Help Agents Promote Their Designations

When an agent puts in the extra hours to become an expert through designations and certifications, helping them promote their continued education could set them apart in the marketplace.
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Patrice Willetts believes each real estate professional should highlight what makes them the best candidate for consideration, including skills, experience and acquired expertise. That includes showcasing and sometimes explaining the designations and certifications they earn throughout the years.

“We can do this by letting them know in different ways when we attend education classes or seminars, when we participate in the community, and when we go above and beyond the basic steps for our clients,” says Willetts, instructor and broker at The Property Shop International in Wilmington, N.C.

Helping consumers understand that agents take their roles seriously by earning designations and certifications is an important element, especially with how the market is today. Even if those outside of the real estate industry may not have a clue what the acronyms behind a practitioner’s name mean, most understand that they furthered their education, WillIetts adds.

“We have a saying here at our firm: professional, connected, educated,” she says. “We encourage our agents to stay up on trends, get designations and to market themselves with this saying.”

As people walk into the office, a banner with the same mantra greets them. Designations and certifications take time, money and effort and make agents better at their jobs. Clients should know how the work the agent as put in can benefit their experience.

Understand the Difference

According to NAR, designations and certifications are different in that “a designation requires annual dues, but a certification only requires an application fee without annual dues.” The cost of certain designations and certifications varies depending on the complexity of the educational content. Some courses are simple, while others require more work and time. For most 16-hour courses, NAR members pay $535, except for the Land Investment Analysis course which runs $750.

For real estate practitioners who want more information on which continuing education options are best for them, the Center for REALTOR® Development (CRD) is the primary resource.

Encourage Continuing Education

Agents can choose from a range of designations and certifications that covers everything from negotiations, smart homes and vacation homes to luxury homes, investing, digital marketing and home finances.

Many of these offerings include as-needed updates so agents have the most current information for the marketplace, says Michael Gobber, partner and designated managing broker at Century 21 Circle in Westchester, Ill. He is also the immediate past president of the Illinois REALTORS®. 

“These designations set agents apart,” he says.

“The GRI was my first designation, and it took a couple years [to complete],” Gobber comments. “I looked at it then—and still do—as a graduate class, because it really specializes and dives deep into the business.”

He recommends the course to his agents, especially to those who are new to the business or haven’t zeroed in on a specialty.

“It opened my eyes to so many things. It’s broad on taxes and teaches you things such as understanding the details of how homes are built, things about sewers and silt plates, and so many things you didn’t know,” he says.

Market Credentials

Janine Spiegelman has met many real estate professionals who have numerous designations but never promote them.

“With tight inflation, high interest rates and low inventory, it would make sense to use and market these designations to distinguish themselves and gain more clients and market share,” says Spiegelman, broker/owner at Janinesworld Realty, Pompano Beach, Fla.

Here are Spiegelman, Willetts and Gobber’s ideas on how to get your agents to highlight their designations and certifications to help clients and gain clients:

Tell clients about designations. The general public doesn’t know what all the acronyms behind your name mean, Gobber says. “But open up the conversation. You can simply say, ‘I’ve taken time to be more experienced and more successful and professional.’”  When you attend a listing or buying presentation, explain how these designations benefit them as clients. Explain that you spent the extra cost and time to get better at your job to provide an elevated level of service to your clients, he says.

Spiegelman believes that the Pricing Strategy Advisor (PSA) certification—one she holds—is especially attractive in periods of volatility. Explaining the valuable knowledge absorbed through the coursework necessary to obtain the designation can ease client apprehension and help them feel confident about their offer.

Use Facebook groups for referrals. Most of the available designations have Facebook groups where agents often refer their clients—who are either moving out of the area or require someone with specific expertise—to other agents who meet those clients’ needs.

“For instance, if you get your GRI, apply to be on the GRI referral page. Once you are in there, look for clients who are located in a different city and need help in your area,” Gobber says. “And if you need to refer a client to someone, let’s say in Denver, then look for a GRI agent there.”

Use media to get the word out. Willetts says that in some cases, local papers or business journals might print updates about local experts. Using press releases to alert the public to the new designations and certifications acquired could garner some attention.

You can also find local podcasts or talk radio stations and pitch relevant real estate topics to speak about on an episode. “For instance, if you get your SRES, you can go on a local radio show and talk about things such as power of attorney, conservatorships and more,” she states.

Create a video. “I’ve seen some agents, not my own yet, create videos regarding designations they just earned. It just takes a 30 second video post,” Gobber says. Use the video to explain what you’ve learned and how it will benefit the consumer.

Team up with businesses who could benefit from your expertise. People in other industries like financial planning, accounting and insurance work with a variety of clients who could benefit from real estate advice. One such group is the senior population. Real estate practitioners who have earned the Seniors Real Estate Specialist® (SRES®) designation, have useful knowledge and expertise to share with this population. Partnering with professionals who work with seniors could be mutually beneficial. “As our population ages, some people don’t want to leave their home,” Spiegelman adds. “They want to be able to age in place gracefully and with dignity. This group of clients need information and not hard pressure sales tactics.”

Update marketing materials. “You need to put in all the letters there that you’ve earned on your website, Facebook, LinkedIn, and everywhere else you are,” Gobber says. “Announce your new specialty with those social media platforms and your website.”

If, as the broker, you provide personalized marketing materials for agents, make sure they’re updated to include the agents’ most recent designations.

Celebrate your agents’ accomplishments. Gobber’s brokerage celebrates their agents’ new designations and certifications on their internal Facebook group and external Facebook page. “We also share their first closing and other accomplishments in a post.”

“All those letters at the end of an agent’s name shows that they are vested in the profession,” says Spiegelman. “Not everyone who holds a real estate license is a REALTOR®, and now more than ever, it is important to show your value.”

The Center for REALTOR® Development

The Center for REALTOR® Development (CRD) is devoted to lifelong learning, career advancement, and specialized credentials for real estate professionals. With 10+ designations and certifications, over 100 microcourses, learning pathways, an award-winning podcast and educational events, there is a learning experience for every real estate professional.

Designations include:

  • Accredited Buyer’s Representative (ABR)
  • Certified International Property Specialist (CIPS)
  • NAR’s Green Designation
  • Seniors Real Estate Specialist® (SRES®) Designation

Certifications Include:

  • At Home With Diversity (AHWD) 
  • NAR’s e-PRO Certification
  • Home Finance Resource (HFR)
  • Military Relocation Professional (MRP)
  • Pricing Strategy Advisor (PSA)
  • Resort and Second Home Property Specialist (RSPS)
  • Short Sales and Foreclosure Resource (SFR)

For more information on designations, certifications, other learning opportunities and the podcast, visit