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If marketing departments spend all their time and money telling consumers how a company is unique, why do brokers and managers spend their time trying to recruit their competitors’ agents?

Here’s a question for brokers: If you believe companies have cultures, that companies have unique service propositions, that your company is different from your competitors, why would you want their agents to come work for you?

What makes a company unique? Is it their sales training, technology or sign colors? Or is a company’s unique value proposition made up of the people it pulls together – people who share a common vision, mission, ethics? Let’s hope you don’t answer uniqueness is a factor of the mundane stuff, because at most firms the mundane stuff is very much the same.

Riddle me this: If an competitor’s agent showed up on your doorstep today, ready to join your firm, would you show them a desk? The typical answer is worrying. When was the last time you heard of a manager rejecting an experienced candidate agent? Remember, we actively recruit inexperienced agents all the time. Rejecting candidates is almost as rare as firing them later. Kinda like agents rejecting overpriced listings. But let’s not digress.

Brokers should step back and ask themselves: In 2011, who do I need working at my company? Why do I want them working here? And, most of all, what culture and opportunities would they combine to create? For themselves. And for consumers.

Unguided recruiting – bring in the bodies, any bodies – is dangerous, perhaps fatal. It’s why companies being floundering shortly after they ramp-up recruiting efforts. In the real world, companies interview many candidates and reject most of them. They examine qualifications that go deep into issues like, How will this person interact with others at our company? Do they hold our values dear, too? Will they expand our culture or disrupt it?

Proper recruiting focuses on building a company, not building a pipeline. Just as formerly productive salespeople falter when promoted to manager, previously productive agents can falter when placed in environments in which their values, style and goals are different. Or worse: they can bring others down around them.

Simply recruiting a competitors’ agents – even coveted top producers – might be disruptive to your company. It’s one thing to co-broke with them; another thing altogether to integrate them into your company. Unless you don’t believe you’re all that different except for some tools and technology. Unless your culture doesn’t matter, which it does.

It’s not like there aren’t other sources of qualified salespeople out there. Real estate is big, but it’s puny in terms of sales industries. All around us are great salespeople: at electronics stores, at insurance agencies, at car dealers, at hair salons. Many wouldn’t fit your culture, either; but many might. Better, in fact, than recycling your competitors’ used agents.

Great salespeople can sell anything: houses aren’t that special.

But great recruiters must understand what makes salespeople great. It’s their talent combined with your unique productivity environment. When everything aligns, it’s a match. When it doesn’t, well, we’ll talk about firing skills another time. Beyond tools, technology, management is a company’s culture. What makes Apple unique from Dell isn’t just their hardware, but their operating system. And I don’t mean Windows versus Apple OS.

Most companies reject the majority of candidates who apply for a job. Real estate brokers and managers must ask themselves if they can become great rejecters, in order to become great recruiters, in the future.