With the failure rate for new agents so high, teams can provide an environment more amenable to long-term success. Why, then, do so many agents on teams still fail to succeed? 

This June, Inman’s editorial theme is Teams — we’re going to go deep on what it takes to grow your team amid this intense seller’s market. And if you’re not already a subscriber to our Teams Beat email newsletter, sent every Thursday, sign up now.

There’s no question that teams can help new agents succeed. However, let’s be frank: not every real estate agent out there should be on a team. And to be brutally honest, not every agent out there should be an agent.

Regardless of how excellent any given real estate team environment might be, ironically, agents fail on teams for the same reasons they fail as agents overall. Here are our top 14 reasons agents fail on teams.

1. They should not be real estate agents in the first place 

The lure of becoming an agent can be powerful and even has romantic overtones. When asked why they want to be agents, many have the same answers: 

  • “I love working with people!” 
  • “I adore houses!” 
  • “The idea of setting my own schedule is VERY appealing!” 
  • “I want to be my own boss.” 
  • “I get to set my own income levels.” 
  • “I can work from home!” 
  • And so on. 

As an added benefit, for those who do not wish to attend college, the entry bar for becoming an agent is dramatically lower.

The problem is this: None of these reasons are significant enough in and of themselves to ensure a successful career. You don’t succeed because you love people or houses. Success comes from hard work, long hours and well-honed skills developed after hours of practice and even failure. 

Real estate is not a job for the timid. Anyone with romantic ideals will quickly discover that though they might “love” working with people unless they have a highly developed skillset and lots of moxie, people will not reciprocate the feelings.

Whether on a team or not, if an agent doesn’t have the mindset and drive to succeed, they will be like a moth drawn to a flame; it might look wonderful initially, but it won’t end happily.

2. They function better on their own

For some, the idea of having their picture plastered on signs all over town is irresistible. Others like the idea of generating a successful income. For those who want both, teams present a problem. We have a saying when recruiting new team members: “If you want fame and money, go solo. If you join a team, you don’t get both. You may get the money, but the team gets the fame.”

For those who don’t want to share the spotlight, insist on their name on everything and aren’t willing to give up part of their commissions for any reason, a team is not the place to be. 

Although we try to make it very clear while recruiting, occasionally agents join the team and then start complaining about splits, having their pictures on signs and so on. That is a clear indication it’s time to part ways. 

3. They refuse to follow models

In the book The Millionaire Real Estate AgentGary Keller makes a simple point: Success leaves clues. The book outlines four key models to follow based on the successes of thousands of agents across the country. 

He’s not the only one to realize the importance of the work of those who have come before you. In a letter to his contemporary Robert Hooke in 1675, Isaac Newton penned the statement, “If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.”

Keller further explains, 

“Reinventing the wheel every time is just plain exhausting work. And it leads to breakdowns and burnouts. On the other hand, I think you’ll discover that modeling will be very empowering. In fact, it may make things appear so simple it feels like cheating. Powerful models usually feel that way.”

So it would make sense that agents on teams would follow the models espoused by the team and hunker down and do the activities that have made success happen for many before them. Although that might sound logical, many agents simply refuse to go with the plan. 

It’s hard work. It’s repetitive and can be incredibly tedious, so some either blatantly refuse to follow the models or try to tweak things to make them “easier.” Those who refuse to follow models end up in the same place as drivers who believe it’s easier to drive in the ditch instead of on a paved road. It may be more boring to drive on the road, but it has much more predictable outcomes.

4. They look at real estate as a job, not a business

Successful businesses do not happen by accident. Although they might have a fundamental idea or product that drives the market to them, any long-term success happens as they transition from an entrepreneurial mindset to a purposeful one

Entrepreneurs succeed initially by using their natural skills and talents but succeed long-term by installing systems and models and instituting accountability.

Any savvy businessperson will tell you that it’s not a 9-to-5 proposition. It’s not a job. It’s a career with a passion that grips you and compels you to spend the time and energy necessary to succeed. 

Whether on a team or a solo practitioner, it’s the same: It takes an effective business plan to build a business. 

The advantage of being on a team is that usually, the team provides the plan. The saying, “When you fail to plan, you plan to fail” is absolutely true. Team members who have a 9-to-5 mentality will never succeed.

5. They refuse to master the fundamental skills

If you don’t sell houses, you will not succeed as an agent. Selling involves three essential skills: marketing, sales and negotiation

Most people are not born with these skills. They acquire them through extensive training, coaching and practice. Although a team will provide the marketing that brings in leads, you still need to know how to market yourself to your clients. You still need to understand the fundamentals of selling, negotiation and closing. A refusal to master the requisite skills will result in ejection from the bus.

6. They refuse to build a database

Year in, year out, between 55 to 60 percent of our team’s business comes from our database. Common sense dictates that building a database should be any agent’s No. 1 priority. You would think. 

Some teams even insist that new agents have a minimum database (100-200 people) in place before being allowed to join. Not only should agents join a team with a database in place, they should continue to grow it and develop it daily.

7. They refuse to lead generate 

Although it’s true that teams typically provide a flow of leads to their members, successful teams insist that their agents also develop a stream of leads on their own. 

Whether from their personal database, prospecting and so on, every team member should have lead generation time-blocked into their schedules. Some teams go so far as providing leads to team members only as long as they generate leads of their own. No personal lead generation? No team leads either.

 8. They refuse to give up part of their commission

A typical brokerage will provide a few fundamental things: a modicum of training, a desk, a CRM of sorts and encouragement. Beyond that, agents are typically on their own. 

On the other hand, teams provide a great deal more, including ongoing training, support, administrative assistance, and a consistent flow of leads. Because brokerages provide less, they can offer higher splits to solo agents. To some agents looking to join a team, the lower splits provide a significant barrier to entry. 

I’ve talked to so many agents who cannot see the bigger picture — all they look at is their split — they think that the higher their split, the more money they are making. 

Consequently, they will never look at a team structure realistically because they have the wrong mindset. It’s a very lopsided and unrealistic way of looking at things, but it’s a belief system that permeates a massive percentage of agents in our industry. 

A team can provide much more cost-effective solutions to admin, marketing, lead generation and so on because of their scale. Additionally, they can remove those aspects of a specific agent’s job that the agent is either not skilled at or simply does not like. Agents who do not understand this and insist on higher splits will never make it on a team.

9. They refuse to do things the team’s way

Every successful team has systems that provide the rails on which the train runs. Remove the rails, and a train wreck is an inevitable result. 

Although team members frequently have a voice in developing and finetuning any team’s systems, usually, they do not have a vote when it comes to ultimately choosing any given system. 

Once a system is in place, the expectation is for everyone to get on board the train. Failure to do so is akin to switching tracks. If the train goes in one direction and a team member is going another, they will not remain together for long.

10. They refuse to be a force for good

Some love being team players and will do anything to promote a positive team culture. Others seem inherently disposed to find the negative in everything and undermine team spirit. Some will go as far as to triangulate and build their own cause within a team. 

There is no place on teams for those who refuse to be a force for good.

11. They refuse to attend trainings or team events

Teams provide training to enhance overall skills and capabilities. No one can say they have arrived. All of us can benefit from ongoing training and skills development. Not attending training is essentially declaring that your agenda is more important than that of the team at large.

12. They refuse to look in the mirror

Effective self-analysis is critical. It’s why pilots walk around their airplanes before taking to the sky. It’s why you look in a mirror before entering a meeting to see if you have remnants of salad stuck in your teeth. 

A refusal to do practical personal evaluation is a refusal to grow. It’s extremely difficult to lead someone who will not be involved in self-evaluation.

13. They refuse to be accountable

For a team to be successful, it has to have accountability from everyone on board. Results and accountability are linked at the baseline. 

culture of accountability is critical in enabling a team to perform at record-breaking levels. 

No accountability? You can expect mediocrity at best. Accountability promotes positive working relationships, nurtures job satisfaction and eliminates any element of surprise. 

Because accountability is the secret sauce that differentiates between success and failure, successful organizations have accountability built-in at the top, which flows down to everyone below. Accountability cannot be delegated: It’s a personal choice everyone on the team must make. A refusal to be accountable is a refusal to succeed, which is the one critical behavior that a team cannot tolerate.

14. They refuse to manage their finances effectively

It’s true for every agent whether they are on a team or not: Failure to manage finances means an end to a career in real estate. If you cannot manage your monthly financial obligations, you have to look for a 9-to-5 steady income. 

Ironically, the need to succeed financially is often the motivation team members need to get into gear. On the other side of the coin, we have noticed that younger team members still living at home often do not have the drive required to succeed because their parents provide a safety net that removes the urgency necessary to force results.

Your chances of surviving the first few years as an agent may be increased by joining a team. But even though a team can provide a nurturing, supportive and beneficial environment for team members, at the end of the day, agents on teams fail for the same reasons solo agents don’t make the cut: They shouldn’t be agents, or they refuse to do the fundamental behaviors required to succeed.  

Carl Medford is the CEO of The Medford Team.

Are you receiving our weekly Teams Beat newsletter? For the latest news, insight and trends on teams, subscribe here.

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