Over the last several decades, there have been thousands of articles, research studies, books, white papers and more aimed at demystifying the art and science of real estate agent motivation.

And yet, many brokers and team leaders still wonder: 

Why do some of my agents go all in, while others seem totally disengaged?

Listen, it’s not easy. Real estate is a fast-changing industry and consistent tech disruption has all but leveled the playing field. Today, a team of completely green agents can quickly outperform the market heavyweight—that is, IF they’re motivated enough.

But no matter how badly you want that fire-in-the-belly high-performance team, you won’t win long-term by simply dangling shiny objects in front of your agents.

According to Daniel Pink’s bestselling book Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, the classic carrot-and-stick approach to motivating your team can actually lead to decreased performance, or even cheating at work.

So, what can you do to get your agents genuinely fired up from the inside out? 

We reviewed our library of deep dive interviews and masterclasses with top-performing real estate team leaders to pinpoint tried-and-tested tips for boosting real estate agent motivation.

Here’s what we’ll cover

  • First, recognize your role as Chief Motivation Officer
  • Real estate quotes on motivation: 3 crucial insights from high-performing team leaders
  • Realtor motivation: 6 tips and ideas for an inspiring real estate agent work environment
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First, recognize your role as Chief Motivation Officer

The vast majority of team leaders and brokerage owners are top-performing agents themselves. More often than not, you are the most experienced and ambitious member of your team.

But as your company grows, it becomes harder and harder to keep the balance between being the one every wants to follow and the one out in the field closing the most deals. It’s not easy to let go of old habits, but if you truly want a highly motivated team to take your business to the next level, you need to spend more time leading and less time producing.

Here’s why:

  • According to Reward Gateway, 75% of employees said that motivation and morale would improve with simple recognition from their managers.
  • Even if your brokerage is big enough for every agent to have their own team leader, the Global Workforce Study by Towers Watson found that the role of senior management in attracting employee discretionary effort exceeds that of immediate supervisors

Finally, if you want your team to be highly-motivated at all times, you need to be strategic about it.

Whether it’s gamification techniques, a data-driven approach to analyzing employee performance, or simply shaping the culture of your company—all these things can have a big impact on team motivation. And all of them require a leader who will envision and then execute these changes on a business-wide level.

In other words, don’t get bogged down with micro-managing the motivation mechanics of your team. 

The real shift happens when someone at the leadership level takes the time to think big on behalf of the company, and that someone is you.

In his New York Times bestseller Drive, Daniel Pink shares why the default carrot-and-stick approach to motivation can be a mistake. This deep dive into the human need for purpose, learning, and self-reflection is a must-read for any team leader looking to boost agent motivation.

Real estate quotes on motivation: 3 crucial insights from high-performing team leaders

“I'm looking for the things that can't be taught, like integrity, and work ethic.” 
Michael Smith, CEO of Bluefield Realty Group

If you want a highly-motivated team, first take a good look at your hiring process.

According to Eagle Hill’s National Attrition survey, 68% of workers say low performers are bad for the team’s overall morale, while 54% report that low performing employees contribute to their own individual lack of motivation. 

It’s a classic case of a few bad apples spoiling the bunch.

And the worst part? While you’re spending precious time and resources trying to motivate the unmotivated, the rest of the team’s motivation is taking a hit. 

Instead, what if you could pour those resources into someone who’s ready and willing to reach their full potential?

This is where the right hiring strategy is everything.

“One of our best agents, the year before he joined us, sold one house, and then the year after he joined us, I think he sold 24 houses.”

Michael Smith, CEO of Greenville, South Carolina’s Bluefield Realty Group, isn’t afraid to look beyond past experience when building his top-producing team. 

“I spend a lot of time trying to make sure we have the right people on the bus, and then the right seat on the bus. I'm looking for the things that can't be taught, like integrity, and work ethic,” he says.

By focusing on character over experience in your hiring process, you’ll be much more likely to bring on agents with the kind of deep, resilient motivation that can weather any storm.

"In hiring people, what I've learned over the years is that you set all the expectations at the hiring table."
Justin Havre, Team Leader at Justin Havre & Associates

Another motivation killer that should be nipped in the bud during your hiring process is a mismatch in expectations.

In our interview with the leader of the #1 RE/MAX team in Canada, Justin Havre, he shared the exact list of questions he uses to set expectations at the hiring table:

  • What kind of leadership have you worked under?
  • What has your experience been?
  • What worked for you during that time? What didn't?
  • What are your expectations of me as a leader?
  • How do you respond to accountability?

If you want to make sure your agents are motivated from day one, you need to set the right expectations from day zero.

Of course, you’re not going to get it right from the get-go. "Did we hire people the right way? No. Was it a learning experience? Hell yes!" laughs Justin.

After a ton of hard-earned leadership lessons, Justin finally has his hiring process perfectly honed to ensure he’s only bringing on motivated agents who like to be held accountable for their work.

But building a highly motivated real estate team is a marathon, not a sprint. Start by adjusting your interview questions and be sure to clarify your expectations to each and every interviewee who comes through your doors.

“It needs your attention, it needs your time, and it needs effort.”

Emily Smith, COO of Wemert Group

Emily Smith, COO of Orlando-based Wemert Group Realty leads a team that produces over $265 million in sales, with only 30 agents.

Her secret? A highly intentional agent onboarding policy.

Every time a new agent joins the Wemert team, Emily and her leadership crew invest their time and energy in ensuring new Realtors start off on the right foot by building healthy, high-performance habits such as; proactive lead nurturing, database management, and accelerating team member assimilation into the company’s culture code. 

This helps new agents learn early on what the rest of the team expects from them. And because Emily and her team invest the time and effort upfront, the leadership team at Wemert also gains important insight into what each individual agent wants out of their time on the team.

As a bonus, Emily’s airtight onboarding policy also empowers the team to quickly set agents on a bespoke path to success, which is a major motivation booster in itself. 

For her, it’s time well-spent.

“There’s no easy path in this business to relationships. If you’re really going to build a relationship-based business, you can’t be absent from your database. It needs your attention, it needs your time, and it needs effort. You truly do have the control of the success based on the time you spend nurturing it,” says Emily.

Of course, Emily knows accountability is the other side of this coin. Failure to discipline non-performers is one of the top demotivators for any employee, so it’s important to back this up with clear performance tracking systems.

Agents at Wemert Group Realty fill out a weekly database tracking sheet, and the team uses six and twelve-month evaluations as touchpoints to make sure that the habits set in place on day one continue long after the initial honeymoon phase is over.

The team at Wemert Group Realty tracks their agents’ success using Follow Up Boss’s simple, behavior-based reporting.
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Realtor Motivation: 6 tips and ideas for an inspiring real estate agent work environment

Now that we’ve covered the crucial role of hiring in building your fired-up real estate team and gotten crystal clear on the fact that you (yes, you!) as the team leader are the #1 person responsible for keeping your agents motivated, let’s dive into some of the specific tricks and tips that can help keep your team on track, even on the toughest days.

#1. Keep your feedback specific

Specific, meaningful feedback about the effort (and not the person) has been proven to be more effective for increasing motivation than material rewards.

Yes, you read that right: Detailed feedback is often more valuable to your agents than money.

In Follow Up Boss, you can quickly find which one of your agents does best with Zillow leads, or identify your speed-to-lead superstar, and give them well-deserved praise to help boost their motivation and encourage more of the same behavior.

At the same time, you can easily pinpoint the agents who struggle with following-up or handling a specific type of sales conversation, for example FSBO or expired leads, and coach them with tailored advice, scripts and sales training.

#2. Offer public recognition

Public recognition is a great way to boost team morale

All you have to do is make sure that every Realtor’s awesome contribution is visible to the rest of the team. This will not only motivate your top-performers to continue reaching for the sky, it will also motivate the rest of the team to become a future MVP.

Simply create a visible chart, leaderboard or white board to keep a public tally of team rewards.

For example, when agents at the Orlando-based Funk Collection team do simple things like make a gratitude call, secure stellar online reviews or lend a hand to other team members, they’re rewarded with points.

The winner of the last contest won a one-week cruise for two—not a bad cherry-on-top for doing the things you should already be doing to help hit your commission goals.

Follow Up Boss has a built-in leaderboard that you can cast to the web or a big TV in the office so everyone's hard work gets recognized.

#3. Make your office fun 

It might sound simplistic but there are some very real benefits to a fun working environment. In fact, according to Gartner, workers are 44% more likely to be high performers when organizations take into consideration employee’s experience at work.

Seven years ago, Debra Beagle and her team of market-leading agents moved from a traditional office to smaller “office areas”, before finally going big with a 3,000 square foot cafe style office. Even though most of the agents at The Gary Ashton RE/MAX Advantage team (which, ahem, happens to also be the #1 RE/MAX team in the world) work from home, Debra and the team noticed more and more team members coming into the office since making the move. 

They also noticed that the team members who come in are much more motivated.

“They’re getting together in groups to inspire and motivate each other. We’ve definitely seen more millennials wanting to come back into the office which has been interesting. We’ll come in in the morning and see groups of them in different sort of ‘pockets’. They’re definitely excited to be here,” says Debra.

And this idea of keeping it fun also applies to the tools your team members use. In fact, research shows that poor user experience makes users blame themselves and causes stress, a known productivity killer.

Don’t have a 3,000 square foot cafe style office? No sweat. Here’s a glimpse into how solo agent Brandon Grass used a simple dry erase board to keep himself so motivated, he booked 80 listing appointments in 6 months.

#4. Use the right technology

We already mentioned that Justin Havre, leader of what is now the #1 RE/MAX team in Canada, claimed to have made some serious mistakes early on in his career.

In his eyes, running his business from sixteen different CRMs was definitely one of those mistakes.

"Agents would be on multiple websites and there would be some battling internally because when a lead would register on one website, chances are they would register on another one of our websites as well and then they would land with another agent on the team and that would create a little bit of animosity and conflict," Justin remembers.

The right tools can help you make sure the right leads automatically go to the right agents, while letting you instantly reassign leads based on agent performance. 

A smart real estate sales platform also helps agents avoid motivation-draining analysis paralysis by automatically answering key questions like:

  • Who do I call next?
  • Where can I improve?
  • How can I help this person in a unique way?

When your agents can clearly see exactly what they need to do to get and keep momentum in their business, it suddenly becomes much easier for them to stay motivated.

In Follow Up Boss, you can easily automate fair lead routing rules to make sure the right leads always reach the right agents.

#5. Strike the right balance in your performance tracking

You’ve heard it before: You need to measure what matters.

The fact is, the ability to analyze team performance and make data-driven decisions on how to grow your real estate business is what separates wheat from chaff in the real estate industry. 

But even more important is HOW you use Realtor performance data to motivate and engage your team members. 

Research from Gartner shows that organizations that make performance reviews forward-looking, rather than backward-looking, can improve employee performance by as much as 13%. And drab, hard to follow Excel reports probably won’t help you do that.

Performance reports should be engaging for team members and at the same time show the complete history of their work to help you and your agents make the right decisions about what to do better in the future.

From there, all you need to do is support that feedback with the right coaching and training to keep your team motivated and on track.

Source: Gary Ashton via Facebook

#6. Give your agents the right tools to work with

Let’s start with the obvious: if you’re in the real estate business and you’re not using a smart sales platform to power your business, you’re missing out in a big way.

After all, there’s a reason why agents earning over $100,000 a year are twice more likely to use a CRM than those making under $35,000 a year.

The right platform should be easy to use and smart enough to help your agents reduce the estimated 65% of their time spent on non-revenue generating activities. Because when your agents are focused and doing what they love, a highly-motivated working environment fast becomes the norm. 

If you’re looking for a user-friendly platform that helps motivate your agents to stay ahead of the game, try Follow Up Boss.

Our free trial includes all the features and workflows you need to keep your agents dialed in. Plus, our 100% human customer support team will help make sure the systems, tasks and workflows that make your team unique remain firmly at the center of your business.

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