Failure to proactively contact existing vendors, in an effort to maintain and improve the relationship and to enhance saleability where necessary leads to complaints, negative comments about your firm in the community and a huge potential cost to your business in terms of your reputation and the money spent on marketing unsaleable instructions.
There are a number of key elements to tackle:
1) Staff attitude. Office teams mourn a collapsed sale, however may only be mildly miffed when a vendor withdraws to try another agent. These events must be treated with equal concern – both lead to potential lost income.
Further to this, valuers faced with two calls to return, one from a disgruntled vendor and the other from an unknown person considering putting their property on the market, will often call the new client before the existing one. This is questionable prioritisation.
2) Staff training. I witnessed a really interesting incident at an agent’s morning meeting recently. With the meeting in full flow and with all staff participating and seemingly up for the day’s challenges, there was a marked change in body language when today’s “client care calls” were about to be distributed. The visible “shrinking” by the staff made it clear that they were not looking forward to this element of their work. After the meeting I asked the manager what training and coaching had been provided to his team on this skill area – the answer was “none”.
The team must be guided on preparing for the conversation (setting appropriate objectives, relevant evidence to support those objectives, how the call should be structured, how to overcome resistance etc) – this will in turn build the negotiator’s confidence in getting a result. Too many calls are merely a PR exercise attempting to keep the client happy for a week or two.
3) Client Care System. Whether computerised, manual or hybrid, a reminder system is essential to flag up all available properties for review. Many agents fail to maintain such a system, leaving vendors to go for lengthy periods without contact. Research has shown that vendors switch agents due to lack of communication as much as failure to sell.
4) Managing client expectations. If a new vendor is left with unrealistic service expectations, the agent will rapidly fall into the “overpromising/underdelivering” trap, leading to early problems. Clarity at the point of instruction is crucial.
5) Client/Agent relationship. Trust is the key, with the most trusted agent likely to be successful in securing the initial instruction. However, that relationship of trust must be maintained. The agent who fails to upload to the portals quickly and accurately, to include the property in any other promised marketing, to erect a board or produce high quality photographs and floorplans will soon lose that client’s trust, increasing the likelihood of the vendor looking elsewhere. Exceeding client expectations is best practise.
Furthermore, if the vendor has rapport with the whole sales team rather than just the valuer, increased client loyalty is more likely. Such rapport can be achieved by different team members conducting and providing feedback on viewings, or simply visiting the property to make selling it an easier task and conversing with the client while doing so.
6) Proactive client contact. With the right system, attitude and training in place, the best agents can proactively provide their vendors with updates to maintain their relationship and client satisfaction. Inviting the client into the office or visiting them to discuss progress have proved far more effective than telephone calls.
These visits/calls also serve as an opportunity to enhance saleability not necessarily by way of a price adjustment but also through improved viewing access, suggested improvements/changes to the property itself, securing a mortgage appointment or a for sale board.
Vendors gain a heightened awareness of the efforts their agent is making to achieve a sale ensuring they are less susceptible to “jumping ship”.
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When I was a Partner and valuer at our estate agency, we hoovered up instructions from our competitors who had failed to meet clients’ expectations. The biggest reason for the switch to us? Lack of communication and contact from the previous agent.
Estate agents must understand that an existing instruction that has been rendered more saleable by way of achieving your client care call objectives and improved trust, loyalty and motivation of the vendor is as good as, if not better than, a new one.