THE PLAYBOOK: Retaining Agents by Staying Connected With Them


Editor’s Note: The Playbook is an RISMedia biweekly segment centering on what brokers and agents are doing to ensure they not only survive but thrive in these challenging times. Industry professionals explain the strategies they’re employing and unique ideas they’ve formulated. Tune in every other Thursday for another addition to the series. 

If you’re a broker, part of your responsibility in running your brokerage is making sure it’s a place agents want to stay. Even if you’re not actively growing your team (and there are benefits to holding back on expansion), you don’t want to be losing agents either. Research shows that a low turnover rate will save your business money and help its reputation.

Keeping your agents means knowing your agents. Rick Haase, president of United Real Estate, has written that the most common reasons for agents leaving their brokerage are career advancement, compensation and feelings of restriction.

While these are a good place to start, they’re also broad. And while there’s no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to implementing an agent retention strategy, the only way to ensure you know exactly how your agents are feeling is by asking them. That means making relationship-building a priority.

Robyn Erlenbush, broker/owner of ERA Landmark in Bozeman, Montana, says that “part of our (retention) strategy, both deliberate and maybe by accident, is just strong communication.”

Erlenbush says that when it comes to listening to her agents, “I’m 90% therapist and 10% deal doctor, but that’s okay. I mean, people need to be heard, and they need to be acknowledged.”

As Erlenbush explains, the broker should not only focus on building their relationships with agents, but also on fostering relationships between their agents. Agents shouldn’t neglect counting their teammates when calculating their spheres of influence. If an agent has good camaraderie with the others in the office, and even better, feels like their fellow agents are a reliable source of business, they’ll be less inclined to leave.

“We celebrate our successes every week,” adds Erlenbush. “We talk about where the buyers came from, how they got the buyers, what buyers intend to do with properties. We’re trying to give everyone really good market intel, but also celebrate the agents who are having success…We do annual business planning, we do quarterly peer-to-peer updates where people are acknowledged for being on track or above track. Those people who aren’t necessarily having their best quarter, that’s just a big cheerleading job of how you’ve got to look at real estate as a long-term deal.”

As her firm shifted to a hybrid work model, Erlenbush notes that she had to innovate with new strategies to maintain facetime with her agents. 

“Every Tuesday morning we do training, and out of those 60-some people, the census is usually about 25 live and 25 on Zoom. And so we’ve been able to keep that camaraderie across four different communities or office locations. I think that’s been huge. People want to know that their thoughts matter, and they want to feel connected. I think that it’s so simple, but it takes a lot of time to do.”

Even with this level of interactivity, what can cause agents to consider moving to seemingly greener pastures? Erlenbush feels that it has a lot to do with market shifts.

“There’s no question that when economics change, when market conditions change, there are a lot of people still trying to figure out what happened to them in the last couple of years, so there’s a lot of early-life crisis, mid-life crisis, late-life crisis. And when that happens, people start to say, ‘Well, is it me, or do I need a change in scenery? Is it my company?’ And so we try really hard to anticipate that.”

The space between desperation and frankness is a thin line. If you sense an agent is considering leaving, don’t beg them to stay, but be willing to put a counteroffer on the table. If you can anticipate potential departures, as Erlenbush suggests, all the better.

Bonus tips from Robyn:

  • Smaller firms make it easier to keep in touch, so if you’re running a larger brokerage, go the extra mile and host events for your agents to connect.
  • Don’t take agents for granted, even if they’ve been at your brokerage for decades.
  • Building a relationship with an agent is the same process as building one with a client.

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