. Short sales. Teach sales associates, step-by-step, how to initiate short sales, sidestep common problems, and get the deals closed.
2. Buying HUD homes. The online bid process is tricky for buying government-owned foreclosures, but sales associates who master it can build new business.
3. Buying REOs. Lender-owners all have their own requirements and procedures. Sorting through the maze helps associates prepare winning bids.
4. Disclosures. Review state disclosure requirements relating to property condition reports and dual agency, and highlight any recent changes to the laws.
5. FHA approval for condos. No more spot approval. Associates can speed their FHA deals and attract more buyers when they can help condo developments get certified.
6. Green homes. Knowledge of "green" rating systems, such as Energy Star and the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED certification, can help you win clients.
7. Generational marketing. Baby boomers, Generation X, and Generation Y have different housing needs and desires. Knowing the distinctions will go a long way in communicating with these important buyer segments.
8. Mastering networking events. Discuss how to approach and engage people, how long to chat, and how to follow up.
Give Your Tech a Boost
Nearly every part of the real estate transaction, from marketing to closing, has some technology component. Those who aren’t up to speed are at a major disadvantage. Your job is to give associates the hardware, software, and Internet skills they need to compete. "In our office, we have a purple dinosaur that someone has to carry around until that person catches up with the next technology," says Alicia Trevino, who owns two Dallas-area Century 21 offices. "It might be a smartphone or a laptop. Then we find the next new thing and start over."
9. E-mail marketing. Instead of sending postcards, flyers, announcements, and brochures via postal mail, teach your team to save postage and trees by creating and sending marketing materials to targeted e-mail groups.
10. Blogging for business. A personable, informational blog attracts followers and turns them into contacts. Tell your associates how to get started and keep going.
11. All about SEO. Salespeople who can improve their search engine rankings will draw more traffic to their Web sites.
12. Video tips. Video tours of listings give viewers a sense of immediacy that still photography does not. Teach the basics.
13. Can you do YouTube? Show associates how to post virtual tours on their Web sites and the brokerage’s YouTube channel.
14. How to use Craigslist. Demonstrate how easy it is to post listings and photos on Craigslist, along with a link back to your Web site.
15. E-mail etiquette essentials. E-mail is fast and efficient but sometimes misunderstood. Lead a discussion of dos and don’ts, and encourage associates to share their stories and clients’ preferences.
16. Facebook best practices. Highlight strategies from associates who are effectively using Facebook to generate leads, promote listings, and keep in touch with clients and contacts.
17. LinkedIn 101. Help associates understand how they can use LinkedIn to establish a professional online presence and find business leads.
18. Twitter. Guide associates through the process of setting up a Twitter account so they can tweet their business news. Ask everyone to write sample tweets and share them with the crowd.
Invite a Guest Speaker
You don’t want to do all the talking, and besides, it’s impossible for you to know everything all the time. Invite professionals from related fields or within your company to talk about their area of expertise and how it relates to the sales team. Be sure to save time for questions. Says Robert Aigner, a team leader for Keller Williams Beverly Hills, who frequently invites guest speakers to his meetings: "It’s not that I don’t think I would bring value on my own, but having a lender talking about condos seems to shed new light."
19. Appraiser. Ask an appraiser to talk about the appraisal process and how the economy and local market conditions affect current pricing.
20. Lender. Invite one or more lenders to explain their current mortgage loan programs and requirements. Create a matrix for easy understanding. Do this monthly or quarterly to keep up with rapid changes.
21. Short-sale attorney. A real estate attorney can explain how to navigate the nuances of short sales and common legal problems that trip up these transactions.
22. Real estate lawyer. Review recent federal, state, and local court cases involving real estate transactions to learn why brokers and salespeople won and why they lost.
23. Home inspector. A home inspector can talk about the inspection process, offer warning signs of major defects, and lead a discussion on how inspections affect sales.
24. Home builders. Invite local builders to discuss their current projects, point out exciting new features on floor plans and site plans, and explain incentive programs.
25. Accountant. Ask an accountant to discuss the latest IRS rulings for independent contractors, qualified business deductions, and ways to organize income and expense records.
26. Publicist. A public relations pro can offer tips on how to get associates’ names and good deeds in the news.
27. Home stager. Get professional advice on arranging furniture and furnishings to make a home seem spacious, versatile, and inviting.
28. Image consultant. Learn how to choose a work wardrobe that projects the desired image, perhaps powerful and unflappable or warm and approachable.
29. Title company representative. Discuss the red flags that could hold up a clear title, such as divorce, liens, lawsuits, and other disputes.
30. Multicultural marketing pro. As the homebuying population grows increasingly diverse, salespeople need to know how to build bridges and be sensitive to cultural differences.
31. Web designer. A Web designer or webmaster reviews each agent’s Web site and suggests features and content that will make the sites more inviting and user-friendly.
32. Real estate improv. Hire a drama coach to shoot rapid-fire questions and suggest approaches to difficult scenarios so associates won’t be caught off-guard when those situations come up.
Talk About It
The best teachers often are the associates themselves. They’ve racked up the field experience, positive and negative, and are happy to share. "Nobody wants the manager barking at them all the time," says Sandi Lefkowitz, CRB, vice president and sales manager for the Glen Head/Brookville and Sea Cliff, New York, offices of Daniel Gale Sotheby’s International Realty.
33. My biggest business challenge. Each associate describes a recent challenge, and others offer suggestions and solutions. The result: Everyone will know how to handle the problem when it arises.
34. My biggest business success. Associates share their accomplishments—perhaps completing a large, complicated transaction or setting up a blog—and explain the steps they took to make it happen.
35. Act out the listing presentation. Recruit two associates; one plays the home owner and one makes the presentation. Have them switch roles to show viewers different styles.
36. Role-play difficult client situations. It can be tough to ask for a price reduction or justify a commission. Have salespeople pair up to play the roles of seller and listing agent.
37. Practice price negotiation. One associate plays a buyer reluctant to raise the offer, and another is a salesperson eager to close the deal without alienating the buyer.
38. Convert the FSBO. Through role-playing, associates practice trying to turn a FSBO seller into a listing. Distribute helpful scripts and share success stories.
39. Small-group solutions. Small groups discuss a scenario, such as maximizing downtown presence during holiday seasons or improving open house outcomes. Everyone reconvenes, and each group reports to the others.
40. Take a risk. Associates talk about a risk that brought good results, such as approaching a stranger or making a cold call. Or they share risks that didn’t turn out well, and the group offers suggestions for next time.
41. Lead generation. Associates brainstorm 100 ways to generate leads.
42. My rookie week. The newest associates share their efforts, accomplishments, and frustrations. More experienced team members talk about how they overcame rookie frustrations and share stories.
43.Next week I will . . . Everyone sets a goal to reach before the next meeting. Examples: I will place five ads on Craigslist, or I will call 20 people from my contact list. Those who don’t reach their goals put a dollar toward an office party.
Pump energy into your meetings by getting your team up and moving. "It’s important to keep your meetings upbeat," Trevino says. "Having an activity builds camaraderie and gets people excited about what they’re doing."
44. Hold a pre-convention rally. Before last year’s REALTORS® Conference & Expo in New Orleans, Trevino’s group dressed in Mardi Gras costumes and played jazz music. Past attendees talked about their convention experiences.
45. Practice showing homes. Visit a couple of listings and ask sales associates to demonstrate how they’d show it to prospective buyers. Encourage constructive criticism, and provide your own pointers.
46. Play "property Jeopardy." Test your team’s knowledge of the brokerage’s current listings. Cite the listing descriptions and details, and give points to the first person who can name the property. Have a fun prize for winners—maybe a free lunch.
47. Get a vocab workout. Do you know a plenum from an escutcheon? A mullion from a muntin? As associates try to stump each other with real estate vocabulary, everyone learns.
48. Earn CE credit. Don’t wait until the last minute to meet continuing education requirements. Bring in a trainer to lead a group session.
49. Take new head shots. No more dated photos. Hire a photographer to take new head shots of the entire sales team. Be sure to give notice so your associates look their best.
50. Celebrate. Has an associate made a big sale, exceeded a sales goal, or earned a new professional designation? Recognition makes the honoree feel special and motivates others to follow suit.
51. Lend a hand. Use your meeting time to give back to the community, and in the process, foster teamwork. Some ideas: Host a food drive, volunteer at a soup kitchen, or help build low-income housing.
52. Break bread. The absolute best way to draw a crowd is to feed them, Trevino says. People who eat together linger. They talk and laugh and forge relationships. A simple breakfast will do. Sometimes she provides the food, and sometimes she asks speakers to treat. Other times the entire office shares a potluck meal. "If there’s food, they will show," she says.