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7 October 2009

The Rise and Fall of Sales Meetings

Generally speaking, weekly sales meetings were the norm in the archetypal 1990’s real estate office. These meetings typically consisted of some sort of information sharing and often ended with a tour of newly listed properties. Soon these meetings stretched out to biweekly. In some cases they just became new listing tours. Then biweekly became monthly. Office tours became MLS tours. Now, these meetings exist as quarterly, if not semi-annual or annual occasions. Busy independent contractors were just not interested in attending the weekly meeting.

Company leadership should take the blame for the demise of the sales meeting. Why would agents continue to show up for meetings that were typically unorganized and uninformative? The office manager was unprepared and ill equipped to offer value in exchange for the time invested by the agent to attend.

We are in a business culture over saturated with meetings, so I’m not advocating for the weekly sales meeting. But in its day, it was at the very least, an effective way for an office manager to see a good portion of their agents on a regular basis.

The demise of the meeting raises an interesting dilemma. How do you build culture and atmosphere with people integral to the company who rarely appear in the same place, at the same time for events built to cultivate culture and synergy? With everyone doing their own thing, how do you foster interaction and build rapport with your agents?

Regardless of the type of business model you choose, next generation real estate brokerages will have to face and solve this challenge. To begin, it might be helpful to understand what the agents in your company expect, want and would find most meaningful to their businesses. It will be important to focus on harnessing the strengths of every agent in your company and not trying to make your relationship with your agents fit into a one size fits all box. But lastly, it will be critical to find ways to engage your agents to contribute to your brand in new ways, using new tools born out of the social networking paradigm to create and instill a sense of placement within what might be considered your particular corporate social environment.

A mixture of online interaction utilizing social media, wikis, chat, email communication, video conferencing, WebEx, and office blogs may all serve to replace the physical get togethers that are fast becoming part of our past. Granted, in person meetings still reign supreme and should play a growing role in the sales meeting of the future. But I submit that these new ways might do wonders in helping create a culture that could inevitably look forward to the in-person meetings.

The next generation office manager will absolutely need to adopt the right mixture of communication and social interaction vehicles to extend the sense of company value back to their agents. Without this, they will not have an effective way of building culture and environment in their company. This leadership or lack thereof will separate the success stories from the failures.

9 thoughts on “The Rise and Fall of Sales Meetings

  1. Yup. The last BH & G sales meeting I attended recently was one of the most boring, insulting things I've ever attended. The office manager flashed slides of houses on a screen and READ the MLS description aloud.

    Realtors don't know how to read? Realtors don't know how to check inventory on their own? Of course, the room full of realtors was full of realtors who do essentially no business. The successful realtors look at this as a big, insulting JOKE.

    1. Hi Paul

      Well, the good news you reinforced many of the points I tried to make in the post. The bad news is that obviously there's some work to be done to improve your local meetings. This is a topic we discuss often with our network.

      Thanks for sharing your feedback and I do encourage you to share it with your broker as well.

  2. Our office manager is very good at using different forms of communication to the agents. Depending on what the agent feels comfortable with, she changes from phone to email to Twitter to text message all pretty seamlessly. It makes communication pretty easy around the office.

    -Tyler

    1. Hi Tyler

      That's encouraging. Multiple points and forms of communication is key. I hope more and more managers will start to give thought to how to best communicate and interact with their agents.

  3. The question is not whether or not sales meetings should exist (they are just another tool), but rather whether ineffective sales management should exist and continue to be supported in a brokerage. There is a huge leadership void in the brokerages across the United States, both from local sales management to broker-owners. A highly effective sales manager is a leader who uses the sales meeting as a platform to drive sales; and would be comfortable and welcome as a leader in any sales organization outside of real estate. He/she would also be compensated based on results, not babysitting. Sales meeings, flipcharts, PowerPoints, Webinars, social media sites and the such are all communication tools that will make no difference when the message is flawed. Deliver value/ideas which can be measured in sales success by the agents. Or don't and continue to scratch your head.

    1. @TopBrokerOC, thanks for your comment. I agree with your points. The question is why aren't more of those effective leaders you described in office management positions and how do we go about chanigng that? I think this is a huge challenge now and is only going to grow in size in the coming years. Attracting, training and retaining a good office manager will be one of the critical success factors in next generation brokerages.

  4. Managers are a reflection of senior leadership and/or the Broker/Owners sense of priorities and practices. In turn, agents reflect managements similar attributes. Culture flows from the top down. The focus is not the sales meeting but to those in attendance. Sales meetings, tools and practices mean little when the hiring criteria and barrier of entry remain at such a low standard. The model of recruit, attract or whatever term you give it is still the fuel that undermines a superior consumer experience on a broad basis. Management must have the courage to fill an office with full time committed associates who need not be lured to a meeting with "points and prizes" or the "promotion of a new listing" but those who desire to attend as they see it of real value to their business. Quality sales meetings can only have traction with quality associates. While great content and new startegies should always be the agenda, start the presentations with an audience that not only wants to be there, but have the ability and desire to implement what is presented. Part 1/2

  5. Part 2/2 ……The time together should be called " Exchange Sessions", "Think Tanks", "Opportunity Time". Make the time "An Opportunity to Implement". Articulation of value is not just an agents responsibility to their seller, but managements responsibility to their agents. If one cannot convey the value of the meeting or those in attendance do not see it, how can value be articulated to the group that matters the most…the public?

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