It was the end of 2018 when Rosemary Phinney Buerger felt like she needed a change. An ERA agent working in North Carolina at the time, Buerger told Inman she was closing deals and having some success, but she also felt stuck in place.
“I got into a situation where I was just completely in a slump,” she recalled. “Nothing I was doing was working and I couldn’t find my way out of it. I had been cruising along and I just hit that wall.”
But luckily, Buerger had a friend. And luckier still, that friend was a professional coach.
“I reached out to Alyssa Hellman at Compass South Consulting,” Buerger said. “I worked with her for about six months. She gave me small projects to do that kind of got me back on track. She pushed me to hit that mark I wanted to hit in sales producing and got me rolling in the right direction.”
In the end, it worked: Buerger said she hit her goals and her volume increased by “a million and a half in six months.”
For this story, Inman set out to understand if coaching actually works, and what kinds of results real estate professionals might have seen from working with a professional coach. In an effort to understand the spectrum of opinions on the subject, Inman poured over discussions in various online real estate groups, looked at comments left on numerous news stories and reached out to nearly two dozen industry professionals.
But of the industry professionals who ultimately responded to Inman’s request for comment, there was virtually universal agreement that coaching, at least of some sort, is worth while for real estate agents and brokers. Some agents did mention fielding questions from friends and colleagues about the efficacy of working with a coach. But ultimately, the take away from these various conversations — much like the findings from a recent Inman survey — was that the benefits of coaching outweigh the costs.
Return on investment
When Chris Speicher first entered real estate a decade ago, joining his wife Peggy Lyn Speicher to form a two-person team, he didn’t know much.
“My goal when I joined Peggy Lyn was to really grow the company exponentially,” Chris told Inman. “But I didn’t know a lot about real estate.”
Not long after, however, the couple began working with a Tom Ferry coach. They ultimately spent between six and seven years working with the coach, and along the way grew the team to 15 people spread across three offices, including one in Hawaii where they moved two and a half years ago.
“In 2010, Peggy Lyn, I think she did six transactions that year,” Chris said. “Now fast forward to this year we actually live and work and run the company from Maui. We’re on track to do $100 million, $115 million in volume.”
That’s the kind of career trajectory that many people only dream of, and Chris said that coaching was an indispensable part of making it happen.
“I would guess we went from $100,000 in commissions to, this year, north of $2.5 million,” he added. “I think it’s safe to say we 25X-ed our gross commission using the foundation Tom Ferry helped us build.”
Not every agent sits down to calculate the monetary return on investment they get from coaching. But many who spoke with Inman did say they saw real, quantifiable income growth after working with a coach.
Marion Proffitt, a California-based agent with Bailey Properties, is among them. Proffitt told Inman she was “doing fine” in real estate in the late 1990s, but she always felt uncertainty about the future.
“There was always that question of what’s going to happen next month,” she recalled. “How long is this going to continue?”
Then about 16 years ago, she started working with a coach from Buffini and Company. The results rolled in immediately.
“My income went up 40 percent,” she said. “That kind of made me a believer.”
Drew Fabrikant has seen both financial returns and business growth. Unlike others who spoke with Inman, Fabrikant is not an agent. Instead, he’s an entrepreneur who in 2018 founded Scout, a real estate search platform that, among other things, connects agents and consumers.
Fabrikant has been working this year with Laura L. Scott, who runs an eponymous coaching and consulting company. Together, they’ve revamped the marketing for Fabrikant’s company and built an online community of over 750 industry professionals. And that growth has translated into money as well.
“In terms of dollars and cents, I am well over $45,000 richer today than I was four months ago and I 100 percent directly attribute that to Laura,” Fabrikant said.
There are other stories as well.
Kimmy Hunter, a North Carolina agent with Exit Realty Vistas, told Inman she took on two different coaches in January. With them, she set what she described as an “outrageous goal” to make an “an insane amount of money” this year. The goal was higher than even what top producing agents in her area typically pull in. But despite the loftiness of the goal, she said she’s currently on track to hit 50 percent of it — still an improvement and something she attributed to her coaching.
“My results are very quantifiable,” she added. “No matter what you spend in business, it has to have some return on value, some measurable impact that you can define.”
And Matt Delhounge, who leads the Delhougne Team with RE/MAX, said that in his case his business has grown by leaps and bounds thanks to coaching. Delhounge began his professional life as a police officer in the St. Louis area. He was making $28,000 per year back in those days, but after more than a decade in law enforcement switched to real estate and started working with Tom Ferry’s organization.
Today, his team includes roughly 80 people, including a number of managers and administrators, and he owns a mortgage business to boot.
“I learned more about companies and business and structuring and basic salesmanship from Tom Ferry, and his coaching, than I ever learned anywhere else,” Delhounge said.
In all of these cases, Inman asked the industry professionals if they thought they could have achieved similar success without coaching.
For many, the answer was maybe. But in all cases they said it would have been harder and taken longer to succeed, and the outcome would have been much less certain.
“You always think, ‘I can do this myself,'” Fabrikant said. “But you don’t realize when you have somebody who has that much knowledge about the industry, they speed you up and can get you there 10 times faster.”
Abstract rewards are still rewards
Peggy Lyn Speicher was sitting in a Tom Ferry seminar years ago when it hit her.
“The question Tom asked was, ‘what’s your problem with money?'” she recalled. “And it hit me like a ton of bricks. And I said, ‘I don’t deserve it.'”
Speicher quickly turned to her coach and shared that realization. Soon, she and her coach were delving into past trauma from childhood abuse, which Speicher realized was creating feelings of guilt and a sense that she didn’t deserve the success she believed she was capable of.
“My coach said, ‘let’s talk about it,'” Speicher told Inman. “She helped me. We started writing affirmations that would basically rewrite my story and negate all the bullshit in my head.”
Speicher, along with her husband Chris, has had a significant amount of quantifiable success of the past decade. Her team grew, her income rose and she and Chris moved to their dream location.
But she shared the story about working through past trauma because, she explained, it highlights a more abstract outcome of her coaching.
“You can have every single tool in the entire world,” she said, “but if you’re head is not straight, you will not be successful. The mindset component of it is everything.”
For Speicher, that “mindset component” was just as important as the financial return on her investment. It’s not something that can be measured in, say, an Excel spreadsheet, but it did feed into her professional life and improve both her career and her happiness.
“That break through changed everything,” she said, adding of coaching that “it’s unlocking the things that are inside of you. It’s what you discover about yourself.”
The question of how well coaching works is tidier to answer when agents are able to breakdown their business growth into hard numbers. Most of those who spoke with Inman also agreed that agents should have a clear idea of what they want out of coaching. And earlier this month Sherry Chris specifically said she looks for a “10x return” when she spends money on a coach.
But like Peggy Lyn Speicher, the agents who spoke to Inman repeatedly said the “return” on their investment was at least as metaphysical as it was financial.
Proffitt, for example, pointed out that the sense of uncertainty she had early in her days as an agent disappeared after going through coaching.
“I never had those feelings any more,” she said. “There was just a feeling of peace knowing that this is my pattern.”
Fabrikant made a similar point, noting that besides money and a growing customer base, some of the biggest things his coach helped him with were “focus and prioritization.”
In the case of Karla Benavides Arjona, these types of abstract rewards are even the metric by which she measures success.
Unlike other agents who told Inman about working with specific individual coaches, Arjona — a Coldwell Banker agent in Texas — works with a coaching club out of Austin that focuses on things like marketing content. She spoke highly of the program, saying it’s more affordable than other types of coaching. It’s also produced by people actively working in real estate — something not all coaches actually do.
Arjona hasn’t calculated a specific return on investment, but she ultimately said her program works because it keeps helping her do a better and better job.
“For me,” she explained, “it’s just about becoming a better real estate agent for my clients.”
Most of the agents who spoke with Inman made similar points, saying that they appreciated the financial benefits of coaching, but that the rewards were more far-reaching than money alone.
Most also said they spent years with their coach. And for a majority of the agents who spoke with Inman the plan is to continue using coaching for the foreseeable future. Beyond tales about growing income or improving mindsets, that desire to stick with coaching potentially throughout an entire career is probably the biggest vote of confidence in the practice.
“Learning never stops,” Fabrikant ultimately concluded in a comment that captured the consensus. “I think it’s a forever kind of thing.”