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Illustration by Lanette Behiry/Real Estate News; Shutterstock

Does your brokerage business plan include agent retention? It should! 

There's no quick-fix — your agent retention strategy should be as well-thought-out as your lead generation, training or sales programs.

February 26, 2023
5 minutes

Key points:

  • Trust and relationships with leaders are key to keeping agents, which requires face time.
  • Retention can’t be a reactionary activity — “It needs to start on Day 1.”
  • Building connections starts with respecting each team member's needs and understanding their individual goals.

Your top-producing agent just told you they're moving to a different brokerage and you've heard rumblings others may follow suit. It's time to take action, right?

Wrong. Working to retain agents can't be reactionary. Rather, it's a long-term process that — if done right — will make your agents happier and your business stronger. 

Where to start? Fostering trust and connections is key. Agents want to work where they feel valued, cared for and supported by their leadership. And that needs to be built into your business in much the same way as lead generation or sales programs. 

"It needs to start on Day 1," says Jeff Gibbard, business strategist and author of "The Loveable Leader: Build an Amazing Team with Trust, Respect, and Kindness."

"If you're taking the time to hire someone, you need to act like they're going to work for you forever. You know they won't, but you want to build the kind of relationship that makes them want to stay. They need to trust you. They'll never connect with a leader they don't trust."

Experts agree the best way to build relationships is frequent face-to-face contact. But if you're like Realty Austin's CEO Gabe Richter and you're overseeing 600 agents in four different offices, that's tough. He relies on his sales team leaders to do some of the connecting using the Ninja Selling System's F.O.R.D. conversation model.

"We call our agents and we talk to them about Family, Occupation, Recreation and their Dreams," he says. "We need to know what's going on with them work-wise, but it's also really important for us to know what's happening in their lives outside work. Are they going through a breakup? Are they getting ready for a kid to move to college? Knowing that and understanding how we can support them is huge."

Richter also does plenty of connecting himself, working out of different sales offices multiple times each week.

"Being present is really important," he says. "It makes it so much easier for agents to walk up to me and say, 'Hey, I have an idea.'" Realty Austin also just started an agent advisory board so management can get a better feel for what's going well and not-so-well in the field.

Dean Cottrill, executive vice president of brokerage and team consulting at T3 Sixty, says advisory boards that are run well can be a real boon. (Note: Real Estate News and T3 Sixty share a founder, Stefan Swanepoel.)

"These agent representatives can share insights both ways — with management and with fellow agents," he says. "They can help plan brokerage-wide events and build buy-in. As you scale, it's important to integrate more people into leadership roles, and this is a great way."

Building great relationships with agents is just part of the equation. "Your agents may like you and feel connected to you, but if they're not making money, they're going to go someplace else," says Cottrill. 

He encourages brokers and team leaders to plan activities that provide the opportunity to connect with leaders while also building connections with clients and potential clients. Group participation in a charity walk is an example. Agents and leadership walk to support a cause they can all get behind, perhaps the American Heart Association or Habitat for Humanity, and they invite clients and neighbors to join them.

"Everybody's raising money for a charity they believe in, they've got the opportunity to talk with their brokerage CEO and sales leaders, and agents are meeting potential clients with a shared passion," says Cottrill. "It's a win-win situation."

Kris Darwin, sales manager and chief operating officer at Coldwell Banker-Gosslee in Shreveport, LA, says really knowing her agents allows her to support them in an authentic way.

When recently recognizing top producers, for example, she wrote social media posts with personal narratives about each of the agents.

"I had no idea the impact they'd have, but the response has been overwhelming," she says. "People keep saying, you really know your agents, and I think, 'You bet I do.' I'm not sure how I could do my job if I didn't."

4 ways to build connections with your agents

Author Jeff Gibbard offers these additional tips for brokers and leaders looking to build relationships and trust:

  • Treat each team member as an individual and figure out what means and frequency of communication works best for them. Some people need to sit down for coffee or lunch. For others, the phone or a video call is a reasonable replacement.

  • More than the medium you choose, be clear about your reasons for reaching out. You don't build connections by giving market updates. People need to know they're being heard and that they're valued.

  • If you don't know your agents' goals, you're not going to motivate them with your goals. Align the two sets of goals and you'll succeed.

  • Challenge agents to reach big goals, but make it safe to fail. People won't try new things or reach beyond what's expected if they fear they'll be punished for failing.

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