Erica Christoffer is a multimedia journalist and contributing editor with REALTOR® Magazine. In addition to writing print and online articles, Erica oversees the magazine's Broker to Broker content, co-manages the 30 Under 30 program, and manages the YPN Lounge. Connect with her via email: email@example.com.
3 Brokers Walk Into a Bar: Shop Talk
Professionalism, training hurdles, commissions, and sales meeting incentives were among the hot topics in this first-in-a-series chat with broker-owners.
January - February
What happens when you bring together a group of broker-owners to dish about the business and share ideas for addressing common problems? For this chat, the first in a series, the magazine invited a group of industry pros for a beverage at a Legal Seafood eatery in Boston. They were in town for the REALTORS® Conference & Expo in November. Whether it’s how to deal with lagging professionalism in the industry or what it takes to run an inspiring sales meeting, the candid conversation provides a glimpse into the everyday challenges facing the broker community.
The path to improved professionalism
Scott: Professionalism is lacking when agents are left to their own devices. It has to come from the authority figure in an office. You must lead by example, and I think NAR’s new Commitment to Excellence program [a series of self-assessments that measure proficiency and offer a customized learning path] will help. New agents at my firm receive professionalism training and information. We go over the Code of Ethics, and we explain what it means to be a REALTOR®.
Anthony: I just emailed myself with a note to start doing this, too.
Scott: I used to see my own agents spending money randomly on different products and technology before I franchised my independent brokerage, Universal Realty, with Better Homes and Gardens. I felt like I needed the tools to give agents structure and professionalism.
Anthony: I believe this race-to-the-bottom split is hurting the industry. I have a friend in a 99–1 percent commission split who’s doing well. He just brought on a buyer’s agent, but he doesn’t know how to train her, and he’s not getting any support from his company. Where’s the value in that? He only gave them $18,000 in commission and desk fees last year—they can’t build a training program on that.
Scott: We have 200 new members joining our association in greater Las Vegas every month, and the vast majority go to new flat-fee, 100 percent commission brokerages that offer them no training.
Anthony: We actually focus on training. It’s so successful that we have other brokerages around the country that pay us so they can tune in remotely via Skype each month to our trainings.
Carrie: When I trained at other brokerages, I noticed that when the top producer and broker show up at meetings and trainings, then the agents show up. Why would you expect agents to show up when you don’t? Also, brokers need to set realistic expectations about the industry. Agents are coming into the business expecting to make a killing right away.
Anthony: I have 165 agents; we used to have more new agents, but many are now fairly seasoned. We offer money management classes for retirement. Agents are self-employed, and they have to understand that from the beginning. Some have come to me owing $30,000 in taxes because they weren’t putting enough aside.
Scott: Our new agent training is six weeks with about six to eight full-day sessions in the classroom. They have a mentor who checks on them, tech training, and appointments with our marketing director. On top of that, we teach them about insurance, accounting, and how to set up their business.
Carrie: My husband, who’s my business partner, developed a series of Excel spreadsheets for our agents that are so easy. You simply put in your numbers, and it tells us how much to take out for taxes or how much to put into savings to reach our personal goals.
Making sales meetings irresistible
Anthony: I’m a big believer in doing something every week at the same time in the office. I use leads as the carrot: “Show up and you’ll get your leads.” If you find yourself in a situation where agents are upset about that arrangement, then you might need to let them go.
Carrie: I use Workplace by Facebook—a collaboration tool for businesses and teams—at least once a week. Agents can tune in remotely, and I’ll do a live video meeting or demo.
Scott: We have one office meeting a week. My tech person is available six hours a day for drop-ins, and I have a few agents very well versed in [transaction platform] Dotloop, so I’ll have informal stations where agents can get questions answered and have one-on-ones.