05 Aug Managing/Mentoring Business Brokerage Agents (Part 2 of 2)
This article is a continuation of yesterday’s posting.
WHAT DOESN’T WORK:
If the manager has plenty of experience, knowledge and past success at listing and selling, but fails to “show and tell” in live buyer/seller interviews, with each new agent, in plenty of live interviews with the new agent’s prospects, management then is guilty of “wishful thinking” and is likely to fail to capitalize on the potential of each new agent. Forcing agents to “learn by doing”, on their own, is incredibly wasteful of the valuable leads the agent is working. They simply “don’t know what they don’t know”, and it’s not their fault, if they are undertrained, that they fail to make all the deals possible.
Or, if management doesn’t know the answers that are needed to motivate a buyer prospect to move along in an orderly manner, or if management doesn’t know how to convince a reluctant seller to list their business, management then can’t help a new agent, and/or management might even be guilty of teaching new agents “bad habits” that are ineffective.
If management doesn’t have the answers, they should form an alliance with someone who does know the answers, and who is capable of providing that mentoring/leadership to management and to the new agents.
Agents who are supervised by managers or agency owners who “don’t know what they don’t know” and therefore can’t be taught what the manager doesn’t know, will not develop, on their own, into successful agents, with rare exception.
Too many agency owners in our business only provide a few days in-class training, then “throw the agent into the street”, to somehow try to figure out what has become a very, very complicated process. That rarely works. Those owners usually end up owning nothing more than a “revolving door” agency, with agents coming and going, and few succeeding.
Just as sad is that agencies that don’t provide the amount of agent training/mentoring needed, usually “burn out” agents that could be “saved” by more leadership. Too many potentially “good” agents simply run out of survival money before they are able to accumulate the skills they need, when they are involved with an agency that has inadequate training/mentoring.
YES, SOMETIMES WE GET LUCKY:
Sometimes we discover a “natural” broker, who becomes a top listing and selling agent, with minimum management involvement. But, in my case, out of hundreds of agents I’ve hired/trained/supervised nationwide, in 24 different states, these awesome, self developing “super stars” have only been a handful of agents, in almost 30 years of recruiting/searching.
The good news is that we don’t’ need an agency filled with exceptional producers. By far, the majority of the hundreds of millions of dollars in sales of Main Street businesses my agencies have sold in the last 30 years, have been listed and sold, not by the top producers, but by the well trained, well supervised, “ordinary” agents. That’s the most exciting blessing of all, when an agency has a first rate training/mentoring program.
We can list and sell impressive numbers of businesses, with the “usual” agent recruited…but, only if management provides the leadership/mentoring described in this advisory. Without the strong mentoring of the average agent, management then is “at the mercy” of the top producers, who, too often, are paid too high a percentage of the deal, in the mistaken belief that we “need” to over-pay them, to keep them. And, too often, top agents are also hard (or impossible) to manage, and some agencies end up so dominated by the demands of their top agents, the agency is really “their” agency, not the owner’s.
Instead, if we nurture and groom average agents to bring in a profitable amount of listings and sales, we “spread the risk” of our agency operations. I, like everyone, enjoy having top producers around, but, I don’t like being forced to over-rely on them for survival.
Long term success, for me, has been due primarily to my attracting and grooming successful “average” agents, then working hard to improve their skills, over time.
WHY DO AGENTS NEED SO MUCH HELP?
Because business brokerage is not as simple a sales profession as most other sales jobs. And, it’s become more complicated in recent years.
We’ve had to learn how to cope with volatile national and local economic realities in recent years, just as The Old Pro’s (Tom West and his father in law) had to learn how to deal with the economic/social realities in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s.
And, we’ve had to learn to rely more and more on SBA/bank financing, which is complicated, to say the least, and getting more so every year.
And, more and more every year, we are dealing with incredibly more well informed and more demanding buyers and sellers, who are electronically “plugged in” to more choices, more information, and more advice, than ever before. No longer is it possible for a business broker to simply list a business, advertise it in the local newspaper, meet with a buyer, write an offer, then “go to sleep” until the closing. Now days, agents have to be skilled at not only working with more sophisticated buyers and sellers, but also have to be experts in allocations, tax issues, internet marketing, “outside” financing, and other challenges that were less essential for business brokers to know 20 or 30 years ago.
And, agents cannot “fake” it, or “bluff’ our way through an interview with an attorney or accountant. We have to know what we’re talking about, if we are to have high closing ratio’s, in today’s marketplace.
Training/expertise/competence is essential to success today. Salesmanship, alone, won’t get an agent through the day, anymore. For modern agency owners to fantasize otherwise is unrealistic thinking.
MAXIMUM MANAGEMENT INVOLVEMENT:
Minimum management involvement doesn’t work in building an effective military, or a successful sports team, or a winning sales organization. The large sales companies know this. Companies like IBM and Xerox and others who have built legendary sales teams, selling products or services to businesses, learned that deep involvement by management is essential to establishing acceptable closing ratio’s, regardless of the relative intelligence, experience, or talents of their salespeople.
“SEASONED” AGENTS, TOO, NEED IT:
We’ve found that even seasoned, successful agents usually need lots of management involvement to keep them on track. We’ve had agents, who have been in business brokerage 10 years or more, who have “drifted” off track, and fallen into “funks” of un-productivity, or bad habits. The answer, for them, too, like with the “rookies”, is for management to be engaged/involved/interested in their activities, providing a steady stream of advice, mentoring and leadership.
JUST “BABYSITTING” AGENTS IS NO LONGER ENOUGH:
Providing agents with a work area, and little else, doesn’t’ work (I’m not sure that ever worked very well). The profession is too complicated for “casual” leadership.
I also don’t’ think it’s possible to build lasting success with part time agents. Instead, developing a staff of full time, well trained, highly mentored, professionally supervised agents works great.
ONE MAN’S OPINION:
Mediocrity runs parallel to uninvolved management in building sales forces.
Superior performance, even by “average’ agents, runs parallel to deeply involved management, if/and/when management knows the answers needed by the agents to be effective, and if management will gladly and reliably provide those answers/leadership to the agents. If management doesn’t know the answers, they are probably the wrong managers.
Or, ownership/management should find a source for the answers, and bring that expertise into the agency. That works great, too.
William B Martin
Quality Business Corporation