Retaining Agents: One Size Does Not Fit All

Brokers say the key is to let agents with special skillsets and business models know you have what they need.
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The risk of agents jumping ship is always on brokers' mind. In recent years, as agent business models have evolved, brokers have had to think differently about retention, developing specific strategies for retaining high-profile salespeople, such as celebrity agents, solo producers doing at least 30 deals a year, and mega-team leaders. All these individuals require a brokerage that adds value to their already thriving businesses.

The question for brokers is what value can you provide to agents who are already at the top of their game? The answer, according to a panel of brokers who spoke at NAR NXT in Orlando, Fla., is partnership and connection. “You have to make connections like your life depends on it,” said Cindy Ariosa, senior vice president at Long & Foster in Towson, Md.

“There are multiple different markets inside your office,” says Kymber Lovett-Menkiti, regional director at Keller Williams Realty, Inc., District of Columbia. “Customize and personalize the training and the communities that you provide for them. Lean into being an individualized consultant.”

A Supportive Environment

Make sure your most visible agents know what you offer.

You can be an invaluable partner, says Ariosa, whose company has long experience with high-profile agents, including an agent who operates what has become a mega-team. “We have a $2 billion agent,” she says. “The value proposition is that we’re a stable [company] and we have their backs.”

The brokerage makes the agent’s job easier by having his back legally providing the right tools so that his team can be successful.

“Legal and financial liability are still covered by Long and Foster. Accounting, forms, legal representation and licensing are still held under the brokerage, and the agent has full access,” Ariosa said.

For agents with celebrity status, the brokerage is a reliable helm that enables them to do what they do best: cultivate, grow and maintain their audience.

Room to Grow

Growth is a non-negotiable for top-level agents, the panelists agreed, but that doesn’t mean brokers should have to lose agents once they reach a certain level of success or renown.

“You can create ways for the agents to grow with you rather than grow out of you,” said Christina Pappas, vice president of The Keyes Realty in Miami.

That doesn’t mean giving top agents all the leads. “Celebrity agents might not be out there selling a bunch of real estate,” Pappas said, “and it’s important to know that that’s not what they necessarily want to do.”

For an agent with name recognition, growth might come in other forms, like community leadership or media opportunities. Instead of assuming what it is that these high-profile agents want, ask them. Put out that dreaded survey, and ask for honest feedback on your value proposition and whether or not what you offer is meeting the needs of the agents under your wing.

For Long and Foster, giving team leaders the space to grow means giving them literal space, said Ariosa.

“We’ve started what we call A.E.L., which stands for Agent Enterprise Locations. These are smaller offices that are dedicated to these particular teams but are still part of our brokerage,” Ariosa said. “In this way, the team or group is in a standalone, isolated space where they can control the culture and build out their teams their way, but they still have all of the resources under the brokerage.”

Personalized Training, Services

Even if they don’t need the traditional assets a brokerage offers, even the most successful agents have room for improvement. Figure out what they need by showing interest in their business and asking questions about where they’d like training or mentorship.

Usually, what they need is pretty simple and easy to give, said broker-owner Whitney LaCosta, executive vice president at Coach, REALTORS®, in Northport, N.Y.

The goal is to provide a tailored approach to meet the individual needs.

For instance, celebrity agents tend to have large social media followings and might benefit from audience management that a staffer could maintain. Or they might need help navigating the legal aspects of what they can and cannot put out as content.

In turn, their large following can benefit the brokerage. “Use them as your influencers,” LaCosta said.

Celebrity agents have amazing social, and they have incredible lead-generation opportunities, so we partner with them,” agreed Lovett-Menkiti.

For the solo producer who has no interest in building a team or working with other agents, broker support might look like facilitating the time and space for roundtable discussions with like-minded peers.

“Put them in a room with other agents like them. Let them learn from each other—but you, as the broker, can be the one to provide the resources,” Lovett-Menkiti said.

In this way, Lacosta added, the broker is always leading the agent back to the brokerage and showing the agent that the brokerage provides their business with resources to grow.

Ariosa said that Long and Foster host an annual retreat for their top 100 agents. During these three-day events, the agents have the opportunity to learn from one another in an environment that feels safe and inviting. They aren’t worried about what others might think of their success because they’re surrounded by agents who are performing at the same level. The growth and masterminding is invaluable to them, Ariosa said.

We have 10,000 agents and our top 100 producers represent around $6 billion in revenue. This retreat is a huge resource for them and reminds them that we’re here to help them succeed.”

Help Team Leads Anticipate and Solve Problems

As teams grow, so do the problems they face. Many of those problems are very familiar to brokers. “You can predict their next pain point because you’ve already lived them as a broker,” Lovett-Menkiti said.

A team leader might face declining profitability, legal issues or having team members recruited by other brokerages. Since the team model is a business inside of a business, these issues, typically the worries of the broker-owner, may become become top of mind for team leaders.

“When you can predict for them what’s going to happen next, you become the adviser they need,” Lovett-Menkiti continued.

Capitalize on that momentum by having one-on-one conversations with team leaders and helping them determine what they can do now to stave off future issues. Teach them how to communicate their own value proposition to their teams. Show them how to look at profit margins and current market trends to create a plan.

And don’t forget to give them a role in brokerages decisions. Pappas brings the youngest and brightest to the table to help with strategy development. “We put all of the under 30s in a room together and let them lead. We use their knowledge [of social media and online marketing] to build strategy that in turn helps everyone else.”

By doing so, Pappas not only empowers agents, giving them a stake in the future of the brokerage, but also keeps a finger on the pulse of their needs.

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