Brokers: Think twice before blaming agents

Realtor Notebook

Brokers sometimes wonder why their agents won’t come to weekly office meetings — if they come to the office at all — or don’t take advantage of the technology training that brokers offer.

If brokers stopped to consider their agents’ point of view, they might realize that the answers to these questions are staring them in the face. 

Here’s a list of gripes you often hear from brokers, and some agent perspective on each.

1. My agents are not committed. They won’t take the time to come to the weekly office meeting.

Have you ever worked on a 100 percent commission basis? Most agents spend their time looking for clients and selling real estate if they have listings and buyers. Will attending the office meeting help them make money? Is it a worthwhile event or just a boring monologue and a reminder to replace the paper in the copy machine? Do you even know how to run a meeting?

If the meeting helps the agents in some way, they will come. Or is it just another uninspired office meeting, because you are supposed to have an office meeting? Having doughnuts helps, but it isn’t enough to get people to come to really boring meetings.

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The broker-manager should be more concerned about the agents who DO show up to these meetings than those who miss them because they’re out looking for business or working with clients.

2. I want to invest in new technology, but my agents won’t use it.

Is the technology something that will help agents make money? Does it work? Are your agents a tech-savvy, forward-thinking group of businesspeople who can use technology, or have you recruited agents based on their ability to fog a mirror?

If the answer to all three questions isn’t yes, then maybe it’s time to move on and let someone else manage the brokerage — and hire someone who can do a better job explaining technology.

Often by the time a brokerage adapts technology it isn’t new anymore. Sometimes it’s more of an encumbrance than a useful tool. The best way to find out if the technology you are offering to your agents is useful is to ask them.

Much of the technology I have seen over the years in brokerages isn’t nearly as good as what I use on my own. Often the managers do not understand or really embrace the idea of using technology in the real estate business.

I have never before worked in an industry where vendors decide what we need and then make it and try to sell it to us and generally ignore real needs.

3. Most of my agents are too lazy to get up in the morning and come into the office.

Does your office have as much to offer as an agent’s home office? Do agents have to pay for space that they can get for free at a coffee shop or for cheap at a collaborative? Do some agents come in and whine and act as demotivators? Is the environment conducive to working?

Are your agents out in the evening showing properties or meeting with home sellers? Are your agents likely to have more contact with current and future clients or be able to network with perspective clients by going into your office? Is being a real estate agent really a 9-to-5 office-type job?

Honestly, with the recession and the crash of the housing market and the price of gasoline and the damage our energy consumption habits are doing to the planet, agents should not have to drive to an office just to work.

We spend plenty of time in our cars meeting with clients and showing houses. Most professionals have phones and computers at home. Buyers find us on the Internet, not in our offices. We can work anywhere, and some agents just don’t see the benefits of working in an office with their closest competitors.

Managers and brokers who need to have contractors or employees in physical proximity so they can manage should find a new line of work. By definition, independent contractors work without supervision and determine where and when they will work. Collaboration and communication of most any kind can occur through one of the many electronic devices most of us look at all day. In fact, most people pay more attention to the screen on their phone than they do to the people they are with.

Agents who need structure and a traditional office environment to sell real estate should consider a career in government, or get a job at a company where there is plenty of structure and maybe even a time clock to punch in and out of.

4. Why don’t more agents take advantage of the technology training we offer?

It has been a few years since I have attended a technology-type class at a brokerage, but that doesn’t mean I’ve forgotten what they were like.

Usually a vendor came in to show us a new product, and it was called technology training. I am inclined to avoid real estate industry-type technology training. It is often aimed at the agents who are still trying to master the basics.

Sometimes technical training is showing agents how to fill out forms for the brokerage. I don’t recall ever sitting through an entire "technology" class. Yet I seem to be able to stay current or even ahead.

If you are a broker or manager who says stuff like this, maybe it would be a good idea to stop and talk to your agents and ask them why they are the way they are. Talk to the 20 percent who are bringing in 80 percent of the sales.

Teresa Boardman is a broker in St. Paul, Minn., and founder of the St. Paul Real Estate blog.


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