Keller Williams Realty (KW) has always had a bold vision: to become the No. 1 real estate company by making agents more productive and profitable. Early on, this goal was accomplished primarily through classroom training and events. Associates could attend courses at KW’s Austin, TX, headquarters, and the company’s most successful agents, leaders, and trainers would travel North America, sharing the secrets of their success with business owners, other agents, and new associates. For 20 years, this approach was very successful, helping Keller Williams grow to 50,000 agents by 2004.
NEW CHALLENGES PRESENT NEW OPPORTUNITIES
But by 2004, the KW family had become so large and geographically diverse that scaling its training programs while maintaining their high quality presented a new challenge. Luckily for Keller Williams, its long-standing culture of innovation and agent-centricity proved to be the right recipe to meet this challenge head-on. Even in early 2004—before YouTube videos or social media sites would be available examples to guide it—KW recognized the untapped potential of the Internet as a platform to deliver 24/7 rich media content and made a point to get there first. By embracing early the new Web and video technologies available, and combining them with its already-proven training programs, KW was able to accelerate its growth.
WHERE STRATEGY MEETS IMPLEMENTATION
Adopting a business strategy that calls for leveraging new technologies and implementing that strategy effectively are two different tasks. To implement its strategy, KW first focused on the needs of its associates: Which activities would help agents become more profitable and how could new technologies and training support those? Which technologies would help KW become the company of choice—the kind of company an agent never wants to leave? Finally, what tools and training could be delivered to all KW market centers to help them cut expenses and maximize profits? From the CEO’s office and across the executive team, these core questions were continually evaluated.
The next step was planning and alignment. KW developed a company-wide innovation plan that brought the department heads of product, technology, marketing, training, and coaching into tight alignment. One of the most important tenets of the plan was that each KW agent must have access to proprietary, market leading technology and be well versed in how to use it to grow his or her businesses.
From a technology standpoint, it wasn’t difficult to define what agents want and need because many KW employees are or have been agents at some point. Business owners needed help identifying and hiring great talent, as well as learning how to use the latest talent acquisition tools. Agents’ sole focus was finding more buyers and sellers, and delivering a great customer experience to generate repeat and referral business. They needed help honing their sales skills and learning how to use the latest technologies at every stage of the lead-generation and selling process. With these needs defined and the team aligned, KW quickly began developing proprietary technologies such as the industry’s first lead-to-close management system and agent-branded real estate apps to meet these needs.
VIDEO TRAINING TAKES CENTER STAGE
But new technologies are only as good as an agent’s ability to use them effectively. KW’s demand for world-class training programs in this new age of technology didn’t shrink; it grew exponentially.
With its growing and global workforce, video-based training would seem a logical addition to KW’s learning programs. But once again, the team faced challenges. The first was cultural: Real estate agents are often extroverts. They tend to prefer in-person training for all the face-to-face contact and networking opportunities it provides, and don’t want to be chained to a desk all day. A video-based training program would have to take these preferences into account.
The second challenge was structural. Because KW employs an agent-centric business model, powered at the local level through Associate Leadership Councils, corporate initiatives are not mandated from the top down. Agents voluntarily opt in. This meant the value proposition of video-based training had to be so strong that agents would be willing to adopt it on a regular basis, in addition to their classroom-based trainings.
GETTING VIDEO TRAINING RIGHT
Both of these considerations were top of mind in 2004, when KW created an internal media team focused on how to use video more effectively in real estate. Its first major initiative was to launch the industry’s first-ever 24/7 ondemand video learning portal, branded KWConnect. Putting the agents’ needs first and delivering immediate value were the team’s main considerations. The KW team focused on functional issues such as convenience and ease of use—making training videos available anywhere and everywhere busy agents could find spare minutes to train. They also made sure to deliver the highest-value content from the agent’s point of view. The videos had to be short (for convenience), entertaining (for an audience of extroverts), and rewarding (for results-oriented agents). At the end of any lesson, an agent should be able to immediately take action that ultimately translates into revenue— whether that’s learning to use a new product or how to best stage an open house.
Over the years, the team has continued to innovate, most recently moving to a next-generation video platform technology from uStudio Inc. For example, real estate experts in the field now can record, upload, and share their knowledge with each other, all within their own learning portal. This distributed learning model that leverages user-generated video means that more agents have more opportunities to find content that meets their learning needs.
THE PROOF IS IN THE METRICS
Since its inception, KWConnect has tracked millions of views and become a central channel for delivering agent training. In 2014-2015, agents who used video training closed 88 percent more transactions and made 42 percent more commissions than agents who did not. At an aggregate level, for the first half of 2015, overall commissions grew 25 percent and agent count grew 18 percent, thus demonstrating that the innovation agenda—and specifically video training initiatives—had a significant impact on the team’s core metrics.
In the last decade, KW’s focus on helping agents succeed through video-based training has helped the company significantly outpace industry growth. In 2014-2015, growth in agent count hovered around 9 percent industry-wide, while KW’s grew at 39 percent. Ten years ago, KW employed roughly 50,000 agents in two countries; today it employs more than 140,000 associates across the Americas, Europe, Africa, and Asia. KW is now the largest privately held real estate franchise in the world by associate count, as well as the fastest growing. Seeing these results, it’s no surprise that Keller Williams achieved the No. 1 ranking—worldwide and across all industries—on Training magazine’s 2015 Training Top 125 list of companies that demonstrate excellence in training and employee development.
Jen Darrouzet serves as uStudio’s Enterprise Video Solution architect, where she works closely with business teams to develop high-impact video initiatives for transformative learning, marketing, and customer service.