As the CEO of the second largest ERA franchise in the U.S., we have always had a keen focus on recruiting. When the pandemic hit, I knew how important it would be to keep engaging with potential agents, booking meetings and ultimately having them join us. They say when the times get tough, the tough get going. And in my case, I started going to my computer.
While we’ve had video chat for a while and many of us have used Skype, Blue Jeans and even Zoom, our industry and society didn’t fully recognize the full power and potential of it. In real estate recruiting especially, we’ve always stuck to the belief that our people-to-people business needs to be powered by face-to-face interactions. We were always focused on the “in-person” experience. To us, video was a secondary communication channel, not a primary one.
Faced with shelter in place measures and social distancing recommendations, Zoom became our primary means of connecting with all of our audiences – from clients, to agents to potential agents. We were nervous that not being in person would detract from being able to note facial expressions, read body language and gauge non-verbal responses. After all, this visual element of communication is critical to building a good relationship. Left with little choice, I knew video conferencing was our best option to help us maintain our strong recruiting efforts.
But interestingly, I discovered that in many ways, Zoom meetings are better than in person meetings – even when we’re NOT in the midst of a global pandemic. For one thing, a Zoom meeting puts both parties on equal footing. We’re not meeting in my office, favorite restaurant or their local coffee house, creating a much more balanced environment for a discussion and healthy dialogue.
In addition to being safer from a health perspective, meeting over a video conference provides a secure channel for an agent exploring other career options. Potential candidates don’t have to worry about being seen consorting with the competition; they know the conversation will be entirely confidential.
I also think it’s easier to duck out of a Zoom call than leave an in-person meeting. And that’s important for both parties. If it’s not a good fit on my end, or if the potential recruit decides it’s not the right move, it’s very easy to excuse yourself for another call.
And finally, while meeting in person is always great, Zoom calls are super-efficient. Neither of us has to get in the car, find a parking spot or order a coffee.
I would venture to say that once we can resume normal interactions, I will still offer to meet with potential agents over Zoom. And why am I so sure? Despite not being able to meet in person, we were able to recruit more than 100 agents since March! That’s a 15% improvement over last year.
While Zoom has proven to be of great value in recruiting, I’m continually reminding our staff that getting the initial appointment – and these days that means getting them to the Zoom call - is still the most important thing. In recruiting, as in listings, getting the appointment is key.
We have a number of tactics we employ to communicate with our target audience of experienced agents with about $2-5 million in production. First, we put them on a drip email campaign. We send a few emails, then pause for a few days. To “break the silence,” we follow up with a brief phone call – a 15-20 second conversation. Then we send a few more emails, followed by a personal note or text offering something – perhaps some valuable information, access to a tool or a proven ERA technique to demonstrate our value. After a few days, we call again, always with the goal of scheduling an appointment. If they aren’t interested in a meeting, we ask if we can keep sending them emails. We want to stay top of mind in the event that someday, they will want to connect with us and explore how we can help them continue to build their business.
We take a slightly different approach with new agents who have just received their licenses. Our first communication with them is a hard copy letter with a hand-written envelope. We then communicate with agents at several points after they graduate – one month out, three months out, six months out and one-year post-graduation via a drip email campaign. After three emails, we send them an excel sheet tool that compares our compensation plan with our competitors. Our email management system can determine who opens the tool, which triggers a follow-up phone call. Our conversion rate for new agents is definitely something to be proud of: nearly 100% of the people we schedule appointments with join the company.
With both audiences, we’ve found that by embracing all of the tools and technologies – and yes, now Zoom – we’ve been able to secure those critical virtual meetings.
If you had told me six months ago that virtual meetings would be the top tool in my recruiting toolbox and the key to our short and long term success, I probably would not have believed it. But as many people are finding out this year, adaptation is key.
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