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How one top agent thrives managing a team of 23

RISMEDIA, March 27, 2007-"On average, our listing agent will spend less than 20 hours per client which makes our listing agents' incomes a high dollar per hour activity," says Ashley Leigh, head of the 23-member Ashley Leigh Team of Linton Hall, Realtors in Northern Virginia. "This system prevents our listing specialists from burning out on the other details of the transaction and, as a result, they can concentrate on what they do best."

Burnout was what nearly caused Leigh to quit real estate six years ago at just 30 years old. Deals were coming in non-stop; he was a new parent and something had to give. It was either get out or get help. Leigh chose to dig in and form a team to help him balance his book of business, and today he reports a team volume on the order of 320 units and $152 million in sales volume for 2006. Here, Leigh candidly talks about how forming a team has helped him reach a level of success he never imagined.

Why did you decide to form an agent team? In 2001, at the age of 30, I had just gotten into the business, doing nearly 90 deals in 12 months. Things were getting out of hand; I was working six full days a week and half-days on Sundays. After just getting married and having my first child, I was at the "burn out" point. So at the crossroads I asked, do I quit and go to another industry or do I dig in for 12 more months to create a team? A team would allow me to leverage through systems and technology to create a lifestyle for myself and capitalize on my quick success in the industry.

What do you tell people about the value of hiring a team?
I have a core listing team that consists of four individuals. They educate the seller on our market share, average days on the market versus competition and negotiation factors. Our listing team also demonstrates how our systems work and the benefits, ultimately resulting in more money for their property, a quicker sale, and fewer problems. Furthermore, we dispel any myths or fears that the sellers might have regarding getting lost in the shuffle of a high volume team compared to the average agent. By the end of the presentation, there are so many benefits supporting the team concept that the seller logically has a no-brainer decision and they hire our team.

How do you maintain profitability while compensating the team?
Compensation is divided into two general categories and then further subdivided. The first is listings and the second buyers. The sub categories consist of team-generated leads and agent-generated leads.

Team-generated leads provide listing agents with a 22.5% split. The listing agent shows up to appointments that have already been sorted, filtered, pre-qualified, and scheduled by another team member. These appointments are ready to sell, now. The agent presents the team listing presentation and formalizes paperwork. That agent becomes the liaison throughout the transaction which includes weekly feedback reports, contract negotiation, home inspection negotiations, walk-thru negotiations, and personally sitting through closing / settlement with the client. The listing agent is allowed to "adopt" the client and solicit referrals after the transaction for extra "bonuses".

On average, our listing agent will spend less than 20 hours per client which makes our listing agents' incomes a high dollar per hour activity. This system prevents our listing specialists from burning out on the other details of the transaction and, as a result, they can concentrate on what they do best. The supporting cast members fill in the details of the transaction by concentrating on what they do best.

If a lead is generated by the agent, he or she gets a 50% split. The system works the same way, but the listing agent benefits from self-generating his or her own business. As for team-generated buyer leads, the buyers agent gets a 35% split. Our average sales price is $475,000 and we generally receive a co-op of 3%. When an agent generates his or her own buyer they get a minimum of a 50% split and maximum of 90% split depending on their current pay scale.

We encourage our agents to develop their own database of clients and seek repeat, referral business constantly. One of my tasks is to track revenue, expenses, and forecast market conditions for the next six months. So far in my career, I have been straight on.

We were able to make corrections for the recent down turn that took place in the summer of 2005 before many others in our market place. These actions turned out to be the key ingredients for making a profit in 2006. Clients are blown away by the service we provide.

Success Strategies

What's your best tip for getting a listing at the right price?
Salesmanship. You have to lead the seller to price right, rather than telling them where to price because sellers like to be in control. You have to have the right scripts and dialogues supported by the proper pricing presentation to get the right place. It is a mistake to simply dump a few listings in front of a seller and tell them to price here. Over-pricing is one the biggest mistakes. These agents simply don't have the guidance and support systems to gain the confidence to lead the seller in pricing at a fair market price. In my opinion the actual experience of the listing agent is overrated when it comes to pricing right.

What advertising idea created the greatest return on investment?
In 2001, I started a direct response marketing Web site. I had friends who laughed at my Web site, felt sorry for me and then cleaned it up, creating a real site. Several of these folks joined my team in the years to come.

What do you get out of your investment in coaching and training?
You get what you put into it. I have enjoyed being coached by people who know more than I do. I believe finding someone who fits your style and is actively selling properties is the best type of coach. My advice to those agents that are struggling to take their production to the next level is to seek out one or two of the top teams in your area and interview the team leader. Many agents have a negative opinion of teams, usually based on closed mindedness. So whether an agent chooses to utilize a national coaching organization or local team, if they keep their minds open and are willing to learn, they will invariably get to the next production level. I am personally involved in a mastermind group that consists of 20 "mega-producers" across the country. We all feed off of each other, creating a positive synergy of blending of new marketing ideas and systems. We all benefit from working together rather than reinventing the wheel by ourselves.

What's your best idea for holding effective team meetings?
We have periodic team training sessions. Our members are selling an average of 40 homes a year so they don't see much benefit in a team meeting. It is my fault that this culture has been created; I don't like taking time out of the day for meetings. The seasoned team members meet for trainings with me on an as-needed basis, while the new members have a mandatory training schedule.

What's the most creative thing you've ever done to sell a home?
Our marketing system encompasses a plethora of marketing mediums to assist our sellers. We go the extra mile on all our listings.