During my first week in estate agency in 1983, I attended a training course which covered the basic skills required for my new role as junior negotiator. Certain lessons have been firmly embedded in my brain throughout my career, particularly those relating to the qualification and registration of applicants.
The training course included a checklist of 22 elements that needed to be covered during that first point of contact, and we were advised that the company regularly “mystery shopped” its offices to gauge the quality to which this key part of the job was being carried out. Having committed these checklist points to memory, I then ensured I dealt with every applicant every day on the premise that they might be the mystery shopper. After all, I was keen to do the job to the best possible standard and ensure that I made my mark on the company’s sales figures.
Nowadays, my training company conduct mystery shopper exercises for estate agency firms around the UK and the results are never less than fascinating. The original list of 22 key points, although many years old and constantly updated, still broadly forms the benchmark of how well these calls are handled, and the standard of follow up service delivered. The difference in quality between the best and worst is extraordinary. Feedback from business owners, whether the calls and follow up are poor, fair, good or exceptional, is that the exercises are worth their weight in gold for illustrating the strengths and weaknesses of the sales/letting operation within their businesses, and revealing the most pressing training needs.
Most (but by no means all) agents will establish key contact information (names, initials and titles of all parties plus all telephone numbers and email addresses) and a general idea of what the applicant is looking for.
However, the real areas for concern are the depth of information gleaned and the lack of testing of the answers provided by the customer.
Assuming that an agent is striving for exceptional standards of selling techniques to maximise results, it is alarming that many areas of key information are missed – the reason for and specific timescale of the proposed move, for example. This is partly down to lack of training, partly down to the fact that many software screens do not prompt the negotiator to ask the most critical questions.
Much of the facts established are not clarified – “I’m looking up to around &300,000 for a three bedroom property” is not enough! These points must be tested with probing questions like “So if I found you a property that had everything you are looking for, but only had two bedrooms, you wouldn’t consider it?” and “If I found you the perfect property, what is the very maximum you would be prepared to pay for it?”. It is incredibly rare to hear these questions asked during our mystery shopper calls.
Similarly, when the applicant states that they have sold their property, the negotiators seldom dig deeply enough to find out the quality of that “sale”. The avoidance of establishing an applicant’s financial capability is also a regular shortcoming. This failure to check the detailed ability of the applicant will inevitably lead to missed opportunities by agents spending the wrong amount of time with the wrong people, or equally worryingly, failing to spot the real “money making” customers.
The above represent just a few of the criteria that are measured by the mystery shoppers. The most recent mystery shopper exercise saw a top score of 12 out of the possible 22 – the other offices involved scored less and in one case, only 6! This is not a level of performance that will help sustain that business through what may well be a challenging market for the rest of 2015 into 2016.
Fortunately, the proprietor in question has now invested in training with us to ensure we help address these problems on his behalf.
For further information or to receive a copy of this checklist, please contact me on 07718 634235, email firstname.lastname@example.org or contact me via twitter @agencytrainer