Knock Down Recruiting Obstacles

Brokers: How many of these objections have you heard? Do you respond effectively?

May 2, 2014

Change isn’t easy for most people. Whether it’s a top performer closely identified with your competitor or a potential recruit who’d have to take a leap of faith into a new career, the decision to make a move can be overwhelming.

You can make the possibility of professional transition for agents more appealing—and improve your recruiting metrics—by listening carefully during recruiting discussions and providing compelling responses to recruits’ concerns. Here are six common objections with suggestions for how to handle them.

“I’m happy where I am.”

Rare is the broker who hasn’t heard this one. “With many salespeople, there’s a fierce, sometimes misguided, loyalty to the broker they’re with,” says Allan Kuipers, branch manager of Coldwell Banker Danforth Northgate in Seattle. His office, which he built from scratch over five years, now has 208 salespeople. “They’ll say they’re happy where they are or that they love that broker.”

Kuipers acknowledges the comment and promptly moves past it: “That’s great! We want only happy people to come here because if you’re unhappy there, you may be unhappy in our office, too. Let’s focus on your broker’s role in your retirement.” This transition gives Kuipers an entrée into an area where his company excels. “Consider what’s going to be good for your career down the road,” he tells recruits. “Are you maximizing your profit so you can walk off into the sunset when you’re ready? Would you like a program where you could save or invest more dollars for when you retire?”

Kuipers’ pitch has great appeal for salespeople who haven’t considered long-term goals, like building a better retirement plan. “We make them see how this decision is going to affect their bottom line when it comes time to retire,” he says.

“I’m happy” is an objection Keith Robinson, chief operating officer at Better Homes and Gardens Mason-McDuffie Real -Estate in Pleasanton, Calif., also hears frequently. “I say, ‘Of course you are; most talented people are happy where they are. I really want to spend time getting to know each other to see if someday we can have a fit,’” he says. “I want to be where they go if they make a change.”

“I’m making more money than ever. Why change things up?”

Another common refrain from experienced salespeople is that they’re doing well financially, so they don’t need to look elsewhere. Salespeople who say this could be missing out, contends Sue Cartun, designated broker, operations manager, and partner at the six-office, 400-salesperson Keller Williams Southern Arizona in Tucson. “Sometimes top producers have a limiting belief,” she says. “They think they’re at the top of their game. But there is never not a next step. I tell them we can show them how to take the lid off their income level.”

Cartun says that can happen in a number of ways. Perhaps salespeople should build a team or expand their current team. Or maybe they should expand their geographic reach. “I’ll say, ‘Your team has the model, systems, and people down. Let me show you how to take that to the next market,’ ” she says.

“I’ll lose business switching companies.”

The answer to this concern is a transition approach salespeople can see and trust. Cartun tells salespeople not to waste time worrying. “I tell them we have staff in place to make their transition seamless,” she explains. “We’ll have your signs made. We’ll make sure your collateral marketing materials are redone. We have a checklist. You take care of talking to your clients; we’ll take care of all that stuff.” Marge Kane, regional vice president at Edina Realty in Edina, Minn., says her company addresses agents’ concerns about the need to notify past clients of the move by sending out e-cards and creating new websites for the agents. “We can quickly announce an agent’s change to our company,” she says. 

 “Your company’s too big [or successful].”

Kane hears the “you’re too big” comment from both new and experienced salespeople. “People automatically assume bigger means less connected,” she muses. “In fact, we can demonstrate that collaborating and networking bring them more opportunities. So I tell them a larger agent population and systems to network and support each other are huge benefits.”

A related concern is that the bigger the company, the more rules there are that will stifle salespeople’s creativity. Kane’s response is to show salespeople the ways they can tailor her company’s marketing templates for things like a website while knowing they’re complying with state rules and regulations.

Brokers with both small and large companies hear a similar objection: “Your salespeople are so successful, I’d feel totally intimidated.” The response from Pauline Bennett, branch manager at Coldwell Banker Residential Real Estate in Sarasota, Fla.: “My office has salespeople at every level. No matter where you are in the spectrum, if you do a solid 10 transactions a year and do a solid job for your customers, you’ll fit into our office.”

“I can’t go without a regular paycheck.”

Recruits who’d have to change careers often raise this concern. “This should be a business planning discussion you have with every brand-new licensee. Ask, ‘How long can you go without a paycheck?’ ” Robinson says. “If the answer is two weeks, they’ll really struggle in residential real estate. The dialogue really should be, ‘How much do you need to make so you can stop doing what you’re doing and start doing real estate full time?’”

If recruits say they need to make, say, $20,000, the discussion shifts. “Then it’s a classic screening interview as opposed to a recruitment interview,” says Robinson. “I’ll say, ‘In this market, that’s three transactions. You’re agreeing that when you do three transactions, you’ll stop doing what you’re doing and come to us full time?’ We don’t take on part-time salespeople. But we do allow recruits to transition from another career.”

Getting that commitment is critical. “We know if new salespeople do what we teach them, they’ll be successful,” says Robinson. “So we create a condition where they’ll opt in or out. If they opt out, that’s fine. What I won’t allow is no choice.”

“I’ll make more money at another company than yours.”

When potential recruits balk because another brokerage offers more generous commission splits, Bennett advises them to take a hard look at what they’re giving up in exchange for the higher split. “It’s important to ask what they’re looking for in a broker,” she says. “I find what’s most important with new licensees is training because they know there’s going to be no paycheck on Friday. I tell them, ‘If you can’t build a solid foundation, it doesn’t matter what your commission split is because you’re not going to be growing a business.’ Don’t get me wrong. Money’s always a conversation with new recruits. But training; tools and technology; marketing; and company market share are also important.”

The key to every recruiting interview, Robinson says, is to be genuinely interested in the recruit’s future and honest if your company’s not a good fit. “I know it sounds corny, but I anchor into two things—curiosity and love,” he says. “If I can be truly curious—not manipulatively curious—and care about recruits enough to tell them the truth about whether they should come to my company, recruiting isn’t complicated. When it’s done best, you’re completely detached from the outcome. You care, but only about the right thing for recruits.”

freelance writer

G.M. Filisko is a Chicago area freelance and former editor for REALTOR® Magazine.