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15 December 2010

Managing and Developing the Culture of your Organization

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Have the guts to include your agents in the conversation

I truly believe that a large part of the office manager’s job is to help their agents think like business people. Anyone who has spent more than 30 minutes leading a sales force knows that salespeople tend to be somewhat unrealistic about broader business realities.

Bringing them into the conversation about key operational points like recruiting, advertising, office expenses and the like can be a catalyst for greater understanding and better communication. Most of the misunderstandings between management and sales agents are related to diverging thought processes and a lack of communication. This is understandable since the agent is approaching things from their own perspective, while the manager must keep the welfare of the office in mind.

Help agents to ‘think business’ and over time, life gets better for everyone

If our agents can think more like business people, rather than having a self-focus, misunderstandings are resolved more easily and work life improves. Lessons learned are also carried over into agents business planning efforts, so everyone benefits. This takes repeated effort, but over time you will begin to hear you own words echoed back to you. Here are some examples.

How much does it cost to run your operation? Have a conversation

Ideally, this proposed meeting is used as a response to the objection that the owner is making too much money and they agents somehow deserve more of it. The absurd part of this is that some agents actually seem to believe that every time they have a closing, the company owner buys a new Mercedes or something. It may sound ridiculous, but it’s true.

So, if you are repeatedly hearing people saying that “the company never does anything for them,” or “this or that tool is lacking,” and you want to channel that energy for a good purpose, here is something to try.

Part 1 – Pose a Question to your agents at an office meeting (or one on one). “How much do you think it costs to run this company/office, on a monthly basis?” No matter what the cost structure, they will guess less than half of the actual amount…every time.

Part 2 – Explain to them that it does cost X thousands of dollars per month for utilities, supplies, rents etc etc…even if they decide to take an entire month off, rather than a “normal vacation.” Expand on this point.

Part 3 – Ask “if it was your X thousand of dollars per month, wouldn’t you want a return on it?” “How much return would you want, if you took on all the liabilities, insurances, legal fees, etc that are involved in a real estate operation?

Part 4 – State “The owner puts him/herself on the line for us each and every day and deserves every penny that he/she makes, as well as our appreciation …” Be sure that this point is clear and agreed upon by all involved.

Part 5 – Brainstorm solutions. I have always found that if we present an intelligent question to our sales agents and ask them to come up with a solution, they often come up with brilliant ideas that leadership has never even considered. So, if there is a specific issue that has been haunting the office ask your agents for input and let them brainstorm. You will be amazed by what happens!

Part 6 – Close by letting them know what your follow up plan will be and how you see their ideas helping the operation. If you do this part correctly, your agents will appreciate being able to participate in decision making and may well become more involved in office operations.

Part 7 – Follow up without fail. If you plan to drop the ball on follow up, don’t even think about starting this process.

Disclaimer: This works, but it’s not for the meek of heart.

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