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Recently we pointed out that the next generation of REALTORS will come from non-traditional sources. As brokers focus more on productivity than body-count, and the recession will ultimately teach them this business lesson. A more rational, performance-based method of building real estate companies will emerge. Traditional “Ponzi” schemes of filling the bottom with as many people with a license-and-heartbeat will fade away. It will become less frequent, not more, than inexperienced people will be thrown into the office mix. This positive lesson, while long awaited, will help brokers reconfigure their strategies for the future. But what about salespeople? How will they know whether it’s right for them to join a particular company? Let’s look at the other side of the question for a change.

In the future, real estate salespeople will still be independent contractors; As long as brokers and agents can milk the tax loophole, they will. Whether or not that has any impact on performance, however, is a non-argument. The best agents in the business are the best, not because of their tax status, but because they surround themselves with the right productivity environment. Entrepreneurial salespeople know that the key to their success is to make the right choice of brokerage. They want to join companies that balance teamwork structures with ample independent creativity to unleash their knowledge as workers.

Future agents will join companies who produce; not necessarily those with the most stuff.

Top agents already don’t care which company has more stuff, because in most cases, top agent already have more stuff than any company in the marketplace. High performing agents need support, but they don’t need stuff. What they need is performance support, not tools. They don’t need companies with more marketing, especially of the ineffective kind that wastes budget dollars. It discourages them to see the broker maintaining ineffective marketing simply to satisfy the angry, unproductive mob at the bottom of the productivity pyramid. Career agents will training, too. Yet they seek quality content, not lowest-denominator C.E. topics because the other agents won’t attend otherwise. Today’s performing agents are already horrified when non-producing agents are permitted to skip classes. Especially when they are then permitted to ruin incoming phone and email leads on floor duty.

In fact, the first thing aspiring agents will examine before deciding to accept a position with a broker is the percentage of non-producing agents in the company. Tolerance of too many non-producers should be an immediate turn-off for any agent who hopes to make more than the industry-average $40,000 a year. Aspiring career agents want to be surrounded by people they respect, salespeople they can learn from, emulate and compete with on the way to the top. An office full of sales wannabes will only scare away qualified candidates.

Career agents know that there is NO rising tide to lift all boats – when the office is filled with sinking ships.

In the future, they won’t be interested in being the only person trying to bail out the water of brokers who won’t be the captain. in fact, that’s what future recruits will demand: Captaincy. They want leaders who lead, who deal with problems, who set standards, enforce them, and reward them. Future agents don’t want to see “all leads distributed evenly” throughout the office, because that means the leads they created (by getting listings) might go to a floor-duty agent with no idea how to convert a prospect. Future agents don’t want to see the broker announcing new agents every month. Adding more bodies translates into more strain on services and budgets, diluted training and reduced coaching attention per capita. Future agents will want to be managed, not ignored; more agents makes that less likely.

In fact, sales people in the next generation of real estate brokerage will evaluate companies on significantly different value propositions. Here are a few that we’re already seeing in the marketplace:

  • Serious agents want to join offices where the per-person-productivity is high, not the total sales volume (as contributed by a few top producers). Sales people want to benefit from the production efforts of everyone around them – and contribute to it as well. A fair exchange between agent-and-agent is as important as between broker-and-agent.
  • To accept a position in a brokerage firm, agents should look for distinctive advantages, especially in technology resources. Every standard technologies should be assumed; they will want to see the broker’s tech edge. At the same time, they will seek assurance that use of the systems and tools is standardized and mandated for everyone. Future independent sales people don’t want their personal efforts diluted¬† because others in the office refuse to admit the internet exists or replace their cellular bag-phone.
  • To attract younger agents, a clearly outlined plan for learning, coaching and will be required. Generation Y sales people today seek more attention and feedback than their progenitors. They are looking for pre-packaged pathways to success (like a college curriculum) that directs and coaches them up the performance ladder. They will need significantly more management attention than the “fireman model” common amongst brokers today.
  • Salespeople will look skeptically at a company’s turn-over rate. In no other industry, excepting Avon and Amway, do people think it’s a “good thing” for a company to constantly lose/replace its salespeople. Companies who turn over agents on a treadmill-basis will alarm potential recruits who fear the productivity and management environment is broken. They will see turn-over as a danger to a stable sales career.
  • Future salespeople will demand innovation. The next generation of agents has no expectation to be in the same job their entire lives. they fully expect to have dozens of roles over their lifetime. Yet that doesn’t mean they will necessarily work for dozens of companies. Generation X and Y agents are looking for regular change in their careers. And brokerages must feature innovation at the center of their recruiting proposition. Career sales people will seek companies who are open to innovation, embrace change, and even mandate it. The last thing they want to associate with are “change-challenged” peers who resist every consumer, marketing, technology and industry change because they “liked it the old way.”

The best advice for agents being recruited is to make two lists: First, itemize all of the necessary production tools you will require to successfully sell real estate. List all marketing, training, technology and infrastructure items that form the baseline for a sales career. The toolbox must be “effectively full” which means the tools and systems supporting work for customers of the future, not as salve for the wounds of agents pining for the past.

On the other list, focus on the management and sales performance environment. This means evaluating the production rate of the company – on a per-person basis. Ensure that everyone you might work with can help you as much as you can help them. Identify the criteria used when management decides to grow the sales force. Is it a body-count model or a “we’re maxxed out, so we need more sales help” model? List the specific and required training regimens that everyone is expected to grow through, as well as the management qualifications as an innovator and performance coach.

The future real estate consumer is expecting a whole new value proposition from REALTORS. Traditionally we consider this to mean agents will use more technology, become more professional and deliver services more efficiently. It’s time we started thinking about how agents are supposed to achieve this growth – when the choices of brokerages to affiliate with today are still opearting old-school, body-count lounges where any salesperson drop-out can hang their shingle and screw up some leads. If we want more top producing agents, we need to start creating more top performance capable environments. It’s what salespeople of the future will need. And it’s what they will demand if they’re going to affiliate their entrepreneurial careers with a brokerage in the future.