Agents and principals continue to flock to training courses; but what are the most popular subjects, and are there new ways of learning? Real Estate Business’ Matthew Sullivan investigates how you can make the most of what’s available in the training sphere
In an industry as competitive as real estate, being well trained can often give you the edge over the competition.
But given the fact there are literally hundreds of training providers out there all promising the best results, selecting the right course can be a daunting task.
In a bid to ease the strain, Real Estate Business asked a variety of industry professionals to find out what is popular in the training arena, and why.
Courses that enable peer-to-peer interaction and group learning are often highly sought after by agents and principals.
Irene Green, head of Harcourts Training Academy, says students who feel comfortable in their environment are more willing to engage with the content.
This is why the Academy has developed an education environment that encourages peer engagement.
“We don’t deliver training in the traditional way of somebody standing at the front of the room lecturing, then putting students on the spot and asking them questions that make them look stupid,” Ms Green says.
“A lot of people have fears and bad experiences from the educational environment. Ours is a very safe environment, and very interactive.”
Harcourts’ training staff conduct role playing exercises and focus groups which allow students to openly discuss what they know and how they operate, all in front of their peers.
Gerard Baden-Clay, business owner and principal of Century 21 Westside, in Taringa, Qld, says training courses which encourage peer engagement offer him the opportunity to benchmark his business and services against others in the field.
“To mix with peers...that know more than you, and that have been in the industry longer than you, and specialise in an area that differs to you, is fantastic,” Mr Baden-Clay says.
“Not only you can benchmark yourself against these people, but you can learn from their expertise.”
FROM VIRTUAL TO REAL WORLD
A problem many agents face is finding ways to juggle the competing demands of work and study.
This is why an increasing number of training and education courses are incorporating online elements. But this switch to individual (online-based) learning can require more self-discipline on the agent’s part.
“I love online learning but there is no discipline for people to go on and actually do it,” Ms Green says. “Real estate professionals are busy working people, they always mean to get around to [studying] but they don’t.”
Yet online-based learning has its benefits; it just depends on the course content, says Anthony Toop, managing director of South Australia-based Toop&Toop Real Estate.
“I think longer-term content such as law and industry overview material is delivered far better online,” he explains. “It requires an agent to sit and engage with nothing but the material.”
“Class or workshop learning is a great way to elaborate what was taught online. Agents will often spin-off ideas covering the...issues associated with all topics.”
Mr Green agrees that agents need to find the right blend of online learning and classroom interaction.
“We give them a lot of information online or in manuals that they go away and research, then come back to class and discuss what they learnt in small group workshops,” she says.
“This way you have students teaching students, but they are delivering the information that we have provided them with.”
Given the right approach, First National chief executive Ray Ellis believes the majority of training can be done online.
“The mix I would look for is about 65 to 70 per cent of training can be done online because that is information, and information is important in training,” he says.
“The other 30 to 35 per cent should be delivered face-to-face, because that is expertise.”
Training online will also allow agents more freedom and flexibility when and where they study according to Kaplan Professional national sales manager, Brian Knight.
“Agents are looking for greater flexibility and convenience when choosing training and providers,” Mr Knight says. “As a result we have seen an increase in agents opting to undertake training online via our eLearning centre versus workshops. “
PROFESSIONALS TEACHING PROFESSIONALS
Over the years the industry has attempted to please all parties by offering courses that differ to the traditional style of teaching commonly found in the class room.
Many larger franchises groups offer seminars and panel discussions to their members and have found great success in doing so.
Mr Toop believes today’s agents are more willing to learn from somebody that has walked in their shoes and achieved wealth by doing so.
“In today’s market all agents want real and authentic theoretical learning supplied by leading professionals,” Mr Toop says.
Learning from those that have actually worked in the industry is far better than someone that has no direct industry experience, Mr Ellis says.
You need to check whether the person delivering the information has “actually done it, or do they believe they can do it? If they haven’t actually done it, then they lack the authority in delivering the message,” Mr Ellis says.
“So, my first tip is check out their credentials. Have they walked the walk rather than talk the talk?”
Pittard Training Group has recognised the importance of professionals teaching professionals, and it now provides seminars that feature industry experts that share some of their ‘inside tips’.
“It’s important that people are actually in real estate, and are telling the stories on how ‘this particular subject or topic’ that we are covering can be implemented in your day-to-day business,” Michael Johnson, consultant to Pittard Training Group, says.
“Our speakers are industry leaders that can provide first-hand reports on how ‘it’ happened.”
GETTING OUT OF THE CLASSROOM
For those agents and principals who have no interest in classrooms or online delivery, there is a third option. And that’s getting out and meeting other industry professionals, face-to-face, in their office. Or, on a bus, as it was for Mr Braden-Clay.
Mr Braden-Clay took up the option of joining a two-day bus tour that allowed him to visit the offices of leading principals.
Moreover, “as a participant of that, I gained so much knowledge from the other business owners [just by] sitting on the bus. That peer-to-peer engagement is really beneficial,” Mr Baden-Clay explains.
“The most beneficial element for me was those conversations that I was able to have with the other participants.”
Time and money may limit the number of agents who can participate in these sorts of tours. Mr Baden-Clay says the tour cost approximately $2,500 per person, and required two full days away from the office.
Bus tours aside, your willingness to engage in the subject matter remains the most important aspect of education.
“What agents need to do is sit themselves next to the best individuals in a class room, on the side of a hill or even in the back of taxi... so long as the agent surrounds themselves around a professional bunch of peers,” Mr Ellis says.
As for popular topics, technology stands out.
Mr Toop says keeping informed has never been more important.
“Agents need to be up-to-date and educated on how to incorporate new advancements such as the introduction of the mobile applications and the Ipad into the daily running of their business.”
Harcourts’ Training Academy has recently opened additional training facilities to meet overwhelming demand for technology courses, Ms Green says.
“Anything to do with technology, from being more systemised to using more technology systems, such as mobile applications apps,” has agents flocking to their workshops.
But while technology is important, Mr Ellis says agents should be focusing on matters a little closer to home…like learning how to sell property more effectively.
In today’s tough market, agents with advanced skills in the negotiation process will find greater success than their peers, he says.
“What agents are focusing on most in regards to training is how to engage buyers with vendors,” Mr Ellis says.
“We have a market where the disparity between vendor and buyer expectations of price is too great, so how to move properties in a difficult market is something all agents should be focusing on at the moment.”
These comments were largely echoed by Kaplan Professional’s Mr Knight.
Moving forward, he expects to see an uptick in the number of agents enrolling into various courses in a bid to perform better in what is a challenging market.
“We predict that ongoing professional development which exceeds compliance requirements will become increasingly popular in a tough market,” he says.