How to Convince Agents Not to Leave

Having a candid conversation with an agent who’s being recruited by a competing brokerage may change their mind about jumping ship.

September 14, 2016

We’ve all heard that dreaded rumbling around the office. It’s the unsettling sound of agents considering leaving the organization you’ve worked so hard to make compatible with them. Disconcerted agents most likely have their next company picked out. If they haven’t been actively recruited, they’ve been talking with friends elsewhere, comparing your company to your competitors.

Before they go, you have one last shot to uncover the source of their itch, work through their issues, and determine if their prospective company is really the right fit for them. Here are my top tips for helping agents understand why making a move might not be the answer:

Be Honest

Establishing open communication with all of your agents from day one is the most important step. You’ll build a relationship that can survive any rumblings before they become full-blown earthquakes. But if an agent is reaching their breaking point, speak candidly with them about their frustrations before they pack up. Even if you haven’t had a relationship with them until now, this can make them reevaluate leaving.

Get to the Heart of Their Concerns

The agent may have a laundry list of gripes about the office’s functionality, such as the printer not working. But that’s not why they’re really leaving. By diving deeper into the conversation, you’ll most likely discover that something deep — most likely having to do with business performance — has rattled them. It’s much easier to point fingers than to examine their own business strategies. Talk about what isn’t working for them and how you might be able to help.

Change Comes From Within

An agent’s production may increase for a short period after switching companies. But it’s important they realize that an initial increase will probably come from their newfound motivation rather than what the new brokerage can do from them. For instance, they’ll finally tackle that website, launch that social media plan, or create that newsletter they’ve been meaning to do.

The key here is getting your agent to find that motivation and support at your office. How they conduct their marketing and day-to-day management skills has everything to do with their production and overall happiness as a professional real estate agent.

How You Can Help Them

This is where your mentorship skills — the reason they selected your company in the first place — can shine. Work through what they are currently doing in their business and unveil what they could be doing differently to boost those coveted production levels. Ask them why they should go to the expense of new signs and mailers when they can get a business lift by executing a few key actions at your company without the extra cost and hassle.

Make an Exception

You may come to understand that the agent is going through a rough patch, such as divorce or illness, and the pain isn’t permanent. If you can design a temporary business solution to aid them through hardship, you’ll most likely convert them into the most loyal comrade who will sing your praises.

Probe Into the ‘New Company’

Asking questions beyond the basic “why are you doing this?” can show the agent that a move may be detrimental to their happiness and success. Don’t be defensive. Remember: This is about them, not you. Here are some helpful questions:

  • Where are your friends and mentors? They’re probably at your company. Any agent worth fighting for has made strong connections that have helped move their business forward at your company. Are they willing to give those up? Ask them if they remember the loneliness of starting at a new school. How’s this any different?
  • What’s the new company’s footprint? If your company has broad resources in nearby towns and neighborhoods, an agent moving to a smaller company may have a hard adjustment. How easy will it be to pop over to the office in the neighboring city to sign paperwork? What kind of resources will they have when a surprise listing surfaces on the other side of town? Or conversely, if your company is boutique, will the agent feel swallowed up at a larger brokerage?
  • What are the agents like? In such a public-facing business, agents need to feel proud of how their company is represented within the marketplace. Do they trust and respect the agents at the company they want to move to? If they aren’t sure, agents may rethink the risk associated with starting fresh somewhere new.
  • What was promised? Too often, agents will come back with their tail between their legs after not receiving what was promised from their new company. Offering just a few extra resources that may seem small to you could be huge to an agent. A casual warning that the new company may not deliver on these promises, while you will, could be all that is needed.
  • Competing with the principal broker or owner? Digging into the dynamics of the relationship with the new company’s principal broker or owner is essential. Ask your agent if they’ll have direct access to this person. Does he or she care about their agents’ businesses? If the principal broker-owner is the top salesperson in the office, you have your answer.

If your unsettled agent isn’t capable of candid conversation, then their exit possibly isn’t your loss. They may just need to experience the hard knocks that a new company might bring. Leave the door open for them to return stronger, more street-savvy, and with a hard-earned work ethic.

It’s a painful truth that agents will leave. Losing agents that you not only care about but have also trained and mentored can be very heartbreaking. Do your best to retain them, but if they leave, simply let them go and wish them well. Life is short. Don’t beat yourself up about it or curse them and burn a bridge. They may eventually come back to you stronger than ever. And if they leave on good terms, they will certainly speak highly of you to others, which may help bring other great agents to your doorstep.


 

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Joan Allen is a co-owner of Windermere Stellar and cochair of the Windermere Foundation. As co-owner of Windermere Stellar, Joan provides overall strategies for management, marketing, and company direction. Joan works with multiple nonprofits in the region as cochair of the local Windermere Foundation, which supports charitable organizations that assist low-income children and families. She also serves on the board of directors for New Avenues for Youth, Bridge Meadows, and Providence Portland Medical Center, and is an advisory board member for Girls Inc.

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