How to unlock potential through real estate mentorship

by Jason Porterfield

Mentoring a real estate agent is like marketing a home. What works for some may not work for all, and finding the right approach can make all the difference.

Every agent is different in terms of their strengths, how they handle clients and how they manage their business. Mentoring agents also requires a tailored approach for each individual. One-size-fits-all does not apply.

To Natalie Carpenter, district vice president, south region, for Coldwell Banker, the work of managing and mentoring agents is situational and depends on the individual. A good leader understands the team, what those agents want and what tools and strategies will benefit them the most.

“If you have an office full of brand-new agents, what you provide and the guidance and techniques that you use are going to be different than if you have an office with more experienced or seasoned agents, because their needs are a little different,” Carpenter said. “There’s the how-to, which is more for the newer agents. But then there’s the why-to, and how-to-enhance or how-to-scale that you would have for the more seasoned or experienced agents.”

Carpenter describes leadership and mentoring as a process that starts with the managing broker constantly looking at their office and the makeup of their agents to assess their needs. “If you just start dumping things on agents, ‘Hey, we have this, we have that,’ and it’s falling on deaf ears, it’s not really going to be beneficial or helpful.”

Dan Kieres, founder and managing broker of Northwest Real Estate Group in Edison Park, believes clear communication to be essential to leading agents. Providing feedback and being approachable for questions and concerns are part of keeping those lines of communication open, as is flexibility.

“Flexibility is a huge thing,” Kieres said. “We have 25 agents here. I have to be flexible, and I have to be available for these guys, whether they choose to come in or take a phone call, whatever the case is. Being flexible is part of being a good leader and providing an example.”
Goals and motivations

Kieres emphasizes the importance of helping agents set and reach goals, while providing rewards and credit. Financial incentives and recognition on his brokerage’s social media platforms help keep agents motivated. Knowing an agent’s personal motivations also helps drive success.

“Establishing measurable and achievable goals with agents helps create motivation and a sense of purpose,” Kieres said. “There is an agent here in our office, and she’s motivated by adding an addition to her home. So any time we meet for one-on-ones, we obviously go over her pipeline, and we also discuss how everything’s going with her addition. That keeps her motivated, because the dollars need to keep coming in in order for her to complete her project.”

Linda Feinstein, president of Signature Homes with COMPASS in Hinsdale, keeps the agents on her team motivated in part by allowing them to keep their own volume rather than having them sell under her name.

“I want you to have your own volume, because even though you and I like each other a lot right now, if there’s ever a time that you’d want to leave and go to another company, your split is not going to be attractive when you don’t have any volume,” Feinstein said. “So our team is very unique in that nobody sells under me. They sell under Signature Homes, but they sell under their own name and they keep their own volume. If someone’s going to leave me, and they brought $5 million in, I want them to have that $5 million in their portfolio when they go someplace else.”

Carpenter believes in helping agents understand business principles before she has them set goals. She makes goal-setting part of business planning once her agents know what they need to do to run a business.

“There’s goal setting, and there’s business planning,” she said. “You set a goal, whether it’s a financial goal or a number-of-transactions goal or whatever it is; then you need a plan to get to your goal. Once you do that, you put together your strategies and actions. That’s when you get introduced to the programs, the tools and the technology that can help you reach your goals in your business plan. You start incorporating them into your business plan. And in the implementation, that’s when the coaching comes in.”

Coaching and training

Carpenter uses coaching to help agents learn how to use technology and programs to reach their goals, as well as to enable them to develop the mindset to succeed. She distinguishes between coaching for Coldwell Banker agents, who are independent contractors, and training for those who are moving into a managing broker role, and therefore becoming employees.

“These are agents that look at real estate in different ways,” she said. “Some people call it a hustle, some call it a hobby, some people call it their part-time thing. And then some people say, ‘This is my career, my job,’ all kinds of different terminology to describe what they do. But at the end of the day, they need to really, truly understand what it is they’re doing. That’s helping and supporting others to either buy or sell real estate.”

Agents transitioning into leadership roles are trained on technology and systems, as well as on leadership and management skills.

“When you’re morphing from being an agent to a leader, you need to be able to keep the agent hat on but kind of cocked to the side,” Carpenter said. “You have to be able to put yourself in their place, but at the same time, you need to understand that it’s not about you anymore, it’s about them and your service to them, your support of them. You’re building that relationship where they feel comfortable with you, they feel confident that you are competent and that you’re going to lead them down the right path.”

Feinstein’s agents receive training through the Mainstreet Organization of Realtors.

“Our job is to help them join Mainstreet and help them pick classes that will satisfy them,” she said. “If they have questions after the classes, we’re available to help go over or explain things. There’s so much online now, and COMPASS offers so much online that a lot of it has become much easier for me.”

Beyond those classes, she provides monthly meetings with motivational speakers and twice-monthly chat sessions with experts. Feinstein also lends her own experience and expertise to help agents when they need it.

“When the market started to change, people came in to talk about the future of the market, or when the seller disclosure form changed, someone came in to go over those kinds of things,” Feinstein said. “I give the people on our team the opportunity to work open houses, and I will help anyone on our team do anything. Sometimes they’ll co-list with me to get a listing. And then my name disappears after it sells because they want them to have the volume.”

Kieres offers training in the office, and his agents also go through post-licensing and continuing education courses. He also encourages his agents to read books about business.

“Once a month, our professional associations like NAR, they do courses online,” Kieres said. “There are also books and publications. I think we’ve passed around the same books among different guys who are interested. Like, Fredrik Eklund’s ‘The Sell,’ Grant Cardone’s ‘Sell or be Sold,’ ‘The Go-Giver’ by Bob Burg. Or ‘How to Win Friends and Influence People’ by Dale Carnegie. We’ve all passed that book around.”

Filling the mentor role

Kieres feels agents look for a brokerage manager who provides training and knows how to motivate and inspire agents. These managers want agents to achieve their full potential so that they remain happy and don’t want to move on to another brokerage. Ethics, integrity and a strategic mindset are particularly important qualities for mentors to demonstrate.

“They help agents develop business plans and marketing strategies, and even what to post on social media,” he said. “One of my guys is a different kind of agent. He’s a little older, and he has a Facebook page. He comes in once a week, and we game plan on what’s the best Facebook post we can put up there. It’s things like that, especially if there’s a multiple-bid situation, the agent comes in, and we sit down in the office together, and we come up with a strategic offer.”

Feinstein has had managing brokers who became jealous of successful agents. She believes in cultivating an open, supportive office. When she sees an agent working hard to prove themselves, she will share a listing with them as a way of supporting them and helping them feel successful.

“The office should be here to do everything that we can to ensure that agents succeed, provided they prove that they want that as an agent,” she said. “Especially if they’re always looking for the shiny object, and nothing really replaces hard work and following up.”

Carpenter learned real estate from a managing broker who served as a mentor to her and who taught her to always be honest, always be professional and never have someone wonder who is the professional in the room. She imparts those lessons to her agents while building connections with them.

“Agents want expertise, and they want you to care,” she said. “Caring is one thing that I think lacks in our industry overall now. I tend to care a lot. I think people understand that, and I care so much because I have a desire to see people really excel in their field.”


Natalie Carpenter, district vice president, south region, Coldwell Banker

Linda Feinstein, president, Signature Homes, COMPASS

Dan Kieres, founder and managing broker, Northwest Real Estate Group

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