New markets require new approaches and tactics. Experts and industry leaders take the stage at Inman Connect New York in January to help navigate the market shift — and prepare for the next one. Meet the moment and join us. Register here.
As the market turned last year, real estate companies of all stripes began looking to cut costs.
Many laid off workers.
Others axed big and flashy programs.
And still others shook up their management teams.
But as the market continues to look uncertain, or even bleak in some places, there’s one thing that Crystal White, at least, thinks real estate companies should absolutely not cut from their budgets: coaching.
White is the director of agent development at @properties Christie’s International Real Estate. And that means her job is literally coaching fellow real estate agents. So it’s understandable that she’s strongly in favor of coaching.
But in anticipation of Inman Connect New York — where White will appear on stage — she laid out her case. In essence, she argued that it’s more important now than ever before for agents to be confident and educated. And in that light, coaching helps industry professionals keep their focus on the consumer, rather than on their own nerves.
In other words, agents need to know their stuff as well as professional actors — White likes Sandra Bullock — are able to inhabit their characters.
What follows is a version of White’s conversation with Inman that has been edited for length and clarity.
Inman: Talk to me briefly about what your role is and what you do.
Crystal White: I’m the director of agent development for @properties Christie’s International Real Estate. I coach and develop affiliate owners and other leaders on tools and tips and ways to help them with training and coaching their agents. And then I also train agents personally.
I’ve been in this role for about a year. Before that I was a managing broker for one of our affiliates in Indianapolis. And then before that I was a Realtor.
I assume you’re talking to a lot of folks across the industry and getting a big-picture kind of view. Tell me what you’re seeing. What’s the mood of the agents you’re talking to?
One of the things I’m seeing is that agents are really hungry for direction and accountability and motivation. Things you’d typically get with a good coaching program or a good coach. They’re really hungry for that and I think one of the main reasons for that is, I won’t say fear, but it’s the anticipation of the unknown.
Sometimes in leaner times, people are looking for places to cut costs. What do you say to people who might be considering cutting coaching from their budgets? Why should people not do that?
That is a great question. Thad Wong and Mike Golden, our owners, have been very intentional about adding to our support for our agents. So, making sure we are beefing up on support, on training, and making sure agents get the support they need.
It was a great call that they made. We put out open enrollment in December and the responses were overwhelming. So they were visionaries in seeing that that is not an area that we need to cut back on. It’s an area we need to lean into more.
My understanding is that at Inman Connect New York you’re going to be talking about objections or concerns agents might hear from clients. What are some examples?
Some of the key things dealing with buyers is the interest rate. So, “should I buy now?” Some buyers also think the market is going to crash and they want to wait and buy then. And they’re concerned about the lack of inventory, and what is available isn’t what they want.
As far as sellers, they want to wait until spring. They want to over-list their house, thinking that this is still quarter one of 2022, which was totally different from right now. Or, if they put their house on the market too high, instead of reducing it they want to talk to their agent about taking it off temporarily.
How are you counseling agents to respond to those concerns?
We encourage agents to do role playing within their own personal groups as well as their teams. So, practicing scripts. Learning, if this is what the objection is, this is what they say so it can become authentic for them and how they respond.
That is actually one of the ways that we overcome that together as a group. Having those key points. So, here’s an objection, here are common responses for that. Learn them. Practice them. Own them, so that you can be authentic in the moment. And that really helps with their people skills, if they’re able to be in the moment when talking to the consumer.
How can you be authentic in the moment if you’re using prepared scripts and a pre-set idea of how to respond? How does authenticity work in that setting?
When I already have an idea of what the facts are and what the answers are, it allows me to connect with them and hear them. When you are well-versed, or educated on the consumers’ needs and concerns, it allows you to focus on the actual consumer in that moment.
Here’s a great analogy that I love to explain to agents. I’m a big fan of Sandra Bullock as an actor. And so Sandra Bullock, when she gets a line and she’s going to do a movie, she has to practice and practice those lines. She practices them so much to the point that it becomes who she is in the moment. So when she goes on the screen, she really can encompass that person. And it feels authentic watching her.
Now, I’m not an actress. But in that same regard, if I’ve practiced the information and learned it and studied the concerns, when I’m in the moment I don’t have to worry about thinking.
I love the Sandra Bullock analogy. But it also occurs to me that Sandra Bullock is one of the best actors out there. She’s an A-lister and not everyone who wants to be an actor becomes a Sandra Bullock. So for real estate agents, how do you get to that level?
Practice, practice, practice.
It’s no different than us understanding contracts. You read the purchase agreement. You read different contracts. It’s not so you can recite every line to someone, but it’s so you can be familiar with it. So when you’re engaged in a conversation and a question is asked, you at least have knowledge. You can be informed and can answer that person.
When you’re not prepared and you’re not informed, what I have found with agents is they’re nervous. And when you’re nervous you usually are not relaxed and focusing on the consumers’ needs. You’re nervous and insecure and worried about what you’re going to say. You’re asking yourself, “what are they going to say? And am I going to know the answer?”
So that lack of preparation causes an agent to not be able to connect with a consumer in the way that they want to.
It’s not about perfection. It’s really about preparation. A prepared agent is able to have better people skills because they’re able to be present in the moment and really hear what that concern is without worrying about their insecurities.