Brokers Say Leadership, Relationships Matter Most

Panelists from RISMedia’s Power Broker Forum talk about where they’re focusing their energy to start strong next year.

Many brokers found that tumult characterized 2023. Interest rates and inflation caused a major dip in the market, and the slowdown made clear the gaps in professionalism among less-experienced agents. At the RISMedia Power Broker Forum during NAR NXT, The REALTOR® Experience, in Anaheim, Calif., brokers spoke about where they’ll focus their energy to make the most of 2024.

Perception Matters

Real estate is a profession that is constantly in flux, but you can choose to see that fact in different lights. “I personally could not be more excited about the changes afoot. I’ve been in the business for 37 years, and I’ve always found it interesting that someone else is negotiating my payment for my services,” said Gretchen Pierson, president and owner of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Drysdale Properties in Danville, Calif. “There’s an opportunity for transparency with the clients that will make a big difference in how the industry works, and I think that’s a good thing.”

Michele Harrington, COO of First Team Real Estate in Long Beach, Calif., said he chooses to see obstacles as opportunities, noting that now is the time to help agents separate fact from emotion. “Our agents rely on us to be factual, logical and not emotional. It’s time for us to lead them through these hard times with the facts and help them figure out how to overcome challenges.” That requires training, Harrington and Pierson said.

Train, Train, Train

Buyer representation agreements, customer service, conveying value—all agents, regardless of their experience level, need to understand and execute these three business practices consistently. Additionally, staff need to know how to support agents and the brokerage.

Todd Sumney, CIO and CMO of HomeSmart International who moderated the panel, said training and communication are top priorities for his brokerage. He’s providing agents with masterminds, in-person trainings and meetings to help meet their needs. He’s also encouraging training at every level and in every relationship, from broker to agent and agent to client.

In order to get agents to show up to the training, Pierson said, her brokerage has gamified attendance as an incentive.

Remove Biases

Brokerages must remove biases to survive in this market, Pierson said. “A lot of times, we’re asked the question, ‘Why do you do it this way?’ The only answer is because we always have.” That’s not good enough anymore, she said, which is why she’s drilling down on all of the processes she has in place and figuring out where they can change. “Geographical boundaries no longer exist, for example. We’re bringing in agents and still training them to farm a geographical location, and yet, I don’t see any sphere of influence that lives on the same block.”

Maximize Every Person in the Office

Harrington is taking a microscope to her offices to ensure the right staff and agents are positioned to perform the best. “The most important thing in a company is who you have, and now is a great time to make sure the ‘who’ is exactly what it needs to be,” she said.

Figure out what everyone is good at and where they could use some training, and direct that activity, she said. If you find that you don’t have the people you need, get them. Having the right people positioned well means that 2024 can start off without a hitch.

Refocus on Relationships

The last few years might have been fast and furious, with no time to build relationships, but now is the time to fall back on cultivating connections, said Craig Cheatham, president and CEO of The Realty Alliance in Colorado Springs, Colo. “We’re looking at things more like a long-term financial planner would, where there’s this ongoing conversation that isn’t just centered around the transaction. People need counseling right now. They need real information and a trusted advisor.” The real estate agent is positioned well to provide this kind of relationship, he said.

Relationships take communication, especially in uncertain times, said David Romero, executive vice president of growth at Realty One Group in San Diego. That’s why he has agents focused on reaching out to past clients and current customers to help walk them through any industry-related questions they might have.

Sumney said that now is the time to lean into client feedback. “Grab a consumer and interview them. Ask them what’s important to them. When agents here directly from the consumer, it connects with them and helps them face any challenges they might be feeling.”

This moment in the industry calls for strong leadership, Harrington said. Now is the time for brokers and managers to take a hard look in the mirror and ask themselves whether they have what’s necessary to lead their agents through the market’s current climate. “Ask yourself what your weaknesses are and how you can work on them. Ask yourself how you can lead better because our agents are asking us to lead them right now,” Harrington said.