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Three brokers reveal methods for motivating agents, negotiating to win and marketing for lead capture

RISMEDIA, March 28, 2007-"I try to make it fun. I try to minimize the administrative headaches that they have to deal with, and maintain a collegial atmosphere in the office with agents supporting each other, all enjoying each other's success through the ups and downs of putting deals together." That's how William Wilson, broker/owner of Kent Associate's Sotheby's International Realty in Marin County, California keeps his agent motivated. In this exclusive interview with RISMedia, Wilson and two of his colleagues from other leading brokerages offer their insights into how they motivate agents as well as teach them how to build trust, differentiate themselves in the market and much more.

Fostering Leadership

Martha Hayhurst
Senior Vice President, General Manager
Harry Norman Realtors
Atlanta, Georgia

What's the biggest challenge you face? Like most companies, our external challenges are competitive business models and adjusting markets. The internal challenge is ensuring that we provide our agents with the right tools, products and services so they can successfully face the external challenges. We believe in being a proactive company, not one that reacts.

What will you be doing differently this year? In 2007, we will have a stronger focus on agent professional development. We will accomplish this through coaching, training and accountability. We are focusing on being results-based.

How do you keep agents motivated? Hold agent strategic meetings. I stood before them, as an open forum, asking what's working, what they like, what they needed-to share ideas and concerns. I worked with our brokers and immediately began implementing new ideas. With brokers, we cover how to execute and how to come together in round tables, broker development (which leads to agent development), combining coaching and a growth strategy. We invest time, energy and effort.
My commitment is to spend 60% of my time with brokers and agents. I am always very present, but never center stage; I want them to know how valued each of them is by me and our company.

What is one of your most effective accomplishments thus far at Harry Norman? I started our Leadership Institute because we had concerns about growing a strong leadership base. Participants can grow and learn leadership principles based on ethics and honor, always making decisions based on that.

I also started our Young Realtor Council, for agents 35 years old and under. Anyone can participate; it's specifically a program geared toward that particular generation. In 18 months, the outcome has been phenomenal, creating a greater connection to that generation. The program includes a retreat where they share best practices and ideas, creating a strong connection between the entire company; seasoned agents connecting with younger ones, bringing all cultures to work together. It's leaders leading leaders.
The Leadership Institute is a power force moving through the company and we want to always keep that energy.

Blending a Brand and Local Reputation

William Wilson
Kent Associate's Sotheby's International Realty
Marin County, California

What's your most successful recruiting method? It's a combination of Kent's local reputation blended with the power and recognition of the Sotheby's International Realty brand, bringing both together to provide excellent service to our clients.

Why did you decide to become an affiliate of Sotheby's International Realty? It was a combination of my desire to grow the business with all of the substance that the Sotheby's brand brings to accomplish that goal. They provide all of the support and tools and the marketing and the recognition and value of the brand.

How do you keep your agents motivated? I try to make it fun. I try to minimize the administrative headaches that they have to deal with, and maintain a collegial atmosphere in the office with agents supporting each other, all enjoying each other's success through the ups and downs of putting deals together.

What's on the minds of home buyers and sellers in your region? Trying to achieve a balance between sellers' expectations in a marketplace based on 10 years of very strong seller markets, and buyers' realizations that it isn't really a seller's market. It's more balanced, with the sharing of power across the table.

What's your best technique for handling objections and negotiating for today's marketplace? You need to turn objections into a positive, making it a value proposition. You need to point out the real positives of moving forward.

How do you build trust and loyal relationships? Since joining the Sotheby's International Realty network, we're going to work with the opportunities they present to me. I am planning on having a physical presence in the southern Marin markets, with the opportunity to present to agents in the county a chance to affiliate with a company and a brand that resonates so soundly with the clients in this

What's the most effective marketing technique you're using at this time? It's the work of the individual agent involved. It's their level of effort, their commitment to the appropriate advertising to communication with their peers to buyers and sellers interested. It boils down to the commitment and tenacity of the individual agent.

Perfectly Poised

Scott Darling
Darling Real Estate, Inc.
Royal LePage Atlantic
St. John, New Brunswick, Canada

Describe your current market conditions: In St. John, we believe the next five years will be very strong. Sellers are getting into multi-offer situations. The hardest part will be getting people. I have had an increase of business every year for the last 15 years. And since 2003 our market has really started to pick up.

In your opinion, what differentiates your brokerage from the others in the marketplace? We have one-stop-shopping. We have taken a look at agency and see how people want to be represented. Our listing agent only does listings and buyers only use our buyer's agent. Then when we have people who want to sell their home and want to build we have our construction company so it is seamless. We are perfectly poised to help people so we have been proactive figuring out how to have people represented on both ends separately yet still keep the business.

What are you doing differently in terms of marketing? Last year The Real Estate Book came to St. John and we have been taking three and as many as four pages per issue. The response has been very good increasing our leads. What's more, The Real Estate Book also expands our reach as some of the questions seem to come from outside the area we serve.

How would you describe the demographics of your clientele? We used to have a lot of first-time home buyers but now we have a good mix of everything. Baby Boomers and young professionals are now dominating the market.

What do you see as the trends and the biggest changes going into 2007? St. John has been very different with 98% single-family homes and 2% condos. We are laid back here. Atlantic Canadians are making a lot of money here and have a really good quality of life-I do not think that is going to change. It is so livable and inexpensive.

What's one of the most creative things you've ever done to sell a home? I have come up with innovative ways to get downpayments for people to be able to buy homes. Many grateful buyers were able to buy houses and did not have to spend their lives as renters in apartments.

Real estate philosophy: It's got to be fun but real estate is also a job. We take it very seriously.

– Kayla O'Brien and Lesley Geary