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Hire for Keeps/Users/adamp/Desktop/MAR_IMGS/MakeOver

Our expert shows this broker how to recruit and retain a motivated sales team.

Like many real estate licensees with an entrepreneurial spirit, Sean Kelley found himself yearning to be his own boss. So, in 2005, the Orlando broker opened Kelley Real Estate Group. Things were going so well the first year that he moved to an upscale downtown office. But then the market downturn came, his sales staff lost their enthusiasm and his company’s overhead became so burdensome that he had to downsize. Though his office is now in a smaller location, he says that’s actually worked in his favor because “it’s right on the main drag and offers great street exposure.” “But my [sales associates] are still unmotivated,” he adds, conceding that he probably “jumped in” to business ownership before doing adequate research or formulating a sound business plan. “I need guidance on how to motivate [sales associates] in a slow market.”

Bring in the Expert
Real estate coach Bob Corcoran assessed Kelley’s situation and offered this advice.

1. Make a Plan
Before he entered real estate, Kelley honed his sales skills in the car business and the nightclub industry. He also bought and sold property. “Sean, I’d say you’re probably one of those master salespeople who loves the art of the deal; it’s the planning you hate,” Corcoran says. “But to be successful in business you need to plan your work and work your plan. This involves doing your homework and understanding the market.”

A business plan should include a summary of objectives, a vision statement, analysis of both the market and the competition, a business strategy highlighting both the broker’s and the company’s strengths and weaknesses (as well as a plan for overcoming those), Corcoran says. A description of products and services, sales and marketing strategies, operations (including an organizational chart) and financial considerations (i.e., profit and loss, balance sheet, etc.) are also recommended. [See Essentials of a Business Plan at left.]

“You need someone to hold you accountable too,” says Corcoran. “This accountability partner—someone in real estate or another industry—can review your business plan and the progress you’ve made.” 

2. Define Your Culture
A mission statement (or affirmation of what a business aspires to become) is another important component of a successful brokerage. “That’s what helps to define your culture,” Corcoran says.

He suggests that Kelley ask people who know him what they would say about him. “Your reputation should make people want to work for you,” Corcoran says. “Whether Sean Kelley is a phenomenal human being, a giver or someone who has a reputation of submitting lowball offers—that will help you identify the type of agent you’ll attract. Know yourself first because like attracts like.”

Kelley, who says he lacked his broker’s support during his rookie years in the business, vowed to be a hands-on leader when he opened his own company. He says his mission statement would likely be something along the lines of “to be very responsive with my sales associates.” 

3. Offer Recruiting Packages

Incentives that are in sync with the competition are a good way to attract recruits that will stay and produce, says Corcoran. “Money gets them in the door—your split is why they’re going to talk to you; how you treat them is why they stay. Know what splits others are offering so you’re talking their language. Famous generals like George S. Patton and Douglas MacArthur studied their enemies before battle. Know your competition better than they know themselves.”

Corcoran recommends that Kelley offer one package for newbies and another for veterans with a proven background. “Offer a third package for the superstar salespeople,” he adds, explaining that each package will have a different split according to the recruit’s proven experience.

4. Set a Hiring Schedule
Kelley would like to hire 10 sales associates during the first half of the year. His predicament, however, is that business is so slow that it’s difficult to turn applicants away.

“Sean, if you’re so desperate that you’d offer a desk to anyone who walks in with a license your turnover is going to be high,” says Corcoran. “I always say where feasible to hire in twos,” he says. “What sounds easier, two hires a month or 10 by the end of June? Plan to have two agents hired by the 25th of each month. You’re going to have to do training too, so why train 10 times when you can do it five times?”

5. Be Realistic
Finally, Corcoran says that Kelley is kidding himself if he thinks he has the power to motivate anyone to do anything. “Sean, the adrenaline you get from hearing a motivational speaker lasts maybe a couple of days at the most. You cannot motivate anyone except yourself.” 

This column provides advice from industry experts concerning marketing, technology and business issues. It won the Silver Award in the 2007 Best Column category from the Florida Magazine Association.