Helping a rookie can mean personal, professional, and financial rewards, creating an opportunity for you to gain by giving back.
Whether it’s coffee ’n’ doughnut confabs or a companywide initiative, mentoring enhances salespeople and brokers’ ability to educate, recruit, and retain new associates. Mentor support flattens newbies’ learning curve, propelling them toward their first commission. Likewise, mentors gain personal and professional rewards.
Mentoring others hones your skills, says Floyd Wickman, a real estate trainer, speaker, and co-author of Mentoring: The Most Obvious Yet Overlooked Key to Achieving More in Life than You Dreamed Possible. “If you teach a success principle to someone else, you’re more likely to use it yourself the next day.”
Broker-owners sometimes offer mentors incentives, while other salespeople formulate agreements with rookies themselves, Wickman says. Mentors commonly receive 40 percent of protégés’ commissions.
But mentors shouldn’t make money their motivation, Wickman says. “We drink from a well that we didn’t dig and warm ourselves by a fire that we didn’t build,” he says. “We should give something back.”
Instructing your protégés
If your company has no formal program, invite protégés to come to you, advises Gayle Bailey, ABR®, CRS®, an associate broker at RE/MAX Preferred Properties in Vienna, Va., who’s mentored for 30 years.
“I tell them from the beginning, I’ll teach you how to fish, but I’m not going to give you a fish sandwich,” he says. He works with protégés for up to three years, supplying them with “an ounce of education and a pound of application.” He uses role playing, advises mentorees to rehearse presentations in front of a mirror, and invites them to shadow him. He meets with mentorees weekly and remains on call for questions.
Barbara Vance, co-owner and office manager for Vance Realty Group Inc. in Orlando, Fla., uses mentoring to groom her office’s next generation. Vance works individually with new associates, up to five at a time, for four to six weeks, teaching them the ropes and helping match them to niches such as retirement markets or rural properties.
Vance accompanies protégés on listing presentations, increasing their responsibilities each time until they’re ready to fly solo. This provides experience a classroom can’t duplicate, she says. Recently, she guided a protégé through a title defect situation. “You just learned something that some people with 10 years’ experience haven’t had to work with,” she told him.
Vance says formal mentoring programs are rare in her area, which makes her program a recruiting tool. Also, in five years, she’s had only a handful of departures. “I believe that mentoring is the key to building team spirit at a company,” she says.
She performs the lion’s share of mentoring at her company. But when salespeople recruit someone, she evaluates the recruiting salespeople’s mentoring potential, considering their experience, patience, and desire.
Karen Freeman, a Vance Realty salesperson, began mentoring six months ago. “It’s a great feeling to watch people grow and flourish,” she says. “I remember all too well what it’s like to be starting out.” Freeman had almost no experience when she started two years ago; she credits mentoring for developing her confidence and skills. She sold $2.5 million in her first year in the business, $5 million in her second year, and "is on track to sell $10 million in 2003."
Mentoring isn’t just for beginners. Dane Work, a RE/MAX Preferred Properties salesperson, worked part-time for two years before hooking up with Bailey. They enjoyed a peer relationship, with Bailey providing advice on where to apply advertising dollars. Shadowing helped Work learn “the instinctual side of customer relationships, such as how to spot serious prospects.”
Setting the rules
One of the best aspects of mentoring is forming strong professional bonds, mentors say. Take care, though, that relationships don’t become crutches. Many mentors find letting go the hardest part of their job, and some protégés become dependent.
Written guidelines establish boundaries, says Lois J. Zachary, president of Leadership Development Services LLC in Phoenix, and author of The Mentors’ Guide: Facilitating Effective Learning Relationships. You should spell out how often you’ll meet; goals, such as a timeframe for making the first sale or developing a business plan; and the duration of the formal relationship.
Ultimately, mentors should teach self-sufficiency, Zachary says. “It’s easy to give answers; the trick is to ask the questions that will help new salespeople find the answers for themselves,” she says. “Many people make the mistake of thinking that their role as mentor is to take new salespeople under their wing, but it’s actually to teach them to fly.”
Passing along wisdom
Want to start a formal mentoring program at your company or for your team? Here are five steps you need to take.
- Define the program. Craft a document articulating goals, participant responsibilities, and success benchmarks. Create contingency plans for problems such as personality conflicts.
- Find mentoring candidates—teachers and students. Establish selection criteria and decide how to pair participants. Mentors should display patience, experience, articulateness, and accessibility. Protégés should be proactive, motivated, and willing to practice.
- Introduce participants to the rules. Explain program goals to participants. If you’re matching participants, let them interview each other before the process begins to make sure that their personalities are compatible.
- Review expectations and goals. Participants should receive written guidelines for their goals and responsibilities as well as a timeline.
- Follow up. Monitor participants’ progress. Schedule follow-up meetings with mentoring teams on a periodic basis, say, after one month and again after six months.
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