Brokerages are failing their agents: Here’s why

Training programs are essential to agent success

Our industry has a bad reputation, right down at the bottom of the heap with personal injury attorneys and used car salesmen. And you know what? I think we’ve done something to earn that spot. Before you get all fired up in the comment section, though, hear me out.

We are lucky to have a great many people in this industry who lead with a heart for service. They want to do the right thing. They want to create memorable experiences that turn into lasting relationships. They want to leave things better than they found them. They want to put their clients’ needs first and foremost by skillfully guiding them through transactions.

While we have a long way to go, it seems to me that brokerages have been doing a better job of attracting the kind of people who want to build something better while avoiding the ones who, before the housing collapse, were only in it for the money. Where we continue to fail is after the agent is hired. Once the agency contract is signed, too often we’re on to the next conquest.

Although most brokerages attract new agents with the promise of training and mentorship, very few actually follow through. This leaves us with a massive pool of agents without the skills, confidence or competence to perform their fiduciary duties. And the biggest losers in this scenario are the clients — the same ones that we are here to serve with the utmost care.

Sure, training is exhausting and time-consuming. I know, because I do it. But we owe it to the public. And, frankly, we owe it to ourselves. If we want a better reputation, we need to start earning it.

By training, I mean spending the necessary time going through the fundamentals of the business. It’s the “unsexy” work of diving into forms and deciphering what the contract language means in real-life situations. It’s teaching agents how to build and maintain a database to create repeat business over the life of their careers. It’s about establishing a business plan and a realistic budget with checkpoints throughout the year. It’s harnessing the agent’s entrepreneurial spirit and passion for service, and then helping the agent present that to the marketplace.

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Being passionate about learning is one thing. Setting up a training program is quite another. However, I believe if you take the time to train your agents, you will find that the rewards far outweigh the investment.

Here’s where I suggest you start:

Contracts and forms

Earlier, I said training involves a fair amount of “unsexy” work — and I wasn’t lying. Contracts are the foundation of our business, and we need to give them their due respect. This is where we start our training program, because everything else emanates from the contract. At our company, we spend days breaking down what each paragraph actually means in real terms and setting the bar high with regard to the expectations for agent performance. We also cover risk management issues and title insurance, and we make sure our agents are familiar with any lending requirements and what they can do to keep the process moving forward.

Most of us are not attorneys, but as agents we owe it to our clients to understand and be able to explain basic real estate contracts and related addenda. After all, clients will want to know what they are signing and why. Your agents should be trained to perform this task and answer their questions with confidence.

Training agents about the ins and outs of contracts helps protect the brokerage from a legal standpoint and sets the bar for the standards of professional behavior we expect from all our agents.

Market statistics

Statistics matter, and your agents need to know how to apply them in their everyday business. Obviously, market knowledge is fundamental when going into a listing presentation or helping buyers make informed decisions, or in the elevator speeches we repeat when someone asks how the market is doing. Having an understanding of real estate economic trends is key to any agent’s success.

At our firm, we train our new agents to pull price range and demographic reports from our local MLS and other sources. Understanding how to compile and interpret this information instills confidence in our agents; when agents are confident, they can do just about anything!

Presentations

Presentations to buyers and sellers are another important part of our training program. In addition to running through the content of each presentation, we spend time role-playing. Since so much of the success of the presentation is tied up in the confidence of the presenter and being able to build rapport with the prospect, this is a major focus of our training. Being able to articulate your value proposition is key, and every touch point makes an impact.

We train our agents in overcoming objections and personal marketing so that our agents feel confident in how they present themselves to their clients, which has an impact on their success.

This may seem overwhelming, but training is vital to the success of the agent and the representation of your brand. You need to invest the time. The most important thing that we convey during our program is that we support our agents and will do whatever we can to make them successful. Building confidence in themselves and the brokerage is paramount. 

If you value your brand and your agents, you must make this program mandatory for all new agents. In our office, we make that clear during the interview. In the off-chance we run into an agent who doesn’t share our vision, we wish them success at a firm that will be a better fit.

Brokerages need to lead by example through a commitment to the consumer and create an industry where training is the expectation and not the exception. If we want a more positive public opinion, this is the only way to do it.

Sunny Lake has served the Bellingham, Washington, real estate community for the past 10 years in a variety of roles; she’s currently the sales manager of Coldwell Banker Bain, where she wrangles the 60 real estate agents.