Agents/BrokersBrokerageIndustry VoicesIPO / M&AReal EstateRecruiting

The keys to building a strategic brokerage recruiting program

Over coffee recently, a broker with 150+ agents, confided to me that he was losing agents to the aggressive recruiting activities of his competitors. As I listened, he said he was planning to gear up his own recruiting efforts at the end of the year. The broker was taken aback when I quipped, “if you wait until then, the recruiting ship will have already sailed.”  

The constant ebb and flow of the real estate industry is not unlike the tides surrounding the island where I live. Locals anticipate and watch the tides, then plans are adjusted accordingly.

In real estate, as the market changes direction, brokers anticipate and plan for the constant shifts that regularly leave many accepted industry norms in the wake. One of those is the agent migration race.

The long-held industry tenant that real estate agents primarily switch firms at the start of a new year or during troubled times does not hold today. Over the past few months, the industry has seen large numbers of agents and teams jumping ship to competing brokerages.

Good recruiting is the lifeblood of a brokerage and a vital growth tactic, especially as the market evolves. Think of your recruiting as production insurance in today’s changing environment because you will lose good agents as your best producers are the competition’s top recruiting candidates.

For brokers who are on board with recruiting and retention being a primary growth strategy, here are six key questions you should ask yourself and your team:

Do you really listen to the candidates?

Your recruiting should be all about that agent, not your firm. It is NOT selling your brokerage with a fancy and long-winded presentation. It’s asking select candidates the right questions to find out an agent’s needs and the problems they have with their current brokerage.

This is the foundation of good recruiting because candidates generally want to solve a problem and your role is to find out what it is. Knowing this puts you in the position to potentially make an agent’s problems go away by joining your firm.

Instead of first focusing on your impressive recruiting presentation, fine-tune asking candidates questions up front to qualify them. Find out why that agent is considering a change and learning what you can do to help them make the right choice.

My mentor used to say: “Don’t sell your value until you understand what they value.”

How strong is your value proposition? 

Your value proposition is not just commission splits and the broker’s expertise; it’s providing more agent value that positions your brokerage as a competitive market driver. The broker that provides the leadership, support, resources, tools, marketing and more that drives successful agent productivity is the winner in recruiting and retention.

Recruiting based on your value proposition and showing how your agents enjoy the resources that drives their success while having the free time to enjoy life outside of work is much more effective and profitable to you than simply trying to match competitors’ splits.

How does your per-person productivity (PPP) compare to your competitor’s?

Agent productivity that exceeds the market PPP is the best recruiting and retention tool you have. When your agents complete more sides and win more of the listings, recruiting is easier. Agents are like professional athletes; the successful ones strive to be on the winning team.

A high PPP is critical in combating the “race to the bottom” of commissions because for agents, a higher 1099 form eclipses the commission split argument every time.

One of the fastest ways to increase PPP is to turn your brokerage into a listing company and the ability of agents to list property should be your biggest concern. When you have the listing, every agent in the MLS works for you, and listing activity is the one effort that agents can focus on to directly impact their success. A major Southwest broker told me that in his market, 95% of the listings are taken by less than 10% of the agents and many of them are with his firm.

Are you recruiting for your culture?

Cultural fit is one of the most important aspects of successful recruiting. How an agent or team blends with your company’s culture is critical to overall success for everyone.

A top-producing agent is not worth it to you if that agent does not fit — everyone has their bad apple stories. Maintaining that winning culture is important for both the success of your brokerage and of your agents. A seasoned broker recently told me, “The agent [you don’t] take on is just as important as those agents [you do] recruit.”

Bragging rights are as important as the commissions for most agents. Local agent recognition should be highlighted within the market as well as inside your brokerage. Effective use of company marketing and social media tools helps tell your agents’ stories and promotes well-deserved recognition while maintaining the winning culture.

How is your coaching and accountability? 

With historical data from the National Association of Realtors documenting that nearly 90% of new agents bail prior to seeing the five-year mark, training, support, and coaching are critical to agent success.

Ongoing coaching and training tailored to an agent’s needs such as areas of focus, strengths, and individual personalities is vital to the success of many agents — from newbies to seasoned veterans.

When coupled with experienced mentors, agents often learn proven techniques and processes as well the commitment and accountability needed to stay on course. It could be the difference between success or becoming another agent statistic.

Am I willing to eliminate the non-producers? 

This is a sticky one for many brokers, but unless agents are paying for the privilege of hanging their license with you or producing ancillary services income, you should consider eliminating the unproductive agents. 

Brokers often say, “Non-producers aren’t costing me anything.” That is not true. Unproductive agents rarely win the listing, because they don’t have the skillsets to effectively compete. The business your unproductive agents lose to the more skilled competitive agents represents serious dollars directly out of your pocket. 

Plus, those agents kill your culture and make it difficult for you to recruit and retain productive agents.

Remember — great recruiting creates great retention, but do not overlook your current agents. Some brokers fail to nurture their existing producers, which is dangerous because those agents are their competition’s very top recruiting candidates.

The waters surrounding today’s brokers may not be as smooth sailing as in the past; however, with uncertainty comes tremendous growth opportunity. Good recruiting and agent retention are major components of navigating the shifting times and being able to significantly you’re your market share.

Brokers who enable their agents to win the war at the kitchen table by getting listings and completing more transactions while still being free to enjoy their lives outside of work, generally attract and retain the best agents needed for future growth. 

Rick Ellis, MBA is vice president of global development with The Corcoran Group. He is a licensed real estate broker who owned and operated an Atlanta-based brokerage for 18-years, which he successfully sold in 2004.

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