Winning quality instructions and other key issues

Winning quality instructions and other key issues

We are running two of our most popular courses, "Winning Quality Instructions in a Tougher Market" on Wednesday 9th May and "Making More Money from Lettings" on Tuesday 22nd May at our training centre in Cambridgeshire.
If you would like to come along the price is £95 plus Vat per delegate, full details and booking form can be found on our web site

Building your lettings business...

Many lettings agencies focus on “doing deals” and quick income rather than building their business and protecting their future through increasing the number of managed properties. In truth, the regular income gained from an extensive portfolio of managed properties ought to be regarded as the bedrock of such operations.

Some sales agents have started up a lettings function in recent years to help support  an ailing sales business, however many of these have chosen the “let only” route as a management operation is beyond their capabilities or means, or simply because they are looking for a “quick fix” increase in income that “let only” deals can provide.

Ultimately, a steadily growing reliable income stream from managed properties provides the stability and profitability that safeguard a business over the longer term. This is an objective that takes time to achieve although the adoption of “best practice” principles will accelerate the process.

One key element to success is to ensure your management service stands out and offers genuine differences from that offered by your competition.

This could include greater frequency and quality of routine inspections, perhaps to include a detailed follow up report with photographic evidence of ongoing condition. Offering online access for landlords to keep up to date with progress on the letting or management of their property has been very well received by clients of firms who have set up such a facility. The assignment of a personal property management specialist to oversee all aspects relating to their property, a robust rent guarantee scheme, an organised accounting process that pays the landlord swiftly and accurately and a smooth checkout process that minimises void periods will all prove to be instruction winners.

Detailed record keeping to prove your track record on landlord and tenant retention, and success stories of resolved issues, carry considerable weight, as do testimonials from other clients.

Having established your clear USPs, the next stage is to assess how effectively these are being promoted.

The ability to “sell” management as a concept to potential landlords varies massively amongst the lettings firms for whom we are invited to carry out consultancy work and training. It is an area that we concentrate on very early in the business development process, and, once the skills and principles are addressed, there is always a significant impact on upping the number of managed properties.

It is interesting to ask frontline lettings staff, who are usually the ones responsible for convincing landlords to go for a fully managed service, exactly what the complete range of benefits that management will mean. There are several that staff do not regularly promote.

Aside from the obvious avoidance of hassle that a managed landlord will experience, assuming the agent has a 24 hour helpline for the tenant to call in the case of emergencies, (any landlord hinting that they are intending to self manage should be asked the question “What is the best number for the tenant to reach you on at 1.00 or 2.00am?” – it often makes them think again!) there are clear financial benefits which often slip under the radar.

Data that some of my lettings agent client firms have shared with me in recent years show that the average length of tenancy is greater for managed properties compared to unmanaged. Furthermore, any void periods tend to be shorter, potentially because a proportion of tenants specifically request to view only managed properties for the likely ease of problem-solving, therefore leading to a higher level of interest and demand. This may also account for the fact that there is evidence to suggest that rents achieved on managed units compared to unmanaged.

A landlord choosing to self-manage will miss out on such advantages, and later on potentially be forced to negotiate the minefields of appropriate handling/registering of deposits and taking the correct legal steps to deal with a defaulting tenant.

As a landlord myself, I genuinely believe that opting for a “tenant find” service is highly likely to be a false economy. It is the job of the lettings agent to persuade the landlord clients of that at the outset, and for the property management department to convince them that they have made the right choice.

Julian O’Dell

TM training & development




Are your customers suitably disturbed?


People tend not to act unless they are “disturbed” – this is a new role for many negotiators as the market has “disturbed” buyers in the past whereas currently we are in a market where many people can simply “wait and see”. Interest rates, property prices and transaction numbers have been relatively steady for several years and whereas in the past, the public were "disturbed into action" by market forces (particularly rapidly rising or plummeting prices), many are now sitting on the hands in a state of inertia fuelled by media-driven confusion - in other words, "I am waiting to be unconfused"...

There is an old adage in selling – “Emotion creates motion” – in other words where there is an underlying emotion, people will move!

Customers act to achieve a goal and/or to avoid a penalty – for example, people are driven to move by the goal of giving their children a better lifestyle/safer environment or by fear of financial loss. Equally, house buyers may have a goal of making their life easier by living closer to work or to an ailing relative, or by the penalty of not seeing their grandchildren grow up or by continuing to live next door to noisy neighbours.

If a negotiator can establish the perceived penalties and/or goals behind the possible house move, he/she can use that information to “disturb” the customer to act.

Things to say to “disturb” customers…

“What will happen if you miss out on that property…?”

“What will the implications be if house prices do fall by 10% this year…?”

“I would hate to see you reach a situation where…”

“Are you confident that you will secure a better offer than this one…?”

"How would you feel if…?”

"What would be the impact if you were still unsold at the end of the year?"

Exceptional salespeople recognise and use the important skill of "disturbing" customers particularly in times where market conditions fail to do so...

We cover this principle in more detail and depth on our Negotiation Skills courses. Call or email for more details.

Appraise where appraise is due...


Managing within an estate agency environment is a tough and frequently made tougher still by high staff turnover and poor performance, therefore any efforts you can undertake to minimise such problems represent time well spent. One area of managerial responsibility that can lead to successful staff retention and effectiveness is maintaining an appropriate performance review system, although this is all too often an element of work which falls victim to the volume of the manager’s other duties.


Your workload is reduced in the long run by investing time in appraising staff regularly. Benefits include the opportunity to extract information, assess progress and results, clear the air, discuss strengths and weaknesses and formulate plans to carry out coaching and training, clarify roles and responsibilities, boost employee confidence and deal with minor issues before they become major ones.


Staff work best when they know what their responsibilities are, how well they are expected to fulfil them, and how well they have done so. The aim of appraisals is to make sure that this information is shared between managers and individual members of their teams.


The appraisal interview itself is a key component part of effective performance management. The starting point is to agree objectives which must be clear, measurable and realistic to the employee’s role and experience. These objectives might relate to a wide range of performance criteria including levels of business achieved or behavioural elements such as timekeeping, self-organisation and relationships with team members.


With quality objectives documented, and a future date booked for the appraisal itself, there is then an ongoing monitoring period leading up to the formal appraisal meeting. This time runs from one appraisal to the next and might be typically a maximum of three or six months. Meanwhile, the manager should observe employee behaviour and results, noting examples of work carried out particularly well or badly. These should be discussed with the individual as they occur rather than stored up…the appraisal interview is not a time for surprises. However, the recorded examples serve as the content of a “stock taking” exercise at the appraisal itself.


As the date of the appraisal interview approaches, the manager should take time to plan for it. The venue should be provide a professional but comfortable environment - the local pub is probably not ideal (although alarmingly I know one proprietor who uses it for that purpose). There should be no interruptions via telephones or other staff members and seating arrangements should be considered…face to face across a desk is rather too formal.


With evidence collected and venue prepared, the appraisal interview can proceed. A range of key points must be borne in mind to ensure effectiveness.


Firstly, the appraisee must be put at ease. Tension or mistrust creates problems, so attempts to help the staff member relax must be made. An agenda for the interview gives structure and the meeting must be largely forward rather than backward looking. A steady pace and keeping it focused on the individual should be the aim – many appraisals I have witnessed have been spoilt by allowing the appraisee to blame others for their weaknesses. A bespoke appraisal form used by some businesses helps provide control.


Where possible, staff should be encouraged to be self-critical rather than have their positive and negative performance areas raised by the manager. Careful questioning on the part of the appraiser such as “How do you feel things are going?” or “What caused you to fall short of reaching that particular objective?” can tease out points that need to be addressed without forcing them upon the appraisee. He or she is thereby far more likely to “own” the issues covered.


You should be supportive rather than authoritarian in your approach and stick to facts rather than feelings, to behaviour rather than personality. Future action points must be documented along with a new set of specific agreed objectives which will be central to the forthcoming review period.


The pitfalls to avoid include the manager talking too much and hogging the conversation, destructive rather than constructive criticism (“These results just aren’t good enough” rather than “What can we do to help you improve your figures?”), lack of evidence, woolly objectives and expecting too much in the way of change from the appraisee.


With all the above points borne in mind and with a strong desire to reap the rewards of an effective performance review process, a manager can look forward to leading a more focused, motivated and ultimately more productive team.


Julian O ' Dell

TM training & development