Five Lessons From the Top 100 Teams

December 3, 2021
January 24, 2022

In my role as Homeward’s Chief Real Estate Officer, I focus on keeping the real estate agent at the center of the transaction — even as residential real estate continues to evolve. Being close to industry operators is crucial to my job, so I speak to agents from across the country every single day. In 2021, demand continued to rise while inventory and mortgage rates remained low. On top of all that, it was the year of the Great Resignation, supply chain woes for new constructions, the shuttering of Zillow Offers, and the rise of power buyers. 

This year was full of teachable moments. In a recent article, my friend Jeff Glover posed an important question regarding the demise of Zillow Offers: “Will you spend your time celebrating a competitor being knocked out of the race, or will you make sure you own the next race?” I’ve chosen the latter and hope you will, too. To that end, here are the top five lessons I learned from the top 100 teams in 2021. 

#1. Protect your sphere of influence (SOI)

Make no mistake about it: your SOI — your closest relationships – are under attack. Other realtors and big money disruptors want to come between you and your SOI, so you need to wrap your arms around your database and own those relationships. How? Be regular and frequent in your interaction. If you’re not, those relationships are at risk. Start conversations that add value and keep those conversations going through events and other types of interactions. 

Example:

Anna Kilinski of Anna K Intown in Atlanta is very purposeful about interacting with her SOI. She and her team serve as connectors and community builders. The team recently distributed 5,000 leaf bags to the neighborhoods they farm. By sponsoring events, celebrating clients on social media, and going much deeper than the occasional market recap, Anna K Intown builds trust and loyalty. 

 

#2. Offer a menu of services

Your clients don’t want an agent. They want a consultant. Consultants ask questions, identify pain points, and then offer a menu of services to solve their client’s problem. In order to create that kind of menu, you’ll need to learn about innovative offerings that go beyond traditional buy and sell services. The most successful agents offer a variety of real estate “flavors” on their menu. When you consult a contingent client or a hesitant list-buy client, our solutions – Buy before you sell and Buy with cash — should be on your menu.

Example:

Look, Kenny Klaus of Klaus Team Real Estate Solutions even has the word “solutions” in his team’s name. Kenny says he used to sit across the table from his prospective clients and pitch them on how he was the right agent for them. Now, he explains, he sits on the same side of the table, listens to their problems, and proposes the best solution from a menu of innovative services his team has partnered with others to offer.


#3 Run your business like a business

For too long, most real estate agents have run their businesses through sheer hustle and grit, but with little thought to the numbers that tell the real story. Others run more of a practice than a business. In a practice, everything depends on you, the practitioner and with little leverage or systems.

So, what do you need to do differently? You’re collecting a lot of data. Start building insight from that data. (And, if you’re not collecting it, start now.) Run P&Ls. Calculate your advertising ROI. Find your bottlenecks and eliminate them. Scale your services using software where you can. Identify skills gaps and fill them with the team members you need. 

Example:

Ben Kinney became a real estate agent in 2004. But instead of building a traditional real estate team, he doubled-down on best practices borrowed from other industries. By 2018, Inman News named The Ben Kinney Team to its Innovator of the Year list. And in 2021, Kinney was included in the Swanepoel Power 200. How did he do it? Instead of thinking like a salesperson, he made a conscious decision to think like a business owner. (He eventually used these ideas to co-found PLACE.) He added a chief financial officer (CFO) to his team, tracked all lead and lag measures so he could make data-informed decisions, and turned an expense into a profit center by creating his own customer relationship management (CRM) system, which he now offers as a product. 


#4 Retain your top talent

Recruiting top talent is only half the battle. Once you have great people on your team, you have to work hard to keep them. By the way, if you think your best people aren’t exploring other opportunities, you’re wrong. Remember, 2021 was the year of the Great Resignation. Contrary to popular belief, though, those people aren’t just looking for more money. Ask the folks on your team, “What is your currency?” Equity? Flexibility? Autonomy? Growth? Find out and then figure out how you can offer it to them. Your goal is long-term retention.

Example:

Ken Hirschmann of Best Life and Co. couldn't be the success he is without his lead admin. And he knew that if he didn’t create the right opportunities, she’d leave. So he took the time to get to know what motivates her and what her dreams are. Turns out she wanted to build wealth and create passive income. So he figured out how he could help her fulfill those dreams. He gave her equity in his ancillary businesses and partnered with her in a couple of real estate investment opportunities. He invested in her just as she had invested in him. 


#5 Know your value prop

This is really tips #5 and #6 because you need to have two distinct value props: one for clients and one for employees. Let’s look at employees first. If you’re not sure where to start, answer the most important question your team and recruits have: What’s in it for me? Explain how you’ll help them get from where they are now to where they want to be. And describe how your approach to doing that's uniquely different from anyone else’s. 

Now, let’s think about your value prop for clients. The generalist gets lost in a sea of sameness. So how will you stand out? Hint: The ability to make all of your contingent clients cash buyers by working with us can be part of your value prop. I’ve also met agents who specialize in homes that return to market after not selling the first time they were listed. Do you specialize in a certain neighborhood? In historic homes? In new construction? How do you do that differently than everyone else?

Example:

Greg Hague at 72 Sold is very clear about his client value prop: he and his team focus on selling homes within 72 hours — sometimes even before they’re listed. They do this with “front-loaded marketing”, by booking all showings back-to-back on the same day, and by enforcing an offer deadline. The result? Social proof and a sense of urgency that helps 72 Sold fulfill their ambitious promise.



Brian Gubernick, Homeward’s Chief Real Estate Officer, has more than 15 years of industry experience in a variety of roles, from investor and agent, to multi-state expansion team owner and corporate executive. Brian started his real estate sales career by launching his own sales team, Homehelper Consultants (HhC) in 2007. HhC quickly became one of Keller Williams' top teams nationwide. Brian received the Keller Williams' Innovator Award in 2014 and was a runner-up for the Inman News Most Innovative Team award in 2017. That same year, Brian launched Metrix Coaching and Training, which has mentored hundreds of real estate team owners and investors. He joined Homeward in 2020.


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