Gretchen Pearson, president of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Drysdale Properties in Danville, Calif., sees her agents as her partners. This relationship makes it easier to have difficult conversations in which she can give honest feedback on how they can improve their business and bring more value to the customer.
“I was tired of having conversations with my agents where I was nervous that they were going to go somewhere else,” said Pearson, CRB, who shared her strategies during RISMedia’s Power Broker Roundtable at the 2017 REALTOR® Broker Summit in San Diego. So she started building and reinforcing a culture of partnership based on mutual respect.
As a longtime industry vet, Pearson has seen commission splits continue to lean more favorably toward agents industrywide, and at her company, she observed how agents were investing in their businesses with that money. She was baffled by the fact that agents were buying bad leads. Consequently, as she made the cultural shift to a partnership mentality, she began working with agents on how to spend money together.
Pearson built lead generation systems and created new relationships in her Northern California market. She launched a partnership with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and built an exclusive AVM tool for every agent to capture seller leads. She even started offering a lead incubation service through a third-party company, which calls leads and tracks where those potential customers are in the process until an agent takes over.
“We have conversations all the time on what they need and what they are willing to do,” Pearson said of her agents. “If we pool the money, we can build it faster, and [agents] can buy it from me.”
Pearson’s 11-year-old company has a large contingency of seasoned agents, many of whom lack experience with today’s technology. “If they’re a rainmaker and they’re my partner, I don’t want them messing around with how to build a database. I don’t need them to go figure out how to do their social media posts,” she said. Ergo, she developed an in-house department called Drysdale Services for her 35 offices and hired staff who work with agents on their custom business and marketing needs—all built in-house.
And it worked. Fewer agents are buying leads from online portals or paying for services that help manage their social media accounts. “From a broker standpoint, we’re keeping highest and best use, and my rainmakers can focus on belly-to-belly, ear-to-ear relationships,” Pearson said. “It’s almost like a personal assistant for many of the agents.”
Fellow panelist Michael Golden, co-founder of @properties in Chicago, said creating agent value is all about keeping the optimum client experience at heart. His company has done this by focusing on creating both an enjoyable work environment for agents and providing innovative mobile tools for working efficiently with clients in the field.
Similarly, Robert Bailey, CRB, broker-owner of Bailey Properties in the Santa Cruz, Calif., area, is on the quest to help his agents re-engage with customers. To that end, he invested in a “best-in-class” CRM and rolled it out to agents with the charge of making those client connections.
When Bailey launched the new CRM platform, he hired a young digital native to help deploy the system and assist agents. His company also offers an in-house coaching program geared toward enhancing the consumer experience. “Lives aren’t simpler because of technology,” Bailey said, adding that most families involve two working parents who are feeling the crunch of being connected 24/7. “They’re looking for a quality of life and balance,” he said. So his brokerage helps agents alleviate the clients’ burden in the real estate transaction and bring trust to the table.
“[Consumers] are already online looking at houses. They’re looking at mortgage rates, and they’re picking out their furniture or staging that home in a virtual world,” Bailey said. “What are we doing to reach that next level of service and make clients feel good about it?”