Guest Column – Stan Albert – 1/17/2008

Stan Albert: Dealing with mediocre salespeople

Can you be a success in this business, even if you believe you are mediocre?

“Success” – Is it a toxicity that high producers lavish in? Is it something that mediocre producers find problematic in achieving their goals?

When looking over our large office’s production for the year so far, I am quite pleased with our production. When a branch exceeds over 30 per cent market share in our two main market areas, how can a manager or broker be disappointed? Since moving over to one of the largest offices in Toronto as a manager/broker, I see the abilities of the top performers on a daily basis. What I don’t see, and it puzzles me to no end, is why some of our sales team produces less than what they are capable of.

I am not saying that everyone has to make $100,000 in each year. But surely, in order to be profitable to the registrant, they should be making at least one to 1½ transactions per month. That formula would obviously be profitable for the broker as well! If they are not making money, it begs the question: Why invest the time and the money in the courses to attain the licensing and invest the same in ongoing courses (in most provinces)? It makes simply no sense to me as a broker.

Why do some top performers fail at being consistent? In spite of taking all kinds of coaching, courses and memorizing scripts ad nauseam, it is indeed mystifying. It is as well mystifying to most of my colleagues, when the very best “coaching” is available almost 24/7 and all they have to do is ask for an appointment with us. Who better to coach them, when we managers have the years of experience to do so?

Every real estate office has these lovely representatives who attend all the training sessions, take the various coaching courses, but fail to follow through on what they’ve learned, or for that matter what they’re coached on. No disrespect here to Mike Ferry, Richard Robbins or Brian Buffini, but most of us in management can do almost the same as them, and for free!

In another article last year I asked why are there so many mediocre registrants in our business. And here I am again, at the beginning of 2008, still pondering this question.

When I look over the real estate stats, it is amazing to see that with the very best market in years in Toronto, many representatives do less than four or five transactions annually. Many of you will email me and say that there are too many part-timers in the business. That is not up to me to say or voice an opinion on.

The end result of too many representatives entering the industry and finding that it is a really tough and sometimes a frustrating profession, is that many buyers and sellers, as well as brokers, are ill-served. These inexperienced agents have the lack of knowledge to obtain decent marketable listings and lack of skilled negotiating skills that produce the best price for the sellers.

Why does it seem natural for some of these mediocre producers to put limitations on their abilities? In a recent story in the Toronto Star, Brett Popplewell quoted Jason Plaks, a social psychologist at the University of Toronto: “It’s all part of an inadvertent psychological game we play to convince ourselves that there are certain parameters in which we can’t do well. From the meat-headed jock who can’t pass an IQ test, to the artsy-fartsy literai who can’t tweak a carburetor, to the stereotyped four-eyed human calculator, who can’t throw a spiral – it seems only natural for all of us to expect limitations in our abilities.”

As managers, we can either terminate the lower-producing registrants or work with them and encourage them to realize their full potential, by getting them to leave their office and get out to develop relationships with buyers and sellers. Maybe by doing this, they will reap the benefits of a successful and rewarding career – a career that has no age limitations. Look at me! So, fellow managers, before you terminate staff in the new year, give your lower-end people an opportunity to achieve their dreams. But give them a time limit of no more than 90 days to get the idea that they aren’t mediocre, just “stuck in third gear!”

I wish all the readers of my articles a very happy, healthy and prosperous 2008. I also wish the same to my long-suffering editor, Jim Adair and his colleague Heino Molls, publisher of REM.

Quote of the Month: “Success in business requires training and discipline and hard work. But if you’re not frightened by these things, the opportunities are just as great today, as they ever were.” – David Rockefeller.

Stan Albert has been active in the real estate industry since 1971. He is with Re/Max Excellence in Woodbridge, Ont. He serves on committees at RECO and at the Toronto Real Estate Board. He is an established trainer and business consultant and can be reached at