Getting certified to become a coach used to take 2,000 hours of coaching before being evaluated by a panel of experts. Today, anyone can call themselves a coach. We reached out to get Bernice Ross’s read on the coaching industry, the pandemic and what agents should be doing right now. 

In today’s virtual, work-from-home environment, agents are seeking training and coaching in entirely new ways. In August, we’re laser-focused on what defines good coaching today and how to get the most out of it.

Bernice Ross is a long-time fixture in the real estate space, especially in California, where she’s had an active broker’s license since 1982 and where she coaches and is a serving member of the California Association of Realtors (C.A.R.), particularly with WomanUp! In 1996 she began training to become a coach while already utilizing her Ph.D. in educational psychology to train 4,000 agents with the Jon Douglas Company. Lou Piatt, president of the company, asked her to deliver training to all 60 offices, thus opening the door for her coaching career.  

Author, promoter of women, host of the Awesome Females in Real Estate Conference, and Inman speaker and contributor with more than 1,000 articles, we reached out via email to get her read on the coaching industry, the pandemic and what agents should be doing right now. 

How has coaching evolved over the years you’ve been practicing?

Back in the late 1990s when I obtained my Master Certified Coach designation, I had to go through a rigorous certification process to obtain my Master Coach certification that included completing the CoachU curriculum, doing 2,000 hours of coaching and sitting before a panel of three senior coaches to see if I qualified for the certification. Today, anyone can call themselves a coach. 

What does that mean for the coaching industry?

Lack of standards, unqualified people charging unsuspecting clients for services that will not help them, and overall, a degradation of the coaching profession. It’s much like real estate in that respect. There are about 10-20 percent of the well-qualified coaches doing 80-90 percent of the business. 

How can agents suss out the good coaches from the bad ones?

Always interview at least three coaches. If you walk away from interviewing a coach feeling really energized, that’s the right coach for you. If not, keep searching. A professionally trained coach will encourage you to check out other coaches because their primary focus is on you and helping you move forward, rather than on their goal of getting hired. 

How has coaching changed in 2020?

You would think with all the coaches out there that a lot of agents would be looking for a coach. When you do a Google search using the keyword and ad word tools, there are only 1,900 searches per month done for “real estate coaching.” 

Part of the reason for this is many companies are offering internal coaching and mentoring for their agents. The MAPs Program at KW is a prime example.

Also, with the pandemic, there’s a lot of uncertainty as to what is going to happen, many families have lost one of their wage earners, and our business clientele, in many cases, is having financial issues. Everyone is cutting back on non-essential services.

I’ve seen this pattern in five different downturns — companies cut training and coaching when they’re struggling to stay afloat. Agents who are struggling to pay their bills are focused on just trying to make ends meet. For many agents right now, coaching is a “luxury” they can’t afford, even though it would be a way to help them climb out of the challenges they are facing. 

What’s the most important advice agents should heed right now?

Niche your business, focus on your strengths, and get back to basics. Your job comes down to six words — generate leads, convert leads, close transactions. 

Most agents know what to do. The problem is getting themselves to do it. This is the place where a well-trained coach can be extremely effective — helping you remove the roadblocks to move your business forward. 

What should agents be most focused on during the pandemic?

Connecting with their sphere and past clients by being a human. Be genuinely concerned, and help others where you can. Agents have a tremendous number of community resources. Connecting people with the help when they need it is one of the best ways to grow your business. 

Markets are pretty hot in many areas. How should agents adjust for the rest of 2020?

From my perspective, your No. 1 goal has to be taking listings. According to NAR, 75 percent of the sellers list with the first agent they see face-to-face. (We don’t know if that applies to Zoom meetings, but chances are, it does.) Your goal is to be that agent who they have seen most recently at the moment they’re ready to list. 

And for those agents who are having a tougher time, how can they refocus to stay afloat?

Read this.

Prospect at least seven hours per week. The more people you connect with in person, via Zoom, or with a social media post or telephone call, the more business you will do. 

I know you empowering women in the industry is near and dear to your heart. Tell us a bit about that.

In 2005, I wrote a book called Waging War on Real Estate’s Discounters. It did exceptionally well and generated a tremendous number of speaking gigs both in the U.S. and Canada. When I was out on the speaking circuit, I kept meeting all these wonderful women who were running companies or managing offices. I love connecting people with each other, and I thought how fun it would be to introduce them to each other. 

In 2007, I held the first Awesome Females in Real Estate Conference. We just held our 14th Annual Conference July 15-17. It has morphed into a senior leadership conference for women leaders in the industry.

We leave our brands at the door and share the challenges we face as women in leadership, oftentimes when we’re the only woman at the table. This group also loves to have fun (we do pool con every year), and over the past four years, our mighty group of 35-45 women who attended our auctions have raised over $55,000 for breast cancer research. 

What have been some of the challenges that you’ve helped agents overcome or goals you’ve helped them meet this year?

Since my one-on-one work is  mostly with women in senior leadership rather than individual agents, the challenges have been a bit different. What’s fascinating is that most of the women I have been working with this year have either been taking the next step in their career by changing firms, launching a new brokerage, or launching a new service or technology company. 

What are some of the challenges agents are experiencing in those realms?

One of the biggest issues I have heard repeatedly across the 75 interviews I did for CAR was the “nay-sayers.” Almost every woman who has set out to launch her own business has been told not to even try by multiple people — you don’t want the liability, you don’t want the hassle, you won’t make it. You have to tune these people out and do what’s right for you and your vision. 

Another issue is there are still very few women on a percentage basis at the top levels of the industry. Over 60 percent of all agents are women, but yet senior leadership continues to be male. Guys will go for the promotion or the new position even if they feel they are marginally qualified. Women wait to apply until they feel they are capable 

What’s been your biggest challenge in 2020? How did you overcome it?

My biggest challenge is the same one I’ve always had — I burn the candle at both ends. I have been successfully making Saturdays a real estate-free day. My current goal is to get my work week down to 40 hours — still having challenges around that, but am making progress. Also, I have been hitting my goal of walking a minimum of 2.5 miles daily on my Gazelle. 

Editor’s note: This interview has been edited for style.

Email Dani Vanderboegh

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