Steps to Take When an Agent Isn’t Stepping Up

At some point, every agent is going to experience a setback, and as a result, their performance may suffer. Here’s what a broker can do to help.

It took Deb Cizek a long time to figure out that not everyone is wired the same way. As team leader of The Cizek Group at Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Ambassador Real Estate in Omaha, Neb., she has witnessed many agents go through periods where they’re not quite pulling their weight.

“You have to look at the way each person functions,” she says. For example, you can’t assume an agent isn’t a great salesperson if they aren’t setting and achieving extraordinarily high sales goals. There could be many reasons why they’re slacking in a particular month, she says. It can be personal hardship, health-related issues, or a lack of training.

Cizek has also witnessed many of her team members face tragedies, from cancer to the death of a relative. She believes having a heart and being in tune with who your people are can be the first step in figuring out what’s wrong and where to go from there.

Here are additional steps that Cizek and other real estate experts believe can help when you notice an agent lagging behind.

Use a shared strategic plan. When everyone agrees on the goals for the team, it creates greater buy-in, says Donna Price, founder and CEO of Compass Rose Consulting in Newton, N.J. When agents agree and anticipate coming back month after month to report on how they did, it creates natural motivation. “No one wants to look bad in front of their peers or boss,” she says.

The key in strategic planning is the follow-through. Using an outside facilitator can take the burden off the broker-owner or manager and provide added accountability.

Set and clarify expectations. Explain to your agents what success looks like to you and to the company, says Jeff Boss, cofounder of Chaos Advantage and author of Navigating Chaos: How to Find Certainty in Uncertain Situations (Archer, 2015). He offers leadership workshops and team coaching. “Clarity breeds commitment and is fundamental to success in anything,” he says. Being clear about the team’s goals can also set the conditions for strong accountability.

Think about why you brought a person on board. If an agent is struggling, yet the reasons you recruited him or her in the first place still hold true, then sit down with them for a one-on-one. Ask the agent how they feel things are going. Sometimes, they already know that they aren’t pulling their weight, Cizek says. By listening and putting yourself in their shoes, you can start to understand where they’re at and determine the best way to move forward.

Offer training in many areas. One of the biggest draws to becoming a real estate agent is not having a set schedule, says Cheri Alguire, a business coach in Livingston, Texas, and co-author of Agent Revamp: How to Break Out of Your Real Estate Slump and Explode Your Income! (Grow To Greatness Publishing, 2016). But many agents come from a traditional job, and they don’t have the discipline to be independent yet, she says. Training can help new agents understand that they still need a schedule, and they can’t just work when they feel like it, she says.

Avoid online marketing meltdown. Alguire says some agents can get overwhelmed by all the digital marketing options available and the seemingly endless ways to market themselves. “Social media is popular, and it’s a great avenue to increase business. But some agents are all about repeat and referral business,” she says. You have to understand where the agent is in the mix, what they use, and what is successful for them. Learn what they want and need help on to further their careers.

Find them another role. Sometimes, the person you recruited for your company or team just isn’t in the right role. Maybe they would be better suited as strictly a buyer’s agent or an inside sales agent, or maybe they have the expertise to train and coach new agents. Boss says it’s often worth having a person try a different position before letting them go.

Ask them to join you. Cizek takes new agents with her on appointments. She offers them 10 percent of her commission, plus they get credit as a co-listing agent on her signs. Giving agents the opportunity to be a part of the action is a great motivating tool, she says. Plus, she’s able to watch how they work. At listing appointments, she expects them to jump in, and when they’re hosting an open house, she makes sure her agents aren’t pulling out their phones and ignoring visitors. “You can’t expect them to get better on their own. You have to model the correct behavior,” Cizek says. “I make lots of mistakes. I’ve learned a lot of things from them, too.”

Allow agents to set the goals they want. Cizek sets high, lofty goals and rarely reaches them. She’s OK with that. But she knows there are members of her team who will not set a goal they can’t achieve. That frustrated her at first. “I see more in them than they see in themselves,” Cizek says. “But crazy sales goals may not be the best approach for everyone.” If an agent organizes his or her weeks and months so they hit their goals by the end of the year, then that’s just fine with her.


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