With the real estate market so turbulent, many agents will be tempted to jump ship. To help prevent this, it’s essential to build trust, which assures loyalty. “The only way you gain trust is through communication,” says Cindy Ariosa, Senior Vice President, Regional Manager Baltimore-Eastern Shore-Western MD, Long & Foster Real Estate Inc. She oversees about 1700 agents, 665 of whom have been with the company for 10 or more years. “If you don’t communicate on a regular basis, it’s more difficult for agents to have trust in you as their leader and in the stability of the company,” she says.
“Open lines of caring communication create a bond between the agent and the broker (and) that is much more valuable than many other perks,” adds Anthony Askowitz, broker-owner at RE/MAX Advance Realty in Miami, Fla. “It allows the broker to stay on top of the growth of the agent's business, understand the challenges being faced and show the agent how to improve, get back on track or revise ways of doing things.”
Here are some tried and true strategies from Ariosa and Askowitz on how to communicate with agents to boost retention.
Memorize Agent Faces
Ariosa makes a point of memorizing the faces of new hires each year, which is no small feat. Last year, 280 agents joined her team. Before sales meetings, she studies agent profiles and names on the Long & Foster website. Then, she walks up to each new agent and says, “[Insert their name here], you’re new to the company, I’ve been waiting to meet you!”
As for agents she already knows, she’ll ask them specific questions to show that she remembers them. Similarly, Askowitz employs office personnel designated “Directors of First Impression” who “know every agent by name and welcome them with a genuine smile as they come into the office.”
Contact Five Agents, Everyday
Ariosa and her branch managers get in touch with five agents a day. There are endless reasons to reach out: to congratulate them on a listing or sale, check in if they haven’t visited the office or closed a deal in a while or to express condolences. To help her agents feel like family, most of her offices have “sunshine funds,” in which money is set aside for sending flowers if someone passes away or is in the hospital. Ariosa personally keeps boxes of sympathy, birthday, anniversary and get-well cards underneath her desk.
In addition to cards and phone calls, Ariosa relies on short BombBomb video emails to communicate with her agents. “Everyone will open a video that’s under a minute,” she says. Since she’s found that acting natural is most effective, she almost never does more than one take, making these videos a snap to turn out.
Stay In Touch With Managers
Ariosa counts on her roughly 25 branch managers for agent retention. That’s why she nurtures those relationships, pushing market data to them regularly and meeting with them in person monthly. Twice a year, she’ll meet with each branch manager individually. And, as with her agents, she’ll reach out with cards, videos or phone calls to acknowledge birthdays, express condolences or say congratulations.
Similarly, Askowitz conducts weekly management meetings, discussing which agents are struggling versus flourishing. “We talk about which agents each of us has personally helped in the past week and how the challenge was resolved—or not. We make every effort to ensure nobody slips through the cracks because everyone is important.”
Don’t Forget Prospects
Each Monday morning, Ariosa sends an email to the roughly 10,000 licensed agents in Maryland. Along with sharing market information, she’ll welcome new Long & Foster agents to the region and include videos featuring herself or the CEO of Long & Foster. This touchpoint she says, is beneficial in retention and easy.
Like a journalist or detective, Ariosa studies prospects before recruitment meetings. She looks at their listings, sales numbers, years of experience and years at their current company. She often takes to social media to sleuth out information that will help her build connections. For example, if she sees that an agent’s child plays lacrosse, she’ll mention that her children played the sport in college. “You can’t go in blind. This is an interview for a job. They are interviewing me to see if they want to come work with me. I have a small window of opportunity to make them feel like the most important person in the world, so (that) they’ll want to be a part of my family,” she says.
Meet Agents Where They Are
One agent might be great at answering the phone while another uses email. To communicate effectively, brokers must meet agents where they are. Also, certain messages are better received if they’re delivered properly. For example, never send something urgent through email. Askowitz employs many methods to communicate an important message, ensure all bases are covered and reach as many people as possible.
- Phone calls: Askowitz rings agents who “need a bit of love,” he says. “In this fast-paced business, taking the time to make the call is appreciated and the effect is much more valuable than a blast email or mass text.”
- Email: Askowitz uses this medium to share detailed information, including attachments for marketing or listing presentations. Because of spam blockers and low open rates, he does not recommend email for urgent messages.
- Social media: Askowitz and each member of his management team are active on Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram and TikTok. Plus, he relies on private Facebook groups, which enable agents to share messages, articles, new listings, strategies and to ask questions.
- Text messages: The most popular mode of communication now, according to Askowitz, text messages are ideal reminders for classes or events and quick questions.
- Events: “The personal touch also comes in the form of our many social events: the company's annual family picnic, awards banquet, holiday party, happy hours and fishing excursions,” says Askowitz.
Make Yourself Accessible
Ariosa attends two sales meetings per week and makes her cell phone number accessible to her branch managers and agents. She doesn’t just pass out her phone number though, she picks up. One agent rang her on a Saturday when their branch manager was out of the country and expressed surprise when Ariosa noticed the second ring. “No one is afraid to call me,” she says. She’ll also attend events, such as family picnics and her annual football game at Ravens Stadium for her top-producing agents. Likewise, Askowitz—who has officiated at a few of his agents’ weddings—says his door is almost always open, literally. “I may text, just to say ‘hi,’ but if the conversation is regarding an important matter, I call.”
To offer even more access, members of the management and support teams are available for private meetings or consultations, Askowitz shares. “We provide weekly meetings in person and via Zoom to go over best practices, discuss challenges from the prior month, learn about updates in the market and make announcements.”