The Boutique Broker's Guide to Delighting Agents and Winning Star Talent

Seth Price
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Dialing in the dollars: Financial and business planning

Agents deal with huge financial transactions every day, but it doesn’t always follow that their own financial lives are neatly buttoned up, or that they’re always thinking about where their leads are coming from (and acting accordingly). Brokerages that accommodate their agents by furnishing them with personal financial planning and broader business strategies show that they truly understand what agents need—and can make sure they get it.

One small thing that can make a big difference: Are you set up to direct deposit agent commission payments? It’s standard operating procedure for payment across many industries, and few people prefer to wait for paper checks to clear.

1099 ducks in a row

Most agents are contract employees, paid on commission—and for the most part, everybody likes it that way. However, living on commission checks isn’t a skill that most of us were taught, and it can be especially difficult for agents who are moving to real estate from more traditional, salaried careers.

When agents are worried about when they’ll get paid again, let alone how they’ll manage to file their taxes or pay their brokerage fees, then they’re usually feeling stressed about the situation. And when agents are stressed, you can be pretty sure they’re probably not providing the best potential service to their clients.

We mentioned earlier the possibility of setting up different bank accounts for your agents during onboarding to help them manage their money. Separate accounts for taxes, health insurance (if they aren’t on a partner’s plan), required brokerage and marketing fees, and for the agent to draw from and live off can alleviate a lot of stress for your agents, but that’s not the only service you can offer.

Would it be possible to recommend a bookkeeper or an accountant for your agents, one who specializes in helping people in real estate manage their money? This kind of financial education and benefit suite can get wrapped into existing networking or peer support groups, where you can offer discussion topics for agents who are learning how to manage their money.

If an agent decides to incorporate their business and use that structure to pay themselves a salary, set aside funds for health insurance, and otherwise serve themselves in that regard, then brokers can support those decisions by offering documentation and filing help through the brokerage compliance team, for example. When a team of people is helping your agents navigate these financial barriers, then you can feel confident you’re helping your agents secure their futures as effectively as possible.

Longer-term: What kind of real estate-specific retirement opportunities or information can you deliver to your agents? Can you also provide connections to retirement investors or other resources that can help them build up a nest egg for the future? Is it possible for you to create some kind of incentive or high-yield savings program for agents who are trying to get a down payment together for their own house?

At the very least, giving agents some basic coaching around budget-balancing and other skills will help them feel like you know what they struggle with daily, and you’ve got their backs to help them manage it.

Do agents know how to plan for their next meal?

Whether your business model is set up to support highly productive and experienced agents (and you don’t hire new agents at all), or whether you’re taking more of a “teamerage” approach like Wemert Group Realty, supporting agents around business planning can be an important addition to your portfolio of offerings.

The teamerage approach means that for the most part, agents are not responsible for lead generation at Wemert Group Realty—but unlike most teams operating under real estate brokerages, agents are not split into buyer specialists or listing specialists. Instead, it’s important that every agent be able to operate at a high level across both roles.

“For a long time we had listing specialists and buyer specialists, but over time we realized it wasn’t the best thing for relationships, or the database and reating a database-driven business,” Smith explains. “So we have shifted to having every agent become an expert on both sides.” That enhanced client experience and relationship throughout the sales and purchase process with a single agent has helped elevate and protect the repeat and referral business that Wemert Group Realty captures in its market.

At Middleburg Real Estate | Atoka Properties, agents are coached to start generating their own leads from the very beginning. “We understand that some agents want leads, and we know for new agents it’s important to build their business, but we do a different approach,” notes Showalter.

Established agents use listings as their pipeline to capture new business; there’s a lead team that will follow up with any leads that come in through the favored portal if the agent hasn’t responded within the designated time period. It works well for agents who have been working in the market already for  some time, but new agents are going to need more coaching around lead generation before they start listing homes for sale.

The brokerage partners with a sales coach, partner/owner/agent Scott Buzzelli, who sits down with brand-new agents during the onboarding process. “We know every agent has a sphere, and long-term, that’s how an agent is going to build their business,” Showalter says. “That’s something he is extremely good at—sitting down with an agent and figuring out, ‘How do we get that list of 150 people who will build your business?’”

He also works with the brokerage to provide ongoing support for agents throughout the year, and he offers annual business planning so agents are clear on their goals and opportunities ahead.