Are you ready for 2015?

Are you ready for 2015?

It is always dangerous to rest on your laurels. I have always believed that in any business, you are only as good as your last month’s figures.

The estate agency firm of whom I am a Partner had its best three sales months in its 23 year history during the first half of 2014, but who really knows what 2015 will bring? Raising standards of knowledge, behaviour, skills and attitude is essential in any market conditions, but some firms lose sight of this when business is booming, leading to a massive problem as and when conditions take a turn for the worse. Plenty of agents made buckets of money in 2007 and then went out of business in 2008…

So, what to do? It won’t surprise you to know that as MD of a training company, there is a one word solution….training. It may however surprise you that I am not prospecting for business here. In fact, I am going to suggest a DIY option, hinged upon the age-old adage that “Practice makes perfect”.

David Beckham did not stumble upon the fact that his free-kicks were generally well above the standard of most other players of his era. These skills were the result of many years of practice.

Beckham himself said “I must have taken tens of thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands [of free kicks]. I would go to the local park, place the ball on the ground and aim at the wire meshing over the window of a small community hut. When my dad got home from work, we would go over to the goalposts together. He would stand between me and the goal, forcing me to bend the ball around him. People looking on must have thought we were mad. We kept going even when the sun had gone down, playing by the light coming out of the windows of the houses that surrounded the park.

It seems fair to say that “Practice makes perfect” applied to one of England’s most successful footballers, so why shouldn’t it apply to the most successful estate agents?

Exceptional people have a drive to be better than their competitors, but willpower alone is not enough. It is the discipline of practicing constantly to reach higher standards that makes the real difference.

People who attend our training courses are often fearful of the dreaded “R” word when they first arrive. Role-play, however, is an essential element on the journey to higher standards. It allows the trying out of new techniques in a no-risk environment. A session I ran last week on closing and handling objections contained a huge chunk of time on practising how to overcome resistance from vendors. I had an email later from a valuer who had used two techniques he had had a chance to trial and hone during the session which won him an instruction that very afternoon. Without the training and practice, he would not have been aware of the techniques nor would he have had the confidence to apply them in the right way in the right circumstances.

So, what of that DIY option I mentioned earlier?

Set some time aside regularly for the team to get together and practice their techniques, with input and feedback from you. A fifteen minute session at the end of a couple of morning meetings a week when the team are all together and fresh works well for some firms. An hour at the end of one particular weekday may suit you better. Whatever suits – the key is to make it a regular part of your culture.

What type of role-plays work best? The ones that are as realistic as possible.

For example, ask a member of your team at random why a local vendor or landlord should use your agency to sell or let their property rather than any other local agent. This will show you how competent they are at promoting your services and in particular, how adept they are at selling your USPs.

Throw the classic line “Your fee is much higher than Bloggs and Co” and see how your negotiator fields it.

Apply a role-play scenario to a real life problem. How about the vendor who has been on nine months and won’t reduce their price? Why not play out that call with you as the vendor and let the negotiator try out a few angles to persuade you to reduce the price. This will give them much more confidence to use those techniques with the real client.

After each role-play, invite feedback from the person who had a go, but also from their colleagues present, so it becomes a real team event.

They (and even you) may feel self-conscious in the early stages of this new “role-play regime”, but stick with it – the improved skills of your team will be well worth the effort.

As the old saying goes…”The more you sweat in practice, the less you bleed in battle…”