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: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Path to Becoming a Real Estate Trainer
Learn how three women have built names for themselves as coaches while maintaining their successful real estate businesses.
June 28, 2019
During Kris Ford’s first year in real estate, she used her background in media and marketing to create a digital marketing and brand awareness strategy on social media. She ended up making six figures in seven months, and within three years, she tripled her income.
It was at that point that Ford, a sales associate with Michigan Homes Group Inc., in the Detroit area, received a call from the CEO of her MLS. He wanted to know how Ford was creating buzz and winning listings in territories veteran agents traditionally served. Ford explained that she was focusing on brand awareness on Facebook. He then asked her to conduct social media training at the MLS. Her classes were booked. From there, Ford received so many requests for classes that she decided to learn how to jump-start her budding career as a trainer.
Making the leap into training is a natural transition for many experienced real estate professionals. But building a successful coaching business while continuing to sell homes or manage a real estate company can be demanding without proper support systems in place.
Juggling Sales and Coaching
Leigh Brown, a well-known industry speaker, author, and trainer based in Charlotte, N.C., started her training career 10 years ago while also juggling the roles of team leader and broker-in-charge at RE/MAX Executive Realty’s Concord office. On her LinkedIn profile, she calls herself the “most entertaining motivational speaker . . . you will ever meet.” Having a real estate team in place was instrumental for her, she says, when making the transition into coaching. “Have someone at home who can care for clients when you’re not available,” she says. At the very least, Brown suggests, find a referral partner who can handle your buyers and sellers when you’re not in town. “The concept of work-life balance is a myth; it’s about management. You have to learn to say no because you don’t have the bandwidth to do everything well.”
Brown is selective about how she fills her days. Passing on buyers to a buyer’s agent was one of her first acts of delegation years ago. “You can’t add a second story to a trailer; you need a foundation,” she says. “If organization and detail isn’t your strong suit, hire an admin first, and know what you’re hiring them to do.”
For Ford, it’s all about systems. As a solo agent, she’s still doing between 30 and 50 transactions a year with an average price point of $300,000. She splits her time evenly between real estate sales and running her training company, The Real Estate Marketing Institute®. Two of the most essential tools she uses to accomplish this includes a website with CRM integration that tracks visitors, what they click on, and whether they want to schedule a showing. On the transaction management side, she relies on TransactionDesk, which allows her to write offers on her phone.
Real estate coach Julie Youngblood, CEO of the Youngblood Real Estate Network and leader of the Youngblood Real Estate Team at Keller Williams Realty Las Vegas, is a self-proclaimed “psycho” about time-blocking. “I’m committed 100% to my time blocks. I don’t allow interruptions. Otherwise, things don’t get done,” she says. Youngblood has learned to delegate and trust that others can do the job.
Youngblood is up by 5 a.m. She prefers to work in the office, where she starts her coaching calls at 6 a.m., working with folks on the East Coast first. She wraps up by 11 a.m., then focuses on her real estate clients. Her assistant brings her lunch while she takes care of team business, then heads to the gym at 4:30 p.m. The rest of her day is spent with her children. She also takes Sundays off.
Teaching Your Passions
Similar to Ford, Youngblood started her training career when someone else—in this case another real estate pro—recognized her skill set and sought advice. Licensed in 2001 at the age of 19, Youngblood says her first four years in the business were like her college education. During that time, she studied real estate, including the inner workings of a real estate office, how to efficiently use the MLS, and the importance of using scripts. She also made it a point to learn every sales and staff position. Over the years, she built a top-producing team, and when the market crashed during the Great Recession, she helped her team build systems to track REO properties. Other team leaders started hiring her as a consultant to analyze their setup and staff. She makes recommendations on how to hire and which systems to bring on board. Sometimes, they’ll also pay her to do it for them.
In addition to operating her own coaching business, Youngblood works with Metrix Coaching & Training. She has about 20 to 30 coaching clients while continuing to sell homes and manage her real estate team, closing around 100 deals per year. Having her boots on the ground, Youngblood says, has made her a better coach. “People relate to me more. I’m building a team while helping other people build teams. I can’t say one thing to my coaching clients and not deliver that same level of service to my own buyers and sellers,” she says.
While Youngblood, Ford, and Brown all help agents build their own real estate businesses and brands, Brown especially loves teaching agents that they can be who they are rather than who they think they’re supposed to be. She tells the agents she trains to “care to have an opinion, dress the way you think you should, give yourself permission to show your tattoos. Your unique aspects are exactly why your clients love you.” Brown lays out the benefits of pull marketing as opposed to push marketing. “In pull marketing, you tell people, ‘This is who I am and how I conduct my business,’ and people are drawn to you.” In pull marketing you can grow a more loyal following than in push marketing, which involves unsolicited advertising.
National Real Estate
Leigh Brown has a particular passion for teaching the National Association of REALTORS® Code of Ethics. In 2018, she launched a live-streaming event that she dubbed National Real Estate Ethics Day, with a dual purpose: help REALTORS® fulfill NAR's Code of Ethics training requirement and benefit the REALTORS® Relief Foundation, NAR’s charitable foundation that provides housing-related assistance to victims of disaster. Brown's second annual event, on June 27, was live-streamed to 23 state REALTOR® associations and several local associations. Many groups had viewing parties, says Citrus Valley Association of REALTORS® CEO Mark Epstein, who hosted Brown in his association’s studio. Epstein and others worked with members of the California State Senate and Assembly to get June 27 officially recognized as National Real Estate Ethics Day in California, and Brown donated 100% of the $20,000 collected in registration fees to the Relief Foundation. “My goal is to teach ethics in a creative, enticing way and get conversations going,” Brown says. An annual event encourages members to take Code of Ethics classes more often, she adds, which should lead to to increased awareness and professionalism throughout the industry.
As she outlined in her book, Outrageous Authenticity: You Are Your Best Sales Weapon (Mallard Creek Publishing, 2016), in a purely entrepreneurial industry, it’s antithetical for real estate professionals to hide their true selves. “Social media has told us to stay in your silo and not to say anything because keyboard warriors will yell at you in all caps,” Brown says. “You have to let some people go; not everyone is going to like you. People are trying to be amenable to everyone, and it’s not sustainable or realistic.”
Standing Out in a Crowd
Every real estate trainer has a different perspective and point of view. People go to Ford because they see her as being tech-savvy and able to help them build their brand and business on social platforms. They’re attracted to Youngblood’s methods because she’s tactical, focuses on structure, and holds people to their goals. Brown draws people in with her truth-telling approach and ability to help them show their value proposition.
If you think you have what it takes to be a trainer, start with building a solid foundation as you have in your real estate business:
- Get approvals to teach courses through your local real estate board.
- Seek reviews and accolades from associations and the professionals you train.
- Get the name of your training company federally trademarked.
- Be specific on your website about how you’re going to help your coaching clients meet their goals. Offer examples, handouts, or a free consultation.
“There are a lot of sharks out there who claim they have all these great tools and training, but with my group, there’s no mandatory membership. If it doesn’t fit your needs, that’s fine,” Ford says.
If you're interested in teaching classes at your local REALTOR® association or MLS, start by attend trainings to see what they offer and how they teach the subject matter, Ford suggests. Participate in association and MLS events. Build relationships with other real estate pros in your market. "That’s a great way to get your name out there," Ford says. "Learn the successes of other agents and build strong relationships with the REALTORS® who are doing 80 percent of the business."
Ford's local board is the Gross Pointe Board of REALTORS® in Grosse Pointe, Mich., where she teaches three classes a year. In terms of pricing, some of the classes Ford teaches are free, but most run between $80 and $160 for the registration fee depending on the class length and topics involved. The association markets the classes and includes her registration link in their member emails. As for what she charges the agents and brokers she coaches through The Real Estate Marketing Institute®, Ford conducted market research. She learned what competitors charge and asked members of her new agent Facebook group what they'd be willing to pay for certain programs and classes. Her Socially Savvy Academy, for instance, is $497, which includes on-demand tutorials on capturing leads and building brand awareness on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Google. She also covers ad development that adheres to Fair Housing laws.
Brown notes that a lot of instructors have a fear of sharing everything that’s made them successful. “They only share platitudes and bits and pieces,” she says. “I gave up a lot by not sharing more sooner. When you lay it all out there, there’s so much you get in return. People are with you, and you build each other up.”
There’s also fear on the broker side. Ford moved her real estate business to a small, independent brokerage last year, leaving her previous franchise brokerage because so many broker-owners voiced concerns that she might try to recruit their agents to a bigger brand through her training. But Ford says she’s starting to see less of that now that she's with a boutique firm. “There’s such high demand to maintain excellence in the real estate industry and benefit consumers. At some point, I will have no choice but to transition into The Real Estate Marketing Institute® full-time,” she says.
One of the biggest positives Brown has discovered as a trainer is that it has impacted her view of other people’s intentions—for the better. “When I was trying to be number one all the time, it was all about me. I was always thinking, I have to get better, I have to get more market share,” says Brown. “But being a trainer, I’ve realized that the vast majority of agents aren’t malicious or cutthroat. They want to give back to their communities and do a good job.”