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This year has been full of curveballs for the real estate industry as the pandemic pushed professionals to embrace virtual transactions, work around social distancing guidelines and help consumers navigate quickly shifting markets. As real estate agents charted their individual path forward, real estate brokers had the special responsibility of ensuring the collective success of their agents and staff members.
Connect Now moderators Berkshire Hathaway Home Services franchise owner Tiffany Curry and Real Estate Sales Force CEO Jorge Guerra said positivity matched with innovation is the key to successfully steering a team through COVID-19 and other life-changing events.
“I’ve always been someone who likes to see the glass half full,” Curry told the Broker Breakout crowd of how she’s thrived through the pandemic. “It’s about being able to see the beauty in the ashes, and taking bits and pieces of advice and making it your own.”
One of the top things on brokers’ minds during the pandemic has been the delicate balance between maintaining training and recruiting goals while slimming overhead and maximizing profits.
“We had to kick our egos to the curb and it was about investing where it counts,” RE/MAX SVP of Professional Development and Engagement Amy Somerville told Curry and Guerra.
For Somerville, becoming efficient meant doubling down on technology and customer service tools to keep brokers, agents and consumers connected through the early, most confusing days of the pandemic. Much like the other session speakers, the executive said RE/MAX franchisees embraced video conferencing platforms to provide training and support without the cost of in-person events.
“It’s breaking down the walls for everything from connecting with the teams to recruiting and retention,” Somerville said. “I don’t see these video platforms going away.”
“The biggest investment we made was video and doubling down on training, coaching and mentoring,” she added while noting RE/MAX offered daily training sessions for 13 consecutive weeks. “COVID helped us realize we’re all in this together and we’re more connected than we ever thought.”
When it comes to recruitment and training, Ramus Realty Group broker-owner Erica Ramus said her day-to-day tactics haven’t “shifted all that much” since she serves the tiny, rural community of Minersville, Pennsylvania.
“I really rely on my agents and their experience with the co-broker,” she said of how she finds experienced brokers who could make a great addition to the Ramus Realty team.
When it comes to finding new agents, Ramus said she uses print ads to find people with stellar sales skills and only need training on how to apply those skills to real estate. Although she slowed down recruiting in March and April, she’s started hiring again in preparation for a hot fall homebuying season.
Meanwhile, Coldwell Banker Realty Regional VP Alex Vidal follows a different set of recruiting rules that helps him run a team of more than 800 agents in Texas.
“I didn’t know anybody and I didn’t know the company. I started taking advantage of the time on my hands,” he said of starting his new position in the midst of COVID. “I’ve been chipping away at those 800+ agents one meeting at a time.”
Vidal said his focus on meeting current agents is part of a rule he’s followed for years: the 80/20 rule. “Eighty percent of your time needs to spent with experienced agents and 20 percent recruiting,” he explained. “The biggest mistake brokers make is hiring just to hire.”
“They don’t think about how they can make an impact on an agent,” he added.
Vidal said his goal is to make current agents “raving fans” of Coldwell Banker, which increases retention and gives brokers more time to carefully recruit and hire new agents.
When it comes to accountability, Ramus and Vidal said it’s important to use video platforms and digital tools to keep track of agents and how well they’re meeting key performance metrics.
“We use Boomtown and we use it in conjunction with Sisu,” Ramus said. “So accountability is that I can see everything on the backend.”
“I have asked them to log into the app, make phone calls and log everything through Boomtown which then flows into SiSu,” she added. “It’s a little bit of gamification, and so we have leaderboards and we have goals for the week, which might be conversations, or it might be contracts, or it might be closings, but I’m trying to take them from the top of the funnel and make sure that they have closings at the end.”
For Vidal, accountability is about providing agents with the skills to keep themselves accountable and “walk the talk.”
“I think if you feel that I’m holding you accountable, then it’s a reflection that you don’t think you’re doing your job. It’s a reflection of yourself,” Vidal said. “My highest producing sales managers know that in these accountability meetings, it’s not to hold them accountable, it’s to get them so good at what they’re doing that they can have a quality of life and not work 24/7.”
Lamacchia Realty broker-owner Anthony Lamacchia and RE/MAX’s Somerville said the pivot to digital tools has made it easier than ever to connect with agents and provide the skills they need to succeed without blowing their budgets.
“It’s not about ego, it’s about efficiencies,” Somerville said of how RE/MAX franchisees cut budgets and pivoted toward focusing on the basics of the business.
Lamacchia, who serves the Boston metropolitan area, said he axed TV advertising in March and April although it was one of his brokerage’s main lead generators. With those extra funds, he bought 100 Dell monitors and computers for his agents so they could effectively work from home. He then doubled-down on video conferencing and social media to connect with his team, colleagues and consumers.
“To my pleasant surprise, I’m seeing things move quicker,” Lamacchia said of his experience with Microsoft Teams and Zoom. “There’s no more waiting four or five days to reconnect.”
On the social media side, the broker-owner began producing more 20-30 minutes videos explaining what’s been happening in the market.
“When COVID hit, our following tripled,” he explained. “People will listen when there’s a need. Just being a source of information is what’s so important.”
“It’s not too late and our business is still looking for information and how to get through things,” he added.
In addition to saving money on marketing and training costs, each broker said they’re rethinking how remote working impacts the need for massive office space.
Curry said COVID has pushed her to ditch the idea for one, massive office and embrace the idea of multiple, smaller satellite offices that place agents in the neighborhoods they serve.
“We are the source of information,” Curry said of the decision to open satellite offices so agents are closer to their consumers. “[Brokers] will reduce their footprint and learn how to get back to basics.”