This July, Inman’s editorial theme is Teams — what it takes to build and join one, how to optimize your team for summer 2020, and even when to consider leaving one. And if you’re not already a subscriber to our Teams Beat email newsletter, sent every Thursday, sign up now.
Last month, I wrote about energizing your agents without breaking the bank, focusing on how to keep them motivated and engaged even in difficult times. But what do you do when they’re struggling — really fighting — just to pay their bills and stay in this business?
In times when real estate is easy and houses fly off the market, our Realtor ranks swell. Then the cycle turns, we hit financial bumps (or full-out raging recession) and membership drops.
This is a polarizing time. I see agents closing deals as if we’re still in 2019. (Case in point: One member of my office closed seven transactions while I was away for the holiday weekend.)
And I’m seeing others who barely poke their head into the office to check in. As the broker or team leader, how do you keep those in the second category from checking out completely? Here are a few tips.
1. Check their pulse
During the first COVID-19 shutdown, we were caught off guard. I shut the doors and ordered everyone to stay home. But I didn’t stop communicating.
Our private Facebook page became our chat board, and I noticed who was posting and commenting, and who went silent. Everyone copes differently with stress. You need to know how they’re truly doing.
In my planner, I kept a log of every agent in our office, and I’d check off the names of whoever I spoke with. Every day, I called two or three agents just to chat. If you have less than 10 or 15 agents in your office, you can make it a daily routine to call three a day to cover the whole group once a week.
Of course, they still called me when they had questions or problems, but by reaching out deliberately just to check in when nothing was wrong, I was able to hear who was in good spirits. I knew the agents who were making their client calls, and those who were probably curled up in a ball on the couch.
2. Make it personal
In my calls, I usually started out with “What’s up?” Then, I let them take it from there. I asked about their family and how they were handling personal things. On Zoom calls and FaceTime, I got to see a bit more of their home lives — the inside of their houses, their kids and pets.
Some brokers don’t want to get too personal with their agents (it’s just business). After doing this for 20 years, I honestly feel I cannot and do not want to be super tight BFFs with agents in my office. I need some personal space and boundaries.
But I do want to know them and like them, and I want to hear about their struggles. You can’t do that if you never ask and — more importantly — listen (and I mean, truly listen) to what they have to say.
3. Watch your dashboards
Even when someone says they are fine, you’ll know they’re struggling by watching your brokerage metrics. I can see when an agent is not logging into the company CRM for days at a time, or even weeks.
I check our transaction management platform for activity. Who is creating transaction rooms and starting to fill out paperwork, and who has not started a new file in weeks? Maybe they aren’t out there listing or showing homes. Are they making prospecting calls? Are they checking in with past clients?
These are red flags that someone is disengaging with either your company or with real estate in general. It also could be a sign that someone has gotten another job (to pay the bills) or is leaving your firm for another one.
Don’t just ignore these signs. Try to have a face-to-face (even if it’s just Zoom or FaceTime) chat with this person so you can see their body language and not just hear their voice. Ask if the agent truly is alright and if there is anything you can help them with right now. You won’t know if you never ask.
4. Be prepared to help
Once someone opens up, give them your full attention. Listen with intention. Small, consistent acts of kindness and attention build strong relationships — not just with clients, but also your team.
In some cases, you may be able to offer guidance and assistance. Are their leads down? Can you divert some company leads into their funnel? If they are struggling with focus, can you coach them back to a good place where they are making their prospecting calls and working on their business? Can you connect the agent to someone who can give them help in whatever their struggle is right now?
5. Stay in your lane
In other cases, the situation may be out of your control. I’m seeing agents struggle with financial pressures right now, which will probably lead them to drop out of the business. Pushing them to stay when they need to feed their families and get a reliable paycheck may not be the best answer to their problems.
I know a broker who made the mistake of getting extremely close to one of her agents who was in a bad marriage. The agent would come into the office and vent to the broker about her issues, and the broker took to advising her on her relationship (which she felt was abusive). Each time, the agent went back to the husband and seemed to then resent the broker’s well-intended advice. It eventually caused a rift between the broker and agent.
Relationship issues, health problems, money — all of these are out of your wheelhouse. You can guide the agent to a place where they can get help, but you can’t fix all of their problems.
Finally, not all agents will make it. Our drop-out rate is notoriously high as an industry. Some people may love real estate but are just not cut out to make it during the rough times. There is no shame in calling it quits and finding a path that brings you a steady source of income or other perks your family may need.