Here at TM training & development, we run courses on every aspect of sales and lettings. It is therefore an interesting barometer as to what the market is doing to see which courses are most in demand. For the first half of the year, it was all about stock. Getting through more doors, winning quality instructions, defeating the cheap fee merchants and the overvaluing amateurs were all much requested. Since July though, demand for sales and negotiation courses, as well as vendor care sessions have risen up the pecking order.
One particular client for whom we had run training on instructions earlier in the year and who had increased market share and fees as a result, called with a new issue – they were not hitting sales targets.
I spent two days reviewing the firm’s sales operation and a number of significant gaps and weaknesses were quickly revealed, which I suspect were not untypical among agents generally.
All applicants were registered straight onto a computer screen and added into the database. The number of applicants grew daily and ran to over 2500 in total. The computer system then issued daily prompts to the staff as to which applicants should be contacted and when, leading to massive “to do” lists which were never completed. Staff were becoming demoralised, and when they did have an opportunity to catch up with calls to applicants, they were rushing them and achieving little; the only goal in reality being to try and reduce the size of the list!
The owner was even considering recruiting evening staff to call applicants as the offices couldn’t cope. I advised that this business model of employing office staff to put a load of applicants onto a database and employing different staff to take them off again was not the best approach.
The truth was that in this firm, any actual sales process had evaporated and the computer had become the master of all who worked there. Distribution of property particulars was carried out by mass email and there was little if any “selling” being done. Proactive telephone contact with hot buyers to generate viewings through accomplished and diligent selling skills was virtually non-existent. Similarly, calling local applicants with properties to sell to secure valuation appointments had also almost ground to a halt.
A complete overhaul of the sales process was undertaken and subsequent training carried out – results are already very positive, both in terms of staff morale and sales figures.
Firstly, an agreed qualification and categorisation was implemented. With better questioning and listening skills in place, far superior levels of information were gleaned from applicants, particularly in terms of their detailed motivation, ability and needs. Drilling down to get the real story on issues like detailed timeframes, financial capabilities, and the reasons and problems behind the move proved invaluable in assessing the quality of the prospect and the sales opportunity they represented (or failed to!). This led the negotiators to be able to carry out the essential task of accurately categorising their applicants (to keep it simple, customers were allocated a status of between 1 and 4 depending upon certain answers) and then to ensure all applicants received an appropriate level of follow-up and ongoing service.
Brutal though it may sound, applicant “culling” rules were introduced and adhered to. These were long overdue, particularly given that there were a vast number of applicants who had been on the mailing list for over 6 months without viewing.
The staff were reminded of the basic estate agency principles that customers can only ever go down one of two routes...they either make you money, or they cost you money. Typically, when agents assess the split of the former versus the latter, in excess of 90% fall into the “cost you money” category.
I also pointed out to the team that the most important sale they make every day is not property, mortgage appointments, themselves nor the company. It is selling their time that is paramount. The most effective agents trade their time with customers who are going to earn them income – less successful agents give too much of their time away to the wrong people for no return.
These salutary lessons, and the principles covered in our training, have served to ensure that the staff in that company are now spotting and maximising opportunities far better than ever before and have positioned themselves to succeed in potentially slightly more challenging market conditions ahead.