Sarah Patrick served as president of an independent real estate company with 380 agents before transitioning to her own boutique brokerage in Rochester, Mich.
At that size, Patrick says, she couldn’t offer hands-on support to her agents like she wanted. Managing everything and being there for everyone tangibly and productively was tough. “I learned the hard way, you don’t want to be that big,” she says.
The broker-owner of Oak & Stone Real Estate, which has about 40 agents, says she emphasizes consistent training each week and around 40 percent of her agents attend at any given time, which is a good number she believes.
“One of the ways we get people there is through knowledge training, not just sales training,” she adds. “If we can build things out of trust, knowledge and growth, we have a recipe for success. Unfortunately, the way people often learn is through mistakes if they aren’t getting the right training.”
Nearly a third of National Association of REALTORS® members have been in the business five years or less, according to National Association of REALTORS® data. Patrick, a 24-year real estate veteran, says newer agents in particular benefit from regular knowledge and skills training. The 24-year real estate veteran believes training is vital in bridging knowledge gaps so agents can focus on customer service.
“That is the foundation of why we educate—to be well prepared and offer a high level of service. If you don’t fit that servant leadership attitude, you won’t be the right fit for our company. Confidence and knowledge breed success,” she says. But getting people to attend training sessions can be an issue among smaller brokerages nationwide. These agents are busy with clients, inspections, lead generation and just life.
Patrick and two other experienced broker/owners share their expertise in a step-by-step process of enticing and motivating their agents to join training offered by the agency. Here are their thoughts and successful practices that might work for you:
Offer What Agents Want
Jason Jakus, CRB, C-RETS, broker-owner of NextHome Advisors in Fort Myers, Fla., presents ongoing training every week to his 42 agents. He credits his robust audience—about half to three-quarters of his agents—to tuning into what his agents want. Each topic is relevant to his local market or an issue agents have expressed interest in.
He brings in speakers who are experts in the subject matter at hand so that agents have what they need to help their clients. Recently, he brought in the owner of a large insurance brokerage to talk about flood insurance in relation to hurricanes—a big topic in coastal Florida right now.
He hasn’t always had such success with agents showing up, though. He remembers when he owned his first independent brokerage from 2010 to 2015, almost no one came to his meetings.
“Part of it was I wasn’t delivering what they were expecting or needing. So, I sat down with them at a lunch and asked what they would want in a training and what they will show up for,” he says.
They told him they needed to walk away with enough knowledge and value to make it worth their time. Negotiating is always a hot topic, he says, and his role-play style trainings on the topic fills the room.
“I upped my game to bring quality training. And once your reputation goes up with the agents [who regularly attend], other agents don’t want to miss out,” he adds.
Get the Word Out and Send Reminders
When Chris Coccia, EPRO, AHWD, broker-owner of Coccia Real Estate Group in East Hanover, N.J plans out a training, he also sends out multiple notifications. This gives his 40-plus agents more than one opportunity to get the training on their calendars. He starts with an email where he provides an overview of the training content. Then, he sends out several group text messages, elaborating on the subject matter. By creating consistent touchpoints over time to get the word out, he keeps the training top of mind for his agents.
“I always get the same people who respond right away, which holds the other ones accountable to respond that they are going, too. They don’t want to miss out.” —Chris Coccia
Jakus makes two-minute-or-less videos about the content of the training and emails them out to all his agents. He then adds the training sessions to the monthly calendar he sends out to his agents.
“They have no reason they can’t be there, and can’t schedule showings, appraiser appointments, etc. around that. It’s a matter of priority,” he adds.
Patrick takes a multifaceted approach as well. One week before the training, she gets the word out on a private Facebook group, on the brokerage’s calendar, and through the Friday update she sends out each week. She’s found that consistency helps as well, so she schedules trainings on Thursdays at a specific time.
Remove Attendance Barriers
When Hurricane Ian hit Florida in September of 2022 and destroyed three of his offices, Jakus adapted. While his offices are being rebuilt, he rents remote office locations, so he’s never in the same place, and he knows his team is spread throughout the area working as well. To ensure his agents have every option to attend a training, he’s started hosting the trainings in a hybrid format, in person and on Zoom. He finds that 60% attend in person, the remainder on Zoom.
He believes the time he schedules the training is as important as anything else. He tries to do most of them at 9 a.m. midweek. He’s found that the early time works well for his agents. They’re not yet showing properties or consumed by their day-to-day.
Create an Incentive
Incentives offer an added reason for agents to come into the office for a training. Many times, the guest speakers that Jakus brings in host lunch for the agents during the session. “We usually do get a great response for that,” he adds.
Coccia agrees that food brings in more people. “There’s a saying that if you feed agents, they will come,” he says.
Ask for Feedback
Aside from attendance, feedback is a great way to gauge whether or not the training topics and styles are hitting the mark with agents. Brokers want agents to give candid feedback, and Patrick finds that sending out anonymous surveys works well for that.
“It’s a safe environment, and I want them to feel free to say what they want to say,” she says.
Jakus also does surveys through Survey Monkey and TypeForm.com for his surveys. This allows for yes and no answers as well as long-form answers so his agents can add more information or context on an answer if they feel compelled.
Coccia says he’s constantly getting feedback, inside and outside the training room, through his administrators. They usually talk daily with agents and often hear what agents think can be improved or changed, whether that’s specific to training or in other areas.
“Training happens all the time whether you are in a specific training, whether you ask a question, or you are working on a project,” he comments. “I’m usually in the office, too, or one of the other brokers. It’s always a learning opportunity to create value all through the week.”