By tapping into people’s innate love of playing games and keeping score, real estate team leaders and brokers can help agents reach their full potential.
Humans love to play games. As far back as we can trace, people have matched wits in games like go, backgammon and dice.
Today, games seem to be more popular than ever. Video games played on consoles generate more than double the revenue of the movie industry. And that’s not even counting other gaming sectors like mobile apps, board games and the gambling industry.
Games engage our minds to make otherwise mundane tasks fun.
In real estate, “gamification” (making mundane tasks part of an engaging game) can help agents achieve more sales, teams build better cohesion, and inform leaders and brokers exactly how their business is performing.
According to leading research and advisory firm Gartner, Inc., gamification reached its peak about five years ago. In other words, as management discovered that the concept could be applied to everything from customer engagement and employee performance to health and wellness, it came to be seen as a cure-all for any business problem.
Yet, according to Brian Burke, an industry analyst at Gartner, this bandwagon approach led to poor implementation of many gamification initiatives. Management soon discovered that simply holding a contest or creating a game around a process does not necessarily unleash the full potential of gamification.
Real estate coach Dr. Lee Davenport has found that while simple sales contests do motivate a certain type of agent, these kinds of competitions can actually be demotivating to other team members.
“If you’re primarily a Dominant personality (as identified in the widely-used DISC assessment), you love any kind of competition. So you’re easily motivated to put up the highest production numbers,” she notes. “But other personality types care more about networking or precision, and they’re not going to be motivated by a straight-up contest.”
For some, contests can trigger bad memories, like who ran the fastest mile in grade school PE.
However, according to Davenport, contests can be effective if they allow everyone to play to their strengths. The key, she says, is to gamify those aspects of the real estate business in which each person can excel. She’s been able to use this strategy to help even the most introverted agents gain listings and grow their business.
Jeff Cohn, Team Leader of Omaha’s Elite Real Estate Group, one of the top real estate teams in the country, agrees. Early on, he saw that contests, such as a three-month sales competition with a big prize at the end, aren’t particularly effective.
“First of all,” says Cohn, “it’s really difficult for new agents to have any kind of chance of winning a gross sales contest. Secondly, if two weeks into it, an agent closes on a high-dollar, luxury property, the contest is essentially over.”
What’s worked, however, is gamification on a much more personal level. As Cohn sought to build the most effective team, he began to quantify, track and analyze the activities in which an agent needs to continually engage to grow their personal business.
“I can tell you that, on average, it takes one of our agents X number of calls to land an appointment, Y number of appointments to get a listing and Z number of days on the market until it’s sold,” he says.
Like Jonah Hill’s character in the movie Moneyball, Cohn and his leaders have an in-depth understanding of the small things that their team members need to do that will ultimately add up to increased sales.
He’s found that, regardless of their personality, agents like to compete with themselves to improve their performance. By constantly tracking these metrics, an agent can see where their efforts should be concentrated. For example, if an agent struggles to convert on cold calls, but has a high return on investment for internet leads, then that is where they should focus their resources.
“Knowing your own stats as an agent,” says Cohn, “empowers you to make more money in less time with less energy.”
For himself and other leaders on the team, he’s found that carefully tracking stats has made their job of encouraging and holding agents accountable much more fun as well.
Cohn and his team leaders have found that gamification works when it encourages the activities that are known to bring results.
“We will set up contests around any KPI (Key Performance Indicator) that we feel the agents need to improve,” says Cohn. This includes calls, contacts, appointments and listings signed. When gamifying, they’ve found that the most important factor is ensuring that each agent understands the contest, how the numbers work and where they can check the status of the current standings.
“Keeping it simple is key!” says Cohn, who teaches gamification through his coaching program Elite Real Estate Systems. “It is motivating when there is clarity but demotivating when there’s not.”
He also believes in rewarding contest winners and top finishers with prizes. Here are a few real estate contests that have worked well for this team:
Omaha’s Elite Real Estate Group tracks agent volume and/or unit sales to earn the opportunity to go on the team trip every January. Leaderboards on big screen TVs in the offices display the current standings.
$1,000 Drawing Each Month
This team also tracks total unit sales by each agent every month. For each unit sale, the agent gets their name entered into that month’s drawing. At the beginning of each month, the team announces what the $1,000 will go toward, including Amazon gift cards, rent credit, gas cards, electronics and more.
Referral Splits Increase
Additionally, Omaha’s Elite Group has offered a 5% increase on each agent’s split on leads the team generates for them, for every four units they convert from those leads. So, for example, on their fifth deal, ninth deal, 13th deal and so forth, the agent receives 5% more split.
Take a deeper dive into how real estate teams in the top 1% structure their business, recruit, generate and convert leads.
Inspired by what team leaders like Cohn were doing, as well as analyzing the needs of his wife’s real estate team, tech entrepreneur Brian Charlesworth developed an analytics platform that provides detailed performance statistics quickly and easily while allowing for effective gamification.
Charlesworth founded Sisu (the word is a Finnish concept that means bravery, determination, grit, courage and resilience) to improve the real estate and mortgage sales environment with a tool that helps to simplify the tracking of sales metrics, provide critical analysis of those numbers and gamify the experience.
One way Sisu works is by having agents fill in simple reports on their daily activity. All activities being done within a dialer or CRM can be pulled into Sisu. The platform can then create an in-depth, graphical report of their productivity.
One of the newest dotloop integrations, Sisu enables team leaders to quickly import data from dotloop for analysis and display. They can monitor every aspect of their business with custom metrics around conversations and appointments set and met to signed, under contract and closed transactions. They can also monitor every aspect and detail of the transaction including lead sources, contract deadlines, along with custom agent activities such as open houses.
Sisu was designed with an open API, allowing users to push or pull any information bi-directionally between platforms. This includes all data around a transaction, such as contract deadlines, purchase price, and buyer or seller information.
Charlesworth says that Sisu can then “visualize” the current status of “Signed,” “Under Contract” and “Closed” deals based on the dates that these transactions happened or are scheduled to happen.
“For our customers who have pulled information from their CRM, then added it into Sisu, we can share all of that data with dotloop as long as there’s a place for it,” he says. “This completely eliminates duplicate data entry for our joint customers. In addition, we have all of this same data in our app.”
When a team leader can quickly see agents’ activities represented graphically, it’s much easier to help them perform.
“Within 30 seconds of looking at an agent’s dashboard,” says Charlesworth, “I can tell you what’s wrong with their business and where they could easily improve.”
His platform solves a major challenge for team leaders, too. After founding several other tech companies, Charlesworth saw that team leaders often rise to that level because they were very good agents. However, they’re not always great at analyzing and visualizing data, which could otherwise enable them to specify the key actions their team members need to improve.
When team leaders and brokers know this data, they can use gamification to engage agents in friendly competition either as sub teams or on an individual basis.
“Gamification makes it fun to do what’s hard,” says Charlesworth. “It helps you stay on pace and keeps you doing what your goals say you should do.”
Charlesworth has discovered that the simple act of agents tracking their activity nets positive results. Teams that use Sisu have noted that agents who self-report at least 20 days per month have much higher productivity in terms of reaching their sales goals than agents who don’t — regardless of what they actually did on those days.
Like getting in physical shape or saving for retirement, building a real estate business usually requires months of “doing the right things” before any results are seen. Unfortunately, it’s common for agents to abandon an activity or marketing practice when it produces no results over the short term.
However, when a team leader or broker can demonstrate to the agent that the average lead in their CRM takes X number of months before deciding to list with an agent, they’re more encouraged to keep pursuing the goal.
Gamification is especially effective when the job is a game of numbers. Baseball teams don’t win by trying to hit a home run every time, but rather, by simply trying to get on base. In the pros, achieving this once every five tries is quite good.
As Cohn says, “If I have an agent who’s not selling a lot of houses right now, but they are continually doing the right things to get business, I’m not concerned. They’ll eventually get there.”
A sales contest is often just a snapshot of who’s been in the business the longest. But true gamification takes the day-to-day activities an agent needs to do to succeed, motivates them to keep going, and gives their leadership a way to assess their performance and hold them accountable.
What types of gamification are you engaging with your team or brokerage? What’s working? What’s not? Let us know in the comments below.