RISMEDIA, April 1, 2008-The tools and techniques used by real estate firms to stay afloat and maintain profitability in today’s tough market vary. But whether the focus is on recruiting, training, lead generation or ancillary businesses, attention never strays too far from the customer, whose increasing knowledge and demands require more sophisticated input from brokers and agents than in previous years. In this month’s Power Broker Roundtable, two industry pros share their insights.
Moderator: Alex Perriello, Special Liaison for Large Firm Relations, NAR
Participants: Brenda Casserly, President and Chief Executive Officer, ERA Real Estate – Parsippany, NJ
Glenn Melton, Chief Operating Officer, Realty Executives International – Phoenix, AZ
Alex Perriello: What strategies are your company deploying to maintain profitability?
Brenda Casserly: Our companies are driving profitability by concentrating on servicing their buyers and sellers and effectively marketing their listings. We have always been perceived by our customers as being dedicated, and today, more than ever, it is critical for our affiliates to communicate their value to their consumers. ERA continues to lead in three ways – through Internet marketing, customer communications and training. NAR tells us that 84% of buyers go to the Internet for their home search. This year, we have more Internet-based portals and multiple distribution networks, so that sellers know their property will be exposed around the world, and buyers know that we offer many choices.
Customers want communication on their terms and want to hear what you’re going to do for them. We have numerous electronic communications designed for specific customer profiles, such as seniors and Hispanics. ERA, for example, has a fully translated Hispanic website, Espanol.ERA.com. We are also focused on training. Our brokers and sales associates know that every customer contact and transaction counts. To accommodate our network’s demanding schedules, we have multiple training platforms – an electronic e-campus that offers about 250 courses, traditional and live virtual classroom training, and self-paced learning sessions. One of the most popular and effective courses is the Top Gun Academy for sales associates, an accountability course that has shown amazing productivity increases for those who have attended.
Glenn Melton: To maintain profitability in a challenging market, it’s important that you define goals clearly and make sure that every single thing you do, as a company, is a driving force in helping you achieve those goals. Specifically, at Realty Executives, we recognized that helping our brokers and managers recruit top quality, productive sales associates who are serious about making a career in real estate will help them maintain profitability. So, we introduced a proprietary, comprehensive recruiting system that focuses on doing just that. Congruently, we rolled out tools and systems to help meet the needs of our sales associates in a changing market. Some examples include proprietary buying and listing presentations, Latin marketing programs, and dynamic educational content and training programs.
Additionally, a unique strength of ours is the distributive network of entrepreneurial professionals that our business model lends itself to. By leveraging our regional developers and implementing broker and sales associate coaching systems for profitability, we are able to save time and be more efficient while helping our associates maximize their own dollars. One particular area of focus is the aggregation of best practices of our top producers, brokers and regional developers. We are so fortunate to have such an enthusiastic culture that supports the sharing of solutions, strategies and successes. This has also enabled us to create a large, decentralized network of coaching and support resources for anyone who is struggling or simply wants to get to the next level in his/her career.
AP: How do these strategies differ from approaches utilized in the past?
BC: It’s an extension of past approaches. We’ve always led in the customer-centric arena. ERA has been first in technology, training and platforms that have become the industry standard, such as our home warranty. We’ve always been innovative in answering customers’ needs by listening to their needs. For example, we were first to offer ERA.Com.Mobile and TXT ERA, which directly support growing trends and our affiliates’ and consumers’ requirements for quick, reliable and efficient listing information. With our ERA Sellers Security® Plan, for example, ERA will sell a customer’s current house or commit to buy it. While we’ve had this program for 30 years, builders have become very interested in it now.
GM: Over the last two years, our company has shifted from a franchise sales-focused company to a franchise development and support-focused organization. This means our entire staff is dedicated to developing systems and tools to meet the everyday needs of our brokers and sales associates as they look to us for support in their real estate businesses. Additionally, over the last year, we’ve had a paradigm shift in how we look at our company conferences and meetings. While we do still have annual, all-company events, more and more we are bringing the content directly to our franchisees and sales associates through content-rich regional meetings where we can roll out new programs and tools face-to-face in a broker or sales associate’s backyard. By doing this, we are able to “touch” a dramatically higher percentage of our sales associates and can better understand and meet the needs of individuals throughout our expansive system.
AP: How have brokers, managers and sales associates responded to these strategies?
BC: Professional ERA affiliates are really excited about this because of the extensive marketing support for their listings; they can really distinguish themselves from the competition. They’re using more systems and tools that consumers want because they have the time to do it. They know they must have a strong marketing plan backed by a fully integrated sales strategy and customer-centric electronic communication processes that break through media clutter.
GM: Many in our industry are struggling in this challenging market. But overall, we are finding that people within the Realty Executives system are staying positive and are getting creative about new ways they can continue to be successful exploiting opportunities the marketplace is presenting. Seeing this is an additional driving force for me and my team to continue developing innovative venues to help our brokers and associates be successful in meeting the needs of the consumer.
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