Signing bonuses, big marketing budgets, 100 percent splits — the recruiting battle for agents today is fiercer than ever. Nevertheless, small and indie brokers can win against “big dogs” if they know how to leverage their strengths and capitalize on what resonates most with agents.

With more than 1,000 Inman posts, Bernice Ross is a long-time contributor whose weekly column on real estate trends, luxury, marketing and other best practices publishes every Monday.

Signing bonuses, big marketing budgets, 100 percent splits — the recruiting battle for agents today is fiercer than ever.

Nevertheless, small and indie brokers can win against “big dogs” if they know how to leverage their strengths and capitalize on what resonates most with agents.

If you’re a small or indie broker who wants to compete against the big dogs, you will need the following:

  • An understanding of what agents really want from their broker.
  • The profile of real estate sales success.
  • A unique recruiting proposition (URP) that describes your brokerage’s strengths, culture and the benefits you provide for the agents who join your firm.
  • The right interview questions, plus how to overcome any objections the agent raises.
  • The answer to how joining your firm will provide the solution for the challenges the agent faces.

Learn all of these things and more in this two-part series. Below, you’ll find part 1, which covers why agents leave, personality traits that equate to top producers and factors that are most highly correlated with sales success.

The No. 1 reason agents leave their current broker

Most people believe that the No. 1 reason that agents leave their current brokerage is commissions.

The actual reason is that “my broker doesn’t have enough time for me.”

Based on more than 60 interviews I have conducted with brokers across the country, the top three things agents want from their brokers rather than commissions are:

1. ‘My broker has my back’

“My broker is there when I need him or her. When I make a mistake or have a problem, I know he or she will be in my court to help me get through it.”

2. ‘My broker has the expertise, tools and systems to keep the brokerage going’

Agents want a broker who has a strong knowledge of the contracts and who can help them navigate difficult negotiations, disputes or legal issues when required.

They also count on the brokerage to have the tools and systems necessary for them to successfully operate their businesses.

3. It’s a family business

Many agents view their manager or broker as the head of their business family (some even used the term “business mom” or “Momanager.” No matter what term they use, however, they want to be part of an office that both works and plays together.

Who to recruit?

Many brokers are unaware that there is a very clear behavioral profile of the agent who will succeed.

Here are the five factors that are most highly correlated with sales success:

1. High scores on the ‘D’ and ‘I’ factors on the DISC Behavioral Profile

The “D” behavioral style (dominance) is associated with someone who is driven, ambitious and strong-willed. In contrast, someone who scores high on the “I” or influence factor is enthusiastic, warm and persuasive.

This combination together, though found in a very small proportion of the population, is by far the most common profile among top-producing agents.

2. Motivation: ‘utilitarian’

While most companies look at the DISC Profile to predict sales success, Target Training International (TTI) has found that the most accurate predictor is tied to not to behavior but to motivation.

There are six primary motivators in the TTI model, but the one that best predicts sales success is the “utilitarian” motivator.

Someone who scores high on the utilitarian factor is interested in what is practical and useful. They are bottom-line oriented with a focus on what money can provide for them and their families.

This factor alone predicts sales success in any industry at the 72 percent level, regardless of behavioral style.

3. Learning mindset

Top producers are always in search of the next idea, strategy or technology tool that will give them an edge against their competitors.

Over my years on the speaking circuit, I’ve repeatedly heard brokers at my events say, “All my top producers were sitting in the first three rows. The agents who really needed to be here didn’t even bother to show up.”

Furthermore, according to two studies from the Texas Association of Realtors in 2012 and 2015, having a learning mindset is the No. 1 predictor of new agent sales success. Any new agent who shortcuts their new licensing training is not only a poor hire but a major liability.

4. Emotional resilience

Rejection and failure are part of the real estate business. In terms of hiring, you’re looking for people who can bounce back quickly and keep going when they experience failure. (Those who score highly on the “D” of the DISC Profile commonly have this trait.)

5. Dependability

Does this person show up on time? Do they do what they say they will, and can they be counted on in a pinch?

This is one of the reasons that holding multiple interviews before hiring is a good idea — anyone can bring their A-game at least once. Conducting multiple interviews will give you a more accurate read on the agent as well as what matters most to him or her.

The biggest red flag for new agents

The primary reason that new agents leave the business is that they are undercapitalized. In fact, the wash-out rate for part-time agents can be as high as 95 percent.

If a new agent doesn’t have enough money to work at least six to 12 months with no commission revenue, urge them to save up enough money until they can work full-time. It will greatly increase their probability of success.

If working part-time is their only option, you might want to have them work as part of an agent team or with a busy agent who would be willing to pay them for working part-time.

Hire to your culture

Valerie Torelli, the president and founder of Torelli Realty in Costa Mesa, California, has been the No. 1 agent and brokerage every year since 1984. Torelli attributes much of her success to hiring agents who are in alignment with her culture, that she describes as being “The 4 C’s.”

She based these on Don Miguel Ruiz’s book, The Four Agreements.

‘The 4 C’s’ are

1. Commitment

Torelli explains how she works for her agents. “I have to earn the commission they pay me,” she said.

As a result, she only hires agents who are committed to the real estate profession and who are willing to do the work required to succeed.

2. Connection

The agents Torelli hires must be a match for her office. She looks not only for an agent who connects well with her, but someone who shares the same values as the other agents and staff in her office.

3. Compassion

Torelli looks for agents who are actively involved in giving back to others, whether it’s with charities, at their place of worship or volunteering in a way that helps others.

As she observes: “When someone routinely gives back to others, they will be willing to help and support the agents and staff in our office as well.”

4. Community

Torelli and her agents contribute individually to various causes, however, their office also raises funds for local Costa Mesa charities. They also support a “coding program” that teaches fifth- and sixth-graders in local schools the basics of computer programming.

The ‘fifth C’

Torelli searches for low-drama agents. “I don’t do crazy!”

Please see part 2 of this series tomorrow to learn how to create a unique recruiting proposition, interview questions to ask (including how to overcome the most common objections) and how to ultimately close the deal.

Bernice Ross, President and CEO of BrokerageUP ( and, is a national speaker, author and trainer with over 1,000 published articles. Learn about her broker/manager training programs designed for women, by women, at and her new agent sales training at

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