What questions should you ask to screen for uber productive agents? What are the attributes of top producers? Real estate coach Jon Cheplak shares his insights with regular columnist Ryan Rodenbeck.

Jon Cheplak

In one of my previous Inman articles, I wrote about how losing my top agent spurred me into action to restructure my organization and build it up to the point where we eventually placed No. 3 on the local business journal’s list of best companies to work for. What I didn’t mention at the time was that one huge part of this transformation was being introduced to real estate coach Jon Cheplak

Until recently, Cheplak was one of the best kept secrets in real estate among the most top-producing team leaders, brokers and CEOs across the North America. His background is in real estate management and recruiting. 

For the past decade, he’s been coaching elite team leaders on how to recruit the best talent and build a company culture where agents thrive. This last year he’s been the keynote speaker for several conferences across the country. 

We recently chatted about what he sees are the biggest issues team leaders and brokers face today. 

RR: How can a team leader or broker know if a new agent is going to be exceptional?

JC: Well, no one does. And and that’s the first thing that people have to face. I’ll watch teams pause in their growth because they’ll get frustrated with agents that don’t take action.

And the one thing that’s been proven time and again, with my 32 years in the real estate industry, is that no one’s been able to predict who’s going to be productive at all. Just accept it.

Now, what are the safeguards? Or what are the responsible steps to take? I believe in very strong knockout questions.

No. 1 would be: “At what lengths are you willing to go to on a daily basis to build a thriving real estate career?”

No. 2 would be: “What type of leadership have you responded well to, and what is it about that person or that type of leadership that causes you to perform at a high level?”

No. 3 would be: “Who have you not responded well to? What is it in their leadership style that didn’t work for you?”

And then the single most important question: “Is there anything you could have done to create a different outcome?” What I’m looking for there is victim language.

If you hear any sort of victim language, you’re going to be facing an uphill battle in getting someone to be productive. That’s really what I would say is my No. 1 identifier.

And then the the final one, the smoke-out question: “What’s your experience been with accountability? Can you see how accountability is a critical part of your success?”

If someone wavers on any of those, those are my real triggers. I don’t call them a red flag because a lot of people see red flags, and they don’t pay attention to them.

And the final thing is that you’ve got to think about retention because people leave you based on how they join you. So being upfront and letting people know, “Hey, listen, you know, one thing that I want you to know is, I can tell you how wonderful it is here, but we’re just like every other business or family, we have our dysfunctions. And what we’re looking for is people who understand that reality and are here to work with and work through it with a community, with a tribe, with a village, with an organization for long-term relationships. Because the last thing I want to do is mislead you or to have you think it’s perfect.”

And so just operating at a very transparent and open level causes someone else to bear with you. So that’s kind of the down and dirty.

RR: One thing I’ve picked up from you a long time ago is that it when you hire people, you set your expectations and it all comes back to the initial interview.

I recently had an agent who wanted to go part-time after we hired her as a full-time agent. And because I had set the expectation that we want full-time agents, and we expect them to produce, I said to her: “This is not what we talked about in our initial interview.”

These conversations are much easier to have when you strongly set the expectations during the interview. 

What are the common characteristic of your most successful clients?

JC: No. 1 is that fear does not stop them. They walk through the door. They’ve learned how to transmute fear into motivation, whereas it paralyzes most people.

Now, most would think they’re fearless. Well, I define someone who’s fearless as the person who probably even feels it at a higher level than those not even performing level they are, but they have made an absolute choice to walk through that barrier of fear.

No. 2, and it’s so cliche, but it’s immediate action. I can be on a coaching call with some of these elite performers that I get to work with, and we’ll be talking about something, and whether it’s something to do with social media, or just some sort of action step, and it’s like, within minutes or hours, they’ve taken action. Anything that you share with them that is going to move their business forward. They just take immediate action. 

I think the third one is short memory. What I mean by short memory is that it has this duality. If they made a mistake or they invested in something that bombed, most people get paralyzed and judge themselves. [Successful agents] have got a lot of memory to understand what they did that didn’t work. But what they don’t sit there in fear of taking the next right action step. They don’t carry the pain of it.

RR:  What is the biggest regret of your career?

JC: That’s a really good question. No. 1, I have zero regrets, including my personal challenges I walked through in life, because what I do know is that everything I went through has created a condition that’s in my life today. I just couldn’t imagine being here.

Though, if I were to look at it: not listening more. I had too much ego. I’m the product of amazing mentors. I didn’t create anything. I am the product of amazing mentors that were so generous. I don’t think I listened enough.

I think I spent too much time trying to prove myself or come up with my way of doing it that I don’t know that I was really able to take in as much as I actually could have from them.

RR: How has failure shaped the way you think?

JC: It is because I’ve experienced that at the highest level personally and professionally, both levels. It’s allowed me to not use it as a cop out, in that I’m like, “OK, you know, I’m not going to be committed because I fail.”

I’m going to just slingshot forward. It’s truly a space of inspiration for me, and it keeps me in gratitude.

All the challenges and failures and mistakes in business have really just served as an inspiration. I had to do a lot of work personally to understand that it’s necessary to create contrast so that you can really have an awareness of what you don’t want. 

RR: Who do you look up to?

JC: I look up to my daughter. I watch and see how people respond to her and react to her. I mean, she’s everywhere I go. I’ve been in a different room speaking for the last, I don’t know, it’s been 30 weeks straight in a row.

Sometimes it’s 750 people in a room, sometimes it’s 20 people, and she always comes up. And what’s inspired me about her is she doesn’t like attention. She puts other people first.

She will do anything for anyone before herself while maintaining this fire inside her that is fierce, that is fearless, that won’t give up, and she stands in her absolute truth. If you look at leaders, that’s what people want to follow. And I know she impacts people’s lives, and so that’s what I want to do.

Ryan Rodenbeck is the broker-owner of Spyglass Realty and Investments in Austin. Connect with him on Instagram.

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