The best real estate training program. Mentorship 2.0 at Keller Williams.

By David Bramante | February 10, 2018

Over the last six months as the Team Leader of Keller Williams Realty Downtown Los Angeles (KW DTLA), I have been involved in numerous conversations about the break downs and necessary improvements needed in our real estate mentorship program. And this is while I have heard that the concept and practice of an effective mentorship program and/or productivity coaching program has long since been given up on at most brokerages.

My first experience with an actual mentorship program was when I worked at Marcus & Millichap Los Angeles in Downtown LA in 2009. When I joined, the Manager Steve Stein had me meet with three different agents. I spoke to Rick Raymundo, Peter Strauss, and Neema Ahadian. Those conversations about possible mentorship and coaching, and the requirements and financial expectations were wildly different and unmonitored by M&M. I asked Rick to mentor me and we worked together for over a year on a 50/50 split, but our mentorship was generally unsupervised by the brokerage moving forward and there were many issues between us that didn’t necessarily get resolved.

Looking back, I see that we both exacerbated minor conflicts and the main issue was that there was no top down review of our relationship as senior/junior or mentor/mentee. We were just two young guys making things up as we went.

Fast forward to 2017, I was seeing mentorship at a completely different vantage point. I was recruiting new agents for Keller Williams, and these new agents were looking for real life expertise from senior agents, and they were asking me who these senior agents were they should talk to. Nine out of 10 times, the new agent asks me to mentor them and while I would love the opportunity, taking on new mentees would have been difficult given the time restraints I was already feeling as a brand new Team Leader.

These new agents had large dreams for themselves and huge expectations from what we could offer them as their real estate brokerage, and truthfully I was nervous that our current program (at that time) was struggling. The only positive, at least from the exterior, was that our split was 80/20 and superior to some brokerages like M&M with 50/50 splits. But I actually began to think that the 20% was part of the problem.

Still new to my role, I had already heard horrible stories of how mentors and mentees had had huge fights and that both sides were unhappy. Unhappy with the percentages and unhappy with the results. This took me back to my experiences with Rick, and so though now I took full responsibility for the break-downs between us, I was committed to making sure our mentorship was going to be incredible and properly juggle the concerns of all parties.

While the lingo is a little different between Marcus & Millichap and Keller Williams Realty, as is to be expected, the general question the different brokerages are wrestling with is this:

“How can a real estate brokerage, after the training program is completed, ensure that a new agent has the guidance he/she needs in order to learn the basics of the real estate business and sell real estate as quickly as possible?”

Apparently, until now there hasn’t been a winning formula. That’s why most of the brokerages I have looked into have given up on mentorship programs and productivity coaching, at least internally, though they may still offer the concept to the public and the new agents they recruit. Many team leaders and productivity coaches want to make something work, but they’ve not been able to figure it out.

With all of this in mind, and with real life mentorship experience under my belt both initially as a newer agent with Rick at M&M, and now a senior agent and Team Leader working with new agents at KW, I believe our new mentorship program here has some unique characteristics which solve the issues brokerages have been facing.

The number one question both new agents and experienced agent asks is this:

“How much is the commission split for me?”

At most M&M offices, the general split between new agents and senior agents is 50/50 for the first three transactions, while the default split at KWs is 80/20 for the first three transactions. Both of these splits are extremes which do not address the underline concerns of either party. The new agent wants to gain experience from a mentor in the mentorship program, but doesn’t want to get ripped off. The senior agent wants to help new agents learn the business, but wants to be properly compensated and not create a drag on their business.

The answer we came up was this:

  • The first transaction is 60/40
  • The second transaction is 70/30
  • The third transaction is 80/20

This acknowledges that in the first transaction the new agent is brand-new with usually zero experience or knowledge in real estate transactions. In this first transaction, the agents, new and experienced, are basically partners working with a client, but the experienced agent shoulders most (if not all) of the work for a 40% split rather than a “nominal” 20% split.

The sliding scale to the mentee’s benefit acknowledges a simple truth in a mentorship program, the new agent is gaining experience from transaction to transaction, and so an automatic change in split is intuitive. We struggled with having a minimum amount due to the mentor, and after many iterations we reduced the $30,000 minimum to $15,000, and then ultimately scrapped the minimum altogether.

Separately, as a mentor I have experienced the tendency to not want to discuss some of the very basics of the business that every new real estate agent asks his/her mentor or coach… because the conversations are redundant, slow and after many years in real estate, just not mentally stimulating for me. And in the same breathe as a mentor and as the Team Leader of our office, I want to make sure our new agents get the support they need and deserve. Common questions are:

  • How do you use the Multiple Listing Service (MLS)?
  • How do you search for active and sold comparable (comp) properties?
  • How do you create proposals, comparable market analyses, etc?
  • What California Association of Realtor (CAR) forms do you use and why?

The solution for this issue, and generally how you help new agents that have completed their mentorship program (have sold three transactions), is to create a completely new model for mentoring / coaching our new agents.

This new mentor system is creating two levels of mentorship, a senior mentor and a junior mentor, giving a new agent two mentors (for the price of one). This is unheard of in any other real estate brokerage, including the KW offices I have spoken to:

  • The senior mentor, like me, handles strategy conversations dealing with planning, technique, and implementation of the four models of real estate… everything involved in securing listings and selling real estate.
  • The junior mentor, which in our office is Jos Viramontes now, handles the administrative conversations and answers the basic questions that were bulleted above. Jos is helping our new agents get familiar with the MLS, search comparable properties, create proposals, use CAR forms.

The compensation plan between the senior and junior mentors is simple, they split the mentorship / real estate coaching fee 50/50 due to the mentor, from the mentee. This new model covers all the concerns that have been breaking the mentorship programs and productivity coaching programs that I have studied, and creates a whole new opportunity for new agents to generate income as they grow their businesses.

This new opportunity is that once a new agent completes three transactions, he/she may be eligible to become a junior mentor which allows them to make another source of income as they help train the office and grow their own real estate business.

Our hope is that this new mentorship program which our office has created solves the concerns of the new agents and senior agents, increases everyone’s productivity and commissions, and becomes a model that is replicated in other real estate companies, because creating thoughtful programs like this helps make selling real estate less a job and more an actual business.

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David Bramante is the Team Leader & Managing Partner of Keller Williams Realty Downtown Los Angeles, and the manager of BRE Investment in Echo Park.

He has been a top producing California Realtor since 2005, helping clients sell, buy, invest and lease residential and commercial real estate in Los Angeles.

As a real estate consultant, he has hired, mentored and coached over 150 Realtors in Southern California, including many top producing Realtors in Los Angeles County.

For questions about the above blog post, becoming a real estate agent, or joining Keller Williams Realty, send an email to David directly at david (at) breinvestment.com or davidbramante (at) kw.com.