Top producers will thrive in any market. They’ll be more nimble than the others, they’ll read what the market’s going to do next better than the competition, they’ll adapt better and focus on the important things. And with more business in the pipeline, they’ll bounce back better after a challenging period.

Top producers will thrive in any market. They’ll be more nimble than the others, they’ll read what the market’s going to do next better than the competition, they’ll adapt better and focus on the important things. And with more business in the pipeline, they’ll bounce back better after a challenging period.

But this doesn’t just happen. It takes a lot of work. And in 2020, it was harder to read the market than ever when news of the pandemic and lockdowns earlier in the year initially slowed down the real estate industry. Then, the market experienced a remarkable rebound, and for well-prepared agents, 2020 has been an incredibly prosperous and busy time.

Being prepared to ask for help

Keith Ard

Real estate top producers quickly realized they needed additional resources to navigate the year which threw so many curveballs. Many of them, including RE/MAX agents – who average 15.6 transaction sides at large brokerages, compared with the industry’s average of eight – leaned into the advantages of being with an established brand. They turned to their network for strategies, tools and support.

Keith Ard, President of RE/MAX Gold (Northern California and Nevada), a business with 2200 agents says: “Some of the more fragile conversations our managers had were with some very seasoned and very productive agents who had always been super independent but this year felt the need for some more connectivity.”

Many top producers expanded their professional credibility in 2020 by adding extra designations or certifications to their name, says Casey Denby, Vice President, RE/MAX University Learning & Education.

Casey Denby

“Most top producers completed the cycle of learn, unlearn and relearn in order to produce in the new economic environment,” he says. Rising stars moved to add to their certifications too.

RE/MAX University, which provides 24/7 access to world-class training and education, created a number of new courses for agents in 2020 bringing in top real estate coaches including Brian Buffini, Jon Cheplak and Jared James to help agents navigate the evolving situation by giving them practical tools for doing business virtually.

“We created and launched a new course in 2020 for agents, titled, “The Emotionally Intelligent Agent,” because we saw the need for enhanced human understanding and connection,” says Denby.

Brokers and agents can’t “fake their way” through this crisis, he says. Those who faced up to it are now reaping the benefits of an extremely active market.

“Many brokers and agents are having record years because they stepped up and led through learning, adaptation, understanding and ultimately personal connection,” he says.

Real estate coach, Jared James agrees: “Some people are struggling and blaming COVID-19, but I have a lot of students who are having their best year ever, they’re 20 percent up.”

What support top agents are looking for from the brokerage and the brand

Across all brokerages, agents have watched how their leaders have stepped up to support their agents through the challenges to their real estate business posed by this global pandemic.

Nick Bailey

When the reality of COVID-19 became apparent in March 2020, RE/MAX company leaders, CEO Adam Contos and Chief Customer Officer Nick Bailey, moved quickly to show their agents and brokers their human sides. They wanted to convey that everyone was in it together.

“We knew straight out of the gate, communication through video was going to be key,” says Bailey.

“Adam and I both started weekly Facebook Live shows. Adam’s Mind Body and Business show was focused on mind and exercise, and mine on education and inspiration.”

Bailey’s “Good Morning, RE/MAX” show brought in guests from RE/MAX Co-Founder Dave Liniger to Dr. Ben Carson, U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, and N.A.R. chief economist, Lawrence Yun, to help inform and inspire agents. With Italy ahead of the U.S. on the pandemic, the CCO interviewed the CEO and Co-Founder of RE/MAX Italy on the show to share his experience about COVID-19 and real estate.

Meanwhile the messaging was clear from head office to agents looking for inspiration out there in their markets. “My favorite saying was: ‘Don’t furlough yourself, work on your business,’” says Bailey, who is proud the company didn’t furlough anyone at head office or reduce anyone’s pay.

“A lot of new models and brokerages hadn’t planned for a rainy day, but we’ve lived through enough of them that we know how to operate in a way that allows us to weather any storm,” says the CCO.

Regular virtual events were also run among RE/MAX brokerages nationwide.

“The first thing agents needed was community so reinventing a virtual version of community to bring people together was the highest priority,” says Ard.

He and his leadership team at RE/MAX Gold started Motivate, Educate and Collaborate Events. They’ve done 35 of these in the last eight months, featuring contributions from real estate coaches Jared James and Tom Ferry, and top producers, including RE/MAX’s number one agent, Jordan Cohen.

“Jordan came as an open book, and talked about how he focused on client relationships to help them through this challenging season, says Ard.

“We showed our agents that other talented people at all levels were going through the same fears and challenges.”

Overcoming the inventory problem of 2020

One of the biggest challenges in the latter half of this year has been buyer demand and low inventory, something agents of all levels have battled with.

RE/MAX was able to connect its agents with a practical solution through the First app, which it bought in December 2019. An intelligent coaching platform, it is specifically designed to help agents identify and drive new listings.

“It takes your database with over 750 data points on every homeowner and it predicts who’s going to list in the next six to 12 months,” explains Bailey. The RE/MAX agents who use First are 38 percent more productive on average than those RE/MAX agents who aren’t, he says.

It takes the hard work out of who to reach out to first.

“That was our big direction. Don’t furlough yourself just because you can’t show houses. Prepare your funnel for when you can show houses, and be the first agent in their mind,” says the CCO.

“First is a gift,” adds Ard. Rather than being “paralyzed in fear” agents were able to generate inventory in key markets thanks to the app.

“When our brokerage subscribed to First, little did we know it was an antidote, in essence, for low inventory problems.”

This year’s period of unprecedented uncertainty has really tested brokerage and agent relationships. If your broker was the kind who didn’t get back to you on a question for a couple of days, that relationship may not last.

Amy Lessinger

“Brokers who have helped agents evolve and remain connected are winning at new levels. They’re bringing agents on from other companies who haven’t felt supported,” says Amy Lessinger, RE/MAX Vice President, Business Growth in the U.S. Western States.

One of the key things RE/MAX has stepped up this year has been helping agents to network with each other despite not being able to attend live events, as well as getting them the tech support they needed to communicate with clients virtually, she says.

RE/MAX’s greatest asset is its network and professional agents love to collaborate, she adds.

“Top producers gravitate toward each other and hold each other accountable, that’s a big thing.”

Success strategies working for top producers this year

Top producers who have excelled this year have been getting really connected with their network, realizing who wants to make a move, then playing matchmaker, says Lessinger.
“The task is daunting but the person who solves the problems makes the money,” she says.

One of the changes Ard has seen is a trend for agents to become multi-state agents as they follow their clients’ new real estate needs. In his market, a number of RE/MAX Gold agents are covering both California and Nevada, he says.

Janice Corley

In a more localized way, the same thing is happening in the Chicago market of RE/MAX Premier broker/owner, Janice Corley. She has seen Chicago city agents researching suburban markets on behalf of their clients, finding them rentals there while they look if needed. In some cases, city agents are moving to the ’burbs themselves.

Buyers tend to be educated about the suburban markets but they like their city agent’s negotiating skills and they have a relationship with them, so they are continuing to ask for their help, says Corley.

At the same time Corley’s Chicago city agents are stepping up and facilitating a broader concierge service for clients in a bid to make their lives easier in any way possible.

“They will connect clients with service providers to help them with anything from dog walking to childcare to housekeeping services,” she says.

A top producer going back to basics

Meanwhile with a knowledge that he was going to find a lot of people home during the pandemic, and that leads that can be bought are not great quality in the current market, former college athlete, Quintavius (“Q”) Burdette has taken cold calling to a whole new level this year.

Quintavius Burdette

The RE/MAX Experts agent, whose office is in Germantown, Tennessee but who operates in Mississippi, started calling 200 people a day in his Mississippi market when the pandemic hit, setting himself strict daily goals of achievement.

Burdette lets potential sellers know what’s going on in the market, and tells them he has buyers from past clients and social media.

“My best buyer is a seller,” he says. “I match my buyer with a seller and then find that seller another house. It happens over and over. “People are selling because they want to take their equity out while prices are high,” he says. Meanwhile the agent is seeing people move to income tax-free states like Tennessee from places like California because they’re tired of the crowded city life, he says.

The hard work is paying off. Burdette, who closed 106 transactions in his first year of business, is 60 percent up on last year. “It’s my best year yet,” he says, and that’s the way it should be in business, sport and the corporate world.

What are consumers looking for from their agent – how can agents plan for a potentially different market

Burdette has a good grasp of what consumers want from him. They want their agent to solve their problem, says Ard. “Either get me into this home or get me out of the state, our job is to solve that,” he says.

“My advice is pay attention to the consumer and realize that they’re the ultimate judge and jury. They decide who to do business with, and it’s agents with good connections and tools who put their customers first, who are going to win in 2021 as they have in 2020,” says the RE/MAX Gold president.

For agents who have prepared, there are opportunities, says real estate coach, Jared James.

Jared James

“In March, we were telling people, this isn’t the time to sit on your hands. Now is the time to work on your infrastructure, your systems and processes, your CRM and content,” says James.
For agents wanting to win the business, the key thing right now is visibility, he adds. Visibility trumps ability.

“The difference between being in real estate and in vacuum cleaner sales is you have to be a leader in the community, if not, you’re not going to win,” he says.

Be on Facebook groups talking about which restaurants are open and doing take-out food, interview superintendents of schools and become a resource in the area, he suggests.

No matter what it looks like, we are all playing the same game, says James. “Even if I can’t predict what’s coming next, it’s about being in a position to win. At the end of the day, we are all playing on the same board with the same rules.”

“For me, there should be two businesses you are always working on. There’s the business you’re in now and the business you’re going to be in and from that perspective, it’s what gives top producers the edge,” adds James.

Throughout it all, be human and kind

What everyone has learned from 2020, is this is not a time to bluster and whine, and to ask, why me? This is a time to be kind, empathetic, and to look after your neighbors and your community.

Bailey says at the outset of COVID-19, RE/MAX’s message to agents was: “Support, not sell. Reach out to your database.”

COVID-19 has humbled a lot of people, says Ard. There is a part of society that has really come back to its roots of good and humanity, and of putting others above themselves, he says.

“And if you don’t have a strong moral compass, it’s a tough business to be in right now,” he adds.

Jon Cheplak

The best agents this year will have mastered emotional maturity and emotional intelligence, says real estate coach, Jon Cheplak. They will be meeting the customer where they are.

Among the high level producers from all brokerages he’s worked with this year, the real estate coach has been heartened by the greater level of “co-opetition” among them. They got there by being transparent and humble and stayed there with that mentality, he says.

“Agents are community builders and to do that, they have to show a real genuineness, otherwise there is no relatability,” he says.

Mississippi agent, Q Burdette’s favorite thing is to help the sports coaches at the local high school that he sponsors with the kids’ basketball practice. Once he’s done his work for the day, that’s where you’ll find him.

Says Cheplak: “People know he’s real. He’s an amazing human being, that’s who people want to work with, where there is that spirit of abundance.”