If you’ve ever sold or purchased a home – or even just thought about it – you’ve likely heard of Keller Williams Realty.
Founded by Gary Keller and Joe Williams in 1983, the Austin-based company has grown to become an international franchise of more than 800 independently-owned real estate agencies across the U.S. and Canada.
Considering the scale of the Keller Williams franchise, training more than 170,000 agents and franchise leaders might seem an insurmountable goal at best, yet the company has earned the No. 1 rank in Training Magazine’s Training Top 125 multiple times.
We recently spoke with Robert Bell to learn more about Keller Williams’ training practices. Bell has worked with the company since March 2017 and has held the Instructional Design Manager role for the development of its core curriculum since September 2019.
Bell is responsible for directing a team of instructional designers, developing and launching its proprietary training programs, overseeing its online learning platforms, assisting in major company events, and since the pandemic, coaching and mentoring instructional designers to support the shift to a more virtual training model.
Keller Williams Realty has more than 800 market centers (franchise locations) and every agent works as an independent contractor. Although each franchise may house just a few key employees for administrative, leadership, or coaching roles, an average market center has about 200 agents associated with it.
“Looking holistically at our company as a training and coaching company, we’re very, very strong,” Bell said.
Not long after we began talking with him, we soon discovered the reasons why.
Keller Williams' Award-Winning Training: An Overview
Keller Williams Realty largely provides instructor-led training courses to its agents and franchisees in the field. The training programs include agent education, foundational coursework, and specialized courses across a broad swath of roles.
Bell’s team develops the training content for KW MAPS, which is the coaching end of Keller Williams. Additionally, he also has a hand in the company’s Ignite and BOLD training curriculums, which provide Keller Williams agents with foundational education that increases their productivity and strategy in the field.
MAPS and Keller Williams University (KWU) “kind of walk hand-in-hand in a lot of respects,” Bell said.
“We develop the materials largely to be taught in the field,” he explained.
Agent-facing materials are taught by trainers in Keller Williams’ market centers, which are franchises. Franchise operator materials, known as leadership materials, are generally taught by retail leadership in instructor-led training courses that cover everything from franchise systems orientation, a new leadership fundamentals course, and a workshop series for market center leadership.
All of this education encompasses the core training within Keller Williams.
Beyond this training, Keller Williams hosts large-scale events such as the Family Reunion and Mega Camp that enable agents and real estate professionals to network in person while also receiving valuable training that will enhance their performance within the franchise.
After the pandemic began in early 2020, however, Keller Williams had to adapt these normally in-person events to a virtual model.
“Our 2021 Family Reunion was a digital experience. It was our first digital Family Reunion,” Bell said, adding that it pulled in a record audience of about 40,000 people.
For events such as the Family Reunion, Bell’s team is responsible for developing panel questions along with the content for their presentations.
“We have this planned, structured curriculum but it’s also really important in our industry to address the market of the moment at any given time,” Bell explained.
Additionally, Keller Williams also provides training through Connect Live – the company’s live stream channel that runs daily training for agents. Connect Live features everything from interviews between top agents, messages directly from CEO Gary Keller, and even some training coursework.
Keller Williams also employs the use of a proprietary CRM platform known as Command, which is a real-estate-specific CRM+ solution that includes content management and marketing capabilities. Ongoing and up-to-date KW Technology training programs are developed and delivered by the KWU Enablement Team. Training on Keller Williams’ CRM is offered to all of its market centers and agents and almost all of it is completely free.
Command is connected to the company’s social and learning hub called Connect, creating an educational and training network that brings everything full circle.
How Keller Williams Manages Training Without an LMS
Bell told us that the company never really had a learning management system (LMS), although it did procure one for a short time.
“We were in the process of implementing it and unfortunately, it just did not serve our needs,” Bell explained.
“We have very high standards and we’re very ambitious in terms of what we need from an online platform,” he said.
Keller Williams decoupled from that LMS fairly recently and is developing its online platform now, although the company continues to consider all of its options — including deciding whether an LMS is even necessary if other tools better serve their needs.
“For the longest time, the real value of training happened at the local level,” Bell observed. Because Keller Williams is a franchise organization and its audience is comprised of real estate professionals, he noted that the most value lies in them getting together and networking in person.
So how did Keller Williams’ training win awards without using an LMS?
Bell told us that beyond the content KWU makes, Keller Williams has a whole coaching arm that enhances the accountability of what the company trains.
“If you take one of our courses or a business planning clinic, for instance, and you set goals for the year, that’s great – you now have clear goals and objectives for your business for the coming year,” he explained.
“What’s going to take that to the next level is you working with an accountability coach – a coach who keeps you accountable every week and every day and ensures that you are doing the activities that will get you the results that will get you to your personal goals.”
“That, I think, is really the great strength,” Bell noted. “The winning proposition of Keller Williams is that when you look at us holistically, we have very strong training and we enhance that with accountability, and we infuse learning in almost everything we do.”
Even company conferences are about education – they’re not marketing events. “They’re really about giving an opportunity for everybody to learn from the best,” Bell said.
The entire culture of Keller Williams is infused with the concept of training from top to bottom, which stems from the company’s CEO, Gary Keller.
“Learning is essential to him,” Bell noted, adding that when someone observes Keller’s masterminds or sessions, “it’s all about an opportunity to explore a model or explore an idea in an educational way.” Regardless of who he’s talking to — from top agents or those in solo businesses — Keller is an educator at heart.
“That infuses the vision of Keller Williams throughout the company,” Bell explained.
Education is paramount to not just the company’s success, but Keller’s ethos.
“He loves it,” Bell said. “You see it whenever you see him presenting to people on the event stage or at his masterminds that it’s very important to him to continue to teach.”
Most CEOs don’t get their hands dirty with training and education, but Keller does – and his influence plays a strong role in the company’s motivation and training success.
The Future Of Keller Williams’ Training: Refinement And Unification
Even though Keller Williams’ training program is extensive and award-winning, Bell noted that there is always room for improvement.
“I think there are a lot of opportunities,” he said.
“Part of our DNA,” Bell explained, is “having franchises with a physical imprint.” To that end, the company is considering what resources it may require, including the possible need for marketing centers with large training rooms.
“If we scale that down, how do we ensure that we’re still more than meeting the needs of our audience?” he pondered.
The question pushes the conversation around the importance of having a digital platform that can offer self-study programs and other ways to further enhance physical training and in-person networking.
He noted that the digital platform might provide simulations that enhance the in-person experience or offer content from some of Keller Williams’ top producers who can’t physically make it to every market center to provide training and insight in person.
“And then [we can] bring that back into the classroom, and make the classroom a much more focused, workshop-type experience,” Bell explained.
In addition to simulations and interactive experiences, the digital platform can be home to more self-study opportunities where appropriate.
Bell told us that all market centers have independent training calendars composed of Keller Williams’ flagship training courses like MAPS, Ignite, and BOLD, along with local masterminds and events that are specific to their market centers.
That said, he is looking to enhance consistency and effectiveness through a national training calendar. He explained that it takes resources to run larger training programs that might run for several weeks, particularly since they require an onsite trainer every day for several hours of each day during the course.
“Usually those trainers are agents, so they’re taking time out of their lives not only to teach but to prepare the materials and everything else,” Bell said.
He noted that offering a national Ignite through a platform like Keller Williams’ Connect Live would add value for the market centers and create consistency across the training calendar.
Even so, there is always going to be a local dimension to the company’s training.
The company has to work closely with its leaders in the field, productivity coaches, and trainers to make sure that it meets the needs of those who will use it as a community-building tool on the local level.
Training and education is a community experience that is moderated by experts within each local market center in every region.
Bell noted that what has made Keller Williams’ training successful so far is the community aspect of its learning, which the company intends to build into its digital platform.
He said that the goal is “to facilitate these communities in an even more powerful way through that digital platform and make it more connected and consistent.”
“One of the things that’s sort of mysterious and beautiful about the Keller Williams learning ecosystem,” Bell said, is that it’s “completely value-based.”
Those core values will ensure its prosperity as the company looks toward its future.
About Keller Williams
Headquartered in Austin, Texas, Keller Williams is an international real estate franchise founded in 1983. Over the years that have passed since its inception, Keller Williams has grown to become one of the most well-known real estate companies with independently owned and operated franchises across the United States and beyond.
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