Building, Leading and Retaining An Elite Real Estate Sales Team
The primary reasons for building a real estate sales team are that you’d like to have more time, more money, or both.
Middleton Elite Coaching works with top-producing real estate agents, teams, and brokerage firms at different stages of building their businesses.
“Wow, I’m starting to build something”
“Wow, I’ve really built something and need leverage to build more!”
“Wow, I’m selling a lot of houses, I’m really tired, and I need to recruit more people. What should I do?”
Whether you are an agent looking to build a real estate sales team or a team leader looking to grow your team, the first step is to clarify your value proposition.
Clarify your Value Proposition
There are five things to clarify for your business, in no particular order.
What leads will you provide? Perhaps your model doesn’t provide leads. Instead, you must focus on training and supporting your salespeople to generate leads. Or maybe your model feeds your salespeople so many leads that your focus is to support, train, and develop their lead follow-up. Both models are great as long as you support your team.
2. Support – Admin and Tech
Do I have the right people to support building a team? Do I have the right technology to support my team? Do I have the systems in place for my team to be successful? It doesn’t have to be perfect; it just needs to be in place before bringing the team on. The value you provide should make it easier for them to join your team than try to do it on their own. Your firm’s support, specifically admin and tech, should be one of the pieces that attract them to work with you. Additionally, your level of support would be difficult for them to duplicate without coaching, training, and mentoring.
3. Coaching, Training, Mentoring
The coaching, training, and mentoring you provide to the salespeople on your team can be from you, people in your office, or a reputable and experienced company like Middleton Elite Coaching. The salespeople in your firm should feel like they receive value and will improve by working with you. They must feel as though they can achieve their goals with you. They should feel that there is accelerated growth potential associated with being on your team.
4. Accelerated Growth Potential
It takes a considerable amount of effort to build a team, and only a small percentage of real estate salespeople have the desire to do so. It can be challenging and can be very risky. Many people are scared to do it, and that’s okay. A salesperson considering joining your team will ask themselves whether they can achieve their growth goals faster working with you than if they started from scratch by themselves. If they could get some degree of assurance from the business that you’ve built, they’d likely rather be with you.
5. Business Culture
Your business culture will be different than in any other company, and we have defined four rules for building it. Your business culture should be the behavioral and procedural norms, including policies, ethics, values, goals, conduct, and behaviors, that make your team feel valued and respected.
The 4 rules of business culture –
If you haven’t yet begun to define your business culture, there are 4 rules for doing so.
1. Define your core values.
Core values are inherent to you and are the immovable pieces of your company. When my business partner, Debbie, and I began to define the core values for Middleton Elite Coaching, we asked ourselves, “what are the things that we believe we exemplify? What core things are innate to us, and therefore we want to attract more people who value those things?”
Your core values are not aspirational. They exist within you already.
2. Be willing only to hire people that exemplify your core values.
Share your company’s core values with candidates during your interview process. It will help establish the values you expect your team to exemplify and the values you recruit by. Middleton Elite Coaching uses this method to help our clients recruit talented team members who are a core value match to them.
3. Be willing to discipline by your core values.
You must be willing to discipline when one of your core values is violated. We aren’t necessarily talking about firing them immediately. We believe in providing the opportunity for improvement. The discipline can be as simple as a conversation about the core value that has been violated and a warning to step it up in a way that shows effort toward improvement. We focus on progress, not perfection.
4. Be willing to fire by your core values.
Suppose you are seeing habitual underperformance in an area of core values, even after you’ve had a disciplinary conversation. In that case, you have to be willing to let that person go for the sake of your team. The “A Players” on your team will expect you to.
An Exercise For Your Value Proposition –
Score yourself in each of the 5 areas of clarifying your value proposition. Next to each of the 5 areas below, give yourself a score of 1-10, where a score of 1 would be you are not living up to what you decided you would do in that area, and a score of 10 would be you are living up to what you decided you would do in that area.
- Support – Admin and Tech
- Coaching, Training, Mentoring
- Accelerated Growth Potential
- Business Culture
If you scored below an 8 in any area, determine what you will do to bring yourself up to an 8 or better, then focus on improvement. Contact us for a complimentary 30-minute coaching session if you’re unsure how.
Growth vs. Gap – Who and When?
Take an analytical look at the critical components, such as financial and operational, of your company’s long-term success. Are there areas where growth is necessary? If so, who on your team will require more training and support to grow in these areas, and by when will they need it? Are there gaps that you can fill by bringing an additional person to your team? If so, who is needed, and by when do you need them?
RELATED: How To Recruit Your Ideal Real Estate Agent
Determine the key roles that make up your organizational chart and then list the responsibilities of each role in your organization. Doing so should equip you to define the job so that each person on your team can have a clearly-defined description of their role.
The salespeople on your team should feel they are working for a compensation plan that is comfortable and commensurate with their experience and the value they bring to the team.
Watch: The Four Points of Retention – Income
RELATED: We cover the 4 Levels of Income in-depth here.
The people on your team will come to both expect and appreciate you holding them to the standards you have set. Your team standards should bring out the best in the people on your team.
Examples of the standards that Middleton Elite Coaching has set for our team are:
Psychological Safety –
We strive to create an environment that forces everyone on our team to stretch and push themselves harder, building gains in the muscle of everyone around them. We strive to create an environment “safe enough to take an interpersonal risk.”
Psychological safety is a topic you’ve likely heard us discuss before. In Patrick Lencioni’s Five Dysfunctions of a Team, he discusses the importance of having foundational trust in relationships as the cornerstone of building a cohesive leadership team.
Members of a highly dependable team deliver high-quality work on time.
The discussion of dependability reminds us of the Bruno Mars song: Count on Me
Structure & Clarity –
In her best-selling book, Dare to Lead; author Brene Brown explains the concept of “Paint Done.”, which is to consider what your finished project will look like.
Brown describes the Structure & Clarity that comes from Painting Done as:
- Not just assigning the task but explaining the reasons behind it
- Providing color and context – the purpose, not just the mechanics
- Uncovering stealth expectations and intentions, cultivating commitment and contribution, facilitating growth and learning
Here’s a complete list of the language skills and tools from Dare to Lead.
You can create meaning as a standard for the members of your team in many different ways:
- In the work itself
- In the finished product
- In the individual’s financial security
- In supporting the individual’s family
- In the individual’s contributions and self-expression
Dan Pink summarized the research for his book Drive by saying:
The secret to high performance and satisfaction- at work, school, and home—is the deep human need to direct our lives, learn and create new things, and do better by ourselves and our world.
Impact is one of Debbie’s favorite words. Setting Impact as one of our team standards has allowed incremental decisions to become impactful, leading to impactful progress.
Google’s parent company, Alphabet, currently employs over 130,000 people. CEO Sundar Pichai is most notably known for his genuine, inquisitive, and unassuming style. A leadership style rooted in emotional intelligence and impact. In our article ‘5 Keys To A Successful Team’, the Google project described impact this way:
Work is about creating value and impact for others. From their subjective perspective, team members want to know that their work is creating an impact.
A Quick Team Standard Exercise:
Give yourself, your team, and your business a 1-10 ranking on each of these 5 team standards where 1 is the lowest possible score and 10 is the highest possible score, then ask:
- What am I doing well?
- What could I do better?
- How could I facilitate that type of growth with my team members?
Then, get to work.
Expectations vs. Best Practices
Frustration arises when expectations differ.
It is essential to set a distinction between expectations and best practices. Creating positive pressure around a set of actions is vital to move typical practice toward a best practice.
Now that you have clarified your value proposition and are building your team, the next thing you have to do is be clear on what you expect from the people on your team. ‘A’ players on a team want to be the best version of themselves. They’re also looking to you, as the leader, to help them understand your expectations of them.
By “expectation” we mean the established standards, activities, or processes that your team members must meet to achieve the desired outcomes.
As a simple example: If you expect that the salespeople on your team do one open house per month, and they don’t, then there must be a consequence. An expectation, when not met, carries a consequence.
Our team is clear on the list of outcomes that we expect from the role they each play on our team so that we all win and move the business forward. They are also clear on all consequences resulting from unmet expectations.
By “best practice,” we mean the activities considered innovative, productive, or exemplary approaches to accelerated growth. Best practices result in outcomes either articulated by or implied by your value proposition, team standards, and business culture. A best practice, when not met, means that your team member will not perform at a peak level.
For example, we work with many real estate team leaders who say,” I want my salespeople to perform lead generation and follow-up activities at least one hour per day.”
Great. Is that an expectation, or is that a best practice? Do the salespeople on your team get in trouble if they fail to do the activities you expect of them?
Are you willing to say, “Here is the expectation, and here is the consequence”? An expectation without a consequence is merely a best practice.
A leader of a team has two jobs:
1. Keep business coming in the door (Make it rain)
Your team members depend on you to ensure the business is coming in and that you always have money.
2. Give your team members the highest probability of success in their roles on your team.
The best way to do that is to deliver on your value proposition. Consistently.
If you’re ensuring money comes in the door consistently and giving your team members the tools and resources to succeed, you are doing your primary job as their leader.
Pathway To Leadership
How does someone develop into a leader?
We have developed a pathway to leadership that provides team members with a structure and a model for growing their leadership skills.
To be a leader of an organization, the first thing you have to do is hit your goals.
We’re all going to miss our goals from time to time. A big part of leadership growth is becoming increasingly better at the way you approach reaching your goals over time.
Be highly skilled and able to teach those skills
An organization leader must be highly skilled and able to teach those skills. A trap in building sales teams often goes a little something like this:
“I started a sales team, and I have some admin help and a buyer’s agent. We’re growing and I’d like to hire more buyers agents. I’m good at sales, and the buyer’s agent is good at working with buyers. I plan to allow my experienced buyer’s agent to lead the new buyer’s agents on my team.”
You’ve likely seen this happen before and might have even done it yourself. Just because that person is good at selling houses does not necessarily mean they’re a good developer of people. They might be highly skilled at selling and not so skilled at teaching it. They could be highly skilled and only want to sell houses – they might not want to lead and train your new agents. A leader must want to lead a team of people and be reasonably good at it.
Whether the team member you are working to move into a leadership role has been with you for ten weeks or ten years, tenure does not make them a leader of an organization. What qualifies them as a leader in your organization is that they have knowledge that’s important to your business, know how to teach it effectively, and desire to do so.
Master conflict resolution
A leader will be willing and able to act effectively and diplomatically to solve problems. To exhibit the qualities of a leader, a team member must be good at resolving interpersonal problems within your company. It ends up on your desk if they need to improve at resolving conflict.
Develop business strategies
A leader must be able to develop business strategies that will propel the business forward. Ideally, they are thinking with (or ahead of) you. Here’s what we’re going to do next. Here’s how we’re going to do it.
Recruit to the Team Value Proposition
A leader within your organization must be able to recruit to your company’s value proposition. They must exhibit your core values, be trustworthy to your company’s recruits, and be able to help convey your value proposition in a way that will show potential team members that you can help them succeed on your team.
If a person on your team already exhibits leadership in these 5 areas, they are on the pathway to leadership. If they are not doing these things, they are not demonstrating leadership. Your list may differ from ours, which is okay. Set your leadership quality standards as a pathway to leadership within your company.
Your work as a leader has only begun once you’ve built a team around your value proposition, have effectively led your team, and have created leadership opportunities for your team members. Now you must ensure you can retain your organization’s most talented vital players.
Focus on these 4 key areas to retain the members of your team.
If people can accomplish their goals in your world, they will stay. They will leave if they cannot achieve their goals in your world.
We’re not naive enough to think that things will never change or that we’ll be in business together for the rest of our lives. Nobody wants to lose a good team member. However, one of two things will happen when we have great team members.
- We have great team members and will keep them forever.
- We have great team members who get massive opportunities (inside or outside of our company) that change their lives.
Create great relationships with your team members, and work as hard as you can to provide massive amounts of opportunity for them to reach their goals with you. If they can reach their goals with you, they will stay.
Be Aware of Their Pain Points
Life can be messy. Some things are happening in the lives of the people around you that you might not know about. These things may create new situations, even if temporary, for that team member. Be aware of what is going on in the lives of the people on your team, and work hard to create an environment that will allow them to navigate these pain points and still succeed in your world.
Going back to our expectations versus best practices discussion, we believe that A+ and A players on a team thrive in environments with accountability. These team members want to be the best version of themselves and often seek and welcome accountability to help keep them on a growth path.
Business culture and core values are important concepts of business building and team building, so we extensively cover and coach them. They are essential in building your team, they are necessary for leading your team, and they are critical for retaining your team.
Your 3-Step Action Plan –
To take action on building, or continuing to build, an elite real estate team, here is the action plan we’d like you to use:
1. Clarify your value proposition, core values, and team standards. Add anything you don’t currently have that is now important to you.
2. Score yourself a 1-10 in the areas of your value proposition. Identify ways to become an 8 or higher in anything you lack.
3. Set expectations and best practices, and start communicating with your team. Set a meeting* to ensure your team understands the consequences of unmet expectations.
*Navigate this carefully and preferably with experienced business coaches like us at Middleton Elite Coaching.
Final Thought –
Building, leading, and retaining an elite real estate team requires grit.
Grit is not talent.
Grit is not luck.
Grit IS setting and holding steadfast to a goal.
Build your team with grit.
Lead your team with grit.
Retain your team with grit.
And watch your team thrive.
Bill, Debbie, and The MEC Team