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RISMEDIA, June 14, 2007-From recruiting new members to working with your broker operating an agent team can be as challenging as it is rewarding. Recently RISMedia interviewed three agent team leaders who offered in-depth insight and success strategies into operating under the team concept.

Chris Heller
The Heller Group
Keller Williams
San Diego, California
Years in real estate: 18
Number of team members: 10
Success stat: Sells over 100 homes a year

How do you recruit new team members?
Mostly a lot of people come to us. So for me it’s more a question of “How do I select them?”? First, I want a new person to be an asset and bring something to the team. Anything that we achieve is as a team, so anyone coming on board with us has to be a team player…and they have to be talented.

How do you reward team members?
The compensation is structured so that the more we make, the more they make. I also take the entire team away for fun weekends. In a few weeks (at press time), we will all go to Santa Barbara and I will give each team member $500 spending money. It is good for us to get away as a group.

How do you market the benefits of working with an agent team to clients?
We can give them a lot more time, attention and resources so we can be much more aggressive as a marketer. I ask clients, “Do you want me or do you want your home sold?”

Do you outsource any of the team’s responsibilities?
Yes. Brochures and our marketing materials. We sell really well so we stick to selling.

Do you rely on outside coaching/training? If so, who do you use?
We rely on Mike Ferry for coaching and, of course, Keller Williams. Keller Williams is really first and foremost a training and education company.

What type of advertising demonstrates the biggest return on investment for the team?
We do use the “ad-mobile” that drives around for eight hours in the community with our logo on it. I also sponsor a portion of the freeway to keep it clean and we do a lot of Internet advertising. That said, I don’t do any print advertising. If it sold homes I would do it, but it doesn’t.

How do you differentiate your team from others in the marketplace?
We do whatever it takes to sell a house and sell it quickly. The average time on the market in San Diego for other brokers is 100-plus days. For us, the average time is less than 30 days. We have four people on the team who prospect daily looking for buyers. That’s all they do. We are also very accessible-we always have someone to answer phone calls.

What is the most creative thing you’ve ever done to get a listing?
When I first started out in the business I didn’t know anyone in the area so I concentrated on houses that were “for sale by owner.” One time there was this great house that was “for sale by owner” and I actually had a big bologna delivered to the owner and I wrote him a note saying, “There is no bologna dealing with me.” I got that listing and sold it right away!

Marsha Waddelow
The Marsha Waddelow Team
RE/MAX Associates of Arlington
Arlington, Texas
Area served: Northeast Tarrant County
Number of team members: 4 agents and 3 administrative staffers
Years in real estate: 12

When did you first start your team and why?
I have been selling real estate since 1995 and in the beginning I was obsessed and worked a million hours a week. I broke all the sales records at the brokerage. By 1999 I knew that I needed support and hired an assistant. In July of 1999, my life changed forever when I met Brian Buffini. I learned to ask my client base for business and then it really took off and I started building my team to service all of the clients.

What are the biggest benefits of having a team?
The biggest benefit is that everybody can have time off. This way no one gets burned out. It also gives us a larger presence in the marketplace. And of course our clients get much better service. They can call us 24 hours a day.

How do you manage your team?
I try to operate my team like a mini brokerage. I run the team like a business. I also try to give them ownership of the team by making sure that it’s their achievement not mine. Another thing that I do that most team leaders do not do is I allow them to list and sell.

How do you compensate the team? I give very generous splits. I would rather have four agents who are really cooking than have two or three at 50 percent who are not generating much business. A generous split really motivates them.

How do you motivate team members?
Contests and incentives. Last year I did a contest where if they reached a certain production goal, they won a trip to Las Vegas. If they produced even more, they could win a cruise. I also have a beach house in Galveston, Texas. I use it as an incentive and they love staying there. Team members are also able to do real estate work full time because I give them awesome administrative support. I also discovered early on that my team members need to be recognized, so I give monthly team recognition rewards: top rookie of the month, top producer, and so on.

How do you build client relationships?
I throw client parties every year for our top clients. Last year we rented out an entire aquatic center and threw a water party. We had 300 people. We got to give back to our customers and it generated a lot of business for us.

Julie Vanderblue
The Higgins Group (Christie’s Great Estates)
Senior Partner
The Vanderblue Team
Fairfield, Connecticut
Area served: Fairfield and Westport, Connecticut
Number of team members: 17 agents, 3 assistants

What is the most creative thing you’ve ever done to sell a home?
One of my favorite events was called “A Taste of Fairfield County.” We worked with 12 different area restaurants and at each open house a different restaurant catered the food. We said, “Come enjoy dinner on us.”

How do you deal with difficult team members?
I have let a couple of people go. The only time there’s not a fit is when an agent puts the money ahead of the client. In real estate, we are all independent contractors and there are a lot of very strong personalities and they have to be available and share. I am good at putting myself in their shoes. So I make it a conversation not a reprimand. It is, after all, a partnership.

How do you reward team members?
Their commission rate goes up as they bring in more business, and I give bonuses at the end of the year. Profit sharing is also a big motivator.

How do you market the benefits of working with an agent team to clients?
Each buyer is assigned two agents so they are getting two agents for the price of one. Also on the listing side, every single agent has to see the listing before it comes onto the market. They have to know the inventory and we meet every Monday because it’s important that the team knows what each one of us has. This way we do a lot of cross selling. Rather than having one agent you have 17 when you hire the Vanderblue Team.

What role does your broker play, if any, in supporting you and the team?
Rich Higgins is my partner-for him, it is truly about the people and he supports me in whatever I want to do. I have never seen a broker whose goal is “family comes first.” Rich Higgins has only two rules: Family first and the Golden Rule-“Treat others as you would want to be treated.”

What is the single best advantage of having an agent team?
The support-knowing that other people are going to be there. By having a team, I always have someone to pick up the ball. So with our team we are always picking each other up when we’re down and cheering together when we are up.

How do you differentiate yourself in this very competitive market?
We have a top 10 list we give to prospective buyers-the top 10 things the homeowner will miss about living at this address. We try to make the list as personal as it can be. Like, “I will miss sitting in the spa bathroom watching the snow fall.” The point is to make someone else picture themselves living in that home.