Could real estate teams solve the agent quality problem? Not so much!

Willy Wonka Smiling with the caption "There is no right answer for the wrong question"

There is no right answer for the wrong question

I enjoy reading industry news and opinions, and Inman News is one of the sources I turn to frequently. Just this past week there was an article entitled “Could real estate teams solve the agent quality problem?”, an interesting question, but one that is based on a misunderstanding of what real estate teams are, what they aren’t, and why they exist.

Part of the problem with the question is that you need to define the term “real estate team”. No particular structure represents a real estate team. As I travel around the country, I see a lot of different arrangements that are called teams in their respective firms. For example, an individual who has a partner, a professional whose son or daughter is joining the brokerage where they work, a listing heavy agent who has an agent working with them to show buyers homes so that they don’t have to be bothered, or a large complex operation within a brokerage are all given the same title in different places. Because of that lack of uniformity, the question is fatally flawed.

The second problem in the phrasing of the question arises because real estate teams are not intended to facilitate training of agents in any manner. They’re business units. And love them or hate them, they’re business units that are popping up and getting a lot of attention, not all of it good. Regulatory agencies across the country, for example, are almost uniform in their dislike of this intermediary level of salesperson supervision that is, in most jurisdictions, undefined, or poorly defined at best.

But even with the flawed question of the title, and the other flawed questions and inaccurate answers that arise from it, there was a thought raised that might warrant further investigation or cogitation. The idea of only tasking new agents with one aspect of a transaction to avoid overloading them as they learn their new career is a fascinating concept.

Think about an agent who is just starting and is trained just to respond to buyer inquiries and show properties. No marketing, no listing training, no rentals, no personal branding, just responding to buyer questions and showing homes. We could even restrict their early activities by having a more senior agent meet with the consumer at the initial interview to help determine needs abilities and motivation and then meet with the customer after the showings to de-brief the agent and ask for the sale if appropriate.

The idea is not new – in fact, decades ago, when I started in the real estate business, some of my training was handled in that manner by the brokerage where I worked. A relatively small brokerage, who wanted their agents to learn to do specific things before they expanded their professional skill sets started me with the simplest tasks. I was told to make appointments, show houses, and then come back to have the manager meet with the customer – while I watched and learned the next set of skills. In the commercial world, agents are often not allowed to work on larger transactions until they have one or two smaller leasing transactions completed. The theory is that the smaller lease has all of the problems of a larger transaction, but the risk to the company is limited.

Though the writer suggested that a team environment could make that work, and a brokerage could not, that’s just not true. In fact, the issues and economics that would challenge that approach don’t differ for a team or a brokerage. In fact, teams have far less educational infrastructure and the high producing agent who started the team will likely have less time to supervise their subordinates than the management team at a brokerage. If the smaller unit premise was a sound one, smaller brokerages would have more highly trained agents that larger ones – something that just isn;t reflected by reality.

The facts of the matter are simple. Though many agents fail because they join companies too small to have any formal training program, there are as many associates who fail because they went through the brokerage training program and then failed to execute against the training they receive. The proof of that is that the wildly successful agents in that brokerage also attended that same training. The difference? Not just supervision or the type of training, but their work ethic and whether they did what they were trained to do.

After recruiting and training real estate professionals for decades, it is evident to me that the success of the agent is directly related to the drive and effort the agent brings to the job, followed closely by consistency and persistency. If an agent does what they are trained to do, again, and again, and again they will get the results they want. And if the agent is doing the right thing and not getting the rigth results, they need to meet with their broker or manager, mentor, or team leader to be sure that they are doing it the right way. In the words of Pete Cashmore,founder of Mashable, “Execution really shapes whether your company takes off or not.” and the new agent’s execution will shape whether their career takes off – not being on a team.

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