The term professionalism doesn’t summon images of fun and excitement. It’s not a sexy word, nor is it generally a topic of passionate discussion—that is unless it’s fraught with controversy, which no one wants. So, as a broker, how do you teach agents about professionalism without boring them?
That was the topic of discussion at the Idea Exchange Council for Brokers at the REALTORS® Legislative Meetings & Trade Expo in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday, May 15. Ron Phipps, principle broker of Phipps Realty, Inc. in East Greenwich, R.I. and 2011 president of the National Association of REALTORS®, told attendees that modeling appropriate fun works well at his tightknit, inclusive office. He takes every opportunity he can to bring fun into his real estate business. “We do all sorts of things that are about celebrating life while still being professional,” Phipps says. They throw a Halloween parties, get involved with other community groups, and surround themselves with other joyful professionals.
Celebrating wins and important moments also goes a long way, Phipps said, including those of agents across the closing table from you. Take the time to compliment them—ideally, in front of their clients, he said. You’ll be surprised at how valuable paying it forward can be.
Teambuilding and understanding where your agents are within your organization is also crucial for raising the bar of professionalism, said Annie Hanna Engel, president of Howard Hanna Insurance Services and chief legal officer of Howard Hanna Real Estate Services in Pittsburgh. You’re bringing your agents into the fold and giving them a sense of belonging, which builds loyalty. Engel said it’s important for agents to understand the value of building relationships rather than taking an adversarial approach. She added that it also helps to have good managers who reinforce those mantras.
Providing educational opportunities for agents also builds professionalism. Bobbi Howe, team leader of Keller Williams Kansas City North and a 20-year veteran in the industry, told attendees of the session that her office offers three or four educational trainings, classes, speakers, or events per day. Sometimes 100 agents show up, other times there are only two, but there’s always value to be found, no matter the number of attendees. Echoing Phipps’s remarks, Howe said, “Being truly professional creates an environment of fun. We take this business too seriously sometimes. This business will eat you up and spit you out if you let it.” Kindness is integral, Howe added.
Phipps shared best practices from his company’s mentorship program, where they pair rookie agents with seasoned pros to gain understanding of real-life circumstances. “Experience is what you say when you’re in a situation, how you respond when a customer is really livid,” Phipps said. This is especially crucial in his area of the country, where the highest priced homes are slow to move. His agents often end up working with sellers in this micro-market for one to two years. “Keeping those sellers satisfied is an art,” he said. “It’s not something you learn in a manual or a book. It’s about combining experience, knowledge, and intuition.
While online learning has taken over many areas of training in and out of the real estate industry, Phipps encouraged brokers at the session to give the formal mentorship model another look. “What’s learned online doesn’t replace the actual experiential piece,” he said.