Connect the Speakers: Veronica Figueroa on how to give agents skin in the game

"Team leaders are afraid to hold people accountable and have standards because they’re afraid people will leave them."

Veronica Figueroa cut her real estate teeth on REO properties, so when it comes to dealing with shift, this top-notch team leader knows her stuff. From creating micro-teams within the Figueroa Team to endeavoring to give her agents ownership and skin in the game so they think about the business she built as theirs, too, Figueroa is doing what she can to prepare for the changes to come in real estate.

She’ll be talking about how teams can deal with shift on a panel of experts at Inman Connect New York, January 29 through February 1 at the Marriott Marquis Times Square, and she discussed her strategy for the road ahead with us as well as where she thinks there are missed opportunity for focus in real estate.

Tell us a little more about your session. How will it address how the industry can embrace the shifting market?

What really helps us is that we sat down with our team and moved toward the uncomfortable conversations and conflict, and we expressed that we’re also vulnerable; We’re experiencing the same anxiety that they are. We did a roundtable and said: How are we going to combat this together? Are we doing a good job of touching our sphere and our past clients and doing as much as we can together? We have to take ownership of our careers and can’t let the disruptors come in and make us fear we’ll be out of a job. How can we be creative? What are the things you believe you can do to contribute toward us surviving this together?

The ideas they came up with were wonderful ideas, and I asked if they wanted to implement and run with that, and their eyes lit up and they said “Can I?” Even revamping our mission and core values, planning what we were going to do to touch our sphere, things like our closing gifts — giving them a voice on the team instead of having the hierarchy; I got them to buy in as if this was their business, and I think a lot of times people have this conception that they’re on a team but they’re not a voice of the team, and that’s where a lot of people will lose their agents.

The industry is shifting and technology is changing, and maybe you’re concerned you won’t be compensated like we used to, but how can we increase our level of competence and service? I crowdsource and ask about the most feasible things we can implement today that will impact our business. Team leaders need to be open to asking instead of telling, and encouraging their agents.

Make sure you hire the right people to the right vision and mission, and it can’t just be “Oh, we want to sell 300 homes.” They have to believe in your movement. Team leaders need to worry more about who they are as a team leader more than the fact that agents are leaving because there are no leads. We have to work together to stay top of mind and remind people we’re here to help.

What do you think are the biggest opportunities to focus on in the real estate industry right now?

I coach with some of the best agents across the nation, my coach is passionate about self-directed accountability groups. They should focus on understanding that at the end of the day, anyone can go out there and sell eight to 10 homes. If you have enough of a sphere and referral base, anyone can do that. But when you’re trying to have breakthrough careers, it’s got to be the accountable groups. Team leaders are afraid to hold people accountable and have standards because they’re afraid people will leave them. They’re also afraid to recruit; they think people will get upset because there aren’t enough leads.

We’re always recruiting and attracting talent even if they’re not ready to join the team yet in case some dynamic changes. People need to go back to re-humanizing themselves and being authentic in the sense that they don’t want to bring anyone on who has a license. When I interview someone, I want to go dinner with them, go to dinner with their spouse, make something not go right so I can see how they react in an uncomfortable situation, ask them about what type of leadership has the most impact on their life and what type of leadership makes them feel insecure or unhappy. I’m looking for that victim mentality because that’s just not a good fit for my office. As we look at who to keep on the bus, we need to start looking at the human element of it. Team leaders need to be OK with having these conversations, and if people are looking for excuses to springboard in this business the easy way, they’ve got to get involved, roll up their sleeves, get in the trenches with their agents.

To stay competitive, agents, brokers and companies need to execute quickly. What do you feel are key areas where quick execution can vastly improve the customer experience?

I think consumers are frustrated because things either are moving really quickly and they’re not getting the home they want, at least in our price point because we’re in a lower price point, so there might not be inventory. Our price point ranges from $240,000 to the higher end of $300,000 for what’s affordable. What we do really well is we have conversations with them because they’re real people. I come from a hospitality background, a lot of times people are just like “speed the lead, speed the lead, are they pre-approved,” and we don’t use that script. We ask them “tell me about your situation, how soon do you need to be in that home, if you’re not in that home what are you going to do?”

We have a regular conversation and come up with a solution for them in the event that they can’t find the home they want in that timeframe, because what other options do they have? If it’s because of their price point or if they’re not credit-worthy, we put them on an intentional plan with lenders to see how their creditworthiness can get to the next level. They’re just excited we follow up, but we’re not losing people because they’re impatient. We lean into the good, the bad, the ugly. “Let me tell you some of the hurdles you may face in your price point; you’re looking for a home under $300,000 in a good school district, and a lot of families are looking for the same thing, so we want to make sure we are using the best strategy.” Just treat people like people.

What are your hopes for the next 12 months, and what will you be working on?

For the next 12 months, I am working on really developing our pod leaders, my micro-teams, so we can continue to double our numbers, and taking the spotlight off me and putting it on them to help them take leadership of their team and stay calm and become the No. 1 team in Orlando. Right now we’re No. 2, we’re gunning for No. 1, and we can’t get to 800 transactions doing the same things we were doing at 300. We brought on a VP of sales and of operations, and our team captains will be developing agents so they can grow the team. Training our agents to be the very best real estate experts, understanding how to compete with the disruptors, and introducing the disruption in our listing presentation to these sellers — explaining to them that we understand what’s going on and why they should still go with us.

We’re also developing team leaders and turning our model that used to be a little antiquated, no more buyer’s agents and listing experts. These agents are excited about becoming well-rounded professionals, and my commitment is to making this team one of the most highly respected, coveted teams in Orlando, because they should be able to do everything. And we provide them the administrative support and the vision.

Discover the opportunities in a changing market at Inman Connect New York, January 29 – February 1. Jumpstart 2019 with tactical takeaways, unlimited networking and thought-provoking speakers. Learn more.

Thinking about bringing your team? You may qualify for special group perks! Contact us to learn more.