Do your agents know the difference between a buyer value option (BVO), an amended value option, a guaranteed buy out, a guarantee against loss, and a loss-on-sale program? What about the difference between a listing exclusion clause and a diplomatic clause? Do they know the purpose of the Worldwide ERC® BMA form and how to effectively prepare one? Most important, do they also know that there is no such thing as “personal business” with regard to relocation?
If you are a relocation director in a real estate company, then you certainly understand the importance of having well-trained “relocation agents.” As we all know, having well-trained real estate agents is not the same as having well-trained relocation agents. While initial agent training and continued agent training are important, it is imperative when working with relocation clients to have agents who are specifically trained in employee mobility. Because there are so many elements and players involved in the typical relocation transaction, much more to know and understand, and many nuances to take into account, it is strongly encouraged that all real estate relocation departments commit themselves to providing a formalized relocation training program.
When I joined John Daugherty, Realtors, Houston, Texas, in December 2008 as senior director of relocation and business development, one of my highest priorities was to understand how the “relocation team” of agents was comprised. Naturally, I had many questions. For example, I needed to know if there were minimum standards required for an agent to be eligible for relocation business. Furthermore, I needed to know what type of relocation training program was in existence, what it consisted of, how often classes were offered, what the subject matter was and, of course, which agents were interested in participating and joining our relocation team.
While much of the existing relocation team of agents already had taken part in some basic relocation training, there was a definite need for consistency and structure. As I saw it, a formalized relocation training and certification program was paramount to my ability to provide our clients with the highest level of service and compete in the marketplace.
Our agents needed to be well-versed in relocation and have deep knowledge of the processes and procedures involved. To this end, I developed and implemented our company’s relocation training and certification program.
To assist me in the process, I solicited the knowledge, insight, and experience of several like-minded relocation directors from various real estate companies throughout the United States. They all spoke very candidly to me about their relocation training programs, the success they had achieved, and any challenges they may have faced. I took all of this information, gathered my resources, and devised what I believe to be a very comprehensive program for our agents.
One of the many people I consulted with was John D’Ambrogio, CRP, GMS, senior vice president, director of operations and relocation services at Rubloff Residential Properties in Chicago, IL, who agrees with me in the importance of having a well-trained front line.
“Many of the third party relocation companies that we work with have their own relocation certification classes that they require our agents to take, whether online or by another means, and we welcome that because then the corporate client knows through the third-party company that the agent knows the drill,” he said. “The better trained your front line is, the fewer problems you have and the more control you have over what occurs.”
Around the Industry: Types of Relocation Training and Certification Classes
Relocation classes, mandatory and otherwise, will vary from company to company, and will depend strongly on the services offered by the relocation department. It also will vary based on the areas of relocation knowledge that the relocation director thinks should be the primary focus for his or her agents.
Here are some examples of classes being offered by relocation departments as part of their relocation training and certification program:
Relocation 101—An Orientation to the Relocation Industry;
Servicing the Corporate Relocation Customer;
Preparing an Effective BMA;
Servicing Third-party Listings;
Pre-marketing of Transferees’ Homes;
Understanding Inventory Property Management;
Providing Homefinding Services;
Providing Rental Services;
Current Relocation Trends; and
Minimum Standards, Written Exams, and Refresher Courses
I believe that establishing minimum standards as a requirement for being qualified for relocation business is the first step in developing a successful relocation training program.
While the required number of years of experience and type of classes may vary from company to company, there are two essential elements that I believe should form the basis for these minimum standards:
an agent must be a sales associate for a minimum number of years (generally one to two years); and
an agent must complete a comprehensive relocation training program as stipulated by the company’s relocation department.
I also am a proponent of giving written exams to the agents following each training class. This keeps them on their toes and off of their Blackberries during class. It also provides you with important data to differentiate their various levels of relocation knowledge and understanding. In some cases, it also will let you know which agents may need to retake a class or, worst-case scenario, which agents probably should not be on your relocation team.
I think it is also a nice touch to provide personalized certificates to the agents who have successfully taken the classes and passed the exam. It recognizes their commitment to the relocation department, the corporate clients, the third-party relocation companies and, of course, their commitment to the transferees they serve.
In addition to the required classes, relocation departments also may offer refresher classes and/or “relocation electives” that can be taken throughout the year. Offering electives, in addition to the obligatory classes, also is good for the natural evolution in building a relocation team of agents. The agents who are part of your company’s relocation team will be those who take advantage of relocation training on an ongoing basis in order to continue growing their knowledge and expertise as a true relocation agent. In similar fashion, those agents who are unwilling to take part in the program will establish themselves as agents who do not desire to work with relocation clients.
Underscoring the Importance of Training
Having a structured relocation training program serves many purposes. First, it lets your agents know that your relocation department is committed to providing essential training to them in order to fuel them with the information they need to become successful relocation agents. It also may serve to weed out those agents who, after taking a class or two, may come to the decision that relocation work does not fit into their overall business plan. For your corporate clients and third-party relocation companies, it provides the assurance that their transferees and listings will be handled by relocation-trained agents and not just by agents who regularly send out postcards to the area or needs the business to get his or her career off the ground.
From the corporate client perspective, relocation training of agents is considered a given. Corporate clients fully expect that their transferees will be working with agents who have undergone training and are relocation specialists. Steve Rogers, SCRP, corporate relocation manager and president of Transitional Solutions LLP, Houston, TX, recently shared his thoughts on the importance of having relocation-trained agents from the corporate perspective.
“The agent is one of the few—but crucial—touch points with the transferee. My success as a corporate client has depended greatly on the agents assigned to work with my transferees, so I always need to have the best agents, and they all need to be well-trained. From a corporate, as well as third-party relocation company standpoint, they all require that some sort of training program be in place. They don’t necessarily need to see it, but definitely want to know that it is there,” he said.
It is important to have relocation agents who partner with both the relocation department and the third-party relocation management company. Janelle Gerber, CRP, GMS, vice president, Paragon Global Resources, Inc., Warrenville, Illinois, said, “Over the years, I have worked with many real estate agents and brokers. I can easily tell the difference between agents who understand and can effectively market properties on behalf of a transferee regardless of whether the transferee receives a guaranteed buy out or a buyer value option program. For example, when I see a list price and estimated sales price that are the same, especially in today’s real estate market, it’s an indication of a listing technique to obtain the listing but not necessarily a solid understanding of marketing strategies designed to achieve a sale during the transferee’s marketing period. BMAs that are incomplete or don’t support the marketing and pricing strategies are also indications of real estate agents who are not relocation-trained.”
It also is important in the relocation training of agents to address time frames and expectations. Often, the negotiation process and contract signing will take longer and have to pass through more hands and be viewed by more eyes than might be the case in a non-corporate transaction.
Training on Completing the Worldwide ERC® BMA
Worldwide ERC® is proud to introduce the new training, “Mastering the Worldwide ERC® Broker’s Market Analysis and Strategy Report.” This course covers the concepts in preparing and completing the new six-page Worldwide ERC® Broker’s Market Analysis and Strategy Report. This new training is available online or on a two-DVD* set.
In addition to the training, you also will be provided with:
a blank copy of the “Worldwide ERC® Broker’s Market Analysis and Strategy Report;”
a sample of a completed “Worldwide ERC® Broker’s Market Analysis and Strategy Report;” and
a copy of frequently asked questions about the “Worldwide ERC® Broker’s Market Analysis and Strategy Report.”
* The DVD package also comes with a bonus copy of “A Guide to the Worldwide ERC® Broker’s Market Analysis and Strategy Report,” which provides line-by-line instructions for completing the Worldwide ERC® BMA report.
There also is more paperwork involved and much more attention to detail required. Gerber said, “A well-trained relocation agent is able to manage the expectations of the other parties involved, because of their understanding of events such as the time that it takes to get a response from a corporate contact on an inventory property, or the time that it takes to get a contract signed from the relocation counselor.”
Conversely, “the agents who don’t understand relocation at all can kill a sale, without a doubt,” said Gerber. It is not enough to have well-trained agents; you must have relocation-trained agents.
As every relocation director knows, every time one of his or her agents steps into a car with a transferee or sets out to prepare a Worldwide ERC® Broker Market Analysis (BMA), their entire account is at risk. Furthermore, we are only as good as our last transaction. For most of us, getting and keeping the business is certainly not worth the risk of placing a relocation referral with an untrained, unseasoned sales associate.
Relocation referrals should be treated like the king’s gold and not doled out to agents who have not invested their time in the necessary training, nor should they be given out on a rotation, or to brand new agents as a way to jump start his or her career.
Minimum standards that include mandatory relocation training need to be established by the relocation departments of real estate companies, and corporate clients and third-party relocation management companies should demand nothing less. Such training programs, if developed and administered effectively, will pay off in dividends for the relocation departments and the clients they serve.
Michelle Sandlin, CRP, is director of global relocation services for John Daugherty, Realtors, Houston, Texas. She can be reached at +1 713 561 7500 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.