According to a real estate teams survey of 500 team members by Workman Success Systems, team-based real estate professionals overwhelmingly point to communication as their biggest pain point.
The poll, representing currently licensed and active team agents, ranked poor communication (32%) highest for the biggest barrier to establishing a strong real estate team, followed by poorly defined roles and responsibilities (29%) and lack of mutual trust (26%).
Team members also reported “infrequent communication” (24%), inability to manage conflict (23%), fear of conflicts (23%), avoidance of accountability (23%) and negative atmosphere or toxic culture (19%) as barriers, all of which can be minimized by following a few key team principles of communication.
A real estate team’s success relies heavily on the team members’ ability to communicate. Expansion teams and brokerages with multiple teams spread geographically simply could not function without good communication.
And yet, there’s very little widespread training on how to communicate effectively, says Atlanta-based real estate coach Dr. Lee Davenport.
“Communication is always the biggest issue because so many people, when they set out for a real estate career, don’t plan to be a communications expert or a psychiatrist, though we know these are the hats we end up wearing not only with our team but also with clients,” says Davenport.
While not commonly taught in a class or workshop, team communication can be perfected with practice. Here, two real estate team coaches and a new team leader, who’s also a former transaction coordinator, offer their take on team communication with 10 ways to make your real estate communication more collaborative and effective.
Ask yourself these 5 questions to see if your team has what it takes to thrive in a low-inventory housing market.
All communication starts with the team lead. This person sets the tone and pace for the rest of the pack. In fact, the team’s success relies heavily on this person’s ability to communicate the team’s systems, goals and expectations.
The best time to start communicating is day one with a standardized digital onboarding.
By automating their onboarding process on dotloop, Samantha Tisinger, co-owner of new The Ignite Team with Platinum Realty, Omaha, NE, says they’ve created a “seamless process,” in which her team’s new agents and admins fill out all the onboarding paperwork online in preloaded templates and attach their association forms to their accounts in the real estate transaction management system.
“It shouldn’t be like you’re re-creating the wheel every time you onboard someone,” says Tisinger, “and, within that, having the proper systems and processes in place, you’re notifying people in multiple ways.”
Consistent team gatherings are more important than ever given today’s largely remote workplace. While real estate coach and teams specialist Sherri Johnson says most team leads don’t initially see the value of the sales meeting, she’s here to tell you, “It’s the most important one hour to communicate everything. This is the opportunity to set the tone and hold people accountable in a healthy, positive way.”
Both Johnson and Davenport recommend creating a regular cadence at least every week or even multiple times a week. Some teams gather daily, Monday through Friday, for a 15-minute check-in. The size of your team, volume of business and the current market may all play factors in when and how often your team meets.
“Particularly for smaller or inexperienced teams, weekly or daily meetings are never too frequent,” says Davenport. “Whether you’re debriefing or setting expectations, it’s completely worth the time.”
Keep team meetings goal-oriented and focused on delivering value to staff members. “The message can’t just be Thursday training,” says Johnson. “What we should be saying is ‘How to list five houses in the next 30 days.’ Think about how your message is being communicated and how often.”
PRO TIP: If you want fewer no-shows to your weekly or daily meetings, don’t send out the agenda before the meeting. Johnson issues this word to the wise: More people will stick around to see what content you’re serving when it’s not posted ahead of time.
Tisinger, a former transaction coordinator and now a team lead, recommends agents carefully review which tasks the transaction coordinator will manage and which tasks will live within the agent’s domain.
All too often, she finds redundancies in client-facing tasks that can be eliminated if agents, admins, lenders and title companies copy each other on communication. Automating Tasks, Tisinger says, can help eliminate the guesswork by assigning specific people to deadlines and dates.
Dotloop for Teams empowers over 2,000 teams with custom transaction templates, automated compliance, reporting and more. No more sharing login information.
The key is to communicate, and sometimes overcommunicate, content that can help agents and admins perform and compete at a higher level. Save admin-level housekeeping items for email and focus meetings on value-added content, Johnson advises.
Whether you hold meetings in-person, remote or some hybrid of the two, create structure and rotate topics to keep agents and admins engaged so they leave the meeting motivated to implement their new business-building strategies.
Maybe you’ll make your team meetings interactive by asking agents to share their weekly lead-gen success stories or implement a hands-on training session.
One of Johnson’s favorite trainings is a Wednesday Workshop, where agents gather in person together to market to their sphere and generate more reviews.
“That success builds and becomes contagious,” Johnson says. “Agents hear others’ successes and the following week at a sales meeting, they ask the agent where they got that listing. The other agents hear about the workshop and they want to come. It creates momentum and builds a following.”
If you recruit large groups of people at a time, you might train the new agents in a collective weekly meeting or eight-week course, covering topics such as lead gen, open houses or how to create compelling video messaging.
“The topics should be how to use the tools you offer to make sales happen,” says Johnson.
Johnson warns against segmenting team members by performance level, which can breed cliques and discontent. Instead, hold workshops with content that speaks to all tiers of agent and admin skill level and performance.
“A great coach can speak to any subject and have it work for new agents, mid-tier, seasoned agents and all top agents,” she says.
Team leads garner the most respect and engagement when they’re strong in communication and leadership skills. They state what they expect in terms of performance, require agents to show up for weekly meetings and communicate standard operating procedures around team operations.
Here are a few “laws of leadership” for team leads to keep in mind:
“If you feel like a broken record, you’re actually being quite effective,” says Johnson.
In fact, repeating a key message seven times and many different ways is an old sales and marketing adage based on the concept that a prospect needs to see or hear something at least seven times before they take action.
“Many times people only hear a sliver of what you’re actually saying,” says Johnson. “That’s why it’s so important to repeat, repeat, repeat.”
Tisinger agrees that, yes, it’s all about communication and also about comprehension.
“Are people really understanding what you’re saying?” she asks. “Maybe you need to rephrase it and present it in a different way. People have different learning types. Some are visual, some are auditory and some need it written down or to write it down themselves.”
If you’re only communicating an important message one way in one format — email or face-to-face — chances are the message isn’t being fully heard.
What works for one team doesn’t always work for another. Tisinger and her co-owner Clayton Mulford like to group-chat with their team of eight for light conversations, jokes and answers to simple questions.
They also communicate via a Facebook Group and email a weekly newsletter, in which Tisinger recaps everything from the weekly meeting. Special events, team meetings and trainings can all be found on the shared team Google Calendar.
In addition, the team leads have set up a Calendly link for those who need to request a 30-minute personal session to cover any special issues or topics.
Because people learn through experience, team leads should invest in serving the same communication message in a variety of formats. From video and email to live training presentations, your message is more likely to resonate and get results.
Consistency, above all, is key, Tisinger says.
“If you just send out a newsletter once, it’s not going to do anything. But if your team members know to expect the newsletter every Wednesday, you’ll see results,” she says.
Team agents and transaction coordinators need solid communication internally as well as externally to meet today’s real estate client’s needs.
By maintaining standard operating procedures (SOPs), you can turn the everyday process into a standardized process that helps raise the bar on the customer experience.
Standardize the team operation with written checklists and procedures and standardized email templates that help quality-control client communication and eliminate the guesswork from the process.
On the other hand, if your team admin is only sending confirmation emails and automating client appreciation with forms and templates, the team may be missing an opportunity to connect deeper with the client.
“I would suggest sending letters at every stage,” Johnson says. “Aside from what’s being sent via the contracts platform, truly thank them for trusting you to market their home and let them know how you plan to do that.”
Rather than forward emails, forward value in a more personalized way. “The real communication happens when we take a moment to thank people and tell them how much we appreciate their business and referrals,” says Johnson.
Use the opportunities to get testimonials, reviews and feedback – all of which starts with communication.
Response time is another common pitfall of agent-client communication. If the client is constantly calling the agent, communication needs to improve. According to timetoreply.com it takes the average real estate company 15 hours to respond to a lead, though today’s consumers expect a response within five-10 minutes.
Yet, Hubspot research shows that 90% of customers rate an “immediate” response as important or very important when they have a customer service question, and 60% of customers define “immediate” as 10 minutes or less.
Create a standard email response time policy, outlining expectations for the team to respond to customer communication. You can also gameify responsiveness by incentivizing team members to improve their average response times. Reward agents with the fastest responsiveness to leads and those who keep their average email response time under two hours.
Adding culture-building events to the monthly calendar helps create a tight-knit team. Tisinger and team shake up their weekly meetings and training with activities, like kayaking, pool parties and Salvation Army bell-ringing at Christmas.
“It’s important to have some time where the team can just let down their hair and maybe help a good cause. There’s no talk of business or our deals — just goofing around and having fun with each other,” says Tisinger.
Team-building events can double as marketing through relationship building. For example, one of Davenport’s team clients gathered at Atlanta’s Peachtree Road Race, showing up with family and friends in a sea of team T-shirts emblazoned with their logo and team colors.
“Those who realize that real estate is about relationship building know how to marry the fun of events with lead-building,” says Davenport.
Informal, culture-building events also provide a great opportunity for team members to get to know each other on a human level. “When we get out of that work environment, people let their hair down and communicate what they might not in a formal, office environment.”
The first week Tinsinger and her team Co-Owner Clayton Mulford switched brokerages last year, they discussed going with the broker’s free forms portal, even though they both loved using dotloop at their previous brokerage.
Sam remembers Clayton saying, “‘It’s free. Let’s just try it.’ He was the first one to write a contract. That same day, he called me up and said, ‘Sam, it took me four hours to write this contract. It was so bad. We have to call dotloop!”
For Tisinger, a former transaction coordinator at a busy brokerage, she loves how she, as a former admin, and now her new transaction coordinator, can communicate to an agent within the loop.
The Messenger feature, in particular, delivers the file directly to the collaborator or client with specific instructions what is needed, instead of having to email.
Here are just a few ways dotloop’s transaction management system can help foster your team’s communication:
“This helps quality-control your admin and how the agents are communicating with the clients,” she says. “Think of it like quality controlling your team. If you systematize the listing or buying process with templated checklists be sure to explain the templates at the team’s next weekly meeting.”
“My agents know, and can see in the system when I know, their files are compliant with the brokerage. When I switch it to ‘Approve for Commission,’ they know they’re good. That’s been really helpful by keeping them in the loop,” she says.
Dotloop’s new admin compliance feature, coming soon to beta, automates the compliance flow with pre-loaded templates that leave no guesswork to the close.
Ultimately, the best advice for good communication? Be a better listener. Listening closely to what your agents and clients are telling you will reveal clues to the best communication you can possibly give.