Put Agents First and Business Will Come

Start seizing more market opportunities by building a people-first company. Here are tips for empowering agents from some of the industry’s power brokers.

May 26, 2015

It’s easy to switch to autopilot when you’re operating in what can be a high-pressure industry. Just don’t overlook your most important asset as a real estate broker: people.

Four leaders of major brokerages from around the country presented key ways to increase business opportunities during RISMedia’s Power Broker Forum at the REALTORS® Legislative Meetings & Trade Expo in Washington, D.C., May 14. They all say opportunities start with a people-centric workplace that focuses not only on customers, but on agents as well. Joan Docktor, one of the panelists, says that brokers simply have to care.

Docktor, who is president of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Fox & Roach, REALTORS® in the tri-state area of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware, says caring is the reason her brokerage has grown to the 60-office, 4,000-agent company it is today.

“When an agent comes to your company, it’s a difficult adjustment,” she says. “Unless they’re having a good experience, you’re in trouble.”

So Docktor’s brokerage started an “agent care program” that helps new agents get adjusted to their work environment and builds a strong comfort level among agents and staff. The program begins with a two-week orientation where agents are introduced to the company and its systems. They are then paired with a buddy agent other than their broker or mentor, which opens up peer relationships, Docktor says.

The leaders at Fox & Roach, REALTORS® also keep a finger on the pulse of their agents. For instance, when anyone experiences an important life event, such as a marriage, the birth of a child, an illness, or a personal tragedy, a member of the executive committee reaches out either in person or over the phone, and sends flowers or a handwritten note.

“We do care and it sends the message that we care,” Docktor says.

J. Lennox Scott, chairman and CEO of John L. Scott Real Estate in the Pacific Northwest, puts agents first in another way: by breaking the 80/20 rule.

As the adage goes, 20 percent of agents do 80 percent of the business. That isn’t the case at John L. Scott, where they focus on skill mastery and require agents to demonstrate techniques they’ve learned in training sessions and classes. The company has even created its own designation—certified seller marketing specialist. To attain the title, agents must demonstrate a full presentation in front of their office leader and acquire five listings. The practice helps agents “walk into that listing presentation with confidence,” Scott says, which can make all the difference. 

Over at RE/MAX 440 and RE/MAX Central in Perkasie and Allentown, Penn., the focus has also been on thoroughly training new agents. Broker-partner Tom Skiffington says they’ve developed a 10-week coaching program for recruits that covers budgeting, technology, sales techniques, and more. All agents are required to attend and complete homework that helps them apply the teaching to their business. Classes are limited to 12 agents. 

Skiffington admits that his company is also very selective about who they bring aboard. “It’s not the level of production in our office, but the level of professionalism,” he says. “Look at your culture and ask yourself who you want in your office.”

For Jon Coile, when it comes to recruiting agents and hiring staff, he says, “Hire happy people” because they lift the spirit of the office and create a better work environment.

And when it comes to keeping his agents happy, Coile, CEO and president of Champion Realty in Annapolis and Severna Park, Md., puts the personal touch on all his interactions. Case in point, he hosts a weekly video corporate e-newsletter where he gets in front of the camera and talks directly to his sales associates, keeping them up to date on important information, news, and events.

“I want them to see me and hear from me,” Coile says. “It’s a little Wayne’s World, but it’s also authentic.”

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