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The Advantage of Management

by Matthew Ferrara

Matthew_articleAn ounce of management is worth a pound of lead generation. That's what smart brokerages have discovered as they review their plans for competitive advantages in 2015 – just in time, as evidence all around us demonstrates.

A recent trip to that popular coffee shop highlights the extent to which management development is needed across the entire economy. You know the one: where the line is 10 people long while two people struggle to take and fulfill orders and three others are restocking straws. It's time to redirect our dollars back from technology and put them into biology.

It's not much different in real estate. Realizing they have largely figured out how to use technology to expand marketing, drive down operational costs and delight customers, brokerages have shifted their focus to the oft-overlooked competitive frontier: managers. Not just more training techniques for salespeople, but investing in how they are managing productivity environments, minimizing disruption and developing sales teams.

For those managers tired of watching marketing dollars go unconverted, exhausted by carrying a fire hose to quench deals and worried their brand teeters on one disgruntled tweet, the investment is a welcome change. So what are your plans to grow managers into a competitive advantage? Here are some suggestions.

First, professional training.

Management is a science. Management schools exist because there are proven best practices and techniques that graduates learn from the successes of peers and failures in history. It's critical that your professional management is professionally developed. This won’t happen in one or two days, a seminar and a few online webinars.

Developing competent managers – in whom you will entrust the mission, leadership, and customer responsibility of your company – takes more than a few hours and an airport-quality book. Learning to manage people, develop strategy, deploy organizational resources and tackle competitors all demands more than clichés and diagrams. The best companies invest in managers consistently and demand business-school quality content.

Second, focus on management productivity, not mere activity.

Management development suffers from the same temptation as sales training: "Just tell me what to do, and I'll be successful, right?"

The goal should be to develop managers who can integrate multiple disciplines into a process – to think, and not just apply flash card answers to situations that arise. Managers can only become powerful recruiters once they can read big data, financial news, demographics and consumer trends to identify the characteristics future salespeople must possess for the company to compete in the future. That’s entirely different than knowing a snazzy comeback line to disparage a competitor during an interview.

Similarly, to retain salespeople means managers must know how to develop productive environments that support the business and emotional needs of their sales people. Managers don’t create those results with a trendy seminar, constant new gadgets or mere commission dollars. Great management is a serious undertaking.

Third, no managers can expect their people to grow if they aren't growing themselves (beyond management training, that is).

Personal growth enhances professional results. Building their personal hobbies and passions will empower managers to draws connections between two sets of things they enjoy. Those managers who play a sport or the take time to write, read or travel while they build their professional competencies will also develop deep foundations to draw upon for inspiration and support.

The big picture for managers seems simple:
• Professional quality development
• Focus on productivity
• Time dedicated to pursue personal growth

But where should managers apply their new knowledge and skills to create market advantages? Here are three areas creating big returns.

Field Observation. One of the paradoxes of real estate management is that it's least practiced best in the office. In other words, great management happens where the work happens – at listing presentations, showings, open houses and closings. While managing the office environment, meetings and training are important, the biggest impact occurs when managers can see the actual delivery of services with clients. Observing how salespeople present the value proposition, use tools, engage consumers and close deals offers direct insights, which managers translate into targeted training, support, development and operational procedures to enrich the productivity environment.

Eat More Data. If leads are the basic staple of salespeople, then data is the fine food of management. Competitive managers read more than MLS data, Case-Shiller reports and annual consumer and industry surveys. Every week, they digest real-time data from the company's web traffic, lead generation system and closed customer profiles. They seek trends and patterns in census reports, jobs data, demographics, school graduation rates and sales rates of other industries. From this data, they bring conclusions to bear on the goals and behavior of salespeople in office meetings each week. Managers directly guide agents toward the inventory, clients and skills they must develop to be successful in the next market.

Run Experiments. Management is not custodial work, protecting resources from waste or loss. Great managers are investors. They take risks with company resources, running experiments and testing opportunities to research and probe the market. As managers grow in competence, they grow their confidence in risk-taking responsibility, enabling them to act as market makers rather than servicers. There’s little competitive advantage in copying someone else's discovery. Managers must consistently experiment around the edges of established markets and discover future advantages. By combining field research and big data, an endless number of experiments should present themselves to the managers who recognize that the best way to predict their future (as Peter Drucker says) is to create it.

Is it easier to buy a new gadget, revamp the website and buy more leads in search of growth next year? Probably. However, the greatest long-term advantages come from positioning your people first and your processes to support them second. Take a good look at management advantages in your firm and position your management team to guide the right work for years to come.

Matthew_thumbnailMatthew Ferrara is CEO of Matthew Ferrara & Company, an international real estate consulting, management, strategy and sales organization. For more than two decades, Ferrara has been helping top performing brokerages transform their marketing, technology and customer service strategies to create loyal clients and lead the competition in the next generation of real estate business. Learn more at www.matthewferrara.com.

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