Being afraid to be embarrassed was more important that learning!
I’ve been recruiting for over two decades now, and fortunately, I’ve learned a lot in that time. I’ve made some great connections, I’ve hired some incredible agents that became close friends. I have hired agents that are close friends that I still talk with to this day. I have seen many move on and I have seen too many pass on. I’ve learned a lot about the “business of recruiting” but I will tell you right now, it hasn’t been smooth sailing. I’ve made more than my share of mistakes, and I’ve had to learn some hard lessons. So, I wanted to share a few things that especially in the beginning I was embarrassed to admit I did not know about recruiting.
To start with, I was a broker that owned a real estate company and did not know that recruiting was a crucial part before I purchased it! How is that for a big mistake! I honestly thought that I could just sell some real estate and agents would get to know me. And as they did if we liked each other they would come work for me. I know it sounds like dating but recruiting has more in common with the commitments of marriage than the fun of dating! I learned that quickly and painfully! So I hope that by sharing some of the stubbles below my story can help you avoid some costly mistakes. Not just with money but even more importantly with time, which as a new competing manager/broker owner I did not have any to spare. I guess the best place to begin is where I DIDN’T.
I Started without a plan
As I look back on my first few months of owning a brokerage, the thing that probably embarrasses me the most is that I didn’t have a plan. I had a big picture goal, of course, I believed and I told the agents that they needed to goals. However, something as important as recruiting did not make it on my to-do list in the beginning. Once it was on my radar, I wasn’t clear on who I should be recruiting to or even what to say if they agreed to meet. Cold calling was all the rage (sorry that is my 1980’s showing) and so that is where I started and although I was good at it, man it sucked! I could find so many reasons not to do it that it was almost like a super power. Like I said once they did agree to meet I didn’t have a strategy for the interview or the follow up. And as we know I was just shooting in the dark. My franchise system support was a joke because they basically said, “we have another larger brokerage in your area and we can’t help you”. I don’t know if the quotes are needed when I paraphrase like that but you get the point. I was paying money to be on my own. I was honestly paying money to support a competitor but that is a whole differ blog post. So I had to figure out what to say. That took about 10 years…LOL, yes you read that correctly.
Get to know your brokerages real value
My first real dive into recruiting dialogues was about 10 years into my RE career. To be clear I had a bunch of recruiting success long before this but it was not simple and duplicatable. It was hard work and tons of follow up that was specific to each person I was talking to all while keeping my day to day broker hat on. At the time, I was working at a large, corporate real estate brokerage, and I had been there for several years. The market was shifting and we needed to up our recruiting game to keep revenue coming in. I began researching “what to say” and I realized that a big part of my conversation was completely ad hoc, every time. When it’s almost all ad hoc guess what you talk about…..tools and systems. A lot about tools and systems. Let me go back to the analogy from before, it’s not dating. Do you get to date #2 if you just talk about all your stuff and everything you have on date number one? Not with anyone that you want to be committed to, right! Think about it like this, if you are asking your date what they like to do and they say “water ski, I LOVE to water ski” now it’s time for you to talk about the boat you own. You don’t open your date with “I own a boat, a lake house, a snow mobile, I make $250K a year, did you see hear about my BMW, and I work out 6 times a week”. YES, those things should come up but only in the right context and at the appropriate time. Don’t value vomit but instead focus on active listening and share how you can support them. You are not going to be their boss you are their guide, don’t forget that.
Not understanding my target recruits
Another mistake I made was I didn’t understand who my target recruits were. Let’s say, for example, that you’re a broker who wants to start recruiting. Your target agents are business minded agents who need what you are offering at scale and that your current agents are already winning with in your office. Hiring new agents is not a time to “try out” new agent support models. Your target recruits aren’t individuals looking to be part of an experiment that you think may work better for you and then them. Why? Because they are already productive where they are, why leave to possibly throw away what they have created just so that you can “hopefully” help them win. They want to know that you are investing in their growth as well as your own. That means finding agents that are a fit and need or want what you have to offer. This should be centered around the 4 recruiting pillars so that you cover all of your bases and so that they know you have a solid plan for their success.
Being too afraid to negotiate
I’ve written before and talked on the podcast about how negotiations are a crucial part of the recruiting process and how respect is a fundamental part of those negotiations. You always need to be ready to protect your bottom line when recruiting but profit is not the only reason to recruit. We are not going in that rabbit hole right now but just know that there are other factors, such as market share, that at times must be considered. Once I got someone interested, because that was so hard to begin with, I was so afraid of coming off as too pushy or aggressive that I didn’t really negotiate at all in the beginning. Now, I understand the importance of knowing when and how to negotiate with a recruit. Just remember that no good agent is just going to give in and give you exactly what you want. They are bringing a book of business to your brokerage and they make a living negotiating for others. What would make you think they would not want to negotiate on their own behalf. Be wary of an agent that just says “yes”. I am telling you, watch out because there is another shoe to drop. Have the conversations upfront, negotiate with them and move forward with a solid plan of how to win together.
Not having a recruiting support system
For most of my recruiting career with brokerages that I worked with I looked at recruiting like it was “on me”. In part because it was always for “my company” and “my offices” and my compensation was tied to it. For the most part, including a short after acquiring my brokerage, I was always non-competing, If my office(s) were not productive and earned a profit, I was out! It wasn’t until much later that I learned that you cannot tell an agent that your brokerage was all about support and then not introduce them to the support before they made their decision! Be careful though, you have employees that will do more damage than good so everything needs to be framed correctly but the bottom line is that if you are selling support you better have a plan of how to demonstrate it early and often.
Thinking tech was the answer
One of the biggest things that set me back in recruiting over and over was my belief that “tech” was going to be the answer. I was always so excited about the latest automation tool, recruiting CRM, or “do it for me” solution that as soon as it was implemented I’d quit doing what was working. I totally forgot about the fact that I needed real connection with real agents and although those things could help me start the conversation I always felt like I was playing catch up when we finally “connected”. As some point you always have to have that first “real” contact and for me and the results I wanted (TALENT ATTRACTION) I found the earlier the better was the best time to create a real connection. The desire to create warm leads was always the promise but the truth I found, for me at least, was that the best connections that converted the easiest were relationship based first. I look at it the same way I look at all lead conversion. I would rather have 5 leads from referrals than 50 leads from the internet, no matter how good my nurture campaign is, eventually I am going to need to build sincere trust.
I didn’t have a great understanding of the marketing process so for me so the tech was an accelerant on a fire that was already out of control. My best results came from real connections and real growth. And that came from coaching and learning how to recruit.
The worst and most embarrassing…. I thought I already knew what I needed to know
I’ve saved this for last because it is, in my opinion, the most important thing on this list. I wish that I could travel back in time and tell myself that a lack of recruiting knowledge is not a sign of ignorance. Instead it was a skill that was not yet developed. Just because I was a great agent did not mean I was a great broker or great at recruiting. Being great at selling real estate is not the same as knowing how to attract top talent to my brokerage. The lack of recruiting knowledge was a sign that it’s time to explore something new in an intentional way. It’s time to grow!
If I could go back I would also be very open to advice from others. No, don’t act on all of it but instead listen and grow from it. That is a fundamental reason why our program has masterminds as a foundational component. If I could I would go back and seek out mentors and senior people in my industry and ask how to leap frog to success. I would be humbler and more open to learning. Not just from my own mistakes and missteps but from the follies of others. I did not learn overnight and neither will you. If you want to accelerate your profits through recruiting and talent attraction you’re going to need to leverage knowledge and experience so the more you can get the quicker it happens. If you learn to embrace not just your results but also your failures you will surprise yourself at how much you can accomplish.