How To Do It: Step 6 – Accountability

(This is an elaboration of ‘How to Rule the (Real Estate) World in 10 Easy Steps‘)

One of the hardest things  self-employed people must do is to hold themselves accountable.  We’d all like to believe we’re ‘self-starters,’ but the truth is:  that’s a rare individual.  You, as an entrepreneur and business owner, may even have difficulty at times getting yourself to do the things you know you need to do.  That’s why coaching can be so effective.  Just knowing you’re going to have to report to someone else provides enough push to get most of us in motion.

As a broker in control of your business, you have to take on this coaching role with your staff.  Having clear job descriptions and well defined expectations is essential for everyone on your team and that, by itself, should be enough to keep your administrative staff on track.  But salespeople need a little more coaching.  Let’s start with expectations (I’m going to lay them out right now;.  You may choose to alter them and that’s ok, but I believe this is fair and reasonable):

Minimum standard of production for buyer agents:  6 closed sides in the previous 3 months (That’s 2 per month and really, if they can’t do that, they’re probably costing you too much in fumbled leads and lost business).  New agents get the first 3 months to ramp up, so we begin to hold them accountable at the end of their 6th month, for months 4, 5 and 6.  It’s a rolling 3 months, so each month we add a month and drop off the oldest month.  We do the three month look-back at the end of each month, and the first period in which they fall below 6, they are reminded of their commitment and offered increased coaching.  Two months in a row and they must commit to a remedial program designed by the broker (design should be easy:  I’d simply go back to Science to Sales).  Three months in a row and they are de-hired.

Using the three month look-back allows for the peaks and valleys that are typical of a productive agent’s career and considers production over a longer period.  If they fall below the line three months in a row, that’s a pretty good indication of their capability.

Expectations and minimum standards are a good start toward accountability, but there’s more to it than that.  Saying we expect a number of closed sides is great but you can’t manage ‘closed sides.’  You can’t make them happen.  They are an event, not an activity   You manage activities — the activities that lead to closed sides.  So part of your office culture should be an activity planning/commitment and accountability process.  Each buyer agent should commit to a certain number of activities every day and then report what they actually did.  This way, if they fall below the production expectation, we have something to go back to that might show us why.

Here’s a picture of the activity tracking sheet John Powell uses with each of his buyer agents.

And here’s a summary sheet he uses for an at-a-glance assessment of his entire sales team.

Step 7!

Both of these are available in the Download Library under ‘National Sales Meeting,’  ‘July 28, 2010’.  They are called ‘Tracking Sheets.’    You’ll note that each agent commits to a certain number of activities and then reports how many they actually did.

As broker/owner of a marketing oriented company, you also want to keep careful track of how each of your buyer agents are doing with leads.  In a perfect world, your admin answers every call and routes buyer leads to your team of buyer agents.  It’s the admin who logs the call and gives you a basis to go back to your agents and ask, ‘what happened to this one?’ and ‘did you do a Buyer Data Sheet on this one?’  The metrics you want to track are:  How many leads each agent received, how many resulted in a complete Buyer Data Sheet with contact information, how many Buyer Data Sheets resulted in appointments, and how many appointments resulted in sales.  This information becomes a management tool.  It will help you spot the one who needs more work on taking control of incoming calls and completing Buyer Data Sheets.  It will help you spot the one who can gather information but can’t seem to get an appointment.  It will also help you spot the one who works lots of leads but only closes a few.  It’s all about identifying areas for improvement and then working on them.

So, you get your entire office functioning in a culture of clear expectations, firm commitments and accountability . . . all’s right with the world, true?  Maybe.  But what about you?  Who’s holding you accountable?  Just like the best agent you’ve ever had, you at least need someone to run your ideas by, someone to remind you what you said you wanted to accomplish and get you back on track.  You could pay a coach — there are dozens out there and many swear by the results they get.  But I think you would be better served by staying in-house and getting involved in a structured coaching program at Help-U-Sell.  John, Ron McCoy, Jack Bailey and I are here and would welcome the opportunity to help you plot and scheme.  All it takes is a call . . .

And now, for Step 7!

Flea Circus

I live 22 miles from the Mexican border and, like many Southern Californians, spend a lot of time in Baja.  One of my favorite drives is the Routa Del Vina — the wine route — that runs from Tecate in the North to Ensenada in the South.  This sixty mile stretch of highway winds first through mountains and then through dozens of Mexican wineries.  Yes, Mexico makes wine.  It’s generally not very good, but they’re working on it.

In the heart of the region, a dirt road takes off to the west from the highway and leads to a dusty little town called Ejido El Porvenir — Town of the Future.   It may have been the Town of the Future in about 1924, but nothing much has changed since then.  It’s mostly just dust and mud, dogs and farmers and tumble down houses, a small, humble church . . . and Beto’s Circo de las Pulgas — Beto’s Flea Circus.

Beto is a weathered old dude who, like everything in Ejido El Porvenir, is dusty.  He’s missing a few teeth but still manages a nice smile when guests stop by. For $4 US, he will lead you through the little house he shares with his granddaughter and her children to the workshop in back where he keeps his Circus.

The show is presented on the bottom of  a 2′ x 3′ corrugated cardboard box with the sides cut down to about an inch that he pulls from a shelf and sets on a rickety table in the middle of the dirt floor room.  He’s painted the box white — well, it was white, once —  and it functions as the stage for his little flea actors.  He’s got one that walks the tight rope, a few that will kick a tiny ball around, one that rides on the back of a green beetle, and three he harnesses to little carts and then implores to race from one side of the box to the other.  It’s both as silly and fascinating as you might imagine.

After the show, I sat a while, chatting with Beto, he using very bad English, me struggling through equally bad Spanish.  I learned he’s 73, been working with fleas for about 10 years, and took it up to pass the time after he became too old to be useful in the grape arbors.  He gets three or four paying visitors a week but also does free shows for the neighborhood kids who regard him as a funny kook.

‘So, how do you train fleas?’ I asked.

‘Es Facil,’ he replied; it’s easy.  ‘The hardest part is teaching them not to jump.  A flea can jump two, three feet normally.’

I pictured the house I listed 30 years ago in Atlanta.  It had just been vacated by tenants who had dogs and when I walked into the living room, I was bombarded by a hail of hungry fleas flinging themselves at me from the floor.  They missed their pooches and thought I’d make a suitable substitute.  Yes, fleas have very strong legs and they certainly can leap.  Why didn’t these fleas just leap away?

‘How do you do it?’ I asked, ‘How do you train them not to jump?’

‘For two months I keep them in a low jar.’  He reached behind him and retrieved a little screw-top container, about an inch and a half tall.  ‘At first they jump and jump in there.  I can hear them bang their little heads on the lid, bing, bing, bing.  But after awhile they adjust.  They still hop, a little;  they just don’t leap.  That’s when I take the lid off and they are ready to train for the circus . . . they’re not going to leap away.’

‘Wait a minute,’ I asked, skeptically, ‘You train their natural tendency to leap out of them?’

‘Sure,’ he said through that almost toothless smile.  ‘After a few weeks of hitting their heads on the lid, they learn to stop jumping, and they’ll never do it again.’

How  sad, I thought.  These creatures were born to leap and they’d allowed him to take that away from them.  I gave him a puzzled look.

‘It’s just like people,’ he continued.  ‘You can train the dreams right out of the people.  If you place enough barriers, enough restrictions, they come to believe their dreams are impossible.  They give up, and then they live quietly in the world you’ve defined for them.  Every dictator knows that . . . I’m just a flea dictator.’

It started to rain as I left Beto’s house.  The  dusty road turned into a mud bog and soon the Jeep was covered in the stuff.  I’d be bringing a little bit of Mexico back across the border with me this night.  As I drove through the gloom, I thought about what Beto said, and about our current reality:  Help-U-Sell, Realtors in general, and the very tough real estate market of the last few years.  We all made adjustments to make it through. We cut expenses, moved to smaller space, consolidated.  They were necessary cuts.  But, like the fleas, we also cut expectations.  Where we once shot for 10% market share and considered 10 deals a month to be ‘just getting by,’  we came to believe that 2 or 3 or 4 a month was ok.  We could get by with 3 or 4 and not bang our heads on the lid of the market.

It’s Spring of 2010.  Look around.  The market is neither bad nor good.  It’s just the market — and it is our reality.  What are you expectations?   Have you let market conditions put a permanent dent in your dreams?  Or can you still see yourself doing 100, 150, 500 deals a year?  You can, you know.  Step by step, stage by stage, phase by phase, you can.  And, truth is, until you believe it, until you expect it, it’s not going to happen.  You’ll just be hopping along, stopping a millimeter or two shy of the lid someone else put over you a long time ago.

It’s time to liberate the fleas!

 

Expectations

You get what you expect.

It’s one of the Great Truths that’s so true that it has become a cliche.  Think about it:  a few years back an Australian woman made millions of dollars producing a DVD and Book that said, essentially, the same thing.  Remember ‘The Secret?’  Of course, that phenomenon went into manifesting your expectations through affirmations and visualization. 

We REALTOR-types have been talking about expectations and actually using them for . . . well, forever.  We set goals, we have minimum standards and so on.   But there’s something I noticed in recent years —  during the downturn — when finding and converting business became so difficult.  Many of us adjusted our expectations down.

That’s ok.  Given the market at the time, it made sense. You have to be realistic.

But today, by all accounts, there is a big shift beginning.  Buyers are waking up and becoming so active that in places inventory is in short supply.  Sellers with equity, motivated by the prospect of getting a much nicer home for a good price are starting to show up.  Put it all together and shake it up . . . and it looks like a good market could be just a few weeks or months away. 

It’s time to re-examine your expectations, for yourself, your company and your staff.  Maybe you’ve been grateful to be closing 1 or 2 deals a month.  Maybe you’ve been ok with that agent who only manages to get one every 5 or 6 weeks.  Put that past reality on hold for a minute and think:  what would be acceptable in a reasonably good market?  Do you expect to do 10 or 20 sides a month?  More?  And your staff:  is it time to expect more from them?  Is it time to decide that a minimum of two transactions per buyer agent per month is acceptable? 

The point is this:  you can’t expect to get more than you expect to get.  Don’t let your down market expectations limit what you  get as the market improves.