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Have You Thanked Your
Agents Lately?

Caroline Ruhl
Ruhl & Ruhl Realtors

Retention Tips from the Experts
Featured on

Caroline Ruhl
Carol Johnson

�I don�t think you can ever say thank you enough, and my agents will tell me that,� says Caroline Ruhl, who joined recruiting expert Carol Johnson in a teleclass sponsored by  �No matter what I do -- and I do a lot -- probably one of my greatest frustrations is that agents still never feel like you�re available enough, that you listen enough, or that you appreciate enough.�
When Ruhl says she does �a lot� to show agents she�s thankful for their dedication to her firm and its clients, that may be an understatement. �Regularly, I�ll send e-mails congratulating agents on our production when we�ve had a great week or month or whatever might have happen,� says the President of Ruhl & Ruhl, REALTORS�, a 10-office firm headquartered in Davenport, Iowa.  �I send lots of notes.  Everybody gets an anniversary card.  Everyone gets a Christmas card, and with the Christmas card, they get a book. Everybody gets a birthday e-mail.  I do personal thank you notes to our quarterly top excellence in service award winners, to our quarterly top existing home sales winners, to our monthly mortgage supporters, and to people who participate in our career seminars.  I seem to constantly be writing notes.�
Ruhl also hosts many receptions and lunches at her home, including one for new recruits after their orientation that helps foster a family spirit.  "All those personal touches send a message to new recruits from day one", says Johnson, President of The Recruiting Network based in Schaumburg, Illinois, which offers monthly teleclasses to help brokers make smart management decisions.  �Already, they�re getting a book for Christmas,� she says.  �That sends a message".  A book is telling them, �Hey, I want you to keep learning.�  Then they get to go to the boss�s house right from the get-go, and you�re treating them well there.  I think that starts to build the culture.�
Another way Ruhl�s company trains recruits and builds the company�s culture is by pairing each new recruit with an experienced agent who will act as a mentor.  �We want to select an agent who practices real estate the way we�d like our new agents to practice real estate,� says Teresa Harris, a branch manager, who also participated in the teleclass, along with Darcy Holle, Director of Career Development.  �A lot of times, we�ll find a new agent who has a similar background,� says Harris.  �If we have a teacher who�s coming into real estate, we may find one of our agents who taught for several years and put those two people together.�
Under the mentoring program, both parties -- the mentor and the person being mentored -- sign contracts so that they understand the terms of the program.  �When I meet with new agents and go through the paperwork, that�s when they sign the mentor contract,� says Holle.  �I make sure they read it and understand it.  Since the mentor is getting compensated, we�ll tell recruits, �We don�t always make a good fit.  We try, but there are times we need to reassign mentors.  You let us know if you don�t feel you�re getting what you thought you�d be getting.��
Once the mentoring program begins, new agents shadow experienced agents to learn the ropes.  �We take many of the activities we expect new agents to be able to do and ask them to watch their mentor perform these activities,� explains Harris.  �Then we ask recruits to perform the activities.�

Oversight is another important part of the company�s mentoring program. �Every Monday afternoon we sit down with the agents being mentored,� says Harris.  �Then I sit down with the mentors on another day of the week to see how the new agents are doing, how they�re progressing, what they might need more help with."

If you�re considering a mentoring program, Johnson recommends that you follow Ruhl & Ruhl�s lead by thinking it through and closely monitoring it.  �If your recruits are paying a certain percent of their commission or so much a month -- there�s every program out there -- it adds up at the end of the year,� explains Johnson.  �So, it�s really incumbent on you to make sure new agents are getting their money�s worth, or they�d be better off going to Mike Ferry or some place like that.�

The experts also offered these tips for recruiting, motivating, and retaining agents:

� Create awards that agents really want to win.  Ruhl & Ruhl�s most prestigious award is its excellence in service award, which is determined based on the results of client follow-up surveys.  �We tabulate how customers ranked their agents, track that, and keep it in a database,� says Ruhl.  �From that, we recognize every quarter the top excellence in service agent in every office and the top excellence in service office within the company.  Then we re-run the data at the end of the year to see who the office and company winners are.  We do give top production in volume and top production in units awards. But when people win those and don�t win the excellence in service award, they�re disappointed. They say, �Oh, I really wanted the excellence in service award.��

� Make sure your award program doesn�t backfire because the ground rules keep shifting.  "I think fairness in awards -- and that the rules don�t change for this person or that person -- is absolutely essential,� says Johnson.  �It doesn�t matter how you reward people as long as it�s fair.  If you�re trying to recruit from companies that aren�t fair -- where somebody gets something because of cliques or whatever -- you can frequently recruit because of your awards.�
� Use surveys to recruit.  "One of our best sources of recruits is our client follow-up surveys because there�s a question that says, �Would you or a member of your family be interested in a real estate career?�� explains Ruhl.  If your company also calls past clients to determine their level of satisfaction after closing, Johnson recommends that you ask the question there, too.
� Motivate your agents to keep your mortgage services top of mind.  �One of my favorite loan officer things is to go to the dollar store and get some nice bud vases,� she explains.  �On the day of your office meeting, go to the florist and get roses.

Have loan officers put a rose on the desk of every agent who gave them a deal that week, and if they gave the loan officer more deals, the loan officer can put more roses in the vase.  Agents will say, �Why didn�t I get one?�  The loan officer can say, �I�m looking forward to getting your customer, and then I�ll put a rose on your desk.�  You can walk into an office and see who�s given deals that week to the loan officer, and you can do those things for loan officers as well as for recruiting.�
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