Close your eyes for a moment and picture your perfect hire. Perhaps this dream candidate has decades of experience in real estate, selling thousands of homes and earning ample referral business. You might imagine your ideal person eats, sleeps, breathes, and even dreams about the housing market.
If that's your ideal candidate, then you probably wouldn't have hired me. When I started as a sales manager in 1990, I'd never made a single real estate sale.
At the time, most managers had worked their way up from the inside. The general consensus was that if you could make a killing as an agent, you could teach others to do the same. The problem is, those two skills don't always go hand in hand. Good doers aren't always good teachers. In fact, I'd argue my inexperience was one of my best assets. No one saw me as competition, so there was no "bad blood" from a previous professional relationship. It's one of the reasons I believe hiring someone with a minimal real estate background isn't so much a red flag as a fruitful business opportunity.
Sparking the Hiring Process
There are, of course, downsides to hiring someone with minimal real estate experience. For one thing, there's a steep learning curve to understanding real estate, and hiring managers have to be patient with green sales managers to acclimate them. I won't lie, it will be challenging at first, but it's profitable in the long run.
When I hired my replacement, I didn't throw him in the deep end. Instead, I had him shadow me for six months. It wasn't easy for him — not just because he was following me to every meeting, appointment, and sale, but because other agents were skeptical he had the expertise to help them. But after building his reputation, he began doing the bulk of the work. Now, agents approach him, not me, with questions.
As a real estate manager, you have to consider the long-term effects of your new sales managers. Yes, the first six to 12 months can be a chore, but if they have the right personality and ambition, they're a better investment than a seasoned professional with poor management skills.
Finding Your Protégé
As beneficial as hiring an outsider can be, it's a decision no real estate manager should make lightly. After all, you'll be paying this individual a salary, and taking a premature leap of faith could put you in the financial danger zone. That makes taking the right steps in the hiring process essential to fostering a lucrative relationship.
1. Be committed for the long haul.
Patience is more important than ever when you're fishing outside your usual pond. You'd hate to invest in bright, agile candidates and throw in the towel when they haven't mastered the jargon in a few weeks. To avoid having to restart, make sure your entire organization is prepared for that initial learning gap.
When I began my role as a sales manager, I was paid an annual salary along with a small percentage of the profit. If my boss hadn't been patient in adapting my skill set, the company would have thrown away tens of thousands of dollars on something it didn't believe in. Instead, he and the rest of the organization stayed focused on what they saw as a good opportunity.
2. Administer personality tests.
Don't be ashamed to administer a personality test to potential candidates. After all, sales managers' personalities are vital to their job performance. The results don't have to make or break your decision — in fact, they shouldn't — but they may provide some helpful insight. Beforehand, make a list of desirable traits. Comparing and contrasting what you want with what your new employee offers is typically a better indicator than reviewing a candidate's résumé for the 90th time.
3. Invest in a 'potential fulfiller.'
Beyond personality, pay special attention to a candidate's investment in other people. It's not enough for sales managers to have good social skills. They have to thrive on helping people grow and reach their potential. Sure, money is the end game, but an exceptional sales manager's primary goal is developing the next wave of top-producing agents.
None of these qualities are inherently related to real estate. And that's OK. The best person for the job may have less experience in the field than most applicants. But at the end of the day, anyone can learn the ins and outs of real estate. Rewiring someone's personality, on the other hand, is another battle entirely.
Jeff Thompson is managing partner at Windermere Group One. WGO is a member of Windermere Real Estate, a real estate network comprised of 300 offices and more than 6,000 agents throughout the western United States. Jeff is truly passionate about helping build companies by building their people. He leverages his 25-plus years of experience in real estate to coach other managers and brokers. Jeff credits much of his success to hard work and a willingness to partner with good people.