Agent training can be a pain point for many brokerage brands that are trying to grow — after all, the bigger you get, the less one-on-one attention you’re able to give.
That’s what Bamboo Realty sherpa/executive vice president Zach Schabot said has happened with his company, and it’s why he’s bringing real estate educator Alyssa Hellman — who will be leaving her gig as the director of the Go School of Real Estate — as the new head coach for Bamboo. She’ll start in October.
Inman caught up with both Hellman and Schabot to talk about the move and what it means for the company.
Inman: When did you two start discussing this move and how did the conversation develop?
Alyssa Hellman: The big thing is, Zach and I have been good friends for years, and one of the things that he knew was that I have grown an affinity and a true love for training and coaching agents and helping agents not just launch a thriving career, but also helping agents who have launched a career get to the next level.
I have shared this as a goal of mine in our personal conversations, so I think without speaking out of turn, Zach just saw a natural fit for what Bamboo was looking for and it made sense from there.
Zach Schabot: From my perspective, it happened very organically. Alyssa and I talk about the challenges we face, and we thought “Oh man, that would be a perfect fit for your dream job.” It sort of evolved out of a friendship, I think.
When Bamboo started thinking about bringing on a head coach, did you have her in mind already?
Schabot: It didn’t necessarily start with Alyssa in mind. We know that we have a different business model, so there’s really no off-the-shelf solution for us. Out of the top 25 real estate coaches, no one helps renters, and that’s a major part of our business.
We knew we needed help with training new agents, coaching agents who were transitioning from renters to sales and holding our top producers accountable. At first we were trying to build this platform to deliver training and use technology, and then we thought we’d go outside the industry to find a coach who could help — and the more we thought about it, Alyssa actually has all of these skills in one person. The more we talked about what we wanted … Alyssa built her business with both renters and sales, she came from a coaching background. We thought, “This is exactly the right person.”
Is there a big difference in how you coach a sales agent vs. a rental agent?
Hellman: I think the general focus is very similar. I built my business not just on renters but on building strong relationships with those renters.
The inherent challenge you face when you work with renters much more so than buyers and sellers is there’s a much faster turnover rate. You may meet a renter on a Thursday and Friday and have them sign a lease by that Monday. It’s a much shorter period of time you’re spending with them, so you don’t have as much of an opportunity to build a relationship.
You need to be a relationship ninja. It takes asking the right questions, making sure you’re not missing opportunities to connect with people, bring them value and show them you care. It’s a different approach.
It’s not that agents who are working with buyers and sellers are asking different questions or doing different things; they have a much longer period of time that they will work with a consumer. You may show somebody some houses for two, three, four weeks, even months, and even just the under-contract period is going to be 30 to 45 days. Right then and there the under-contract period is longer than most rentals will take.
The other thing that working with renters does is, although that initial period of time is shorter, it shows agents how to follow up after the close. If you put renters in an apartment this weekend, oftentimes those renters might decide to buy in a year or two. So staying in touch and providing value during the term of their lease is critical.
Does Bamboo have an existing training model that Hellman will be using, or will she be building her own?
Schabot: We’ve realized it’s not OK for Sarah [Schnell Jones] and I to do small group training — we’ve doubled the size of our company this year and we realize that’s not a solution. The more we grow, the more offices we open, we need someone who’s dedicated to this.
You can replicate a system but you can’t replicate a person. So we thought, let’s hire the right person and build the right system. We know we need this, it doesn’t exist, so let’s build it.
How will the training be executed — in person or virtually? Some say virtual training isn’t as effective; how do you feel about that stance?
Hellman: Because this training doesn’t exist, one thing I would love to do when I come on is simply talk to the agents and ask them, “What do you want, what do you think is missing?” I believe that will be a mixture of in-person as well as some virtual training, but it’s also just a level of support and accountability that we want to provide.
Schabot: We attract young agents, a lot of our clients are millennials; our agents are youngsters, the average age is about 32 years old. They’re used to using technology.
So when we tell them we can do some stuff by webinar, some stuff in person, they’re like, “Great, I can watch it in the car on my way to an appointment.”
As far as not having the ability to train well because you don’t have everybody sitting in the same room — I think that’s crap. I think it’s way easier than it used to be.
Part of what we’re doing is trying to deconstruct the typical broker-in-charge role and trying to ask if we can handle training from a national perspective on some things. Obviously, the local leaders and local brokers will have to teach agents about local laws, but can we handle the majority of training from a national level?
And we think we can. It takes a little bit of the mundane task off the local leader. We’ll see if we’re right.
Hellman: To piggyback off that, when you look at a coaching role, a head coach’s role is designed to get the best performance out of everybody — including the other coaches. While I certainly cannot fulfill that role for the contract and local laws training, I can assist the broker-in-charge in Houston and Dallas and Denver with best practices and how to relay that information in a way that agents will truly engage with it and absorb it.
Is there anything else you want to share with our readers?
Hellman: For me the biggest thing is — we’ve had this conversation at countless Inman Connects about how you get things to stick and how you relay these best practices to agents, and one of the things that really drew me to Bamboo is their desire to help agents get better. It’s their desire to provide before the agents are asking for it and put some of the budget toward training in a way that you don’t see a lot of companies do.
A lot of companies are investing really deeply in technology and not in training, and that ends up being a sunk cost because agents end up with a shiny new object but they don’t know how to use it. Hopefully we can get them to use all the best practices.
Schabot: I would love to say to people who are reading this is in smaller companies and boutique brokerages: Don’t be afraid to invest in something like this, to invest in training or coaching. Because all the technology in the world isn’t going to solve your problems.
That’s something we keep going back to. If you think that your people could use it, go out and spend the money on it and don’t think you have to justify it to anybody. We’re not spending as much on technology and we’re doubling down on our people; we went out and got someone to help all of our people get better.