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The 4 Cornerstones of Agent Recruiting & Retention

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By Darryl Davis

RISMEDIA, May 13, 2008-As with any business, it costs more to acquire a new customer than to keep making additional sales to an established one. Many real estate companies believe they offer great opportunities to their agents. Why, then, do many companies find agent retention a bit daunting? If you are spending a good part of your time recruiting instead of keeping the agents you have, here are some tips and ideas that can make the difference.

How Much Time Do You Spend Recruiting?

To best impact your office production results, you may be surprised that the first place to take inventory is of yourself as a leader. Start with an assessment of where you spend your time by keeping a time/task log in 15-minute increments. While seemingly tedious, you may be surprised with the results when you see how much time actually does go into recruiting and training, and other less profitable tasks.

davis_darryl.JPGWe would all agree that recruiting the right agents is important too, however, the principles behind improving retention of agents spill over to improve recruitment outcomes as well.

Let’s break the problem down into what I call the Four Cornerstones of Agent Recruiting & Retention. They are:

1. Next Level
2. Company Culture
3. Culture in Action
4. Management Style

1. NEXT LEVEL

You can measure your life and career in levels. Each time you reach a new level you have grown as a person, and that level can never be taken away from you. Knowledge and experience is never unlearned. For example, once you’ve been married you know what it’s like to be married and always will. Once a parent, you don’t ever stop being one.

Now apply this to your agents: Some may be operating at the level of “survivor,” while others may be able to stay in the “top producer” category. The next level from “top producer” is “manager,, then “successful manager,” then “speaker,” then “trainer.” You having been through these levels are the best role model for your agents.

If I were to go back from being a speaker to being an agent I would be better at it because of the levels of growth I’ve been through and the knowledge gained.

How Does This Pertain to Recruitment and Retention?

Recruitment and retention depend on you as the leader. You cannot recruit if you are not very excited about your company. You also cannot help agents reach their “next level” when the enthusiasm and drive aren’t there.

- Raise the level of your attitude bar.

Remember, with your mind’s eye, the time when you first opened your doors or became a manager. Weren’t you at your best – enthusiastic because it was new? Since then, did you get wrapped up in completing everyday tasks and putting out fires? Did you allow those things to drain your enthusiasm?

The daily stuff does have to get done, and fires do light sometimes. But if you’re allowing them to drag down the excitement in your company then you will have difficulty recruiting and retaining. Excitement and enthusiasm in a company atmosphere will help keep the top producers with you, raise the level of the bar for the lower producers to reach, and be enticing to prospective new agents.

- Keep your excitement going with a written version.

What is your vision for your company? What is your “next level?” A vision is like the compass on a ship. It steers a company to its “true north.” A clear, written vision helps you remain focused on where you want to go, despite the “waves” of daily grind and periodic emergencies.

On a recent Larry King show he interviewed achievers, and the common denominator among all of them was that they each had a vision that was bigger than they are.

One of my favorite quotes is, “If your team is not supporting your vision you’re not clearly communicating what that vision is and that’s because you’re not clear yourself.”

2. Company Culture

Most people want to “belong” – especially to be part of a winning team with a positive attitude.

Retention and performance (and even recruiting) will improve dramatically when agents have bought into the company culture — the “family.”

Designing and developing company culture is essential to retention.

The equation is:

ATTITUDE plus VISION divided by POSITIVE COMPANY CULTURE equals GOOD RETENTION & RECRUITMENT

Many examples exist: Nike, Saturn, McDonald’s, Disney, and Mary Kay

How do you create culture?

The value of having a company culture cannot be stressed enough. First you have to believe in the value of having it.

Create your company’s jargon. When you were a kid, did you have a club/playhouse and use special passwords as the only way to gain permission to enter? Didn’t you feel special – a sense of belonging and camaraderie from that? One of the ways to begin the process of company culture is to hone in on a company jargon – verbiage. For instance, at Disney the employees are called “cast members.” Every culture in the world has its own special jargon that only its natives know and understand.

Make sure everyone is singing from the same policies and procedures page. To better improve and streamline your policies and procedures you must ask yourself these questions:

- What’s missing for the buyers-the consumers?
- What do buyers and sellers want?
- What do agents want?
- What type of agent do you want?

Have a recognition program that enhances the company culture (patriotism). No matter how old we get, don’t we all feel darn good when we get a verbal and visual “pat-on-the-back?” When was the last time you were recognized by people you respect for a job well done? How did it make you feel? Agents are like that too. People, in general, are starving for appreciation, and will tend to stay around the people who give it to them. No matter how small a contribution, people need to know their efforts make a difference.

Identify what makes your company unique:

- Is it location?
- Systems technology?
- Exclusive buyer agency?
- Training?

Give it a name that tells agents the unique benefits they receive by being part of your company.

What is your company’s mission statement and value system? A mission statement is “who are you” and a value system is just that “what are your values?”

Once you are clear on these things, “selling” the value of your company to your agents, or prospective ones is a piece of cake.

3. Culture in Action

Okay, you’re clear on the company culture. Now how do you implement it?

A culture is a group of people who speak the same language, dress, and act the same way, and who have the same customs and traditions. In your office YOU set the pace for what those “traditions” are. Like your vision and your mission statement, philosophy is critical to creating that cultural like-mindedness and sense of belonging in your agents. Culture is then put into action in the company’s philosophy about the way they conduct business.

First, come up with a written company philosophy. The philosophy of a company is really what is believed to be the best way to conduct business. Maybe it’s as simple as “Going the extra mile to serve our customers.”

Take that statement, or your own “philosophy of doing business statement” and apply its meaning to each task agents perform for and with customers.

To help you define your philosophy, take a look at your company’s image. What is the logo? What is the “company story”? What’s unique about your company – what sets you apart? How, why and what is your company about, and what are the benefits you want to provide to each and every customer? Have you filtered that into how you write a standard listing?

Next, after re-assessing policies and procedures (by asking those questions outlined in “c” under company culture above), make sure they’re in writing and that every agent has a copy. From there, have a meeting to get input on how those policies and procedures can best create exceptional customer service programs.

Finally, remember that you are the example of company culture in action! So, what are your moments of truth? For example, do you show up late to office meetings? As small an infraction as that may seem, it damages your image in your agents’ minds. It also “says” you don’t respect their time. The quality of your relationship with your agents depends on how you conduct yourself in every single aspect of the business. Your agents are who make your business thrive.

4. Management Style

What is your management style? There are essentially three types, but only one is optimal.

The three styles are:

Passive – laid back
Task Master, tough
Acting as a coach

Type #1 manager denotes a lack of leadership and breeds lack of focus and direction. Type #2 manager almost bullies people into getting things done and breeds resentment.

So let us define what it means to coach and coach effectively.

The definition of (#3) acting as a coach for someone is: being committed to what they are committed to, and translating that commitment into a promise they make to themselves; then holding them accountable to that promise.

Accountability is key. Holding people accountable keeps the responsibility for performance (good or bad) on them, not you. You cannot do things for others. As with any challenge, we each must jump our own hurdles. The coach can only guide the performance.

Using a “Promise Board” is a very effective tool. It’s a dry board with two columns. On the left column the name of the agent is written, and on the right is what they promise to achieve. It’s more than goal setting, it’s about character too.

Sit with your agents each month and go through this exercise. Set specific, attainable goals with them for themselves and offer guidance throughout the month with weekly check-ins. Just as an airplane moves off course due to changing winds, they may need to adjust their course periodically to hit the target. This is where your coaching guides the performance of their hurdles.

Recruiting and Listing Tips

Here’s a tip/technique: for an agent to master the “standard listing conversation” there are three areas of knowledge the agent should master:

- The market knowledge (schools and….)
- Customer/client knowledge (what do clients need from us)
- Product knowledge (our strengths and competitors’ weaknesses; Ex. List price to sale price ratio – avg. days on the market, etc.

Recruiting tips:

- Recruiting conference call: Advertise this event in which top agents will share success formulas in a conference call.
- Voice mail recruiting: Promote this system to which the prospective agent calls in and have three choices:

o “press ‘1′ if you want information on becoming an agent.”
o “press ‘2′ if you want to know more about our training schedule.”
o “press ‘3′ if you want to learn how to have a first successful year.

Then they can leave a message. (Note: on the outgoing message, the best recruiter is the owner/president. If not the owner, use your well-known “mega” agent).
- Tele-recruiting: hire high school kids to make survey calls to prospective agents. They ask the prospect’s opinions about the economy and market and other things you think important. Then have them ask the prospect if they have thought about making a move from their current agency in the last 30 days.
- Design a “signing bonus” for your company
- Create a company newsletter.
Let us re-cap the important points to set into an action plan right now:

- Key Point #1: Retention is more important than recruiting
Action: Do a time/task log for two weeks to determine how much time you, as the leader, actually spend on each aspect of your business.

- Key Point #2: The four principles, or cornerstones, of retention and recruitment are: Next Level, Company Culture, Culture in Action, and Management Style.

Actions: Raise the level of your attitude. Remember the excitement you generated when you first opened your doors or became a manager.

- Keep your excitement going by having a WRITTEN VISION.
- Recognize the value of Company Culture
- Create a Company Jargon
- Make sure everyone is singing from the same policies and procedures page
- Have a recognition program that enhances the company culture
- Identify what makes your company unique
- If you haven’t already, write a company mission statement and determine its value system.
- Also determine your company’s philosophy of doing business, then apply that philosophy to each task agents and employees perform for customers.
- Once you’ve determined why and how your company is unique, filter that (those) point(s) into your advertising and how you write a standard listing
- After re-assessing policies and procedures as outlined above, have a meeting. Get all agents’ input as to how to create exceptional customer service programs through these policies.
- Become a coach for your agents and hold them accountable for their own promises to themselves. Set goals with them and meet with them frequently to help them stay on task and target.

For over 15 years, Darryl Davis has traveled around the country coaching agents and brokers on how to achieve their Next Level of success. He is the creator of the nationally acclaimed POWER Program, the only yearlong coaching and training course where Power Agents, on average, double their production over their previous year. Darryl is a best-selling author, one of the highest rated speakers at the NAR Convention each year, and has a career-curriculum that brings agents from “Rookies to Retirement”.

For more information, visit www.DarrylDavisSeminars.com or call 1-800-395-3905.

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