Every leader has a different approach to hiring, but one thing is certain: It’s crucial to hire the right people if you want your team to be successful. One agent shares her tried-and-true method for building a team from the ground up.

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My team and I were on a call with a prospective client once who said, “I understand that you’re a team. How do I know that you aren’t going to bait-and-switch me if I decide to work with you?”

We get this question a lot, and frankly, it’s sad that this is the reputation working with a “team” has in our industry. In fact, we’ve had clients — who were previously working with other top-producing teams — turn to us because of the frustration they felt when a team lead “lured them in,” only to turn everything over to their assistants and more junior agents.

Unfortunately, too many teams say one thing to win over the prospect, but do another when push comes to shove. While it may not be intentional, it’s often the way things go as everyone (especially team leaders) gets busy and other clients come knocking at the door.

While this method may work for some, it’s not one we’ve ever found to be successful — for realtors or their clients. The homebuying and selling process can be daunting and draining, which is why the relationship between agents and client demands trust.

When a team — and the work of that collective brainpower and expertise — is promised, it’s important for this commitment to be upheld and honored. And the most important piece for ensuring that the band stays together? Building a fantastic team from the ground up.

1. Hire slowly

Who you select to be on the team is hands-down the most important decision real estate leaders need to make, and it should be given as much time as necessary to really get it right. Whether that be a week or six months, it’s important that the onboarding process be slow and steady.

Most team leaders start with a buyer’s agent as their first hire, perhaps sharing client leads in exchange for referral fees or some support along the way. This allows team leaders to focus on listings (sellers), keeping up with the age-old real estate adage “list to last” — but this isn’t the only way of doing things.

A great agent intimately understands the entire real estate lifecycle — from finding leads, to closing new business, and learning how to represent and negotiate for both buyers and sellers. It’s important to hire folks who have this whole-picture understanding, on top of unique strengths and areas of expertise, so they can act as a partner from the get-go.

And perhaps the right person comes along but they don’t have this level of understanding just yet — don’t discount them! Instead, consider providing training upfront as part of the onboarding process. Building a team this way makes agents better at everything, from start to finish, helping both buyers and sellers in the end.

It’s also key to look for people who truly love the business, love helping people and love the idea of real estate as a lifestyle, not just a job. Because real estate is often such an all-consuming career, the best teams are typically composed of those whose values are aligned.

It’s also essential to stack your team with a diverse portfolio of backgrounds and passions. A truly unique (and marketable) team is one that can work not only with buyers and sellers, but also renters, general contractors, painters and everyone in between.

2. Focus on the client, not the transaction

As an agent builds out a team, it’s easy to look at each person’s skill sets, and map back to the tasks needed to close deals. This person does A, B, C, that person can handle X, Y, Z, and so on.

While this seems efficient and scalable (and, generally speaking, it is), as agents, we’re not in the transaction business — we’re in the client business.

There is never one single transaction that makes a career, not in any market, and not at any price point. It can be easy to get caught up in the transactional component of it all, but the minute you start breaking the process down into tactical steps, you’ve already lost.

Instead, strive to obsess over the client experience at large. Make it your goal to do such an awesome job that each client your team works with wants to refer all of their friends, family and colleagues to your team.

Set up roles and responsibilities to focus on the holistic client experience and check in throughout the process. Ask each other, “Did we really wow a client this week?” or conversely, “Did I miss an opportunity to make their life easier?”

Building your team — and approaching the industry — this way can ensure client referrals are continuously baked into your model. Set goals, talk about them constantly, measure against them regularly and use the data to hold your team accountable.

3. Set and track clear goals

Creating trackable goals as a team is critical to momentum and success, but it can also be immensely helpful — not to mention motivating — to encourage your team to develop and work toward individual goals as well.

Map out their personal and professional trajectories in tandem with the firm’s, and set smart and tangible goals to strive for. Objectives should be personalized, take client feedback into account, and shared openly for constructive team-wide dialog.

Write goals down, determine how to measure them and track the team’s progress regularly. During goal check-ins, discuss and assess both team and individual goals — what’s going well and what’s holding you and your team back.

For any areas where teammates aren’t meeting their goals, put collective heads together and problem solve. The focus on team and individual goals ensures that everyone not only performs well for clients, but that each team member also gets what they individually need out of their career.

Real estate is such a way of life vs. a typical 9 to 5 job, and it’s important to consciously treat it that way, making sure that your team is finding meaning in their career.

Managers should also remember that each team member has a unique perspective and valuable experience to add to any conversation — that’s why you hired them! While it might be easy for leaders to determine the vision, identify the team values, set the goals and transcend those down the line accordingly, it’s typically more beneficial for the team to focus on doing these things together.

The vision may need to evolve as the team grows, but it’s all in an effort to make the whole group operate more successfully. In the end, the diversity of voices coming to the table, all equally powerful, typically results in a team that’s committed to the vision they’re building together — and clients can tell.

4. Closely and strategically manage expectations

During kickoff meetings with any new client, focus on clear and honest expectation setting with regard to who they’ll be working with. As teams get to know what the client is looking for in their new home and/or their motivations for selling their home, make sure that the client also knows and understands each team member’s strengths.

It should be clear from the get-go when a client should expect to see management and when they should expect another member of the team — and why. Depending on the ask, a client might prefer to speak to someone else on the team over leadership, according to each person’s areas of expertise and what they bring to the table.

In setting clear expectations — that every agent is an extension of the firm as a whole — clients will feel comfortable calling on any team member at any point, and receive the help they need.

Being a one-person show is becoming increasingly difficult, and is certainly less than sustainable. You never want to be the one to tell a client that you can’t get them into the home they want because you’re tied up with something else.

Realtors are all running their own end-to-end business, from marketing to contracts and negotiating, and well beyond. No one can possibly be excellent at everything or, realistically, have time for it all. But they can have trusted partners on their team.

A career in real estate can easily become a true 24/7 job and the go-it-alone model is no longer viable for any one person. Clients have questions and needs at all hours, but it’s important to remember that you’re helping them make the biggest investment of their life.

Having a team that allows agents to tap their individual strengths and be true partners to one another benefits those that matter most in the industry: the client. Teams are the way of the future, and teams that focus on making it partnership vs. a factory line will be far more successful in the long run.

Plus, it’s way more fun to share this journey with your team members.

Blakely Hull is a real estate agent and team leader with Avenue 8 in San Francisco and the Bay Area. Connect with her on Instagram and LinkedIn.

agent advice | teams
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