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In a session called, “Are You Ready to Build a Team? 10 Questions You Need to Answer,” moderator Wendy Forsythe, chief brand officer at Fathom Realty and panelists Jackie Soto, broker-owner of team brokerage eHomes in Southern California, and Nick Badalian, a broker at Fathom Realty in the Washington, D.C. area, discussed why they decided to form teams.
“Opportunity,” Soto said, noting that her brokerage started with six agents and now has 121. “We had problems to solve and my problem was the suffering of service to the consumers. I was spread way too thin. I had exhausted all resources.”
Before starting a team and adding “human bodies” to your business, agents should have good systems and processes, including a CRM, and take advantage of every tool their brokerage has to offer that might help lighten their load, according to Soto.
“I would suggest really looking at your brokerage and making sure that their service level is up to par with what you need as an agent because you’d be surprised what some brokerages offer their agents,” Soto said. “Maybe explore other brokerage options that can service you at a higher level and give you more tools.”
Badalian also said that before he started his six-person team, he realized he was losing opportunities.
“There’s only seven days in a week,” he said. “I can only answer my phone 24 hours within that day. I realized that there was a lost monetization moment there and that’s when I brought in my first person. I got an assistant to help with that.”
He agreed with Soto that a team should have a “solid foundation” in place to grow. He and Soto both said a team needed a transaction coordinator — contracts are “a time suck,” he said — and a CRM to minimize missed opportunities. Soto’s team also has inside sales agents to follow up with clients.
“Especially if you have an influx of leads from online accounts, then you have to be touching these clients consistently, but you shouldn’t be behind the computer necessarily just writing emails and something that isn’t very meaningful but just checking in every now and then,” Soto said. “Our [inside sales agents (ISA)] help us with that. Our ISAs have meaningful conversations with clients, just checking in on them if they’re ever ready [to buy or sell].”
She also has someone doing listing management and submitting listings to the multiple listing service. While it’s important for the team lead to confirm that all the data is accurate, they shouldn’t be doing that data input themselves, according to Soto. She also has a service she uses for closing gifts, Client Giant, to give her clients those bells and whistles that can go by the wayside when a solo agent is overwhelmed.
Soto advised developing standard operating procedures to deal with specific aspects of the business, like what happens when the company gets an inbound lead or brings on a new buyer.
“Is that written out, is that assessable, is that followed?” Soto said. “When we take a new listing, here’s the things that happen. When we start working with a new buyer, here’s the things that happen.”
Forsythe agreed. “So many people decide I’m going to be a team leader because they’re busy, because they feel like customer service is suffering to their client, but they haven’t put the system in place, they haven’t built the value proposition of their team,” she said.
Soto suggested that agents complete this exercise: Walk through the week and write down every single task you do. At the end of the week, assign a color to those tasks: green for the stuff you are great at that you love to do, yellow for the things that you can maybe offload to someone else later and red for the things that you hate to do and are below your paygrade that you can hire out.
Agents should consider what their own weak points are and then find someone to join their team that complements those weak points, according to Badalian.
Soto agreed. “If you are going to partner with an agent with similar experience in production, make sure they have different perspectives,” she said.
Forsythe has developed a 10-question team readiness assessment, and her first question is:
Have you closed more than 30 transactions per calendar year as a solo agent for the last two years?
Badalian and Soto weren’t quite so cut and dry on the transaction amount. Badalian said it depends on the balance of your client base because the demands of 24 sellers are not the same as the demands of 24 buyers. Soto noted that some agents might start to feel overwhelmed at 24 transactions, but she has one solo agent doing 60 transactions per year.
“It depends on lifestyle, your end goal and what you really want — your intentions of starting a team,” she said.
The assessment’s other questions are:
Do you currently have more leads than you can handle?
Do you have systems written down for how you want to manage your business?
Do you have a clear value proposition of why clients should work with you and your team?
Do you have the desire to move from personal sales to management of a sales team?
Do you like managing and leading people?
Have you identified the team structure you want to build?
Have you developed a one-year business plan for your team, including a forecast of revenue and expenses?
Are you prepared to delegate to your team members?
Do you have a CRM that is team compatible?
According to the assessment, if an agent answers yes to seven or more of these, the agent is ready to start a team. If the agent answered yes to fewer than seven but still wants to be a team leader, the the agent should “focus on doing the work to change the no’s to yes’s,” the assessment says.
Forsythe noted that teams have a higher failure rate than individual agents. Badalian said this was likely due to a team whose value proposition is not clear.
“Okay, I joined guy’s or gal’s team, what do I get?” he said. “What’s the return there? What does the team provide, what are those value-added services?”
Agents should also consider the process by which someone exits a team, panelists said.
“You go into the team and you hope it’s going to work and you’re going to live happily ever after, but what if you don’t?” Forsythe said. “Who’s going to control the leads, how does that get managed, what about deals that are underway, what about those relationships?”
Soto advised that team leads be very clear about expectations up front and clear about accountability and how that will be measured. Teams should also have a standard operating procedure for not just onboarding, but also offboarding, she said.
“Go down the checklist,” she said. Independent contractor agreements should stipulate what happens with company-generated leads, control over the team’s CRM, and have a referral agreement in advance.
It requires a mindset shift, according to Badalian. “You’re not a real estate agent if you’re a team leader,” he said.
“Do the heavy lifting upfront,” Forsythe said. “Have a value proposition. Build out your systems, build out your why and then execute on.”