Training on a Dime

In difficult market conditions, here's how to bring your team up to speed without busting your budget.

March 1, 2011

This market is too unpredictable to ask your associates to navigate it alone. But it’s difficult to provide training if you’ve shaved your budget to the bone. Here are five ideas for implementing no-cost or low-cost training programs for your associates.

  1. Have sales associates train each other. Mike Turner, broker-owner at Front Street Brokers in Boise, Idaho, schedules twice-weekly morning training workshops for which sales associates pick the topics. The key, says Turner, is getting sales associates to lead the sessions for which they’re the experts. He gets less-experienced but tech-savvy sales associates to take charge of technology training and asks top producers to cover topics like overcoming buyer objections. "We leverage all the experience in the room, and collectively everybody is getting something out of it," says Turner. "It also creates camaraderie and motivation within the office." In the past, Turner had encouraged his sales associates to take local training courses, but "they were infrequent and expensive."
  2. Lean on local professionals. Adam Kruse, ­broker at The Hermann London Group in Maplewood, Mo., offers sales associates two to three training opportunities weekly, and none cost his company a dollar because he taps local service providers. "We’ll have a home inspector walk our sales associates through a house, pointing out problems and explaining the home systems," explains Kruse. "Our accountant gives tax and accounting tips." Other ­examples: A title officer reveals the top 10 title problems, or a short-sale attorney explains short sales.
  3. Present and discuss free videos. Camille Miller, managing partner at Just Jersey Properties in Flemington, N.J., recommends watching YouTube videos to learn the latest on technology or social media. Many coaches and trainers, from Tom Ferry to Dirk Zeller, have also uploaded short, targeted training videos to YouTube. You’ll also find training videos at REALTOR.org, including education sessions from the 2010 REALTORS® Conference & Expo (REALTOR.org/conferencelive). For the greatest effectiveness, don’t ask your sales associates to watch videos on their own. Review them yourself first, and then show the best ones to the group at a sales meeting. Stop the video once in a while to reinforce points or ask sales associates to suggest other techniques that expand on the speaker’s suggestions.
  4. Turn to your REALTOR® association. REALTOR® associations throughout the country offer free training resources. Miller teaches some of the free classes her board, the Hunterdon/Somerset Association of REALTORS®, offers weekly for members. From NAR’s field guides to its videos on demand, online training materials are only a few clicks away. Choose a free resource, and use it to kick off a discussion among your sales associates.
  5. Use online tools. Need to provide one-on-one training for an associate who’s out of the office? Try Skype, which allows you to videoconference for free. To train more than one associate at a time, consider using Go to Webinar. For about $750 per year, PenFed Realty of Reston, Va., gets unlimited access to Go to Webinar, allowing the company to train up to 100 of its 132 sales associates at once; the fee also provides access to saved webinars. Topics have included how to use the company’s Web site and best practices for setting up sales associates’ Web sites. "We also use it to teach things like using REALTOR.com’s enhanced options and uploading HouseLogic content from the REALTOR® Content Resource to their own marketing materials. The best part is that sales associates actually see and handle the Web site during the sessions," says Karl Trommler, CRS, GRI, business development manager of PenFed.
freelance writer

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

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