You can feel it everywhere. In firms and offices across the country, brokers and managers are preparing for the newest chapter in the long history of the American real estate industry. By way of example, new management practices centered on profitability and accountability, new consumer centric value propositions, technologies centering on mobile applications, and a whole new range of online marketing techniques. Most importantly, a framework of new professional relationships is being introduced.
It is in this last space that some of the industry’s most exciting innovations are occurring. Everyone who reads knows by now that today’s real estate consumer, especially those within the 60% market share held by the X and Y generation consumers, are demanding to have a satisfying relationship with the professionals with whom they work. Most of the industry has also studied the results of the excellent research conducted in 2010 by the National Association of REALTORS® and the California Association of REALTORS® into the relationship between consumers and their real estate agents. Suffice it to say as the industry enters this new era, the consumer-agent relationships will be the beneficiary of a significant amount of research and development.
With perfect timing, onto the scene comes the Pinellas REALTOR® Organization (PRO), a 10-year old, new generation association serving the REALTORS® of Pinellas County (St Petersburg/Clearwater), Florida. From its onset through a 2001 merger, PRO has been committed to a strong research and development department headed up by Cindy Farris, a former Price, Waterhouse, Coopers (PWC) executive who had significant responsibilities for setting up PWC’s knowledge management division.
Over the past six years, PRO and Farris have been using the Florida real estate marketplace as a laboratory to conduct applied research leading to the development of a number of leading-edge programs, products and services for the emerging real estate industry and transaction. “During this period, our R & D team has been focused both on how to create a better transaction and how to bring the REALTOR® into the new era,” said PRO CEO Ann Guiberson.
PRO has received wide recognition for its work, including being named as one of the Top 10 industry innovators in NAR’s 2009 Game Changer Competition.
“Over and over our research led us back to the importance of a knowledge and respect-based relationship between agents and their customers,” said Guiberson. “Almost every transaction, problem or complication could be traced back to a defect or shortcoming in the original relationship between the agent and the consumer.
With three years of research under its belt, PRO took aim at what it believed were the shortcomings of the traditional real estate industry, new agent training. “While there was a significant amount of new agent training available, almost all of it was aimed at assisting new agents to pass licensure exams rather than at knowledge and processes necessary to succeed in the field.” Moreover, it became obvious the vast majority of industry managers were of the opinion that agents should be able to sink or swim on their own. Those who demonstrated they could swim would go on to inherit market share and success. The research also suggested this approach matched up perfectly to the “I don’t need no stinking boss” attitude of many boomer generation agents. Add to this reality the fact that the more powerful consumer who began to emerge in 2005 doesn’t agree with either the process or the result.
PRO’s answer to this dilemma is called Quick Smart. Succinctly put, Quick Smart is an online, automated, consistent, interactive learning system based on best practices, accountability, and mentor support.
“Our review of existing new agent training programs revealed their emphasis on examination success. They also covered areas of practice simply not relevant to new agents struggling to start in the field. Our research served to identify four critical areas that in most cases made the difference between initial success or failure,” said Guiberson.
These are the critical four areas of Quick Smart emphasis:
Developing a Strategic Career Direction – All too often new agents equate their positions to having a new job rather than accepting the responsibility of managing a career with specific stages and waypoints.
Creating and Maintaining Influencing Relationships – Today’s consumer demands quality relationships and today’s conflicted marketplace demands influencing relationships.
Positioning Properties for Sale – In today’s combative marketplace, the time to deal with potential problems and conditions is up front, not after the contracts are written.
Powering the Buying Process – Working with buyers in today’s hostile and distressed marketplace requires specific skills sets and competencies delivered with force and confidence.
Quick Smart’s four online training modules are focused on creating a competent “real market” agent. But what makes the program an over-the-hill success is its use of mentors.
“Here again,” said Guiberson, “our research disclosed another basic shortcoming in traditional training programs. While most firms have some manner of manager available, access to this person was generally limited to a crisis situation rather than on an ongoing coaching or mentoring relationship. The fact is that in today’s world, be it an executive, sports or any performance environment, mentors and coaches are expected and demanded. Research reported in a recent Harvard Business Review further discloses that unlike their boomer predecessors, today’s Generation X and Y new agents expect and demand this level of support. Mentoring relationships do more than assist new agents; they also build powerful marketing cultures within brokerage firms.
One of the things that sets Quick Smart apart as a learning system is that at every step of the way, the new agent is expected to produce actual tools and materials they will be able to use in the “real market.” Through this requirement, the learner is expected to take responsibility and is held accountable for the knowledge taught.
Another important feature designed into the Quick Smart system is standards of practice. “It is obvious to us the industry is abandoning its long standing practice of allowing every agent to choose whatever practices they may favor,” said Guiberson. Company-wide standards of practice are not only meeting consumer demands but, more importantly, they are becoming the basis of profitability and accountability.
Quick Smart is an exciting program that can make a huge difference in the success of both new agents and the new brokerage business model. It is easy to incorporate, satisfying to deliver, effortless to administer, motivating to use, and rewarding to experience for both the consumer and the agent.
“Our leadership team believes the REALTOR® association can play an important role in bringing the industry into the new era. Quick Smart is just one example of how it can happen,” said Guiberson, “We want to be part of our members’ business solution.”
It seems clear this is exactly what is happening.