- When rolling out new technology to agents, be sure to keep it small, take it slow, deliver value, empower agents to learn and focus on retention over adoption.
Across the board, brokerages struggle to reach even modest adoption rates in software implementations among their agents; the average rate for agents using brokerage-provided software is an abysmal 6 percent.
At William Pitt Sotheby’s, we recently rolled out an intelligent customer relationship management platform (iCRM) and have achieved an adoption rate of about 66 percent — so far — which is higher than the 40 percent to 60 percent the iCRM provider usually achieves.
It wasn’t because we have an inordinate amount of tech-savvy millennials; our agents are on par with the national average.
Want to know how we did it?
Below, learn a multi-faceted training approach that eases agents into learning, encourages long-term use and creates adoption through peer promotion — plus how you too can implement new tech with your agents.
5 tips for a successful training program
Here are the four principles that are key to successful tech adoption:
Before introducing software to the entire company, create a beta group of about 15 real estate agents of varying ages and experience levels. Talk with them about their pain points with particular daily business practices.
Have them create a baseline of what matters to them most.
Having a clear understanding of the common issues allows you to create training that will appeal to the largest audience and focus on the key features of the software that will address their needs, rather than showing dozens of features that are overwhelming.
When you present the technology to the group, deliver value that is tailored to as many of them as possible.
Emphasize the features that will help them get back to what drew them into real estate in the first place: the human relationship between agent and client. Emphasize that technology can bring joy back to their business through deepening human relationships.
Treat the initial demonstration of the platform as the “endorphin drip” that allows agents to dispel fear and makes them feel good about the technology.
This increases the chance that they will tell others about their positive experience and encourage them to try it, which in turn creates more promotors. It also fosters trust while eliminating frustrations or fear with new technology.
Empower agents to want to learn
The median age of an agent is higher than most other industries. This means that they carry many more previous negative experiences with technology than most people. Even more challenging, many agents are technology phobic and believe that technology will eventually push them out of their jobs.
During your first meeting with agents, talk with them in person about what a new tool can help them with, even if they are not naturally tech-savvy. Don’t pressure agents to learn, but instead, stress that each agent has a choice and total control. You do not want to create a negative experience.
Many feel that the use of these tools is required to exist in the real estate space, and this is the first problem with gaining adoption.
If I was told that I had to eat beets to stay healthy or I would die, I might do it, but I would resent it every step of the way. But if you showed me five simple recipes that I could make with beets and taught me how to do it, I would be more inclined to eat them and show others how to do the same. Yes, I really hate beets.
If the agent feels hesitant about learning something new, compare the experience to riding a bike. Say “no one was ever born knowing how to ride a bike. You had to practice, fall a few times and someone had to run behind you holding the seat until you got it. This is no different.”
No one is born knowing how to use technology.
Take it slow
After the initial presentation and introduction, wait about three weeks before returning to have agents sign up for the training. During that time, keep the momentum going by sending out emails about other ways the iCRM or other tech can help them grow their relationships and business.
The time between introduction and training registration builds excitement and gives agents a chance to confer about whether they will participate. That time lag also helps leadership garner the support of the office’s management and executives.
Once the training takes place, continue to take things slowly to help agents learn the platform without feeling overwhelmed. Focus on building the foundation, and then eventually work toward helping them easily tailor the system to serve their individual needs.
Each training session should be short, concise, focused and end with a task to practice. The following week, follow up and talk about what agents practiced. Then, work on the next segment.
In this manner, agents who have had negative experiences with technology won’t feel intimidated or frustrated. They are more likely to keep trying and learning if they feel confident.
Keep it small
Keep training sessions small. Don’t train more than 10 people at a time. Keeping the class small enables you to control the process and keep them working at the same pace. Remember, don’t roll tools out to everyone at the same time; make it incremental and voluntary.
Inevitably, some agents make mistakes during a training session because they move slowly, while others make mistakes because they move too quickly. To combat that, put the slow and fast agents together and have them work as a team.
One will help the other move along at a quicker pace, and the other will slow the fast one down. When the two agents work as a team, they engage in the training more fully and are less likely to resent each other.
Focus on retention vs. adoption
Although adoption rates matter, plan your training program around retention. If we were to have 200 people sign up the first week, this may be viewed as a success.
But if only 30 people are still using the software one week later, we haven’t accomplished a worthwhile, sustainable goal. We would rather start off with only 50 people and make that experience spectacular.
Tell agents that certain tools are not for everyone, and if they choose not to use it, that’s completely alright. When they hear others promoting it, they eventually come to it on their own terms.
Emphasize the value of the software and empower agents to invest time in learning to use it successfully, and you will automatically create promoters who share its benefits. The goal of a successful platform is to have the agents increase productivity, income and create long-standing loyalty toward the firm. With a long-term focus, continue to increase adoption rates by having its continued use and agent success as the driver.
Regularly feature agent success stories for other agents to see. You can raffle off iPads for the best promoters using the platform. You can have office parties around the platform. All of these efforts focus on having the existing users feel like they are part of a unique club, one that rewards their efforts and shows that you are proud of their success.
The real success is someone having a career that is meaningful, long-lasting and empowered.
Lance Pendleton is the chief innovation officer with William Pitt Julia B Fee Sotheby’s International Realty in Stamford, Connecticut. Follow Lance on Facebook, or connect with him on LinkedIn.