Christie’s Real Estate Chris Lim and Ben Fairfield with RE/MAX Western Region Development shared keys to their teams’ success in a down market with the Inman Connect Now virtual crowd.

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For Christie’s Real Estate President Chris Lim and RE/MAX Western Region Development Vice President Ben Fairfield, there’s one skill agents and leaders must master in 2023: Embracing change.

Chris Lim | Christie’s International Real Estate

“You know, 2022 will definitely be the year remembered as the year that everything shifted,” Lim told session moderator Amy Somerville and the Inman Connect Now virtual crowd. “2022 [has been] a huge year of growth, and I think it’s because I learned one really important thing: To pivot. I think it’s so important to be flexible to change.”

“When things change, a lot of times the safest thing for people to do is nothing, just be frozen and stop in their tracks not knowing what to do,” Fairfield added in agreement. “Opportunity is never lost, but a lot of people are going to miss it if they’re not prepared. So, you know, we’re really focusing on responsive leadership.”

Fairfield, who supports RE/MAX franchisees in 15 states from Hawaii to the Dakotas, said one of the main things that stop brokers from growing is their hesitancy to let go of outdated goals, strategies and success metrics that don’t align with the current market. For example, he said brokers should shift their current focus from busting sales records to improving culture and retention, which tends to slide during slowdowns.

“Traditionally this business, there are goals for sales units and sales volume, and all those things are great,” he said. “I think going into this kind of a changing market we need to add some categories for goals, one of the biggest ones being, ‘What do we want the goal for our office to be in terms of our culture? Who do we want to be? Who do we want to be seen as?'”

“When the market runs up, lots of distractions show up — technology, tools, strategies, companies, models, all kinds of stuff shows up,” he added. “But culture is what will attract the right agents, help us grow the right way we want to and get us through coming out stronger on the other side.”

If you find your tech and tools to be more of a hindrance than a help, both leaders said now is the time to review your tech and marketing strategy and make strategic decisions that streamline and enhance agents’ experiences.

“I mean, it really comes down to providing new marketing, our proprietary technology platform and then training to support our entire global network,” Lim said of his focus at Christie’s Real Estate. “I think that getting those property and content referrals, that’s really kind of top of mind for us. And then for training, we’re providing a lot of new online training through something called The Academy.”

Ben Fairfield | RE/MAX

Like Christie’s, Fairfield said RE/MAX is leaning into developing new technology and marketing strategies for franchisors, brokers and agents to help them “lean in” rather than “hunker down” as the market responds to inflation, slowing sales and dampening consumer sentiment.

“There are two schools of thought: You either lean in or hunker down, right? And so we’re not having conversations about hunkering down. We want to be smart,” he said.

The regional vice president highlighted RE/MAX’s new MAX/Tech powered by kvCORE platform, saying it’ll be a game-changer in bolstering agents’ lead generation pipelines by enabling them to build rapport with potential clients from Day 1 — a key to success as buyers and sellers adopt a slower pace.

“We know that it’s going to take longer to convert a lead. You’re going to need better systems to stay in touch with that lead over time,” Fairfield said. “A lot of agents don’t know what it is to go through a market like this, and we need to ensure we’re arming them with the best tech possible. So that’s a big one.”

Lim and Fairfield said 2023 is shaping up to be more of the same, with pending sales trending down 37 percent year over year and mortgage rates expected to hover between five and six percent. Although the current market is far from the worst when compared to past downturns, Fairfield said it’s still different from what many agents and brokers have become accustomed to, which means brokerages need to double down on training and resources to help their teams stay resilient.

“Bottom line though, we see total units going down a bit, and it’s still a positive number, but compared to where we’ve been the last 18 to 24 months, it’s a change, right?” he said. “So, we’re really focused on helping our broker-owners keep their eye on the horizon of where we’re going [and] staying ahead of what the market’s doing.”

“We see [the current market] as a beautiful opportunity to come alongside agents and really help them level up, increase their service to their clients and also grow their business at the same time,” he added.

In addition to helping agents and brokers master business basics, Lim said he places a premium on keeping his team’s mindset positive and creating opportunities for more experienced agents to share their wisdom.

“This isn’t the time to panic or be nervous. It’s the time for action,” he said. “How you navigate your mindset is [what’s] going to actually influence the year ahead.”

Email Marian McPherson

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