“You have a company that, quite frankly, very few agents leave,” said Sherry Chris to Red Oak Realty’s Vanessa Bergmark at Broker Connect, part of last week’s Inman Connect New York event.

“We spend so much time as an industry recruiting and focusing on who we still need to get, and we don’t pay attention to the ones we have,” Bergmark said. “I do the opposite. I spend my time with the agents I have.”

The topic of their session was “how to re-recruit your existing sales force,” and they were joined by Michael Williamson of John Aaroe Group to talk about how to retain your best agents and help them feel valued.

‘Don’t forget the people who are in your house’

“It’s getting tougher to keep agents,” said Williamson. “Don’t forget the people who are in your house.”

Just like agents with clients, Williamson suggested that every broker keep track of agents’ marriages, birthdays and children — “so they know that you know they’re still there; they exist.”

Agents tend to get lost in the second and third quartiles of the year, he added, so providing tools and resources for tracking goals and keeping agents on point are also useful.

Don’t forget the staff, either

“If your staff is feeling taken care of, they are going to feel that more than any handwritten note,” said Bergmark.

“If you have a happy staff and happy managers, are hiring staff at a certain standard and holding them to that standard, you have huge staff retention, which is just as important as agent retention,” she added.

And you might be surprised at what keeps staff around.

“It’s less about commissions and more about the copy machine,” said Bergmark. “You will lose them if the copy machine breaks six times in one week, even if it’s not your fault.”

Staff are important, “and I don’t think we pay enough attention to that.”

Keep your eyes on the prize (at home)

“It costs you a lot more to go get the competitor than to keep the person you’ve got,” noted Williamson.

And don’t think that agents don’t notice the little things (or the absence thereof). “Your agents are being recruited by competitors who are offering them phenomenal things, and you can’t even give them a holiday party?” he asked rhetorically. “Do something nice that makes agents feel appreciated.”

“Parties aren’t just about the party — it’s also about the people at the party,” added Bergmark. “If you recruit with the same value system, they’re not just leaving you; they’re leaving their entire office of friends, and those parties and events and meetings are part of what keeps them connected to those friends all year long, so they’re very well worth the investment.”

And in between the parties, make your agents feel heard, Bergmark advised.

“We do something quarterly where we encourage our agents to tell us what’s bothering them,” she said.

“I love to keep it really high level, but the copier comes up,” she added. Still, it gives her agents a voice.

Tell them what you will and won’t fix — but even if the answer is “we’re not fixing it,” help them feel they have someone to talk to who is paying attention to them, she advised.

Email Amber Taufen

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