Keeping brands fresh and agents happy in a shifting market

by Jason Porterfield

The real estate market appears to finally be cooling as rising interest rates, low inventory and higher construction costs dampen home sales. Managing brokers planning their strategies for the coming year are working out how to retain their best agents and recruit new talent in the midst of these changes.

Chris Feurer, chief executive officer at Jameson Sotheby’s International Realty, ties retention to providing good value and services that help agents when times are leaner. As the market cools, agents are finding they have to work harder to win a listing and to make a sale.

“We’re seeing that even though the transaction volume is less than last year, our staff and our managers are much busier because of the interactions that they do on a day-to-day basis with our agents because their needs change,” Feurer said. “So when we’re able to provide that value, that they can actually reach out, talk to somebody, strategize and get some custom material immediately. Those are the things that make their clients happy.”

Fran Broude, regional vice president-Midwest North at Compass, points to her company’s growth at a time of market shifts as a reason for agents to stick around. She described attitudes among agents as “very healthy and happy.”

“I think our agents are very appreciative of all the options they have at Compass, but beyond that, the market saw a 10% decline in transactions last quarter, but Compass had a 2% increase in transactions,” Broude said. “Our agents are aware of that, and we continue to outperform the market in many major markets. A significant number of our principal agents grew their transactions just under 3% faster than the industry — 2.7 times faster than the industry based on annual transaction growth now reported.”

@properties offers a number of incentives to its agents, including the annual Road to Rolex awards program for agents who reach more than $10 million in sales volume in a year. Drawings for prizes such as White Sox and Cubs tickets and digital speakers help encourage agents to stay engaged and focused.

Amy Corr, executive vice president of culture and agent development at @properties, emphasized that her company’s focus on supporting agents has been key to retaining top talent through the challenges of the pandemic and the recent shifts in the market.

“We’ve had some really strong success in maintaining our top agents and continuing to recruit some good ones in the last 18 months,” she said. “The market itself has been so crazy. A lot of agents, unless it’s really dire straits, many of them are kind of hunkering down where they’re at and making sure that they can they can manage their clients. That being said, I think as the market is shifting and we’re seeing stuff opening up, I think we are going to start seeing some movement on the recruiting front, just across the board.”

Building a culture of success

The changing market worries some agents, and some may consider a change of scenery as interest rates remain high and inventory fails to keep up with demand. To Corr, the best way to handle those concerns and retain talent is to maintain a strong culture within the brokerage and keep the lines of communication open.

“There are some changes happening in this market, and some agents are freaking out,” she said. “I think the way that you keep agents happy is you continue with a lot of these cultural elements. I’m going to bring it back to that question of ‘How are you going to help me continue to make money and continue to grow my business?’ The best way to keep them happy is to do the things that they need to do to stay on track.”

Managing brokers at @properties offer coaching in the office. Additionally, the company’s dedicated coaching and training team work to extend that enrichment on an individual level that starts with Corr and three main coaches at her level in a “boots on the ground” approach to help with everything from figuring out marketing strategies and direct-mail campaigns to meetings and listings.

“Our managing brokers really work hand in hand with my team to make sure that we are able to coach at the office level,” she said. “You want to be in a place where the culture is great, but at the end of the day, we’re all here to grow a business and make money. And I feel like we have to always remember that and be able to answer that question of ‘How are you going to help me be successful, to pay my mortgage, and support my family and continue to hit on the dreams and goals that I’ve set for myself?’ I feel like that’s always important for us to keep that in the forefront.”

Broude highlighted growth opportunities and daily engagement activities as substantial aspects of the culture at Compass. In addition to a coaching marketplace and an internal accountability called the 6AMERS that meets online every morning, the company also initiated a CMA A Day effort that challenges agents to create a market snapshot per day to send to a past client or to someone on their contact list.

“The goal is for agents to elevate their expertise by doing this and deepen the relationships with their past clients or their sphere of influence,” Broude said, noting she recently had a conversation with an agent who landed a listing appointment after just a week of participating. “We have over 3,500 agents nationwide who registered for the CMA A Day challenge. There’s not necessarily a prize, but the prize is positive affirmation or your reaffirmation you get from your customer base.”

Compass launched a dedicated “customer success” team back in the early spring to help agents with tech adoption and coaching offerings in categories such as development and business planning. They also provide opportunities within the offices to exchange ideas on a weekly basis at roundtables. Broude said those events have been more heavily attended since the market shifted.

“We’re facilitating quarterly masterminds that host agent panels, sharing best practices and ideas, everything about doing business in a shifting market to how to develop a highly productive team,” she said. “We continue to provide opportunities for local referral business city to suburban, as well as cross-state business.”

Jameson Sotheby’s International Realty is shifting its agent experience to provide more support by hiring new staff to work in the role of agent concierge, Feurer said. These companywide agent concierges will work face to face with agents to help them with tasks such as developing business plans and marketing strategies. The agent concierges will also be able to connect agents with other companywide employees with specializations in areas such as social media.

“As the market gets worse, good agents are going to want to lean into marketing plans, business plans, things that are more complex that require talking through and project management,” Feurer said. “The concierge will be the one that ushers the agent through the experience and then manages the quality control. One thing we’ve done is we’ve tapped into the market abroad, meaning throughout the entire United States and beyond to hire specialty people. One such area is social media. In lieu of having a full-time person that just does social media, because agents are so diverse, we have numerous people identified for numerous different scenarios.”

The value of connections

During the pandemic, Feurer’s company made an effort to maintain nonstop communication with agents to keep them engaged, including scheduled meetings, selective outreach and town halls. As restrictions relaxed, the company has eased into more in-person events while maintaining flexibility for agents. Recent gatherings include a two-day outing to the harbor town of Saugatuck, Michigan, that featured opportunities for agents to learn about growing their business and chances to explore the area.

“We hired an experience manager that is charged full-time with creating experiences to bring our agents back together,” Feurer said. “That is highly effective, and people were thirsting to just communicate in person with each other. You didn’t realize how important that was until you started doing it again. We’re in the process of renovating our corporate office to be turned into more of a SoHo vibe, meaning a very collaborative shared space where we’ll have nonstop activity in the office — albeit a lot of agents have transitioned to more of their home offices and learn to do most of their work virtually.”

During the pandemic, @properties conducted a weekly Monday Motivation video series featuring co-founders Thad Wong and Mike Golden that focuses on a topic such as CRMs, as well as Wednesday training sessions and a Fire It Up Friday video meeting in which agents were encouraged to share their success stories. With pandemic restrictions easing, the company hosted six regional learning labs, with each event drawing more than 150 participants.

“We taught them three things to move their business forward that focused on three pillars [how to market, prospect and get more leads; how to use the company’s tools; and branding],” she said. “I had top producers, I had team leaders. We had people jammed into these sessions, and it was probably one of the most successful sort of summer programs that we had. We raffled off button prizes, we raffled off Cubs tickets and we had a great lunch, because we wanted to kind of balance it with getting them to do something and continue to keep their foot on the gas, but then we also wanted it to be the culture building. That’s who we are as a company.”

Expert Sources:

Fran Broude
Regional Vice President-Midwest North

Amy Corr
Executive Vice President of Culture and Agent Development

Chris Feurer
Chief Executive Officer
Jameson Sotheby’s International Realty

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