- Team leaders aren't lead distributors. They must help agents build their career from the ground up.
As a team leader who is constantly searching for ways to add value, I reached out to some of the best in the business to see how they contribute to their team’s success every day. Turns out they’re all basically working from the same playbook, whether they know it or not.
Each leader brings something unique to his or her team, but most of what they do is in alignment.
Provide more than just leads
Buying leads is a common practice among team leaders, but it certainly isn’t the only value they can (or should) contribute.
“We develop from the ground up how to be amazing agents,” said Vija Williams of The Vija Group in Seattle, Washington, who a year ago had to rebuild her team from scratch after it imploded with 85 percent total turnover within eight months. After losing everything, she’s now on track to do $80 million in sales this year and uses her experience to foster a fail-forward culture. “We hold their hands through their development. That’s way more important than just providing leads. We’re not just handing them fish. We’re giving them a pole and teaching them to use it.”
As the cost for digital leads rises, there will eventually be dwindling real return on investment in this arena, said Kris Lindahl of the Kris Lindahl Team in the Twin Cities.
This poses some interesting questions for team leaders. If providing leads was taken out of the equation, what else are you offering? Are leads just a crutch, an easy way to dole out something tangible? If stripped away, would we be forced to be more innovative and collaborative?
Williams provides her team with admin and marketing help. “I think about how they should be spending their time — they should be keeping their clients happy, doing deals and lead generating,” Williams said. “Let us handle everything else. Everyone wants to talk about providing leads, but it’s so much more than that.
Go beyond mentoring
“We are here to make them millionaires,” said Jeff Quintin of The Quintin Group in Ocean City, New Jersey. “We help do that by coaching and training them and creating an environment for them to succeed.”
It’s a big value proposition, Williams said. First, leaders need to coach, train and mentor their team members.
Williams’ team has a 90-day ramp up for new agents because most have worked in sales but not in real estate. In the first 15 days, the new agents preview 50 hand-picked homes including new builders, condos and single-family homes.
Williams’s agents also have open house 101 training in which her new agents shadow a senior agent on an open house before doing their own.
“They get training as simple as where to park, how to place signs, how to prepare the home, what to say and so on. We have this sort of training for practically every part of their business,” she said.
“We also provide massive accountability for our team members as their coaches,” Williams added. “Each week during their coaching sessions, they have to turn in their numbers so we can track their activities and results.”
Create a culture of community
“Massive” was a word I heard over and over as team leaders described the success they wanted for their agents. Yet, interestingly, each team leader was surprised to learn his or her peers thought of it the same way, using the same adjective.
In this dog-eat-dog, constantly changing, fluid business with days of the highest of highs and the lowest of lows, these team leaders have found a way to provide the most basic of human desires: feeling wanted, appreciated and included by their tribe.
“You must put their success before your own,” said Chris Watters of Watters International Realty in Austin, Texas. “You don’t have to be good at lead generation or lead conversion. If you are a good leader and create the right culture, then people who can do those things will come to you.”
Williams is keenly aware of the importance of community, and she closely watches others who have created this type of atmosphere.
“We elevate everyone together and try to create a positive environment, which in real estate is rare,” said Lindahl. “There is usually a lot of negativity and drama in the brokerage world. We are here to share and to grow together on a massive scale. People are capable of so much more when you treat them right.”
Part of a successful culture with so many personalities also includes showing vulnerability.
“My team has seen me cry, and they have seen me fail,” said Veronica Figueroa, The Figueroa Team in Orlando, Florida. “But they have also seen me roll up my sleeves and work. I don’t ask them to do something I wouldn’t do myself. And they need to know that.
“We have core values, and we call each other out when whenever we are off track. We understand each other’s motivation language.”
For those looking to grow their team, it’s obvious that recruiting the right people will play a role in what the culture will be like.
“Every single person must be fiercely committed to the bigger vision of the organization,” said Watters. “It seems like everyone is about agent recruiting and having lots of agents. Our focus is about creating a culture of productivity. We want to hire a few Navy SEALS, not and army of foot soldiers.”
“It really matters who you hire and bring on board,” she said. “We are way more picky now. They have to work well in our system. Personalities are involved. Their values and focus have to be aligned and similar.
“We have fun together. We laugh together. We cry together. It’s almost like we are a family. That doesn’t really exist much. Most people don’t talk about their jobs like that.”
Showcase your X-factor
Shared playbook or not, every team is going to be unique in some ways. It brings up an important question: how is your team different? And if you have difficulty answering that question, then perhaps that’s the first bit of soul searching required.
For Williams, it’s failure.
“We have a failing forward philosophy,” she said. “We celebrate failing. We applaud it. We expect it. We encourage it. We know that the more they fail, the more massive their success will be.”
For Lindahl, it’s the brand.
“Everyone in the state of Minnesota knows our name,” he said. “There is a consumer awareness and a level of trust there that has been years in the making and would be hard to duplicate. We have branded the team in such a way that my agents are trusted and have name recognition from the start.”
For Figueroa, it’s giving some level of ownership to the team.
“We have a team advisory board team comprised of agents on the team who can help me as a team leader bring value,” she said. “They get to be brutally honest with me and our sales director. They are responsible for giving feedback and ideas to make us a better team.”
This is just a glimpse of what successful and profitable teams are doing to build and grow. The secret to success is that there’s no secret.
Value is not elusive, but rather a consistent effort of providing leadership, skill sets, a community and a place to call home.